How do we Know that Jesus was Real?

Illustration by Joel Furches

Illustration by Joel Furches

"This is the disciple who is bearing witness about these things, and who has written these things, and we know that his testimony is true."
-John 21:24

Answers for Youngsters

Answer by Joel Furches

Answer by Joel Furches

When Jesus lived, lots of people followed him around, listened to him talk, and saw the things he did.

After Jesus went away, the same people talked about him and shared his words and stories, and those stories were soon written down.

After the stories were written down, many people read the stories, and made copies so that the stories would never go away.

We still have these real stories about Jesus, and we can even find very old copies of the stories, so we know they have not changed.

We can look back a long time, and it is easy to tell that these are real stories from real people who saw the real Jesus.

 

Answers for Older Children

Answer by Joel Furches

Answer by Joel Furches

There are so many reasons we know that the stories written in the Bible about Jesus are accurate and true.

One reason we know they are true is that we have four books about Jesus, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Even though these books were written by different people, they talk about the same things and they support each other in the details.

A lot of the details also show that these stories were written close to the same time that Jesus lived. If your parents or grandparents are able to tell you stories about when they were your age, that is about how old the eyewitnesses were when they wrote down the stories about Jesus. And just like your parents really remember being kids, these eyewitnesses really remember what happened to Jesus.

We also have very early copies of these stories, and even though there are many copies, the stories have not changed over the years.

There are even stories about Jesus that aren’t in the Bible written by people who weren’t followers of Jesus, but they still knew about Jesus.

There is more evidence that Jesus was real than that Alexander the Great was real, or that Caesar Augustus was real. But people still believe in Alexander and Caesar, and you can believe in Jesus.

 

Adult Application

Answer by Joel Furches

Answer by Joel Furches

The arguments for a historical Jesus are so numerous, that there are whole libraries of books written about them. Most of these arguments come from the accuracy of the Gospels, because most of what we know about Jesus was written in the Gospels, although there are some extra-biblical sources that talk about Jesus, as well. These include the Jewish historian Josephus (37-100AD), the Roman historian Sextus Julius Africanus (160-240AD),  Tacitus (56-117AD), Mara Bar-Serapion (70-?AD), Plegon (80-140AD), and even the Jewish Talmud.

A brief summary of the arguments for the accuracy of the New Testament is as follows:

We can be reasonably certain that the documents were authored close to the time of Jesus. We know from archeology of graves from the time of Jesus that the names of people in the Bible were common names from that period of time. The historical rulers, events, and geography used in the Bible are accurate to the time period.

Another way we know these were written early is what they don’t say. None of the books mention the very, very major event from 70 AD: the destruction of the Jewish temple by Rome. So it’s fairly certain these books were written before 70 AD. Keep in mind that Jesus died around 33 AD, so that’s a 40-year area in which they may have been written.

They also don’t mention the death of Peter, Paul or Jesus brother James. And we know about these events because they were recorded by other historians of the time.

You may think, “well if the Gospels are about Jesus, why would they mention these things that happened much later?”

One reason is that Jesus predicted the destruction of the temple, and writers, especially Matthew, were very interested in pointing out when and how Jesus’ prophecies came true later on.

Another reason is that the author of Acts is the same author who wrote Luke, and he wrote his Gospel before the book of Acts. Since Acts is the record of the early church, this author would absolutely have recorded the death of the apostles. The fact that he didn’t tells us that he wrote his Gospel before these guys died in the 60’s AD. That’s less than 30 years later.

Also, Paul – who wrote around 60 AD – actually quotes Luke’s Gospel a few times.

So we know that the Gospels were written close to the time of Jesus. We also know that they are consistent.

There are not a wide variety of Christ legends from the first century. Simply the four Gospels which all harmonize in the important details. There are no counter traditions that contradict the Gospels on any major points such as how and where Jesus lived, ministered, died and rose. There are no counter Gospels that set the story in other places, or contradict the core theology, or change any of the major characters. Jesus is consistently surrounded by 12 core disciples, and three close disciples. He always dies in Jerusalem at the hands of the Romans through the machinations of the religious leaders of Israel and is resurrected three days later, etc.

There is a lot of evidence that the authors of the Gospels have access to eyewitness accounts. For instance many early church writers mention that Matthew wrote a gospel for the Jews, every single copy of the Matthew manuscript attributes the book to Matthew, the author of the book appears to be Jewish by his concern with prophecy, his familiarity with the Jewish Law, customs, history, language, and with his concern of the evangelism of the Jewish people, the author of the book makes more intimate and humble references to Matthew, the disciple, the author is more concerned with numerology and with money than any other Gospel writer, and Matthew orders his book thematically.

Church Fathers credit Mark as writing his Gospel from the teaching of Peter and the book of Mark is disorganized – which makes it more likely to be a collection of stories gathered from an eyewitness.

