Above: St. James Catholic Church, Falls Church, Virginia, USA
The Thomas I knew was an Apostle without doubt.
He was not born a Catholic but spent much of his life “searching.” But when he got to Saint Peter’s in Rome he heard a voice: “Join my Church. Help me build my Church.”
Thomas returned to his Coipuram family and proclaimed: “We are ALL CATHOLIC NOW.”
And they were — without a doubt.
Thomas still went to Synagogues , Muslim Mosques and all kinds of Protestant Church to Proclaim his Catholic Faith: the True Faith.
One day while we were driving past the Muslim Mosque, the Dar Al-Hijrah Islamic Center in Falls Church, Thomas told me how he had gone there, prayed and Proclaimed the Word!
I am sorry I missed that!
And like many, I will miss Thomas a lot: a real man of God who brough many the Holy Body of Christ along with the Word.
He told me one day, “Actually, John, I am Jewish.”
“Oh Holy Mother of GOD TOM: WHAT NOW?”
He explained that Saint Thomas, the Apostle, had gone from the Holy Land to Edessa, in what is now Syria and Turkey, before his sojourn to Indian.
Thomas told me the powerful story of Thomas the Apostle in India.
“And in my town of Karal,” Thomas said, “Everyone is named Thomas.”
“Well that isn’t true,” I countered. “The women aren’t named Thomas!”
Of course I was wrong — and Thomas is right. His wife Grace has Thomas as her middle name, just as Sara, Thomas’ sister, has the middle name of: You guessed it, Thomas!
I stopped doubting right there.
Thomas, like Peter Tran, also pushed me to be of more service to the Church. In fact, he chased after me until I finally relented and went to be re-trained as a Eucharistic minister — after a 40 year rest period.
As I finished my training, at Saint Thomas More Cathedral here in Arlington, as I left toward home, a text message told me the news: “Thomas has had a stroke.”
When I told Thomas I though I might be his replacement “in the line-up,” he said, “I know.”
When I complained to him one day, “Thomas, will I have to keep doing more and more in my life?”
He said, with a glimmer in his eye, “Yes, John, you will always have to do more.”
And so it is!
Thomas died peacefully today.
His last words to me were: “Is it OK if I go home today?”
I am sure he is “at home.”
John Francis Carey
Peace and Freedom
December 13, 2012
The Feast of Saint Thomas is December 21 in the Old Catholic tradition.
This was traditionally the feast of St. Thomas the Apostle; his feast is now celebrated on July 3rd. This day still marks many Christmas preparations, and so we are recounting some traditions attached to this day.
St. Thomas day, St. Thomas gray, The longest night and shortest day.
December 21 is usually the shortest day of the year, yet this day usually commenced the Christmas preparation of cleaning and baking. Although we no longer honor St. Thomas on this day, we can still use this day as a reminder to put in exerted efforts and start finishing our external preparations for Christmas. All the weeks before should have been more of spiritual preparation.
In Tyrol and in parts of Canada, this was considered “pie day”, with meat pies baked for the family, then cooled and frozen. They are saved for the feast of the Epiphany, and are thawed, reheated and eaten.
In England, this was a day of charity, when the poor women went a “Thomasing” or begging. Wheat was cooked and distributed for the poor.
Father Francis X. Weiser tells of some other old customs of this day:
In some parts of central Europe ancient customs of “driving demons away are practiced on the Feast of Saint Thomas the Apostle (December 21) and during the following nights (Rough Nights), with much noise, cracking of whips, ringing of hand bells, and parades of figures in horrible masks.In a Christianized version of this custom farmers will walk through the buildings and around the farmyard, accompanied by a son or one of the farm hands. They carry incense and holy water, which they sprinkle around as they walk. Meanwhile, the rest of the family and servants are gathered in the living room reciting the rosary. This rite is to sanctify and bless the whole farm in preparation for Christmas, to keep all evil spirits away on the festive days, and to obtain God’s special protection for the coming year.
— Handbook of Christian Feast and Customs, ©1952.
