I’ve been watching The Matrix, and I’ve noticed a few religious references in the movies, such as the ship named the Nebuchadnezzar (a king found in the Old Testament) and the city of Zion (also found in the Old Testament as a name for Jerusalem). But my question is: how many other religious references or analogies were found in the Matrix trilogy? I mean references from any religious text, not just the Bible.
I did a little bit more research, and found something interesting. Agent Smith’s vehicle has a license plate on the front, which contains a Bible verse, as seen below:
That verse, which is Isaiah 54:16, translates to:
“Behold, I have created the smith that bloweth the coals in the fire, and that bringeth forth an instrument for his work; and I have created the waster to destroy.”
- The two other leads in the Matrix are both religious references. Trinity is the Christian conception of the godhead three-in-one. Morpheus is the Greek god of Dreams.
- The Oracle is heavily based on the Oracle at Delphi, a priestess of the Greek god Apollo.
- Apoc is presumably short for Apocalypse, another name for the Book of Revelation.
- Niobe and Persephone are figures in Greek mythology. Persephone in particular was married to the god of the underworld, while the Matrix's Persephone is married to the proprietor of Club Hel, which by its spelling would be named for the Norse goddess.
- Sati is a Hindu goddess.
- Seraph is the singular of seraphim, a category of biblical angels.
- Besides the Nebuchadnezzar, the Osiris is named for an Egyptian god, the Caduceus for the staff of the Greek god Hermes, Mjölnir (usually called "the Hammer" in the movies) is the name of the Norse god Thor's hammer and Logos is Greek for Word, a reference to the Book of John.
- The big machine guy at the end is canonically called Deus Ex Machina, literally "God out of the Machine," a reference to the Greek theatrical practice of actually lowering the Greek gods onto stage with a crane.
As for analogies, the biggest is that Neo is transparently a Christ figure. There are honestly too many elements to reference here, but sacrificing himself, coming back to life, bringing others back to life, and then there's when he finally dies...
In addition to the references given in another answer, there are other references to Neo as a Christ figure:
- His last name is Anderson, which means "son of man" -- a name that appears in the Book of Daniel and a name that Jesus often used for Himself.
- Choi (the man with the girl who has the white rabbit tattoo) calls Neo his "savior" and "personal Jesus Christ".
Some other religious references include:
- The Merovingian refers to Seraph as the "prodigal son" and "Judas" in Club Hel.
- Sati's father, Rama Kandra, appears to be named after a Hindu god named Rama or Ramachandra. Similarly, Sati's mother, Kamala, appears to be named after a Hindu goddess named Kamalatmika or Kamala.
- Two of the Merovingian's henchmen are brothers named Cain and Abel, after the Biblical Cain and Abel.
- The nameplate of the Nebuchadnezzar identifies it as "Mark III No. 11", which seems to be a reference to Mark 3:11 since it seems to be another reference to Neo as a Christ figure (the Son of God):
Whenever the impure spirits saw him, they fell down before him and cried out, “You are the Son of God.”
Further to other answers,
- The Merovingian is a reference to the French royal dynasty claiming legendary descent from Merovech, the son of a human and a sea creature; in The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail and subsequent conspiratorial literature, he's linked to the supposed bloodline of Jesus.
- The Architect is a common appellation for God as the creator of the Universe, particularly associated with Deism, esoteric Freemasonry, etc.
Adding to others - some Christianity related references in part 3:
In order to destroy Satan (Smith), Christ (Neo) has to experience death, too.
The Oracle asks the Architect about those who want to exit the Matrix, and Architect answers, that "obviously, they will be freed" - Christ (Neo) enables everyone to leave the Hell, but not everyone wants to.
The Oracle tells that Neo will come again (like the Christ will).
Part 1 has mostly Christian references, as I remember, part 2 has some Buddhism references. They are either mentioned or I forgot them.
