Thomas the Apostle
Thomas the Apostle (also known as St. Thomas in the Catholic Church) was one of Jesus’ 12 apostles during his ministry in Israel, and is depicted in the hit show The Chosen. Thomas was a dedicated and brave follower of Jesus and later helped spread His gospel across the world. Thomas’ name in Greek means “twin,” and he is often referred to as the Apostle of India, the patron saint of architecture, and the patron saint of the blind. But who was Thomas the Apostle? What was his life like?
Who Was Thomas before He Was an Apostle?
Not much is known about the early life of Thomas. There are no mentions of his life before apostleship in the Bible, and there are no other known records about him. He was most likely born in Galilee in first century Israel. He possibly worked as a carpenter by trade rather than as a fisherman. Thomas was a Jew, but historians aren't sure how he first came in contact with Jesus. Thomas was first introduced in The Chosen in Season 1 Episode 5.
What Was Thomas Like as an Apostle?
Thomas is mentioned in all four gospels, but the Book of John is where we learn the most about who he was. One of the first stories with Thomas is when Jesus is going to visit his sick friend Lazarus in Judea. At this time, Jesus was despised by the authorities in Jerusalem for His miracles and teachings, so it was dangerous to pass so close to potential hostilities. Most of the apostles were afraid that Jesus would be stoned, but Thomas showed his bravery and dedication to Jesus. In John 11:16, Thomas said, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.” After this faithful declaration, all of the apostles joined Jesus on the journey to Judea where Jesus later raised Lazarus from the dead.
Thomas was also an inquisitive student of Jesus' teachings. At the Last Supper, Jesus discussed His death saying, “Do not let your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also. And you know the way where I am going.”
In response, Thomas made this declaration, “Lord, we do not know where you are going, how do we know the way?” (John 14:5). While Thomas misunderstood what Jesus was talking about, this instance shows that Thomas was inquisitive and always striving to learn more about Jesus' teachings. He asked questions and sought to better understand what he didn’t know.
What Is Thomas the Apostle Known for?
Thomas is most known for his reaction after Jesus' resurrection. While the other apostles believed Mary about the resurrection, Thomas didn’t initially believe. This instance is where he got the name “Doubting Thomas.” The resurrected Christ went to the Upper Room to visit with his apostles and followers, and Thomas was notably absent from this event because he didn’t believe. He said, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in His hands and put my finger into the nail marks, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe” (Luke 20:25).
Eight days later, Thomas the disciple had the opportunity to see the marks of the nails and put his hand into his side. He saw Jesus resurrected, fell to his knees at Jesus' feet, and said, “My Lord and my God!” While he had doubted before seeing, Thomas makes this declaration of Jesus' divinity, something that is important to have in the scriptural account of the resurrection. In fact, Thomas’ declaration of Jesus' divinity is the first account recorded in the scriptures. Thomas’ reaction after the resurrection is what he’s most known for as an apostle, despite many instances of being a loyal follower of Jesus.
Was Thomas a Missionary?
Thomas was a missionary and helped spread Jesus' gospel across the world. There are varying accounts of his missionary work, but most people agree his mission spread all the way to India. Some accounts also say that Thomas was reluctant to go to India. The apostles had divided up the known area for missionary work, and India fell to Thomas, but he felt he wasn’t healthy enough to travel to India.
He didn’t change his mind after a vision of Christ. Instead, he was sold as a slave to a king in India. In India, the king gave him money to build a palace that would last forever, and Thomas gave that money to the poor. He later told the king he was building a palace in heaven and not earth. Once Thomas was ready to accept God’s will and be a missionary, he was freed from slavery and able to preach the gospel in India.
Because of his teaching in India, Thomas is remembered as the Apostle of India. There is even a Christian congregation along the Malabar Coast in India that claims they were originally converted by Thomas himself when he was in India. He is believed to have founded the Syrian Malabar Christians Church and the St. Thomas Church founded on the west coast of India in Palayoor. There are other varying accounts that he visited many other countries like Persia, Indonesia, and China, but India was the main focus of his missionary work.
How Did Thomas Die?
Like the rest of the apostles, Thomas sealed his life and mission by dying for Jesus. There are varying accounts of Thomas’ death, but most agree that he died in India. Thomas was killed with a spear during prayer on the “Big Hill” near Madras, India. Some believe he was killed with a spear on accident while others believe he was martyred for his beliefs. Most likely, he was killed by jealous Hindu priests of Kali on December 21 AD 72. He was originally buried in Mylapore, on the east coast of India. His remains were later moved to Ortona, Italy where they are today.
How is Thomas Remembered Today?
Thomas is still remembered and revered for his faith today. In the Catholic tradition, they celebrate a feast day on July 3 for St. Thomas. He has also become the patron saint of craftsmen, including architects, carpenters, and masons. Most likely this is because he may have been a carpenter himself. In many Christian traditions, there are churches, basilicas, schools, and more all named for Thomas. From India to Italy and America, there are beautiful churches and schools all remembering Thomas, Jesus’ apostle.
If you haven’t already, check out Angel Studios’ The Chosen to view the first-ever multi-season show about the life of Jesus. This historical drama set in Judaea and Galilee in the first century CE follows Jesus and those whom He met and ministered to.