Supernatural Allusion

Over the past several months, I have developed an obsession with the television show Supernatural. For those of you who haven’t watched/heard of this show: 1) You need to watch it; and 2) It basically follows two brothers, Sam and Dean Winchester, as they battle supernatural creatures. Each season has a central storyline (for example, the first season involves the brothers trying to find their missing father and the demon that killed their mother), and throughout all of the seasons, there are several Biblical allusions. Since I have recently started watching the series from the beginning with my dad and boyfriend, I’m going to focus on the allusions that are in the first three seasons.

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Season One

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In the fourth episode of the season, “Phantom Traveler,” the town of Nazareth is mentioned after a plane is crashed in a field near the town after being in the air for 40 minutes. As we know from reading the gospel accounts, Nazareth is the town that Jesus grew up in. While this seems to have no significance, it is interesting that the show deliberately points out this town in an episode that focuses on a demon that causes planes to crash. When Sam and Dean are forced to exorcise the demon while on a plane, it becomes evident that this is a very vague reference to how Jesus rid people of demons in order to save people. While this is seems to be insignificant, if you’re familiar with the fact that Jesus is from Nazareth, and banished demons, it becomes clear from this point how the brothers are to save the innocent people on the plane from a terrible death. Also, throughout reading the Bible, the number 40 seems to have a great significance. In the Bible, the number 40 typical symbolizes a “time of testing, trial and probation” (Bible Study). The fact that the demon finds a way to crash the plane after 40 minutes seems to be significant, as this time period can be seen as the demon testing to see if any of the passengers can find a way to stop it.

 

Season Two

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In episode 13 of the second season, “Houses of the Holy”, several Bible verses are mentioned, including Luke 2:9, “An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.” In this episode, people are claiming to be visited by an angel that commands them to kill certain people. The people chosen for death all go to the same church, and each have a horrible secret that goes against what their image portrays. Early in the episode, Sam and Dean question Father Reynolds, who quotes the mentioned verse while discussing different portrayals of angels in the world. While Sam believes that the angels are terrifying to humans, like it’s mentioned in the Bible, Dean is skeptical due to how angels are frequently shown in modern culture. The Father mentions that the angels were actually warriors for God, which helps to promote Sam’s theory that an angel is behind the string of mysterious murders. However, it is actually a spirit who thinks he’s an angel that is behind the events. After re-watching the episode and thinking about why this specific verse is mentioned, it becomes clear that this quote disproves Sam’s idea that an angel is involved early on as the people who are visited by the angel are not terrified.

 

Season Three

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 As I was watching the third season of Supernatural with my dad over the break, one particular line stuck out to me from the first episode, “The Magnificent Seven.” In this episode, Sam and Dean, along with a long time family friend, Bobby Singer, and another hunter couple, Isaac and Tamara, must face the demons that personify what we know as the “Seven Deadly Sins.” When the team is questioning the person possessed by Envy, the demon states, “I am Legion, for we are many,” which is almost a direct quote from Mark 5:9, “My name is Legion, for we are many.” While it is never mentioned that this line is from the Bible, if one is familiar with this verse, it reveals just how extreme the situation is. In the end of the second season, Jake (one of the special “soldiers” chosen by Azazel, the yellow-eyed demon) opened a Gate to Hell and released a multitude of demons into the world. While the number of demons release is not known, from this line it is clear that the world is in deep trouble. The word “legion” means “the principal unit of the Roman army comprising 3000 to 6000 foot soldiers with cavalry” (Merriam-Webster). By using this word, it is clear that not only were there thousands of demons unleashed, but that it was an army that was released. This also hints at the events that are to come to pass later on in the series.

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These three examples are just a few of the many Biblical allusions that appear throughout Supernatural. While these allusions may not seem relevant at first, after re-watching the episodes it becomes evident why they were included if one is familiar with the Bible. By understanding the Biblical allusions, the viewer is able to gain deeper insight to the series, and if they catch on before re-watching the episode, it foreshadows the ending of that episode.

Who was Phoebe?

The portrayal of women in the Bible is a fascinating subject to me. This is especially true when women are cast in a positive light, which is something that doesn’t really happen that often in literature from a time where women were viewed as either property or untrustworthy. One particular woman mentioned in Romans chapter 16, Phoebe, really caught my attention this week. In the closing of his epistle to the Roman church, Paul begins:

“I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a servant of the church at Cenchreae, that you may welcome her in the Lord in a way worthy of the saints, and help her in whatever way she may need from you, for she has been a patron of many and of myself as well.” (Romans 16:1-2) 

It’s apparent that Paul thinks very highly of this woman. But who was this mystery woman who had the respect of Paul? 

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Most people seem to agree that Phoebe hailed from the seaport town of Cenchreae, a major trade center just east of Corinth (Cenchreae). This would put her in close proximity to Paul at what most people believe to be the time that he wrote his epistle to the Romans. Many sources also agree that Phoebe was a businesswoman, and one source takes this idea further and states, “Phoebe used both her financial means and her own person to minister to the sick and distressed of her city. She was a useful worker and co-laborer with the Apostle Paul” (Women in History). So not only was she a seemingly successful businesswoman, she was also a generous woman who helped those who needed it, including Paul during his many journeys. This explains why Paul described her as being “a patron of many and of myself as well.”

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The most interesting thing that I found concerned the word servant mentioned in the first verse of our text. In the original manuscript, the Greek word “diakonos” is used, which could have several different meanings, one of which is in fact “servant”; this word is also the one that Paul uses to describe his own ministry  (Society of Biblical Literature). However, when “diakonos” is combined with “ousa,” as it is in the original manuscript, a more appropriate translation would be “minister,” as the phrase “points to a more recognized ministry” (SBL). This leads many people to believe that Phoebe was in fact a deaconess of the church in Cenchreae, and maybe even the “first recorded ‘deacon’ in the history of Christianity” (SBL). Personally, I think this is a very plausible explanation, as it is often hard to translate words exactly, and it would help to explain why Paul held Phoebe in such high esteem. Plus, it’s really awesome that not only did a woman hold a position of power in the early church, but also she may have been the first deacon, even before a man.

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With Phoebe’s position of power in the church and her status as a businesswoman, it is generally believed that Paul charged Phoebe with delivering his epistle to Rome. It is also believed that she was trustworthy, dependable, and dedicated to service, which would have made her a perfect choice for completing this task for Paul (Phoebe the Helper of Many). To add to this, it is very possible that Phoebe herself would also have business to tend to in Rome, which could be why Paul asks the Roman church to help her out in any way possible (Women in History). But Paul’s request for Phoebe to transport his epistle to the Romans goes beyond simply handing the Roman church the epistle. Along with this, Phoebe was also expected to answer any questions that the Romans had concerning what Paul wrote and to make sure that they understood the message correctly (Phoebe the Letter Carrier). Since whoever brought the letter to the Romans would have to have a deep understanding of Paul’s intent, it makes perfect sense for him to send Phoebe on this mission.

 

It’s amazing to see how some women were portrayed as important people in literature, especially a work that has such a huge impact on our society. Not only was Phoebe a successful businesswoman, she also held a position of power in the early church and she was greatly respected by Paul.