Is 'Man of Steel' Superman Really Based on Jesus?

An otherworldly being sends his only son to Earth, in the hopes of him saving humanity from the forces of evil. While this could describe the Gospel story, it could also describe the premise for the Superman story.

Many scholars, social commentators, and comic book enthusiasts have debated the parallels between the Kryptonian superhero and Jesus of Nazareth, with some noting connections between what the Bible says about Jesus and what 75 years of comics and movies have said about Superman.  A recent, mostly humorous, example could be found with a blog entry posted Tuesday on the United Kingdom publication Metro titled "Man of Steel: The top 20 reasons why Superman is Jesus." Listed reasons included both Jesus and Superman having a "humble tradesman" as their adoptive father, superpowers, crucifix poses, and beards.

As America will soon go to theatres to see "Man of Steel," the latest film adaptation of the Superman story to be release on June 14, experts weighed in on the comparisons.

Glen Weldon, author of Superman: The Unauthorized Biography, told The Christian Post that since Superman creators Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster were both Jewish, intentional "Christian ideation or allegory" was unlikely.  Nevertheless, said Weldon, "that doesn't mean people can't see in the character…elements of Christian theology."

"These characters are the cultural myths and folklore of contemporary America, the stories we tell ourselves," said Weldon.  "We imbue them with extra meanings, so what I see in Superman will be slightly different than what you see."

The "extra meanings" have often been similarities to Jesus put in subtext, with other similarities drawn from Greco-Roman mythology. Weldon noted the strongly implied Christ comparisons in a couple cinematic renderings of Superman.  "In 1978, Richard Donner's Superman: The Movie, Marlon Brando intoned a speech which set the ears of anyone who spent time in Bible School burning: 'Because of [the people of Earth's] capacity for good, I have sent them you only son'," said Weldon.

"In 2006's Superman Returns, Bryan Singer struck the same note much, much harder. Images of Superman getting stabbed in his side, scourged, and left for dead, shots of him floating in the sky with his arms outstretched in crucifix-pose, and – most bluntly – a scene in which a nurse enters his hospital room to find the bed empty, and Superman gone."

 Neil Cole, chief editor and publisher of the online Superman news source the "Superman Super Site," told CP that there were strong parallels between Superman and Jesus.

"First of all, both the Bible and 'Action Comics No. 1' (Superman's debut) originally had Jewish writers," said Cole. "Another strong parallel is that Superman's Kryptonian name is Kal-El, which is a direct Jewish reference to God."

 Cole also told CP that he believes the comparisons between Superman and Jesus "have easily increased over the generations."

"For example, just as Jesus died on a cross for the forgiveness of sins, defeated the devil, and was resurrected from the dead by God; in 1993, Superman died fighting the Doomsday while saving mankind from creature's path of destruction, later Superman was resurrected by his father, Jor-El," said Cole.

"'Man of Steel' also features examples of the similarities between Christ and Superman, such as Superman being shackled prior to being interrogated just as Jesus was shackled before facing interrogation. Another example in the new film is Superman's ascent into the heavens just as Jesus ascended following his resurrection."

 Directed by Zack Snyder and starring Henry Cavill as Superman and Amy Adams as Lois Lane, "Man of Steel" will be released to American theaters Friday.

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