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References to Thomas Christian Tradition

There are several references to Thomas' acts in India, which corroborates the general validity of the story.  

1.      'The Doctrine of the Apostles' 100 AD?

Jonathan Draper writes (Gospel Perspectives, v. 5, p. 269):

“Since it was discovered in a monastery in Constantinople and published by P. Bryennios in 1883, the Didache or Teaching of the Twelve Apostles has continued to be one of the most disputed of early Christian texts. It has been depicted by scholars as anything between the original of the Apostolic Decree (c. 50 AD) and a late archaising fiction of the early third century. It bears no date itself, nor does it make reference to any datable external event, yet the picture of the Church which it presents could only be described as primitive, reaching back to the very earliest stages of the Church's order and practice in a way which largely agrees with the picture presented by the NT, while at the same time posing questions for many traditional interpretations of this first period of the Church's life. Fragments of the Didache were found at Oxyrhyncus (P. Oxy 1782) from the fourth century and in coptic translation (P. Lond. Or. 9271) from 3/4th century. Traces of the use of this text, and the high regard it enjoyed, are widespread in the literature of the second and third centuries especially in Syria and Egypt. It was used by the compilator of the Didascalia (C 2/3rd) and the Liber Graduun (C 3/4th), as well as being absorbed in toto by the Apostolic Constitutions (C c. 3/4th, abbreviated as Ca) and partially by various Egyptian and Ethiopian Church Orders, after which it ceased to circulate independently. Athanasius describes it as 'appointed by the Fathers to be read by those who newly join us, and who wish for instruction in the word of goodness' [Festal Letter 39:7]. Hence a date for the Didache in its present form later than the second century must be considered unlikely, and a date before the end of the first century probable.”

 "A new consensus is emerging for a date c. 100 AD."  Latest date for the available document is 250 AD

“After death of the Apostles, there were Guides and Rulers in the Churches; and whatever the Apostles communicated to them, and they had received from them, they taught to the multitudes. They, again, at their deaths also committed and delivered to their disciples after them everything which they had received from the Apostles; also what James had written from Jerusalem and Simon from the City of Rome, and John from Ephesus and Mark from the great Alexandria, and Andrew from Phrygia and Luke from Macedonia and Judas St. Thomas from India, that the epistles of an Apostle might be received and read in the Churches in every place, like those Triumphs of their Acts which Luke wrote, are read, that by this the Apostles might he known...'

 “India and all its own countries, and those bordering on it, even to the farther sea, received the Apostle’s hand of Priesthood from Judas Thomas, who was Guide and Ruler in the Church which he built and ministered there”. In what follows “the whole Persia of the Assyrians and Medes, and of the countries round about Babylon…. even to the borders of the Indians and even to the country of Gog and Magog” are said to have received the Apostles’ Hand of Priesthood from Aggaeus the disciple of Addaeus.”


2.  Bar-Daisan (A.D. 154-223) was a Syrian poet, astrologist, and philosopher, of Edessa, awealthy Persian, or Parthian parents. Though he started as a Gnostic he became a strong Christian. He is said to have visited Kerala and met the Gnostic Manicaen in Ranny.  He is probably the poet who wrote “The Acts of Thomas”. He  reports that in his time there were Christian tribes in North India which claimed to have been converted by Thomas and to have books and relics to prove it. But at least by the time of the establishment of the Second Persian Empire (A.D. 226), there were bishops of the Church of the East in northwest India, Afghanistan and Baluchistan, with laymen and clergy alike engaging in missionary activity

The Acts of Judas Thomas,  c. 180-230 sometimes called by its full nameThe Acts of Judas Thomas: 2nd/3rd century (c. 180-230)

The Story can be summarized as follows:

