Super heroes are everywhere these days – from cereal boxes and soda cans to t-shirts and amusement park rides. They’ve also swept the box office, providing us with new classics such as Spiderman, tolerable plots such as Man of Steel, and a host of movies that just make you want to stab your eyes out with a fork (Thor). No matter where you go, the super hero frenzy is becoming impossible to escape.
Not as if we’d really want to escape it, anyway. I’ll be the first to admit that like any typical guy, my pulse quickens when I see a poster of Spiderman that floods my mind with warm childhood memories. And I’m counting down the days until my own son graduates from Barney (that horrific purple blob) to real cartoons like Batman: The Animated Series!
But where in the world did this concept of a super hero come from, and what is it that causes us to be so drawn to them?
The word hero comes from the Greek word heros, which is closely related to the Greek word hora (this is where we get the English word “hour”). This spoke of someone’s natural life on this earth. In Ancient Greece, a hero was someone who lived such a powerful life that they were worshipped after their death. Shrines were built to honor these dead heroes, and religious cults were formed that were dedicated to hero worship. Hero mythology was very closely connected to typical Greek mythology, except in this case the objects of worship were not actual gods, but powerful human beings (demigods).
A recurring storyline in Greek hero mythology described a hero that was powerful enough to defeat death itself and return from the grave.
No Other Gods But Me
Now we can see why super heroes have such popular appeal. They promote the idea that human beings can become powerful enough to save themselves from evil and destruction. Satan has always tried to lead people away from worshipping the true God, and since the time of Ancient Greece he has used this popular form of ancestor worship to do this. The Bible, however, tells us the following about hero worship:
- We are not to worship any god other than the LORD (Exodus 20:3-6)
- Trying to contact the dead or teaching that the dead can reach out from the afterlife to help us is forbidden by God (Exodus 22:18; Leviticus 19:32, 20:6; Deuteronomy 18:10-11; I Samuel 28:3; Jeremiah 27:9-10)
The One True Hero
I believe that the primary reason super hero stories resonate so deeply with us, however, is that they bear striking similarity to the story of Jesus Christ, the One Who was sent to save us from evil and give us eternal hope. Our hearts were designed to respond to this Gospel story, and when super hero myths contain threads of the Gospel, our hearts respond to these as well.
Here is why Jesus is the Ultimate Hero:
- Jesus Christ was perfect (the sinless Son of God), but loved us so much that He died to atone for our sins. He was powerful enough to defeat death at His resurrection, and now mediates between man and God (Acts 26:23; Romans 1:2-5; Hebrews 4:15; I Peter 1:3-4)
- There is only one mediator between God and man. Only Christ can fill the role of “hero” in our lives (I Timothy 2:5-6; Hebrews 8:6, 9:15, 12:24)
Why Settle for a Cheap Imitation?
Let’s face it: when it comes down to being an Ultimate Hero or Savior, no one but Jesus Christ comes close to fitting the bill. Super hero stories are extremely fun, can be meaningful when they remind us of the Gospel, and can provide perfect opportunities to lead a casual conversation with friends to talking about Christ. But in the end, they are only cheap imitations of the Gospel Story.
I’m sure all the fans who stormed out of the theatre during Thor and demanded their money back would agree: why settle for a bad imitation when you can have the real thing?