THOMAS in the GOSPEL & c.
The Apostle Thomas (Hebrew or Aramaic for "twin") was also
called "Didymus" (Greek for "twin"). He was absent when the
Risen Lord appeared to the other apostles after the
resurrection and refused to believe that Christ had indeed
risen until he had seen him for himself, but when he had
seen Him, he said to Him, "My Lord and My God." (John
20:19-29) ( Full details in the article by Dr. Matthew
Vellanickal in the St. Thomas Christian Encyclopaedia of
India [Ed. Prof. George Menachery, vol.2, 1973]; also Ibid.
article by Msgr. Zaleski.)
Because of this episode, he has been known ever since as
"Doubting Thomas." But we ought also to remember his earlier
words, when Jesus announced His intention of going to the
Jerusalem area, brushing aside the protests of His disciples
that His life was in danger there, at which Thomas said to
the others: "Let us also go, that we may die with him."
(John 11:7,8,16) If Thomas was pessimistic, he was also
At the Last Supper, Jesus said: "I go to prepare a place for
you.... And whither I go ye know, and the way ye know."
Thomas replied: "Lord, we know not whither thou goest, and
how can we know the way?" To this Jesus answered: "I am the
way, the truth and the life." (John 14:1-6)
Thomas is mentioned again (John 21) as one of the seven
disciples who were fishing on the Sea of Galilee (Sea of
Tiberias) when the Risen Lord appeared to them. Aside from
this he appears in the New Testament only as a name on lists
of the Apostles. A couple of centuries later "The Acts of
Judas Thomas" circulating in the Mediterranean world spoke
of his preaching in India; and there is a Christian
community in India (the Kerala State) viz. The Thomas
Christians, that claims descent from Christians converted by
the preaching of Thomas. ( For a detailed discussion of the
"Acts of Judas Thomas" cf. The Indian Church History
Classics, Ed. Prof. George Menachery, 1998, book reproduced
"India and the Apostle Thomas" by A. E. Medlycott, fully
available in the e-book on www.indianchristianity.com.
The tradition among Christians in India is that Thomas was
speared to death near Madras, and accordingly he is often
pictured holding a spear. Paintings of martyrs often show
them holding or accompanied by the instruments with which
they were put to death. He must have been using the spear as
a supporting staff during his frequent journeys from the
west coast to the east coast of India and back.
A recently discovered work called the Gospel of Thomas is a
collection of sayings attributed to Jesus. Some scholarly
support exist for the notion that it is the work of the
Apostle Thomas, but many more scholars think that some of
the sayings in it may be authentic sayings of Jesus. Here is
a modern poem on the Apostle Thomas (For some lovely hymns
on Thomas the Apostle nothing can compare with the works of
the Deacon St. Ephraem, trans. into English by Medlycott
vide. The Indian Church History Classics, vol.1 The
Nazranies ed. G. Menachery, also available at http://www.indianchristianity.com/html/Books.html.
Also see paper by Prof. Menachery on this topic at the 7th
World Syriac Conference, SEERI:
Poem on Thomas
These things did Thomas hold for real:
The warmth of blood, the chill of steel,
the grain of wood, the heft of stone,
the last frail twitch of blood and bone.
His brittle certainties denied
That one could live when one had died,
until his fingers read like Braille
the markings of the spear and nail.
May we, O God, by grace believe
And, in believing, still receive
the Christ who held His raw palms out
and beckoned Thomas from his doubt.
(Thomas Troeger, 1984, Psalter/Hymnal of the Christian
And here is a prayer to Thomas:
Almighty and everliving God, who didst strengthen thine
apostle Thomas with sure and certain faith in thy Son's
resurrection: Grant us so perfectly and without doubt to
believe in Jesus Christ, our Lord and our God, that our
faith may never be found wanting in thy sight; through him
who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one
God, now and for ever.