Imagine meeting the perfect man. He’s a physical man in that he exists and interacts in this material world just like the rest of us. He was born and grew up, he eats, he sleeps, and he can die. But he’s also perfectly aligned with the divine. He has superhuman abilities and never ever makes a mistake. Everything he does and says has a great meaning behind it.

Humanity has grappled with the possibility of this man from the beginning of knowledge. Ancient Western philosophy called such a man the “Logos” or “Universal Wise Man.” The English Common Law system, on a more practical level, refers to the “reasonable, prudent man,” who is applied as the measure to determine if a particular defendant’s actions compare. Would the reasonable, prudent man have driven the car with bald tires? Not even a possibility.

Literature and culture have provided many great figures who could be considered as types to the Logos. Many appear in the Bible, of course. The Old Testament has several great figures, for sure, including Moses and the Prophet Elijah. Moses serves as a close example as the wise lawgiver who performs great miracles. Sampson, another lesser example, is a man whose strength is superhuman, but whose lustful vices are his undoing. Yet all fall short of the ideal and make no claims to be the Logos himself.

In all of history and literature only one real contender for the Logos has emerged and that is: Jesus of Nazareth. His character and story are unprecedented. The New Testament identifies him as the Logos and relates primarily to his story and teachings. He is fully human and yet fully divine—his father is God, the author of all existence; his mother a virgin (and now the Queen of Heaven). His birth was foretold, and the measurement of time was divided between BC and AD to mark his birth. He is the source of all goodness, truth and beauty. As such, his life divinely exemplifies the virtues, including prudence, justice, temperance, courage, faith, hope and charity (or love). He has no vices.

Jesus, as God himself, takes a deep interest in his creation and fellow human beings. (This, in worldly, human standards, seems to be his only weakness or downfall. He loves and cares for the rest of us beyond our understanding.) And, while tempted like the rest of us, he never even considers succumbing to his temptations. Moreover, while he lived as a human, he had seemingly limitless superhuman abilities and commanded great power over nature. He could read minds and predict the future. He could heal sick people, even raise them from the dead. Evil spirits fled at his command. He walked on water. But, he only used his power on a limited basis, always for a higher purpose.

He is killed eventually, willingly so in order to save humanity, but is back to life three days later, this time even more powerful. Now he can fly, walk through walls, travel about instantly, even bilocate. He still retains his body, though. He demonstrates by eating some food and having his disciples review the open wounds still on his body from his recent experience with capital punishment.

Thus, even if Jesus is taken as simply as a literary character, there are many comparable figures, but all fall short upon further analysis. And whether or not it’s intentional in the part of the individual author, our popular culture in the guise of fantasy and science fiction has made many attempts to portray the Logos. Who are the science fiction/fantasy cultural contenders and how do they compare to Jesus’s example as a Logos?

Let’s look at five popular examples.

In Star Trek

Star Trekhas many, many examples of men and advanced aliens with god-like powers. Although no such repeat characters were introduced in the original series (“TOS”), Captain Kirk and the Enterprisecome across many such characters with elements of the Logos. In one episode, a god-like boy-man appears at the conclusion dressed like an ancient Greek and is surprised that humans could show “advanced” virtues, namely mercy. In another episode, the race of Organians appear to be human-like at first, but in reality, have evolved far beyond the need for human bodies. In both cases, the aliens are more spirit or energy-based and appear, in general, somewhat disinterested in the affairs of material persons, a distinct difference to Jesus’s deeply loving, human portrayal of the Logos.

Closer perhaps, in TOS were the characters of Apollo and Flint, who appear in two other unrelated episodes. Apollo, it turns out, was actually an advanced alien who visited ancient Earth and become a basis for Greek Mythology. While he does have a physical body, he’s not perfect, not by a long shot—like the Greek gods, he has all the human passions and caprice of an ordinary human, just with god-like powers. Flint, on the other hand, is a human, but a virtually immortal one, who by his vast age has developed a sage genius in his roles as Merlin, Da Vinci and Brahms (among others over the centuries). He, however, is also far from perfect, showing many vices, including pride and jealousy. He has no powers other than technologies developed by his genius mind.

