Christ figure

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A Christ figure, also known as a Christ-Image is a literary technique that the author uses to draw allusions between their characters and the biblical Jesus Christ. More loosely, the Christ Figure is a spiritual or prophetic character who parallels Jesus, or other spiritual or prophetic figures.

In general, a character should display more than one correspondence with the story of Jesus Christ as depicted in the Bible. For instance, the character might display one or more of the following traits: performance of miracles, manifestation of divine qualities, healing others, display loving kindness and forgiveness, fight for justice, being guided by the spirit of the character's father, death and resurrection. Christ figures are often martyrs, sacrificing themselves for causes larger than themselves.

In postmodern literature, the resurrection theme is often abandoned, leaving us with the image of a martyr sacrificing himself for a greater good. It is common to see Christ figures displayed in a manner suggestive of crucifixion as well.


  • Jim Conklin in The Red Badge of Courage [1]
  • Sydney Carton in A Tale of Two Cities [2]
  • Uncle Tom and Eva St. Clare in Uncle Tom's Cabin [3]
  • Jim Casy in The Grapes of Wrath.[4]
  • Santiago of The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway.[5][6][7][8]
  • Aslan in The Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis. Aslan the lion sacrifices himself to save Edmund but rises again from the dead to defeat the White Witch.[9]
  • Simon in William Golding's Lord of the Flies. Simon looks like Jesus, with long black hair. He also is spiritually sensitive. He likes to go off on his own (as Jesus did, going into the desert); he "wrestles with the devil" in the form of his conversation with the Lord of the Flies (the pig's head on a stick); he goes to the mountaintop to find out the revelation that the "beast" is only a dead pilot, and he is martyred for trying to bring the truth to the other boys. Finally, as Simon's dead body is taken by the sea, glowing creatures seem to form a halo around his head.[10]
  • Finny in A Separate Peace[11][12]
  • Billy Budd in Billy Budd by Herman Melville [13][14]
  • John Coffey from The Green Mile.[15]
  • Frodo Baggins in The Lord of the Rings, is the sacrificial lamb of Middle-earth who bears a burden of terrible evil on behalf of the whole world, like Christ carrying his cross. As Jesus bore the sins of mankind, Frodo bears a heavy burden and as he approaches the Crack of Doom the Ring becomes as much a crushing weight as the wood of the cross. Frodo’s via dolorosa or way of sorrows is at the very heart of Tolkien’s story, just as the crucifixion narratives are at the heart of the gospels accounts. Frodo's wound on Weathertop is a figurative of Christ's spear wound on the Cross. Note that the wound on Weathertop is inflicted by the Witch-king, another Satan figure. By the time Frodo reaches Mount Doom, he is so weighed down by the power of the Ring and despair over its destruction that Sam carries him and the Ring up the path to the Crack of Doom — shades of Simon the Cyrenian bearing Jesus' cross to Golgotha. As Christ ascended into heaven, Frodo’s life in Middle-earth comes to an end when he departs over the sea into the mythical West with the Elves, which is as much to say, into paradise.[16]
  • Harry Potter in J. K. Rowling's Harry Potter series displays Savior qualities every time he defends the wizard (and Muggle) world from the devilish Lord Voldemort. On multiple occasions, Harry willingly presents himself as a sacrifice and, by so doing, is able to destroy the evil wizard. As an innocent baby, Harry becomes the only being to withstand the killing curse, a feat that leaves him with a Christ-like scar on his forehead (instead of his hands and feet), and which temporarily defeats Voldemort. Since his wizard parents are dead, Harry is then raised in humble circumstances - under the stairs of the unbelieving Dursleys, similar to Christ's birth in a stable and his rearing as a carpenter's son. Later, after defeating Voldemort for the second time, Harry lies in a coma, as Christ did in the tomb.In the end, just as Christ died and was resurrected to overcome Satan and death, Harry dies and returns from death to finally destroy Voldemort.[17][18][19]
  • Meursault in The Outsider.[20]
  • Randle Patrick McMurphy in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest.[21]

Stage, Television and film[edit]

