The Apostle Thomas and India



July 3rd is held to be the ‘day’ for Thomas the apostle.  He is believed to have been stabbed with a spear c.72 in while in prayer on a hill in Mylapur, India.

Thomas is mentioned various times in the Bible.  In Matthew 10:3, Mark 3:18, and Luke 6:15 his name is listed next to the Apostle Matthew.

He seemed to have a certain bravery, was willing to ask questions, and apparently was a twin or perhaps resembled someone else well:

12 Then His disciples said, “Lord, if he sleeps he will get well.” 13 However, Jesus spoke of his death, but they thought that He was speaking about taking rest in sleep.

14 Then Jesus said to them plainly, “Lazarus is dead.  15 And I am glad for your sakes that I was not there, that you may believe. Nevertheless let us go to him.”

16 Then Thomas, who is called the Twin, said to his fellow disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with Him.”  (John 11:12-16)

“Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me.  2 In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.  3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.  4 And where I go you know, and the way you know.”

5 Thomas said to Him, “Lord, we do not know where You are going, and how can we know the way?”  (John 14:1-5)

1 After these things Jesus showed Himself again to the disciples at the Sea of Tiberias, and in this way He showed Himself:  2 Simon Peter, Thomas called the Twin, Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two others of His disciples were together. 3 Simon Peter said to them, “I am going fishing.”

They said to him, “We are going with you also.” They went out and immediately got into the boat, and that night they caught nothing.  (John 21:1-4)

12 Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a Sabbath day’s journey. 13 And when they had entered, they went up into the upper room where they were staying: Peter, James, John, and Andrew; Philip and Thomas; Bartholomew and Matthew; James the son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot; and Judas the son of James. 14 These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with His brothers.  (Acts 1:12-14)

He is probably best known for the following:

24 Now Thomas, called the Twin, one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. 25 The other disciples therefore 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 finger into the print of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe.”

26 And after eight days His disciples were again inside, and Thomas with them. Jesus came, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, “Peace to you!”  27 Then He 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.”

28 And Thomas answered and said to Him, “My Lord and my God!”

29 Jesus said to him,  “Thomas, because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”  (John 20:24-29)

Yet, if the legends about him later are true, he traveled farther than any other apostle.  Some believe that he reached Malaysia and perhaps even the edges of China itself.  But he seems best known for apparently reaching India.

In the early third century, Hippolytus wrote about Bartholomew and Thomas:

Bartholomew, again, preached to the Indians, to whom he also gave the Gospel according to Matthew, and was crucified with his head downward, and was buried in Allanum, a town of the great Armenia…

And Thomas preached to the Parthians, Medes, Persians, Hyrcanians, Bactrians, and Margians, and was thrust through in the four members of his body with a pine spears at Calamene, the city of India, and was buried there (Hippolytus. On The Twelve Apostles).

This may be the earliest reference to any form of Christianity coming to India.

One legend, that was written down in the late 1800s, but has been questioned, concerns Thomas:

The Rabban Song, which has been passed down orally by generations of Indian Christians, recounts Thomas’ career in India in some detail. It states that the apostle arrived in India in late A.D. 49, stayed briefly then went to China. This generally agrees with Indian traditions. Such a trip would have occurred shortly after Thomas’s arrival in South India. Farquhar and Garitte believe that it is unlikely that Thomas actually went to China proper–certainly not Peking–within the short space of perhaps a year alotted by the Indian narratives. They believe that he did evangelize in what are now Burma and Malaysia for a short time before returning to South India. According to the Rabban Song, between A.D. 52 and 59 Thomas founded seven churches and baptized one king…In A.D. 69, Thomas settled permanently in Mylapore…According to most Indian traditions, Thomas died of stab wounds on July 3, A.D. 72. The Braham priests of Mylapore feared that Christianity would eclipse Hinduism (Ruffin C.B. The Twelve: The Lives of the Apostles After Calvary. Our Sunday Visitor, Huntington (IN), 1997, pp. 132-134).

“St. Thomas Christians” are claimed to be an ancient body of professing Christians on the east and west coasts of India. They claim spiritual descent from the Apostle Thomas and also claim various versions of the Ramban Pattu (Rabban Song). While none that I am aware of still keep the same faith that the Apostle Thomas kept, as they eventually accepted Roman dominance, it is probable that the Apostle Thomas was there and that there have been Christians in India since the times of the apostles (it should also be noted that there is, however, a congregation in the South-east coastal region of India in the area of Bhimavaram that does practice true Christianity–it is just that they do not refer to themselves as “St. Thomas Christians”.