The closest to, and yet furthest from, the Logos in TOS has to be a character from the second pilot, Where No Man Has Gone Before, Gary Mitchell. Mitchell is an ordinary man who obtains god-like powers but retains all of his human weaknesses. That is, he lacks the fullness of virtues, humility, for starters. He begins to see himself as being too advanced for normal humanity and becomes a deadly threat to not only the Enterprise crew, but the entire human race. The very point of the story was to demonstrate how imperfect humanity and godlike powers don’t mix very well.

Repeat Logos-like characters come in to play in the later Star Trekseries, The Next Generation(“TNG”) and Deep Space Nine(“DS9”). The most obvious one in TNG was Q (who also appears in DS9 and Voyager), who along with his fellow Q Continuum, have virtually limitless, divine-like power to instantly create something from nothing. They appear to have bodies like humans, especially in one episode where Q loses his powers and must live like a normal human being. Yet while Q certainly has everything the Logos has in the way of superhuman power, he is, like all the other Star Trekaliens, far from perfect. He is a trickster, a Loki-like god of mischievousness. He mocks Picard, the captain of the next generation Enterprise, for any demonstrated virtue as a sign of weakness. Hardly the Logos.

DS9 has its Prophets of the Wormhole, who are advanced aliens like the Organians, but in the Prophets’ case, they cannot even communicate to “linear,” material persons in a direct way, but must use visions in which they speak through characters of people the visionary knows in the real world. They do, however, have a distant interest in the affairs of their chosen people, the Bajorans.

The character closest to being the Logos in all of Star Trek, however, would be the Prophet’s “Emissary,” Captain Sisko, the commanding officer of DS9. Sisko has several attributes of the Logos—he is an ordinary human being, and a moral man, demonstrably showing many of the virtues as the series progresses, chiefly courage, faith and charity. He eventually learns that his parentage involves the Prophets’ intercession and even attains god-like powers through them, but only at the conclusion of the series. As close as he is, he’s not quite close enough. He’s not perfect—he makes mistakes sometimes. He’s also brooding and taciturn, due to the death of his wife. We can relate with this certainly because he is human, but he’s just not the Logos.

So, in Star Trekwe have many aliens with god-like powers, and ordinary humans, who sometimes mix and match these attributes of the Logos, but only one character, Sisko, comes close to comparing with the Logos. They are certainly all missing in the perfection and virtues departments.

In Star Wars

The Star Warsworld is set up as events that happened a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away. This alone gives everything about it a special set-apart, almost magical feel, where out of the ordinary things are possible. It also makes meeting someone like the Logos seem all the more possible. And there are a few contenders, but are these extra-galactic heroes closer to the Logos than Jesus?

The influence of Eastern mysticism characterizes the religions of this world, which revere “the Force.” There is no central deity with the Force—it is created by all living things and it surrounds and penetrates them all. Only the Buddhist monks of that galaxy, the Jedi, and their opposites, the Sith, have powers to manipulate the Force. And certainly, the Jedi Masters come close to the Logos’s standards, particularly Obi Wan Kenobi and Yoda. (For the sake of scope, I am not analyzing Luke Skywalker here as his story continues to unfold in coming movies.)

Both Obi Wan and Yoda are good and wise in the ways of the Force and appear to have right judgment in all things, especially in the original two movies. While not as divinely powerful as the advanced aliens of Star Trek, the Jedi Masters have great power to manipulate and move matter. They display great virtues—there is great self-sacrifice and they are seemingly fearless. Obi Wan even has a death and resurrection, telling his foe, Darth Vader that if he strikes him down, he will become more powerful that Vader can possibly understand.

