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Christian Symbolism in The Matrix

The Matrix is a futuristic, post-apocalyptic story of a man who struggles with the notion that he is the “One” chosen to liberate the world. Indeed, when Neo learns he is trapped in a computer-controlled world where nothing is real, he must accept his fate (a concept which he does not believe in) as the saviour of mankind. At the beginning of the movie Neo, a.k.a. Thomas Anderson, finally meets Morpheus, a man for whom he has been searching for quite some time. Upon their meeting, Morpheus frees Neo from the Matrix and tells him of his destiny as the “One.” Neo learns that Artificial Intelligence (AI) has taken over the world, and possesses complete control over mankind. It is Neo’s destiny to free the people from AI and lead them into a better place, the real world. Said to have come before, and believed to eventually return, Neo learns that the “One” has the power to bend the rules which have been programmed into the world he was born into, the Matrix.

As the movie progresses, the action intensifies and pulls the viewer in, however, The Matrix is much more than an action-packed sci-fi thriller. After one view this film for the second and third time, he/she starts to notice a great deal of symbolism. This symbolism starts to paint a completely different picture than the images of humans battling machines. It is a religious story, with symbols deeply set in the Christian faith. The Matrix contains religious symbolism through its three main characters, Morpheus, Neo, and Trinity, in that each character solidly personifies the “Father,” the “Son,” and the “Holy Spirit” of the Christian beliefs. The Matrix uses the connections of the main characters to the Holy Trinity to parallel a belief which many people have about modern American culture: people need guidance from a higher being.

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Morpheus, the leader of the rebellion is a father figure to the rest of the “free” people, thus he is compared with “the Father.” One character, Tank even makes a direct reference to this: “Morpheus, you were more than a leader to us, you were a father.” Morpheus acted as a protector and a mentor, in much the same way that a father would to his children. In Christianity, God is the Father. There are several references to Morpheus’s knowledge. Neo asks, “How do you know all this?” Later, Trinity says, “He knows more than you could ever imagine.” In these passages, Morpheus is being shown as all-knowing. The fact that Morpheus seems to have all the answers is a comparison to God’s omniscience. Morpheus later says to Neo: “…I can only show you the door. You’re the one that has to walk through it.” Morpheus is not forcing Neo to do or become anything; only showing Neo “the truth,” as he said he would. He leaves the final decision up to Neo. Christian beliefs say that God does not make decisions for his followers. He shows them His way and gives them the choice of which path to take.

Neo searched for Morpheus without knowing for sure that he really existed, sometimes not even completely sure who or what he was searching for. Morpheus explains to him, “…you feel it. You’ve felt it your entire life…” This is similar to the way that people in modern culture search for meaning in life. They start out with a feeling that they are missing something – looking for something, unsure of what exactly it is they are trying to find. According to Christian beliefs, these “wanderers” will eventually get their “call” or see the “sign.” This helps to direct the people in the right direction, toward God. Neo received his “call” in the form of Trinity’s computer message, and then followed the “sign” (the white rabbit) to meet Trinity. This is the path that would eventually lead him to Morpheus.

Neo represents Jesus Christ, the Son of God. There are probably more symbols in the movie pointing to this comparison than any other symbolic reference. The first reference is made just two minutes after Neo first appears on the screen. After purchasing a disk of unknown contents, the man, Troy says, “Hallelujah. You’re my saviour, man. My own personal Jesus Christ.” This line initially passes right by the viewer, as just random dialogue. However, after one has seen the film again, he/she begins to pick up on the religious symbolism and this line becomes an initial clue of what is to come. It foreshadows that Neo will eventually take his place as the “One,” for by the film’s end, Neo is quite literally the “Savior” of mankind.

Another symbol comparing Neo to Christ is his name in the Matrix: Thomas Anderson. This name seems to have no meaning at first, only a very common ordinary name. However, Thomas can be a direct reference to Doubting Thomas, who didn’t believe Jesus had died and been resurrected until he saw the wounds (John 20:24-28). Thomas (Neo) was full of doubt throughout his existence as a part of the Matrix, and even initially as a part of the real world. During Neo’s training, Morpheus has Tank load the “Jump Program.” While giving Neo instructions Morpheus says, “You have to let it all go, Neo. Fear…doubt and disbelief. Free your mind,” before jumping off of a building and landing safely on another. This is similar to a cultural belief, which many share, known as blind faith. There are many people, of many religions, whose beliefs are so strong that they will do anything for their God, and trust that He will take care of them. At this point, Neo still didn’t have complete trust in Morpheus. Because of this doubt and lack of trust Neo falls. In addition, Neo didn’t appear to notice that he was shot, at the end of the film, until after he looked down and saw the blood coming from the wound. This is similar to doubting Thomas having to “see it to believe it.” His last name, Anderson, has roots in Greek. The root “andr” means “man” so Anderson could be read as man’s son, or “Son of Man,” a reference of Christ, who was the son of God, born of Man. The name Neo is a prefix that signifies “new” or “recent,” possibly as a reference to his being the new incarnation of the “One.”

