Apostle St Thomas

Apostle Thomas

Saint Thomas
Saint Thomas

Apostle St Thomas is famously known as “Doubting Thomas” because he doubted that Christ had risen from the dead. Before Jesus’ death, Thomas was a devoted disciple who was even willing to die with the Lord when he returned to Judea.

St Thomas, as an apostle, was tasked with disseminating Jesus’ teachings throughout the world. While Saint Peter and Saint Paul are said to have brought the gospel to Greece and Rome, Saint Thomas is said to have brought it to India.

The churches of Malankara in India can be traced back to St. Thomas, who, according to local legend, arrived along the Malabar Coast in 52 C.E.

Saint Thomas is also linked to a group of ancient documents that bear his name. The Gospel of Thomas, the Acts of Thomas, and the Infancy Gospel of Thomas are among these documents. It was common in the ancient world to attribute texts to an apostle or religious teacher even if they were not the true authors.

Jacques Callot | S. Thomas, apôtre (St. Thomas, Apostle), December 21st, from Les Images De Tous Les Saincts et Saintes de L'Année (Images of All of the Saints and Religious Events of the Year) | The Metropolitan Museum of Art (metmuseum.org)
Jacques Callot | S. Thomas, apôtre (St. Thomas, Apostle), December 21st, from Les Images De Tous Les Saincts et Saintes de L'Année (Images of All of the Saints and Religious Events of the Year) | The Metropolitan Museum of Art (metmuseum.org)

Birth

The Holy and Glorious Apostle Thomas was a fisherman who was born in 1st century AD Galilee, Roman Province of Judea, the Galileian city of Pansada.

Thomas With Jesus

All three synoptic gospels, Matthew, Mark, and Luke tell us how, at the start of His earthly ministry, Jesus chose twelve disciples from among the multitudes who followed Him and named them Apostles. Thomas was one of the Twelve Apostles.

The gospels also tell how Jesus commanded them to go throughout all of Judea, Samaria, Galilee, and across the Jordan, preaching the good news of the Kingdom of God and how they received authority from Christ to cure the blind and to heal the sick, and to deliver those who were oppressed by from evil spirits just as He had done

Saint Thomas
St Thomas

Travels & Missionary

The first mention of Thomas’ missionary work comes from Eusebius of Caesarea, who quotes Origen (a mid-third-century scholar) as saying that Thomas was sent to Parthia (which is in modern-day Iran).

However, according to popular church tradition, Thomas traveled to India around 50 AD and evangelized the people there, possibly establishing up to seven churches. This tradition appears to have begun with the Acts of Thomas, and it is still extremely popular in some churches, particularly those claiming to be founded by him.

St. Thomas the Apostle w/ Gold Frame
St Thomas the Apostle w/ Gold Frame

Doubting Thomas

Thomas was not present when the risen Jesus appeared to the disciples for the first time. When the others told Thomas,

“We have seen the Lord,”

he said he wouldn’t believe it unless he could touch Jesus’ wounds. Later, Jesus appeared to the apostles and invited Thomas to examine his wounds.

When Jesus appeared to the disciples again at the Sea of Galilee, Thomas was there with them.

Although it is not mentioned in the Bible, this disciple was given the nickname “Doubting Thomas” because he doubted the resurrection.

Skeptical people are sometimes referred to as “Doubting Thomases.”

Life Facts

Can you imagine an apostle, Christ’s closest follower, having doubts about Jesus? St. Thomas did, and his disbelief teaches us the value of the gift of faith.

Thomas was not with the other apostles in the Upper Room in Jerusalem on the evening of Jesus’ Resurrection, so he was not present when Jesus appeared to them and showed them the wounds on his hands and side.

Saint Thomas
Domínikos Theotokópoulos, dit Le Greco 1541-1614 Tolède. Apostle St Thomas ca 1608 Toledo Museo del Greco.

“We have seen the Lord,”

the other apostles later told Thomas (John 20:25). Imagine their surprise when Thomas responded,

“Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands and put my finger into the nail marks and put my hand into his side, I will not believe” (John 20:25).

A week later, Jesus appeared to the apostles once more. After wishing them peace, Jesus instructed Thomas to examine his hands and touch his side. He encouraged Thomas to believe. Thomas was embarrassed that he had questioned Jesus’ Resurrection.

“My Lord and my God!” he exclaimed. (Matthew 20:28)

Then Jesus declared,

“Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed” (John 20:29).

Thomas never doubted the Lord again, and he dedicated his life to assisting others in believing in Jesus—even though they had never seen Him face to face. According to legend, Thomas traveled to India to spread the Gospel.