  • Gandalf the wizard in the novel The Lord of the Rings but even more so in Peter Jackson's The Lord of the Rings (film series). The films added more visual emphasis to Gandalf's apparent sacrificial death (with a crucifix pose during his fall into an abyss) and later resurrection (in a brilliant white robe).[22]
  • Babette in Babette's Feast. She gives entirely of her lottery winnings for the sake of a poor puritanical community.[23]
  • Mufasa in The Lion King. He sacrifices himself for his son, Simba and teaches him to remember his identity.[24]
  • James Cole in Twelve Monkeys.[24]
  • In Hair, the character of Claude becomes a classic Christ figure at various points in the script. In Act I, Claude enters, saying, "I am the Son of God. I shall vanish and be forgotten," then gives benediction to the tribe and the audience. Claude suffers from indecision, and, in his Gethsemane at the end of Act I, he asks "Where Do I Go?". There are various textual allusions to Claude being on a cross, and, in the end, he is chosen to give his life for the others.[25]
  • Klaatu from The Day the Earth Stood Still comes down from the "heavens" in a flying saucer, takes the name "Carpenter" to walk incognito among the people, and is persecuted and killed. However, he resurrects back to life, gives a stern benediction to the people of the earth, and then ascends back to the heavens.[24][26]
  • Neo in The Matrix Trilogy. Although the film series makes many visual and textual references to various religions,[27] many Christ figure parallels exist. He is repeatedly called "the One" in a messianic sense; Neo saves various people (and all humanity at the trilogy’s conclusion); he suffers and dies; he rises from the dead; and, at the end of the first film, ascends into the sky.[28]
  • Superman in Superman: The Movie and Superman Returns. Both Superman and Jesus have been sent to Earth by their fathers (Jor-El and God, respectively). Both films chronicle the beginning of Superman's story, and included the famous quote: "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." In the first movie Kal-El is sent to retire for 12 years to be educated "in spirit" by his father to be earth's savior. At the end of the film he made Lois Lane "Rise from death". In Returns, Superman tells Lois "You wrote that the world doesn't need a savior," (referring to her article, "Why The World Doesn't Need Superman.") "but every day I hear people crying for one." Later in the film, Superman is stabbed in the side as Jesus was believed to have been during the Crucifixion; after casting the Crystal Continent into space, the fatigued Superman falls to earth in a pose almost identical to that of a man being crucified. Superman wakes from coma in what seems the third day (by biblical timekeeping), mirroring Jesus' awakening on the third day after crucifixion.[29][30]
  • John Connor in The Terminator as mankind leader against the machines and T-800 in Terminator 2: Judgment Day. Sent to protect John and Sarah Connor. Sacrificing itself for the human race after defeating the devious T-1000.[24]
  • Spock in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan exposes himself to a lethal amount of radiation in order to save the crew of the Enterprise, and is later "resurrected".[31][32]
  • Ellen Ripley in the Alien film series has been seen as a Christ figure. Both in the way that she serves as a personal savior to Newt in Aliens and in the matter that sacrifices her own life in Alien 3 (spreading her arms as she falls into a giant furnace) so the Alien cannot exist anymore.[33] Others have noted that she dies in an act of self-sacrifice, yet similarly to Jesus, she returns in "another form" in the aptly titled Alien Resurrection.[34]
  • Jeremy Reed in Powder.[35]
  • Lucas Jackson in Cool Hand Luke.[36]
  • E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial[37]
  • The Doctor in Doctor Who, dying in martyrdom and resurrecting from time to time to save many worlds.[38]
  • Alex J. Murphy in the RoboCop films and other media. A policeman dead as martyr in the line of duty resurrected to be a righteous champion and protector following faithfully his 3 "commandments": "Serve the public trust, protect the innocent, uphold the law".[39]
  • Max Da Costa from Elysium (movie). He was exposed to lethal doses of radiation and only given 5 days to live. He chose to spend that time infiltrating the eponymous space habitat and give the citizens of Earth access to what the citizens of Elysium have.

Comics and animation[edit]

  • In comic books as in all other media, Superman saves the people from dangers they cannot overcome on their own. The House of El (Jor-El, Kal-El, etc.) echoes the Hebrew expression for God, El. He even had to resurrect once to keep watching over Earth.[40]
  • Kamui Shirō in the Japanese comic book series X.[41][42] The story takes place at the end of days. Kamui Shirō returns home to Tokyo after a six-year absence to face his destiny as the one who will determine humanity's fate. The construction of Kamui as a messiah is reinforced by his miraculous birth and given name. "Kamui", like "Christ", doubles as a title that alludes to the character's divine nature.[43][44]
  • Kikyo In the manga and other media known as Inuyasha. Written and illustrated by Rumiko Takahashi, and published in North America by Viz Media; Kikyo is a Christ figure, being able to perform miracles and healing. Being resurrected from the dead and eventually gives up on her love for the main character and dying for the cause which pertains to allowing the other characters to now have the ability to eliminate the antagonist of Inuyasha. Taking place in Inuyasha The Final Act Among The Twinkling Stars, Episode 8.[45]
  • Optimus Prime in the Transformers universe. After being killed by Megatron as Orion Pax, Prime resurrects to be his own world´s ultimate saviour.[46] In the first animated series, Prime actually resurrects twice. The first time being in Dark Awakening as a weapon for the Quintessons only to sacrifice himself again, and then fully resurrects in The Return of Optimus Prime. The character has a history of repeating the cycle of death and resurrection across almost all incarnations of the Transformers multiverse.
  • The second Ghost Rider sacrificed himself to stop the world from being conquered by the demon Zarathos and later resurrected. The character was impaled prior to his death and died in a pose somewhat reminiscent of having been crucified.


