INDIA and THE APOSTLE THOMAS
The Apostle Thomas and Gondophares
the indian King - connection proved
from Coins and Inscription 189
THOMAS, THE APOSTLE OF INDIA
I. The Witness of St. Ephraem and
Syrian Writers 194
II. The Witness of the Liturgical Books
and Calendars of the Syrian Church 198
III. The Witness of the Fathers of the
Western Church 199
IV. The Witness of the Calendars, Sacramentaries,
and Martyrologies of the Western Church 200
V. The Witness of the Greek and
Abyssinian Churches 203
SAINT THOMAS’S TOMB IN INDIA
I. The Witness of St. Gregory of Tours,
a.d. 590. 204
II. King Alfred’s Embassy to the Shrine,
a.d. 883 206
III. Visited by Marco Polo, c. a.d. 1293 206
IV. Visited by Friar John of Monte Corvino,
a.d. 1292-1293 207
V. Mentioned by Blessed Oderic,
a.d. 1324-1325 207
VI. Visited by Bishop John de Marignolli,
a.d. 1349 207
VII. Visited by Nicolò de’ Conti, before
a.d. 1430 208
VIII. What Amr’, Son of Matthew, says,
c. a.d. 1340 208
IX. What the Nestorian Bishops
say, a.d. 1504 208
HISTORICAL AND TRADITIONAL
RECORDS OF THE APOSTLE
I. The Apostle’s Relics at Edessa
and Subsequent Removal 209
II. His Martyrdom Upheld 212
III. Different Versions of the Same 213
IV. Traditions Regarding the Apostle 214
V. The Question of ‘Calamina’ 216
VI. The ‘Maliarpha’ of Ptolemy 219
THE ALLEGED APOSTLES OF INDIA
I. St. Pantaenus
(SS. Bartholomew and Matthew) 220
II. St. Frumentius 222
III. Theophilus the Indian 223
Did a Disciple of Manes go to India ? 225
A CRITICAL ANALYSIS OF THE ACTS OF THOMAS
1. Criteria 227
2. Are the Acts a Romance ? 227
3. Two Different Ancient Views of the Same 227
4. Gnostics and the Acts 227
5. Reasons in support 227
6. Criteria Applicable to the Acts 227
7. Abdias, his Compilation 228
8. Acts of Thomas, Original Language 229
9. The Syriac Text of the Acts 229
10. The Greek Version 229
11. The Latin Versions 229
12. Other Versions 229
13. Acts of Thecla 230
14. Reconstruction of the Acta 231
15. Interpolated by Gnostics 233
16. Acts of Andrew also Adopted by Them 233
17. St. Gregory of Tours, Author of
De Miraculis Beati Andreae. 234
18. St. Gregory, probable Author of
De Miraculis Beati Thomae 235
the acts of Thomas discussed
19. Introduction 236
20. Thomas’s First Mission 236
21. Story of the Dream-Vision 236
22. Syriac text often Altered 237
23. Acts Dramatised - Act I 237
24. Thomas’s Second Mission Discussed-
Acts II., III., IV., V., VI., VII 238
25. Act VII.-Discussion Continued 239
26. A Romantic Interpolation 239
27. Act VIII.-Narrative 239
28. Act VIII Discussed-Gnostic Sects in Asia 240
29. Doctrinal Additions to Acts
of Thecla and Thomas 241
30. Baptism, whether by Oil 242
31. Eucharistic Celebrations 242
32. Incidents Omitted in present Syriac Text 243
33. Acts Disclose Indian and Hindu Customs 243
34. Names Mentioned in the Acts 244
35. Date of the Acts 246
36. The Martyrdom 247
37. The Removal of the
Apostle’s Relics from India 248
Before commencing the perusal of these pages, the reader may find it useful to be put in possession of some of its principal features. A close inspection of the List of Contents would no doubt outline the information; yet it may not be inappropriate for the general reader to have the chief lines briefly traced, and the aim the writer had in view indicated.
The book will fall into the hands of at least two classes of readers : those who, accepting in a general way the ecclesiastical tradition that Thomas the Apostle had preached the Gospel in India, desiderate that the subject should be threshed out and placed on a solid historical basis; others-and these may be the more numerous-who look upon such traditions as legendary and void of foundation, and therefore give no further thought to the subject.
The writer, who held the former opinion, ventures to offer the result of his researches on the question; he hopes the treatment of the Apostle’s connection with India here submitted may be of interest to both classes of readers, and helpful to the formation of a correct opinion.
The inquiry opens with the earlier contact of St. Thomas with India; this would fall within the period that may be termed the first tour of his apostolate, when he conveyed the glad tidings of the Gospel to the Parthians, as the oldest written record attests. It would have been then that he came in contact with Gondophares, the Parthian, who, during the middle of the first century a.d., ruled over Afghanistan and the borderland of India.
The subject is, next, more fully discussed in a close examination of all available records supplied by the East and the West having reference to the Apostle and his mission to India.
It is confidently hoped that the evidence adduced will uphold the truth of the tradition that Thomas suffered martyrdom in India: thence it will follow that his tomb ought to be found in India. In fact a long chain of witnesses will be produced extending from the sixth century to the landing of the Portuguese on the shores of India, attesting that the tomb was really in Mylapore.
The subsequent history of the Remains of the Apostle will show that, at an early period, these had been removed from India to Edessa; evidence from the writings of the Fathers will attest that they were known to repose in that city during the fourth century; and that, in fact, they remained there until the city was sacked and destroyed by the rising Moslem power.
To remove all doubt as to whether the Apostle Thomas was the first to evangelise India, the claims brought forward on behalf of certain alleged Apostles of India are likewise submitted to a close scrutiny.
This closes the historical part of the Inquiry. The reader will find what is historical and what is traditional regarding the Apostle classified in the Index under the word "Thomas."
In the course of the previous discussion mention had to be made more than once of the story which has come to us regarding the Apostle named the "Acts of Thomas." These form part of a class of writings known as the "Apocryphal Acts of the Apostles." It had not been the writer’s original intention to handle this subject separately; but, later, it appeared advisable to undertake it in order to ascertain what further historical data it might yield beyond that of St. Thomas’s contact with King Gondophares; and also because this class of literature has of late years claimed the attention of several scholars both in England and in Germany.
As Professor Carl Schmidt has made a special study of the Apocryphal Acts of the Apostles, it will be interesting to learn the outcome of his special researches in this line. He deals1 with a group of the Acts of Peter, John, Andrew, and Thomas; those of Paul he reserves, but has since treated them very fully in a new work.2 He commences by making it clear that Lipsius had wrongly assigned an heretical origin to the above writings, and he blames him for adducing the authority of Philastrius in support of that view, which, he says, Lipsius had done by giving a wrong punctuation to the words of Philastrius and by interpolating words of his own into the text of the former. For this statement the authority of Zahn is cited in support. The Professor next gives his own views on the original texts; he admits that some had been manipulated, but maintains that such additions and corrections as were made did not so alter the writings as not to allow the primitive text to be clearly discerned-in fact, remained transparent, is his expression; further, the matter introduced was not so extensive as to change the substance of the writings. He then goes on to say that he has the greatest confidence and is very optimistic in regard to the faithful transmission of the ancient texts so far as they have come down at present. He draws also a comparison between the present state of the text of these Acts and that of those of the Martyrs, and concludes to the effect that no deliberate corrections or alterations had been made with a view to change the nature of the texts, but that what was done was due to the arbitrary act of individuals, or to the personal taste of amanuenses, or of translators.