Yet with all their virtues, they are also a bit detached and disinterested and far from being perfect. It’s hinted at in the first three movies, but the Jedi masters’ imperfections are each more apparent with each new prequel movie, and likely one of the reasons the movies are less liked by the public than the originals. Perhaps having learned from their own mistakes in this area, Yoda warns Luke to avoid underestimating the power of the “Dark Side” of the force. In the prequels, both Yoda and Obi Wan are caught blind-sided by the Sith, defeated and forced into hiding. Jesus’ only defeat, in contrast, was willingly taken and predicted by him. The defeat was actually a stage in a victory over death itself.

Darth Vader (aka Anakin Skywalker) is also another figure with aspects of the Logos, particularly being one whose birth was predicted (as one who would bring balance to the Force) and was born via a virgin birth. He too has the powers over nature. But of course, he is tempted by and eventually succumbs to the power of the Dark Side. He does unspeakably evil things, but in the end, performs a redemptive act (saving his son from the evil Emperor and sacrificing his life in the process). Thus, while he has a good ending, Vader is unlike Jesus in that he gave in to the temptation. And badly.

In other contrasts, the Jedi’s powers are, in comparison to Jesus’s, mere parlor tricks. And, after Vader kills him, Obi Wan becomes a ghost-like figure who can interact with the world only on a limited basis, and this is far less than what Jesus could do. So, while the Jedi’s have Logos-like powers and virtues, they don’t quite measure up to the standards set by Jesus. Close but not close enough.

In Superhero Movies

Many superheroes could be posited as types for the Logos, but two I will focus on have been featured in recent movies, Superman and Thor. These two characters compare greatly to Jesus as the Logos by also being, more or less, sons of gods, and having great powers. But are they closer to the Logos than Jesus?

Superman is comparable to Jesus in that he comes from outside the earth, but is raised as a normal human being. Although not supernatural, his parental lineage suggests an almost divine origin, being from a planet in this universe with especially powerful and advanced people. His powers on Earth are nearly limitless. He is good and virtuous and cares deeply about people. Superman has a physical body that is, of course, superhuman—it is described as being molecularly dense. Superman also (spooler alert) dies defending the Earth from evil, and presumably, will have a resurrection in an upcoming film.

Unlike Jesus, Superman’s power is limited in that he can only do things using the physical power of his body. He cannot raise anyone from the dead or quiet a storm with a command, for example. But even more so, recent film portrayals of Superman have brought out more dark, human characteristics. He broods a bit and doesn’t know his place in the world, for example. With his eventual resurrection, undoubtedly unlike Jesus, Superman will return with the same powers and deadly weaknesses, namely being prone to kryptonite.

Thor, on the other hand, is much more supernatural than Superman, being based on the Norse God. The recent movie version of Thor indeed comes from a place outside this universe (thus by definition, supernatural) and from a world where his father is the king of the gods there. He is divinely powerful; his power derives from his mighty hammer. He also has a physical body, and when stripped of his power, he can be killed.

But unlike Jesus, his trip to Earth is not voluntary—he has defied the will of his father. He’s not here to save the people, although he does so in the process. And Thor has vices: he’s supremely arrogant. He is not perfectly aligned with the divine will, but then again, his father, while god-like, is not the author of all existence.

These characters show to a great extent what havoc could occur if a flawed, imperfect being were to have superhuman qualities. Their powers are not always used correctly, and they can lose them. If anything, they represent that humans have difficulty grasping the idea of a human being also being the Logos. It doesn’t seem possible to be perfect, even with lots of superhuman powers. But that’s what the Logos has to be.

In The Lord of the Rings

In The Lord of the Rings, author J.R.R. Tolkien takes the arguably best approach towards developing a Logos-like human character. As Philosopher Peter Kreeft has described, Tolkien does not try to integrate aspects of the Logos all into one character—he does it with three. Tolkien, also, is one of two in my examples who has intentionally attempted to create a Logos-type character.

Kreeft describes the qualities of three characters that each represent a different aspect of Jesus’s roles and qualities. Frodo represents the priestly qualities of Jesus. Gandalf the Wizard represents Jesus’s status as Prophet while Aragorn represents Jesus as King.

