Touting Thomas

Touting Thomas
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Though his name has become synonymous with doubt and disbelief, Thomas the Apostle seems to have been a man who embodied quite the opposite.

The original "Doubting Thomas" appears to have also been a bold, exceedingly handy, gospel-preaching, miracle-working evangelist, who ultimately gave his life in service to the One he so briefly doubted.

While we'll probably never fully untangle the fact from the fiction regarding Thomas' life after Jesus' crucifixion, the apostle's remarkably global legacy speaks for itself.

There's plenty we don't know for sure about Thomas (a.k.a. Didymus, a.k.a. Judas Thomas), but it's believed he was born in Galilee, right around the start of the Anno Domini era. We learn more about him from his brief appearances in the New Testament. We hear from him in John's gospel, most notably in chapter 11, where he boldly encourages his fellow apostles to follow Christ to Judea -- a place they would be decidedly unwelcome. "Let us also go to die with him," he says.

If only this had been Thomas' sole appearance in the Bible, he might have gone on to secure a vastly superior moniker (Loyal Thomas, Fightin' Thomas, Thomas the Chuck Norris Apostle, etc).

Alas, Thomas goes on to seal his place in history in John 20. He vows to not believe in the risen Christ, lest he be able feel Jesus's wounds with his own hands. To his credit, upon feeling Christ's wounds, Thomas exclaims: "My Lord and my God!" Had he continued his disbelief after feeling Christ's wounds, then the "Doubting Thomas" label would have been more than fair.

What exactly Thomas went on to do with his life beyond this point is a matter of some debate. According to legend, including various apocrypha (such as the Acts of Thomas) and passed down lore, Thomas led an extremely eventful, fruitful life after encountering the resurrected Christ. He went on to evangelize in Parthia, Persia, and ultimately, India. The story goes that Thomas traveled to what is today Kerala in south India (apparently under some compulsion) in order to spread the gospel there. Through preaching, performing miracles, and building impressive churches, he led people to Christ.

In the process, he converted the wives and relatives of a local king, who in turn had Thomas executed.

Legend has it that Thomas was martyred on a hill in Mylapore (in what is today Chennai, in the state of Tamil Nadu), speared to death by the king's soldiers. In this location now stands a church/museum built in his honor.

Regardless of the veracity of the legends, and whether or not the original converts in India were indeed evangelized by Thomas himself, his influence still resounds nearly 2,000 years later. Today, Thomas is the patron saint of India. The descendants of those early converts, known as Saint Thomas Christians, now number in the hundreds of thousands. Thomas' spiritual progeny have fanned out across India and around the world.

For someone who is almost exclusively remembered for a deficiency of belief, Thomas the Apostle certainly accomplished a tremendous and enduring amount for the faith. He deserves to be remembered for anything but his momentary doubts.

Robby Brumberg is a writer and editor based in Florida.

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