There are several fundamental differences between the Bible & a comic book on Spider-Man that we shall briefly address below. Each point will assist us on tackling the God question in our conclusion.
1. The Bible is history whereas Spider-Man is not.
The Bible is compilation of historical texts written over a 1500 year period by over 40 authors & on three different continents. Each text gives us a glimpse into the world of the author writing & his thoughts. For example, we can clearly see the connections to the Ancient New East in the book of Genesis. We can clearly see the gospels connected to history in the times of the Roman Empire. Many of the Psalms are connected to the Babylonian exile that is confirmed by other historical data. In many places that we look we find that the Bible is well grounded in history.
On the other hand Spider-Man isn’t history nor does it correspond to reality. Spider-Man is a fictional story written by an author who intended to write fiction for an audience. How this is comparable to the historical nature of our biblical documents is beyond me.
2. The gospels are Ancient Greco-Roman biography.
The gospels (alongside the rest of our New Testament corpus) are our primary sources for learning about Jesus and his three year ministry. Although the authors clearly had theological interests they also intended to relay historical information about Jesus, as Professor Licona writes:
“That the Gospels belong to the genre of ancient biography seems secure. What is secure for our present purposes is that the Evangelists intended for their readers to believe that their story of Jesus had actually occurred” (1). Or as my lecturer in New Testament Studies informs us that “The Gospels comprising of pericopes, individual units of narrative or teaching, which are of different kinds, with different formal characteristics. The sub-genre of the gospels is often described as modified ancient biographies. Acts is basically a series of connected shorter narratives that form one entire narrative interspersed with speeches. The sub-genre is ancient history” (2). Likewise Professor Stanton tells us that “the gospels are now widely considered to be a sub-set of the broad ancient literary genre of biographies” (3).
This is an important point because most scholars agree that the gospels & the New Testament are historical sources from which we can learn about history. How many scholars are likewise convinced of Spider-Man’s historical nature? In fact, I’ll challenge any skeptic to name just five PhD scholars teaching at accredited universities around the world who believe that we can get reliable history or any real world data from a comic on Spider-Man (feel free to comment below or PM me).
3. New Testament biblical events are confirmed by other ancient historians & writers.
Unlike with Spider-Man we have many non-Christian writings confirming key narratives & people within the Bible. These authors include the authoritative historians Josephus Flavius, Cornelius Tacitus & Suetonius. Flavius confirms many individuals in our gospels from Jesus, Jesus’ brother James, John the Baptist, King Herod, and Pontius Pilate etc. From Flavius we also find that Jesus lived in the first century, that he was a wise man, that he was a teacher and did startling and unusual deeds, that men believed that he taught the truth, that he gained a following of many Jews and many Greeks, that Pontius Pilate condemned him to the cross, that some were loyal to him and never forsook him, and that from him Christianity branched out and amassed a large following. That’s at least eight facts, most of which are reported and confirmed within the New Testament biblical texts. We also find from Tacitus that Jesus was the founder of Christianity, that there was a Roman called Pilate of whom put Jesus to death, that the Christian religion originated in Judea, and thus later spread to Rome. Thus, from Tacitus alone we can get at least six facts that back up the veracity of the New Testament documents, as mentioned. Suetonius makes an indirect reference to Jesus’ crucifixion and he also confirms a detail found in Acts 18:2 where Christians are expelled from Rome. The Roman philosopher Mara Serapion confirms several New Testament biblical details, namely, that Jesus was Jewish, that he was thought to be a wise king, that he was executed, that he was a teacher, and that his teachings were influencing many after his death. From the Roman governor Pliny the Younger we learn that Jesus was worshiped, and that believers died for belief in him in the early second century. We also find that Christians worshiped on a fixed day before day time, sang hymns to Jesus as if he was God, and that because of Jesus’ teachings they were not to perform any wicked deeds such as fraud, theft, adultery, as well as to never to falsify their word.
We could further expand on this if we were to include our legendary Gnostic writings and/or early church father writings. We could also list dozens of archaeological finds that have further confirmed the historical nature of our New Testament texts. However, what does this all tell us?
This clearly informs us that our New Testament documents are grounded in real history, that they mention real historical events & people, and that they are authoritative historical sources for learning about Jesus in his 1st century Jewish setting. On the other hand, where is the corroborating data for Spider-Man? Are there real, reliable historians and/or writers confirming central events & narratives in Spider-Man taking place in the real world? If so, where are they? What are their works? They don’t exist because Spider-Man is clearly not intended to be grounded within real history or in reality; it is instead aimed at being a fictional entertainment series.
4. Old Testament biblical events are confirmed by archaeology & other ancient writers.
Our next point is that the Old Testament is also strongly grounded in history although there is little corroborating evidence supporting the first five books (the Pentateuch) of the Old Testament.
However, many finds have supported many Old Testament details. Biblical scholars have likely found the area in which Sodom & Gomorrah was destroyed; we have evidence of the Philistine town of Gath where Goliath probably came from. We have corroborating evidence in a stela confirming an Egyptian invasion by Sheshonk. We have corroborating evidence supporting the Babylonian invasion of Judah. Scholars believe they have found the place that the Bible refers to as the Tower of Babel. We also have corroborating evidence in the Egyptian Execration texts supporting many Old Testament locations. Many cultures and people mentioned in the Old Testament are known to have existed, namely the Hittites, Canaanites etc. – we also have confirmation of King David’s existence through archaeology. We could go on and on with this but my point is clear: the Old Testament (like the New Testament) is grounded in concrete history.
Again, where is our archaeological evidence supporting people, cultures, cities, towns, wars, events and so on in Spider-Man? Where is Spider-Man tied & linked to history as is our Bible?
5. On the question of God.
We now know that the Bible & Spider-Man are clearly not comparable & that anyone who does compare them is making a category mistake. So, since we know that our Bible, both our Old & New Testaments, inform us about the past we can actually look to see if God has left his mark in it.
And to that I answer yes, for several reasons. I strongly believe that the resurrection is the best historical explanation when we use our New Testament as historical sources to gather data on him. Many Christians will also point to the fulfillment of prophecy to show God’s inspiration of the Bible. I also find the meta-narrative of the Bible convincing – namely that over such a long period of time that the overarching narrative remains consistent. We must remember that although the Bible was written by over 40 authors, over 1500 years & also on three different continents the central message can be seen throughout (namely, from 1. paradise (Genesis 1-2), 2. paradise lost (Genesis 3 to Revelation 20), and 3. paradise regained (Revelation 21-22)). That all this comes together in one cohesive narrative is quite unparalleled and clearly an indicator of divine inspiration. I also find that human experience further confirms the divine inspiration of the Bible. Today we have lots of corroborating eyewitness evidence to miracle healings done in the name of Jesus (see my article where I lay out five major reasons why I find the reality of miracles undeniable) and of which are very much like the miracles Jesus performed. I also find that the Bible corresponds to reality far better than any other worldview in grounding things like human value, personhood, objective morality, rationality and so on (see my series on this).
So, clearly the Bible stands above Spider-Man in every single way from its inspiration, to its historical nature, and in its overall narrative. To also argue that the Bible and Spider-Man are analogues makes one look irresponsible & entirely ignorant. Thus it should be avoided for the sake of the atheist or critic. I think we should throw this one into the Grinder!
1. Licona, M. 2005. The God Who Wasn’t There. Available.
2. Coates, A. Framing the New Testament: Slide 21.
3. Stanton, G. Jesus and Gospel. p. 192