Even today, Catholics on India’s Malabar Coast refer to themselves as “Christians of Saint Thomas” because he founded their community and helped them grow in faith.

St Thomas is revered as a saint by Catholics. His life teaches us to believe in everything the Lord has promised us so that, like Jesus, we can rise to new life.

Doubting Thomas
Doubting Thomas

Accomplishments

Although little is known about St Thomas’s life, Christian tradition holds that he was the first missionary to India. He is widely regarded as the founder of the Church of the Syrian Malabar Christians, also known as the Thomas Christians.

For three years, the Apostle Thomas traveled with Jesus and learned from him. According to church tradition, after Jesus was resurrected and ascended to heaven, Thomas took the gospel message to the East and was eventually martyred for his faith.

We have these encouraging words from Jesus because of Thomas: “Because you have seen Me, Thomas, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen but believe ” (John 20:29). Thomas’ lack of faith has served to encourage all future Christians who have not seen Jesus and yet have believed in him and his resurrection.

Saint Thomas Tapestry
Saint Thomas the Apostle Tapestry.
Jacquard woven tapestry finished by hand and entirely made in Italy. St Thomas the Apostle 16×12″. 45% cotton, 45% polyester, and 10% lurex. Made in Italy.

St Thomas Feast Day

Now, the feast day of St Thomas in Roman and Syrian catholic churches is on 3rd July. Also, the next Sunday of Easter (Pascha) is celebrated as the Sunday of Thomas in the communication of Thoma’s question to Jesus which led him to proclaim, My Lord and my God” and the day in Kerala is known as Puthunjayar. Thomas is also commemorated in common with all the apostles on June 30th, in a feast known as the Synaxis of the holy apostles.

Reflection

In his weakness and lack of understanding, Thomas shares the fate of Saint Peter the impatient, Saint James and Saint John, the “sons of thunder,” Saint Philip, and his foolish request to see the Father—indeed, all the apostles.

We must not exaggerate these facts because Christ did not choose worthless men. Their human frailty highlights the fact that holiness is a gift from God, not a human creation; it is given to ordinary men and women with flaws; and it is God who gradually transforms the flaws into the image of Christ, the courageous, trusting, and loving one.

Doubting Thomas
Doubting Thomas

How did St Thomas die?

The legacy of St Thomas lives on in the Christian tradition, a testament to his commitment and faith even unto death. Accounts vary as to exactly how it happened but most agree that he was killed with a spear while praying near Madras, India on July 3 or December 21 72 AD – either accidentally by jealous Hindu priests at Kali’s temple or through martyrdom for his beliefs. His burial place is now Ortona, Italy.

Saint Thomas Prayer
O Glorious Saint Thomas, your grief for Jesus was such that it would not let you believe he had risen unless you actually saw him and touched his wounds. But your love for Jesus was equally great and it led you to give up your life for him. Pray for us that we may grieve for our sins which were the cause of Christ’s sufferings. Help us to spend ourselves in his service and so earn the title of “blessed” which Jesus applied to those who would believe in him without seeing him. Amen.

Key Takeaway

Thomas was given a bad rap. He had no more doubts than the rest of the disciples, and the only reason he did was that they had seen the resurrected Christ. When the women returned from the empty tomb and saw the risen Christ, the disciples were skeptical as well. There is no doubt that Thomas was a devout Christian and a powerful missionary who was used by God for His glory.

Leendert van der Cooghen, incredulità di San Tommaso
Leendert van der Cooghen, incredulità di San Tommaso

Characteristic

Characteristics of Apostle Thomas according to the New Testament is certain that Thomas was a Jew and probably a Galilean (Acts 1:11), but we know absolutely nothing about his family, place of residence, or occupation.
What do we know about Thomas? He was present at the raising of Lazarus, where he showed his loyalty to Christ (John 11:16).

During Jesus’ last Passover, he asked the way to God the Father (John 14:5). According to the characteristics of the 12 Apostles, Apostle Thomas was absent when Jesus first appeared to the disciples after the resurrection (John 20:24), and when he was told of it, he was skeptical (John 20:25). Later, Christ appeared in his presence at least twice. Apostle Thomas was believed to be a doubter yet possessed certain characteristics that are worthy of emulation.

Three Admirable Traits of Apostle Thomas

But, in the way of spiritual example, there is much more to Thomas. In John’s account, he exhibited three positive traits which should be an integral part of every Christian’s character.

First, when Thomas saw what he ought to do, nothing kept him back. When Lazarus became ill, Jesus expressed his intention of returning to Judea. Thomas urged the disciples to accompany Him even though they might die doing so:

“Let us also go, that we may die with Him” (John 11:16).

