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St. Thomas, the Disciple

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    St. Thomas, the Disciple (? û A. D. 72) Dr. K. Mani Rajan Cor-episcopo St. Thomas, one among the twelve disciples of Jesus Christ, was a Jew. He was probably
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    St. Thomas, the Disciple
    (? – A. D. 72)
    Dr. K. Mani Rajan Cor-episcopo


    St. Thomas, one among the twelve disciples of Jesus Christ, was a Jew.
    He was probably from Galeele (Aphrem, 1964; White 1991). Thomas in
    Armaic Syriac is known as Teoma and in
    Greek Didymus (John: 11:16; 20:24). The meaning of these words is twin
    (The encyclopedia Americana, 1988). The name “twin” was called because
    of his twin brother Adai who later was the Episcopo of Edessa (Aphrem
    Aboodi, 1966; Curien, 1982). Thomas was most probably a carpenter
    (Britannica, 1988). The Bible has only a few references to Thomas, the
    disciple. Jesus went to Bethany after the death of Lazarus. Thomas along
    with other disciples went with Jesus. Thomas said to his fellow
    disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with Him” (John 11:16). The
    willingness of Thomas to follow Jesus unto death was fulfilled in his
    life.

    On another occasion Jesus said, “And where I go you know,
    and the way you know” (John 14:4). Thomas said unto Him, “Lord, we do
    not know where you are going and how can we know the way?” (John 14:5).
    Jesus said to him “I am the way, the truth, and the life . . .” (John
    14:6). Thomas puts questions like a child for he wants to know and
    believe. After the resurrection of Jesus Christ, He appeared to the
    disciples and Thomas was not with them (John 20:24). The other disciples
    said to him, “We have seen the Lord” so he said to them, “unless I see
    in His hands, the print of the nails, and put my fingers into the print
    of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe” (John
    20:25). Doubt is the first step to belief. Jesus Christ cleared his
    earnest doubt. “ . . . Jesus came and said to Thomas, reach your finger
    here, and look at my hands; and reach your hand here, and put it into my
    side. Do not be unbelieving, but believing. And Thomas answered and
    said to Him, “My Lord and My God !” (John 20:26-28). This confession of
    faith is repeated in the Holy mass when the second coming of Jesus is
    commemorated. This proclamation is the sum total of the salvific act of
    Jesus Christ on earth.

    Apart from the New Testament references,
    Mor Aphrem, the Syrian (306-373); Gregory of Nazianzen (330-395), John
    Chrysostom (347-407), and Jacob of Sarug (451-521) have described the
    work of Thomas in India (Panicker, 1989; Koodapuzha, 1984; Kolangadan,
    1995-96). These accounts are based on the ‘Acts of St. Thomas’. Some
    stone writings, coins and Tamil writings have been triangulated to
    suggest the work of St. Thomas in India (D’Souza, 1952; Paul, 1997).
    Moreover, the prayers of Syrian Church fathers written in the 4th and
    5th centuries are relied on to establish that St. Thomas preached Gospel
    in India.

    In the memre’ of Jacob of Sarug, it is said that
    the lot fell on Thomas to go to India. Thomas was hesitant to go to the
    black Indians (Panicker, 1989). Then, Thomas was sold as a slave to
    Haban (Aban), a merchant. It is also mentioned in prayers that he was
    sold as a mason for the construction of a building for a king (Abraham,
    1981, p. 212). This 1st century king’s name is given as Gondaphorus
    (Kolangadan, 1995- 96). The king is also referred as Gudnapher
    (Menachery, 1973). Some coins of Gondophares and Gad (brother of the
    king) were discovered in North India in the 19th century. It must be
    said, however, that it by no means certain that Gordophares of the coins
    is the same person as Gudnapher of the Acts of St. Thomas (Menachery,
    1973, p. 3).
    St. Thomas was ordered to build a palace for the King.
    He was entrusted with twenty pieces of silver. However, when the King
    was absent, he used the silver for charitable purposes. When the King
    returned, he imprisoned St. Thomas, intending to flay him alive (White,
    1991, p. 360). At that juncture, the King’s brother died, and when the
    brother was shown the place in heaven that Thomas’s good work had
    prepared for the King, he was allowed to return to earth and offer to
    buy the spot from the King for himself. The King refused, released
    Thomas, and was converted by him. The incident is alluded to in the
    evening prayer (Bovuso) of the first Sunday after Easter.