The Apostles cast lots as to where they should go, and to Thomas, twin brother of Jesus, fell India. Thomas was taken to king Gondophares the ruler of Indo-Parthian Kingdom as an architect and carpenter by Habban. The journey to India is described in detail. After a long residence in the court at Taxila he ordained leaders for the Church, and left in a chariot for the kingdom of Mazdei. According to the Acts of St. Thomas the Kingdom of Mazdai, in the Western India, Indus Valley, was ruled by King Misdeus. Parts of the Indus Valley,was then ruled by Persians called the Indo-Parthian Kingdom. Some Greeks Satraps, the descendents of Alexander the Great, were vassals to the Indo-Parthian Kingdom.[14][15] The king Misdeus was infuriated when St.Thomas converted the Queen Tertia, son Juzanes, sister-in-law princess Mygdonia(a province of Mesopotamia) and her friend Markia. The King Misdeus led St. Thomas outside the city and ordered four soldiers to take him to the nearby hill where the soldiers speared St. Thomas and killed him. Syphorus was elected the first presbyter by the brethren after the death of St. Thomas while Juzanes the prince became the deacon. There, after performing many miracles, he dies a martyr.    The difficulty with the Acts of Judas Thomas is in identifying the places and persons in history.  The names are Persian attempt at Indian pronunciation.

3.       Saint Pantaenus ( 180 – 216 AD)  

Saint Pantaenus was a Christian theologian who founded the Catechetical School of Alexandria about AD 190. (Eusebius, Church History V.10),This school was the earliest catechetical school, and became influential in the development of Christian theology.

Pantaenus was a Stoic philosopher teaching in Alexandria. He converted to the Christian faith, and sought to reconcile his new faith with Greek philosophy. His most famous student, Clement, who was his successor as head of the Catechetical School.   Pantaenus initiated the study of Christian theology,  on the interpretation of the Bible, the Trinity, and Christology. Being familiar with the Gnostic movement he was the main supporter of Serapion of Antioch for acting against the influence of Gnosticism.

A deputation from India reached Alexandria some time in 179 or 189 AD. In A.D. 189 Pantænus himself went on a missionary tour to India, and Eusebius says that he brought home with him the Gospel of Matthew, in Hebrew, that had been carried to India by Bartholomew. (Barthelomew mission was in Kalyan near Bombay.  Some believe that the name Barthelomew is a corruption of Mar Thoma. He brought the gospel back with him to Alexandria, where he returned after he had zealously employed some years in instructing the Indians in the faith. St. Pantaenus continued to teach in private till about the year 216 AD.  Saint Jerome, following Eseubius wrote that Pantaenus visited India, “to preach Christ to the Brahmans and philosophers there. ”   

4. Origen of Alexandria, Egypt  c185-254 AD,

Origen taught in Alexandria and then in Caesarea.  As quoted in Eusebius;

 He is the first known writer to record the casting of lots by the Apostles. Origen original work has been lost; but his statement about Parthia falling to Thomas has been preserved by Eusebius.

“Origen, in the third chapter of his Commentary on Genesis, says that, according to tradition, Thomas’s allotted field of labour was Parthia”.

4.      Clement of Alexandria:  c. 235 AD

Greek Theologian,  Clement makes a passing reference to St. Thomas’ Apostolate in Parthia. This agrees with the testimony which Eusebius records about Pantaenus’ visit to India. 

6. Ephrem of  Syria: 306 – 370 AD  the poet affirms Edessan Church’s strong conviction concerning St. Thomas’s Indian Apostolate. There the devil speaks of St. Thomas as “the Apostle I slew in India”.

 Also “The merchant brought the bones” to Edessa.

In another hymn eulogizing St. Thomas we read of “The bones the merchant hath brought”. “In his several journeyings to India, And thence on his return, All riches, which there he found, Dirt in his eyes he did repute when to thy sacred bones compared”. In yet another hymn Ephrem speaks of the mission of Thomas “The earth darkened with sacrifices’ fumes to illuminate”. “A land of people dark fell to thy lot”, “a tainted land Thomas has purified”; “India’s dark night” was “flooded with light” by Thomas.

"It was to a land of dark people he was sent, to clothe them by Baptism in white robes. His grateful dawn dispelled India's painful darkness. It was his mission to espouse India to the One-Begotten. The merchant is blessed for having so great a treasure. Edessa thus became the blessed city by possessing the greatest pearl India could yield. Thomas works miracles in India, and at Edessa Thomas is destined to baptize peoples perverse and steeped in darkness, and that in the land of India." - Hymns of St. Ephraem, edited by Lamy (Ephr. Hymni et Sermones, IV).