Thomas backed his statement with action. In contrast, Simon Peter’s boast lacked commitment when he said,

“Lord, I am ready to go with you, both to prison and death” (Luke 22:33).

These proved to be mere words, as Peter denied Christ three times.

Second, when Thomas saw what he ought to do, he urgently wanted to know how to do it. At his last Passover service with Jesus Christ, not afraid to show his ignorance, he asked,

“Lord, we do not know where You are going, and how can we know the way?” (John 14:5).

Thomas’ question reveals him to be a seeker of truth and understanding. His naturally cautious temperament did not close his mind to further knowledge.

Third, when Thomas saw what he had to believe, he urgently wanted to prove it, and when he did, he had no doubts. Thomas was not present when the other disciples saw Christ appear as a mystery (John 20:24John 20:25John 20:26John 20:27John 20:28John 20:29).

Some commentators suggest he may have retired to some quiet spot to mourn Christ’s death. Even after hearing the accounts of Christ’s appearances to the others and Mary Magdalene, he refused to believe that it had happened. He replied,

“Unless I see in His hands the print of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe” (verse 25).

Scripture is silent about the reason for his doubt. Maybe he thought his friends were only trying to cheer him up. Maybe he remembered them being wrong before on the Sea of Galilee when they had mistaken Christ for a spirit (Matthew 14:26).

All he wanted was the same evidence they had received. The other disciples did not believed until they had seen the resurrected Christ either (Mark 16:11Mark 16:12Mark 16:13Luke 24:11Luke 24:12). The news Thomas heard seemed too good to be true. But he did not reject what he heard; he simply wanted to test or prove all things (I Thessalonians 5:21).

When the resurrected Christ appeared to him eight days later, Thomas’ immediate reaction was wonderful: “And Thomas answered and said to Him,

‘My Lord and My God!’” (John 20:28).

Because of Thomas’ positive character traits, God was able to open his mind and work with him. His faith was instant and strong.

Devoted

We have already dwelt on the story of the raising of Lazarus from the dead. Still, we return to this passage today to focus on the thoughts that were going on in Thomas’ heart as Jesus contemplated returning to Jerusalem. Remember, the Jews had earlier accused Christ of blasphemy (John 10:33) and had prepared to stone Him as prescribed by the law of Moses (Leviticus 24:16).

Despite the obvious ill feeling against Him, that existed in some Jewish circles, Jesus decided to return to the Jerusalem area and visit Mary and Martha at their home in Bethany. Thomas’s declaration of loyalty is significant and quite moving:

“Let us also go, that we may die with him” (NIV).

Challenging

Jesus has just been teaching His disciples about His imminent departure to heaven, promising that after He has prepared a place for them, He will return to take them to their heavenly home. One of the statements Jesus makes is this:

“You know where I am going and how to get there”.

Thomas strongly disagrees with this statement and says:

“No, we don’t… We haven’t any idea where you are going, so how can we know the say?”

Thomas doesn’t hesitate to challenge anything about which he is uncertain. Although some may regard his approach as rude or impertinent, obviously Jesus does not think so, for He responds to him by making His point clearer still:

“I am the Way and the Truth and the Life….”

Doubting Thomas
Doubting Thomas

Doubting

When Thomas, who was absent from that first post-resurrection meeting of Christ and His disciples, is told the thrilling news that he is alive is utterly bewildered. The disciples insist that they have seen the very scars that the nails made on Jesus’ body at His crucifixion.

Thomas, however, will not be swept off his feet by the testimony of others, and the independence of judgment we spoke of earlier comes again to the fore:

“Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe it”.

At least Thomas confesses his doubts—something many Christians are too ‘spiritual’ to do.

Committed

Although no clear explanation is given to us in Scripture as to why Thomas missed that first post-resurrection meeting with the Lord, he appears to have been committed to staying in close touch with his fellow disciples—despite his doubts. We should not overlook that characteristic of Thomas.

When next Jesus appears to the disciples, Thomas is present and experiences the wonder of seeing the risen Christ face to face. Jesus responds to Thomas’s plea for physical proof in the most gentle and non-judgmental manner:

“Put your finger here; see my hand. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.”

St Thomas the Apostle of India
St Thomas the Apostle of India

Believing

As Thomas’s doubts are removed by seeing for himself the physical evidence in Christ’s hands and side, the unbeliever suddenly leaps beyond the other disciples and cries:

“My Lord and my God!”

Up until this time, none of the disciples had addressed Jesus as God.

They had called Him

“Messiah,” “Son of God,” “Son of the living God”—but not “God.”

