This is a class paper written by our grandson, J.J. McNown.
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” ~John 3:16
The Bible is an altogether unique book. It is actually a collection of 66 books written over 1,400 years by over 40 different authors. Regardless of a person’s individual belief, religion, or creed, the impact this book has had on the world is undeniably monumental. Its societal, governmental, political, spiritual, and personal impact has been, and continues to be, immense. In America, the criminal justice system, human rights, the abolition of slavery, liberation of women, and moral equality are all based off the words of this powerful book. The central story of the Bible is one of salvation by grace, through faith in Jesus Christ. He is more than the central character of these 66 books. The entire Bible points to Him. Meaning all that you read in the Old Testament, leading up to Christ’s birth as first described in the gospel of Matthew, prophecy and picture His birth, life, death, burial and resurrection from death. More books and poems written, more movies made, and more documentaries filmed of Him than any other person in history, with the Bible itself being the worldwide bestselling book of all time. Even the dominant global system of measuring time is that of “Before Christ” and “Anno Domini (In the year of our Lord)”. Some of the most monumental historical figures and scientists were inspired by and based their understanding of the physical world on the Bible including Johann Kepler, Issac Newton, Robert Boyle, Lord Kelvin, Michael Faraday, Leonardo da Vinci, Gregor Mendel, and Abraham Lincoln. At a time when the world believed planet earth to be flat, the Bible declared it to be a sphere (Isaiah 40:22, Job 26:10) thousands of years before it was proven to be so. At a time when the world believed the earth was held on the shoulders of Atlas or carried on the back of giant sea turtles, the Bible taught that the Lord hangs the earth on nothing, implying its free-float through outer space 3,500 years before anyone knew this to be true (Job 26:7). All this to say, this book and Jesus Christ (the two are inseparable) has had a massive impact on countless cultures and lives all around the world. Countries have been created and altogether disappeared, civilizations have risen and fallen, entire people groups who once flourished exist no more, but the words of this book stand firm. With this being a book that has shaped entire nations, it is easy to see how our favorite stories, movies, novels and that which makes up America’s pop-culture has also been shaped by it. One of the most influential fictional characters in America in the last century is Superman. For this paper, I will specifically be showing the parallels between the fictional story of Superman, and the historical figure of Jesus Christ.
The story of Superman is one of the most well known, highest selling, and most popular comics of all time. It was first penned by two Jewish men names Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster. These two men had worked together in the early 1930’s and desperately wanted to invent a character that was a “super man.” While this character became a massive hit, Siegel did not think much was going to come from it, so he and Shuster sold the rights to the comic for $130. This story is reminiscent of the McDonald brothers who were coaxed out of their fair share when a greedy man named Ray Kroc took over the business from them. Both Siegel and Shuster were basically never compensated for their idea, and only received $25,000 ever for the rest of their lives.
Let us start by examining the name of Superman. The name given to him at birth by his parents in Krypton, his home planet, is Kal-El. What is interesting about this is that “El” is the Hebrew word for God, the authors obviously drawing a clear connection between the two, as the teaching of Christianity is that Jesus Christ is God. Jesus Christ was born in relative obscurity, being raised for the first few decades of his life by two rural, poor parents named Mary and Joseph. Superman was also raised outside of the public eye with two farming parents to raise him. This is especially a significant connection between the two when we consider that Jerry Siegel and Joe Schuster originally intended for Superman’s parents to be named Mary and Joseph.
