Catholic priest confirms view that Apostle Thomas made it to India


There have long been reports that the Apostle Thomas made it to India.  A video recently went up that stated that.  Here are a couple of comments about it.

Catholic priest confirms Apostle Thomas came to Goa‬

Catholic priest Cosme of Pilar quote Chronicle confirming Jewish Apostle Thomas arrived in Goa in India, where he baptized two Hindus.

After his arrival in Goa, the Apostle traveled south to the coast of Kerala.

I watched the actual video, and the Catholic priest was reading out of a book, but spoke as if he also agreed with it (his accent was a bit difficult to understand).

It has long been believed that Christianity came to India in the first century, and Thomas may have been involved.

Jesus named twelve men to be apostles and commissioned them to take the gospel to the world (Matthew 28:19-20). One of those was Bartholomew, and another was Thomas who was called “the twin” (John 20:24).

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. Thus, apparently at least two of the original apostles made it to India.

The 4th century historian Eusbius wrote:

Pantænus was one of these, and is said to have gone to India. It is reported that among persons there who knew of Christ, he found the Gospel according to Matthew, which had anticipated his own arrival. For Bartholomew, one of the apostles, had preached to them, and left with them the writing of Matthew in the Hebrew language, which they had preserved till that time (Eusebius. The History of the Church History, Book V, Chapter X, Verse 3.  Translated by A. Cushman McGiffert. Publishing, Stilwell (KS), 2005, p. 105).

Probably because they were Christians who held more in common with the true Christians in Asia Minor, Pantænus left and returned to Alexandria as he was NOT a Judaeo-Christian (Ibid, verse 4).

And that seems to be the view of a more recent Catholic priest and scholar, who also apparently believes that the type of Christianity to first make it to India was that of the Judaeo-Christians:

At the end of the 2nd century the Alexandrine Pantanaenus went to India to preach the Gospel. The inhabitants already had the Hebrew text of the Gospel of St. Matthew, which they received from St. Bartholomew (HE 5,10,3). Recapitualting these short notices on the Judaeo-Christians…

(Bagatti, Bellarmino.  Translated by Eugene Hoade.  The Church from the Circumcision.  Nihil obstat: Marcus Adinolfi. Imprimi potest: Herminius Roncari. Imprimatur: +Albertus Gori, die 26 Junii 1970.  Franciscan Printing Press, Jerusalem, p.29).

Judaeo-Christians kept the Sabbath, observed the Passover on the 14th of Nisan, did not eat pork, etc. (Ibid, pp. 13-14,34).  Some have claimed that Thomas built the first Christian church building there, though that is denied by others (Grey LE. No early church buildings because God called early Christians to build church communities (Part 002), September 8, 2009.

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.

A once eminent church historian, Michael Geddes, wrote of some in Malabar who claimed to come from Armenia:

“The three great doctrines of popery, the pope’s supremacy, transubstantiation, the adoration of images, were never believed nor practiced at any time in this ancient apostolical church. . . . I think one may venture to say that before the time of the late Reformation, there was no church that we know of, no, not that of the the Vaudois, . . . that had so few errors in doctrine as the church of Malabar.” He adds concerning those churches “where never within the bounds of the Roman Empire,” “it is in those churches that we are to meet with the least of the leaven of popery.” (Preface to: Acts and Decrees of the Synod of Diamper. Cited in Andrews J.N. History of the Sabbath and the First Day of the Week. 3rd edition, 1887. Reprint Teach Services, Brushton (NY), 1997, p. 430).

J.W. Massie further describes them:

“The creed with which these representatives of an ancient line of Christians cherished was not in conformity with papal decrees, and has with difficulty been squared with the thirty-nine articles of the Anglican episcopacy. Separated from the western world for a thousand years, they were naturally ignorant of many novelties introduced by the councils and decrees of the Lateran; and their conformity with the faith and practice of the first ages, laid them open to the unpardonable guilt of heresy and schism as estimated by the church of Rome. ‘We are Christians and not idolators,’ was their expressive reply when required to do homage to the image of the Virgin Mary. . . . La Croze states them at fifteen hundred churches, and as many towns and villages. They refused to recognize the pope, and declared they have never heard of him; they asserted the purity and primitive truth of their faith since they came, and their bishops had for thirteen hundred years been sent from the place where the followers of Jesus were first called Christians.” (Continental India, vol. 2, pp. 116,117. Cited in Andrews J.N. History of the Sabbath and the First Day of the Week. 3rd edition, 1887. Reprint Teach Services, Brushton (NY), 1997, p. 430).

J.N. Andrews wrote:

The Sabbatarian character of these Christians is hinted by Mr. Yeates. He says that Saturday “amongst them in a festival day, agreeable to the ancient practice of the church.”

