A groundbreaking manifesto decoding thephenomenon of genius through the life of Jesus of Nazareth, revealing the untapped potential within every human being—from the bestselling author of The Artisan Soul,The Last Arrow, and The Way of the Warrior.
“IF ALL GENIUS IS TOUCHED BY MADNESS, THEN IT IS ALSO TOUCHED BY THE DIVINE.”
In every realm of our existence—art, science, technology, mathematics—we are captivated by stories of genius. Geniuses violate the status quo, destabilize conventional ways of thinking, and ultimately disrupt history by making us see the world differently. Genius is that rare expression of human capacity that seems to touch the divine.
Jesus of Nazareth is undeniably one of the most influential figures ever to have walked the face of the earth. Yet his life as a work of genius has yet to be excavated and explored. In The Genius of Jesus, Erwin Raphael McManus examines the person of Jesus not simply through the lens of his divinity, but as a man who radically changed the possibility of what it means to be human.
Drawing on the phenomenon of genius and the phenomenon of Jesus, McManus leads us to see this momentous figure in a new and life-altering way. Genius always leaves clues, and The Genius of Jesus follows those clues so that you can discover your own personal genius.
McManus dives into the nuances of Jesus’s words and actions, showing how they can not only inspire us but revolutionize how we think about power, empathy, meaning, beauty, and truth. This work is for anyone who seeks to transform their life from the mundane to the transcendent—for anyone who longs to awaken the genius within.
The Genius of Jesus is a thought-provoking exploration of the most controversial and influential figure who ever lived, and a guide for you to discover how his genius can live in you.
Erwin Raphael McManus has committed his life to the study of genius and the pursuit of God, never knowing that the two worlds would one day collide. He is an iconoclast, entrepreneur, storyteller, fashion designer, filmmaker, and cultural thought leader whose singular intention is to violate our view of reality. McManus is the founder of Mosaic, a church movement based in the heart of Hollywood with a community that spans the globe, and is the acclaimed author of The Way of the Warrior, The Last Arrow, and other leading books on spirituality and creativity. His books have sold more than a million copies worldwide, in fourteen different languages. McManus studied philosophy at Elon University, has a bachelor of arts in psychology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, a master of divinity from Southwestern Theological Seminary, and a doctorate of humane letters from Southeastern University. He lives in Los Angeles, California, with his wife, Kim McManus.
I have spent my entire adult life studying genius and searching for God. I always saw those pursuits as mutually exclusive: one a question of human potential, and the other a matter of faith. But the longer you live, the more you begin to realize that things you once thought were disparate narratives in your life were actually always interwoven. My fascination with genius and my openness to God were both rooted in a desperate search for something to translate my life from the mundane to the transcendent.
Although my search was academic, it was always far more personal. Growing up, I felt trapped within my own limitations, and I longed to find a path to a higher, better self. I was Peter Parker before the radioactive spider bit him. I hoped there was something extraordinary within me, within all of us, that could transform us to our most heroic selves.
Most of my friends envied athletes, or musicians, or actors. I envied philosophers, scientists, and inventors—anyone who could see something that was invisible to everyone else. I could live with someone being faster, or stronger, or smarter than me. I just didn’t want to be blind to the endless possibilities of the unknown.
The fear, of course, was that there was no genius within me to be found—no God who could awaken my originality, or at least make up for my lack of it. One thing I have learned over my lifetime: We search for what we lack, and we long for what we fear we don’t possess. I longed to be more than a meaningless composite of carbon. So I became a student of genius and an explorer in search of God.
I am convinced that when we experience expressions of genius, it elevates our own personal capacity. Once you see it done, you know it’s possible. When one human accomplishes the extraordinary, it becomes a measure for all who follow them. Would Kobe Bryant have become a superstar if there had been no Michael Jordan? Would there be a Stephen Hawking if there had not been an Albert Einstein? Would there be an Elon Musk if there had not been a Nikola Tesla? Greatness inspires greatness. Genius provokes genius.
