"How Do You Know That Jesus Is Real?"

Over a year ago, my son Elijah asked me this question:

"How do you know that Jesus is real? I'm not doubting it. But I'm just wondering how do you know."

First off, I told him that I love these questions (like a couple of years earlier when he asked me how we know that God is real), and I love his honesty.

The question here has to do with history, and it was the same type of question that led me to faith in Christ in 1995. As I told my biology class when we studied the origin of life, we can't prove anything in history by experimental tests. This is true whether we are talking about George Washington, Julius Caesar, the Crusades, or Jesus.

If we can't rely on experiments, then how, in fact do we know something is true in history. We can look at three things, for starters:
  • Testimonies of witnesses
  • Sources that recorded and passed on information
  • Changed lives of those who experienced that event or person
Without going into too much detail (after all, I was talking to a 6 year old), I explained that I looked at two main reasons that I believe that Jesus was (and is) real:
  1. Testimonies and sources about Jesus' life, death, and then His empty tomb.
  2. Changed lives of the disciples who were with Him.
With these two reasons, the best explanation I could come with is that Jesus really did  live, He really did die, and -- most importantly -- He really did rise again. And my experience today solidifies those conclusions I made years ago.

Ultimately, following Jesus is a risk, but it's worth it. And if we take those steps of faith, the Spirit will lead us to keep maturing in Him, as we are changed from the inside out. And as we are changed and as God uses us, it will help our faith grow and grow.

Related Links:


  1. It the 'testimonies of witnesses' were the testimonies of real witnesses, why do no two of them agree on any of the essential details, and where they do agree, it is obviously a case of one copying out another's work?
    Jesus Is Risen And Pigs Can Fly

    What are these 'sources' please, and where may they be seen?

    Who's lives have been changed by Jesus rather than merely belief in Jesus, and how do you know this, please?

    P.S. I am not a six year old, so I would appreciate grown up answers if you have any, please.

    You may also like to respond on my blog As Former Atheist. Don't Give Me That Crap

  2. Thanks for reading, and for your comments.

    I think it's interesting that in your first paragraph, you seem to be saying, "They don't agree, but where they do, that shows it's just a copy." It seems like poor logic -- you dismiss it all whether they agree or not. I can't win.

    Also, I don't know what you consider "essential details." But from the own words of one of the authors (in I Corinthians) the most essential detail of Christianity is that Jesus was resurrected. And all the writings definitely agree on that.

    Josephus is one extra-biblical source, for starts. But again, you have to be careful about eliminating something as untrue based on how many sources you have. If so, you'll have to deny most of ancient history.

    The truth is that for any documents older than 1000 years old (or even younger), there is nothing else that has as many manuscripts, as many early manuscripts, and as much consistency in the many manuscripts as the Bible. Not even close.

  3. No. I was asking for your opinion. There are several conflicting accounts of 'Jesus' which can only be reconciled by there being more than one Jesus, the accounts being of different legends, or being made up. What they can't be is accounts by eye-witness of the same events. The witnesses can't even agree which town they were in, who was present or which day it occurred on!

    Presented in a court of law as evidence for the prosecution they would be laughed at.

    So, on what basis do you claim they are testimonies of witnesses?

    I assume that 'as a former atheist', you saw the evidence for this belief so it shouldn't be too difficult for you to say what it was and where others can see it.

    Josephus is one extra-biblical 'source'. In fact he is the ONLY extra-biblical source not written by someone with a vested interest and probably much later. He wrote this some 30-40 years after the supposed death of Jesus and then only mentioned that 'some Jews' believed Jesus was the Messiah. This is like someone writing today that some Americans believe the CIA killed Kennedy, and this then being taken as proof. Has it never occurred to you that Josephus was Jewish and was so unconvinced by the 'evidence' you claim he presented that he remained Jewish? Even your witness doesn't agree with you!

    In addition to that, mention of Jesus only appears in one copy and that looks suspiciously like a later interpolation.

