Meet Thomas the Apostle of Jesus Christ

Learn how this disciple got the nickname 'Doubting Thomas'

Apostle Thomas in the Bible
'The Incredulity of Saint Thomas' by Caravaggio. Public Domain

Thomas the apostle was one of Jesus Christ's original twelve disciples, specially chosen to spread the gospel after the Lord's crucifixion and resurrection. The Bible also calls Thomas "Didymus" (John 11:16; 20:24). Both names mean "twin," although we aren't given the name of Thomas' twin in Scripture.

Two important stories paint a portrait of Thomas in the Gospel of John. One (in John 11) shows his courage and loyalty to Jesus, the other (in John 20) reveals his human struggle with doubt.

Thomas the Apostle

  • Also Known as: Besides "Thomas," the Bible also calls him "Didymus," which means "twin." He is remembered today as "Doubting Thomas."
  • Known for: Thomas is one of the original twelve apostles of Jesus Christ. He doubted the resurrection until the Lord appeared to Thomas and invited him to touch his wounds and see for himself.
  • Bible References: In the synoptic Gospels (Matthew 10:3; Mark 3:18; Luke 6:15) Thomas appears only in the lists of the apostles, but in John's Gospel (John 11:16, 14:5, 20:24-28, 21:2), Thomas leaps to the forefront in two important narratives. He is also mentioned in Acts 1:13.
  • Occupation: Thomas' occupation before he met Jesus is unknown. After Jesus' ascension, he became a
    Christian missionary.
  • Hometown: Unknown
  • Family Tree: Thomas has two names in the New Testament (Thomas, in Greek, and Didymus, in Aramaic, both meaning "twin"). We know, then, that Thomas had a twin, but the Bible does not give the name of his twin, nor any other information about his family tree.

How the Apostle Got the Nickname 'Doubting Thomas'

Thomas was not present when the risen Jesus first appeared to the disciples. When told by the others, "We have seen the Lord," Thomas replied that he would not believe it unless he could actually touch Jesus' wounds. Jesus later presented himself to the apostles and invited Thomas to inspect his wounds.

Thomas was also present with the other disciples at the Sea of Galilee when Jesus appeared to them again.

Although it is not used in the Bible, the nickname "Doubting Thomas" was given to this disciple because of his disbelief about the resurrection. People who are skeptical are sometimes referred to as a "Doubting Thomas."

Thomas' Accomplishments

The Apostle Thomas traveled with Jesus and learned from him for three years.

Church tradition holds that after Jesus resurrected and ascended to heaven, Thomas carried the gospel message to the east and was eventually martyred for his faith.

Because of Thomas, we have these inspiring words of Jesus: "Thomas, because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed" (John 20:29, NKJV). Thomas’ lack of faith has served to encourage all future Christians who have not seen Jesus and yet have believed in him and his resurrection.

Strengths

When Jesus' life was at risk by returning to Judea after Lazarus had died, the Apostle Thomas courageously told his fellow disciples they should go with Jesus, no matter what the danger (John 11:16).

Thomas was honest with Jesus and the disciples. Once, when he didn't understand the words of Jesus, Thomas was not embarrassed to admit, "Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?" (John 14:5, NIV). The Lord's famous answer is one of the most memorized verses in all the Bible, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me" (John 14:6).

Weaknesses

Like the other disciples, Thomas deserted Jesus during the crucifixion. Despite listening to Jesus' teaching and seeing all his miracles, Thomas demanded physical proof that Jesus had risen from the dead. His faith was based solely on what he could touch and see for himself.

Life Lessons From Thomas

All of the disciples, except John, deserted Jesus at the cross. They misunderstood and doubted Jesus, but Thomas is singled out in the gospels because he put his doubt into words.

It is worth noting that Jesus did not scold Thomas for his doubt. Instead of rebuking Thomas, he had compassion for his human struggle with doubt. In fact, Jesus invited Thomas to touch his wounds and see for himself. Jesus understands our battles with doubt and invites us to come near and believe.

Today, millions of people stubbornly want to witness miracles or see Jesus in person before they will believe in him, but God asks us to come to him in faith. God provides the Bible, with eyewitness accounts of Jesus' life, crucifixion, and resurrection to strengthen our faith.

In response to Thomas' doubts, Jesus said that those who believe in Christ as Savior without seeing him—that's us—are blessed.

Key Bible Verses

  • Then Thomas (called Didymus) said to the rest of the disciples, "Let us also go, that we may die with him." (John 11:16, NIV)
  • Then he (Jesus) said to Thomas, "Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe." (John 20:27)
  • Thomas said to him, "My Lord and my God!" (John 20:28)
  • Then Jesus told him, "Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed." (John 20:29)
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Your Citation
Zavada, Jack. "Meet Thomas the Apostle of Jesus Christ." Learn Religions, Feb. 5, 2021, learnreligions.com/apostle-known-as-doubting-thomas-701057. Zavada, Jack. (2021, February 5). Meet Thomas the Apostle of Jesus Christ. Retrieved from https://www.learnreligions.com/apostle-known-as-doubting-thomas-701057 Zavada, Jack. "Meet Thomas the Apostle of Jesus Christ." Learn Religions. https://www.learnreligions.com/apostle-known-as-doubting-thomas-701057 (accessed October 25, 2021).

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