Was Didymos Judas Thomas Jesus' Twin?
The Syrian Christians believed Judas Didymos Thomas was the twin brother of Jesus. In the Book of Thomas the Contender, a text detailing the dialogue between the risen Jesus and Judas Thomas before Jesus' ascension, Jesus calls him “brother,” “twin,” and “friend.” But for Didymos Judas Thomas to be Jesus' identical or fraternal twin when Jesus, according to the scriptures, is born of God and the Blessed Virgin Mary seems problematic, at least from an orthodox theological point of view. In the birth narrative of Jesus, no mention is made anywhere in the New Testament that Mary gave birth to twins. Possibly there is another meaning. Consider that Didymos Judas Thomas was a member of Jesus' inner circle, that he adopted Jesus' ways and teachings to become a highly evolved spiritual being akin to being Jesus' “twin.”
Didymos Judas Thomas was one of the twelve disciples and was present at the Last Supper, witnessed the miraculous catch of fish, ate breakfast with Jesus after the Resurrection, was present for the Great Commission (when Jesus sent his disciples into the world to spread the good news), and saw Jesus ascending into heaven. He also doubted that Jesus rose from the dead and declared that he would have to touch the wounds of Jesus' body in order to believe; hence he became known as “Doubting Thomas.” As mentioned previously, the name Thomas in Aramaic (Tau'ma) means twin and the name Didymos in Greek also means twin. Matthew (10:1–3) named him as an Apostle, as did Mark (3:14–18) and Luke (6:13–15).
… he called unto him his disciples: and of them he chose twelve, whom also he named apostles; Simon (whom he also named Peter) and Andrew his brother, James and John, Philip and Bartholomew, Matthew and Thomas, James the son of Alpheus, and Simon called Zelotes, and Judas the brother of James, and Judas Iscariot, which also was the traitor. — Luke 6:13–16
Didymos Judas Thomas doubted that Jesus rose from the dead until he was able to put his fingers into the wounds on Jesus' body. In John 20:29, Jesus said to him, “Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed:blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.” Could it be that the point of the story of Thomas doubting in the Gospel of John was directed at those who might be in doubt over the resurrection of Jesus? It certainly seems likely. Perhaps the author of the Gospel of John thought that others might be convinced of the Resurrection by the testimony of Thomas who had doubted it and then became a believer.
The Gospel of John reveals many of the qualities that Thomas possessed. For example, Thomas appears inquisitive in John 14:5, doubtful in John 20:24–25, courageous in John 11:16, and faithful in John 20:26–29.
Thomas Takes the Gospel to the East
Didymos Judas Thomas the twin is mentioned in all the canonical gospels. In the Gospel of John when Jesus learns that his friend Lazarus, brother of Mary and Martha of Bethany, is gravely ill and perhaps dying, he announces his desire to return to Judea to see Lazarus. Thomas declares to the other disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him” (John 11:16). The Gospel of John references Thomas again when he is part of the group discussion at the table during the Last Supper. In what has come to be known as Christ's Farewell Sermon, Jesus tells those gathered that they should not let their hearts be troubled because his Father's house has many mansions and he is going to prepare a place for each of them. Jesus says, “And whither I go ye know, and the way ye know” (John 14:4). But Thomas says, “Lord, we know not whither thou goest; and how can we know the way?” (John 14:5) Jesus reassures them with his famous saying, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me” (John 14:6). In the canonical gospels, the other disciples respect Thomas for his honesty and viewpoint. He doubted the resurrection of Jesus, but once convinced, his belief was unshakable. His faith in Jesus as Lord and God is affirmed in John 20:28.
Who was Bardesanes?
He was a Christian Syrian writer, philosopher, astrologer, and Edessan poet and possibly the author of the Acts of Thomas, a story of Thomas's exploits in India that promotes the idea that Christians must be chaste even though married. The Apostle Thomas and the Gnostics may have embraced that idea. The early church fathers rejected the Acts of Thomas as fanciful fiction.
The Apostle Peter took Christianity to Rome, Paul spread the good news to Greece, Mark Christianized Egypt, and Judas Didymos Thomas brought Christianity to Syria and India. As a result, many Christian churches were built in those lands. Both the Eastern Orthodox Church and the Roman Catholic Church honor Thomas as a saint, celebrating his feast day on the Sunday following Easter. The day bears his name as St. Thomas Sunday. For centuries, the Syrian Christians have venerated his relics at the Church of Edessa. Many sources on the Internet discuss the missionary travels of the Apostles.
The Gospel Is Excluded from the Canon
The Gospel of Thomas did not make it into the New Testament canon. Although it was likely one of the earliest texts (other than the canonical gospels) that offered teachings of Jesus, it might have been rejected because the “canonizers” thought it contained heresy. It is also possible that it was put aside because it lacked any mention of the death and resurrection of Jesus, information that the other four chosen gospels did include. However, the Epistles and the book of Revelation do not mention stories of Jesus' demise but they are included, so the reason the Gospel of Thomas was excluded remains a point of debate among biblical scholars.
The Infancy Gospel of Thomas is a text of the second century, most likely composed in Syria, that attributes its authority to the Apostle Thomas. That work chronicles miraculous occurrences in Jesus' childhood and reveals incidents of his precociousness.
The Gospel of Thomas does not mention many terms associated with other Gnostic texts. For example, Demiurges, the Aeons, and the Pleroma do not appear in that text. As previously mentioned, the Gnostics loved their mythology, but the Gospel of Thomas contains no myths. Some historians feel that the Gospel of Thomas should not be labeled a Gnostic text — yet some elements of the manuscript certainly seem to have Gnostic shadings, so others disagree. If versions of Gnostic thought existed in pre-Christian Judaism, perhaps Thomas, a Jew, may have been aware of it. Or perhaps some of the more Gnostic of the sayings were added to the Gospel. Among scholars, the discussion about whether or not it is truly a Gnostic text continues.