Didymus Judas Thomas

By Mary Jane Chaignot

Categories: Jesus' Apostles

  • With Didymus and Thomas both meaning "twin," the real name here is Judas.
  • The Acts of Thomas identifies Judas as the Apostle Thomas. The evangelist, John, also identified Thomas as "the twin."
  • Mark 6:3 lists Jesus' brothers – James, Joseph, Judas, and Simon. There is no mention of Thomas.
  • Though named on each Apostolic list in the Synoptic gospels, Thomas' biggest role comes in the Gospel of John, where he is referred to as "doubting Thomas" because he questioned Jesus' resurrection.
  • He demanded to see the nail marks and to put his hand into Jesus' side before he would believe. But when Jesus appeared to him (and the rest of the disciples) a week later, Thomas was the first to exclaim, "My Lord and my God!" (See John 20:28)
  • According to John, he was also present in the Lazarus story. When it was dangerous for Jesus to return to Jerusalem, Thomas said they should all go so that they might all die with him. (See John 11:16)
  • When Jesus told his disciples that he would go ahead to prepare a place for them, Thomas said, "Lord, we don't know where you are going, so how can we know the way?" (See John 14:5)
  • Thomas was also one of the disciples to whom Jesus appeared on the shore of Galilee.
  • Despite all this, there is much disagreement about his identity.
  • The Gospel of Thomas opens by saying Didymus Judas Thomas recorded all the sayings that the living Jesus spoke.
  • The Acts of Thomas say he was the Apostle and the brother of Jesus.
  • Whenever his twin is identified, it is none other than Jesus himself.
  • Jesus states, "…you are my twin and true companion."
  • References to Thomas are also found in other apocryphal books.
  • The Passing of Mary is an account of her assumption into heaven. One version has him coming late to the burial, and upon seeing her body, going up to heaven, he cried out. She then threw her girdle down to him.
  • Another version (stemming from the 7th century) maintains that Thomas was the only apostle not present at the event. The other apostles felt that he had not been at her assumption because of his persistent unbelief.
  • Thomas begged for forgiveness and then asked to see where she had been buried. They showed him her tomb, but Thomas said she was not in it.
  • The disciples chided him for not believing again(!), but he persisted. In a rage, they offered to open it, and it was, of course, empty except for her grave clothes.
  • Thomas then showed them her girdle (which she had dropped down to him while he was still in India), and the disciples were convicted by their own words and asked pardon of him.
  • Thomas blessed them, saying, "Behold how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!"
  • Several medieval masterpieces have immortalized the moment when Mary threw her girdle down to Thomas.
  • Thomas is possibly the only apostle who preached outside the Roman Empire. Legend has it that he preached in both the Parthian Empire and India.
  • It is believed that Thomas went to India in 52 CE in order to preach the good news of the gospel.
  • He landed in the south, where he baptized those "steeped in darkness" and established several churches there.
  • Origen claimed that Thomas was the apostle to the Parthians, but there doesn't seem to be much additional evidence for this.
  • During his ministry, Thomas preached and interacted with kings in both southern and northern India.
  • Though he died in India, it is believed that Thomas' remains were taken by a merchant to Edessa, located in northern Mesopotamia, to be buried (ca 232 CE).
  • Many legends surround the apostle Thomas, one of which is that he met the three Magi on his way to India.
  • His feast day was originally set for December 21, but later changed to July 3rd (either the day he died or the day he was buried at Edessa) so it would no longer conflict with Advent. Some traditions continue to celebrate the December date.

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