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Thomas the Apostle

Thomas the Apostle

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Thomas the Apostle, also called Doubting Thomas
Doubting Thomas
A Doubting Thomas is someone who will refuse to believe something without direct, physical, personal evidence; a skeptic.-Origin:The term is based on the Biblical account of Thomas the Apostle, a disciple of Jesus who doubted Jesus' resurrection and demanded to feel Jesus' wounds before being...

or Didymus (meaning "Twin
Twin
A twin is one of two offspring produced in the same pregnancy. Twins can either be monozygotic , meaning that they develop from one zygote that splits and forms two embryos, or dizygotic because they develop from two separate eggs that are fertilized by two separate sperm.In contrast, a fetus...

") was one of the Twelve Apostles of Jesus
Jesus
Jesus of Nazareth , commonly referred to as Jesus Christ or simply as Jesus or Christ, is the central figure of Christianity...

. He is best known for questioning Jesus' resurrection when first told of it, then proclaiming "My Lord and my God" on seeing Jesus in . He was perhaps the only Apostle who went outside the Roman Empire
Roman Empire
The Roman Empire was the post-Republican period of the ancient Roman civilization, characterised by an autocratic form of government and large territorial holdings in Europe and around the Mediterranean....

 to preach the Gospel. He is also believed to have crossed the largest area, which includes the Parthian Empire
Parthian Empire
The Parthian Empire , also known as the Arsacid Empire , was a major Iranian political and cultural power in ancient Persia...

 and India
Middle kingdoms of India
Middle kingdoms of India refers to the political entities in India from the 3rd century BC after the decline of the Maurya Empire, and the corresponding rise of the Satavahana dynasty, beginning with Simuka, from 230 BC...

.

Thomas in the Gospel of John


Thomas speaks in the Gospel of John
Gospel of John
The Gospel According to John , commonly referred to as the Gospel of John or simply John, and often referred to in New Testament scholarship as the Fourth Gospel, is an account of the public ministry of Jesus...

. In , when Lazarus
Lazarus of Bethany
Lazarus of Bethany, also known as Saint Lazarus or Lazarus of the Four Days, is the subject of a prominent miracle attributed to Jesus in the Gospel of John, in which Jesus restores him to life four days after his death...

 has just died, the apostles don't want to go back to Judea
Judea
Judea or Judæa was the name of the mountainous southern part of the historic Land of Israel from the 8th century BCE to the 2nd century CE, when Roman Judea was renamed Syria Palaestina following the Jewish Bar Kokhba revolt.-Etymology:The...

, where Jesus' fellow Jews
Jews
The Jews , also known as the Jewish people, are a nation and ethnoreligious group originating in the Israelites or Hebrews of the Ancient Near East. The Jewish ethnicity, nationality, and religion are strongly interrelated, as Judaism is the traditional faith of the Jewish nation...

 had attempted to stone him to death. Thomas says bravely: "Let us also go, that we may die with him" (NIV
New International Version
The New International Version is an English translation of the Christian Bible. Published by Zondervan in the United States and by Hodder & Stoughton in the UK, it has become one of the most popular modern translations in history.-History:...

).


In Thomas' best known appearance in the New Testament, he doubts the resurrection of Jesus
Resurrection of Jesus
The Christian belief in the resurrection of Jesus states that Jesus returned to bodily life on the third day following his death by crucifixion. It is a key element of Christian faith and theology and part of the Nicene Creed: "On the third day he rose again in fulfillment of the Scriptures"...

 and demands to touch Jesus' wounds before being convinced. Caravaggio
Caravaggio
Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio was an Italian artist active in Rome, Naples, Malta, and Sicily between 1593 and 1610. His paintings, which combine a realistic observation of the human state, both physical and emotional, with a dramatic use of lighting, had a formative influence on the Baroque...

's painting, The Incredulity of Saint Thomas (illustration above), depicts this scene. This story is the origin of the term Doubting Thomas
Doubting Thomas
A Doubting Thomas is someone who will refuse to believe something without direct, physical, personal evidence; a skeptic.-Origin:The term is based on the Biblical account of Thomas the Apostle, a disciple of Jesus who doubted Jesus' resurrection and demanded to feel Jesus' wounds before being...

. After seeing Jesus alive, Thomas exclaimed, "My Lord and my God!".

Twin and its renditions

  • The Greek Didymus : in the Gospel of John
    Gospel of John
    The Gospel According to John , commonly referred to as the Gospel of John or simply John, and often referred to in New Testament scholarship as the Fourth Gospel, is an account of the public ministry of Jesus...

    . Thomas is more specifically identified as "Thomas, also called the Twin (Didymus)".
  • The Aramaic Tau'ma: the name "Thomas" itself comes from the Aramaic word for twin: T'oma (תאומא).

Other names


The Nag Hammadi
Nag Hammadi library
The Nag Hammadi library is a collection of early Christian Gnostic texts discovered near the Upper Egyptian town of Nag Hammadi in 1945. That year, twelve leather-bound papyrus codices buried in a sealed jar were found by a local peasant named Mohammed Ali Samman...

 "sayings" Gospel of Thomas
Gospel of Thomas
The Gospel According to Thomas, commonly shortened to the Gospel of Thomas, is a well preserved early Christian, non-canonical sayings-gospel discovered near Nag Hammadi, Egypt, in December 1945, in one of a group of books known as the Nag Hammadi library...

 begins: "These are the secret sayings that the living Jesus spoke and Didymos Judas Thomas recorded." Syrian tradition also states that the apostle's full name was Thomas. Some have seen in the Acts of Thomas
Acts of Thomas
The early 3rd century text called Acts of Thomas is one of the New Testament apocrypha, portraying Christ as the "Heavenly Redeemer", independent of and beyond creation, who can free souls from the darkness of the world. References to the work by Epiphanius of Salamis show that it was in...

 (written in east Syria in the early 3rd century, or perhaps as early as the first half of the 2nd century) an identification of Saint Thomas with the apostle Judas brother of James, better known in English as Jude
Saint Jude
Jude was one of the Twelve Apostles of Jesus. He is generally identified with Thaddeus, and is also variously called Jude of James, Jude Thaddaeus, Judas Thaddaeus or Lebbaeus...

. However, the first sentence of the Acts follows the Gospels and the Acts of the Apostles in distinguishing the apostle Thomas and the apostle Judas son of James. Few texts identify Thomas' other twin, though in the Book of Thomas the Contender
Book of Thomas the Contender
The Book of Thomas the Contender, also known more simply as the Book of Thomas , is one of the books of the New Testament apocrypha represented in the Nag Hammadi library , a cache of Gnostic gospels secreted in the Egyptian desert...

, part of the Nag Hammadi library
Nag Hammadi library
The Nag Hammadi library is a collection of early Christian Gnostic texts discovered near the Upper Egyptian town of Nag Hammadi in 1945. That year, twelve leather-bound papyrus codices buried in a sealed jar were found by a local peasant named Mohammed Ali Samman...

, it is said to be Jesus himself: "Now, since it has been said that you are my twin and true companion, examine yourself…"


Veneration as a saint



When the feast of Saint Thomas was inserted in the Roman calendar in the 9th century, it was assigned to 21 December, although the Martyrology of St Jerome had a mention of the Apostle on 3 July, the date to which the Roman celebration was transferred in 1969, so that it would no longer interfere with the major ferial days of Advent
Advent
Advent is a season observed in many Western Christian churches, a time of expectant waiting and preparation for the celebration of the Nativity of Jesus at Christmas. It is the beginning of the Western liturgical year and commences on Advent Sunday, called Levavi...

. 3 July was the day on which his relics were translated
Translation (relics)
In Christianity, the translation of relics is the removal of holy objects from one locality to another ; usually only the movement of the remains of the saint's body would be treated so formally, with secondary relics such as items of clothing treated with less ceremony...

 from Mylapore
Mylapore
Mylapore is a cultural hub and neighborhood in the southern part of the city of Chennai, the capital of Tamil Nadu, India. Earlier, Mylapore used to be called Vedapuri....

, a place along the coast of the Marina Beach
Marina Beach
Marina Beach is a beach in the city of Chennai , India, along the Bay of Bengal, part of the Indian Ocean. The beach runs from near Fort St. George in the north to Besant Nagar in the south, a distance of , making it the longest urban beach in the country and the world's second longest...

