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By Richard Bruce BA, MA, and PhC in Economics

Several Things that Star Wars took from the Bible

Star Wars is a mashup of ideas from many sources. Among the many are the Bible and Christianity.

Lucas has described himself as a Buddhist Methodist. Clearly, he is not a hardcore Christian believer.

But, nostalgia is a key element in many of George Lucas's movies. Perhaps, Lucas was nostalgic for an earlier era of film making when Hollywood was willing to be a Judeo-Christian cheerleader. Perhaps, Lucas rejected the modern Hollywood attitude which is anti-Christian or the idea that Hollywood needs to reform the backward religious faith of its audience.

I like to think that Lucas and the old Hollywood realized that much of their audience understood faith, religion, and spirituality far better than they do and that any role beyond cheerleader was inappropriate. Of course, like Star Wars itself this maybe nothing more than a pleasant fantasy.

It also seems likely that Lucas realized that the Christian elements would sell tickets. The Christians were likely to see them and appreciate them, the non-believers were more likely to miss them. Furthermore, in America, the Christians were far more numerous, than the dedicated anti-religious who might resent the Christian references. So perhaps Lucas was simply being commercial.

Lucas certainly used Christian and Jewish references in his other movies. In his first feature film, THX 1138, the central character does a science fiction version of a Christian confession. This is one of the most famous, if not the most famous scene from the movie.

The first movie in his Indiana Jones series, Raiders of the Lost Ark, concerns the search for the lost ark of the covenant, the chest described in the Old Testament that contained the stone tablets on which the Ten Commandments were written. The third movie in the Indiana Jones series, Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade, concerns the search for the Holy Grail, the cup that Jesus used at the Last Supper.

For what ever reason or reasons, commercial, nostalgic, spiritual, or artistic Lucas used Judeo-Christian themes.

The Phantom Menace

In The Phantom Menace we are introduced to Anakin Skywalker who has many things in common with Christ. The major thing is the virgin birth. The midi-chlorins and or the Force had enabled Anakin's mother to bear him without a man, a virgin birth. As the Force plays a role somewhat similar to God in the Star Wars universe this looks like a clear reference to the Virgin Birth of Christ.

One reason for thinking this is a reference to Christianity is that the story would work the same if Anakin Skywalker simply had the highest midi-chlorian count for some unknown reason. After all, there has to be a tallest person and a fastest runner, so if there was such a thing as a midi-chlorian count someone would have to have the highest count. Furthermore, this is space fantasy, you do not really need explanations.

Skeptics might object that there are many virgin births in various mythologies. Fine, but Lucas is not trying to sell movie tickets to peasants living several thousand years ago. There is one virgin birth that is widely accepted today. The Virgin Birth of Jesus is a doctrine of both Christianity and Islam, and Christians and Muslims combined are the majority of humanity.

Another important similarity is that both Christ and Anakin Skywalker are thought to be the fulfillment of a prophecy. Anakin Skywalker was supposed to be the chosen one who would bring balance to the force. Similarly, Christ in Christian theology is the Messiah or anointed one.

Anakin Skywalker was a child prodigy much like the Christ. Of course, Anakin Skywalker was a prodigy as a mechanic and a pod racer, while Christ amazed the scholars at the temple with the intelligence of his questions. Granted this is different, and you can say I am stretching it.

One might also compare the visit of two Jedi, Qui-Gon Jinn and Obi-Wan Kenobi, to the visit of the wise men, and Darth Maul's attack while Anakin and the others are trying to escape Tatooine might be compared to Herod's slaughter of the boy babies in Bethlehem in an attempt to kill Christ. The quick escape from Tatooine could also be compared to the flight to Egypt. When Anakin faces the Jedi Council this could be compared to Christ meeting with the scholars in the temple at a similar age. Sure, all of this is really stretching it. One reason why I doubt these connections is that many elements are a natural and fairly necessary development of the story.

Finally, Darth Maul obviously looks like a devil. This is how many, perhaps most people see him. As Radio Moscow said during the Cold War, this is no coincidence.

The Revenge of the Sith

Darth Sidious, Emperor Palpatine, says of Darth Plagueis, "could save others from death, he could not save himself." This is thought to be a reference to Matthew 27:42 where the temple priests and scribes mock Christ at his Crucifixion by saying, "He saved others, but he cannot save himself." Darth Plagueis could save others from death through the power of the force, Christ brought people back from the dead through the power of God. Darth Sidious who is points out the irony was directly responsible for the death of Darth Plagueis, just as the temple priests and scribes had arranged the death of Christ. Given the similarity of the context, I think it likely that the writer was quoting Matthew.

A New Hope

After the Luke, Hann, the Princess, and the robots get to their space ship, the Millenium Falcon, Obi-Wan Kenobi turns off his light saber thereby allowing Darth Vader to kill him, but when Vader strikes Obi-Wan just disappears leaving an empty cloak and a lightsaber. Earlier in the fight, Obi-Wan says, "You can't win. Strike me down and I will become more powerful than you can possibly imagine."

All of this points to Christ's sacrificial death on the Cross. Christ has the power to stop the Crucifixion but allows it to happen. As Obi-Wan is having difficulty in the fight it is not so clear that he could prevent Vader from killing him. Still, his final action, turning off his light saber means he allowed it to happen. His earlier claim that in death he will become powerful reflects how Christ's death redeems humanity according to Christian theology. I was not a Christian when I first saw Star Wars, but I had been raised by an agnostic, but church going family, so I saw the connection instantly.

The Return of the Jedi

The Return of the Jedi ends with the redemption of Darth Vader just before he dies. Salvation through death bed conversion is a favorite Christian theme. The movie ends when we and the heroes, Hann, Luke, and Princess Leia, see a vision of Yoda, Obi-Wan, and Anakin Skywalker united in the afterlife. The good guys are in heaven or some Star Wars equivalent. This is very much a Christian theme, though I suppose it could fit in with other religions.

Pandering to Christians is Profitable

In the Star Wars and Indiana Jones series Lucas panders to Christians, something that Hollywood seems reluctant to do. Hollywood claims they worship the almighty dollar, but they seem to draw the line when it comes to Christian dollars. For some reason, Christian dollars are not green. Hollywood leaves that Christian money just sitting on the table. Sometimes a guy like Lucas picks it up.

But of course, the Bible is only one of the many sources Lucas drew upon. He was also influenced by Joseph Campbell, Tolkien, Kurosawa, Jack Kirby, Sergio Leone, and many others. I have written a web page on the influences of Jack Kirby on Star Wars and another on a lesser know Sergio Leone film Once Upon a Time ... The Revolution which was also a source for many elements of Star Wars.


Last edited July 12, 2017

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