In sum, they are all good, virtuous human men. Frodo, the ring bearer, takes the priestly role, making a great sacrifice in taking on the burden of carrying the ring (a symbol of great earthly, but evil power) and nearly sacrificing his very life to destroy it. Frodo, who by design, is not the Logos by himself, falls short in that he at times succumbs to the temptations of ring, even at the last minute before destroying it.

Gandalf is the most Logos-like of the three and, as Prophet, although imperfect in interpretation, has prophet-like insights and, with his magic, encompasses the superhuman powers of the three. Gandalf “the Grey” dies while confronting evil but is resurrected as a transformed Gandalf “the White” who has even greater powers and wisdom. Yet, his transformation is not as complete as Jesus’s, and his victory over an evil is not the ultimate victory over death as Jesus’s was.

Aragorn represents Jesus as King. He has the power to release the dead—taking the path of the dead. He also takes on Jesus’s kingly qualities as the divine healer. He is a moral man, lordly, yet humble and supremely courageous. While he may struggle at times to make a decision (such as deciding whether or not to stay with Frodo or go on to rescue the other captured Hobbits), it is arguable whether he ever makes a bad decision once it is made. The only Logos aspects he lacks are incorporated in Frodo and Gandalf. By himself, he’s not perfect. And neither are the three characters combined together. Like all Logos types, they cannot quite measure up to the true Logos.

In The Chronicles of Narnia

To limit the scope of this small article, at first I was not going to include a fifth example, but I realized that C.S. Lewis’s character from The Chronicles of Narnia, Aslan, could not be overlooked in a comparison to Jesus and the Logos. Narnia is set in another, magical universe, and Aslan is the Logos for that universe.

Aslan’s close comparison to Jesus is intentional on the part of Lewis. Like Jesus, Aslan is perfect and never makes a mistake. He is all virtue and has no vices, perfectly aligned with the will of his father. His power is limitless and he, like Jesus, has a sacrificial death and resurrection where he grows even more powerful. In fact, he is the most like Jesus of any character reviewed here. The only difference of course, is that he is a lion, not a man. He identifies himself as the same figure in the Narnia universe as that held in our universe by our “Aslan,” who is not specifically named, but implicitly is Jesus.

Conclusion

We all, let alone popular fantasy and science fiction, have a hard time trying even to conceive of perfection, much less creating a character who is the measure for perfection itself. Characters developed and written by mortal human beings have never come close to the Logos, with the notable exception of Aslan, who is meant to be a type of Jesus. This is because we are imperfect, and the best we could ever come up with is a Logos-type—something comparable but never quite the Logos.

And yet, the Gospel writers of the New Testament seem to have done this very thing: they described the Logos himself, the perfect man. Of course, they were not trying to write fiction about a character they themselves developed— they wrote about an historical figure based on eye witness accounts. We actually have more proof of Jesus’s existence than of any other ancient historical figure, including Julius Caesar and Alexander the Great. And, whether Jesus said and did all the things purported to him in the Bible is a matter of trusting (or not) the witnesses that saw the events unfolding.

However, the central point here is this:  Even if the Gospel writers invented the character of Jesus and/or the events of his life and abilities, they managed to create a singular character in all of history. Recent science fiction and fantasy has produced some comparable figures, but none come quite close enough.

So, while he did not have a fancy uniform or costume (humility precludes it, and he didn’t need one as his transfiguration shows), Jesus bests all science fiction and fantasy characters, even by their own standards. And he takes saving people a step further. Most fantasy and science fiction heroes try to save earthly lives from evil and don’t ask the rest of humanity to assist them in the process. Jesus didn’t come to merely save our earthly lives; he came to save our immortal lives and make us all one with perfection. And we are supposed to help him in this saving mission. There’s even his own “Justice League” (or Order of the Jedi, if you prefer) that we can join.

Perhaps this alone will help unbelievers and otherwise doubtful people to understand Christians’ fascination with this figure, Jesus, whom we revere not only as a character in a book but as the Word of God himself.

(And I’ve hardly mentioned the perfect woman, the Queen of Heaven, the Logos’s sinless human mother, but that’s hopefully another story for another day.)