Why Do We Need To Teach High School Students Apologetics?

I don’t think many churches are teaching apologetics.  I know some that are, but I think they are the exception, not the norm.  I was never taught apologetics in high school.  The best answer I was given to why I should believe the Bible to be the word of God was to read 1 Timothy 3:16 – not the best answer!  In fact I wonder if that answer damaged the faith of the high school peer that asked it.

Here is a sampling of feedback I received from high school students after their first unit test on Christian Apologetics:

This section significantly helped me very much so. Not by strengthening my faith, I didn’t actually have any doubts or skepticisms about the Gospel that needed answering. I am already very strong in my faith. The way it helped me so much, is by making it easier for me to answer other people’s questions. Being a faithful Christian, many of my non-religious or skeptical friends, come to me looking for guidance or answers regarding Scripture. I would give them pretty good answers that would generally leave them feeling satisfied. Now I feel like I can answer all of their questions 110%, eliminating any doubt or fear in their minds.

This apologetics section definitely helped me to learn to better defend my faith. I have a lot of non-Christian friends who I regularly converse with about my religion, so this class gave me new tools & talking points that I can discuss with them, as well as raised new questions that I have further researched on my own. The most significant thing I learned was about the historical authenticity of Jesus’ life & the fact that there were pagan historians who affirmed Jesus’ life.

Yes, after studying this past month I have learned that I knew very little about how to defend my faith to those who don’t understand.

Studying the reliability of the Gospels and answering questions about who Jesus is helped me throughout my beliefs and doubts. As I was researching and reading the book, my doubts on the Christianity faded away, since it seems so true! There are so many evidences that Jesus was a real, existed figure and that he has been resurrected. These studies answered my question of if Jesus even existed because I sometimes thought that Jesus could be just a fictional character. The most significant thing I have learned from this section of the class is that only the New Testament had time gap less than 100 between the original and the copies.

Studying the Gospels and the questions about who Jesus is really helped, as it helps me to have more apologetic evidence to further back my faith, both in my own mind and to defend it to other people. The most significant thing I learned were the reasons for believing the resurrection. Since I don’t often see miracles, hearing of someone being legitimately dead, and the rising again, is worthy of attention. But it is also hard to believe. Reading the evidences for it helped strengthen the idea in my mind.

Studying the reliability of the Gospels and answering questions about who he is definitely helped me. I have gotten into situations before where I wish I had the knowledge that I need to answer various questions from friends. I feel more equipped to get into discussions from now on.

These questions have made me much more knowledgeable on the Gospels and Jesus. Before I just believed in these things because I knew that I should. Now I know that these things actually happened and are actually true. I feel a lot more confident in my faith now and feel like I can talk to people about Christ more now because I can support what I believe in.

If you still have any doubts about why you should apologetics in your church, send me a message or leave a comment.  If you need some help or suggestions in getting started, send me a message or leave a comment.  Thank you for your time and for reading.

Did Jesus Die on the Cross?

I met a student at Saddleback Community College yesterday who asked, “How can we be sure that Jesus died?”  I shared the following information with her, but I didn’t have the quotes at the time.  I gave her the website address http://www.contradictmovement.org and told her that there were links to a blog and Facebook and that I would post this for her.  I pray that she finds this and that others who need this information will find it too.  The important part is not just that he died, but that he was buried, and then raised!

Did Jesus die on a cross?

The Gospel accounts record that darkness fell over all the land for a three hour time span as Jesus hung on the cross.  (Matthew 27:45, Mark 15:33, and Luke 23:44,45)  This darkness covering the land is confirmed by the words of Thallus, a Samaratin historian who wrote about twenty years after Jesus’ death, as well as by the Greek historian Phlegon.  Their accounts of the darkness are preserved by the 2nd and 3rd century historian, Julius Africanus, who records both Thallus and Phlegon to confirm the same year and time of the darkness as the Gospels.  Julius records that Thallus tried to explain the darkness as an eclipse of the sun, yet Julius doesn’t buy this argument because:

The Jews celebrate their Passover on the 14th day according to the moon, and the death of our Savior falls on the day before the Passover. But an eclipse of the sun can only take place when the moon comes under the sun, how then could an eclipse have occurred when the moon is directly opposite the sun?1

Concerning Phlegon’s account, Julius records, “It is evident that he did not know of any such events in previous years.”2 This darkness is even recorded in Chinese history:

