Historical Proof Jesus Existed

February 23, 2023

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If Jesus is not a fictional character, how could we show our children proof of Jesus from the historical records? In this episode, Elizabeth Urbanowicz examines how to approach this subject with a child who is curious, skeptical, or who may have a hard heart towards Jesus.


Note: The following is an auto-transcript of the podcast recording.

Hello friends and welcome to the Foundation Worldview podcast where we seek to answer your questions so that you can get the kids in your care carefully evaluating every idea they encounter so they can understand the truth of the biblical Worldview. I'm your host, Elizabeth Urbanowicz, and I'm thrilled that you've joined me for another episode today. Today's question asks "If Jesus is not a fictional character, how could we show proof of Jesus from the historical records?" Great question. Love this one because we do want to help our children understand that Jesus is not a fictional character. He's actually a historical figure. Now, as is typical when I'm helping us answer a question, I think the first thing we need to do is ask ourselves a question, and that question should be, why do we want to do this? Why do we want to help our children see proof from the historical record outside of the Bible that Jesus is a real figure, he's not a fictitious character.

Now, doing so can be done. We just need to identify what is our goal here? Why do we want to do this, to make sure that we are reaching this goal and that we're actually addressing this question in an effective manner? Now, I'm going to make an assumption here. I do not know the person who submitted this question, but I'm going to assume that this person submitted the question because the children or child in his or her care are somewhat skeptical about Jesus. And so if our children are skeptical and have questions, they're really asking, well, how do we know Jesus even existed? This was thousands of years ago. Maybe the people writing the Bible just made it up. And those are legitimate questions that we want to help our kids find answers to. But if our children are skeptical before we actually dive in and try to answer this question, I think it's really important that we ask our children what they think would be sufficient evidence to believe that Jesus was a historical figure.

Because we can go into an explanation and it can be a sound explanation, it can be an explanation with a lot of good evidence. But if our children have an unrealistic threshold for belief, if they think that there needs to be all of this evidence, we're really the standard for belief or the threshold for belief is much lower, we're going to constantly be shooting an arrow that's never going to reach the target. So we need to make sure that our children's expectations are realistic. I actually saw this several years ago at a philosophy group that I was part of at the church that I was attending just outside of Chicago, and we would meet every other week with skeptics and atheists and agnostics and people who considered themselves spiritual, not religious, and we'd have conversations about the deeper topics in life just so that we could build relationships and help people see the logical outworkings and shortcomings of their Worldview.

And there was this one man who attended consistently who was very, very skeptical. And most times after the general discussion, I would talk with him and we'd talk about why I believe that Christianity was true, and I really believe that the truth of Christianity rises or falls on the resurrection of Jesus. And so I was trying to help him see the sound historical evidence for the reliability of the resurrection accounts in the gospels, and he just kept shooting me down until eventually one week, this was probably like 10 weeks into this conversation, I just looked at him and I said, what would you consider sufficient evidence to convince you that Jesus actually rose from the grave? And he immediately jumped into this long explanation and he said, A team of doctors observing the body from the entire time of crucifixion to burial to being in the tomb with them.

And he listed all the things that they would have to record and all of the vital signs that they would have to check. And then he was like, and medical examiners examining the body post resurrection and all these kind of things. And as he was talking, I wasn't meaning to be rude, but I actually laughed out loud and I said, that is completely ridiculous. I said, if that is your threshold for believing that something is true, you can't believe that anything in history is true because we don't have that amount of evidence for any historical event, we would just have to believe we could know absolutely nothing about history if we had the same standard of evidence. Now, sufficient standards of evidence are looking at, what are all the theories of what happened to Jesus? What do we know beyond a reasonable doubt actually happened to him?

And then what are the possible explanations and looking at what is the most plausible explanation, not having doctors observe and write down all of their observations for three days straight and taking all of these vital signs. We can't have that standard of evidence for any claim made thousands of years ago in history. So we need to make sure that our children have realistic expectations of what kind of evidence we should find. Now, if your child has an unreasonable threshold for evidence, you want to explain what a reasonable threshold would be, that we're going to want to find historical records of Jesus from the time we're going to want to find evidence that people were actually following him. Now, if you don't know, if you're thinking, I have no idea how to tell if my child's threshold of evidence is accurate, I have no idea how to address this.

If you're looking just for some solid materials to cover this in our careful thinking curriculum, so Foundation Worldview's Careful Thinking Curriculum, we actually have an entire unit where we cover what should be our standard for considering something as true, for considering something as knowledge that we can possess. And we actually take the kids through multiple lessons where we look at what is the standard for knowledge. So highly recommend you check that out out if you're interested in learning more. Then once you've established this basic threshold of what is needed for belief that Jesus actually was a historical figure, that's when you're going to then want to walk through the evidence together. And so just a solid resource that I would recommend is the book Cold Case Christianity for Kids by Jay Warner Wallace. It just is an easy book for kids to understand and just walks them through, how do we know that we can actually trust the eyewitness testimony that we find in the gospels?