After a full discussion of the Acts of Peter, he passes to review those of John (of all writings of this class these are held by some as of undoubted Gnostic origin) ; he then formulates his general opinion (p. 129): "My discussion has been longer than I expected; but I have full confidence that more accurate researches will support my thesis for the catholic character of the Acts of John, provided we keep in view the peculiarities of their ideas, their age, and their origin. However, before all else, I wish to insist that we should not work with general Gnostic ideas [in our minds], nor should we forget the deep and radical differences which, at bottom, separate the writings of a Gnostic mind from those of a catholic. A Gnostic romance of the Apostles is to me a phantom."
It would not be a difficult task to compile a long list of ancient documents which had once been rejected as apocryphal and legendary, but have since been acknowledged as reliable and historical documents. We submit, on this subject, the opinion of another modern scholar of great research and erudition, the Rev. Dom H. Leclercq : 3 "II n’y a presque pas de document hagiographique de l’antiquité chrétienne dont on n’ait mis en question l’authenticité. De cette suspicion générale il est sorti un groupe compact d’écrits sur la valeur desquels nous sommes pleinement assurés."4
The ground for a critical handling of the Acts of Thomas was, in a way, quite prepared; critical editions of the early Greek and Latin versions had been issued, as also an edition of the original Syriac text with an English translation by the late Dr. Wright.
This portion of the book, as a whole, may perhaps not sufficiently interest the general reader - it should, besides, be read with a copy of the Acts in hand; but even the ordinary reader will, it is hoped, find certain sections attractive. He will realise that the Acts of Thomas were, at an early date, extensively interpolated and adapted for doctrinal purposes by certain sects; and that this manipulation of the text was carried out according to the system employed in the case of an earlier writing, the Acts of the Virgin-Protomartyr, Thecla, tending to prove that the Acts of Thomas had an early and independent position.
Following on this the reader will be prepared to accept the fact that, besides the historical incident mentioned previously, they embody in a portion of the narrative, which has all the appearance of offering an historical account of events, the mention of usages and customs which are found to be purely Indian and Hindu. This would naturally suggest that they cannot be considered as merely legendary; further, that they yet retain portions of an original narrative which must have come from India, though this earliest text now bears marks of gross disfigurement as it appears in the text and versions.
The writer assumes all responsibility for the English renderings of quotations given in the book, unless they are assigned to others.
A coin-plate and a sketch-map of Mylapore and its environs accompany the Illustrations; these will help to place before the reader such memories of the Apostle as survive.
The writer’s best thanks are offered to Mr. W. R. Philipps for continuous help during the several years occupied in collecting the material for the evidence here produced: it is, however, a matter of some regret to him to feel bound to express in the book dissent on two points from opinions published by his friend. He has also to express his acknowledgments to the Rev. Dom H.N. Birt, O.S.B., for most useful assistance while reading the last proof-sheets.
The Author desires to record his great appreciation of the liberality of the Marchioness Dowager of Bute in enabling him to go to press with his work.
Nice, 24th May 1905.
APOSTLE THOMAS AND GONDOPHARES THE
INDIAN KING—CONNECTION PROVED
FROM COINS AND INSCRIPTION
‘The Acts of Thomas,’ to adopt an appellation now become general, contain certain statements which discoveries made in recent years have enabled us to test in the light of actual history. The narrative tells us that the Apostle Thomas, much against his will and inclination, had to undertake the work of preaching the Gospel to the Indians; and that to induce him to obey the mandate he had received, our Lord appeared to him in person, and sold him to Habban, a minister of King Gondophares of the Indians, who had been sent to Syria in search of a competent builder, able to undertake the construction of a palace for his sovereign. Thomas in his company left by sea for India, which was reached after a rapid passage. Both proceeded to the court, where Thomas was presented to the king, and undertook the erection of the building. Several other incidents are narrated regarding the Apostle, mixed up with much fabulous matter; these we pass over for the present.
In the second half of the story Thomas is in the dominions of an Indian king, named in the Syriac text Mazdai, in the Greek version MisdatoV, and in the Latin Misdeus. It was in this country that he brought his apostolic labours to a close by receiving the martyr’s crown. The facts connected with his martyrdom will be dealt with subsequently. We now propose to examine if there be any, and what, foundation for coupling the name of King Gondophares with that of the Apostle.5
Did a king of the name of Gondophares reign over any portion of India, and was he a contemporary of the Apostolic age? Where was his kingdom situated? Was it practicable for the Apostle Thomas to have had access to it?
Should the above questions receive an affirmative solution, they would justify the inference that the recital in the Acts of Thomas in this point was based on historical knowledge; and further, that on this account the Acts themselves deserved closer study and examination.
The name of King Gondophares appears in the Syriac text of the Acts as Gudnaphar; in the Greek version as GoundaforoV : codd. Rand S of a later date give GoutaforoV and GoundiaforoV ; the longer Latin version, De Miraculis, does not reproduce the name of the king: he is throughout styled ‘rex’; it appears in the shorter Latin version, Passio, as Gundaforus: codd. QGR of Max Bonnet’s Acta Thomae give Gundoforus.
It was only about the middle of the nineteenth century that it became possible to say whether a king of that name ever existed and had reigned in India.
In 1854 General Alexander Cunningham, writing in the Journal of the Asiatic Society of Bengal (Vol.xxiii. pp.679-712), was able to say that in the preceding twenty years no less than thirty thousand coins bearing Greek and Indian legends, and extending over a period of more than three centuries, had been found in Afghanistan and the Punjab. A large, if not the greater, number belong to Greek princes who ruled over the country as inheritors of and successors to the conquests of Alexander the Great. Another portion bear the evidence of Scythian conquerors, confirmed also by other authorities, and of Parthian kings and rulers who had become masters of these territories. The coins of Gondophares, the king with whom we are concerned, belong to the latter category.
The first specimen of a coin of this ruler was discovered by Masson in Afghanistan about 1834. Since then many others have come to light, and specimens are to be seen in public collections at the British Museum, the Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris, and the Berlin Museum. We had opportunities of examining the specimens of the two former collections from which the types, reproduced in this book, are taken.
H.H.Wilson in his Ariana Antiqua, London, 1841, gives a history of these discoveries, and he and James Prinsep did much towards deciphering the then unknown characters in which the Indian legends on the coins appear. After the death of James Prinsep, his brother, H.T. Prinsep, published in 1844 a work on the same subject-Note on the Historical Results deducible from Recent Discoveries in Afghanistan in continuation of James Prinsep’s labours. But these works are now obsolete, and many of the early readings of the legends have had to be discarded.