This was probably one of the greatest and most revealing statements to have come from the group of disciples. And all the more significant because it came from a man who, up until the moment of seeing the physical evidence of Christ’s wounds, was a doubter and an unbeliever.

Summary Characteristics

Multitudes of Christians have been grateful that the Scripture has turned a spotlight upon Thomas and his doubts. Those who have struggled with doubts—or perhaps still do—find great comfort in the fact that Thomas, the doubter among the disciples, came through to radiant conviction and great spiritual achievement.

Tradition claims that Thomas traveled to many countries preaching the Gospel and finally landed in India, where, after founding a church, he was martyred. We cannot be sure about this, but this is what many of the Early Church writers, such as Eusebius, believed.

One on One

Have you ever thought about a Sacred Haven in your home or garden with a statue of St Thomas? Create your religious environment to pray.

Resources Characteristics

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_the_Apostle
https://www.britannica.com/biography/Saint-Thomas
https://www.learnreligions.com/the-apostles-701217
https://christianity.fandom.com/wiki/Thomas_the_Apostle
https://www.cgg.org/index.cfm/library/article/id/559/faithful-thomas.htm

Facts

Thomas the Apostle Facts tell us that Thomas usually was nicknamed “Doubting Thomas,” Thomas was also called Didymus, meaning The Twin (although a twin brother or sister is never mentioned in the Bible.) He was an outspoken skeptic to the point of being known as a pessimist. No details are given about Thomas in the first three Gospels other than the mention of his name. John’s first mention of Thomas is in John 11:16. Lazarus had died and the disciples feared for the life of Jesus and themselves if they were to go back to Bethany. “Let us also go, that we may die with Him.” (John 11:16)

Thomas speaks up.

Here we see the character quality of courage and loyalty to Christ, a quality not often attributed to Thomas.

Apostle Thomas logo
Apostle Thomas logo

Symbol

Thomas the Apostle Facts gives us the knowledge that the apostle Thomas is most famous for disbelieving the news that Jesus had risen from the dead. The disciples came to him, and they told him about Jesus.

He said,

“Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.”

Eight days later, Thomas sees the Lord, and he cries,

“My Lord and my God!”

Thomas was also the spokesman for the disciples in the gospel of John. When Jesus went to Judea to raise Lazarus from the dead, Thomas said,

“Let us also go, that we may die with him.”

Tradition has it that Thomas traveled east as far as India to preach the gospel. He founded several churches in the country, and some still claim a history directly from him. He may have traveled almost as far as Chennai, known as Madras at the time.

Thomas was martyred in India by stoning and by a spear. His symbol has a spear to symbolize his death, and there is also a carpenter’s square pointing to the churches he founded. Legend even has it that he built a church building himself.

Quick Thomas the Apostle Facts

His nickname is Didymus (the twin). We don’t know why he’s called this. He could have been a twin, he could have been born with a strong physical resemblance to Jesus, or it could have been the name he went by in Greek-speaking communities.

The apocryphal Acts of Thomas suggest that Thomas is Jesus’ twin, but that would create a few big theological problems concerning Jesus’ conception and incarnation process.

Thomas is mentioned in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and Acts as one of the twelve (Mattew 10:3; Mark 3:18Luke 6:15Acts 1:13), but that’s all these accounts say about him. The Gospel of John, however, gives Thomas a larger role in the story.
Thomas is the original “Doubting Thomas.” When the other disciples tell him Jesus has risen, Thomas dismisses the idea. He won’t believe Jesus is alive unless he can physically see the nail and spear wounds in Jesus’ body (John 20:24; John 20:25).
When Jesus grants Thomas the evidence he wants, Thomas exclaims, “My Lord and my God!” This is an important line in the book of John: the story of Thomas shows us that Jesus’ resurrection proves His divinity. This is what Jesus expects His followers to believe about Him (John 20:26John 20:27John 20:28John 20:29).
Thomas sets Jesus up for the memorable “I am the way, and the truth, and the life” line (John 14:5John 14:6).
Him (John 20:26John 20:27John 20:28John 20:29). Thomas sets Jesus up for the memorable “I am the way, and the truth, and the life” line (John 14:5John 14:6). Don’t let the “Doubting Thomas” story fool you: Thomas shows a lot of bravery and leadership at one point in John’s gospel. When Jesus heads to Judea (where the Jews are seeking to kill Him), Thomas says to the other disciples, “Let us also go, so that we may die with Him” (John 11:16).
Thomas is one of the six apostles whom Jesus visits at the sea of Galilee after His resurrection (John 21:2John 21:3).
When Luke lists the twelve, he couples Thomas with Matthew in his Gospel, and with Philip in the book of Acts (Luke 6:15Acts 1:13). It’s possible that Thomas worked closely with these two apostles.
According to tradition, Thomas takes the gospel to India, where he is martyred by a spear. Jesus’ spear wounds were the evidence Thomas needed to believe, but Thomas’ spear wounds are the evidence of his faith.
Saint Thomas
Domínikos Theotokópoulos, dit Le Greco 1541-1614 Tolède. Apostle St Thomas ca 1608 Toledo Museo del Greco.

