Acts of Thomas

apocryphic book of the New Testament

The early 3rd-century text called Acts of Thomas is one of the New Testament apocrypha. References to the work by Epiphanius of Salamis show that it was in circulation in the 4th century. The complete versions that survive are Syriac and Greek. There are many surviving fragments of the text. Scholars detect from the Greek that its original was written in Syriac, which places the Acts of Thomas in Edessa. The surviving Syriac manuscripts, however, have been edited to purge them of the most unorthodox overtly Encratite passages, so that the Greek versions reflect the earlier tradition.

QuotesEdit

  • But the apostle again rejects the king’s plea to reform, and so “Misdaeus considered how he should put him to death; for he was afraid because of the many people who were subject unto him, for many also of the nobles and of them that were in authority believed on him. He took him therefore and went out of the city; and armed soldiers went with him. And the people supposed that the king desired to learn somewhat of him, and they stood still and gave heed. And when they had walked one mile, he delivered him unto four soldiers and an officer, and commanded them to take him into the mountain and there pierce him with spears and put an end to him, and return again to the city. And saying thus unto the soldiers, he himself also returned unto the city.
    • quoted in Ishwar Sharan. The Myth of Saint Thomas and the Mylapore Shiva Temple. Third edition. 2010.
  • And Misdaeus saith unto him: I have not made haste to destroy thee, but have had long patience with thee: but thou has added unto thine evil deeds, and thy sorceries are dispersed abroad and heard of throughout all this country: but this I do that thy sorceries may depart with thee, and our land be cleansed from them.”
    • quoted in Ishwar Sharan. The Myth of Saint Thomas and the Mylapore Shiva Temple. Third edition. 2010.
  • And he said unto Iuzanes: Thou son of the earthly king Misdaeus andminister to the minister of our Lord Jesus Christ: give unto the servants of Misdaeus their price that they may suffer me to go and pray. And Iuzanes persuaded the soldiers to let him pray. And the blessed Thomas went to pray, and kneeled down and rose up and stretched forth his hands unto heaven ... and when he had thus prayed he said unto the soldiers: Come hither and accomplish the commandments of him that sent you. And the four came and pierced him with their spears, and he fell down dead.
    • quoted in Ishwar Sharan. The Myth of Saint Thomas and the Mylapore Shiva Temple. Third edition. 2010.
  • “Now it came to pass after a long time that one of the children of Misadeus the king was smitten by a devil, and no man could cure him, for the devil was exceedingly fierce. And Misdaeus the king took thought and said: I will go and open the sepulchre, and take a bone of the apostle of God and hang it upon my son, and he shall be healed ... and he went and opened the sepulchre, but found not the apostle there, for one of the brethren had stolen him away and taken him unto Mesopotamia; but from that place where the bones of the apostle had lain Misdaeus took dust and put it about his son’s neck, saying: I believe on thee, Jesus Christ, now that he hath left me which troubleth men and opposeth them lest they should see thee. And when he had hung it upon his son, the lad became whole.
    • quoted in Ishwar Sharan. The Myth of Saint Thomas and the Mylapore Shiva Temple. Third edition. 2010.
  • “Misdaeus the king therefore was also gathered among the brethren, and bowed his head under the hands of Siphor the priest; and Siphor said unto the brethren: Pray ye for Misdaeus the king, that he may obtain mercy of Jesus Christ, and that he may no longer remember evil against him. They all therefore, with one accord rejoicing, made prayer for him ... and he was gathered with the multitude of them that had believed in Christ, glorifying the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost; whose is power and adoration, now and forever and world without end. Amen.”
    • quoted in Ishwar Sharan. The Myth of Saint Thomas and the Mylapore Shiva Temple. Third edition. 2010.