It seems that unmarried girls have many allies with the saints. In Austria, legend says that unmarried girls can see their future on St. Thomas Night, if they climb into bed over a stool and throw their shoes toward the door, the toes of the shoes pointing downward. If they sleep with their heads at the foot of the bead, the dreams will reveal visions of their future husbands. Also, if a single woman on St. Thomas Day can pick out a young rooster from among a brood of sleeping chicks, she will soon obtain a husband, or see him in her dreams.
Activity Source: Original Text (JGM) by Jennifer Gregory Miller, © Copyright 2003-2012 byJennifer Gregory Miller
“Doubting Thomas” by Caravaggio (1573 – 1610). Also known as Saint Thomas Putting his Finger on Christ’s Wound. Thomas is one of Jesus’ twelve apostles. When Jesus shows himself to his followers after his resurrection, Thomas refuses to believe that this man really is his master. He demands evidence. Jesus shows him the wound caused by a Roman soldier’s lance before his crucifixion. He invites Thomas to put his finger on it. Caravaggio shows that Thomas soon casts aside all doubt.
Almost identical copies of this painting and that of the Pilgrimage to Emmauswere found in a church in the French town of Loches, in 1999. After investigation, it was announced in 2006 that both works were authentic Caravaggios. Both contain the shield of arms of Philippe de Bethune, a friend of Caravaggio’s and French ambassador in Rome. Records show that Bethune acquired four paintings from the painter. Caravaggio often made several copies of his own paintings.
Thomas the Apostle, also called Doubting Thomas or Didymus (meaning “Twin,” as does “Thomas” in Aramaic“) was one of the Twelve Apostles of Jesus. He is best known for questioning Jesus’ resurrection when first told of it, then proclaiming “My Lord and my God” on seeing Jesus in John 20:28. Traditionally he is said to have traveled outside the Roman Empire to preach the Gospel travelling as far as India.
Thomas speaks in the Gospel of John. In John 11:16, when Lazarus has just died, the apostles do not wish to go back to Judea, where Jesus’ fellow Jews had attempted to stone him to death. Thomas says bravely (or perhaps sarcastically): “Let us also go, that we may die with him” (NIV).
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 into heaven. The other apostles were miraculously transported to Jerusalem to witness her death. Thomas was left in India, but after her first burial he was transported to her tomb, where he witnessed her bodily assumption into heaven, from which she dropped her girdle. 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 Renaissance art, the apostle’s infamous doubting reduced to a metaphorical knot in the Bavarian baroqueMary Untier of Knots.
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 (Urfa), for having sent Thaddaeus to preach in Edessa after the Ascension (Eusebius, Historia ecclesiae 1.13; III.1; Ephrem the Syrian 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.”
St. Thomas is traditionally believed to have sailed to India in 52AD to spread the Christian faith among the Jews, the Jewish diaspora present in Kerala at the time. He is supposed to have landed at the ancient port of Muziris (which became extinct in 1341 AD due to a massive flood which realigned the coasts) near Kodungalloor. He then went to Palayoor (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 KeralaState, where he established the Ezharappallikal, or “Seven and Half Churches”. These churches are at Kodungallur, Kollam, Niranam (Niranam St.Marys Orthodox Church, Nilackal (Chayal), Kokkamangalam, Kottakkayal (Paravoor), Palayoor(Chattukulangara) and Thiruvithancode 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 thus became the blessed city by possessing the greatest pearl India could yield. Thomas works miracles in India, 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 quotes Origen (died mid-3rd century) as having stated that Thomas was the apostle to the Parthians, but Thomas is better known as the missionary to India through the Acts of Thomas, perhaps written as late as ca 200. InEdessa, where his remains were venerated, the poet Ephrem the Syrian (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, writes in the forty-second of his “Carmina Nisibina” that the Apostle was put to death in India, and that his remains were subsequently buried in Edessa, 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 [another name for Edessa or Urfa] 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 hymns 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 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 books, 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 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. According to the Acts of Thomas, 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 Gondophares until modern archaeology 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, 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, 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 inKurdistan, the only other church to maintain a distinctive identity is the Mar Thoma or “Church of Thomas” congregations along the Malabar Coast of Kerala State in southwest India. According to the most ancient tradition of this church, Thomas evangelized this area and then crossed to the Coromandel Coast 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, 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, where an ancient Christian settlement undoubtedly existed. I am now satisfied that the Christian church of South India is extremely ancient… ”.