Another interesting link between Neo and Christ is that of resurrection. When Jesus Christ died, he remained dead for three days, and on the third day, he resurrected (Mark 16:4-8). It would be difficult to have Neo die for three days during one of the most exciting scenes in the movie, not to mention the fact that the filmmakers didn’t want to just spoon-feed every bit of symbolism to the audience, so they had to find a way to compare Neo’s death and resurrection to that of Christ. Christ was dead for three days, which is seventy-two hours. The amount of time between the Sentinel taking his pulse and saying “he’s gone” to Neo taking his first breath is seventy-two seconds. Another interesting point is that the movie was released in theatres on Easter weekend, which is a holiday celebrating the resurrection of Christ.

Finally, another connection can be made concerning events that occurred after the “resurrection.” According to the gospels, after Jesus died and was resurrected, he roamed the earth, appearing to people to tell them the truth about salvation, and showing them the miracle of life. After forty days, his body and soul were resurrected up into the heavens. Just before the end of the movie, Neo is walking around in the Matrix, presumably showing the people inside the truth about their lives, and how to escape from the Matrix is their birth into a new life. At the very end, Neo flies up into the sky, seemingly symbolic of Jesus rising up away from the earth after sharing the truth with the people.

One belief shared by some non-religious people is that many people in modern culture use religion as emotional comfort. By having an all-powerful being, Christians do not have to take full responsibility for all aspects of their life. They can continue on in their daily routines and know that, according to their beliefs, they will be ok in the end because Christ is their saviour, and will take care of all believers. In a similar way, The Matrix uses Neo to save the people still under computer control. They go on with their normal life with no concerns about what is to come; Neo will eventually save these people from the Matrix and take them into another world, as Christ is believed to come and save humans and take them into the “next life.”

Trinity, the final piece of the trio, provides the first clue – her name. The last part of the Holy Trinity is the Holy Spirit, which can be seen in Trinity. While most people don’t know exactly what is meant by “the Holy Spirit” many people will say that it is the embodiment of love. Trinity shows this embodiment in Neo’s death scene, where she shares her love for Neo: “The Oracle told me that I would fall in love…the man I loved would be the ‘One.’…you can’t be dead…because I love you.” Her love was so powerful that it transcended worlds and gave Neo the strength to get up. Another Biblical figure associated with love was the Virgin Mary. Like Mary did with Jesus, Trinity served as a nurturing mother-figure and facilitates Neo’s “birth” into the real world. The Virgin Mary was the human link between God and Jesus Christ, and The Holy Spirit the spiritual link. It was Trinity who brought Neo to Morpheus, and she later facilitated Neo’s resurrection with her love. In these instances, Trinity acted as both a physical and a spiritual Link between Morpheus and Neo.

With the final piece in place, it becomes evident that The Matrix uses a great deal of symbolism and compares the three main characters with the Holy Trinity. This known, the viewer is left to wonder why such a comparison would be made at all. Quite possibly to help the filmmakers create a bigger picture. The Matrix is itself a symbol, a technological representation of another event mentioned in the bible. This event, unlike the rest of the comparisons, was not a story about the past which someone told, it is a prophecy that was foretold, which is still prominent in the beliefs of Christians in modern culture.

The Matrix is an artist’s view of Armageddon, the biblical war which would end in the second coming of the saviour and the judgment, and saving of mankind. Many other religions in today’s society also await the coming, of a “Savior” who will judge the living and the dead, the good from the evil, and take all of mankind into another life. Directors, the Wachowski Brothers, picked up on this belief which is shared by so many different cultures, and decided to tell a story based on the Christian theory chronicling the second coming of Jesus Christ, or in the case of the film, the coming of the “One.”

WORKS CITED

1. The Matrix. Dir. the Wachowski Brothers. With Keanu Reeves, Laurence Fishburn, and Carrie-Anne Moss. Warner Brothers, 1999. 136 min.

2. The New Adventure Bible. The Zondervan Corporation. © 1994

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Christian Symbolism in The Matrix. (2021, Feb 24). Retrieved February 26, 2021, from https://essayscollector.com/essays/christian-symbolism-in-the-matrix/