If you're working with an older child, like over the age of 12, you can just check out the adult book, cold Case Christianity by Jay Warner Wallace. It walks through the same thing and really looking at how do we actually know that the gospels are reporting history and they're not just fabricated stories. Now, there are extra biblical texts that also record Jesus as being an actual historical figure. Josephus, the Jewish historian from the first century. He records things about Jesus' followers and what they believed. Then also TAUs, who is a Roman historian, he records some information about Jesus' followers and what they believed, and then also Lucian, who was a satirical writer from the early centuries in the common era. And so these are just some sources that actually have outside of scripture have written record of Jesus, even agnostic scholar Bart Irman agrees that the historical record points to Jesus as actually being a historical figure.

There's also another book that recently came out by Jay Warner Wallace and I'm blanking on the title of it right now. Oh, Person of Interest. Person of Interest. I don't believe that he has a kid's version of it out yet, but if you check out the adult version, person of interest, it goes through, how do we use the standards of evidence from a cold case homicide detective and apply that to looking at Jesus to actually determining, was Jesus a historical figure? Did he actually do the things that are written about him? Is he actually the Messiah? So I don't believe there's a kids version of it yet, but if you check out the adult version, person of interest, that'll give you a lot more talking points to go through with your children. Now, just another thing to address as you're walking through this with your children, if your children are asking this because they genuinely want to know and they have intellectual curiosity, or they might even have some intellectual doubt going through the actual historical records, going through the evidence that points to the truthfulness of scripture, that will really be helpful.

However, if your child has a hard heart and his or her goal is just to be obstinate and to just doubt and question and pick at everything you say, and it's really just a heart issue going through these intellectual things can be beneficial so that they at least hear the evidence. But going through these intellectual exercises cannot soften a child's heart. In fact, we cannot soften a child's heart. Only God through the working of His Holy Spirit can take a heart of stone and turn it into a heart of flesh. So if this is the case, highly encourage you to do several things. First, pray okay. Again, only the Holy Spirit can soften hearts. So pray for your child consistently that God would soften his or her heart as only God can do. Second thing, I really encourage you to seek out why there is this relational struggle.

Like why is your child being obstinate? Why is your child having a hard heart and would really ask that you consider doing two things that you first just pray through, God, have I sinned against this child in any ways? Whether that sin was two hours ago, two days ago, two years ago, a decade ago, you know that the Holy Spirit would reveal if you have sinned against your child in any way and have not confessed and repented of that sin and that sin is blocking your relationship with your child. And if the Holy Spirit reveals something, just go to your child and say, you know what? I was praying and God's Holy Spirit brought this to mind. I don't know if you remember it, but explain what you did wrong, why it was wrong, and then say, I'm so sorry. Would you please forgive me just to bring reconciliation in that relationship, or if the Holy Spirit doesn't bring anything to mind, actually going to your child and asking, is there something that I've done that has hurt you?

Is there something that I've done that you feel like is blocking our relationship? Because here's the thing about sin. Sin doesn't go away. Sin must be paid for, and sin has to be repented of. It has to be confessed of in order for that payment and that reconciliation to be made. So even if it's something that we've done 10 years ago, we need to go and confess and repent and ask for forgiveness to make that relationship right. Another thing that I would encourage you to do is to seek out other men and women in your local body of Christ who can invest in your child, because sometimes the teenage years especially can be really difficult, but there are other men and women in your local body of Christ who love Jesus and who can invest in your son or your daughter's life. I know in my own life that there are several people in my life who were just mentors for me in the local body local church that I grew up in that still today are mentors in my life.

The pastor of that church was just very intentional at investing in the lives of the children of elders. So my dad was an elder at the church, and the pastor was like, these are the leaders of the church. We need to make sure that their families are discipled well. And so he was very intentional at discipling the children of elders. And even to this day, just last week, I talked to him twice on the phone to talk through different situations. So make sure that you're really invested in the local church and that there are others in the church who are investing in your children. And I don't just mean the youth leader, I mean the old woman who sits in the far back left who has 80 years of life experience. I mean, the mom who's now an empty nester. I mean the man who's a businessman and is very busy, but has great relationship with the Lord and could invest in your son. So look for mentors, godly brothers and sisters in Christ in the local church.

Well, that's a wrap for today's episode. If you found this content beneficial, would ask that you would consider liking subscribing, writing a review, and sharing this with those who are in your sphere of influence. We really want to get this content out to as many adults as possible so that we can really equip the next generation to understand the truth and the goodness and the beauty of the biblical Worldview. As always, as we leave our time together, my prayer for you is that God would richly bless you as you continue to faithfully disciple the children he's placed in your care. I'll see you next time.

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