Smith's Bible Dictionary


Thom'as. (a twin). One of the apostles. According to Eusebius, his real name was Judas. This may have been a mere confusion with Thaddeus, who is mentioned in the extract. But it may also be that; Thomas was a surname. Out of this name has grown the tradition that he had a twin sister, Lydia, or that he was a twin brother of our Lord; which last, again, would confirm his identification with Judas. Compare Mat_13:55. He is said to have been born at Antioch. In the catalogue of the apostles, he is coupled with Matthew in Mat_10:3; Mar_3:18; Luk_6:15, and with Philip in Act_1:13.

All that we know of him is derived from the Gospel of St. 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, yet full of ardent love of his Master. The latter trait was shown in his speech when our Lord determined to face the dangers that awaited him in Judea on his journey to Bethany. Thomas said to his fellow disciples, "Let us also go, that we may die with him." Joh_11:16.

His unbelief appeared in his question 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 as to how this step was to be taken. The first-named trait was seen 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. 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 uttered 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. "Reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into my side: and be not faithless, but believing." Joh_20:27.

The effect on him was immediate. 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." The answer of our Lord sums up the moral of the whole narrative: "Because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen me, and yet have-believed." Joh_20:29.

In the New Testament, 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. Act_1:13.

The earlier traditions, as believed in the fourth century, represent him as preaching in Parthia or Persia, and as finally buried at Edessa. The later traditions carry him farther east, His martyrdom, whether in Persia or India, is said to have been occasioned by a lance, and is commemorated, by the Latin Church, on December 21; by the Greek Church, on October 6; and by the Indians, on July 1.


Taken from: Smith's Bible Dictionary by Dr. William Smith (1884)