St. Ephraem, writes in the forty-second of his "Carmina Nisibina" that the Apostle was put to death in India, and that his remains were subsequently buried in Edessa, brought there by an unnamed merchant

7. Eusebius of Caesarea: c. 263–339 AD

Eusebius says: “When the holy Apostles and disciples of our Saviour were scattered over all the world, Thomas, so the tradition has it, obtained as his portion Parthia….”   According to Eusebius' record, Thomas and Bartholomew were assigned to Parthia and India

8. Gregory of Nazianzus, Alexandria: 329 – 390 AD

“What? were not the Apostles strangers amidst the many nations and countries over which they spread themselves? … Peter indeed may have belonged to Judea; but what had Paul in common with the gentiles, Luke with Achaia, Andrew with Epirus, John with Ephesus, Thomas with India, Mark with Italy?”  

9.  Ambrose of Milan: 339-397 AD

Ambrose gives a good deal of information on India and Indians. He speaks of the Gymnosophists of India, the Indian Ocean, the river Ganges etc., a number of times.  “This admitted of the Apostles being sent without delay according to the saying of our Lord Jesus… Even those Kingdoms which were shut out by rugged mountains became accessible to them, as India to Thomas, Persia to Matthew..”

10. St. Jerome 342- 420 A,D

"He (Christ) dwelt in all places: with St. Thomas in India, Peter at Rome, with Paul in Illyricum."

11.  St. Paulinus of Nola  354 –  431 AD.

“Parthia receives Mathew, India Thomas, Libya Thaddeus, and Phrygia Philip”.

12. St. Gaudentius, Bishop of Brescia, c 427 AD

”….. St. Thomas among the Indians, Andrew and Luke at the city of Patras are found to have closed their careers."

13. St. Gregory of Tours c 594 AD (538 -593 AD)

‘St. Thomas the Apostle, according to the narrative of his martyrdom is stated to have suffered in India. His holy remains (corpus), after a long interval of time, were removed to the city of Edessa in Syria and there interred. In that part of India where they first rested, stand a monastery and a church of striking dimensions, elaborately adorned and designed. This Theodore, who had been to the place, narrated to us.’

14. St. Isidore of Seville in Spain c. 630 AD

 "This St. Thomas preached the Gospel of Christ to the Parthians, the Medes, the Persians, the Hyrcanians and the Bactrians, and to the Indians of the Oriental region and penetrating the innermost regions and sealing his preaching by his passion he died transfixed with a lance at Calamina...a city of India, and there was buried with honour".

Calamina  is the present Mylapore. There are many explanations for the name Calamina17. It seems to have derived from two Tamil words kallin mel or kallin mele which means ‘on thestone’ or ‘on the hill’.   kallin mele, evolved as kalamene, kalamine and then Calamina.

15. St. Bede the Venerable c. 673-735 AD

"Peter receives
Rome, Andrew Achaia; James Spain; St. Thomas India; John Asia....

16. St. John Damascene  676 -  749 AD

St. John grew up at the court of Damascus where he succeeded his father as the caliph's chief councillor. He was educated as a Christian by a slave who was an Orthodox monk. A talented writer, he wielded his pen so successfully in battle against the iconoclasts that they slandered him before the Caliph, whereupon he was dismissed and his right hand cut off. It was miraculously restored after fervent prayer.  St. John then retired to the monastery of St. Sabbas near Jerusalem, where he continued to produce an inspired stream of commentaries, hymns and apologetical writings, including the Octoechos (the Church's service book of eight tones) and An Exact Exposition of the Orthodox Faith, a summary of the dogmatic writings of the Early Church Fathers.

 “India, an immense and thickly populated country, is situated at a great distance from Egypt and is separated from that country by the Ocean. It touches Persia on one side of the land. Trie most holy Thomas, one of the twelve Apostles was sent to India to preach the Gospel of salvation”.

