Feast Day: October 6
According to one tradition, the Apostle Thomas was a fisherman from Galilee. He was called Didymus in Greek, which means “twin.” Since the Gospels list Matthew and Thomas together when referring to the Twelve (Mt 10:3; Mk 3:18; Lk 6:15), some have suggested that they may have been twin brothers. However, there is no definitive evidence with respect to the identity of the twin brother of Thomas.
The Gospel of John tells us that when Lazarus had died, Jesus said to His disciples, “Let us go to Judea again” (Jn 11:7). But the disciples were afraid to go. During their last visit to Jerusalem, an attempt had been made to seize Jesus and to stone Him to death (Jn 10:39; 11:8). It was Thomas who then spoke out bravely and said: “Let us also go, that we may die with Him” (Jn 11:16).
After the death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ, Thomas was the last Apostle to believe that the Lord had truly risen from the dead. However, when Jesus appeared to him and invited him to touch his hands and his side, Thomas responded with great faith. He was the first apostle to openly confess the divinity of Jesus by saying, “My Lord and my God!” (Jn 20:28).
Thomas was the only Apostle to travel far beyond the borders of the Roman Empire in hope of spreading the Good News among all people.
According to ancient tradition, Thomas first preached the Gospel in Syria and in the Parthian Empire (Iraq and Iran). He then went on to western India (Pakistan) and finally, to southern India. Arriving in Kerala in AD 52, Thomas preached the Gospel with great success, establishing seven churches in India within twenty years.
While preaching in the city of Meliapur (Melipur), Thomas succeeded in converting the wife and son of the Indian prince, Misdaeus. This infuriated the prince. He sent five soldiers to arrest Thomas. They took him to a mountain outside the city and pierced him to death with their spears. It is believed that the apostle Thomas died a martyr’s death in the year AD 72.
In the course of history, the various churches established by the apostle Thomas were united together to form the East Syrian Church. This Church, extending from Syria to India, shared the same liturgical, spiritual and ecclesial traditions. They referred to themselves as “Thomas Christians.”