The Doubting Apostle 'Didymus' – Saint Thomas: theological, psychological and historical perspectives

Abstract

Very little information is documented on Saint Thomas the Apostle, however the Gospel according to Saint John gives us a very good indication of his character. Saint Thomas was absent when Jesus appeared amongst his disciples the first time after His resurrection in the Upper Room. He would not accept as true, the numerous eye-witness reports concerning the risen Christ and stated that: "Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe" (John 20:25). He is thus termed ‘Doubting Thomas’, and his doubt was a distinct failure to believe in things he had not personally witnessed but that were attested to by others. Thomas’ primary significance thus arises from his position as a “doubter” and one lacking in requisite faith who found it necessary to have proof that Jesus had indeed risen from the dead. His doubt is important as it illustrates a profound denial of the Lord and a duplicity of the supremacy and indeed the very truth of what it means to possess proper faith. This paper argues that Thomas’ doubt (and his behaviour during the crucifixion of Jesus) has an internal disposition side, in other words his personality traits and cognition, as well as the external environment (the situation, including the abnormality of it, the nature of the communication and the group [the disciples]). The latter is often left out in the criticism of Thomas, resulting in him being portrayed as the symbol of the unfaithful and doubting individual. His behaviour could thus be evaluated in accordance with the attribution theory. Thomas clearly affirms the depth of his belief in his missionary activities, in especially India

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