, Chennai
Chennai
Chennai , formerly known as Madras or Madarasapatinam , is the capital city of the Indian state of Tamil Nadu, located on the Coromandel Coast off the Bay of Bengal. Chennai is the fourth most populous metropolitan area and the sixth most populous city in India...

 in India
India
India , officially the Republic of India , is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second-most populous country with over 1.2 billion people, and the most populous democracy in the world...

 to the city of Edessa
Edessa, Mesopotamia
Edessa is the Greek name of an Aramaic town in northern Mesopotamia, as refounded by Seleucus I Nicator. For the modern history of the city, see Şanlıurfa.-Names:...

 in Mesopotamia
Mesopotamia
Mesopotamia is a toponym for the area of the Tigris–Euphrates river system, largely corresponding to modern-day Iraq, northeastern Syria, southeastern Turkey and southwestern Iran.Widely considered to be the cradle of civilization, Bronze Age Mesopotamia included Sumer and the...

. Roman Catholics who follow a pre-1970 calendar and many Anglicans (including members of the Episcopal Church
Episcopal Church (United States)
The Episcopal Church is a mainline Anglican Christian church found mainly in the United States , but also in Honduras, Taiwan, Colombia, Ecuador, Haiti, the Dominican Republic, Venezuela, the British Virgin Islands and parts of Europe...

 as well as members of the Church of England
Church of England
The Church of England is the officially established Christian church in England and the Mother Church of the worldwide Anglican Communion. The church considers itself within the tradition of Western Christianity and dates its formal establishment principally to the mission to England by St...

 who worship according to the 1662 edition of the Book of Common Prayer
Book of Common Prayer
The Book of Common Prayer is the short title of a number of related prayer books used in the Anglican Communion, as well as by the Continuing Anglican, "Anglican realignment" and other Anglican churches. The original book, published in 1549 , in the reign of Edward VI, was a product of the English...

) still celebrate his feast day on 21 December.

In addition, the Eastern Orthodox and Byzantine Catholic churches celebrate his feast day on October 6 (for those churches which follow the traditional Julian Calendar
Julian calendar
The Julian calendar began in 45 BC as a reform of the Roman calendar by Julius Caesar. It was chosen after consultation with the astronomer Sosigenes of Alexandria and was probably designed to approximate the tropical year .The Julian calendar has a regular year of 365 days divided into 12 months...

, October 6 currently falls on October 19 of the modern Gregorian Calendar
Gregorian calendar
The Gregorian calendar, also known as the Western calendar, or Christian calendar, is the internationally accepted civil calendar. It was introduced by Pope Gregory XIII, after whom the calendar was named, by a decree signed on 24 February 1582, a papal bull known by its opening words Inter...

). He is also commemorated in common with all of the other apostles on June 30 (July 13), in a feast called the Synaxis
Synaxis
In Eastern Christianity , a Synaxis is an assembly for liturgical purposes, generally through the celebration of Vespers, Matins, Little Hours, and the Divine Liturgy....

 of the Holy Apostles. He is also associated with the "Arabian" (or "Arapet") icon
Icon
An icon is a religious work of art, most commonly a painting, from Eastern Christianity and in certain Eastern Catholic churches...

 of the Theotokos
Theotokos
Theotokos is the Greek title of Mary, the mother of Jesus used especially in the Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox, and Eastern Catholic Churches. Its literal English translations include God-bearer and the one who gives birth to God. Less literal translations include Mother of God...

 (Mother of God), which is commemorated on September 6 (September 19).

Thomas and the Assumption of Mary



According to The Passing of Mary, a text attributed to Joseph of Arimathaea, Thomas was the only witness of the Assumption of Mary
Assumption of Mary
According to the belief of Christians of the Roman Catholic Church, Eastern Orthodoxy, Oriental Orthodoxy, and parts of the Anglican Communion and Continuing Anglicanism, the Assumption of Mary was the bodily taking up of the Virgin Mary into Heaven at the end of her life...

 into heaven. The other apostles were miraculously transported to Jerusalem to witness her death. Thomas was left in India, but after her burial he was transported to her tomb, where he witnessed her bodily assumption into heaven, from which she dropped her girdle
Girdle
A girdle is a garment that encircles the lower torso, perhaps extending below the hips, and worn often for support. The word girdle originally meant a belt. In modern English, the term girdle is most commonly used for a form of women's foundation wear that replaced the corset in popularity...

. In an inversion of the story of Thomas' doubts, the other apostles are skeptical of Thomas' story until they see the empty tomb and the girdle. Thomas' receipt of the girdle is commonly depicted in medieval and pre-Tridentine
Council of Trent
The Council of Trent was the 16th-century Ecumenical Council of the Roman Catholic Church. It is considered to be one of the Church's most important councils. It convened in Trent between December 13, 1545, and December 4, 1563 in twenty-five sessions for three periods...

 Renaissance art.

Thomas and Syria


"Judas, who is also called Thomas" (Eusebius, H.E. 13.12) has a role in the legend of king Abgar of Edessa
Edessa, Mesopotamia
Edessa is the Greek name of an Aramaic town in northern Mesopotamia, as refounded by Seleucus I Nicator. For the modern history of the city, see Şanlıurfa.-Names:...

 (Urfa), for having sent Thaddaeus to preach in Edessa after the Ascension (Eusebius, Historia ecclesiae
Church History (Eusebius)
The Church History of Eusebius, the bishop of Caesarea was a 4th-century pioneer work giving a chronological account of the development of Early Christianity from the 1st century to the 4th century. It was written in Koine Greek, and survives also in Latin, Syriac and Armenian manuscripts...

 1.13; III.1; Ephrem the Syrian
Ephrem the Syrian
Ephrem the Syrian was a Syriac and a prolific Syriac-language hymnographer and theologian of the 4th century. He is venerated by Christians throughout the world, and especially in the Syriac Orthodox Church, as a saint.Ephrem wrote a wide variety of hymns, poems, and sermons in verse, as well as...

 also recounts this legend.) In the 4th century the martyrium erected over his burial place brought pilgrims to Edessa. In the 380s, Egeria described her visit in a letter she sent to her community of nuns at home (Itineraria Egeriae):
"we arrived at Edessa in the Name of Christ our God, and, on our arrival, we straightway repaired to the church and memorial of saint Thomas. There, according to custom, prayers were made and the other things that were customary in the holy places were done; we read also some things concerning saint Thomas himself. The church there is very great, very beautiful and of new construction, well worthy to be the house of God, and as there was much that I desired to see, it was necessary for me to make a three days' stay there."

Thomas and India


St. Thomas is traditionally believed to have sailed to India in 52AD to spread the Christian faith among the Jews
Jews
The Jews , also known as the Jewish people, are a nation and ethnoreligious group originating in the Israelites or Hebrews of the Ancient Near East. The Jewish ethnicity, nationality, and religion are strongly interrelated, as Judaism is the traditional faith of the Jewish nation...

, the Jewish diaspora present in Kerala at the time.He is supposed to have landed at the ancient port of Muziris
Muziris
Muziris is an ancient sea-port in Southwestern India on the Periyar River 3.2 km from its mouth. The derivation of the name Muziris is said to be from "Mucciripattanam," "mucciri" means "cleft palate" and "pattanam" means "city". Near Muziris, Periyar River was branched into two like a...

 (which became extinct in 1341 AD due to a massive flood which realigned the coasts) near Kodungalloor. He then went to Palayoor
Palayoor
Palayoor or is a part of Thrissur district and is located on the west coast of Kerala, in India. By road it is 28 km from Thrissur on the Thrissur – Chavakad route via Pavaratty. It is very near to Guruvayoor, which is only 2 km away....

 (near present-day Guruvayoor), which was a Hindu priestly community at that time. He left Palayoor in AD 52 for the southern part of what is now Kerala
Kerala
or Keralam is an Indian state located on the Malabar coast of south-west India. It was created on 1 November 1956 by the States Reorganisation Act by combining various Malayalam speaking regions....