Jesus Christ is often portrayed incorrectly, however, in pop-culture. Through drawings, paintings, and film, he is falsely shown to be a Southern California surfer dude, with product-ridden long flowing hair, churning out pithy Zen statements that make people feel good about themselves. In reality, he was a hard working construction worker who was very controversial and got murdered. As earlier mentioned, Jesus lived the first few decades of his life flying under the radar, as it were, working as a carpenter. It was not until his early thirties, at age 30, that he began his public ministry. The same is true for Superman, who worked a normal, non-sensational job at the Daily Planet until utilizing his powers publicly in his early thirties. A most interesting parallel between the two is what occurred just before the outset of their public ministries, or the event that began their respective missions. Before beginning his public ministry, Jesus Christ communed with his Father’s Spirit in the wilderness for forty days. Before coming to an awareness of who he was and what his mission will be, Superman communicated with the spirit of his father as well, in the wilderness. Superman’s relationship with his father, Jor-El, also is revealing of the roots this story has with the life of Jesus Christ. Before Jor-El sends his son away to earth, he tells him, “The son becomes the father, and the father, the son.” This is very reminiscent of the statement Jesus Christ made when he said, “I and my Father are one.” This is a clear claim to deity as Jesus Christ is claiming equality with God the Father; a oneness clearly hinted at when Superman’s father makes the statement he does. Another important statement he makes is this, “They can be a great people, Kal-El; they wish to be. They only lack the light to show the way. For this reason above all, their capacity for good, I have sent them you, my only son.” Jor-El describes his son as being one who can be the light to show the way for humanity. Jesus Christ claims to be the way, the truth and the life (John 14:6). He also claims to be the light of the world and says that whoever follows him will not walk in darkness but shall have the light of life (John 8:12). Once again, a glaring parallel between the two stories.
I find it interesting that virtually every superhero story, whether it be Superman, Spiderman, Batman, or Wonder Woman, fulfills a common longing of the human heart: a desire to worship or put our trust in something greater than ourselves. The story of Superman is one of a super human, sent to earth to be the light and way for humanity; a beacon of hope that fights for truth, justice and the American way. The historical person and story of Jesus Christ is one of God’s only Son being sent to earth so that we can be forgiven for every wrong thing we have ever done. Think about that. This is called the Gospel, which literally means, good news, and what good news it is! The good news is that we are all sinners, born into sin by nature and choice. Our sins, all the wrong things we have ever done, have separated us from the perfect God who created and loves us. In spite of this, God loves us so much that He sent his only begotten son, God in the flesh, into the world to take the punishment we deserve for our sins on himself. All of us have done things, or have had things done to us, that make us feel shameful, dirty, guilty, unclean, and condemned. The story of the Gospel is that, through faith in Jesus Christ, his blood cleanses us from all of that. That he takes our shame, guilt, sadness and pain on himself, being described as a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. (Isaiah 53:3) That if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9)
Jesus Christ, the only truly innocent man who ever lived, had the flesh painfully ripped off his body with the whip, was mercilessly beaten beyond recognition, had twisted thorns pressed onto his head, was betrayed and abandoned by his friends and family, and brutally had the equivalent of railroad spikes pounded into the most sensitive nerve endings on the human body, his hands and feet. As this was happening, he cried out to God, “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do.” What a powerful truth. The truth that there is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.” (Romans 8:1) That means that through faith in Christ, we are totally and completely forgiven. It does not matter what we have done or how far we have gone, Jesus would say to you, “Come unto me all you who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” Some of you have tried different religions, different spiritualties, and different belief systems, all of them promising to give you peace, fulfillment, and eternal paradise through what you do. This is what separates Jesus Christ from every other self-professed prophet who has ever lived. Whether it is Islam, Buddhism, Judaism, or Mormonism, they all teach that the only way to achieve forgiveness of sin and eternal life is if, by the end of your life, hopefully your good deeds outweigh your bad. It is about what you have to do to achieve salvation. The teaching of Christianity is that it is not about what we do for God, but rather what God does for us. “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9) Maybe some of you do not know if you can believe that what you have read in this paper is true: that you can have eternal life through faith alone in Jesus Christ. You might be skeptical, doubtful, or even antagonistic towards the idea. To you, Jesus would say, “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and you shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you. For every one that asks receives; and he that seeks finds, and to him that knocks it shall be opened.” (Luke 11:9-10) Practically, this means praying this prayer with an open heart and a willingness to believe the truth. “Dear Father in Heaven, I believe in your Son, Jesus Christ. I believe that He died on the cross for my sins. And that he rose up from the grave. And that I am forgiven. Reveal yourself to me, a doubting skeptic, who has never believed, by your Holy Spirit. I ask this in the name of Jesus Christ. Now help me to walk with You, Lord. Amen.”