Thom'as (θωμᾶς), one of the twelve apostles. A.D. 27-29.
1. His Name. —This is evidently a Graecized form of the Aramaic תּאֹמָא, Tomd, which means the twin; and so it is translated in Joh 11:16; Joh 20:24; Joh 21:2, ὁ Δί δυμος, which has passed into a name, Didymus (q.v.). This name occurs also on Phoenician inscriptions in a form which reminds us of the colloquial English abbreviation, viz. תאום and תאם (Gesenius, Monumenta, "p. 356). In Heb. also (Song 7:4) it is simply תּאֹם, feom, almost exactly our "Tom." The frequency of the name in England is derived not from the apostle, but from St. Thomas of Canterbury. Out of the signification of this name has grown the tradition that he had a twin-sister, Lysia (Patres Apost. p. 272), or that he was a twin-brother of our Lord (Thilo, Acta Thomae, p. 94); which last, again, would confirm his identification with Jude (comp. Mt 13:55), with whom Eusebius expressly identifies him (Hist. Eccles. 1, 13; so also the Acta Thomae). This may have been a mere confusion with Thaddaeus (q.v.), who is mentioned in the extract. But it may also be that Judas was his real name, and that Thomas was a surname.
2. History and Character from the New Test. —(We here chiefly adopt Stanley's art. in Smith's Dict. of the Bible). In the catalogue of the apostles he is coupled with Matthew in Mt 10:3; Mark 3, 18; Lu 6:15; and with Philip in Ac 1; Ac 13.
All that we know of him is derived from the Gospel of John; and this amounts to three traits, which, however, so exactly agree together that, slight as they are, they place his character before us with a, precision which belongs to no other of the twelve apostles, except Peter, John, and Judas Iscariot. This character is that of a man slow to believe, seeing all the difficulties of a case, subject to despondency, viewing things on the darker side, and yet full of ardent love for his Master (see Niemeyer, Charakt. 1, 108).
(a.) The first trait is found in his speech when our Lord determined to face the dangers that awaited him in Judaea on his journey to Bethany. Thomas said to his fellow-disciples, "Let us also go (καὶ ἡμεῖς), that wee may die with him" (Joh 11:16). He entertained no hope of his escape-he looked on the journey as leading to total ruin; but he determined to share the peril. "Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him."
(b.) The second occurs in his speech during the last supper: "Thomas saith unto him, Lord, we know not whither thou goest; and how can we know the way?" (Joh 14:5). It was the prosaic, incredulous doubt as to moving a step in the unseen future, and yet an eager inquiry to know how this step was to be taken.
(c.) The third was after the resurrection. He was absent-possibly by accident, perhaps characteristically from the first assembly when Jesus had appeared. The others told him what they had seen. He broke forth into an exclamation, the terms of which convey to us at once the vehemence of his doubt, and, at the same time, the vivid picture that his mind retained of his Master's form as he had last seen him lifeless on the cross: "Except I see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into his side, I will not, I cannot, believe" (οὐ μὴ πιστεύσω, Joh 20:25). On the eighth day he was with them at their gathering, perhaps in expectation of a recurrence of the visit of the previous week; and Jesus stood among them. He pronounced the same salutation, "Peace be unto you;" and then, turning to Thomas, as if this had been the special object of his appearance, uttered the words which convey as strongly the sense of condemnation and tender reproof as those of Thomas had shown the sense of hesitation and doubt: "Bring: thy finger hither [ωδε as if himself pointing to his wounds] and see my hands; and bring thy hand and thrust it in my side; and do not become (μὴ γίνου) unbelieving (ἄπιστος), but believing (πιστός)." "He answers to the words that Thomas had spoken to the ears of his fellow-disciples only; but it is to the thought of his heart rather than to the words of his lips that the Searcher of hearts answers. Eye, ear, and touch at once appealed to and at once satisfied-the form, the look, the voice, the solid and actual body: and not the senses only, but the mind satisfied too; the knowledge that searches the very reins and the hearts; the love that loveth to the end, infinite and eternal" (Arnold, Serm. 6:238). The effect on Thomas is immediate. It is useless to speculate whether he obeyed our Lord's invitation to examine the wounds. The impression is that he did not. Be that as it may, the conviction produced by the removal of his doubt became deeper and stronger than that of any of the other apostles. The words in which he expressed his belief contain a far higher assertion of his Master's divine nature than is contained in any other expression used by apostolic lips, "My Lord, and my God f Some have supposed that κύριος refers to the human θεός to the divine nature. 