    There
    are other accounts regarding the life of St. Thomas in India referred
    to by other writers. It is said that the King’s brother (Gad) was called
    to life by St. Thomas after his death (Menachery, 1973). It is also
    mentioned that St. Thomas attended the marriage of the King’s daughter.
    He was beaten up at the banquet. That person’s hand was torn off by a
    dog, which St. Thomas healed (Panicker, 1989, p. 61). The miracle done
    at the wedding feast is referred to in the morning prayer of the first
    Sunday after Easter (Abraham, 1981, p. 213).

    The Evangelisation
    of St. Thomas was primarily in the Kingdom of Gudnapher and then in
    places under King Mazdai (Menachery, 1973, p. 3). It is believed that
    St. Thomas landed at Kodungaloor in A. D. 52. He preached gospel to
    Jews and then to Gentiles. He established houses of worship at
    Maliankara, Kollam, Niranam, Chayal (Nilakkal), Gokkamangalam, Paravur
    (Kottakkavu), and Palayoor (D’Souza, 1952; Aphrem, 1964). He appointed
    as priests elders from four Brahmin families, namely; Shankarapuri,
    Pakalomattom, Kalli and Kaliyankal and then went to Malakka.

    In
    A. D. 72 he was pierced with a lance on December 18 and entered the
    heavenly abode on December 21 at Mylapore near Chennai, India. St.
    Thomas was buried at Mylapore, Chennai. On 3rd July A. D. 394 the holy
    remains were transferred to Urhoy (Edessa) and interred there on August
    22 (Aphrem, 1964). The relocation of the relic of St. Thomas to Urhoy is
    described in the Hoothomo of the feast day. Later the holy relics were
    transferred to the St. Thomas Syrian Orthodox Cathedral in Mosul, Iraq. A
    portion of the relics was discovered by His Grace Mor Severios Zakka
    (later Patriarch) in the altar of the St. Thomas church, Mosul, Iraq,
    during renovation work in 1964.

    St. Thomas is considered to be the
    patron of builders by the Western Church. Three dates are observed as
    the feast days of St. Thomas. They are: New Sunday (a movable feast),
    July 3 – transportation of the relic to Urhoy, and December 21 –
    martyrdom.

    References
    Aphrem Paulose Ramban (1964). Sheemakkaraya Pithakkanmar (Fr. T. J. Abraham, Trans.) Manjanikkara: Mor Ignatius Dayara.


    Aprem Aboodi Ramban (1966). Stuthi chowayakkapetta suriyani sabha.
    (Madappattu Yacoub Ramban, Trans). Pathanamthitta: Ajantha Press.

    Curien Corepiscopa Kaniyamparambil (1982). Suriyani Sabha Thiruvalla: Chev. K. T. Alexander Kaniyanthra.

    D’souza, H. (1952). In the steps of St.Thomas. Madras: The Diocese of Mylapore.

    Kolangadan, J. (1995-96). The historicity of Apostle Thomas evangelisation in Kerala. The Harp, VIII & IX, 305-327.

    Koodpuzha, S. (Ed.) (1984). Thirusabha charithram (2nd ed.). Kottayam: Oriental Institue of Religious Studies.

    Menachery, G. (Ed.) (1973). The St.Thomas Chistian encyclopaedia of India ((Vol. II). Trichur.

    The new encyclopaedia Britannica. (1988). Encyclopaedia Britannica Inc.

    White, K. E. (1991). A guide to the saints. New York: Ivy Books.
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