Last Updated September 5, 2023.
Bruce Barton's The Man Nobody Knows looks to update the image of Jesus to appeal to a modern audience. Barton's stated intent was to provide readers with a new image of Jesus: the image of a businessman. Barton argues that Jesus is the perfect example of what a modern entrepreneur should model themselves after. By modifying the persona of Jesus and his teachings in order provide a modern interpretation of who he was and what his teachings meant, Barton's novel illustrates how one can apply an ancient text to modern life.
Chapter 1 opens with a few questions regarding Jesus's success. After this preface, Barton addresses an important characteristic of Jesus:
First of all he had the voice and manner of a leader.
A leader should be able to speak with power to their followers. The mannerisms of a leader are also important. This opening to the first chapter illustrates the utmost importance of voice and the power with which a leader can convey through it. What one says is not the only important thing; it is also important how one says it.
Another quote, this time from chapter 4, illustrates the natural ability of a teacher/leader:
Jesus taught all of this without ever teaching it.
The best leaders are those who teach through modeling. What this means is that a leader does not only speak to things that they wish others to learn about—”they live the life that they wish others to live. This speaks to the old adage "actions speak louder than words." By doing so, a leader is able to teach without the lesson being merely a lecture or, in Jesus's case, a sermon.
Chapter 5 ("His Advertisements") illustrates Jesus's power in "mastering public attention." The lessons of Jesus would not have gained so much traction in the world had he not been able to capture the ears of the populace. This chapter speaks to how influential Jesus would be in the modern world, and it focuses on the four powerful elements that are inherent in the teachings of Jesus. The final two elements are of paramount importance:
#3: Sincerity glistened like sunshine through every sentence he uttered.
#4: He knew the necessity of repetition and practiced it.
Both of these elements are important aspects of teaching that can help someone become a better person and leader (as is the intent of the text). Being sincere, or without deceit, is important so that people can trust you. Secondly, as is important in any classroom, repetition is how people truly learn. By doing something over and over, a person is able to instill this as a part of their natural behavior.
One final important quote appears in chapter six: "The Founder of Modern Business." Barton identifies Jesus as this founder. Within this chapter, another important piece of advice is provided:
If a man fails to look after himself, certainly no one will look after him.
This quote speaks to the idea that a person must take care of themselves before they can take care of others. It is only when an we, personally, are healthy that we become able to help others. If we are not willing to do this, others will not find the sympathy or the empathy to do it either.