Parallels of Christ

The latest animated film from the Disney Studios gives us everything we’ve come to expect from Disney: a strapping leading man, a fetching damsel, and cute non-human sidekicks. The film is "Hercules," and it’s a dumbed-down version of the classic Greek myth. Given how Disney has treated other classic tales, that dumbing-down treatment shouldn’t surprise anybody. But what will surprise many film-goers is the movie’s parallels to the greatest story ever told. Hercules is the son of Greek gods. When Hades, the lord of the underworld, learns that Hercules will be his downfall, he plots his death. Thanks to Hades, Hercules loses his immortality, but survives with his incredible strength intact. Raised by mortal parents, Hercules eventually learns that he’s the son of Zeus and that he can regain his immortality only by becoming a true hero. With the help of the obligatory Disney side-kick—a satyr named Philoctetes—Hercules sets out to become that hero. Between slaying the nine-headed Hydra and other mythical bad guys, Hercules meets and falls in love with a pretty girl named Meg, who is the slave of Hades. Hades uses Meg to snare Hercules. Hades promises Hercules that if he will surrender his strength for 24 hours, he will set Meg free. Hercules agrees to the bargain. But Hades breaks his promise. Meg dies and goes to the underworld. It’s then that Hercules makes the supreme sacrifice. He descends to the underworld to save Meg from death itself: He takes her place. In effect, Hercules dies so that she can live. This heroic act of self-sacrifice restores Hercules’ immortality. Hades is finally routed. It certainly sounds familiar, doesn’t it? Like Jesus, Hercules descends from heaven to live as a mortal. He becomes weak and vulnerable to save those he loves. And like our Lord, he descends into hell itself to free his beloved from death’s power. No, the folks at Disney didn’t crib their script from the pages of scripture. The Christian parallels are contained in the original Greek myth. In fact, many pagan folktales and myths contain similar parallels to the story of Christ. These folktales are what the church fathers called preparatio evangelica, that is, preparation for the Gospel. The Bible tells us that Jesus is the lamb slain before the foundation of the world. As a result, the redemptive story of Jesus is woven into the very warp and woof of humanity-implanted in the human heart. Whether we’re talking about pagan Greeks who lived centuries before Christ, or unreached peoples in remote corners of the world today, all societies have stories and myths that echo mankind’s primary story—the story that, 2,000 years ago, left the realm of the mythic and entered decisively into human history. Since I’m participating in the Southern Baptist Convention’s boycott of Disney products, I won’t be seeing "Hercules." But if you decide to take your children to see this film, or if you know other kids who see it, be sure to point out the Biblical parallels. Ask them who Hercules reminds them of when he gives his life as a ransom for Meg. It’s a reminder that even among pagan myths, we see shadows of the true story of how God deals with mankind: shadows that remind us of the greatest story ever told.


Chuck Colson


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