What General Cunningham wrote in 1854 in the periodical above named, pp. 711-712, may here be quoted with advantage:-
‘The coins of Gondophares are common in Kabul and Kandahar and Seistan, and in the Western and southern Punjab. All these countries, therefore, must have owned his sway. He was, besides, the head and founder of his family, as no less than three members of it claim relationship with him on their coins- Orthagnes, his full brother; Abdagases, his nephew;6 and Sasa or Sasan, a more distant relation. The coins of Orthagnes are found in Seistan and Kandahar; those of Abdagases and Sasan in the western Punjab. I presume, therefore, that they were the Viceroys of those provinces on the part of the great King Gondophares, who himself resided at Kabul.7 All the names are those of Parthians, but the language of the coins is Indian Pali. Abdagases is the name of the Parthian chief who headed the successful revolt against Artabanus in A.D. 44. The great power of Gondophares and the discovery of a coin of Artabanus counter- marked with the peculiar monogram of all the Gondopharian dynasty,’ &c.8
The reader will find reproduced on the Plate select specimens of the better preserved coins of the Gondophares series existing at the Bibliothèque Nationale and the British Museum. Impressions of the four coins on the left were kindly supplied by M. Jean de Foville, Sousbibliothécaire au Cabinet des Médailles de la Bibliothéque Nationale. Those on the right were similarly obtained through the kindness of Mr. E.J. Rapson, Assistant Conservator, Department of Coins and Medals, British Museum; he has also very kindly corrected the Greek and supplied the Indian legends given in the text. Coin No. I at the top of the plate comes from the Berlin Museum.
Coins of King Gondophares
1. Obv. Gondophares. Bust of the king wearing Arsacid tiara, diadem.
Rev. King seated on throne holding sceptre; behind, Nike
crowning him. Greek legend—
2. Obv. Bust of king crowned. Greek legend, part legible—
Rev. Nike offering crown. Indian legend—
Gomdapharnasa tratara [sa—]
3. Obv. Bust of king crowned (different type from No. 2).
Rev. Nike offering crown. Indian legend—
[-] harajasa Gomdapharnasa [......]
4. Obv. King on horseback, flowing turban, whip in hand.
Greek legend —
Rev. Siva; right hand holding trident, left extended over
symbol. Indian legend—
5. [Abdagases’ coin]—
Obv. King on horseback (type No. 4). Greek legend—
Rev. King standing; right hand over symbol. Indian legend—
[Gudaphara-bhrata-putrasa] maharajasa tratarasa
6. Obv. King wearing an ornament in the form of a diadem.
Rev. Nike holding crown. Indian legend—
Gom[da]pharnasa tradarasa maharajasa.
7. Obv. King crowned. Greek legend—
Rev. Nike as in No.6. Indian legend—
Gomdapharnasa tradara [sa.....] jasa.
8. Obv. King on horseback, facing left. Nike standing in front
with crown. Greek legend—
Rev. Indian symbol and legend—
Maha [——]dramiasa apratihatasa devavratasa
9. Obv. same as preceding. Greek legend—
Rev. Indian symbol and legend—
[—— a] pratihatasa deva [——].
Professor Percy Gardner, in his Catalogue of the Coins of Greek and Scythic Kings of Bactria and India in the British Museum, edited by Reginald Stuart Poole, London, 1886 (Introd., pp. xliv- xlv), observes: ‘In the inscription of the Gondophares coin we find the epithet Autokrátwr, which is found in the money of only two Arsacid kings - Sinatroces, B.C. 76 to 69, and Phraates IV., A.D. 8-11. This particular coin of Gondophares, then, would seem to have been struck not later than the middle of the first century A.D. The period mentioned would suit the other coins of Gondophares.’ At p. xlvi he offers the following additional data: ‘( Epigraphy of the Coins.) On referring to the coins of the Arsacidae, we find that in the series the square [omicron] p and C [sigma] come in some twenty years B.C. On the other hand, w [omega] does not take the place of W until 8 A.D. It is in keeping with these facts that Maues uses round letters only; Azes and Azilises, Spilirises and their contemporaries, use the square p with W; Gondophares and Abdagases use the forms p and w. We have thus a series of kings covering B.C. 50 to A.D. 50.'
Mr. E.J. Rapson of the British Museum (Indian Coins, with Five Plates, Strassburg, 1897, p.15, § 61) confirms the above chronology: ‘Indo-Parthian Coins-Date of Indo-Parthian Dynasty. The Indo-Parthian dynasty, the best known member of which is Gondophares, seems to have succeeded the dynasty of Vonones in Kandahar and Seistan, and to have at one period extended its territories eastwards into the Punjab and Sind, which, at an earlier date, formed the kingdom of Maues. With regard to the chronological limits—(i) the foundation of the dynasty seems to be after I B.C.(Von Gutschmidt, Gesch. Ir., p.134); and (2) the date of one of the latest kings, Sanabares, after 77 A.D. (Von Sallet, Z.f.N., 1879, p.364). For a coin, bearing the name of Aspavarma (u. supra, § 34),which seems to join in some manner as yet unexplained the two branches represented by Gondophares and Azes (§ 31), v. Rodgers, N. Chr., 1896, p.268.’
The French savant, M. Sylvain Lévi, who wrote about the same time, concurs in the views given above (Journal Asiatique, tom. ix., Neuviéme série, 1897, Jan., Févr., p.41): ‘ Du côté de Gondopharès, l’hypothèse concorde avec d’autres données. Gondopharès prend sur les légendes grecques des monnaies le titre d’autokratôr, comme font les empereurs romains à partir d’Auguste. Les Parthes Arsacides, intermédiaires naturels entre le monde romain et l’Inde, marquent avec précision I’époque où ce titre passe d’Occident en Orient : Phraates IV, qui règne de 8 à 11 après Jésus-Christ, est le seul (en dehors de l’incertain Sanatrokès) à prendre le titre d’autokratôr. C’est également à partir de Phraates IV que I’oméga carré se substitue à I’oméga arrondi dans les légendes grecques; les monnaies de Gondopharès montrent la transformation accomplie déjà dans I’Inde’.
The latest writer who treated the subject, Mr. Vincent A. Smith (Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society, January, 1903, ‘The Kushan, or Indo-Scythian Period of Indian History, b.c. 165 to a.d. 320,’ quotation taken from separate reprint of the paper, p.40), is also in full agreement with preceding scholars: ‘On the obverses of his coins his name in Greek characters assumes the forms of Gondophares, Gondaphares, and Undophares, which last is perhaps to be read as beginning with an aspirate. The reverse legends in the Kharosthi script give the name as Gudaphara, Gadaphara, or Gudaphana.9 This monarch . . . was clearly of Parthian origin, and his coins are closely related to those of other Indo-Parthian kings. All the indications of his date taken together show that he must have reigned in the first half of the first century a.d. He uses the title autokrátwr, which was introduced by Augustus, who died in a.d. 14, and was adopted by the Parthian king Phraates, a.d. 8-11. The square omega and square omicron, which were not definitely adopted by the Arsacidae before a.d. 8, frequently occur in his coin legends....The relation of his coins to those of Azes, Soter Megas, and other rulers on the Indian frontier, agrees with the other data which indicate his reign as lying in the first half of the first century a.d.’
Besides the legend-bearing coins an inscription has also been discovered offering the name of King Gondophares. As some doubt had been cast on the reading of the inscription, it will be best to give the reader an historical account of the stone and of the readings of the inscription.