 State, where he established the Ezharappallikal, or "Seven and Half Churches". These churches are at Kodungallur
Kodungallur
Kodungallur is a municipality in Thrissur District, in the state of Kerala, India on the Malabar Coast. Kodungallur is located about 29 km northwest of Kochi city and 38 km Southwest of Thrissur, on National Highway 17 . Muziris the ancient seaport at the mouth of the Periyar River was...

, Kollam
Kollam
Kollam , often anglicized as ', is a city in the Indian state of Kerala. The city lies on the banks of Ashtamudi Lake on the Arabian sea coast and is situated about north of the state capital, Thiruvananthapuram...

, Niranam
Niranam
Niranam is a village in central Travancore region in Kerala, India. It was a port in ancient Kerala, on the confluence of the Manimala and Achankovil River. It is almost from Tiruvalla in Pathanamthitta District of Kerala...

  (Niranam St.Marys Orthodox Church, Nilackal (Chayal), Kokkamangalam
Kokkamangalam
Kokkamangalam is a village in Alappuzha district of Kerala state, south India. Tradition holds it to be one of the seven Christian communities in Kerala founded by the Apostle Thomas.Kokkamangalam is situated midway between Cochin and Kumarakom...

, Kottakkayal (Paravoor
North Paravur
North Paravur formerly known as Parur is a town, municipality in Ernakulam district in the Indian state of Kerala. It is an old and growing municipality. Paravur is the capital of Paravur Taluk in Ernakulam district...

), Palayoor
Palayoor
Palayoor or is a part of Thrissur district and is located on the west coast of Kerala, in India. By road it is 28 km from Thrissur on the Thrissur – Chavakad route via Pavaratty. It is very near to Guruvayoor, which is only 2 km away....

 (Chattukulangara) and Thiruvithancode
Thiruvithancode
Thiruvithamcode is a small panchayat town located in the Kanyakumari district of the Indian state of Tamil Nadu.Name in Tamil: திருவிதாங்கோடு....

 Arappally – the half church.
"It was to a land of dark people he was sent, to clothe them by Baptism in white robes. His grateful dawn dispelled India's painful darkness. It was his mission to espouse India to the One-Begotten. The merchant is blessed for having so great a treasure. Edessa
Edessa, Mesopotamia
Edessa is the Greek name of an Aramaic town in northern Mesopotamia, as refounded by Seleucus I Nicator. For the modern history of the city, see Şanlıurfa.-Names:...

 thus became the blessed city by possessing the greatest pearl India could yield. Thomas works miracles in India
India
India , officially the Republic of India , is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second-most populous country with over 1.2 billion people, and the most populous democracy in the world...

, and at Edessa Thomas is destined to baptize peoples perverse and steeped in darkness, and that in the land of India." – Hymns of St. Ephraem, edited by Lamy (Ephr. Hymni et Sermones, IV).

Eusebius of Caesarea
Eusebius of Caesarea
Eusebius of Caesarea also called Eusebius Pamphili, was a Roman historian, exegete and Christian polemicist. He became the Bishop of Caesarea in Palestine about the year 314. Together with Pamphilus, he was a scholar of the Biblical canon...

 quotes Origen
Origen
Origen , or Origen Adamantius, 184/5–253/4, was an early Christian Alexandrian scholar and theologian, and one of the most distinguished writers of the early Church. As early as the fourth century, his orthodoxy was suspect, in part because he believed in the pre-existence of souls...

 (died mid-3rd century) as having stated that Thomas was the apostle to the Parthia
Parthia
Parthia is a region of north-eastern Iran, best known for having been the political and cultural base of the Arsacid dynasty, rulers of the Parthian Empire....

ns, but Thomas is better known as the missionary to India
India
India , officially the Republic of India , is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second-most populous country with over 1.2 billion people, and the most populous democracy in the world...

 through the Acts of Thomas
Acts of Thomas
The early 3rd century text called Acts of Thomas is one of the New Testament apocrypha, portraying Christ as the "Heavenly Redeemer", independent of and beyond creation, who can free souls from the darkness of the world. References to the work by Epiphanius of Salamis show that it was in...

, perhaps written as late as ca 200. In Edessa
Edessa, Mesopotamia
Edessa is the Greek name of an Aramaic town in northern Mesopotamia, as refounded by Seleucus I Nicator. For the modern history of the city, see Şanlıurfa.-Names:...

, where his remains were venerated, the poet Ephrem the Syrian
Ephrem the Syrian
Ephrem the Syrian was a Syriac and a prolific Syriac-language hymnographer and theologian of the 4th century. He is venerated by Christians throughout the world, and especially in the Syriac Orthodox Church, as a saint.Ephrem wrote a wide variety of hymns, poems, and sermons in verse, as well as...

 (died 373) wrote a hymn in which the Devil cries,
...Into what land shall I fly from the just?
I stirred up Death the Apostles to slay, that by their death I might escape their blows.
But harder still am I now stricken: the Apostle I slew in India has overtaken me in Edessa; here and there he is all himself.
There went I, and there was he: here and there to my grief I find him. —quoted in Medlycott 1905, ch. ii.


St. Ephraem, the great doctor of the Syrian Church
Syriac Orthodox Church
The Syriac Orthodox Church; is an autocephalous Oriental Orthodox church based in the Eastern Mediterranean, with members spread throughout the world. The Syriac Orthodox Church claims to derive its origin from one of the first Christian communities, established in Antioch by the Apostle St....

, writes in the forty-second of his "Carmina Nisibina" that the Apostle was put to death in India
India
India , officially the Republic of India , is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second-most populous country with over 1.2 billion people, and the most populous democracy in the world...

, and that his remains were subsequently buried in Edessa
Edessa, Mesopotamia
Edessa is the Greek name of an Aramaic town in northern Mesopotamia, as refounded by Seleucus I Nicator. For the modern history of the city, see Şanlıurfa.-Names:...

, brought there by an unnamed merchant.

A Syrian ecclesiastical calendar of an early date confirms the above and gives the merchant a name. The entry reads: "3 July, St. Thomas who was pierced with a lance in India. His body is at Urhai [the ancient name of Edessa] having been brought there by the merchant Khabin. A great festival." It is only natural to expect that we should receive from Edessa first-hand evidence of the removal of the relics to that city; and we are not disappointed, for St. Ephraem, the great doctor of the Syrian Church, has left us ample details in his writings.

A long public tradition in the church at Edessa honoring Thomas as the Apostle of India resulted in several surviving hymn
Hymn
A hymn is a type of song, usually religious, specifically written for the purpose of praise, adoration or prayer, and typically addressed to a deity or deities, or to a prominent figure or personification...

s that are attributed to Ephrem, copied in codices of the 8th and 9th centuries. References in the hymns preserve the tradition that Thomas' bones were brought from India to Edessa by a merchant, and that the relics worked miracles both in India and at Edessa. A pontiff assigned his feast day and a king and a queen erected his shrine. The Thomas traditions became embodied in Syriac liturgy, thus they were universally credited by the Christian community there. There is also a legend that Thomas had met the Biblical Magi
Biblical Magi
The Magi Greek: μάγοι, magoi), also referred to as the Wise Men, Kings, Astrologers, or Kings from the East, were a group of distinguished foreigners who were said to have visited Jesus after his birth, bearing gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh...

 on his way to India.

According to Eusebius' record, Thomas and Bartholomew were assigned to Parthia and India. The Didascalia (dating from the end of the 3rd century) states, “India and all countries condering it, even to the farthest seas...received the apostolic ordinances from Judas Thomas, who was a guide and ruler in the church which he built.”Moreover, there is a wealth of confirmatory information in the Syriac writings, liturgical book
Liturgical book
A liturgical book is a book published by the authority of a church, that contains the text and directions for the liturgy of its official religious services.-Roman Catholic:...

s, and calendars of the Church of the East, not to mention the writings of the Fathers, the calendars, the sacramentaries, and the martyrologies of the Roman, Greek and Ethiopian churches. Since trade routes from the East were wide open at the time and were used by early missionaries, there are no circumstantial reasons why Thomas could not have visited India in the 1st century. And his visit is the most plausible explanation for the early appearance of the church there.

