According to many Christian theologians, Jesus, the moral Will of God, descended from a state of perfection to take on flesh and blood, with all the pain that goes with living and dying in time. He did this to reveal Himself to the Jews. A few saw Him as the embodiment of transcendent Perfection—God Himself. Others saw Him as arrogant or demented—at the very least a casual blasphemer Who pretended for a while to be God.
Today, most of us know Him through remembered anecdotes and words—the way we know George Washington or Saint Francis. Jesus is no abstraction—no god hidden behind the stars, no watchmaker who makes the watch and then steps back and admires the monotonous tick-tock of his handiwork.
It is important to understand that, according to the New Testament, God came down from Heaven in the trappings of humanity and revealed Himself to a particular people—the Jews. Till that moment, He had tried the old carrot-and-stick approach, rewarding them when they behaved themselves, punishing them when they whored after strange gods. Finally, He had made the ultimate sacrifice by allowing Himself to be born a Jew among Jews and to die at the hands of His own people.
Even His Ascension was designed to instruct them about His ultimate identity. As anthropologists tell us patronizingly, the Jews worshiped a “sky god”—thus, the...