The Takht-i-Bahi stone, to give it the name by which it is known, is now in the Lahore Museum, where the writer had occasion to inspect it several years ago. It is a large thick block, not a slab, with a flaw at the top centre; a large piece was apparently chipped off. General Cunningham in the Archaeological Survey Report for the years 1872-73 (vol. v., Calcutta, 1875, pp. 58-59)gives the following account: ‘The stone itself was discovered by Dr. Bellew, and has been presented by him to the Lahore Museum. We are indebted, however, to Dr. Leitner for bringing it to notice. I have repeatedly examined it in different lights, and have made numerous impressions of it, from which, with the aid of a large photograph, I have prepared the accompanying copy. Before seeing Professor Dowson’s notice [published in Trübner’s Literary Record], I had read the name Gondophares, together with the year of his reign and the name of the month Vesákh, &c., in a small photograph. But an inspection of the stone showed me that there were two distinct dates— the first of which I take to be the year of the king’s reign, and the second the Samvat year. As the stone has been used for many years, perhaps for centuries, for the grinding of spices, all the middle part of the inscription has suffered and become indistinct, and some portions have been obliterated altogether. But the top and bottom lines and the left-hand portion of the three middle lines are generally in very good preservation. The stone is 17 inches long by 14½ inches broad. [It has six lines.].... In the first line it will be observed that there is a rough space in the middle of the king’s name. From the appearance of the stone I am satisfied that this gap existed when the record was inscribed. There is, however, the trace of a peculiar flourish still visible in the left half of the broken space, which curiously enough is the very same that is now used by English clerks to denote a blank space....I consider that it is a very good illustration of the practice of the old Indian masons when they met with a flaw in the stone.
‘I read the opening of the inscription as follows:-
‘ " In the 26th year of the great King Guduphara, in the Samvat year three and one hundred (repeated in figures) 100+3=103, in the month of Vaisákh, on the 4th day."
‘Its last words: sapuyaë, matu pitu puyaë-"for his own religious merit, and for the religious merit of his mother and father" — show that it is only a simple record of the building of a stupa or vihar by some pious Buddhist.’
We follow up this clear account of the stone and its inscription by what Professor Dowson has to say on the subject (see Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society, New Series, vol. vii., 1875). His first reading appeared in Trübner’s Record, June 1871, mentioned above. Of the six lines he found only the first two legible, containing name of a king and a date, and towards the end the word puyae twice inscribed. The reading he gave was the following:—
‘In the 26, twenty-sixth year of the great King Guna...
pharasa, on the 7, seventh day of the month of Vaisákha.’
He considered the identification of the king’s name doubtful, as three letters were obliterated. He afterwards saw Cunningham’s reading reproduced in the Journal of the royal Asiatic Society, August 1873, p.242. Cunningham there says the inscription ends with the words: ‘for his own religious merit, and for the religious merit of his father and mother.’ Professor Dowson then took up the inscription again, and his new reading of the first line was:—
‘In the 26th year of the great King Gunu ..Phara (Gondophares).’
‘In (the year)one hundred of the Samvat on the day of the month Vaisákha.’
He declares himself doubtful about the first part of the second line.
The reader will observe, comparing the Professor’s second reading with that given by the General, that the differences are (I) the first portion of the king’s name is read ‘Gunu’ by Dowson and ‘Gudu’ by Cunningham; then (2)the Samvat year is read 100 by Dowson and 100+3 by Cunningham; (3) in the month Dowson omits the date given by Cunningham. These differences, even if they can be sustained, do not vary the substance of the record.
The General on his return to England took up the inscription once more, and gives his matured opinion (Coins of the Indo-Scythians, pp.16-17): ‘An inscription of Gadaphara or Gondophares, found at Takht-i-Bahi, to the north-east of Peshawur, is dated in the 26th year of his reign. There is also a date of Samvat 103, as I read it. The numeral for 100 is certain, and as this is followed by three upright strokes, the whole date would appear to be 103. The era, however, is quite unknown. If referred to the Vikramâditya Samvat it would be 103—57=46 A.D. This date would place the beginning of the reign of Gondophares in 46—25=21 A.D., and as his coins are very numerous, he must have had a long reign, perhaps thirty or forty years, or down to A.D. 50 or 60. The reading of the name Gadaphara in the Takht-i-Bahi inscription is thought to be doubtful by those who have not seen the stone. I have examined the inscription many times, and I reassert that the reading of the name is most certainly Gadaphara, the separation in the middle of the name being simply due to an original fault in the stone. I may note here that there are many similar faults in the great Kâlsi inscription of Asoka.’
M. Senart, member of the Institut de France (Journal Asiatique, Huitième série, tom. xv., Fév.-Mars, tom.i.,1890) is the last scholar who has written fully on the Takht-i-Bahi inscription, Notes d’Épigraphie Indienne, accompanied by a print of an impression taken from the inscription. He gives his reading at p.119, fully supported by detailed remarks given in the text. The following is the reading he offers:—
‘L’an 26 du grand roi Gudupharas, 103 du comput continu, le cinquième jour de mois Vaiçakha ... en I’honneur de... en I’honneur de ses père et mère.’
‘The 26th year of the great King Gudupharas, the one hundred and third of the continuing (running) era, the fifth day of the month of Vaisâkh....in honour of ...in honour of his father and mother.’ The reader will not fail to observe that the reading in substance gives the same result as that proposed by Cunningham in 1875, with the correction that a ‘continuing era’ is quoted, and the date of the month is read ‘fifth’ instead of fourth. In his reading of the era date M. Senart agrees with Cunningham in opposition to Professor Dowson; he adds (pp.115-117): La lecture des caractères suivants ne laisse aucun doute sur l’interprétation de la date; c’est bien l’année 103 comme l’avait admis le general Cunningham. Un second example du chiffre 100 est déjà connu par l’épigraphe de Pandjtar (Archaeological Survey, iii., PI. XVI., Fig.4); see Fleet, Corpus inscript Ind., iii.
The last remark is aimed at a theory put forward by Mr. Vincent A. Smith that in writing the figures of an Indian era the numerals of hundreds and thousands were omitted. Since then Mr. Vincent smith in a recent paper, 1893 (ut supr.), has expressly excluded the Takht-i-Bahi inscription from the number of those which he reckons as belonging to the Laukika era, to which he restricts at present the theory he had put forward. We reproduce his latest opinion on this inscription, p. 40: ‘One of the most famous of these rare Karosthi inscriptions is that from Takht-i- Bahi (or Bahai), north-east of Peshawar, which was published by Cunningham in an incorrect form, and has been revised by M. Senart. The record, although too imperfect to admit of continuous translation, is certainly a Buddhist votive inscription record in the 26th year of the Maharaya Guduphara on the 5th day of the month Vesakha of the year 103 of an unspecified era. It is impossible to doubt that the Maharaya Guduphara mentioned in this record is the well-known King Gondophares, whose coins are abundant in the Pañjab and Eastern Afghanistan. [The intermediate passage has been given above.] If, on this evidence, the conclusion be accepted that the accession of Gondophares must be placed somewhere about A.D.25, it follows that the unnamed era of an inscription, dated in the year 103 of that era and in his 26th regnal year, must run from about the middle of the first century B.C. The only known era, starting from that point, is the Malva or Vikrama era of B.C. 57, and in order to avoid the assumption of the existence of another unknown era with approximately the same starting-point, we are justified in provisionally treating the Takht-i-Bahai inscription as being dated in that era. This theory is, as Mr. Rapson has observed, "supported by every recent discovery"(Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society for 1900, p.389).
‘On this assumption, the date of the Takht-i-Bahai inscription is 103—57=A.D. 46, the 26th year of the reign of King Gondophares. His accession therefore occurred twenty-five years earlier, or in A.D. 21. This date, which is certainly close to the truth, is a most valuable resting-place in the troubled sea of Indian chronology.’