An early 3rd-century Syriac work known as the Acts of Thomas
Acts of Thomas
The early 3rd century text called Acts of Thomas is one of the New Testament apocrypha, portraying Christ as the "Heavenly Redeemer", independent of and beyond creation, who can free souls from the darkness of the world. References to the work by Epiphanius of Salamis show that it was in...

connects the apostle's Indian ministry with two kings, one in the north and the other in the south. According to one of the legends in the Acts, Thomas was at first reluctant to accept this mission, but the Lord appeared to him in a night vision and said, “Fear not, Thomas. Go away to India and proclaim the Word, for my grace shall be with you. ”But the Apostle still demurred, so the Lord overruled the stubborn disciple by ordering circumstances so compelling that he was forced to accompany an Indian merchant, Abbanes, to his native place in northwest India, where he found himself in the service of the Indo-Parthian king, Gondophares
Gondophares
Gondophares I a Seistani representative of the house of Suren as well as founder and first king of the Indo-Parthian Kingdom. He seems to have ruled c...

. The apostle's ministry resulted in many conversions throughout the kingdom, including the king and his brother.

Critical historians treated this legend as an idle tale and denied the historicity of King Gundaphorus until modern archeology established him as an important figure in North India in the latter half of the 1st century. Many coins of his reign have turned up in Afghanistan, the Punjab
Punjab region
The Punjab , also spelled Panjab |water]]s"), is a geographical region straddling the border between Pakistan and India which includes Punjab province in Pakistan and the states of the Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Chandigarh and some northern parts of the National Capital Territory of Delhi...

, and the Indus Valley. Remains of some of his buildings, influenced by Greek architecture, indicate that he was a great builder. Interestingly enough, according to the legend, Thomas was a skilled carpenter and was bidden to build a palace for the king. However, the Apostle decided to teach the king a lesson by devoting the royal grant to acts of charity and thereby laying up treasure for the heavenly abode. Although little is known of the immediate growth of the church, Bar-Daisan (154–223) reports that in his time there were Christian tribes in North India which claimed to have been converted by Thomas and to have books and relics to prove it. But at least by the year of the establishment of the Second Persian Empire (226), there were bishops of the Church of the East in northwest India, Afghanistan and Baluchistan
Balochistan (region)
Balochistan or Baluchistan is an arid, mountainous region in the Iranian plateau in Southwest Asia; it includes part of southeastern Iran, western Pakistan, and southwestern Afghanistan. The area is named after the numerous Baloch tribes, Iranian peoples who moved into the area from the west...

, with laymen and clergy alike engaging in missionary activity.

The Acts of Thomas identifies his second mission in India with a kingdom ruled by King Mahadwa, one of the rulers of a 1st-century dynasty in southern India. It is most significant that, aside from a small remnant of the Church of the East in Kurdistan, the only other church to maintain a distinctive identity is the Mar Thoma
Saint Thomas Christians
The Saint Thomas Christians are an ancient body of Christians from Kerala, India, who trace their origins to the evangelical activity of Thomas the Apostle in the 1st century. They are also known as "Nasranis" because they are followers of "Jesus of Nazareth". The term "Nasrani" is still used by St...

 or “Church of Thomas” congregations along the Malabar Coast
Malabar Coast
The Malabar Coast is a long and narrow coastline on the south-western shore line of the mainland Indian subcontinent. Geographically, it comprises the wettest regions of southern India, as the Western Ghats intercept the moisture-laden monsoon rains, especially on their westward-facing mountain...

 of Kerala
Kerala
or Keralam is an Indian state located on the Malabar coast of south-west India. It was created on 1 November 1956 by the States Reorganisation Act by combining various Malayalam speaking regions....

 State in southwest India. According to the most ancient tradition of this church, Thomas evangelized this area and then crossed to the Coromandel Coast
Coromandel Coast
The Coromandel Coast is the name given to the southeastern coast of the Indian Subcontinent between Cape Comorin and False Divi Point...

 of southeast India, where, after carrying out a second mission, he died near Madras. Throughout the period under review, the church in India was under the jurisdiction of Edessa
Edessa, Mesopotamia
Edessa is the Greek name of an Aramaic town in northern Mesopotamia, as refounded by Seleucus I Nicator. For the modern history of the city, see Şanlıurfa.-Names:...

, which was then under the Mesopotamian patriarchate at Seleucia-Ctesiphon and later at Baghdad and Mosul. Historian Vincent A. Smith says, “It must be admitted that a personal visit of the Apostle Thomas to South India was easily feasible in the traditional belief that he came by way of Socotra
Socotra
Socotra , also spelt Soqotra, is a small archipelago of four islands in the Indian Ocean. The largest island, also called Socotra, is about 95% of the landmass of the archipelago. It lies some east of the Horn of Africa and south of the Arabian Peninsula. The island is very isolated and through...

, where an ancient Christian settlement undoubtedly existed. I am now satisfied that the Christian church of South India is extremely ancient... ”.
Although there was a lively trade between the Near East and India via Mesopotamia and the Persian Gulf, the most direct route to India in the 1st century was via Alexandria
Alexandria
Alexandria is the second-largest city of Egypt, with a population of 4.1 million, extending about along the coast of the Mediterranean Sea in the north central part of the country; it is also the largest city lying directly on the Mediterranean coast. It is Egypt's largest seaport, serving...

 and the Red Sea
Red Sea
The Red Sea is a seawater inlet of the Indian Ocean, lying between Africa and Asia. The connection to the ocean is in the south through the Bab el Mandeb strait and the Gulf of Aden. In the north, there is the Sinai Peninsula, the Gulf of Aqaba, and the Gulf of Suez...

, taking advantage of the Monsoon winds, which could carry ships directly to and from the Malabar coast. The discovery of large hoards of Roman coins of 1st-century Caesars and the remains of Roman trading posts testify to the frequency of that trade. In addition, thriving Jewish colonies were to be found at the various trading centers, thereby furnishing obvious bases for the apostolic witness.

Piecing together the various traditions, one may conclude that Thomas left northwest India when invasion threatened and traveled by vessel to the Malabar coast
Malabar Coast
The Malabar Coast is a long and narrow coastline on the south-western shore line of the mainland Indian subcontinent. Geographically, it comprises the wettest regions of southern India, as the Western Ghats intercept the moisture-laden monsoon rains, especially on their westward-facing mountain...

, possibly visiting southeast Arabia and Socotra enroute and landing at the former flourishing port of Muziris
Muziris
Muziris is an ancient sea-port in Southwestern India on the Periyar River 3.2 km from its mouth. The derivation of the name Muziris is said to be from "Mucciripattanam," "mucciri" means "cleft palate" and "pattanam" means "city". Near Muziris, Periyar River was branched into two like a...

 on an island near Cochin (c. AD. 51
51
Year 51 was a common year starting on Friday of the Julian calendar. At the time, it was known as the Year of the Consulship of Caesar and Scipio...

52
52
Year 52 was a leap year starting on Saturday of the Julian calendar. At the time, it was known as the Year of the Consulship of Sulla and Otho...

). From there he is said to have preached the gospel throughout the Malabar coast, though the various churches he founded were located mainly on the Periyar River
Periyar River
Periyar is the longest river in the state of Kerala, India, with a length of 244 km. The Periyar is known as the lifeline of Kerala; it is one of the few perennial rivers in the region and provides drinking water for several major towns...

 and its tributaries and along the coast, where there were Jewish colonies. He reputedly preached to all classes of people and had about seventeen thousand converts, including members of the four principal castes. Later, stone crosses were erected at the places where churches were founded, and they became pilgrimage centres. In accordance with apostolic custom, Thomas ordained teachers and leaders or elders, who were reported to be the earliest ministry of the Malabar church.

According to legend, St. Thomas attained martyrdom at St. Thomas Mount
St. Thomas Mount
St. Thomas Mount, or Parangimalai is a small hillock located in Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India. Located near the neighbourhood of Guindy and very close to Chennai International Airport, St. Thomas Mount is associated with St. Thomas, the apostle of Christ, who is believed to have been martyred here...

 in Chennai
Chennai
Chennai , formerly known as Madras or Madarasapatinam , is the capital city of the Indian state of Tamil Nadu, located on the Coromandel Coast off the Bay of Bengal. Chennai is the fourth most populous metropolitan area and the sixth most populous city in India...

 and is buried on the site of San Thome Cathedral.

