One of the original 12 Apostles of Jesus Christ, Thomas, called Didymus, refused to believe in the testimony of the other Apostles concerning the resurrection of Jesus until he saw the wounds of the resurrected Christ himself (John 20:24, 25, 26-29). From this comes the expression "doubting Thomas." Thomas earlier had expressed great devotion (John 11:16) and a questioning mind (John 14:5).
Eusebius of Caesarea records that Thomas became a missionary to Parthia. The Acts of Thomas (3d century), however, states that he was martyred in India. The Malabar Christians claim that their church was founded by him. This tradition can neither be substantiated nor denied on the basis of current evidence. Saint Thomas' Mount in Madras is the traditional site of his martyrdom. Feast day: July 3 (Western and Syrian); Oct. 6 (Eastern).
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Griffith, Leonard, Gospel Characters (1976); Perumalil, Hormice C., and Hambye, E. R., eds., Christianity in India (1973).
Thomas, twin, one of the twelve (Matt. 10:3; Mark 3:18, etc.). He was also called Didymus (John 11:16; 20:24), which is the Greek equivalent of the Hebrew name. All we know regarding him is recorded in the fourth Gospel (John 11:15, 16; 14:4, 5; 20:24, 25, 26-29). From the circumstance that in the lists of the apostles he is always mentioned along with Matthew, who was the son of Alphaeus (Mark 3:18), and that these two are always followed by James, who was also the son of Alphaeus, it has been supposed that these three, Matthew, Thomas, and James, were brothers.
Little is recorded of St. Thomas the Apostle, nevertheless thanks to the fourth Gospel his personality is clearer to us than that of some others of the Twelve. His name occurs in all the lists of the Synoptists (Matthew 10:3; Mark 3:18; Luke 6, cf. Acts 1:13), but in St. John he plays a distinctive part. First, when Jesus announced His intention of returning to Judea to visit Lazarus, "Thomas" who is called Didymus [the twin], said to his fellow disciples: "Let us also go, that we may die with him" (John 11:16). Again it was St. Thomas who during the discourse before the Last Supper raised an objection: "Thomas saith to him: Lord, we know not whither thou goest; and how can we know the way?" (John 14:5). But more especially St. Thomas is remembered for his incredulity when the other Apostles announced Christ's Resurrection to him: "Except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the place of the nails, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe" (John 20:25); but eight days later he made his act of faith, drawing down the rebuke of Jesus: "Because thou hast seen me, Thomas, thou hast believed; blessed are they that have not seen, and have believed" (John 20:29).
This exhausts all our certain knowledge regarding the Apostle but his name is the starting point of a considerable apocryphal literature, and there are also certain historical data which suggest that some of this apocryphal material may contains germs of truth. The principal document concerning him is the "Acta Thomae", preserved to us with some variations both in Greek and in Syriac, and bearing unmistakeable signs of its Gnostic origin. It may indeed be the work of Bardesanes himself. The story in many of its particulars is utterly extravagant, but it is the early date, being assigned by Harnack (Chronologie, ii, 172) to the beginning of the third century, before A. D. 220. If the place of its origin is really Edessa, as Harnack and others for sound reasons supposed (ibid., p. 176), this would lend considerable probability to the statement, explicitly made in "Acta" (Bonnet, cap. 170, p.286), that the relics of Apostle Thomas, which we know to have been venerated at Edessa, had really come from the East. The extravagance of the legend may be judged from the fact that in more than one place (cap. 31, p. 148) it represents Thomas (Judas Thomas, as he is called here and elsewhere in Syriac tradition) as the twin brother of Jesus. The Thomas in Syriac is equivalant to didymos in Greek, and means twin. Rendel Harris who exaggerates very much the cult of the Dioscuri, wishes to regards this as a transformation of a pagan worship of Edessa but the point is at best problematical. The story itself runs briefly as follows: At the division of the Apostles, India fell to the lot of Thomas, but he declared his inability to go, whereupon his Master Jesus appeared in a supernatural way to Abban, the envoy of Gundafor, an Indian king, and sold Thomas to him to be his slave and serve Gundafor as a carpender. Then Abban and Thomas sailed away until they came to Andrapolis, where they landed and attended the marriage feast of the ruler's daughter. Strange occurences followed and Christ under the appearence of Thomas exhorted the bride to remain a Virgin. Coming to India Thomas undertook to build a palace for Gundafor, but spend the money entrusted to him on the poor. Gundafor imprisoned him; but the Apostle escaped miraculously and Gundafor was converted. Going about the country to preach, Thomas met with strange adventures from dragons and wild asses. Then he came to the city of King Misdai (Syriac Mazdai), where he converted Tertia the wife of Misdai and Vazan his son. After this he was condemed to death, led out of city to a hill, and pierced through with spears by four soldiers. He was buried in the tomb of the ancient kings but his remains were afterwards removed to the West.