In the light, then, of the present-day advance in Indian archaeological research, the Vikrama era, which began in B.C. 58, February or March, the first year ending in B.C. 57, is, we may now say, almost unanimously accepted to be the era of the Takht-i-Bahi record, though at one time there had been some doubt. Since Indian chronology only reckons completed years, the beginning of Gondophares’ reign falls in A.D. 21 and that of the inscription is A.D. 46. If the reign of Gondophares be extended to forty years - no exceptional reckoning for that period - it would bring us down to A.D. 60. From what has been shown above, the numismatic tokens on the Gondophares coins demand approximately a similar date—the middle, or a little after, of the first century; the date fits in mutually with the probabilities of the case and the possibility that the Apostle Saint Thomas may have come in contact with the king then reigning.
But did they meet?
To suggest an answer to such a question the reader should first bear in mind that, until the coins were found, no historical or other indication was known to exist that there had ever been a king bearing the name of Gondophares, or that he had reigned over any part of India, except and only in the Acts of Thomas. Whether that statement was true or false, nothing could fairly be said for or against it, though—as has often happened in similar cases—it had been put down to legendary fiction. Now, when suddenly, about the middle of the last century, that name is deciphered on coins found in India and the borderland, and when this is further supported by the discovery of an Indian inscription bearing the name in ancient Gandhara, it is impossible to resist the conclusion that the writer of the Acts must have had information based on contemporary history. For at no later date could a forger or legendary writer have known the name. It is impossible to suppose that a later writer, drawing on his imagination for facts, persons, localities, and incidents, could have brought about the coincidence of two personages, one of whom was unknown to living history, fitting the circumstances of place, persons, duty, and time, so aptly as occurs in this case. On this ground we maintain there is every reason to conclude that the Apostle Thomas had entered King Gondophares’ dominions in the course of his apostolic career.
The credit of first10 drawing the attention of scholars to the connection between the coins of Gondophares and the Acts of Thomas is due to M. Reinaud, who put it forward in 1848, in his Mémoire Géographique Historique et Scientifique sur I’Inde (Mémoire de I’Institut National de France, tom. xviii., ii. partie—tirage à part, 1849, p.94 f.). He therein says that ‘of the number of Indo-Scythian kings who reigned in the valley of the Indus shortly after Kanerkes, coins recently discovered offer the name of a prince called Gondophares. Specimen coins of this series are to be seen at Paris in the Bibliothèque Nationale. A tradition, according to the first centuries of the Christian era, asserts that the Apostle Thomas went to preach the Gospel in India, and that he suffered martyrdom on the Coromandel coast. Now the Acts of Thomas, which have come down to us both in Greek and Latin, mention the name of a king of the interior of the peninsula called Gondaphorus, GoudaforoV..... But the name of Gondophorus is only to be found in a certain class of coins; and the Acts of Thomas are the sole written document which reproduces it. Are we then not authorised to believe that here we are really dealing with the Apostle Thomas, and with an Indo-Scythian prince, his contemporary?’
THOMAS, THE APOSTLE OF INDIA
1.—The Witness of St. Ephraem and Others
Owing to the frequent wars waged between the Roman Empire and the powers ruling east of the Euphrates, whether Parthian or Persian, from some time before the dawn of Christianity to even after the fifth century and later, communication between Europe, Western Asia, and the countries beyond the Euphrates was generally cut off for long periods, and, when open, was of the most fitful character. In ecclesiastical history we find a singular fact which illustrates the truth of this statement. In the year a.d. 139 Achadabues and Kam-Jesu, alias Job-Jesu, were, at the dying request of Jacob, the Bishop of Seleucia - Ctesiphon, sent to Antioch in order that one of the two might be chosen and appointed his successor (Barhebraeus, Chronicon Ecclesiasticum, Abbeloos and Lamy’s edition, 3 Vols., Lovanii, 1872-77, Vol iii., col. 24; and Assemani, Bibliotheca Orientalis, in 4 vols. fol., Romae, 1719-28, vol.ii.p.396, and vol. iv. p. 41), for the ecclesiastical usage then prevailing required that the person elected to the see should receive consecration at the hands of the Bishop of Antioch. On their arrival at Antioch, the two candidates were denounced as Persian spies to the authorities. Both were seized, but Achadabues escaped to Jerusalem, while his companion, Kam-Jesu, and his host were executed as spies by the prefect or governor of the city. This sad event naturally led to a change of the ecclesiastical rule in the case of the see of Seleucia-Ctesiphon.
The occurrence shows how political difficulties hindered and made it impossible to keep up any intercourse between the churches within the Roman Empire and those under barbarian sway beyond the border in the Far East. It is owing to this, no doubt, that so little of regular history has been handed down to us through the ordinary channels of Western Church records regarding the preaching of the Apostles, the doings of their disciples in the sub-apostolic age, and the foundation of churches outside the Empire, especially in the Far East. On the other hand, regarding such apostles and their disciples as worked within the boundaries of the Roman Empire—even apart from what the canonical books mention—a good deal of general history and some circumstantial details have found their way down to us; though on looking closely into the subject, it will be noticed the limits of even such information do not extend beyond the basin and the shores of the Mediterranean.
If, then, any morsels of information regarding the apostolic and sub-apostolic age have escaped the general havoc wrought by the Mahomedan and Mongholian hordes in the East, we can only hope to recover them by careful search among the Syriac records still existing in the far eastern churches and monasteries. Guided by this conviction we have for years devoted our efforts towards recovering from Syrian sources whatever may cast a gleam of light upon the Indian Apostolate of Saint Thomas. Though it has involved long and patient research to follow up every clue and to collect together every scrap of information recovered from the treasure-house of the East, and to re-set it in its proper place, we now feel ourselves in a position to place before the reader results which we believe to be well worthy of serious attention. These results, we think, will throw new light on a subject which—owing largely to contentious discussions—appears to have become more and more involved in doubt. In this we may well see a just retribution of Providence. The Apostle who had stood in the full light of the public life and miracles of our Lord was nevertheless capable of doubt when His resurrection was announced; so also the field of the same Apostle’s labours has been shrouded with unnecessary doubt. It will be an ample satisfaction if we can remove all reasonable doubt as to the main facts.
The earliest author of the Eastern Church, whose recovered writings serve to remove it, is the Deacon Saint Ephraem, the Great Doctor of the Syrian Church. He was a native of the city of Nisibis, and had lived there up to a.d 363, when the surrender of that town by the Emperor Jovian to Sapor, the King of Persia, took place after the death of his predecessor, Julian the Apostate, and the partial defeat of the army under the same. The Saint then retired to Edessa, which had become the frontier town of the Empire (see Ammianus Marcellinus, History, Bohn’s ed., 1862, bk.xxv.chap.viii.p.397). As the Relics of the Apostle Thomas had been treasured in that city from an early period, and as Ephraem had lived there for fully ten years till his death, which occurred in the summer of 373, it certainly seemed strange that in the numerous published works of so prolific a writer—in those which fill six folio volumes of the Roman edition by Assemani, and in minor works subsequently published—no direct evidence could be found regarding the Indian labours of the Apostle, so specially venerated in the very city in which Ephraem resided, the city which, largely owing to his influence, became the general centre of Syrian literature. It was not until past the middle of the nineteenth century that such evidence was forthcoming.
