The canonical Gospels, in five passages, document the three years Saint Thomas was a disciple of Jesus. The Acts of the Apostles speak of the period between Pentecost. And the beginning of evangelizing the Apostles in the world. From the apocryphal writings. It is possible to obtain valuable information on the last segment of the life of Saint Thomas the Apostle. We refer to the Acts attributable to the third century and the Gospel of Saint Thomas, the Apostle of the second century.
Saint Thomas, the Apostle, left Palestine and crossed the road to Damascus. Where he stopped to go to Syria and Mesopotamia until he reached northern India, which corresponds to today’s Pakistan. In Damascus, connected to Palestine by an important Thomas with Jesus (painting ) on the Roman imperial road, the Apostle stayed for some time and evangelized the local people. Even today in Damascus, the oldest gate of the city dedicated to St. Thomas is still visible, Where, around the IV-VII century, a church dedicated to the Apostle was built. The monastery of Deir Mar Touma is not far away, dating back to the 5th century. And subsequently destroyed is the subject of studies by committed and well-known researchers. The site is still today a place of devotion to the Apostle.
Meaning of “Thomas”
Thomas’ name, in Aramaic, means “twin.” There is an unknown place of birth and profession. The Gospel of John, in chapter 11, immediately makes us hear his voice, not exactly enthusiastic. Jesus has left Judea, which has become dangerous: but suddenly, he decides to return there—going to Bethany, where his friend Lazarus died.
His name is given in the Apostles’ lists in the Synoptic Gospels and John. XI, 16; XX, 24; XXI, 2; John adds to his name the explanation “the one called Δίδυμος,” that is a twin. In fact, in biblical Hebrew, the form tōămīm, “twins” (plur.), From a presumed sing. tō’ām. To which the Aramaic to’mā corresponds: the Greekized form of this word is Θωμᾶς, which is the name of the Apostle. Of the very few information that the Gospels provide about him. The most notable is his skeptical attitude regarding the resurrection of Jesus.
His most sensational release will stick to him forever and too severely. John, chapter 20: Jesus rises; he appeared to the disciples, among whom there was no Thomas. And he, hearing about the resurrection “only from them.” He demands to touch them with his hand and speaks to them, not Jesus. And Jesus comes eight days later and invites him to “check.”
How many Parthians did Thomas evangelize?
According to Origen and tradition, Thomas evangelized the Parthians around 42-49. The Medes, the Persians, Irani, neighboring peoples, and India. Today the Christians of Saint Thomas, the Apostle of India, consider themselves evangelized by Saint Thomas the Apostle.
The Acts of Thomas were initially written in Syriac in Edessa, probably at the school of Bardesane. A gnostic of the third century has come down to us with various Latin interpolations and remakes, such as the D and Miraculis B. Thomas apostles of St. Gregory of Tours and the Passio Sancti Thomae. The Acts of Thomas, published in the biblical series of the Marietti publishing house in 1965, are divided into thirteen chapters and close with the last one, which speaks of the martyrdom of Saint Thomas, the Apostle. Let’s give a quick summary.
In the first Act, the Ap castle receives the evangelization of India by lot, and Thomas refuses; therefore, Christ appears to him and encourages him. In India, the Apostle meets the merchant Habban, sent by King Gundaphor in search of an architect, and continues with him. Tommaso and the merchant arrive in Andrapoli and attend the wedding of the local king’s daughter. At the end of the meal, the Apostle sings a hymn in Hebrew in which he invites the spouses to live in purity. The spouses accept, and the king is furious and looks for the two alleged culprits, but they have already boarded a boat.
Did Thomas build a palace?
At the court of Gundaphor (Act II), Thomas is commissioned to build the palace as an alleged architect. He does the work, receives the relative compensation, and then distributes it in full to the poor. The king is indignant and orders Thomas and the merchant to be imprisoned to have them burned alive. During the night, the king’s brother dies, but the angels bring him back to life and make it clear to the king that Thomas has built a heavenly palace, not just a brick one. Gundaphor and his brother are converted, baptized, and communicated. From that moment on, conversions became more and more numerous.
The king is indignant and orders Thomas and the merchant to be imprisoned to have them burned alive. During the night, the king’s brother dies, but the angels bring him back to life and make it clear to the king that Thomas has built a heavenly palace, not just a brick one. Gundaphor and his brother are converted, baptized, and communicated. From that moment on, conversions became more and more numerous.
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King Mazda and Saint Thomas
The other chapters follow the tales of miracles and the attempts of persecution made by King Mazda toward the Apostle. In the eighth and final chapter, Saint Thomas the Apostle, transported to a high mountain, ends up killed with a spear by the Brahmins, and his body is transported to Edessa. The ancient Syriac martyrologists have identified the date of martyrdom as July 3, 68, and the Christians of Coromandel consider the year 72 to be the date of martyrdom.
According to the Eastern tradition and some Western sources, around 50, Thomas returned to Jerusalem, where the first council was held, even if his name is not mentioned in the (canonical) Acts of the Apostles. Thomas then resumed the second missionary journey in which he found martyrdom.
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Why was Thomas the Apostle called doubting Thomas?
Thomas is wronged by remembering only his favorite moment of disbelief after the resurrection. He is a passionate follower. But believing is not easy for him, and he doesn’t want to pretend he is. He tells him about his difficulties, shows himself as he is, looks like us, and helps us. Here he is at the Last Supper (John 14): he speaks as someone a little bewildered. Jesus is about to go to Gethsemane and says he will prepare a place for everyone in the Father’s house, adding: “And of the place where I go, you know the way.”
He immediately objects to Thomas, candid and confused: “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, and how can we know the way?” So here is John, chapter 20: Jesus rises; he appeared to the disciples, among whom there is no Thomas. And he, hearing about their resurrection, demands to touch with the hand. He speaks to the other apostles and dispels, not to Jesus. However, Jesus comes eight days later and invites him to “check”…
And here is Thomas, the fussy eater, flying lightning fast and enthusiastic to the conclusion, calling Jesus: “My Lord and my God!” as no one has ever done. And Jesus, in return: «Because you have seen me, you have believed: blessed are those who did not see and yet considered! “. John still mentions Thomas in chapter 21 during the appearance of Jesus at the lake of Tiberias. The Acts (chapter 1) say it after the Ascension. Then nothing more.
John still mentions Saint Thomas, the Apostle, in chapter 21 during the appearance of Jesus at the lake of Tiberias. The Acts (chapter 1) say it after the Ascension. Then nothing more: we ignore when and where he died. Some texts attributed to him (even a “Gospel”) are unreliable.
In the mid-sixth century, the Egyptian merchant Cosma Indicopleuste writes that he found unexpected groups of Christians in southern India. And to have known that the Gospel was brought to their ancestors by Thomas the Apostle. They are the “Thomas-Christians,” a community still alive in the twentieth century. But of different belonging: to Catholicism, Protestant Churches, and Christian-Eastern rites.