Miracles

Facts state that St Thomas is most famous for how he interacted with Jesus Christ after the miracle of Jesus’ resurrection from the dead. The Bible records in John chapter 20 that the resurrected Jesus had appeared to some of His disciples while they were together, but Thomas wasn’t with the group at the time.

Verse 25 describes Thomas’s reaction when the disciples told him the news:

So the other disciples told him,

‘We have seen the Lord!’

But he said to them,

‘Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.’

Shortly afterward, the resurrected Jesus appeared to Thomas and invited him to examine his crucifixion scars in exactly the way Thomas had requested. John 20:26John 20:27 records: “A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them.

Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you!’ Then he said to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.’”

After getting the physical proof he’d wanted of the resurrection miracle, Thomas’s doubt turned to strong belief: Thomas said to him,

‘My Lord and my God!’” (John 20:28).

The next verse reveals that Jesus blesses people who are willing to have faith in something that they can’t see right now:

Then Jesus told him,

‘Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.’ (John 20:29).

Thomas’s encounter with Jesus shows how the right response to doubt — curiosity, and searching — can lead to deep belief. Catholic tradition says that Thomas witnessed the miraculous ascension into heaven of Saint Mary (the Virgin Mary) after her death.

Facts show that God performed many miracles through Thomas to help the people with whom Thomas shared the Gospel message — in Syria, Persia, and India — belief, according to Christian tradition.

Right before his death in 72 AD, Thomas stood up to an Indian king (whose wife had become a Christian) when he pressured Thomas to make religious sacrifices to an idol.

Miraculously, the idol shattered into pieces when Thomas was forced to approach it. The king was so enraged that he ordered his high priest to kill Thomas, and he did: Thomas died from being pierced by a spear but was reunited with Jesus in heaven

But you can still call him Thomas.

Conclusion Facts

In conclusion, facts about St Thomas the Apostle has shed more light that the phrase “doubting Thomas” comes from Thomas the Disciple in that he was particularly slow to believe in Christ.

Thomas is also characterized by being somewhat gloomy and easily discouraged. While he was much of a pessimist Thomas was a full believer in Christ and followed Him loyally throughout His life. Thomas is known for being unable to see the forest for the trees and Jesus often had to help him to see the whole forest.

Thomas is the one disciple who was not present on the first Easter Sunday.

Thomas was the disciple who refused to believe in resurrection but he went on to spread the word of Christ until his death. It is believed that Thomas died the death of a martyr but this cannot be verified.

Summary Saint Thomas

His Hebrew name was Thomas, and his Greek name was Didymus. He was sometimes referred to as Judas. Except for his name, Matthew, Mark, and Luke tell us nothing about Thomas.

In his Gospel, however, Saint John defines him more precisely. Thomas appeared in the raising of Lazarus (John 11:2; John 11:3; John 11:4; John 11:5; John 11:6; John 11:7; John 11:8; John 11:9; John 11:10; John 11:11; John 11:12; John 11:13; John 11:14; John 11:15; John 11:16) and in the Upper Room (John 14:1; John 14:2; John 14:3; John 14:4; John 14:5; John 14:6) where he wanted to know how Jesus was going.

In John 20:25, he says he will not believe unless he sees the nail prints in Jesus’ hand and the spear gash in His side. That is how Thomas came to be known as Doubting Thomas.

Thomas was a pessimist by nature. He was a perplexed man. Nonetheless, he was a brave man. He was the type of man who couldn’t believe anything until he saw it for himself. He was a man of faith and devotion. When Jesus arose, he invited Thomas to place his finger in the nail prints on his hands and side.

“My Lord and my God,”

says Thomas, the greatest confession of faith. Thomas’s skepticism was transformed into faith. Thomas’s faith grew strong, intense, and convincing as a result of this fact.

He was commissioned to build a palace for the king of India, and he was killed with a spear as a martyr for his Lord. His symbol consists of a slew of spears, stones, and arrows.

Finally, before you go, after reading the Story of Saint Thomas, you might have thought about a sacred haven in your garden. A statue of Saint Thomas will remind you of his life and teachings.

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