The Matrix draws heavily on Gnosticism which significantly differs from mainstream Christianity and Judaism in some important points. I'm hardly an expert on that, but here is what I've gathered from wikipedia.
- Gnosticism holds that the material world we inhabit is evil/flawed/a prison just like the eponymous matrix in the movie. The goal of Gnosticism is to overcome it by gaining some kind of spiritual knowledge of the true divine which resides outside of the material world. This knowledge is called Gnosis.
- The material world according to Gnosticism was created by a flawed entity called the Demiurge who is often identified with the creator Yahweh in the Old Testament. His counterpart in the Matrix is obviously the Architect ("Demiurge" means something like "public builder"), who is portrayed as a cliche Hollywood God type, an old bearded man in white, even though he far from omnipotent.
- The Demiurge has several powerful servants, called Archons, who obstruct people in their search for Gnosis; the equivalent of the Agents in the Matrix.
- There are different types of humans in Gnosticism. The lowest ones are hylics; these people are completely bound to the material world, just like the people who are still imprisoned in the Matrix and don't know about its true nature. Remember how in the training simulation Morpheus tells Neo that those who haven't been liberated yet are still part of the system and thus a danger to them.
- There is also something called Sophia (literally 'wisdom') in Gnosticism, which is a female emanation of the true divine. The Oracle might be her counterpart in the Matrix.
- Finally Christ is sometimes seen as in Gnosticism as a manifestation of the true divine who came to bring Gnosis to earth. In the Matrix, Morpheus tells Neo the story of the One who had liberated the first people and was prophesized to return. As other answers have already shown, Neo is of course a Christ-like figure in the movie.
I'm sure there are many more parallels but these are probably the main ones.
[Edit: Sorry about the formatting. Hopefully it's legible. I'm just not good at forums.]
Cypher - Lucifer
Almost all of Cypher's lines mirror Satan's. It's actually kind of insane how obvious it is once you are looking for it.
In making the deal with Smith, he is choosing to rule in Hell(the matrix) than serve in Heaven(reality)
To Trinity "for the longest time I thought I loved you." (Satan serving in Heaven vs the Trinity)
"Im tired of this war, tired of fighting this war, bur most of all, I'm tired of that jagoff and all of his bullshit. He lied to us, he tricked us. If he told us the truth, we would have shoved that redpill up his ass. Surprise asshole, I bet you never saw this coming." (Satan talking to the other Angels about God, wanting them to follow him into rebellion)
Trinity says "he set us free" Cypher says "Free? You call this free? All I do is what he tells me to do! If I have to choose between that and the Matrix, I choose the Matrix." (Same theme of rebellion against God.)
"I disagree. The matrix can be more real than this world. All I do is pull this cord and you have to watch Apoc die. Welcome to the real world, huh baby?" (This is Satan's relationship with humanity. He's telling Trinity that he controls life and death on earth. He isn't talking about himself directly anymore)
Trinity "God damn you cypher" Cypher "Don't hate me, Trinity. I'm just the messenger, and now I'm going to prove it to you." (Satan is now at war with God. This is kind of the crucifixion parallel. Satan is full of hubris and flexing on what he can do. Christ is on the cross and it looks like Satan is coming home with a big W.)
"If Neo is the one, there would have e to be some miracle to stop me. How can he be the one, if he is dead?!" (Christ dies.)
"No, I don't believe it!" "Believe it motherfucker! ZZZZZAAAAAP" (Christ comes back bigger than ever after kicking down the gates of hell to return. Then, just like in the bible, Satan gets electrocuted with a lightning gun by a guy named after heavy machinery. Don't quote me.)
Cypher is the deceiver. He's the rebel that wants to be free from God's oversight. He tricks them all, gets a bunch of people killed, then works to kill the son of God. While he is tapdancing over Christ's corpse, the Deus in Deus Ex Machina sends Christ to hell to wreck shop.
[All quotes are approximations, but you get the jist.]