  1. ^
  2. ^
  3. ^ Ammons, Elizabeth. “Heroines in Uncle Tom’s Cabin.” American Literature 49.2 (1977): 161-79.
  4. ^ Analysis of Jim Casy
  5. ^ Christ Symbolism in Hemingway's Old Man and the Sea
  6. ^ How to Read Literature Like a Professor By Thomas C. Foster p. 121
  7. ^ The Old Man and the Sea By Gerry Brenner p. 37
  8. ^ Understanding The Old Man and the Sea By Patricia Dunlavy Valenti p. 13
  9. ^ USA Today: Is that lion the King of Kings? - Aslan
  10. ^ Understanding Lord of the Flies: A Student Casebook to Issues, Sources, and Historical Documents By Kirstin Olsen, p. 126
  11. ^ CliffsNotes on Knowle's A Separate Peace By Charles Higgins, Regina Higgins, Cary M. Roberts ISBN 0-7645-8578-9, ISBN 978-0-7645-8578-4 pp. 54, 65
  12. ^ A SeparatePeace: Four Decades of Critical Response by Lois Rauch Gibson pp. 14 - 15
  13. ^ Herman Melville By Brett Zimmerman p. 59 ISBN 0-7735-1786-3, ISBN 978-0-7735-1786-8
  14. ^ Allegory and the Modern Southern Novel By Jan Whitt p. 31 ISBN 0-86554-397-6, ISBN 978-0-86554-397-3
  15. ^ - The Green Mile
  16. ^
  17. ^ "Harry Potter, Christ curse?"
  18. ^ "J K Rowling: 'Christianity inspired Harry Potter'"
  19. ^ "Is Harry Potter the Son of God?"
  20. ^ [1]
  21. ^
  22. ^ Stucky, Mark (2006). "Middle Earth’s Messianic Mythology Remixed: Gandalf’s Death and Resurrection in Novel and Film". Journal of Religion and Popular Culture XIII (Summer). Retrieved 25 Nov 2006. 
  23. ^
  24. ^ a b c d Mufasa: The Sun God... or The Son of God
  25. ^ Miller, Scott. Let the Sun Shine In: The Genius of Hair (Heinemann, 2003) ISBN 0-325-00556-7, pp. 88-89
  26. ^ From Holy Aliens to Cyborg Saviours: Biblical Subtexts in Four Science Fiction Films
  27. ^ The Deification of Neo, Again - Kevin Brown
  28. ^ Stucky, Mark (October 2005). "He is the One: The Matrix Trilogy's Postmodern Movie Messiah". The Journal of Religion and Film 9 (2). Retrieved 7 May 2013. 
  29. ^ Fox News: Superman is a Christ figure to some
  30. ^ Superman: All Powerful, Self-Restrained
  31. ^ Jesus Covered In a Secular Wrapper: The Christ-figure in Popular Films - on Spock, and others; Kinema, 2005
  32. ^ God in the Machine - Spock as a Christ figure
  33. ^ - Christ Figures in the Movies"
  34. ^ Christian Spotlight on Entertainment: - Alien 3"
  35. ^ Powder. A Hollywood Jesus visual film review
  36. ^ Journal of Religion and Film: The Messianic Figure in Film: Christology Beyond the Biblical Epic by Matthew McEver
  37. ^
  38. ^
  39. ^
  40. ^ Journal of Religion and Film: Superman as Christ-Figure: The American Pop Culture Movie Messiah
  41. ^ X Infinity: Illustrated Collection 2. (Kadokawa Shoten: ISBN 4-04-853895-0). 2005.
  42. ^ Williams, Kevin (March 24, 2000). "Anime loses its storytelling luster in X". Chicago Sun-Times. 
  43. ^ Elliott, David (April 8, 2000). "X: an animated comic book with little between the covers". The San Diego Union-Tribune. 
  44. ^ Yoshiaki Kawajiri (Director) (August 25, 2000). X: An Omen (DVD). Bandai Visual. 
  45. ^
  46. ^

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