St Thomas was born a Jew and was called to be one of the Twelve Apostles of Jesus Christ. His name in Aramaic (Te’oma) and Greek (Didymos) means “twin”. John 11:16 identifies him as “Thomas, called the Twin”. However, we do not know of his twin or how he came to have this name.
He was a dedicated but impetuous follower of Christ. When Jesus said He was returning to Judea to visit His sick friend Lazarus, Thomas immediately exhorted the other Apostles to accompany Him on the trip which involved certain danger and possible death because of the mounting hostility of the authorities (John 11:16).
At the Last Supper, when Christ told His disciples that He was going to prepare a place for them to which they also might come, because they knew both the place and the way, Thomas said “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?” to which he received the beautiful reply from Jesus “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6).
St Thomas is however, most popularly known by his nickname “Doubting Thomas”, due to his demand for tangible evidence in order to believe that Jesus was alive.
The Gospel of John alone includes the incident of the appearance of the risen Lord to Thomas (John 20:24-29). This story presents the relation between ‘seeing’ and ‘believing’, where Thomas stands as a believer who believes after seeing the risen Christ. Thomas’ confession of Jesus as “My Lord and My God” is considered as the utterance of a staunch believer with renewed experience of the divine presence. Thomas’ determination to see and touch the Lord connects us directly with the resurrection belief. His statement “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.” (John 20:25), proves that he was a witness of Jesus’ crucifixion. He saw that Jesus was nailed in his hands and other parts of the body and secondly, he saw that Jesus was pierced in his side by the soldiers.
St Thomas is believed to have travelled outside the Roman Empire to preach the Gospel, travelling as far as South India. He is often regarded as the patron saint of India and the name Thomas remains quite popular amongst the Christians of the Indian subcontinent. St Thomas is thought to have been martyred at St Thomas Mount in Chennai around 72AD.