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Doubting Thomas


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I was pondering on this late last night and wanted to air out my thoughts here...

We all know the story depicted in John 20:24-29;

"Now Thomas, one of the Twelve, called the Twin, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, "We have seen the Lord." But he said to them, "Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe."Eight days later, his disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, "Peace be with you." Then he said to Thomas, "Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe." Thomas answered him, "My Lord and my God!" Jesus said to him, "Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed."

 

 

*Emphasis mine*

 

Link to Caravaggio's famous depiction

 

Now, we are led to believe that Thomas' doubt was in fact a bad thing. However, let's assume Thomas was around for the Sermon on the Mount

 

Matthew 7:15, "Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves."

 

"...and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people."

 

Throughout the NT we are warned of deceivers and false prophets...

 

II Peter: "But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you."

 

I John: "Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world."

 

Acts: "They traveled through the whole island until they came to Paphos. There they met a Jewish sorcerer and false prophet named Bar‑Jesus, who was an attendant of the proconsul, Sergius Paulus."

 

Luke: "Woe to you when all men speak well of you, for that is how their fathers treated the false prophets"

 

Along with multiple references to false prophets in Revelation such as The Beasts agent.

 

False prophets in the OT

 

Deuteronomy: "But a prophet who presumes to speak in my name anything I have not commanded him to say, or a prophet who speaks in the name of other gods, must be put to death." 18:20

 

"If a prophet, or one who foretells by dreams, appears among you and announces to you a miraculous sign or wonder, and if the sign or wonder of which he has spoken takes place, and he says, 'Let us follow other gods' (gods you have not known) 'and let us worship them,' you must not listen to the words of that prophet or dreamer. The Lord your God is testing you to find out whether you love him with all your heart and with all your soul. It is the Lord your God you must follow, and him you must revere. Keep his commands and obey him; serve him and hold fast to him. That prophet or dreamer must be put to death, because he preached rebellion against the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt and redeemed you from the land of slavery; he has tried to turn you from the way the Lord your God commanded you to follow. You must purge the evil from among you" 13:1-5

 

So in light of all this...why are Christians led to believe that Doubting Thomas' doubt was a bad thing? Seems to me, Doubting Thomas had every reason to doubt the claims of his friends and was in the right. Yet his doubt was rebuked, despite being told earlier by the very person who rebukes him that there will be a large amount of false prophets and to be wary.

 

Thoughts?

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So in light of all this...why are Christians led to believe that Doubting Thomas' doubt was a bad thing? Seems to me, Doubting Thomas had every reason to doubt the claims of his friends and was in the right. Yet his doubt was rebuked, despite being told earlier by the very person who rebukes him that there will be a large amount of false prophets and to be wary.

 

Thoughts?

 

You want it to make sense? :o Good luck! :D

 

I think it very clearly was an attempt to shame people who wanted some practical evidence that the Christian story was , in fact, true.

 

As time went by, the church placed a very unique emphasis on belief as a requirement for inclusion in the kingdom of god. Prior to this, participation in ritual was the central concern for establishing order in this world and hopefully avoiding the wrath of the gods. The emphasis in Judaism was obedience to the law. There are verses that speak of belief in the OT, obviously, but the emphasis was in filling both the ritual and the ethical precepts of the law.

 

The gospel attributed to John was part of that developing emphasis on belief as a virtue in and of itself. Of course that pesky fact about there being no evidence - other than the narration of a story - to base your belief on must have kept cropping up. So, voila! "Let's invent a story that tells about Jesus enforcing the idea of belief as a virtue in and of itself. You guys who fell for . . . errr . . . believed the gospel story are special! Great job guys and gals! You're much better than those really real people who really did see a dead and then later resurrected Jesus!"

 

That's how you keep people in a baseless religion - affirm them for embracing the baseless.

 

P.S. I realize there was some content in the actual collection of ethical sayings and stories that hit a chord with a sufficient number of Jews and Gentiles during the first few centuries of the Common Era - before Christianity became the state religion and was enforced with sword and social/political coercion. If it didn't mean something to some people it never would have gotten off the ground.

 

But well told and oft repeated stories is not evidence of an actual, historical resurrection. It just means that preachers and teachers knew how to adapt, fashion and extend stories in such a way that they appealed to people.

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As I read and understand what Jesus tells Thomas, there doesn't seem to be any sense of condemnation of him. Thomas needed a little help which Jesus provided him. There are other Biblical stories which I could talk about where the doubting and depressed person isn't criticized. I think it's just one of the fruits of fundamentalism - no room for doubting people.

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At the end of the day even if doubting was a bad thing, Jesus still accommodated his request for evidence and provided it without condemning him for it. Yet for us today Jesus is nowhere to be found, and yet we're supposedly going to be tossed into the darkest hottest pits of hell - all because we find it a bit hard to believe a bunch of wacky stories from a dusty old bronze-age book are true :scratch:

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I think you raise valid points Brother Josh. My whole problem with the Doubting Thomas story is, that is shows a desciple who didn't really believe that Jesus was going to rise from the dead. Why didn't he believe? Wasn't he rubbing shoulders with the son of God? It leads me to believe that Jesus wasn't all the bible makes him out to be. The stories of his miracles are probably lies or exagerrated. I know if I'd seen all those things Jesus supposedly did, I wouldn't be doubting Jesus when he finally turned up, especially when Jesus told them he would rise again. I'd be saying. "Jesus, about bloody time, we were wondering when you'd turn up!" But no... we have a man who doubted Jesus's ressurection, a man who denied him and even a man who betrayed him. Damning criticism indeed that Jesus wasn't all he was cracked up to be.

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Looks to me that this is a reaction against the Gnostic ideas about the resurrection.

 

The genuine letters of Paul are apparently full of Gnostic ideas. Much of the later writings about the literal fleshly resurrection of Jesus, including the Doubting Thomas story are perhaps trying to combat the teachings of the 'False Prophets'

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