The first writing of Ephraem which threw clear light on this subject appeared in 1866. It is No. 42 of his Carmina Nisibena, so styled by the editor Bickell, because they refer chiefly to the city of Nisibis. The hymn in question consists of ten strophes, and is composed in form not unlike that of Greek and Latin odes, with a ‘refrain’ to be sung after each strophe. Ephraem composed most of his hymns that they should be sung at the public services of the Church. Bickell (S. Ephraemi Syri, Carmina Nisibena, Lipsiae, 1866, Introduction, p.33) remarks: ‘ These refrains which always contain a prayer, or a doxology, were undoubtedly sung by the people in chorus, while the hymn was sung as a solo by a cleric.’ This style of singing took its origin in the Syrian Church, and Ephraem composed his hymns in order to prevent the people continuing any longer to sing those tainted with Gnostic errors composed by Bardaisan and his son Harmonius.11
The collection of hymns edited by Bickell is from British Museum Add. MS 14572. The MS consists of 117 folios, and is assigned by Bickell to the sixth century; some folios of the text have been lost, but the deficiency is supplied from Add. MS 17141 (of which more will be said further on), and from MS 1457.
We give a translation of the first three strophes of Hymn 42; the remaining strophes have no direct bearing on our subject. We may remark here that in our English rendering of this hymn and of others that follow we have endeavoured to retain the divisions of the original as far as has been possible; this, however, was found impracticable in the first and fourth hymn quoted:—
‘(Thus) howled the devil: into what land shall I fly from the just?
‘ I stirred up Death the Apostles to slay, that by their death I might escape their blows.
‘But harder still am I now stricken: the Apostle I slew in India has overtaken me in Edessa; here and there he is all himself.
‘There went I, and there was he: here and there to my grief I find him.
‘The merchant brought the bones:12 nay, rather! they brought him. Lo, the mutual gain!
‘What profit were they to me, while theirs was the mutual gain? Both brought me loss.
‘Who will show me the casket of Iscariot, whence courage I derived?
‘But the casket of Thomas is slaying me, for a hidden power there residing, tortures me.
‘With profit Moses, the elect, in faith transported bones.13
‘If then so great a Prophet held that help from bones could be obtained, rightly did the merchant believe the same, and rightly a merchant he styled himself.
‘The merchant has made a profit, has become great and rules.
‘His treasury has greatly impoverished me, for to Edessa it is open, and the great city by his aid is enriched.’
The second quotation we give is, like the preceding, from a Madrasha, or Hymn of St. Ephraem. It is published by the learned Syriac scholar, Monsignor Lamy, of the University of Louvain, in his S. Ephraemi Syri Hymni et Sermones, four volumes in quarto. He devoted to his researches for the material and to the editing of the last volume, from which the further quotations are taken, ten years of labour (vol. iv., Mechliniae, 1902, col. 694 seq.). The hymn we are now going to quote is taken from British Museum Add. MS 17141, folio 85; Wright (Catalogue of Syriac MSS in the British Museum, pp. 359-363) assigns the MS to the eighth or ninth century : it contains a large collection of hymns ascribed to Ephraem, Isaac of Antioch, and Jacob of Batnae (Sarug).
The Breviary according to the Rite of the Church of Antioch of the Syrians, seven quarto volumes, published 1886-1896 at Mosul, at the press of the Dominican Fathers, also contains strophes 1-2, 6-7, 10 of this hymn in vol. vi. p. 631. This Breviary, compiled from ancient codices, was edited chiefly by a learned Eastern scholar, the late Clement David, Archbishop of Damascus, a student of the Propaganda College. After his death the work, the materials for which he had prepared, was carried through the press by his collaborators. These volumes contain a large collection of hymns and liturgical prayers of great value, and, as Monsignor Lamy remarks, they offer a better text than even the old Nitrian codices of the British Museum. We take this early opportunity to express our deep and sincere acknowledgments for his kindness in sending us advance sheets of the fourth volume above mentioned, containing the hymns we are going to quote from; we also wish to thank him for much additional help given without stint whenever applied to.
The hymn now in question contains seventeen strophes or stanzas; we offer an English version of the last seven :-
On Thomas the Apostle
‘Blessed art thou, Thomas, the Twin, in thy deeds! twin is thy spiritual power; nor one thy power, nor one thy name:
‘But many and signal are they; renowned is thy name among the Apostles.
‘From my lowly state thee I haste to sing.
‘Blessed art thou, O Light, like the lamp, the sun amidst darkness hath placed; the earth darkened with sacrifices’ fumes to illuminate.
‘A land of people dark fell to thy lot that these in white robes thou shouldest clothe and cleanse by baptism: a tainted land Thomas has purified.
‘Blessed art thou, like unto the solar ray from the great orb; thy grateful dawn India’s painful darkness doth dispel.
‘Thou the great lamp, one among the Twelve, with oil from the Cross replenished, India’s dark night floodest with light.
‘Blessed art thou whom the Great King hath sent, that India to his One-Begotten thou shouldest espouse; above snow and linen white, thou the dark bride didst make fair.
‘Blessed art thou, who the unkempt hast adorned, that having become beautiful and radiant, to her Spouse she might advance.
‘Blessed art thou, who hast faith in the bride, whom from heathenism, from demons’ errors, and from enslavement to sacrifices thou didst rescue.
‘Her with saving bath thou cleansest, the sunburnt thou hast made fair, the Cross of Light her darkened shades effacing.
‘Blessed art thou, O merchant, a treasure who broughtest where so greatly it was needed; thou the wise man, who to secure the great pearl, of thy riches all else thou givest;
‘The finder it enriches and ennobles: indeed thou art the merchant who the world endowest!
‘Blessed art thou, O Thrice-Blessed City! that hast acquired this pearl, none greater doth India yield;
‘Blessed art thou, worthy to possess the priceless gem! Praise to thee, O Gracious Son, Who thus Thy adorers dost enrich!’
The third quotation we offer is from another hymn given in the same Breviary, vol. vi. p. 635, and is taken from col. 704 of Monsignor Lamy’s fourth volume. The hymn consists of eight stanzas; we omit two :-
On Thomas The Apostle
‘Thomas, whence thy lineage,
That so illustrious thou shouldst become ?
A merchant thy bones conveys;
A pontiff assigns thee a feast ;14
A King a shrine erects.15
The bones the merchant hath brought,
Over them an outward watch he kept,
They from within guard over him keep.
Since on divers trades he embarked
Nothing so priceless did he acquire.
In his several journeys to India,
And thence on his returns,
All riches, which there he found,
Dirt in his eyes he did repute
When to thy [sacred] bones compared.
Neither promised nor hoped for,
One thing more did he [the creator] give.
Lo, in India thy wonders,16
In our land thy triumph,
Everywhere thy festival.
Wonders during life thou performest,
These, after death, thou still continuest:
Under great bodily fatigue
In one region only didst thou heal.
Now, everywhere, without labour thou dost cure.
As thou wast taught [by the Lord],
With the sign of the Cross and oil thou didst heal;
But now, without speech, demons thou expellest;
Without speech human ills thou curest;
Without prayer the dead do arise.’
Our fourth quotation from St. Ephraem comes also from the Breviary, vol. vi. p. 638. In Monsignor Lamy’s fourth volume it will be found at col. 706. It consists of six strophes; we quote only three :-
On Thomas The Apostle
‘The One-Begotten his Apostles chose,
Among them Thomas, whom he sent
To baptize peoples perverse, in darkness steeped.
