The Man Nobody Knows

by Bruce Barton

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Last Updated on September 5, 2023, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 357

In The Man Nobody Knows, Bruce Barton gives his vision of the life and personality of Jesus Christ, and in many ways, this is radical (and revisionist) in the way it reenvisions traditional Christian depictions of Christ. For one thing, it's worth noting that Barton himself exhibits a general disdain for much of Church tradition, and he has little interest in high theology. I'd suggest that he's first and foremost interested in the personality of Jesus, and the life of Jesus, rather than the religious debates which have shaped and informed Christian Orthodoxy.

Additionally, we should note that this is very much a book shaped by its time and context, and in it, Barton is primarily interested in creating an image of Jesus which speaks to his own contemporary generation, and he quite consciously breaks with centuries of religious tradition to do so. His Jesus is masculine, and a man of action (and he excoriates traditional depictions of Christ for making him appear weak and effeminate). Furthermore, Barton describes Jesus in terms of being a businessman, and an advertiser. He is strong, energetic, highly social, decisive, and in all these qualities, Jesus is written to be someone who Barton himself, and people like Barton, would be able to see much of themselves in, and many of the qualities which they themselves would admire.

Barton relies heavily upon his personal imagination, in sketching out his depiction of Jesus Christ. Indeed, he himself admits that the Gospels tend to be extremely sparse on detail. And yet Barton will describe in detail the scenes of crowds surrounding Jesus, the backbreaking labor which was involved in Jesus's background as a carpenter (and its effects upon him), or the chaotic, predatory, marketplace atmosphere of the Temple (to just give a few examples), and the same applies to his personalities. Jesus comes across, for example, as a long-term entrepreneurial visionary, as opposed to Judas, who is often described as the penny-pinching treasurer holding the purse-strings. It's quite evocative, but it's also distorted, in the way he imposes his own experiences and preconceptions (and his own twentieth-century background and perspective) on the distant past.

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