Return of the relics


In 232 the relics of the Apostle Thomas are said to have been returned by an Indian king and brought back from India to the city of Edessa, Mesopotamia
Edessa, Mesopotamia
Edessa is the Greek name of an Aramaic town in northern Mesopotamia, as refounded by Seleucus I Nicator. For the modern history of the city, see Şanlıurfa.-Names:...

, on which occasion his Syriac Acts were written. The Indian king is named as "Mazdai" in Syriac sources, "Misdeos" and "Misdeus" in Greek and Latin sources respectively, which has been connected to the "Bazdeo" on the Kushan coinage of Vasudeva I
Vasudeva I
Vasudeva I was a Kushan emperor, last of the "Great Kushans." Named inscriptions dating from year 64 to 98 of Kanishka's era suggest his reign extended from at least 191 to 225 CE....

, the transition between "M" and "B" being a current one in Classical sources for Indian names. The martyrologist Rabban Sliba dedicated a special day to both the Indian king, his family, and St Thomas:
"Coronatio Thomae apostoli et Misdeus rex Indiae, Johannes eus filius huisque mater Tertia" ("Coronation of Thomas the Apostle, and Misdeus king of India, together with his son Johannes (thought to be a latinization of Vizan) and his mother Tertia") Rabban Sliba


After a short stay in the Greek island of Chios
Chios
Chios is the fifth largest of the Greek islands, situated in the Aegean Sea, seven kilometres off the Asia Minor coast. The island is separated from Turkey by the Chios Strait. The island is noted for its strong merchant shipping community, its unique mastic gum and its medieval villages...

, on September 6, 1258, the relics were transported to the West, and now rest in Ortona
Ortona
Ortona is a coastal town and municipality of the Province of Chieti in the Italian region of Abruzzo, with some 23,000 inhabitants.Ortona was the site of fierce fighting between German and Canadian forces during the Italian campaign in World War II...

, Italy.


Southern India had maritime trade with the West since ancient times. Egyptian trade with India and Roman trade with India
Roman trade with India
Roman trade with India through the overland caravan routes via Anatolia and Persia, though at a relative trickle compared to later times, antedated the southern trade route via the Red Sea and monsoons which started around the beginning of the Common Era following the reign of Augustus and his...

 flourished in the 1st century AD. In AD 47, the Hippalus
Hippalus
Hippalus was a Greek navigator and merchant who probably lived in the 1st century BCE. He is sometimes conjectured to have been the captain of the Greek explorer Eudoxus of Cyzicus' ship....

 wind was discovered and this led to direct voyage from Aden to the South Western coast in 40 days. Muziris
Muziris
Muziris is an ancient sea-port in Southwestern India on the Periyar River 3.2 km from its mouth. The derivation of the name Muziris is said to be from "Mucciripattanam," "mucciri" means "cleft palate" and "pattanam" means "city". Near Muziris, Periyar River was branched into two like a...

 (Kodungallur) and Nelcyndis or Nelkanda (near Kollam) in South India, are mentioned as flourishing ports, in the writings of Pliny the Elder
Pliny the Elder
Gaius Plinius Secundus , better known as Pliny the Elder, was a Roman author, naturalist, and natural philosopher, as well as naval and army commander of the early Roman Empire, and personal friend of the emperor Vespasian...

 (AD 23–79). Pliny has given an accurate description of the route to India, the country of Cerebothra (the Cheras). Pliny has referred to the flourishing trade in spices, pearls, diamonds and silk between Rome and Southern India in the early centuries of the Christian era. Though the Cheras controlled Kodungallur port, Southern India belonged to the Pandyan Kingdom
Pandyan Kingdom
The Pandyan dynasty was an ancient Tamil dynasty. The Pandyas were one of the four Tamil dynasties , which ruled South India until the 15th century CE. They initially ruled their country Pandya Nadu from Korkai, a seaport on the Southernmost tip of the Indian Peninsula, and in later times moved...

, that had sent embassies to the court of Augustus Caesar.

According to Indian Christian tradition, St. Thomas landed in Kodungallur
Kodungallur
Kodungallur is a municipality in Thrissur District, in the state of Kerala, India on the Malabar Coast. Kodungallur is located about 29 km northwest of Kochi city and 38 km Southwest of Thrissur, on National Highway 17 . Muziris the ancient seaport at the mouth of the Periyar River was...

 in AD 52, in the company of a Jewish merchant Abbanes (Hebban). There were Jewish colonies in Kodungallur since ancient times and Jews continue to reside in Kerala till today, tracing their ancient history.

According to tradition, at the beginning of the 3rd century, the body of Thomas appeared in Edessa, Mesopotamia
Edessa, Mesopotamia
Edessa is the Greek name of an Aramaic town in northern Mesopotamia, as refounded by Seleucus I Nicator. For the modern history of the city, see Şanlıurfa.-Names:...

, where they had been brought by a merchant coming from India (in that same period appeared the Acts of Thomas
Acts of Thomas
The early 3rd century text called Acts of Thomas is one of the New Testament apocrypha, portraying Christ as the "Heavenly Redeemer", independent of and beyond creation, who can free souls from the darkness of the world. References to the work by Epiphanius of Salamis show that it was in...

). They were kept in a shrine just outside the city, but, in August 394, they were transferred in the city, inside the church dedicated to the saint. In 441, the Magister militum per Orientem Anatolius donated to the church a silver coffin to host the relics. In 1144 the city was conquered by the Zengids and the shrine destroyed.

In AD 522, Cosmas Indicopleustes
Cosmas Indicopleustes
Cosmas Indicopleustes was an Alexandrian merchant and later hermit, probably of Nestorian tendencies. He was a 6th-century traveller, who made several voyages to India during the reign of emperor Justinian...

 (called the Alexandrian) visited the Malabar Coast. He is the first traveller who mentions Syrian Christians in Malabar, in his book Christian Topography. He mentions that in the town of "Kalliana" (Quilon or Kollam), there is a bishop consecrated in Persia. Metropolitan Mar Aprem writes, "Most church historians, who doubt the tradition of the doubting Thomas in India, will admit there was a church in India in the middle of the sixth century when Cosmas Indicopleustes visited India."

There is a copper plate grant given to Iravi Korttan, a Christian of Kodungallur (Cranganore), by King Vira Raghava. The date is estimated to be around AD 744. In AD 822, two Nestorian
Nestorianism
Nestorianism is a Christological doctrine advanced by Nestorius, Patriarch of Constantinople from 428–431. The doctrine, which was informed by Nestorius's studies under Theodore of Mopsuestia at the School of Antioch, emphasizes the disunion between the human and divine natures of Jesus...

 Persian Bishops Mar Sapor and Mar Peroz came to Malabar, to occupy their seats in Kollam and Kodungallur, to look after the local Syrian Christians (also known as St. Thomas Christians).

Marco Polo
Marco Polo
Marco Polo was a Venetian merchant traveler from the Venetian Republic whose travels are recorded in Il Milione, a book which did much to introduce Europeans to Central Asia and China. He learned about trading whilst his father and uncle, Niccolò and Maffeo, travelled through Asia and apparently...

, the Venetian traveller and author of Description of the World, popularly known as Il Milione, is reputed to have visited South India in 1288 and 1292. The first date has been rejected as he was in China at the time, but the second date is accepted by many historians. He is believed to have stopped in Ceylon (Sri Lanka) where he documented the tomb of Adam
Adam
Adam is a figure in the Book of Genesis. According to the creation myth of Abrahamic religions, he is the first human. In the Genesis creation narratives, he was created by Yahweh-Elohim , and the first woman, Eve was formed from his rib...

, and Quilon (Kollam
Kollam
Kollam , often anglicized as ', is a city in the Indian state of Kerala. The city lies on the banks of Ashtamudi Lake on the Arabian sea coast and is situated about north of the state capital, Thiruvananthapuram...

) on the western Malabar coast of India, where he met Syrian Christians and recorded their legends of St. Thomas and his miraculous tomb on the eastern Coromandel coast of the country. Il Milione, the book he dictated on his return to Europe, was on its publication condemned as a collection of impious and improbable traveller's tales but it became very popular reading in medieval Europe and inspired Spanish and Portuguese sailors to seek out the fabulous, and possibly Christian, India described in it.