“The ancient practice of the church,” as we have seen, was to hallow the seventh day in memory of the Creator’s rest. This practice has been suppressed wherever the great apostasy has had power to do it. But the Christians of the East Indies, like those of Abyssinia, have lived sufficiently remote from Rome to be preserved in some degree from its blasting influence. The same fact is further hinted by the same writer in the following language:

“The inquisition was set up at Goa in the Indies, at the instance of Francis Xaverius [a famous Romish saint] who signified by letters to Pope John lll., Nov. 10, 1545, `That the JEWISH WICKEDNESS spread every day more and more in the parts of the East Indies subject to the kingdom of Portugal, and therefore he earnestly besought the said king, that to cure so great an evil he would take care to send the office of the inquisition into those countries.”

“The Jewish wickedness” was doubtless the observance of Saturday as “a festival day agreeable to the ancient practice of the church” of which this author has just spoken. The history of the past, as we have seen, shows the hatred of the papal church toward the Sabbath. And the struggle of that church to suppress the Sabbath in Abyssinia, and to subject that people to the pope which at this very point of time was just commencing, shows that the Jesuits would not willingly tolerate Sabbatic observance in the East Indies, even though united with the observance of Sunday also (Andrews J.N. History of the Sabbath and the First Day of the Week. 3rd edition, 1887. Reprint Teach Services, Brushton (NY), 1997, pp. 430-431).

Notice that Christians who kept the Sabbath in India were condemned, not as Christians, but as Jews:

The Judges of the Holy Office might readily ascertain the truth or falsehood of the charge of Judaism, would they take the trouble to investigate the matter without prejudice; and to consider, that of an hundred persons condemned to be burnt as Jews, there are scarcely four who profess that faith at their death; the rest exclaiming and protesting to their last gasp, that they are Christians, and have been so during their whole lives; that they worship our Saviour…(Dellon, Charles and Baldwin, Cradock, and Joy.  I. Wilson and B. (Benjamin) Crosby, editors. Dellon’s account of the Inquisition at Goa: translated from the French. Joseph Simmons, 1812.  Original from the Complutense University of Madrid.  Digitized Jan 12, 2009, p. 64)

And this happened in other areas of the Inquisition, too, like Spain.

In the early 1800s, a Church of England clergyman named C. Buchanan reported more about various beliefs and history of those who professed Christ outside of Rome in India:

The Syrian Christians inhabit the interior of Travancore and Malabar, in the South of India, and have been settled there from the early ages of Christianity. The first notices of this ancient people, in recent times, are to be found in the Portuguese histories. When Vasco de Gama arrived at Cochin, on the coast of Malabar, in the year 1503, he saw the sceptre of the Chris? tian King; for the Syrian Christians had formerly regal power in Malay-Ala. The name or title of their last King was Beliarte; and he dying without issue, the dominion devolved on the King of Cochin and Diamper.

When the Portuguese arrived, they were agreeably surprised to find upwards of a hundred Christian Churches on the coast of Malabar. But when they became acquainted with the purity and simplicity of their worship, they were offended. “These Churches,” said the Portuguese, “belong to the Pope.”—” Who is the Pope ?” said the natives, “we never heard of him.” The European priests were yet more alarmed, when they found that these Hindoo Christians maintained the order and discipline of a regular Church under Episcopal Jurisdiction: and that for 1300 years past, they had enjoyed a succession of Bishops appointed by the Patriarch of Antioch. ” We,” said they, “are of the true faith, whatever you from the West may be; for we come from the place where the followers of Christ were first called ‘Christians.’ ”

When the power of the Portuguese became sufficient for their purpose, they invaded these tranquil Churches, seized some of the Clergy, and devoted them, to the death of heretics. Then the inhabitants heard for the first time that there was a place called the Inquisition; and that its fires had been lately lighted at Goa, near their own land. But the Portuguese, finding that the people were resolute in defending their ancient faith, began to try more conciliatory measures. They seized the Syrian Bishop, Mar Joseph, and sent him prisoner to Lisbon, and then convened a Synod at one of the Syrian Churches called Diamper, near Cochin, at which the Romish Archbishop Menezes presided. At this compulsory Synod, 150 of the Syrian Clergy appeared. They were accused of the following practices and opinions, “That they had married wives; that they owned but two Sacraments, Baptism and the Lord’s Supper; that they neither invoked Saints, nor worshipped images, nor believed in Purgatory: and that they had no other orders or names of dignity in the Church, than Priest and Deacon.” These tenets they were called on to abjure, or to suffer suspension from all Church benefices. It was also decreed that all the Syrian books on Ecclesiastical subjects, that could be found, should be burned; ” in order,” said the Inquisitors, “that no pretended apostolical monuments may remain.” (Buchanon C. Christian researches in Asia, 10th edition. T. Cadell and W. Davies, 1814. Original from the New York Public Library. Digitized Jul 21, 2006, pp. 106-109)

Hence, those in India claimed “apostolic succession” and had nothing to do with Roman pontiffs until they were persecuted.