Summer, fourth month, on the day of Ren Wu, the imperial edict reads, “Yen and Yang have mistakenly switched, and the sun and moon were eclipsed.  The sins of all the people are now on one man.  [The emperor] proclaims pardon to all under heaven.3

The time of this eclipse recorded during the Han Dynasty is placed at 31 A.D., and if the darkening of the sun occurred from noon to three P.M. in Jerusalem that would correspond to be from five to eight P.M. at the current capital of China at the time, Luo Yang, explaining why the Chinese records claim not just a darkening of the sun, but also the moon!4


                With such internal and external evidence connecting an unprecedented and unexplainable extinguishing of the sun to the time of Jesus’ crucifixion, coupled with accounts of subsequent bodily resurrection; it’s likely that such news reached even the ears of the Roman emperor, who could have sent an investigator who would have had the authority to access all pertinent parties to verify if Jesus was in fact crucified.  Many other investigators of lesser political or wealthy status could have made inquiries about his death.  It wasn’t as if Pontius Pilate was completely inaccessible.  The Jewish Sanhedrin clearly had no problem bringing Jesus before Pilate and Herod to be tried for insurrection.  (Luke 23:1-25) Without a doubt, many Jews and Romans in the region would have wanted to investigate Jesus’ death and would have had the means of verifying if Jesus did die by crucifixion under Pontius Pilate.  Even if they couldn’t speak with Pilate in person, there were plenty of witnesses who saw him sentenced to death, since a riotous crowd shouting for Jesus to be crucified forced Pilate to condemn Jesus to the cross.  (Matthew 27:15-24, Mark 15:9-15, Luke 23:20-25)  Surely, an eyewitness from this scene could be found rather easily in the months to years following Jesus’ sentence. 

Both Matthew and Mark record that after Jesus’ death sentence, that he was taken to the Praetorium, the governor’s residence, where the entire company of soldiers stationed there stripped him, put a scarlet robe on him, gave him a crown of thorns, mocked him, spit on him, beat him, and had him flogged!  (Matthew 27:27-31 and Mark 15:16-20)  After this treatment, the Gospels record that the soldiers led Jesus away to his crucifixion.  Many of these men would be able to serve as witnesses to Jesus’ death, or if they didn’t see execution through until the end, they would be able to point you to centurion and his soldiers who oversaw his final hours. 

simon of cyreneAnother witness that could likely be found was a man from Cyrene, named Simon.  The Synoptic Gospels record that the soldiers forced him to carry Jesus’ cross.  Mark records that this man was the father of Alexander and Rufus.  (Mark 15:21)  He writes these names as if his audience would have known who they were.  Surely, a man named Simon, from Cyrene, who has two sons named Alexander and Rufus, could have been found and interrogated in the early first century.  He should be able to answer the following questions with ease: Were you forced to carry a cross at the time of the Passover?  Was the man whose cross you carried, Jesus of Nazareth?  Did he say anything to you?  What was his condition like when you carried his cross?  Was he crucified at Golgotha, The Place of the Skull, as Jesus’ disciples claim?  Is it true that a sign was placed over his head that said, “THIS IS JESUS, THE KING OF THE JEWS.”?  Did you see Jesus nailed to the cross?  What about his death?  Did you stay to witness it?  Could you tell if any of his followers or family was there for his execution?  What did you think about the sky going dark at his crucifixion?  Or the earthquake at his death?  Do you think they are linked? 

The Gospels make mention that many women followers of Jesus were watching his crucifixion: Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Joses, the mother of Zebedee’s sons, Salome, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Jesus’ mother and her sister.  Any of these women could have been interrogated to confirm the death of Jesus, as well as the apostle John, who claims in his Gospel to have witnessed the crucifixion, even receiving instructions from Jesus to take care of his mother, Mary, while his rabbi hung on the cross.  Already, a large list of supposed witnesses could be located and examined to verify the Gospel accounts that Jesus did in fact die.  The greatest witness of them all though, would be the centurion who oversaw the crucifixion, and the soldier who stuck Jesus in the side with a spear (possibly the centurion).  The following is what John records of the death that he witnessed:

Now it was the day of Preparation, and the next day was to be a special Sabbath.  Because the Jews did not want the bodies left on the crosses during the Sabbath, they asked Pilate to have the legs broken and the bodies taken down.  The soldiers therefore came and broke the legs of the first man who had been crucified with Jesus, and then those of the other.  But when they came to Jesus and found that he was already dead, they did not break his legs.  Instead, one of the soldiers pierced Jesus’ side with a spear, bringing a sudden flow of blood and water.  (John 19:31-35)

soldier spear

                If Jesus was not sentenced to death by Pontius Pilate, surely Pontius would publically squelch that rumor, or Herod or the Sanhedrin.  If someone other than Jesus was nailed to the cross, the mob who demanded his crucifixion, the women disciples who stayed to his final breaths, his closest disciple, John, should have been able to confirm that Jesus did not die on a cross.  If anyone questioned if Jesus could have survived the crucifixion as a possible explanation for how his tomb was empty and people saw him alive post-mortem, the executioners would certainly be able to affirm if he was dead or not.  The man who thrust the spear into Jesus’ breathless body would be able to confirm if Jesus died on the cross.  The Gospels record that the centurion in charge of Jesus’ execution, after seeing how Jesus died, said, “Surely this man was the Son of God” (Mark 15:39).   The first century inquirer would seek the centurion for confirmation of Jesus’ death and would learn if he truly did believe Jesus was the Son of God based on the way he died.  If any of the Gospel accounts were false on how Jesus died, these witnesses would deny them.  Living in the 21st century we have no record that they ever did. 

1. “Historical Evidence for Crucifixion Darkness” retrieved from http://www.biblehistory.net/newsletter/crucifixion_darkness.htm on March 21st, 2013

2. Ibd.

3. Chan, Kei Thong.  Faith of Our Fathers: God in Ancient China. Shanghai, China, 345 Xianxialu, 2006. p. 318.

4. Ibd. p. 318.

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“Jesus could have had a twin brother.” – the script.

Since I had a conversation recently with someone who actually believed that Jesus probably had an identical twin brother that no one knew about who faked the resurrection, rather than Jesus having real bodily resurrection, this student written script from my apologetics class came to mind.  Hopefully, you like it.  Share some comments so the students can get some feedback on their work from outside our class.

Scenario: Jesus Christ had a twin brother

Setting: Ash Wednesday Chapel at school

Twin 1: Hey! Why did you get one?

Christian: This is symbol of the resurrection of Jesus Christ from physical death to life. 

Twin 2: Resurrection sounds rather impossible. 

Twin 1: Yeah, what if the resurrection of Jesus Christ was all a lie? A fragment of people’s imagination?

Christian: What do you mean?

Twin 2: What if Jesus was like one of us? What if he had a twin brother?

Twin 1: Yeah, what if people mistook Jesus’ unseen twin brother as Jesus Christ?

Twin 2: As you can see, we are identical twins. [Pause] People mistake us for each other all the time. What if it was the same for Jesus? After all, Jesus Christ was fully human – so there is no possible and rational explanation for his coming back from the dead. 

Christian: Hmm….. That is an invalid argument. As seen in Scripture, Jesus’ town knew of his family well, many people grew up among them (Matthew 13:55-56 “He’s just the carpenter’s son, and we know Mary, his mother, and his brothers– James, Joseph, Simon, and Judas. All his sisters live right here among us.  Where did he learn all these things.”). Also people didn’t find Jesus in the tomb,  there were guards there the whole time (their life was on the line so they didn’t lie) and the rock that covered the tomb was way too heavy to move.  The shepherds came to the stable and saw him right after birth with his mother and father.  There was no way for Joseph and Mary to hide a twin, because they had no idea that Jesus was going to die in 33 years.   

Twin 1: Okay. So then, Jesus really did come back to life?

Christian: Yes. There are six evidences that support the resurrection of Christ. These are the empty tomb, the postcruxifixion appearances, the transformation of the apostles, the conversion of Saul of Tarsus, emergence of the Christian Church, and a switch to Sunday as a Day of Worship. I would love to spend more time discussing these evidences in more depth, but we are running out of time. Chapel is about to end. 

Twin 2: Okay. Now, Jesus’ resurrection makes more sense. Hmm.. we should get the ashes! 

Twin 1: Yeah!

Christian: Let’s go!

Jesus Claimed to Be God

Muslims say that Jesus never claimed to be God.  Some religious pluralists might say this too.  Some humanists will likely say this also.  And many people will not care.