There are a handful of people who consistently make the list of history’s greatest geniuses. My list always begins with Leonardo da Vinci, the quintessential Renaissance man. His genius touched nearly every field of human endeavor. He was an inventor, artist, architect, scientist, musician, mathematician, sculptor, engineer, astronomer, botanist, cartographer, and so much more. He was a futurist of unparalleled insight, foreshadowing the invention of the submarine and the helicopter. Although he only completed fifteen works of art throughout his lifetime, he is considered perhaps the greatest painter of all time.
There are so many others who come to mind. In the arena of music, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Ludwig van Beethoven used the same twelve notes to generate the complexity, beauty, and artistry of classical music. In the field of science, there are Albert Einstein, Marie Curie, and more recently Stephen Hawking. In film, the directors Orson Welles and Alfred Hitchcock set the bar for transcendent storytelling. In the game of chess, there was Bobby Fischer, who set a standard of genius in a game of intellect. In the world of technology and business, we have the undeniable genius of Steve Jobs and Bill Gates.
Each of these individuals has unique attributes that set them apart not only from the rest of the world, but from the best in the world. They saw the world differently. They created a future that would not have existed without them. Like Copernicus and Galileo, they violated our view of reality and forced us to see the world anew. Their ideas have resulted in space travel and solar energy. They have given us a way to fight cancer and a way to save our planet. They have given us the internet and the tools to explore and express our own creativity. Once we saw the world through their eyes, we could never see the world the same way again.
The concept of genius was birthed in the writings of the Greek philosophers. In Plato’s works, Socrates speaks of the daemons that inspire the genius of great men. From medicine to mathematics, from philosophy to physics, the Greeks were a fountainhead of accomplishment. Their world was the birthplace of Homer, Pythagoras, Euclid, Hippocrates, Aristotle, Archimedes, and, of course, Alexander the Great. For them, genius was awakened when the divine touched the human—those moments when the heroes of old rose above the status of ordinary men. Some expressions of human creativity were so transcendent, they could only be attributed to the gods.
By the time of the Roman Empire, the cast of genius had become more concrete. The Romans attributed genius to a place or a person’s position, rather than to the person themselves. It was assumed that simply being crowned Caesar meant a person carried the mark of genius, an assumption that history has proved flatly wrong. Still, the Romans were perceptive in noticing that a person was neither a genius nor the possessor of genius. We are possessed by genius. It’s something given to us—something entrusted to us. Genius was seen as an endowment that came or went at the whim of the gods.
Genius is inseparable from the creative process. The word “genius” is expressive of the capacity to be generative. The genius gives birth to something new. The genius creates. The mark of true genius is that the impossible becomes possible. The unknowable becomes knowable. The invisible becomes visible. The genius speaks the future into existence. Genius expresses itself in every domain in which humans create. Wherever there is a field of human accomplishment, there is potential for the expression of genius.
The genius does not always have the highest IQ, the best education, or even the most comprehensive knowledge of their field. But their combination of originality, imagination, creativity, perspective, passion, and intelligence merge together to help them see the world differently—
and then create a different world. While we often attribute the title of “genius” to an individual, that designation only comes as a result of the extraordinary nature of their work. There must be something we can point to and describe as a genuine work of genius. Yet these works of genius are rarely acknowledged by their contemporaries. Often geniuses are met with jealousy and resistance from their peers. This is in no small part due to the fact that genius is often accompanied by self-indulgence, irrational compulsion, and perhaps even a touch of madness. And if all genius is touched by madness, then it is also touched by the divine.
As I studied genius in college, hoping to unlock my own fleeting sense of purpose, I ran into Jesus of Nazareth. Unexpectedly, my pursuit of genius and my search for God converged in one person: the most transformative human being who ever lived.
I am always perplexed when I consider how my life has been completely changed by one person who lived over two thousand years ago.
The irony, of course, is that I had no idea I was on a journey of faith.