C. Buchanan also reported:

“The history of the Armenian church is very interesting. Of all the Christians in Central Asia, they have preserved themselves most free from Mahometan and papal corruptions. The pope assailed them for a time with great violence, but with little effect. The churches in lesser Armenia indeed consented to an union, which did not long continue; but those in Persian Armenia maintained their independence; and they retain their ancient Scriptures, doctrines, and worship, to this day. `It is marvelous,’ says an intelligent traveler who was much among them, `how the Armenian Christians have preserved their faith, equally against the vexatious oppression of the Mahometans, their sovereigns, and against the persuasions of the Romish church which for more than two centuries has endeavored, by missionaries, priests and monks, to attach them to her communion. It is impossible to describe the artifices and expenses of the court of Rome to effect this object, but all in vain.’

“The Bible was translated into the Armenian language in the fifth century, under very auspicious circumstances, the history of which has come down to us. It has been allowed by competent judges of the language, to be a most faithful translation. La Cruze calls it the `Queen of Versions.’ This Bible has ever remained in the possession of the Armenian people; and many illustrious instances of genuine and enlightened piety occur in their history. . . .

“The Armenians in Hindoostan are our own subjects. They acknowledge our government in India, as they do that of the Sophi in Persia; and they are entitled to our regard. They have preserved the Bible in its purity; and their doctrines are, as far as the author knows, the doctrines of the Bible. Besides, they maintain the solemn observance of Christian worship throughout our empire, ON THE SEVENTH DAY, and they have as many spires pointing to heaven among the Hindoos as we ourselves. Are such a people then entitled to no acknowledgment on our part, as fellow Christians? Are they forever to be ranked by us with Jews, Mahometans, and Hindoos?” (Buchanon C. Christian researches in Asia, 10th edition. T. Cadell and W. Davies, 1814. Original from the New York Public Library. Digitized Jul 21, 2006, pp. 260-261).

Hence, this group originally kept the seventh day Sabbath, but apparently by the time Buchanan found out about them, they adopted some non-Church of God practices like spires.

In 1933, God used Herbert W. Armstrong (who was then a minister associated with the Church of God, Seventh Day) to raise up the Philadelphia era of the Church of God. After being on the radio for a while, Herbert Armstrong called the group he led the Radio Church of God and then in the 1960s the name was changed to Worldwide Church of God (WCG).  Various congregations were part of WCG in India, Sri Lanka, and certain other lands with many ethnic Indians.

In the later portion of the 20th century, those in the old WCG had many contacts with those in India. WCG had many congregations throughout India. I met WCG ministers from India and Sri Lanka back then.  After Herbert Armstrong’s death, the congregations once in India had a variety of changes.

On February 26, 2013 the Continuing Church of God (CCCOG)  was contacted by a Sabbath and Holy Day observing pastor in India who wanted to work with CCOG to better get the gospel out to the people of India. The following week, CCOG began to send regular email updates to India. On May 13, 2013, the Continuing Church of God was able to secure the URL as part of its plans to reach India.  On July 13, 2013 an agreement to send our Bible News Prophecy magazines to India was made; with the first ones mailed on July 19, 2013.

Also on July 13, 2013, the CCOG received a request to produce a magazine in the Telugu language for use in India. This request was agreed to on July 14, 2103. Additionally, on July 14, 2013 steps were taken to finalize the initial home page of the URL which had been reserved to use as soon as it could be specifically utilized. During that week, the new India website, went live. Over time, it is hope to have more information specific to India, such as congregational locations and information in one or more languages other than English (we are looking into Telugu and possibly Hindi and, even though it is not strictly Indian, possibly also Jingpho which is spoken in Kachiland). The is one item up in Hindi, a translation of the book, The Mystery of the Ages.

We have received some translated materials in Telugu and are awaiting more before they go on line.

Currently, many Indians who wish to learn more about the plan of God and God’s truth now have access to it on the internet.

Some items of possibly related 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).
India and the Beast of Revelation 13 Do biblical, Catholic, and even Hindu prophecies suggest that many in India will follow, for a while, the Beast and False Prophet/Antichrist? Could the biblical Beast be related to the Bhagwan Kalki?  Here is link to a related YouTube video Will People in India Worship the Beast of Revelation 13?
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? China in prophecy, where? Who has the 200,000,000 man army related to Armageddon?
Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse What is the Book of Revelation trying to tell us about them? Does the first one deceive many?
CCOG.IN This is a website targeted towards those of Indian heritage. It has a link to an edited Hindi translation of The Mystery of the Ages and is expected to have more non-English language materials in the future.

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