Near Chennai
Chennai
Chennai , formerly known as Madras or Madarasapatinam , is the capital city of the Indian state of Tamil Nadu, located on the Coromandel Coast off the Bay of Bengal. Chennai is the fourth most populous metropolitan area and the sixth most populous city in India...

 (formerly Madras) in India stands a small hillock called St. Thomas Mount
St. Thomas Mount
St. Thomas Mount, or Parangimalai is a small hillock located in Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India. Located near the neighbourhood of Guindy and very close to Chennai International Airport, St. Thomas Mount is associated with St. Thomas, the apostle of Christ, who is believed to have been martyred here...

, where the Apostle is said to have been killed in AD 72 (exact year not established). Also to be found in Chennai is the Dioceses of Saint Thomas of Mylapore to which his mortal remains were transferred.

Tomb


The Indian tradition, in which elements of the traditions of Malabar, Coromandel
Coromandel Coast
The Coromandel Coast is the name given to the southeastern coast of the Indian Subcontinent between Cape Comorin and False Divi Point...

 and the Persian Church intermingled firmly held that Thomas the Apostle died near the ancient town of Mylapore
Mylapore
Mylapore is a cultural hub and neighborhood in the southern part of the city of Chennai, the capital of Tamil Nadu, India. Earlier, Mylapore used to be called Vedapuri....

. His mortal remains were apparently buried in the town and his burial place was situated in the right hand chapel of the church or house known after his name. No archaeological evidence support these claims though.

On 27 September 2006, Pope Benedict XVI recalled that "an ancient tradition claims that Thomas first evangelized Syria and Persia (mentioned by Origen, according to Eusebius of Caesarea, Ecclesiastical History 3, 1) then went on to Western India (cf. Acts of Thomas 1–2 and 17ff.), from where also he finally reached Southern India."

Historical references to Thomas


Many early Christian writings, which belong to centuries immediately following the first Ecumenical Council of 325, exist about Thomas' mission.
  • The Acts of Thomas, sometimes called by its full name The Acts of Judas Thomas: 2nd/3rd century (c. 180–230) Gist of the testimony: The Apostles cast lots as to where they should go, and to Thomas, twin brother of Jesus, fell India. Thomas was taken to king Gondophares
    Gondophares
    Gondophares I a Seistani representative of the house of Suren as well as founder and first king of the Indo-Parthian Kingdom. He seems to have ruled c...

     the ruler of Indo-Parthian Kingdom
    Indo-Parthian Kingdom
    The Gondopharid dynasty, and other so-called Indo-Parthian rulers, were a group of ancient kings from present day eastern Afghanistan and Pakistan who ruled India, during or slightly before the 1st century AD...

     as an architect and carpenter by Habban. The journey to India
    India
    India , officially the Republic of India , is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second-most populous country with over 1.2 billion people, and the most populous democracy in the world...

     is described in detail. After a long residence in the court at Taxila
    Taxila
    Taxila is a Tehsil in the Rawalpindi District of Punjab province of Pakistan. It is an important archaeological site.Taxila is situated about northwest of Islamabad Capital Territory and Rawalpindi in Panjab; just off the Grand Trunk Road...

     he ordained leaders for the Church, and left in a chariot for the kingdom of Mazdei. According to the Acts of St. Thomas the Kingdom of Mazdai, in the Western India, Indus Valley, was ruled by King Misdeus. Parts of the Indus Valley,was then ruled by Persians called the Indo-Parthian Kingdom
    Indo-Parthian Kingdom
    The Gondopharid dynasty, and other so-called Indo-Parthian rulers, were a group of ancient kings from present day eastern Afghanistan and Pakistan who ruled India, during or slightly before the 1st century AD...

    . Some Greeks
    Greeks
    The Greeks, also known as the Hellenes , are a nation and ethnic group native to Greece, Cyprus and neighboring regions. They also form a significant diaspora, with Greek communities established around the world....

     Satraps, the descendents of Alexander the Great, were vassals to the Indo-Parthian Kingdom
    Indo-Parthian Kingdom
    The Gondopharid dynasty, and other so-called Indo-Parthian rulers, were a group of ancient kings from present day eastern Afghanistan and Pakistan who ruled India, during or slightly before the 1st century AD...

    . The king Misdeus was infuriated when St.Thomas converted the Queen Tertia, son Juzanes, sister-in-law princess Mygdonia (a province of Mesopotamia
    Mesopotamia
    Mesopotamia is a toponym for the area of the Tigris–Euphrates river system, largely corresponding to modern-day Iraq, northeastern Syria, southeastern Turkey and southwestern Iran.Widely considered to be the cradle of civilization, Bronze Age Mesopotamia included Sumer and the...

    ) and her friend Markia. The King Misdeus led St. Thomas outside the city and ordered four soldiers to take him to the nearby hill where the soldiers speared St. Thomas and killed him. Syphorus was elected the first presbyter by the brethren after the death of St. Thomas while Juzanes the prince became the deacon. The names of the King Misdeus, Tertia, Juzanes, Syphorus, Markia and Mygdonia suggest Greek descent or Hellenised Persian descent There, after performing many miracles, he dies a martyr.. During the rule of Vasudeva I
    Vasudeva I
    Vasudeva I was a Kushan emperor, last of the "Great Kushans." Named inscriptions dating from year 64 to 98 of Kanishka's era suggest his reign extended from at least 191 to 225 CE....

    , the Kushan emperor, the bones of St. Thomas were transferred from the Indus Valley to Edessa
    Edessa, Mesopotamia
    Edessa is the Greek name of an Aramaic town in northern Mesopotamia, as refounded by Seleucus I Nicator. For the modern history of the city, see Şanlıurfa.-Names:...

    . These are generally rejected by various Christian religions as either apocryphal or heretical. The two centuries that lapsed between the life of the apostle and recording this work, casts doubt on their authenticity.
  • Clement of Alexandria: 3rd century (d.c. 235); Church represented: Alexandrian/Greek Biographical Note : Greek Theologian, b. Athens, 150. Clement
    Clement of Alexandria
    Titus Flavius Clemens , known as Clement of Alexandria , was a Christian theologian and the head of the noted Catechetical School of Alexandria. Clement is best remembered as the teacher of Origen...

     makes a passing reference to St. Thomas’ Apostolate in Parthia. This agrees with the testimony which Eusebius records about Pantaenus
    Pantaenus
    Saint Pantaenus was a Christian theologian who founded the Catechetical School of Alexandria about AD 190. This school was the earliest catechetical school, and became influential in the development of Christian theology....

    ' visit to India
    India
    India , officially the Republic of India , is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second-most populous country with over 1.2 billion people, and the most populous democracy in the world...

    .
  • Doctrine of the Apostles 3rd century; Church represented: Syrian “After the death of the Apostles there were Guides and Rulers in the Churches…..They again at their deaths also committed and delivered to their disciples after them everything which they had received from the Apostles;…(also what) Judas Thomas (had written) from India”.


“India and all its own countries, and those bordering on it, even to the farther sea, received the Apostle’s hand of Priesthood from Judas Thomas, who was Guide and Ruler in the Church which he built and ministered there”. In what follows “the whole Persia of the Assyrians and Medes, and of the countries round about Babylon…. even to the borders of the Indians and even to the country of Gog and Magog
Gog and Magog
Gog and Magog are names that appear primarily in various Jewish, Christian and Muslim scriptures, as well as numerous subsequent references in other works. Their context can be either genealogical or eschatological and apocalyptic, as in Ezekiel and Revelation...