    I must say that, for someone who claims to have been an atheist, you seem to have been remarkably easy to convince and seems to have accepted the 'evidence' with remarkably little critical analysis.

    Maybe your idea and mine of exactly what an Atheist is are different things. For example, as an atheist, why did you not decide to believe in Allah or Uhuru Mazda, or Ganesh, who's believers can also present evidence as flimsy as that you have produced for Jesus?

    No wonder you didn't try to explain the details to a six year-old. Many average six year-olds could see straight through it.

    1. RosaRubicondior You have entered this discussion with strong pre-suppositions in place. Every single one of your questions have been explored and answered in a logical, reasonable, and legal manner by others such as yourself. Indeed, there are a few lawyers and legal types who have set out from a legal court of law setting and have been unable to disprove the existence of the historical Jesus as revealed in the Bible. In fact a number of them ended up becoming Christians themselves. If you are really interested in factual evidence for Christ and Christianity try reading C S Lewis (an atheist who converted), Evidence That Demands a Verdict by Josh McDowell and the various authors (some are lawyers) from http://pleaseconvinceme.com/about-please-convince-me/. Another great source of information is to be found at www.thepoachedegg.net. However, if all you want to do is swim around in your presuppositions, don't bother.

    2. Tracy

      Sorry you couldn't answer my points and needed to resort to smug condescension in lieu of an honest answer. I think people will understand why that was.

      Incidentally, Josh McDowell's sad little book was entirely demolished in a reply I hosted on my blog. Despite repeated invitations to him to reply, he never managed to find the integrity to do so. (Jesus - History or Hoax?)

  4. I read your post (and tried commenting there, but something boogered up -- probably my error). I think some of those examples you gave from the Bible misrepresented or misinterpreted what was written.

    For example, you noted that one source said that Jesus was born in a stable, and another said that Jesus was born in a house. I find no where in Matthew 1-2 where it says that Jesus was born in a house. And you cited the example of Jesus getting mad at the money exchangers as occurring at 2 different points in Jesus ministry. But John's gospel is not written in chronological order, and no where in his account is it explicitly said that that occurred at the beginning part of his ministry.

    There are other examples like this where you have set up a "straw man" only to knock him down.

    Again, when you look at all historical documents, you have to agree that there nothing else is even close to manuscript certainty as the early copies of the Bible. You'd have to be ready to throw out (or at least call into question) much of what we know about ancient history.

    1. Shame you didn't read on to see what the star allegedly stopped over in one of the least plausible pieces of fiction ever made up. Can you pinpoint any house in your town over which any star is located, but not over any other?

      I think I'm close to concluding that you tale of being a former atheist is merely a ploy to make your claims seem believable.

      You've done nothing you to convince me otherwise and have adopted the familiar old trick of making claims then diverting the conversation away from discussing them.

      I'm beginning to think you've decided fraud is the best way to trick people into agreeing with you because you don't have any facts or reason to use.

    2. I assure you there is no ploy in saying that I used to be an atheist (or, to be more accurate, fluttering between an atheist or agnostic). At the time that I was moving towards beginning to believe in what the Bible says about Jesus, I had no reason to start believing in Him except for the truths that were being realized. And I have no reason -- nothing to gain for myself personally -- to "trick" people into believing it's true.

      But my goal here is not to convince you of the truth of Christianity. There are far more resources and books that can do that.

    3. In that case you inability or reluctance to answer my very simple questions is even more difficult to understand.

      Can you explain it in terms of knowing the answers but simply not wanting to tell me what they are?

    4. I believe I did answer most of your questions, but you have to be fair to address my points as well. Like, did you mis-read Matthew 1-2, about where Jesus was born? Do you see that John's account of the money changers was not necessarily at the beginning of his ministry? What do you think about the Bible having the best manuscript evidence of any ancient document?

  5. Joey are you posting to reddit again? :)

    It is a straw man argument but....

    Here's a life that has been changed by Jesus --Paul. And we know because he wrote a bunch of letters about it. Same for the disciples and the early church. And Joey and me! You assume Jesus is dead but scripture and the experience of Christians says he's alive.

