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The Man Nobody Knows
The Man Nobody Knows
Paramhansa Yogananda wrote: Intellectual Recipe: l. Read a few lines from Shakespeare every day. It is the best modern book on Jesus. When published in , The Man Nobody Knows topped the nonfiction bestseller list, and is one of the best selling non-fiction books of the 20th century. He was the most popular dinner guest of Jerusalem… The reader is not shocked by this method of Mr.
National Humanities Center ▫ Bruce Barton, The Man Nobody Knows: A Discovery of the Real “Some day,” said he, “someone will write a book about Jesus.
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This essay analyzes Barton's best seller to illustrate one method for understanding the appeal of images of Jesus and of the truly Christlike life in popular religious literature. I argue that the appeal of Barton's book rested with his articulation of a system of familiar stereotypes and symbols as a pattern for thought. Barton reminded readers of a classification system capable of structuring experience on a continuum between opposite poles represented by life in a small town Nazareth and life in a city Jerusalem. He mapped a moral or symbolic geography in which each pole symbolized sets of admirable and dangerous qualities. The Sunday-school Jesus, caricatured by Barton as a moralistic physical weakling, was the incarnation of the worst of both worlds, Barton's Jesus combined the best. Advertising furnished many more examples for demonstrating the accuracy of such a world view. In conclusion I suggest that while the content of these opposing worlds varies from book to book, inspirational best sellers often organize experience in a structurally similar manner.