” are said to have received the Apostles’ Hand of Priesthood from Aggaeus the disciple of Addaeus
  • Origen century : 3rd century (185–254?), quoted in Eusebius; Church represented: Alexandrian/ Greek Biographical. Christian Philosopher, b-Egypt, Origen
    Origen
    Origen , or Origen Adamantius, 184/5–253/4, was an early Christian Alexandrian scholar and theologian, and one of the most distinguished writers of the early Church. As early as the fourth century, his orthodoxy was suspect, in part because he believed in the pre-existence of souls...

     taught with great acclaim in Alexandria and then in Caesarea. He is the first known writer to record the casting of lots
    Cleromancy
    Cleromancy is a form of divination using sortition, casting of lots, or casting bones or stones, in which an outcome is determined by means that normally would be considered random, such as the rolling of dice, but are sometimes believed to reveal the will of God, or other supernatural entities.-In...

     by the Apostles. Origen
    Origen
    Origen , or Origen Adamantius, 184/5–253/4, was an early Christian Alexandrian scholar and theologian, and one of the most distinguished writers of the early Church. As early as the fourth century, his orthodoxy was suspect, in part because he believed in the pre-existence of souls...

     original work has been lost; but his statement about Parthia falling to Thomas has been preserved by Eusebius. “Origen, in the third chapter of his Commentary on Genesis, says that, according to tradition, Thomas’s allotted field of labour was Parthia”.
  • Eusebius of Caesarea
    Eusebius of Caesarea
    Eusebius of Caesarea also called Eusebius Pamphili, was a Roman historian, exegete and Christian polemicist. He became the Bishop of Caesarea in Palestine about the year 314. Together with Pamphilus, he was a scholar of the Biblical canon...

    : 4th century (died 340); Church Represented: Alexandrian/Greek Biographical Quoting Origen
    Origen
    Origen , or Origen Adamantius, 184/5–253/4, was an early Christian Alexandrian scholar and theologian, and one of the most distinguished writers of the early Church. As early as the fourth century, his orthodoxy was suspect, in part because he believed in the pre-existence of souls...

    , Eusebius says: “When the holy Apostles and disciples of our Saviour were scattered over all the world, Thomas, so the tradition has it, obtained as his portion Parthia….”
  • Ephrem
    Ephrem the Syrian
    Ephrem the Syrian was a Syriac and a prolific Syriac-language hymnographer and theologian of the 4th century. He is venerated by Christians throughout the world, and especially in the Syriac Orthodox Church, as a saint.Ephrem wrote a wide variety of hymns, poems, and sermons in verse, as well as...

    : 4th century; Church Represented: Syrian Biographical Many devotional hymns composed by St. Ephraem, bear witness to the Edessan
    Edessa, Mesopotamia
    Edessa is the Greek name of an Aramaic town in northern Mesopotamia, as refounded by Seleucus I Nicator. For the modern history of the city, see Şanlıurfa.-Names:...

     Church’s strong conviction concerning St. Thomas’s Indian Apostolate. There the devil speaks of St. Thomas as “the Apostle I slew in India
    India
    India , officially the Republic of India , is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second-most populous country with over 1.2 billion people, and the most populous democracy in the world...

    ”. Also “The merchant brought the bones” to Edessa.

In another hymn eulogizing St. Thomas we read of “The bones the merchant hath brought”. “In his several journeyings to India
India
India , officially the Republic of India , is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second-most populous country with over 1.2 billion people, and the most populous democracy in the world...

, And thence on his return, All riches, which there he found, Dirt in his eyes he did repute when to thy sacred bones compared”. In yet another hymn Ephrem speaks of the mission of Thomas “The earth darkened with sacrifices’ fumes to illuminate”. “A land of people dark fell to thy lot”, “a tainted land Thomas has purified”; “India’s dark night” was “flooded with light” by Thomas.
  • Gregory of Nazianzus
    Gregory of Nazianzus
    Gregory of Nazianzus was a 4th-century Archbishop of Constantinople. He is widely considered the most accomplished rhetorical stylist of the patristic age...

    : 4th century(died 389); Church Represented: Alexandrian. Biographical Note: Gregory of Nazianzus was born AD 330, consecrated
    Consecration
    Consecration is the solemn dedication to a special purpose or service, usually religious. The word "consecration" literally means "to associate with the sacred". Persons, places, or things can be consecrated, and the term is used in various ways by different groups...

     a bishop
    Bishop
    A bishop is an ordained or consecrated member of the Christian clergy who is generally entrusted with a position of authority and oversight. Within the Catholic Church, Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox Churches, in the Assyrian Church of the East, in the Independent Catholic Churches, and in the...

     by his friend St. Basil in 372 his father, the Bishop of Nazianzus induced him to share his charge. In 379 the people of Constantinople
    Constantinople
    Constantinople was the capital of the Roman, Eastern Roman, Byzantine, Latin, and Ottoman Empires. Throughout most of the Middle Ages, Constantinople was Europe's largest and wealthiest city.-Names:...

     called him to be their bishop. By the Orthodox Church he is emphatically called “the Theologian’. “What? were not the Apostles strangers amidst the many nations and countries over which they spread themselves? … Peter indeed may have belonged to Judea; but what had Paul in common with the gentiles, Luke with Achaia, Andrew with Epirus, John with Ephesus, Thomas with India, Mark with Italy?”
  • Ambrose of Milan: 4th century (died 397); Church Represented: Western. Biographical Note: St. Ambrose was thoroughly acquainted with the Greek and Latin Classics, and had a good deal of information on India and Indians. He speaks of the Gymnosophists of India, the Indian Ocean, the river Ganges etc., a number of times. “This admitted of the Apostles being sent without delay according to the saying of our Lord Jesus… Even those Kingdoms which were shut out by rugged mountains became accessible to them, as India to Thomas, Persia to Matthew..”
  • St. Jerome (342- 420). St. Jerome's testimony : “He (Christ) dwelt in all places: with Thomas in India, Peter at Rome, with Paul in Illyricum.”
  • St. Gaudentius (Bishop of Brescia, before 427). St. Gaudentius' testimony: “John at Sebastena, Thomas among the Indians, Andrew and Luke at the city of Patras are found to have closed their careers.”
  • St. Paulinus of Nola (died 431). St. Paulinus'
    Paulinus of Nola
    Saint Paulinus of Nola, also known as Pontificus Meropius Anicius Paulinus was a Roman senator who converted to a severe monasticism in 394...

     testimony :“Parthia receives Mathew, India
    India
    India , officially the Republic of India , is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second-most populous country with over 1.2 billion people, and the most populous democracy in the world...

     Thomas, Libya Thaddeus, and Phrygia Philip”.
  • St. Gregory of Tours (died 594) St. Gregory's
    Gregory of Tours
    Saint Gregory of Tours was a Gallo-Roman historian and Bishop of Tours, which made him a leading prelate of Gaul. He was born Georgius Florentius, later adding the name Gregorius in honour of his maternal great-grandfather...

     testimony: “Thomas the Apostle, according to the narrative of his martyrdom is stated to have suffered in India. His holy remains (corpus), after a long interval of time, were removed to the city of Edessa in Syria and there interred. In that part of India where they first rested, stand a monastery and a church of striking dimensions, elaborately adorned and designed. This Theodore, who had been to the place, narrated to us.’
  • St. Isidore of Seville in Spain (d. c. 630). St. Isidore's
    Isidore of Seville
    Saint Isidore of Seville served as Archbishop of Seville for more than three decades and is considered, as the historian Montalembert put it in an oft-quoted phrase, "le dernier savant du monde ancien"...

     testimony: “This Thomas preached the Gospel of Christ to the Parthians, the Medes, the Persians, the Hyrcanians and the Bactrians, and to the Indians of the Oriental region and penetrating the innermost regions and sealing his preaching by his passion he died transfixed with a lance at Calamina (present Mylapore
    Mylapore
    Mylapore is a cultural hub and neighborhood in the southern part of the city of Chennai, the capital of Tamil Nadu, India. Earlier, Mylapore used to be called Vedapuri....

    ),a city of India
    India
    India , officially the Republic of India , is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second-most populous country with over 1.2 billion people, and the most populous democracy in the world...

    , and there was buried with honour”.
  • St. Bede the Venerable (c. 673–735).St. Bede's testimony : “Peter receives Rome
    Rome
    Rome is the capital of Italy and the country's largest and most populated city and comune, with over 2.7 million residents in . The city is located in the central-western portion of the Italian Peninsula, on the Tiber River within the Lazio region of Italy.Rome's history spans two and a half...

    , Andrew Achaia; James Spain; Thomas India
    India
    India , officially the Republic of India , is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second-most populous country with over 1.2 billion people, and the most populous democracy in the world...

    ; John Asia"

Saint Thomas Cross


In the sixteenth century work Jornada, Antonio Gouvea writes of ornate crosses “known as Saint Thomas Cross or Persian Cross". These crosses date from the 6th century and are found in a number of churches in Kerala, Mylapore and Goa. Jornada is the oldest known written document to refer to this type of cross as a St. Thomas Cross. The original term used is “Cruz de San Thome” which literally translates as Cross of St. Thomas. Gouvea also writes about the veneration of the Cross at Cranganore, referring to the cross as "Cross of Christians.