Now it is certainly a remarkable fact that about the year A.D. 46 a king was reigning over that part of Asia south of Himalayas now represented by Afghanistan, Baluchistan, the Punjab, and Sind, who bore the name Gondophernes or Guduphara. This we know both from the discovery of coins, some of the Parthian type with Greek legends, others of the Indian types with the legends in an Indian dialect in Kharoshthi characters. Despite sundry minor variations the identity of the name with the Gundafor of the "Acta Thomae" is unmistakable and is hardly disputed. Further we have the evidence of the Takht-i-Bahi inscription, which is dated and which the best specialists accept as establishing the King Gunduphara probably began to reign about A.D. 20 and was still reigning in 46. Again there are excellent reasons for believing that Misdai or Mazdai may well be transformation of a Hindu name made on the Iranian soil. In this case it will probably represent a certain King Vasudeva of Mathura, a successor of Kanishka. No doubt it can be urged that the Gnostic romancer who wrote the "Acta Thomae" may have adopted a few historical Indian names to lend verisimilitude to his fabrication, but as Mr. Fleet urges in his severely critical paper "the names put forward here in connection with St.Thomas are distinctly not such as have lived in Indian story and tradition" (Joul. of R. Asiatic Soc.,1905, p.235).
On the other hand, though the tradition that St. Thomas preached in "India" was widely spread in both East and West and is to be found in such writers as Ephraem Syrus, Ambrose, Paulinus, Jerome, and, later Gregory of Tours and others, still it is difficult to discover any adequate support for the long-accepted belief that St. Thomas pushed his missionary journeys as far south as Mylapore, not far from Madras, and there suffered martyrdom. In that region is still to be found a granite bas-relief cross with a Pahlavi (ancient Persian) inscription dating from the seventh century, and the tradition that it was here that St. Thomas laid down his life is locally very strong. Certain it is also that on the Malabar or west coast of southern India a body of Christians still exists using a form of Syriac for its liturgical language. Whether this Church dates from the time of St. Thomas the Apostle (there was a Syro-Chaldean bishop John "from India and Persia" who assisted at the Council of Nicea in 325) or whether the Gospel was first preached there in 345 owing to the Persian persecution under Shapur (or Sapor), or whether the Syrian missionaries who accompanied a certain Thomas Cana penetrated to the Malabar coast about the year 745 seems difficult to determine. We know only that in the sixth century Cosmas Indicopleustes speaks of the existence of Christians at Male (? Malabar) under a bishop who had been consecrated in Persia. King Alfred the Great is stated in the "Anglo-Saxon Chronicle" to have sent an expedition to establish relations with these Christians of the Far East. On the other hand the reputed relics of St. Thomas were certainly at Edessa in the fourth century, and there they remained until they were translated to Chios in 1258 and towards to Ortona. The improbable suggestion that St. Thomas preached in America (American Eccles. Rev., 1899, pp.1-18) is based upon a misunderstanding of the text of the Acts of Apostles (i, 8; cf. Berchet "Fonte italiane per la storia della scoperta del Nuovo Mondo", II, 236, and I, 44).
Besides the "Acta Thomae" of which a different and notably shorter redaction exists in Ethiopic and Latin, we have an abbreviated form of a so-called "Gospel of Thomas" originally Gnostic, as we know it now merely a fantastical history of the childhood of Jesus, without any notably heretical colouring. There is also a "Revelatio Thomae", condemned as apocryphal in the Degree of Pope Gelasius, which has recently been recovered from various sources in a fragmentary condition (see the full text in the Revue benedictine, 1911, pp. 359-374).
Publication information Written by Herbert Thurston. Transcribed by Mary and Joseph Thomas. In Memory of Ella Barkyoumb The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume XIV. Published 1912. New York: Robert Appleton Company. Nihil Obstat, July 1, 1912. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York
(This information may not be of the scholastic quality of the other articles in BELIEVE. Since few Orthodox scholarly articles have been translated into English, we have had to rely on Orthodox Wiki as a source. Since the Wikipedia collections do not indicate the author's name for articles, and essentially anyone is free to edit or alter any of their articles (again, without any indication of what was changed or who changed it), we have concerns. However, in order to include an Orthodox perspective in some of our subject presentations, we have found it necessary to do this. At least until actual scholarly Orthodox texts are translated from the Greek originals!)
The holy, glorious and all-laudable Apostle Thomas is included in the number of the holy Twelve Apostles of the Savior. He is commemorated on October 6 and on June 30 with the Synaxis of the Glorious and All-Praiseworthy Twelve Apostles of Christ.
The Apostle Thomas was born in the Galileian city of Pansada and was a fisherman. Hearing the good tidings of Jesus Christ, he left all and followed after him.
