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St. Thomas the Apostle: Biography, Facts & Quotes

Instructor: Tommi Waters

TK Waters has a bachelor's degree in literature and religious studies and a master's degree in religious studies and teaches Hebrew Bible at Western Kentucky University.

Thomas is one of the most famous - and often most disgraced - of Jesus' disciples because of the incident where he asks Jesus for physical proof of his resurrection. Read more about this and Thomas' life in this lesson.

Thomas the Apostle

Have you ever heard the phrase ''doubting Thomas'' used to refer to someone who did not have faith in something? This phrase has its origins 2,000 years ago with the actions of one of Jesus' apostles, Thomas. While Thomas' character is mentioned in the other gospels, only the Gospel of John, which focuses more on Jesus' divinity, develops his character. From what we can tell (since the gospels focus on Jesus rather than minute details about the apostles), Thomas was born in Galilee, a region bordering the Sea of Galilee where Jesus was said to have walked on water.

Eastern depiction of Thomas the Apostle
Eastern depiction of Thomas the Apostle

Doubting Thomas

The ''Way''

When we first meet Thomas in the Gospel of John, he plays a minor role and all we are told about him is that his name means ''twin''. Thomas' character is developed later in the gospel as a questioner. Jesus tells his disciples about his future return which will result in him always being with his followers. Thomas cannot understand what Jesus is saying and replies, ''Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?'' Jesus explains that he is the ''way,'' but what we see from this exchange for our purposes in this lesson is Thomas' personality. While some of the disciples are content with Jesus' answers that are symbolic and philosophically worded, Thomas relies on his logic - how can you find someone if do not know where they are going or how to get there?

Thomas and the Resurrected Jesus

The same type of thing happens in the event which gives Thomas his ''doubter'' title. Jesus had been crucified, having nails driven through his ''hands'' (more accurately, the nails would have gone through the wrists) and ankles to pin him onto a cross to execute him. However, according to the Gospel of John, Jesus was resurrected and rose from the dead after three days. It is not surprising that someone focused on logic and facts, who questioned things like how to get to Jesus if he did not know the way, would not believe this.

Jesus appeared to all of his disciples at the same time after his resurrection, showing them the holes on his wrists to prove he was raised from the dead. All of his disciples saw Jesus' scars and recognized he was, in fact, the same man they had followed - just risen from the dead. But Thomas was not with the rest of the disciples at this point. When they relayed the information, Thomas said he would not believe them until he put his finger through the holes in Jesus' hands to see it was true. Rather than being upset with him, Jesus let Thomas put his finger through the holes. While we might find this a gruesome image, it was the proof Thomas needed to recognize this was the same person, causing him to call Jesus ''My Lord and my God'' and recognizing the divinity of Jesus.

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