Writings attributed to Thomas



"Let none read the gospel according to Thomas, for it is the work, not of one of the twelve apostles, but of one of Mani's
Mani (prophet)
Mani , of Iranian origin was the prophet and the founder of Manichaeism, a gnostic religion of Late Antiquity which was once widespread but is now extinct...

 three wicked disciples."
Cyril of Jerusalem
Cyril of Jerusalem
Cyril of Jerusalem was a distinguished theologian of the early Church . He is venerated as a saint by the Roman Catholic Church, the Eastern Orthodox Church, and the Anglican Communion. In 1883, Cyril was declared a Doctor of the Church by Pope Leo XIII...

, Cathechesis V (4th century)


In the first two centuries of the Christian era, a number of writings were circulated. It is unclear now why Thomas was seen as an authority for doctrine, although this belief is documented in Gnostic groups as early as the Pistis Sophia
Pistis Sophia
Pistis Sophia is an important Gnostic text, possibly written as early as the 2nd century. The five remaining copies, which scholars place in the 5th or 6th centuries, relate the Gnostic teachings of the transfigured Jesus to the assembled disciples , when the risen Christ had accomplished eleven...

 In that Gnostic work, Mary Magdalene
Mary Magdalene
Mary Magdalene was one of Jesus' most celebrated disciples, and the most important woman disciple in the movement of Jesus. Jesus cleansed her of "seven demons", conventionally interpreted as referring to complex illnesses...

 (one of the disciples) says:
"Now at this time, my Lord, hear, so that I speak openly, for thou hast said to us 'He who has ears to hear, let him hear:' Concerning the word which thou didst say to Philip: 'Thou and Thomas and Matthew are the three to whom it has been given… to write every word of the Kingdom of the Light, and to bear witness to them'; hear now that I give the interpretation of these words. It is this which thy light-power once prophesied through Moses: 'Through two and three witnesses everything will be established. The three witnesses are Philip and Thomas and Matthew" (Pistis Sophia 1:43)


An early, non-Gnostic tradition may lie behind this statement, which also emphasizes the primacy of the Gospel of Matthew
Gospel of Matthew
The Gospel According to Matthew is one of the four canonical gospels, one of the three synoptic gospels, and the first book of the New Testament. It tells of the life, ministry, death, and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth...

 in its Aramaic form, over the other canonical three.

Besides the Acts of Thomas
Acts of Thomas
The early 3rd century text called Acts of Thomas is one of the New Testament apocrypha, portraying Christ as the "Heavenly Redeemer", independent of and beyond creation, who can free souls from the darkness of the world. References to the work by Epiphanius of Salamis show that it was in...

 there was a widely circulated Infancy Gospel of Thomas
Infancy Gospel of Thomas
The Infancy Gospel of Thomas is a pseudepigraphical gospel about the childhood of Jesus that dates to the 2nd and 3rd centuries. It was part of a popular genre of biblical work, written to satisfy a hunger among early Christians for more miraculous and anecdotal stories of the childhood of Jesus...

 probably written in the later 2nd century, and probably also in Syria
Syria
Syria , officially the Syrian Arab Republic , is a country in Western Asia, bordering Lebanon and the Mediterranean Sea to the West, Turkey to the north, Iraq to the east, Jordan to the south, and Israel to the southwest....

, which relates the miraculous events and prodigies of Jesus' boyhood. This is the document which tells for the first time the familiar legend of the twelve sparrows which Jesus, at the age of five, fashioned from clay on the Sabbath day, which took wing and flew away. The earliest manuscript of this work is a 6th century one in Syriac
Syriac language
Syriac is a dialect of Middle Aramaic that was once spoken across much of the Fertile Crescent. Having first appeared as a script in the 1st century AD after being spoken as an unwritten language for five centuries, Classical Syriac became a major literary language throughout the Middle East from...

. This gospel was first referred to by Irenaeus
Irenaeus
Saint Irenaeus , was Bishop of Lugdunum in Gaul, then a part of the Roman Empire . He was an early church father and apologist, and his writings were formative in the early development of Christian theology...

; Ron Cameron notes: "In his citation, Irenaeus first quotes a non-canonical story that circulated about the childhood of Jesus and then goes directly on to quote a passage from the infancy narrative of the Gospel of Luke
Gospel of Luke
The Gospel According to Luke , commonly shortened to the Gospel of Luke or simply Luke, is the third and longest of the four canonical Gospels. This synoptic gospel is an account of the life and ministry of Jesus of Nazareth. It details his story from the events of his birth to his Ascension.The...

 . Since the Infancy Gospel of Thomas records both of these stories, in relative close proximity to one another, it is possible that the apocryphal writing cited by Irenaeus
Irenaeus
Saint Irenaeus , was Bishop of Lugdunum in Gaul, then a part of the Roman Empire . He was an early church father and apologist, and his writings were formative in the early development of Christian theology...

 is, in fact, what is now known as the Infancy Gospel of Thomas. Because of the complexities of the manuscript tradition, however, there is no certainty as to when the stories of the Infancy Gospel of Thomas began to be written down."

The best known in modern times of these documents is the "sayings" document that is being called the Gospel of Thomas
Gospel of Thomas
The Gospel According to Thomas, commonly shortened to the Gospel of Thomas, is a well preserved early Christian, non-canonical sayings-gospel discovered near Nag Hammadi, Egypt, in December 1945, in one of a group of books known as the Nag Hammadi library...

, a noncanonical work which some scholars believe may actually predate the writing of the Biblical gospels themselves. The opening line claims it is the work of "Didymos Judas Thomas" – who has been identified with Thomas. This work was discovered in a Coptic
Coptic language
Coptic or Coptic Egyptian is the current stage of the Egyptian language, a northern Afro-Asiatic language spoken in Egypt until at least the 17th century. Egyptian began to be written using the Greek alphabet in the 1st century...

 translation in 1945 at the Egyptian village of Nag Hammadi
Nag Hammâdi
Nag Hammadi , is a city in Upper Egypt. Nag Hammadi was known as Chenoboskion in classical antiquity, meaning "geese grazing grounds". It is located on the west bank of the Nile in the Qena Governorate, about 80 kilometres north-west of Luxor....

, near the site of the monastery of Chenoboskion. Once the Coptic text was published, scholars recognized that an earlier Greek translation had been published from fragments of papyrus
Papyrus
Papyrus is a thick paper-like material produced from the pith of the papyrus plant, Cyperus papyrus, a wetland sedge that was once abundant in the Nile Delta of Egypt....

 found at Oxyrhynchus
Oxyrhynchus
Oxyrhynchus is a city in Upper Egypt, located about 160 km south-southwest of Cairo, in the governorate of Al Minya. It is also an archaeological site, considered one of the most important ever discovered...

 in the 1890s.

See also


  • List of Patriarchs of the Church of the East
  • Saint Thomas of Mylapur
    Saint Thomas of Mylapur
    The Diocese of Saint Thomas of Mylapore, or in Portuguese São Tomé de Meliapore, in Latin Sancti Thomae de Meliapor), was a suffragan diocese to the primatial See of Goa in the East Indies. It was located in Mylapore, and derives its name from the site of its cathedral in which the Apostle St...

  • São Tomé
    São Tomé
    -Transport:São Tomé is served by São Tomé International Airport with regular flights to Europe and other African Countries.-Climate:São Tomé features a tropical wet and dry climate with a relatively lengthy wet season and a short dry season. The wet season runs from October through May while the...

  • Throne of St. Thomas

Further reading

  • A.C. Perumalil: The Apostles in India,Patna (India), XTTI, 1971.
  • Glenn W. Most
    Glenn W. Most
    Glenn Warren Most is a classicist and comparatist originating from the US, but also working in Germany and Italy.Most studied classics at Harvard from 1968 on and received a B.A. Summa Cum Laude in Classics in 1972...

    : Doubting Thomas. Cambridge, Mass., London: Harvard University Press, 2005 (a study in the reception of Thomas’ story in literature and art).

External links