Quotes about the Acts of ThomasEdit

  • Pseudepigraphic text which relates the adventures of the apostle Judas Thomas as he preaches an ascetical or encratite form of Christianity on the way to and from India. Like other apocryphal acts combining popular legend and religious propaganda, the work attempts to entertain and instruct. In addition to narratives of Thomas' adventures, its poetic and liturgical elements provide important evidence for early Syrian Christian traditions.
    • Harold W. Attridge (The Anchor Bible Dictionary, v. 6, p. 531):
  • “There is endless discussion about St. Thomas’s subsequent life. In particular, did he take the gospel to India, where for many centuries the Christians of Kerala have called themselves ‘St. Thomas Christians’? That he did so, and was martyred there, is the theme of a long document of the third or fourth century, called the Acts of Thomas. This is one of the most readable and intrinsically interesting of early Christian apocryphal writings; but it is no more than a popular romance, written in the interest of false Gnostic teachings (e.g. the virtual necessity of celibacy for Christians). It is not impossible that St. Thomas should have reached southern India, but the historical reality of his mission there cannot be considered proved. It is also said that he evangelized Parthia, and in the fourth century his relics were claimed to be at Edessa in Mesopotamia.”
    • Donald Attwater, in The Penguin Dictionary of Saints, with reference to L.W. Brown in The Indian Christians of St. Thomas,quoted in Ishwar Sharan. The Myth of Saint Thomas and the Mylapore Shiva Temple. Third edition. 2010.
  • “In what literature is the name of St. Thomas first associated with India? It will appear I think the home of that literature, the original hotbed in which it was reared, was no other than the Church of Edessa. For there is no place within the area occupied, by the language in which those books were written, that had any such interest in the fortunes and destiny of the Apostle. The story of Thomas preaching and his martyrdom in India is first found in the apocryphal Acts of Thomas and it is curious to note that throughout the work the Apostle is generally called Judas Thomas, a name which he also received in that group of documents which Eusebius found among the archives at Edessa. It is palpably a Gnostic work and students of Gnosticism, judging from the stages of development at which they find the heresy in the Acts, assign it to the end of the second century. It may have been written by Bardesanes. But whoever the real author was, I think the details of this work are not only consistent with the belief that they were put together by a member of the Edessene Church, but also defy explanation on any other hypothesis.”
    • Milne Rae ,quoted in Ishwar Sharan. The Myth of Saint Thomas and the Mylapore Shiva Temple. Third edition. 2010.
  • The source of the Thomas legend is an apocryphal text called the Acts of Thomas. If the [Jesuits and other Christian] missionaries want to continue to present it as history rather than legend, they should accept the consequences. In that case, they must tell the public about the way in which Thomas's journey to India started, according to the very same text: he left Palestine because his twin brother Jesus sold him as a slave (Thomas is also called Didymus, "the twin brother"). They must give details of the destructive sorcery which Thomas practised, as in his first miracle, when he made a lion devour a boy for being impolite. They must tell the public that Thomas was put to death not by the ugly Brahmins but by the king who, after having had a lot of patience with him, and after offering him a safe exit from the country, decided to put a stop to his practice of luring women away from their homes and putting them in sackcloth and ashes behind locked doors, etc.
    • Koenraad Elst, St. Thomas And Anti-Brahminism – Koenraad Elst. quoted in Ishwar Sharan. The Myth of Saint Thomas and the Mylapore Shiva Temple. Third edition. 2010.
  • This king (Misdaeus) is better known by his Persian name, Mazdai, which is found in the Syriac version of the Acts (Misdaeus is Greek). It specifically denotes a Zoroastrian ruler. He has no known historical counterpart and the Acts gives no vital information about him except to say that he rules in “a desert country”.
    • Ishwar Sharan. The Myth of Saint Thomas and the Mylapore Shiva Temple. Third edition. 2010.
  • "Let none read the gospel according to Thomas, for it is the work, not of one of the twelve apostles, but of one of Mani's three wicked disciples."
    • —Cyril of Jerusalem, Cathechesis V (4th century)
  • The story of Thomas’s Indian sojourn exists only in the Acts of Thomas. This long religious romance was probably written by the Syrian Gnostic poet Bardesanes about 210 CE at Edessa, Syria. Bardesanes was familiar with India and had met and discussed Indian philosophy with Buddhist monks travelling west to Alexandria. It was therefore quite natural for him to place his moral fable in India, a land from which all kinds of religious ideas emanated.
  • Bardesanes story is centred on the moral imperative that all Christians must lead a chaste and celibate life. In the story he has Judas Thomas, who is presented as a look-alike twin brother of Jesus, persuade a newly married royal couple not to consummate their marriage. This angers the Parthian king of the desert land where Thomas is present and he has to flee for his life to another part of the country. Here he comes into contact with another Parthian king called Gundaphorus―possibly a first century king of Gandhara i.e. North-West Pakistan―and promises to build him a palace. Thomas cheats the king of his money but succeeds in converting him to Christianity. He then leaves Gundaphorus and concerns himself with a talking donkey and a dragon who claims to be Satan. Thomas slays the dragon, but because of his interest in converting the women and girls of the area to Christianity and alienating them from family life, is called before a third Parthian king called Mazdai―Mazdai being a Zoroastrian name after the Zoroastrian deity Ahura Mazda―and ordered to leave the country. When Thomas ignores the king’s warning and converts the queen and her son, the king in exasperation at the apostle’s evil deeds orders him executed. He is then speared to death by soldiers on a royal acropolis and the body shortly afterward taken away to Edessa. In all records Thomas is executed on the Parthian royal acropolis and soon after buried at Edessa where a cult grows up around his tomb―until Marco Polo in his famous travel book, Il Milione, puts his tomb on the seashore in an unnamed little town in South India. Marco, who never came to India, was repeating the stories told to him by Muslim and Syrian Christian merchants he met in Constantinople.
  • Though Bardesanes represents Judas Thomas as a second Christ, he does not represent him as a good man. What we gather from the story in the Acts, and what Fr. Francis and his Church neglect to tell the faithful, is that
    Jesus was a slave trader who sold Thomas to Abbanes for thirty pieces of silver;
    Thomas was an antisocial character who lied to his royal employer and stole money from him;
    Thomas ill-treated women and enslaved them;
    Thomas practised black magic and was executed for disobeying the king’s order to stop and leave the country;
    Thomas was Jesus’s twin brother, implying that the four canonical Gospels are unreliable sources which have concealed a crucial fact, viz. that Jesus was not God’s Only Begotten Son. In fact, Jesus and Thomas were God’s twin-born sons.
    In other words, accepting the Thomas legend as history is equivalent to exploding the doctrinal foundation of Christianity.
    • A Feast For St. Thomas Ishwar Sharan quoted in Ishwar Sharan. The Myth of Saint Thomas and the Mylapore Shiva Temple. 4th edition. 2019.

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