According to Holy Scripture, the holy Apostle Thomas did not believe the reports of the other disciples about the Resurrection of Jesus Christ: "Unless I see in His hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into His side, I will not believe" (John 20:25).
On the eighth day after the Resurrection, the Lord appeared to the Apostle Thomas and showed him His wounds. "My Lord and my God," the Apostle cried out (John 20:28). "Thomas, being once weaker in faith than the other apostles," says St John Chrysostom, "toiled through the grace of God more bravely, more zealously and tirelessly than them all, so that he went preaching over nearly all the earth, not fearing to proclaim the Word of God to savage nations." Some icons depicting this event are inscribed "The Doubting Thomas." This is incorrect. In Greek, the inscription reads, "The Touching of Thomas." In Slavonic, it says, "The Belief of Thomas." When St Thomas touched the Life-giving side of the Lord, he no longer had any doubts.
According to Church Tradition, the holy Apostle Thomas founded Christian churches in Palestine, Mesopotamia, Parthia, Ethiopia and India. Church Traditon also indicates that Apostle Thomas baptized the Magicitation needed. Preaching the Gospel earned him a martyr's death. For having converted the wife and son of the prefect of the Indian city of Meliapur (Melipur), the holy apostle was locked up in prison, suffered torture, and finally, pierced with five spears, he departed to the Lord. Part of the relics of the holy Apostle Thomas are in India, in Hungary and on Mt. Athos. The name of the Apostle Thomas is associated with the Arabian (or Arapet) Icon of the Mother of God (September 6).
Troparion (Tone 2)
You were a disciple of Christ
And a member of the divine college of Apostles.
Having been weak in faith you doubted the Resurrection of Christ.
But by feeling the wounds you believed in His all-pure passion:
Pray now to Him, O all-praised Thomas to grant us peace and great mercy.
Kontakion (Tone 4)
Thomas, the faithful servant and disciple of Christ,
Filled with divine grace, cried out from the depth of his love:
You are my Lord and my God!
Holy, Glorious Apostle Thomas (OCA)
Thomas the Apostle of the 12 (GOARCH)
The Holy Apostle Thomas (Prologue of Ohrid)
Icon and Story of St. Thomas, Holy & Glorious Apostle
Thomas was also known as Didymus. From Hebrew and Greek words, both names meaning a twin. Some have gone to great lengths to determine who his twin was. Because his name is paired with that of Matthew, there are those who suggest that they may have been twins. It is best to say that we don't know who Thomas' twin was.
Although he is not as well known as some of the other disciples, most people are familiar with the expression "Doubting Thomas," an expression which has described this man since the first Easter. We don't have information about Thomas' call to discipleship. He simply appears in the listings of the Twelve. We do learn something of the man from the three times he appears in the gospel records.
At a time when there are many who allow Jesus only a limited role in their lives - Sunday morning Christians, Christmas and Easter Christians - Thomas expresses his willingness to die with Christ. Years later he apparently did just that.
It was Thomas who, in response to Jesus' announcement that they knew where he was going, said, "Lord, we don't know where you are going; so how can we know the way?" Jesus used that question to point to himself as the Way, the Truth and the Life (John 14:5-6). Note that Thomas is honest. He doesn't understand what Jesus was talking about and he says so. In so doing, he also gets to hear Jesus' explanation. The most famous incident involving Thomas comes on the first Easter Sunday when Jesus appeared to his disciples behind locked doors. Thomas was absent. His reaction to the news that Jesus had risen from the tomb earned him his nickname for all times, "Doubting Thomas." (John 20:24-29) Jesus gives Thomas a second chance a week later and Thomas responds, "My Lord and my God!"
Thomas may have been a bit slow, but he was no fool. Like so many today, he wanted indisputable proof and he got it. Like Judas, Thomas' reaction has earned him contempt as others review what happened. It is interesting that there is no condemnation of Thomas in the Bible, only Jesus' urgent plea to stop doubting and believe. Thomas is proof that the questioning, probing, even doubting mind can find the answers it is looking for only in one place - the living Savior Jesus Christ.
Outside of Scripture: Tradition records that Thomas traveled to the east and spread the gospel through Parthia, Persia and India. One tradition has the Savior appearing to Thomas and sending him to India. To get there he hired himself as a slave to an Indian merchant and sailed to India. There he entered the service of King Gondophares.
In India he met his death near Bombay, where he was martyred. Death came via a spear or lance which was stabbed through his body while he was kneeling in prayer.
Thomas legends are numerous in India. There are Thomas Churches and Thomas Christians. Thomas' symbol shows a spear and a carpenter's square. The spear or lance suggests the instrument which led to his death. Some say the carpenter's square in the symbol refers to Thomas building a church at Malipar in India with his own hands. Others contend the square is a reference to an ancient story that Thomas built a palace for King Gondophares in India.
James F. Korthals
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