17.  Chronicle of the  Kings of England: The Anglo-Saxon Kings

King Arthur did sent gifts to the tomb of Thomas in India in AD 883

“And in the same year, Singhelm and Aesthalstan conveyed to Rome the alms which the King had vowed to send thither and also to India to St. Thomas...”

William of Malmesbury states: “Beyond the sea, to Rome and to Saint Thomas in India he (Alfred) sent many gifts. The legate employed for this purpose was Sigelinus the Bishop of Sherborne, who with great success arrived in India, at which every one of this age wonders. Returning thence he brought back exotic gems and aromatic liquors which the land there produces”

Florence of  Worcester in 883 AD says: “Asser, Bishop of Sherbone died and was succeded by Swithelm, who carried King Alfred’s alms to St.Thomas in India and returned in safety/”

18.   Mar Solomon -Syrian Nestorian -  Bishop of Bassora (c. 1222).


In the13th C Solomon wrote in his Book of the Bee as follows:
”Thomas was from Jerusalem of the tribe of Juda. He taught the Persians, Medes and the Indians; and because he baptized the daughter of the King of the Indians he stabbed him with a spear and died. Habban the merchant brought his body and laid it in Edessa, the blessed city of our Lord. Others say that he was buried in Mahluph (Mylapore) a city in the land of Indians.”

19.  Jawaharlal Nehru, Prime Minister of India (1947 – 1964)
“Glimpses of World History” (1934)

You may be surprised to learn that Christianity came to India long before it went to England or Western Europe, and when even in Rome it was a despised and proscribed sect. Within 100 years or so of the death of Jesus, Christian Missionaries came to South India by sea. They were received courteously and permitted to preach their new faith. They converted a large number of people, and their descendants have lived there, with varying fortune, to this day. Most of them belong to old Christian sects which have ceased to exist in Europe.”

20. Pope Pius XII

declared on 31 December, 1952 on the occasion of the 19th century celebrations of the arrival of the Apostle in India: "Nineteen hundred years have passed since the Apostle came to India ... During the centuries that India was cut off from the West and despite many trying vicissitudes, the Christian communities formed by the Apostle conserved intact the legacy he left them ... This apostolic lineage, beloved sons and daughters, is the proud privilege of the many among you who glory in the name of Thomas Christians and we are happy on this occasion to acknowledge and bear witness to it."

21. Dr. S. Rajendra Prasad, President of India ( 1952-62),


At the St. Thomas Day celebration in New Delhi on December 18, 1955, Dr. Rajendra Prasad, the then President of India, said:


 "St. Thomas came to India when many of the countries of Europe had not yet become Christian, and so those Indians who trace their Christianity to him have a longer history and a higher ancestry than that of Christians of many of the European countries."

22.   Dr. S. Radhakrishnan, President of India (1962-67) in “East and West in Religion” ( 1958)

“Christianity has flourished in India from the beginning of the Christian era. The Syrian Christians of Malabar believe that their form of Christianity is Apostolic derived directly from the Apostle Thomas. They contend that their version of the Christian faith is distinctive and independent of the forms established by St.Peter and St.Paul in the west. What is obvious is that there have been Christians in the West Coast of Indian from very early time. They were treated with great respect by the Hindus, whose princes built for them churches.”

“Christianity has been with us from the Second Century AD. It has not merely the rights of a guest but the rights of a native “

23.     Giani Zail Singh, President of India (1982 – 1987)

From his speech on October 26, 1983, inaugurating the Paurastya Vidyapitham, Vadavathoor, Kottayam.

 “Christianity in India dates back to the days of Saint Thomas, one of the original disciples of Lord Jesus. Since then, it has flourished here and added a new dimension to India’s rich cultural heritage. With deep root in the soil, Indian Christianity has developed an independent personality of its own- Christian in religion, Oriental in worship and Indian in culture. This local character has been sustained, and enriched over the last many centuries”

24. Pope Benedict XVI  



The Pope, in a general audience at St Peter’s Square on September 27, 2006 said: “Let us remember that an ancient tradition claims that Thomas first evangelised Syria and Persia then went on to Western India from where Christianity also reached Southern India.”