The author of Luke claims not to be an eyewitness, but claims to have access to eyewitness accounts. Much of Luke is copied from Matthew and Mark, which seem to be eyewitness accounts. Luke includes a great deal of unique information for the perspective of Mary, indicating he had access to Mary’s testimony. And the intention of Luke’s author appears to be taking existing accounts and organizing them chronologically.

The author of John does not call the disciple John by name. Instead he calls him “The disciple that Jesus loved.” Very early Christian Writers claim that John was much younger than the other Apostles, probably just a teenager when he followed Jesus, lived well into his 90’s and did most of his writing late in life. There is actually a direct historical chain of evidence for John’s gospel. One of John’s disciples was named Polycarp. One of Polycarp’s disciples was a man named Irenaeus. We have early copies of all of Irenaeus’ writings, and he directly attribute’s John’s gospel to the disciple John.

Establishing that the Gospels were built on eyewitness accounts, we can now look at the current copies of the Gospels. Many critics will claim that our copies of the Gospels come from so many centuries of copying that they are full of errors.

The fact of the matter is that we have so many copies of the Gospels from so many places where they were passed all over the world and that many of them are very, very early copies. The fact of the matter is that if we compare all of the copies from all of the time periods from all parts of the world, they are all basically the same. This means that there is a lot of accuracy in the copies made over the years.

There is a lot more evidence for Jesus’ life than this, and it is well worth looking into. But there is enough evidence that even very skeptical scholars will admit that Jesus was a real person, and that some of his followers definitely thought he rose from the dead (even if these scholars don’t believe that he really did).

Did God Make Me or did Mommy Make Me?

Illustration by Joel Furches

Illustration by Joel Furches

For you formed my inward parts;
you knitted me together in my mother's womb.
-Psalm 139:13 [ESV]

Answers for Youngsters

Answer from Joel Furches

Answer from Joel Furches

Sometimes God does miracles, like parting the water for Moses, or raising Jesus from the dead. But usually God uses regular things when He wants to do something special. God uses nature to give us food. He uses the sun to give us light and warmth. He uses rain to make plants grow. And God uses mommies to make babies.

Even though you grew in your mommy’s tummy, God made sure you had the right mommy and daddy, and that you were born at the right time so that you would be extra special.

 

Answers for Older Children

Answer by Joel Furches

Answer by Joel Furches

Before God made the universe, there was nothing. The act of making a whole universe out of nothing was a miracle, and a special work of God. At that time, God set up how nature would function. Now usually everything that happens, happens naturally. Sometimes God will step in and perform a miracle, but usually God allows things to happen according to the rules he designed.

But just because babies are born through natural processes, God still directs how and when these babies are born.

In the book of Esther, the queen’s uncle tells her, “Who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?”

What this tells us is that God may have raised Esther by ordinary means, but he had brought her up to serve an extraordinary purpose in history. You are who you are because God wanted you to be that way, and he wants you to serve His purpose in this world. God does extraordinary things through ordinary means.

 

Adult Application

Answer by Joel Furches

Answer by Joel Furches

When a child asks a hard question about how something happens, it is tempting to just tell them that “God made it that way.” This may be true in a sense, but there is a danger in not explaining the natural causes that make things happen. If your child is raised to think that everything is a miraculous act of God, when they finally find out the natural processes that cause the universe to function, it is tempting to believe that religion is misinformed, or that “science trumps religion.”

This conflict between science and Christianity is a fiction which has damaged the Church for decades now. It has become such a persistent idea, that young men and women are leaving the church more and more as they go off to college and become involved in an education which tells them that religion must be wrong because it contradicts testable, repeatable science. As long as we understand that the rules that govern the universe were created by God along with the universe itself, there doesn’t have to be a conflict. And the fact that there are laws that govern nature is consistent with a rule-giver who designed those laws Himself.

Who Made God?

Illustration by Joel Furches

Illustration by Joel Furches

"I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.”
-Revelation 22:13 (ESV)

Answers for Youngsters

Answer by Joel Furches

Answer by Joel Furches

It may be hard to imagine, but God has always been there. God will always be there. No one made God, because God made everything.

This is what makes God so important and special: He does not need anyone else, but everyone else needs Him.

 

Answers for Older Kids

Answer by Joel Furches

Answer by Joel Furches

Imagine setting up a row of dominos, and then pushing them down. For the dominos to fall, something has to push them. There always has to be something that comes first. God is that first cause for everything else that exists.

Another way to say this is that anything that exists will either rely on something else, or be self-reliant. God is self-reliant. He doesn’t need anything outside of himself in order to exist. But the entire universe relies on Him.

 Adult Application

Answer by Joel Furches

Answer by Joel Furches

The question “who made God” is actually one that has become more common in recent years, especially by skeptics who are trying to ask, if something needs to come first, why can’t the universe be the thing that came first?

The difference is that we can show that the universe had a beginning. But part of what makes the universe function is time. Inside of time, there is always past, present and future. But if God made time, then He isn’t subject to time. If God is outside of time, then nothing has to come before Him. As God himself says in scripture:

“I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.” (Revelation 22:13, ESV)