A dark night then India’s land enveloped,
Like the sun’s ray Thomas did dart forth;
There he dawned, and her illumined.
What dweller on earth was ever seen,
But Thomas, the Lord’s Apostle,
On earth designing and a dwelling in Heaven erecting?17
Or on earth who so wise was found
Here of his genius essaying
What in Heaven a crowning secures ?
The client of Thomas needs not men his praises to sing :
Great is the crowd of his martyred followers.
Lo, his Bones, his Passion, his Work proclaim ;18
His Miracles, him yet alive assert;
His Deeds the rough Indian convinced.
Who dares doubt the truth of his Relics ?’
The passages given above from the four Madrashas of Ephraem establish certain points as matters of history. This they do in spite of the limitations imposed by poetical language. The points established are the following:-
A.—By the Nisibine hymn 42.
(1) Thomas the Apostle suffered martyrdom in India (Strophe i.).
(2) His body was buried in India (i.).
(3) His bones were thence removed by a merchant to the city of Edessa (ii.-iii.).
(4) His power and influence were felt in both places (i.-ii.).
B.— By the first hymn given by Monsignor Lamy.
(1) Thomas was a lamp placed in darkness to illuminate the earth filled with the smoke of false sacrifices (xii.).
(2) It was to a land of dark people he was destined, to clothe them by baptism in white robes, and to purify the tainted land (xii.).
(3) His grateful dawn dispelled India’s painful darkness (xiii.).
(4) He, one of the Twelve, like a great lamp with oil from the Cross replenished, flooded India’s dark night with light (xiii.).
(5) It was his mission to espouse India to the One-Begotten : this he did by making the unkempt beautiful and radiant for the Bridegroom’s acceptance (xiv.).
(6) He had faith in the Bride, so he rescued her from demons’ errors; the sunburnt he made fair with light from the Cross (xv.).
(7) The merchant is blessed for having brought so great a treasure to a place where it was greatly needed (xvi.).
(8) Edessa thus became the blessed city by possessing the greatest pearl India could yield (xvii.).
C. — By the second hymn given by Monsignor Lamy.
(1) Thomas suddenly attains great honour, because his Bones are conveyed from India by a merchant; a Pontiff assigns a Feast in his honour; a King erects a Shrine to his memory (i.-iii.).
(2) Thomas works miracles in India and at Edessa; and his festival is kept everywhere (vi.).
(3) During his life, with great bodily fatigue, he did good and healed the sick in one region only, but now without labour he does the same everywhere (vii.).
(4) The traditional apostolic custom, as taught or ordered by the Lord, of healing with blessed oil and the sign of the cross, is mentioned (viii.).
D. — By the third hymn given by Monsignor Lamy.
(1) Thomas is destined to baptize peoples perverse and steeped in darkness, and that in the land of India (i.).
(2) Thomas, the Lord’s Apostle, has the singular power of designing an edifice on earth, and erecting it in heaven (ii.).
(3) Thomas’ praises are well known : the result of his apostolate is attested by his martyred followers; his work attests his teaching; his miracles proclaim him living in heaven ; the rough Indians are converted by the deeds they have witnessed. Who, then, can possibly doubt the truth of his Relics ? (v.).
In order to seize the full weight and importance of the above evidence, it is most important for the reader to bear in mind that the facts relating to the Apostle in connection with his evangelisation of India, here set forth, are not attested only by the one individual, Ephraem, but carry with them the assent of a whole Church, that of Edessa. Ephraem was not putting forward his personal views on the subject, as an ordinary writer would do, but he embodied in these hymns the local tradition and facts which were of common knowledge among the people. Moreover, as these hymns in great part became incorporated in the Liturgy of the Syrian Church, and were sung in that Church, first at Edessa, they have received the most emphatic support a Christian people can give to facts, the knowledge of which regards them in some special manner.
The ancient Syriac document entitled ‘The Doctrine of the Apostles,’ edited by Cureton (Ancient Syriac Documents, London, 1864), and previously by Cardinal Mai (Scriptorum Veterum Nova Collectio, Romae, 1838, Latin translation by A. Assemani, vol. x. pp. 3-8, text pp. 169-175), also by Lagarde (Reliquiae Juris Eccles. Antiquissimi Syriace, Vindobonae, 1856), is akin to Didaskalia tvn apostolvn; there are besides the constitutiones Apostolicae in Latin ; also the Didascalia, or ‘Apostolic Church Ordinances,’ in Coptic, Ethiopic, and Arabic. These documents incorporate the DidaCh, or ‘The Two Ways,’ but cover more extensive ground. The primal Didaché, to distinguish it from others bearing the title, was discovered in a monastic library by the Greek bishop, Philotheus Beryennios, at Constantinople, and published in 1883; it may aptly be termed the primitive Manual or Catechism of the Church.
The ‘Doctrine of the Apostles’ in Syriac, which here concerns us, is earlier than others of this class, the Greek alone may contend with it for priority. If the Coptic can be assigned to the third century, the Syriac may well be dated half a century earlier. 19
These writings contain a collection of ancient ecclesiastical ordinances which obtained eventually the force of Church canons. Though the Syriac, Greek, and others are akin, each has its characteristic traits. The Syriac heads the compilation of Synodal Canons by Ebed - Jesu of Soba, alias Nisibis, the Nestorian Patriarch, and bears the title Epitome Canonum Apostolicorum; Barhebraeus includes it in his Nomocanon (also printed by Mai, ut supr., vol. x. pt. ii. p. 31 ff.)
Cureton took his text verbatim from the British Museum Add. MS 14644, folio 10 ff. He supposes the Nitrian MS to be the identical one which J.S. Assemani saw at the monastery at Scete, when he visited that place in order to obtain MSS for the Vatican Library. Assemani described the MS as pervetustus (for details see Bibliotheca Orientalis, iii. p. 19, note). As to its date, Cureton writes (p. 147): ‘Its age appears to be certainly not later than the beginning of the fifth century.’ Dr. Wright in his Catalogue of Syriac Manuscripts in the British Museum, pt. ii. pp. 1083-1084, describes the same MS (14644) as follows : ‘Vellum, about 9 3_8 in. by 6, consisting of 94 leaves, many of which are much stained .... The quires are 11 in number, but only one or two are complete, leaves being wanted in the beginning, &c. This volume is written in a fine regular Edessene hand of the vth or vith century, with the exception of folios 44 and 45, which are comparatively modern and palimpsest.’20 For such a document to have attained importance enough to be incorporated in this ancient MS, it might belong to the third or very early fourth century.
We can legitimately use these collections as witnesses to the ancient usages, customs, and belief of the Church which adopted them to her service. It is then, in support of the ancient belief of the Syrian Church, that we quote from Cureton’s translation the following passage bearing on the traditional knowledge by that Church of the apostolic labours of Saint Thomas.
At p. 32 : ‘After the death of the Apostles there were Guides and Rulers in the churches, and whatsoever the Apostles had committed to them, and they had received from them, they taught to the multitudes all the time of their lives. 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 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.’
Again at p. 32 : ‘India and all its own countries, and those bordering on it, even to the farther sea, received the Apostles’ Hand of Priesthood from Judas Thomas, who was Guide and Ruler in the church which he built and ministered there.’