I believe that we can trust the Gospels to be Historically reliable.  With that being said, I believe Jesus actually claimed to be God and that he backed up such claims by living the perfect life that none of us can live, dying the death that none of us can die, and rising from the grave, something that we all will do, however, some to everlasting life, and others to everlasting condemnation (Daniel 12:1-3).

People struggle to admit that Jesus claimed to be God, because they really like his teachings of universal love and compassion towards others.  They like his don’t pay back evil with evil mentality, because although we all break his commands, we recognize that they are the highest road of morality, and the path that most be followed for world peace.

People who want to embrace the Jesus of pacifism, but reject the Jesus who is the Messiah, will sometimes say, “Well, he never said the exact words, ‘I am God,’ so what Christians interpret to be claims to be God, must somehow be misunderstood.”  So, I’ll change the lyrics of the Animals song slightly to fit this situation, “Oh Lord, please don’t let him be misunderstood.”  Make no mistake, Jesus claimed to be God.  Here is how he claimed to be God as recorded in his biographies, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John:

Divine Titles Proclaimed by or attributed to Jesus Christ:

God (John 1:1, John 20:28, Romans 9:5, Titus 2:13, Hebrews 1:8, 2 Peter 1:1)
Lord (Mark 12:35-37, John 20:28, Romans 10:9-13, 1 Cor. 8:5-6, 12:3, Philippians 2:11)
Messiah (Matthew 16:16, Mark 14:61, John 20:31)
Son of God (Matt. 11:27, Mark 15:39, John 1:18, Romans 1:4, Galatians 4:4, Hebrews 1:2)
Son of Man (Matt. 16:28, Matt. 24:30, Mark 8:38, Mark 14:62-64, Acts 7:56, Dan. 7:13-14)

Divine Names, actions, or roles proclaimed by or attributed to Jesus Christ:

Creator (John 1:3, Col. 1:16, Hebrews 1:2,10-12)
Sustainer (1 Cor. 8:6, Col. 1:17, Hebrews 1:3)
Forgiver of sins (Mark 2:5-7, Luke 24:47, Acts 5:31, Col. 3:13)
Object of prayer (John 14:4, Acts 1:24, 1 Cor. 1:2)
Object of worship (Matt. 28:16-17, Phil. 2:10-11, Hebrews 1:6)
Object of saving faith (John 14:1, Acts 10:43, Romans 10:8-13)

Divine Attributes or Qualities proclaimed by or attributed to Jesus Christ

Eternal Existence (John 1:1, John 8:58, John 17:5, Hebrews 13:8)
Self-existence (John 1:3, John 5:26, Col. 1:16)
Omnipresence (Matthew 18:20, Ephesians 1:23, Ephesians 4:10, Col. 3:11)
Omniscience (Mark 2:8, Luke 9:47, John 2:25, John 4:18, Col. 2:3)
Omnipotence (John 2:19, Col. 1:16-17)

Jesus equated himself with the Father

To know Jesus is to know God – John 14:7
To see Jesus is to see God – John 14:9
To encounter Jesus is to encounter God – John 14:11
To welcome Jesus is to welcome God – John 5:23
To hate Jesus is to hate God – John 15:23
To obey Jesus is to obey God – John 14:23

Jesus made direct claims that many Jewish religious leaders considered to blasphemous – John 5:17-18, John 8:58-59, John 10:30-33, and Mark 14:61-64.

Jesus is considered by scholars such as Weber ...
Jesus is considered by scholars such as Weber to be an example of a charismatic religious leader. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

So based on these claims…

Who do you say Jesus is?

Greek Gods vs. Jesus

greek godsWe can understand the Greek gods.  If Zues is upset, he’ll smite thee!  He’ll release the Kraken!  No problem there.  If you’re hot, he’ll have sex with you, and he won’t take no for an answer.  We get these gods, because they’re like us.  They’re who we’d be if we were gods.  They’re sinners hyped up with super-powers and over-sized egos, hanging out on a Mountain in the sky, acting like hormonally out of control teenagers all day and all through the night.

Jesus on the other hand.  He’s not so easy for us to grasp.  God in the flesh dying on a cross at the hands of his own creation so they might have eternal life.  There are a lot of doctrines in the Bible to unpack to understand the significance of why God would have to die in the person of Jesus Christ so we might have life after death, but this is for certain; Jesus is not like any of the gods on Mount Olympus!

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