Piecing together the various traditions, one may conclude that Thomas left northwest India when invasion threatened and traveled by vessel to the Malabar coast, possibly visiting southeast Arabia and Socotra en route and landing at the former flourishing port of Muziris on an island near Cochin (c. AD. 51–52). 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 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.
Return of the relics
In A.D. 232 the greater part of 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, on which occasion his Syriac Acts were written. Few relics are still kept in church at Mylapore, Tamil Nadu, India. 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, 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
According to Indian Christian tradition, St. Thomas landed in Kodungallur 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 remains of Thomas appeared in Edessa, Mesopotamia, where they had been brought by a merchant coming from India (in that same period appeared the Acts of Thomas). 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 (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 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, 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, and Quilon (Kollam) on the western Malabar coast of India, where he met Syrian Christians and recorded their tradition of St. Thomas and his 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 (Madras) in India stands a small hillock called St. Thomas Mount, 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 supposedly transferred.
The Indian tradition, in which elements of the traditions of Malabar, Coromandel and the Persian Church intermingled firmly held that Thomas the Apostle died near the ancient town ofMylapore. 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
A number of early Christian writings written during centuries immediately following the first Ecumenical Council of 325 mention 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 the ruler of Indo-Parthian Kingdom as an architect and carpenter by Habban. The journey to India is described in detail. After a long residence in the court at Taxila 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. Some Greeks Satraps, the descendents of Alexander the Great, were vassals to the Indo-Parthian Kingdom. The king Misdeus was infuriated when St.Thomas converted the Queen Tertia, son Juzanes, sister-in-law princess Mygdonia (a province of Mesopotamia) 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. Syphoruswas 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, the Kushan emperor, the bones of St. Thomas were transferred from the Indus Valley to Edessa. 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 makes a passing reference to St. Thomas’ Apostolate in Parthia. This agrees with the testimony which Eusebius records about Pantaenus‘ visit to India.
- 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” 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 taught with great acclaim in Alexandria and then in Caesarea. He is the first known writer to record the casting of lots by the Apostles. Origen 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: 4th century (died 340); Church Represented: Alexandrian/Greek Biographical  Quoting Origen, 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: 4th century; Church Represented: Syrian Biographical  Many devotional hymns composed by St. Ephraem, bear witness to the Edessan Church’s strong conviction concerning St. Thomas’s Indian Apostolate. There the devil speaks of St. Thomas as “the Apostle I slew in India”. 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, 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: 4th century(died 389); Church Represented: Alexandrian. Biographical Note: Gregory of Nazianzus was born AD 330, consecrated a bishop 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 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’ testimony :“Parthia receives Mathew, India Thomas, Libya Thaddeus, and Phrygia Philip”.
- St. Gregory of Tours (died 594) St. Gregory’s 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 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),a city of India, and there was buried with honour”.
- St. Bede the Venerable (c. 673–735).St. Bede’s testimony : “Peter receives Rome, Andrew Achaia; James Spain; Thomas India; 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 three wicked disciples.”
- —Cyril of Jerusalem, 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 In that Gnostic work, Mary Magdalene (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)
Besides the Acts of Thomas there was a widely circulated Infancy Gospel of Thomas probably written in the later 2nd century, and probably also in Syria, 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. This gospel was first referred to by Irenaeus; 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 theGospel of Luke (Luke 2:49). 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 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, a noncanonical work whose date is disputed. The opening line claims it is the work of “Didymos Judas Thomas” – whose identity is unknown. This work was discovered in a Coptic translation in 1945 at the Egyptian village of Nag Hammadi, 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 found at Oxyrhynchus in the 1890s.
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