The 10 Sexiest Jesus Figures in Literature, Ranked
What better way to celebrate Christmas than by ogling some bookish messiahs?
One of the first things you learn in a high school English class is how to recognize a Jesus figure. Some possible tells: They’re too pure for this world, they sacrifice themselves for the good of all, they’re presented as the chosen one everybody has been waiting for, their initials are J.C. But it’s often not until after high school that you start to think “wait a second, aren’t a lot of these guys… kinda foxy?” Or maybe you never put two and two together before, and this is the first time you’ve thought about which Jesus figures in literature are snacks. In which case: merry Christmas.
Below, counting down to number one, are our picks for the dishiest Messiahs on your bookshelf.
10. Harry Potter, the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling
Harry starts out the series as a child, which is of course not sexy at all and means we’re uncomfortable ranking him any higher. But by the last book of the series he’s a flawed but strong-willed and noble young man. (He is also, not for nothing, played in the film version by Daniel Radcliffe, which will get you pretty far with some people).
9. Amadea Padilla, “The Five Wounds” from Night at the Fiestas by Kirstin Valdez Quade
The main character of this indelible short story is a Christ figure by choice, not just by authorial intent: He’s portraying Jesus in a brutally authentic passion play, in which he will really be whipped and nailed to a cross. A high pain tolerance and near-fanatical devotion are arguably sexy qualities, and he’s also trying hard to be a good dad to his pregnant teen daughter, which is an attractive attribute. But religious feeling makes Amadea prudish; during the course of the story he judges both his daughter and her mother for being sexually active.
8. John Coffey, The Green Mile
Physically, John Coffey is pretty hunky if you like that sort of thing (“that sort of thing” being dudes who can pick you up with one hand). But Stephen King’s oversized miracle-worker convict maintains a sweet, self-sacrificing innocence that justifies his telltale initials, but doesn’t do a lot to fire up the loins.
7. Joe Christmas, Light in August by William Faulkner
Faulkner’s subtly-named Jesus figure is a societal outcast and an illegal bootlegger, who believes himself to have African American ancestry and thus hovers uncomfortably between worlds in the highly racist Yoknapatawpha County. Being a surly, outside-the-law bad boy is kinda sexy, and so is troubling arbitrary racial distinctions. But Christmas is also bitter, resentful, and violent—to the point, it’s implied, of murder. Hannibal fandom aside, homicide is a bit of a cold shower.
6. John Singer, The Heart is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers
John Singer’s entire role in Carson McCullers’ novel is to be a blank slate onto which other characters can project their desires and expectations. Because he’s deaf and mute, he doesn’t contradict them, even as they get increasingly messianic. If you’re the codependent type, this kind of malleability might be extremely hot. If you prefer a partner with more grit, well… it’s a list of Jesus figures, so don’t get your hopes up too high.
5. Prince Myshkin, The Idiot by Fyodor Dostoevsky
The eponymous idiot isn’t dumb at all — he’s just fragile and sensitive. Though the epileptic Myshkin isn’t the picture of robust masculine health, he is generous, wise, trusting to a fault, and really gets women. He’s also very rich, if you’re into that. Unfortunately he also has basically no libido whatsoever, but if you’re looking for a guy who’s going to do the emotional labor, Dostoevsky’s “holy fool” is the man of your dreams.
4. Jim Casy, The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
Preachers are not known for their sex appeal, but ex-preachers — now we’re talking. Jim Casy actually got up to a lot of shenanigans when he was a man of the cloth, but once he gives up on the idea of sin and starts espousing a philosophy of humanism and social justice, he gets even hotter. When he lays down his life for the rights of migrant workers, we can’t help but think he might be the holy sex symbol for our time.
3. Aslan, The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis
The highly religious C.S. Lewis surely did not intend for his transparent Christ analogue, who is also a lion, to be sexy. Unfortunately, Aslan is definitely extremely sexy for some reason. Maybe it’s the air of authority? We don’t forgive Pious Lion Daddy for barring Susan from Narnia just for getting into lipstick, but we gotta call it like we see it: hot cat. Sorry.
2. Paul Atreides, Dune by Frank Herbert
The prophesied Chosen One of the desert world of Arrakis, Paul Atreides definitely has swagger. Honestly, he has way too much swagger. He is a cocky nightmare. But he’s a cocky nightmare who can ride sandworms and see the future! Buuuuuut he’s also kind of the product of a weird eugenics program so… okay, look. Fine. We’re being unduly influenced by the fact that in the otherwise unwatchable David Lynch film of Dune, Paul is played by a young Kyle MacLachlan, one of the few truly great-looking men. We’ll put up with a lot of attitude for that.
1. Billy Budd, Billy Budd by Herman Melville
Listen, we’re not just giving Billy top billing because of this picture of Charles Nolte in the… excuse me, scroll down please! The text is down here! Ahem, this picture of Charles Nolte in the 1951 Broadway production. Melville’s sailor is also—could you please scroll down—charming, handsome, popular, and endlessly forgiving, even when falsely accused and persecuted. Plus, his stutter means he won’t interrupt you. Bliss.