'This is too artificial. 'It is more to the point to observe the exact terms of the sentence, uttered, as it were, in astonished awe. "It is, then, my Lord and my God!" (It is obviously of no dogmatic importance whether the words are an address or a description. That they are the latter appears from the use of the nominative ὁ κύριος. The form ὁ θεός proves nothing, as this is used for the vocative. At the same time, it should be observed that the passage is said to Christ, ειπεν αὐτῶ.) The word "my" gives it a personal application to himself. Additional emphasis is given to this declaration from its being the last incident related in the direct narrative of the gospel (before the supplement of ch. 21), thus corresponding to the opening words of the prologue. '"Thus Christ was acknowledged on earth to be what John had in the beginning of his gospel declared him to be from all eternity; and the words of Thomas at the end of the twentieth chapter do but repeat the truth which John had stated before in his own words at the beginning of the first" (Arnold, Serm. 6:401). The answer of our Lord sums up the moral of the whole narrative: "Because ["Thomas" (θῶμα) is omitted in the best MSS.] thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen me, and yet have believed" (20, 29). By this incident, therefore, Thomas, "the doubting apostle," is raised at once to the theologian in the original sense of the word. "Ab eo dubitatum est," says Augustine, "ne a nobis dubitaretur." Winer and others find in the character of Thomas what they consider contradictory traits, viz. inconsiderate faith and a turn for exacting the most rigorous evidence. We find that a resolute and lively faith is always necessarily combined with a sense of its importance, and with a desire to keep its objects unalloyed and free from error and superstition. Christ himself did not blame Thomas for availing himself of all possible evidence, but only pronounced those blessed who would be open to conviction even if some external form of evidence should not be within their reach (comp.
Niemeyer, Akademische Predigten und Reden, p. 321 sq.). Monographs have been written in Latin on this scene in Thomas's life by Carpzov (Helmst. 1757), id. (Vim. 1765), Rost (Budiss. 1785), and Gram (Nurimb. 1618).
In the New Test. we hear of Thomas only twice again-once on the Sea of Galilee with the seven disciples, where he is ranked next after Peter (Joh 21:2), and again in the assemblage of the apostles after the Ascension (Ac 1; Ac 13).
3. Traditions. —Thomas is said to have been born at Antioch, and (as above stated) to have had a twin-sister named Lysia (Patres Apost. ed. Coteler. p. 272, 512). The earlier traditions, as believed in the 4th century (Origen, ap. Euseb. Hist. Eccles 1, 13; 3, 1; Socrates, Hist. Eccles. 1, 19), represent him as preaching in Parthia (Clement. Recogn. 9:29) or Persia (according to Jerome; see also Rufinus, Hist. Eccles. 2, 4), and as finally buried at Edessa (Socrates, Hist. Eccles. 4:18). Chrysostom mentions his grave at Edessa as being one of the four genuine tombs of apostles, the other three being Peter, Paul, and John (Hom. in Heb. 26). With his burial at Edessa agrees the story of his sending Thaddaeus to Abgarus with our Lord's letter (Euseb. Hist. Eccles. 1, 13). According to a later tradition, Thomas went to India and suffered martyrdom there (Gregor. Naz. Orat. 25 ad Arian. p. 438, ed. Par.; Ambrose, in Psalm 45, 10; Jerome, Ep. 148  ad Marcell.; Niceph. Hist. Eccles. 2, 40; Acta Thomae, ch. 1 sq.; Abdise Hist. Apost. ch. 9; Paulin. a S. Bartholomaeo, India Orient. Christiana [Romans 1794]). This tradition has been attacked by Von Bohlen (Indien, 1, 375 sq.). The ancient congregations of Christians in India who belong to the Syrian Church are called Thomas-Christians, and consider the apostle Thomas to be their founder (Fabricius, Lux Evangelii, p. 626 sq.; Assemani, Biblioth. Orient, III, 2. 435 sq.; Ritter, Erdkunde, V, 1, 601 sq.). -Against this tradition Thilo wrote in his edition of the Acta Thomae, p. 107 sq. (comp. Augusti, Denkwgurdigkeien, ir,. 219 sq.). This later tradition is now usually regarded as arising from a confusion with a later Thomas, a missionary from the Nestorians. His martyrdom. (whether in Persia or India) is said to have been occasioned. by a lance, and is commemorated by the Latin Church, on Dec. 21, by the Greek Church on Oct. 6, and by the Indians on July 1. (For these traditions and their authorities, see Butler, Lives of the Saints, Dec. 21.)
4. The fathers frequently quote an Evangelium secundum Thomam and Acta Thomae, the fragments of the former of which have been edited by Thilo, in his Codex Apocryphus Novi Testamenti, 1, 275; and by Tischendorf, in his Evangelica Apocrypha (Lips. 1843); and the Acta Thomae separately by Thilo (ibid. 1823); and by Tischendorf, in his Acta Apocrypha (ibid. 1851) SEE APOCRYPHA; SEE THOMAS, WRITINGS OF.