April 23, 2017
Who was Thomas? What happened to him after his encounter with Jesus in the room with his friends?
Thomas, also called Didymus, which means "the twin," which is what Thomas means as well. So, redundantly, he is Twin, nick-named the twin. Whose twin he was is never made clear in the Gospels, the Acts of the Apostles, or the letters of the New Testament. There have been some interesting speculations among unorthodox strains of Christianity that he was Jesus' twin, unsupportable from the canonical Gospels but an enduring Gnostic (I will explain about Gnosticism at another time) strain none-the-less. Thomas is delineated in all the lists of the in the Gospels (Matthew 10:1-4; Mark 3:13-19; Luke 6:12-16; Acts and John have no list but individual disciples are referred to by name in several places).
It is only in the fourth Gospel (John) that Thomas is portrayed as anything more than a name on a list. In that Gospel, he speaks in 11:16, recommending, after the death of Lazarus, that all of them return to face the Judeans who were persecuting them; he speaks again in 14:5, after Jesus says he is leaving them to prepare a place for them, Thomas says they do not know where he is going, and again, with a larger role in in 20:24-29 where he refuses to believe the other disciples' encounter with the resurrected Jesus.
It is this last account that has propelled Thomas to be the Patron Saint of the Twentieth and early Twenty-first Centuries because of his stance as the doubter. It seems these two periods have reveled in doubt, as if doubt had not been part of faith since faith became part of the human psyche. Just as important in this story of John 20:24-29, is Thomas' final proclamation of Jesus as: "my Lord and my God," which is a very high view of who Jesus is (i.e. Jesus and God are somehow one), and a position proclaimed most clearly only in the fourth Gospel, through the Logos Hymn, 1:1-18, especially vs. 1-5 and again with Thomas' statement in 20:29.
That is all we can safely know about Thomas, which clearly is not much. Such is the case for the largest part of Jesus' disciples, except for Peter and his brother Andrew, James and his brother John, and Judas. There are some traditions which are attached to Thomas which continue to hold but are unverifiable either historically or biblically. The ancient Church historian Eusebius recorded in Church History (c. 323 A.D.), Thomas and Bartholomew were assigned to Parthia and India, and The Didascalia (dating from the end of the 3rd century) states, "India and all countries considering 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."
And that is about all we can say about Thomas, the Twin.
The Rev. David Lucey