The text in Mai’s edition of the above passages is identical.
A third passage which we give below, though it does not refer to St. Thomas, will be found useful in illustrating what follows and, moreover, will help the reader to understand better the early traditions of this Church regarding apostolic and sub- apostolic preachings and missions. The passage runs thus (p. 34) :—
‘The whole of Persia of the Assyrians and Medes, and of the countries round about Babylon, the Huzites and the Gelae, even to the borders of the Indians, and even to the country of Gog and Magog, and again all the countries from all sides, received the Apostles’ Hand of Priesthood from Aggaeus, maker of golden chains, the disciple of Addaeus the Apostle. But the rest of the other fellows of the Apostles went to the distant countries of the Barbarians,’ &c.
This is confirmed and expanded by what is mentioned in the life of St. Mares, Bishop of Ctesiphon, in the subapostolic age, and a disciple of the above-mentioned Addaeus. The Syriac text of this life, with a translation in Latin, was published by J.B. Abbeloos at Brussels in 1885. We read at p. 85 : ‘These were the towns where lived the traders from Huzai (Susiana, see note in situ) as they also do now; there were also traders among the Persians; and from both countries they would go to the west for trade ; and it was there that they were brought to the worship of God by the blessed Apostle Addaeus. And as these Huzites and Persian converts used to return from the west they used to make numerous conversions in the neighbouring countries; and from that time dates the origin of the Church among the Huzites and in Persia. When Mar Mares reached the country of the Huzites, and found believers there, and heard of the conversion of the Persians, his heart was filled with joy to find a small quantity of wheat in extensive fields of tares. He preached through that country and converted many. Then he descended still further (or went still further) until the perfume (or odour) of Mar Thomas, the Apostle, was wafted unto him ; and there also he added great numbers to the fold, and left behind him a disciple named Job, to minister to them.’ The biographer then makes Mar Mares retrace his steps to Ctesiphon. On approaching the then outer boundaries of India the biographer discloses the knowledge that Mares had come into close proximity to the region where the Apostle’s labours had been fruitful.
We need not give here the testimony of Jacob of Sarug as to the tradition that the Apostle preached to the Indians, as Jacob’s poem on the palace built by Thomas is restricted to the events narrated in the first two acts or chapters of the Acts of Thomas, and will be found utilised in another section of this book.
Salomo gives the tradition of the Nestorian section of the Syrian church in his Book of the Bee. This work was edited with an English translation by E.A. Wallis Budge, Oxford, Clarendon press, 1886, and forms part ii. of vol. i., Semitic Series of Anecdota Oxoniensia. Mar Solomon was Metropolitan of Perath- Maishan—that is, Bassorah (Al-Basrah). Budge says in his preface that the author is very little known; he became metropolitan on the right bank of the united streams about a.d. 1222, in which year he was present at the consecration of the Catholicus or Nestorian patriarch Sabr-îshô (Hope in Jesus). (See Assem. Bibl. Or., tom. ii. p. 453, no. 75; also Barhebraeus, Chron. Eccl., tom. ii. col. 371). A Latin translation of the book was published by Dr. J. M. Schoenfelder, at Bamberg, in 1866, based on one MS. We quote from Budge’s translation, p. 105, chap. xlviii. : ‘Thomas was from Jerusalem, of the tribe of Juda. He taught the parthians, Medes, and Indians [Oxford MS., in India and Sind and Persia]; and because he baptised the daughter of the King of the Indians, he stabbed him with a spear and he died. Habbân, the merchant, brought his body, and laid it in Edessa, the blessed city of our Lord. Others say that he was buried in Mahlûph, a city in the land of the Indians [the Oxford MS says he was buried in India].’
II. — The Witness of the Liturgical Books and Calendars of the Syrian Church
The extracts from the hymns of St. Ephraem, given in the preceding pages, some of which are embodied also in the Breviary above quoted, have already demonstrated to us what was known and believed by the Edessan Church, then the head and centre of the Syrian Christians, in regard to the connection of the Apostle Thomas with India. Through the kindness of Mgr. Lamy, we have been favoured with additional extracts from the same Breviary, which we now place before the reader (Breviar., tom. iv. pp. 427– 484):—
The feast of Saint Thomas is fixed on the 3rd of July.
From the Sedra :—
‘O blessed Apostle, valiant Mar Thomas, whom the violent threats of the King on account of the palace thou didst build for him in heaven, did not affright.
‘Blessed Apostle, be thou praised, O Mar Thomas, thou whose slavery secured freedom to the Indians and the Kushites [Ethiopians] blighted by the evil-doer.’
And further on :—
‘O Apostle Thomas, athlete of the faith, who preachest the Gospel and convertest peoples from their errors, and who for the love of Christ sufferest scourges and wounds and enterest the abode of joy.’
A prayer ascribed to Jacob of Sarug, in verses of twelve syllables, like his other metrical compositions, contains the following :—
‘The Apostle Thomas on leaving for India, parting from the apostles, wept and moved them to tears.
‘He asked them to implore the mercy of our Saviour to assist and support him in his preachings.
‘Behold, he said, I go now to a darkened (blind) land as architect, pray that I may erect a palace that may rise to the Kingdom above.
‘Join me in prayer that my building may not be cast down by the flood.
‘O blessed Thomas, whom thy Lord hath sent as a torch to illuminate the land shrouded in the darkness of error.
‘O blessed one, thou goest forth as a ray of the sun to dissipate the dark night of India.
‘O blessed Thomas, whom the heavenly bridegroom hath sent to unite unto him the dark bride whom thou hast cleansed and made whiter than snow.’
At Matins, after the hymns of Ephraem, given above, a prayer composed by the same saint is given. It is in seven-syllable verse, and contains the following :—
‘Blessed be he who solemnises thy commemorative feast, O bright Apostle Mar Thomas.
‘Of thee He has made a source of blessings ; a refuge for all who are in pain.
‘By thee he has converted the Indians to the true faith and has baptised them in the name of the Trinity.’
Again in the Sedra of the morning we read :—
‘Kings and judges attend his preaching, are converted, and quit their evil ways, and plunge into the celestial waters of baptism; from black they become fair. When the sick and the paralysed approach him his word restores them to health; they come to him void of sight and depart with sight restored. As the sun lights up and gladdens the world, so Thomas the Apostle brightens and gladdens dark India by his numberless blessings. The heavenly hosts and the souls of the just are charmed with admiration when he measures and marks out the earthly palace, while his Lord completes it in heaven. While that celestial beauty expanded itself the king believed and was baptised with the children of his house and the nobles of his court.’
The Church of the Jacobite Syrians
The following quotations from the service-books of this church are taken from Assemani, who gives the traditions of the Syrian churches connected with the Apostle Thomas (Bibl. Or., iv. pp. 30 ff.).
In the Office of the feast of Saint Thomas, kept on the 3rd of July :—
‘The Lord sent him to preach the Gospel in the East Indies [in India Orientali],’ etc.
And also :-—
‘This Thomas whose memory we celebrate, on being sent to India, was sold as a slave .... While he was designing the splendid palace, the Lord was raising it up in heaven.’
‘Like unto his Master, pierced by a lance, with the honour of the Apostolate, he gained a martyr’s crown.’
to be continued............
(Please click for next portion)
Book 1| Book 2 | Book 3| Book 4