Apparently people have tried to misinterpret this statement to imply that Pope denied Thomas as the Apostle to South India.  Far from it. This statement is historically correct in that it recognizes the history that Thomas visited Taxila first and then from there he took a ship and landed in Kodungallur as the South Indian tradition states. 

 "It is the constant tradition in the Eastern church that the Apostle Thomas evangelized India, and there is no historian, no poet, no breviary, no liturgy, and no writer of any kind who, having the opportunity of speaking of Thomas, does not associate his name with India. Some writers mention also Parthia and Persia among the lands evangelized by him, but all of them are unanimous in the matter of India. The name of Thomas can never be disassociated from that of India. To refer to all the Syrian and Christian Arab authors who speak of India in connection with Thomas would therefore be equivalent to referring to all who have made mention of the name of St. Thomas. Thomas and India are in this respect synonymous."
(Mingana, Early Spread of Christianity in India, p. 301.)


India 60 AD


An anonymous writer in his book “Periplus Maris Erithrae” writes in 60 A.D. :
 “Near the river Indus, lies the kingdom of ‘Scythia’ (=Sithia) with its headquarters Minnagaram, ruled by Parthian kings. On the other side of the Bay of Baracea, lie Bariyagasa (Broach) and the coasts of Ariyaka, which is the boundary of India. The west of this is not called India. On the east of Scythia, lies the territory of Abira (the land of Abhiras) and the coast is called Syrastrene” (=Saurashtram).

Macrindle says that Ariyaka was on the south of Larick (which is the present Gujarat); “Syrastrene is the present Kathiavar,” according to Schoof.  

Ptolemy’s Geography (C. 150 A.D.) gives the boundary lines of India thus :-“On the West Paropanisaley (i.e. Syrastrene according to Periplus), Arachosia, Gedrosia; on the North, Imaos (=Himalaya mountains); on the East, the Ganges; South and West, the Indian Ocean.” –

“Cosmas Indicopleustes in his Topographia Christiana” (C. 522-545A.D.) says:-“Sindu is where India begins. India and Persia are separated by Sindu.” He speaks of R. Kaberis, Baiscara, Mussirissi and several towns of commerce in Malabar.

Hence, we see that in the “India” of the ancient westerners, not even Sindu was included.—

The first century Kerala

“When St Thomas arrived in Muchiri (other names: Musiris, Cranganur, Kodungalure etc) in Mali Island on the Alwaye coast in 52 AD the Chera kingdom existing at that time was ruled by Udayan Cheran Athen-I (page 44 of Cochin State Manual).

“From the 1st century AD or before the most known kingdoms in South India were Chera, Chola, and Pandian. The capital of Chera was Vanji or Tiruvanchikulam and the most important port was Muchiri (Musiris). The capital of Chola Kingdom was Urayur and the most important port was Kaveri, where as the Pandian kingdom had Madurai as its capital and the most important port was Korkai. The area from Gokarnam (now in Carnataka towards Goa) to CapeComerin was ruled by the Chera kings and Kerala derived the name from Cheram ,

”There was also another ancient kingdom known as Ayr ruled by Vel (kings) in the High Ranges south of Pampa River (Baris) where Nilackal, one of the churches founded by St.Thomas, existed. They ruled this area more than 1000years from first centuryAD. When St. Thomas landed in Nilackal they were possibly the rulers. 3 Ptolemy in his writings in the second century recorded this place as Aioi. Venadu is derived from Vel Nadu. It seems that the name Ayroor and AyurVeda had its root from this kingdom. The history of this kingdom requires research

“The Christians (Jews) came with St. Thomas settled mostly in Cattukulangara (Kunnamkulam). The Arthattu Church in the name of St Mary in Kunnamkulam is believed to be one of the oldest churches from the time of St Thomas.The Christians at the time of St Thomas were called Nazaranikal.They were also referred to as "Issanis" in the epic poem of Manimekalai in Tamil by Mani around 3rd century AD”