After seeing Jesus in the flesh with his own eyes (and possibly touching the wounds), Thomas proclaimed, “My Lord and my God!” (John 20:28). Jesus responded with one of the most powerful and prophetic statements about faith in all of Scripture: “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed” (John 20:29).
Thomas’ moment of scepticism earned him the nickname “Doubting Thomas,” which evolved into a term for anyone who needs proof before they believe something.
Honestly, that’s all you really need to know about the Apostle Thomas. He’s not a major Bible character by any means—he’s only mentioned eight times in the entire New Testament, and four of those times are just lists of the twelve apostles. And while throughout church history people have been happy to fill in the details of his life, few of those details are reliable. (For example, one ancient text even claimed he was Jesus’ twin brother . . . what?!)
But while the Bible tells us little about him, Thomas’ cautious approach to believing in the resurrection laid the foundation for evidence-based faith and for the Protestant teaching of sola fide, or faith alone. And even though he lived 2,000 years ago, Thomas also serves as a foil for Christians today—those who have not seen and yet have believed.
One other thing you should know about Thomas: the Bible didn’t give him a real name.
Thomas wasn’t actually given a name in the original manuscripts. “Thomas” comes from the Aramaic word tĕʾomâ, which means “twin.” To help clarify who we’re talking about though, most manuscripts include the description, “called Didymus” or “called the Twin.”
Didymus is a Greek word which means . . . the twin. And while tĕʾomâ is only used as a description, not a name, Didymus can be used as a description or a name. So a literal translation of John 11:16, John 20:24, and John 21:2 would say “the twin, called the twin . . .”
But you can still call him Thomas.
How did Thomas die?
For such a minor apostle, church tradition is remarkably consistent about his death. An early church calendar reads:
“3 July, St. Thomas who was pierced with a lance in ‘India’.”
Syrian Christian tradition specifies that this took place on July 3, 72 AD. And The Acts of Thomas says he was martyred via spears in Mylapore, India.
No other tradition exists about Thomas’ death.