The Catholic Encyclopedia mentions this about the “St. Thomas Christians”:

St. Thomas Christians An ancient body of Christians on the east and west coasts of India, claiming spiritual descent from the Apostle St. Thomas…

Theophilus (surnamed the Indian) — an Arian, sent by Emperor Constantius (about 354) on a mission to Arabia Felix and Abyssinia — is one of the earliest, if not the first, who draws our attention to them…The people referred to were the Christians known as a body who had their liturgy in the Syriac language and inhabited the west coast of India, i.e. Malabar…

Gregory of Tours (Glor. Mart.), before 590, reports that Theodore, a pilgrim who had gone to Gaul, told him that in that part of India where the corpus (bones) of Thomas the Apostle had first rested (Mylapur on the east or the Coromandel Coast of India) there stood a monastery and a church of striking dimensions and elaboratedly adorned, adding: “After a long interval of time these remains had been removed thence to the city of Edessa.” The location of the first tomb of the Apostle in India is proof both of his martyrdom and of its Apostolate in India. The evidence of Theodore is that of an eyewitness who had visited both tombs — the first in India, while the second was at Edessa. The primitive Christians, therefore, found on both coasts, east and west, witness to and locate the tomb at Mylapur, “St. Thomas”, a little to the south of Madras; no other place in India lays any claim to possess the tomb, nor does any other country. On these facts is based their claim to be known as St. Thomas Christians…

There is one incident of the long period of isolation of the St. Thomas Christians from the rest of the Christian world which they are never tired of relating, and it is one of considerable importance to them for the civil status it conferred and secured to them in the country. This is the narrative of the arrival of a Syrian merchant on their shores, a certain Mar Thoma Cana — the Portuguese have named him Cananeo and styled him an Armenian, which he was not. He arrived by ship on the coast and entered the port of Cranganore. The King of Malabar, Cheruman Perumal, was in the vicinity, and receiving information of his arrival sent for him and admitted him to his presence…

It was only after the conversion of Sulaka in 1552 that the Chaldeans in part returned to the unity of faith. The truth is that the Malabar Church remained from A.D. 496 up till then in heresy….

During the centuries that these Christians were isolated from the rest of Christendom, their sole intercourse was limited to Mesopotamia…But from the close of the thirteenth century Western travellers, chiefly missionaries sent out by the popes, sent to the West occasional news of their existence (Medlycott, A.E. Transcribed by Mary and Joseph P. Thomas. St. Thomas Christians. The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume XIV. Published 1912. New York: Robert Appleton Company. Nihil Obstat, July 1, 1912. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York).

Whether or not Thomas Cana was completely Syrian or part Armenian, the religion that his followers embraced was not one that allowed them to accept the authority of the Roman Church. Thomas Cana is believed to have died around 346 A.D. But eventually (after 1552) the bulk of the “St. Thomas Christians” accepted Roman authority–hence would no longer have some of the characteristics of the early Christian church.

The reality, as real scholars will admit, the professing Christian world was NOT dominated by nor led by the Church of Rome in the first couple of centuries after Jesus’ resurrection.  Church of God doctrines were found in many places including India, Asia Minor, various parts of Europe, and the British Isles.

Some items of possibly-related prophetic interest may include:

India, Its Biblical Past and Future: Any Witness? The Bible discusses the origins of those of Indian heritage and discusses some of the witness to them (including those in Bangladesh, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka).
Asia in Prophecy What is Ahead for Asia? Who are the “Kings of the East”? What will happen to nearly all the Chinese, Russians, Indians, and others of Asia? Who has the 200,000,000 man army related to Armageddon?
The History of Early Christianity Are you aware that what most people believe is not what truly happened to the true Christian church? Do you know where the early church was based? Do you know what were the doctrines of the early church? Is your faith really based upon the truth or compromise?
News Articles Related to Church History This link is to articles on Church history that were once published on the COG News Page.
The Churches of Revelation 2 & 3 Do they matter? Most say they must, but act like they do not. This article contains some history about the Church of God (sometimes referred to as the continuation of Primitive Christianity) over the past 2000 years. It also discusses the concept of church eras.
What Do Roman Catholic Scholars Actually Teach About Early Church History? Although most believe that the Roman Catholic Church history teaches an unbroken line of succession of bishops beginning with Peter, with stories about most of them, Roman Catholic scholars know the truth of this matter. Is telling the truth about the early church citing Catholic accepted sources anti-Catholic? This eye-opening article is a must-read for any who really wants to know what Roman Catholic history actually admits about the early church. There is also a YouTube sermon on the subject titled Church of God or Church of Rome: What Do Catholic Scholars Admit About Early Church History?
Nazarene Christianity: Were the Original Christians Nazarenes? Should Christians be Nazarenes today? What were the practices of the Nazarenes.
Location of the Early Church: Another Look at Ephesus, Smyrna, and Rome What actually happened to the primitive Church? And did the Bible tell about this in advance?
Apostolic Succession What really happened? Did structure and beliefs change? Are many of the widely-held current understandings of this even possible? Did you know that Catholic scholars really do not believe that several of the claimed “apostolic sees” of the Orthodox have apostolic succession–despite the fact that the current pontiff himself seems to wish to ignore this view?  Is there actually a true church that has ties to any of the apostles that is not part of the Catholic or Orthodox churches?  Read this article if you truly are interested in the truth on this matter!
Early Church History: Who Were the Two Major Groups Professed Christ in the Second and Third Centuries? Did you know that many in the second and third centuries felt that there were two major, and separate, professing Christian groups in the second century, but that those in the majority churches tend to now blend the groups together and claim “saints” from both? “Saints” that condemn some of their current beliefs. Who are the two groups?

Get news like the above sent to you on a daily basis

Your email will not be shared. You may unsubscribe at anytime.