    1. In other words you think it must be true because you and others believe it is.

      Have you nothing more substantial to offer because, with that logic, I could with equal validity argue that it can't be true because I and others don't believe it.

      Have you anything like evidence - the sort of thing normal people use to decide whether to believe in normal things or not?

    2. Can you prove that love is real? If you are married, or have ever loved someone, can you prove it? You cannot run an experiment, but you can look at the effects of having the feeling of love. Actions result from an internal change.

      That is what we are talking about here. Actions resulting from an internal change. And for the many of early disciples, it was actions based not on just a belief, but actions based on their own claims that they saw Jesus resurrected.

      Yes, many in other belief systems have faith, and many would die for their faith. But in no other has someone been willing to die for something they claimed to have seen.

    3. >Can you prove that love is real?<

      Yes. Is physiology unknown to you?

      Now, rather than trying to divert the thread with irrelevant questions, which is the cyber equivalent of running away, how about answering my request for evidence.

      Or do you know that you have none but lack the integrity to say so?

  6. Ha. No, Rob. Not this time.

    Great points about lives that have been changed. Mine for sure.

  7. Here's a great resource on this topic. It's a long video, but answers a lot of questions.


  8. RosaR - what are you talking about..."Josephus is the ONLY extra-biblical source"? Have you not read the recordings of Tacitus, Suetonius, Pliny, Trajan, Hadrian, Lucian, Celsus, Africanus, Thallus, or Mara Bar-Serapion? All are non-Christian sources with no vested interest in progressing the early Christian church. In fact, if you chose to never read the Bible, but instead read only the ancient records of these notable people from history, you would know the following about Jesus, his followers, and the early church:

    - He lived during the time of Tiberius Ceasar and was crucified under Pontius Pilate (Luke gives us reason to believe his accuracy in recording history, as he specifically names Tiberius Ceasar as the Roman emperor and Pontius Pilate as the governor of Judea (Luke 3:1)
    - He lived a virtuous life
    - He was regarded as a wise teacher
    - He performed miraculous feats
    - He claimed to be the Messiah
    - An eclipse and an earthquake occurred when he died
    - He was crucified on the eve of Passover
    - His disciples believed he rose from the dead
    - His disciples were willing to die for their beliefs
    - Christianity was not contained to just Jerusalem, but spread rapidly as far as Rome
    - His disciples denied the Roman gods and worshiped Jesus as God

    1. Thanks for adding this great information!

    2. An interesting list.

      I appreciate this question might seem threatening to you but have you nothing written from BEFORE the Roman Empire became officially Christian? You know, the sort of thing that a normal, honest historian would regard as good, extra-biblical historical evidence for the existence of the biblical Jesus?

    3. I'm not sure about the entire list, but I know that Tacitus, Pliny, and others lived well before the Roman Empire made Christianity the "official" religion.

    4. Do you remember who fooled you with that list which you've obviously never checked but have swallowed hook, line and sinker? It's entirely refuted here.

  9. Chyrnoble,Also meaning wormwood ,was predicted in the Bible,It says the waters were made bitter & many died from it.We know this happened in our time, I believe it was in 1970 something, Weather men make predictions all the time,but not this many years in advance & at the time this was predicted there were no nuclear plants,That is a pretty awesome prediction coming from thousands of years before,Also in Matthew it says that Israel will become a nation again,That happened in 1948 ( Of course you have to know which tree God uses to describe Israel).The Bible also tells us about the days of Lot & the cities being destroyed because of the sins that were happening there, he said these things would be going on in the last days,wow he got that one right too.There are so many predictions that were made that we see today, so it is very hard to just blow them off...I have a question for the NON believers,If the believers are wrong & there is no God what have we lost? But if the Believers are right & the NON believers are wrong,what have they lost? You better think & study long & hard before you toss out all hope of salvation.

  10. I appreciate you stopping by. But I have to admit that I'm concerned your apparent eisegesis (reading into) of the Bible. The texts that you refer to, for the most part, are not in the context that you are trying to make.