When Lana and Lilly Wachowski’s The Matrix was released, it was an instant classic. However, most people wouldn’t automatically think of the tight leather, copious gunfire, and flying robots and connect it to the Bible.
Religious or not, if you’re a literary scholar you have to realize that the Bible is the most alluded to piece of English literature around — by far. Studying literature seriously means studying the Bible, and next up on the list would probably be Greek mythology. The Matrix is one of the pieces of literature in the film world that most brazenly alludes to the Bible, and though it does so quite obviously, it does it tastefully and in a way that really resonated with a lot of people, of all different types of backgrounds.
First, there are a few obvious references. Zion, the last remaining city for human beings, is also another name for Jerusalem. The ship, the Nebuchadnezzar, is referencing the king of the Neo-Babylonian empire, portrayed in the book of 2 Kings, Jeremiah, and most notably in the book of Daniel. Even the ship’s inscription reads: “Mark III No. 11”. Mark Chapter 3, verse 11 reads: “Whenever the impure spirits saw him, they fell down before him and cried out, ‘You are the Son of God.'”
Which leads into the primary Biblical allusions — Mr. Anderson is “the One”, an unlikely Messiah whose path to save humanity may not look the way everyone expected. As John the Baptist baptizes Jesus in the water, Morpheus draws Neo up from the watery birth pods. As Jesus died and rose again the savior of mankind, Neo was killed by Mr. Smith, only to rise again and realize his position as the savior of mankind. Faith and belief are common motifs throughout the film.
Like any story with allusions, they are not perfect one-for-one-copies — if they wanted you to read the Bible they would have handed you one. I wouldn’t even say that the Matrix is a “religious” film, rather, it speaks to the motifs and literary devices that the Bible has instilled into our culture.
These things resonate very deeply in many of us. The “chosen one” or Messiah archetype is found all over the place — Harry Potter, King Arthur, Star Wars. Even the Terminator series puts a fun twist on having the protagonist’s son be the chosen one, yet she is the heroine. This is just one of many examples we see across the board, and others include a rebirth through water, sacrifice on a cross (or a cross-like position), or the forbidden fruit — just to name a few.
Whether or not these are integrated into human nature due to an existing higher power, or whether they exist in the Bible because they are a part of human nature — that’s up to you to decide. Either way, The Matrix is chock full of it (it references other religions in other ways too, though not as heavily).
I mean, it’s hard to dismiss this idea when the first person who verbally speaks to Neo in the whole film literally says, “You’re my savior man. My own personal Jesus Christ.”