Jewish Superheroes: A look at an oppressed people

Freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed.
Martin Luther King, Jr.

(This is a deeper/scholastic look at the development of the Jewish belief system, rather than a ‘theological’ one)

Myths are stories with a deeper meaning. Myths are narratives with a culturally deep hearbeat that lives beyond its own shelf-life. Myths are important to any cultures existence and growth. Myths also tend to demonstrate something larger at work. A theme. A deity. An ethic. A truth. A love. Things that get lost in words tend to find themselves in myths, because the story itself is too powerful for everyday words.

If you look at the Jewish people (first and foremost) as a group of people committed to their myth (as defined above) than you see a people deeply in-tune with the world above them and around them. A poetic people, a people who trust their myth. As I said, their myth made sense of the world around them.

The Jewish people (in and outside of biblical record) were an oppressed people. If you put this in terms of highschool. They were the ‘nerds’ of the world. They were the essential outsider, the geeks who never got the girl. Their story (in the Torah, Gemara, Mishnah, Tanya and others) out of that oppression seems to be quite document in their literature. During their development as a people, one man stood apart in the eyes of their deity. He was chosen to be the progenitor, or the first Jewish Superhero of the race of this ‘holy nation’.

(Did Abraham live?; I am not sure that question matters as much as why he lived in the minds of his people, if he didn’t live that is).

Here we have an oppressed people who are looking outwards.

Who are trying to make sense of their oppression.

They need someone to come along and save the day. And so their history is riddled with Superheroes and heroines who represent their resolve to rise above that oppression. From Abraham we go to Joseph, who was oppressed by his own family/his own people, and Yahweh stepped in and orchestrated certain events in life so that he could rise above being oppressed. Then we a Judge named Deborah, who lives within a culture whereby if you are female you are automatically oppressed. She stands up and fights for her people even when the man wouldn’t. Than we have Samson, who in the fashion of a ‘Romeo & Juliet story’, falls in love with the enemy who ends up injuring him. At this point, he is the oppressed (a representation of Israel perhaps?); then Yawheh comes in and gives Samson (the ultimate Arnold Schwarzenegger of his day) a bit more strength to win the day for his people and smash their enemies to pieces. Then you have the uberman of superheroes, albeit flawed, King David the Giant Fighter. He came up through the ranks, not even in the army but as a helpless shepherd (it’s important to remember here, that when we first catch up with the Jews in the Torah, for the most part, they see themselves as traveling shepherds) who ends up defending an oppressed country.

As time went on, Israel popped in and out of the oppressed narrative, but for the most part they were the oppressed. Then the age of the prophets came. There was talk of a Messiah. A bruised reed. A suffering servant. Who was to come and free Israel of its oppression from others. This was the ultimate superhero, this was the political and militaristic savior come to ’save the day’. (Now, when you start diving into interpretation of who or what this Messiah was meant to be, there are interpretations across the board – one of many was that it was a person who was meant to come; some others thought it was yet another metaphor (myth?) for Israel itself).

There is also the choice of deity. There were a pantheon of gods to choose from. They happened to worship the god Yahweh who was in the council of El (Elohim-this shows up in Genesis). Yahweh was the god of war. He was a jealous god. He wanted all praise and worship for himself. He was the ultimate God who would have been a god of the oppressed. He was the warrior god they needed to be their voice for oppression. He was the god who would send them on divinely sanctioned wars to fight their oppression. This deity promised them a new land, their own. For an oppressed people who were known by their nomadic lifestyle, this would be a perfect land, a promised land. An Eden of sorts. A land ‘flowing with milk and honey.’ This god of war was going to make sure they got it and kept it.

For those who believed that the Messiah was a person, they were waiting in hope that this savior was going to rescue them from any current or future oppression. He was going to be a leader. They waited for him to come for year and years. Finally one day, a small-town Rabbi pops on the scene and starts talking about a new kind of Kingdom. He starts about how this new way of doing things would upset the natural order of things.

This is the message they were waiting for.

Hoping for.

This Rabbi did things backwards, he approached people to be his disciples (rather than the prescripted opposite); he treated others with compassion and open-arms. He was a different. He was going to upset the system, just not in the way they thought. His friends became to close to him, most of his friends were Jewish. They had heard of the thousands of years of oppression, some from their own grandparents. They begin to see this Jesus of Nazareth in a whole new light, they begin to see him as the ultimate superhero.

Even bigger than David.

Bigger than the giant-killer.

He was going to save them from the oppressive regime of Rome. He was going to usher in a new world where the Jews were going to rule the world (‘and the government will be upon his shoulders’), they were going to at least be the center of it, if not the former. Jesus was now the Jewish uberman (that Nietzche coined). He was the Messiah for the oppressed who was going to usher in the New Messianic Age they hade been waiting for for centuries.

About George Elerick

George Elerick is a widely sought-after speaker, activist and cultural theorist. He lives in England with his wife and two children. He and his wife run Cross Culture Consultancy (http://www.crosscultureconsultancy.com): A webinar & in-person speaking-based platform to discuss, apply & innovate new methods to respond to some of the world's biggest issues.

George majors on cultural engagement, pop-culture, postmodernism, theology & others. Deborah majors on human rights, gender equality,domestic violence, social justice issues and more. They are available for booking! He has a book out entitled 'Jesus Bootlegged' and has another on the way: Jesus and the Death of Church.


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