Talk:Thomas the Apostle

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Death of Thomas the Apostle[edit]

Discussion on the place and circumstance leading to death

Portraying Myth as History[edit]

This article is writen as if a myth of certain local Christians in south India is a historical fact! The Act of Thomas 1, 2 clearly states that St Thomas was the twin brother of Jesus Christ, whom Jesus sold as a slave to a merchant named Abbanes who took him to Zoroastrian kings of Iran and Baluchistan like Mazdai (the follower of Ahura Mazda). The names like Mazdai (gk. Misdiaus) , Gondophoros etc described in the acts is clearly Iranian and never south Indian names. As per the acts St Thomas died pierced by the four soldiers of the king Mazdai, as the king ordered to execute him. Thus it is clear that St Thomas's arrival in South India and his alledged martyrdom in Mylapore, Chennai at the hands of a Brahmana is false / fiction / myth / lie. This lie was propagated by Portuguise conqurors of India who wanted to get a base in Chennai. The oldest record of any reference to Thomas in Chennai or Mylapore is based on the accounts of Marco Polo in 9th century (ie 900 years after the alledged arrival of St Thomas, and hence not authentic). Christians first reached India in 4th century led by one merchant named Thomas of Cana, who was given assylum by Hindu kings of Kerala, when he came fleing persecution in southern Iran (Fars).

The ground breaking research work of Ishwar Sharan http://ishwarsharan.wordpress.com/ - THE MYTH OF SAINT THOMAS AND THE MYLAPORE SHIVA TEMPLE, and many others before him like Dr Koenraad Elst including many Christian scholars has clearly shown how this myth of St Thomas in Mylapore originated and propagated. Good Christians who love their country should stay away from such false beleifs. This is how they can express gratitude to those Hindu kings who welcomed the early Christians in their midst when they suffered religious persecution in Fars.

Jijithnr (talk) 09:54, 9 May 2013 (UTC)

So you are pooh-poohing Church tradition and using the Act of Thomas book as your "proof"? So you a playing one myth against another and your personal opinion/original research is telling us which is correct? I think you need a little better argument... Ckruschke (talk) 17:36, 9 May 2013 (UTC)Ckruschke

The controllers of this article are pooh-poohing the authenticity of Wikipedia by portraying a myth as history! I would have spared your myth of St Thomas in India, if it were confined to Christianity. But it is accusing another religion viz Hindus for a crime which they have not commited, viz. murder of St Thomas Apostle at Mylapore Chennai, as he has already died at the hands of soldiers of Mazdai in Baluchistan. There are also four other stories about how Thomas died. It has also come to my notice that many unsuspecting Hindus are converted to Christianity in Chennai and Tamilnadu, India by showing this very same Wikipedia article!

Jijithnr (talk) 04:32, 10 May 2013 (UTC)

I have tried to alleviate this concern to a certain extent by clarifying that all these stories are "traditional", ie, like almost all the apostles, legendary stories grew up around Thomas, some of them are attested at early dates, within a hundred years or so of when they lived and died, others much later, and there is no way to verify whether they have any historical basis to them or not. It is really most unlikely that one of Christ's disciples managed to get to India somehow, but no one can say for sure it did not happen.Smeat75 (talk) 01:55, 1 September 2013 (UTC)

Suggestion for reliable sources[edit]

Jijithnr and Ckruschke I was led to this article by this talk note on Hindu notice board. Have briefly checked the article and yesterday included a request for citation.here
My initial comment is that Chennai has a lot of unverified claims. The claim of St. Thomas is similar to another claim many in Chennai make that Marina Beach is the second longest in the world. To read about the Marina claim, check the Talk:Marina_Beach. This city has a lot of myths and claims that are not verified. Now, here at WP, our work as editors is only to read through reliable documents that meet WP:VERIFY summarize the points and develop the article. So, let us relax and do our work. We are just WP editors :-)
Now, regarding finding reliable documents, I have been able to locate one book which I think is unbiased and can be used by us. The Indian empire : its peoples, history, and products (1886) written by W.W. Hunter. The WP entry about this author is impressive and confirms he is a reliable source. The book was published by Morrison & Gibb which I read | here is a well known publisher of that time.
The complete work of this book is available | here. The chapter 9 of this book provides coverage of the various myths and details historical facts related to St. Thomas and the St. Thomas Mount. Request editors to read through the relevant sections. If you have other similar reliable sources, do provide details. We can discuss here and then decide.Prodigyhk (talk) 03:55, 12 August 2013 (UTC)
Agreed. My comments above were not meant to be argumentative - simply a statement of fact as my main point was that Jijithnr had no appreciable sources to back up his claims. Similarly church tradition also has no appreciable sources other than (largely) oral tradition.
Thanks for the sources. Maybe someone will be able to incorporate this info into the page. Ckruschke (talk) 17:07, 12 August 2013 (UTC)Ckruschke

Suggestion for balanced edit[edit]

To provide balanced coverage of section Thomas_the_Apostle#Death, suggest to include the following. Request regular editors on this section Jijithnr , Ckruschke, Student7 and others who I may have missed listing, to review and advice.

  • Source - {W.W.Hunter, The Indian empire : its peoples, history, and products (1886), Publishers: Morrison & Gibb [1]}
  • The Patristic literature state that St. Thomas died in east of Persia. [Page 237] The tradition of the Church informs that in 394 AD the remains of the Apostle was transferred to Mesopotamia. [Page 237]. The accounts of Marco Polo from the 13th century, inform that the Apostle had an accidental death outside his hermitage in South India, by a badly aimed arrow of a fowler who not seeing the saint shot at peacocks there. [Page 238] Later, the Portuguese in the 16th century made popular the story of the martyrdom of the Apostle at Mylapore by stoning and lance thrust. This account by the Portugese was created in 1547, after the discovery of the Pehlvi Cross at St. Thomas Mount, by an unscrupulous person who claimed to be able to interpret the Pehlvi inscriptions on the Cross. [Page 239].
  • Until then, the Mount now associated with St.Thomas was a common shrine revered by Hindus, Muslims and Christians. [Page 31]. The records of Barbosa from early 16th century inform that the place was then maintained by a Muslim who kept a lamp burning there. [Page 237]

Prodigyhk (talk) 21:35, 14 August 2013 (UTC)

I think I've mentioned before that the Acts of Thomas are apocryphal at best, and not accepted by the church. They are described as supporting a Gnostic pov, regarded as a Christian heresy. Further, it was written in the 2nd century. The Shepherd of Hermas and the Didache, written near the same time, were thrown out of the NT mostly for being written "too late" to have been influenced by the Apostles.
It is "difficult" to arrive at anything that won't be mythical, once Thomas supposedly arrives near the Indus River, where the New Testament believes he went. Placing him in Kerala is mythic, as is nearly everything else after he arrived in India. We can say "believers think that Thomas.." But that is pretty much it. It appears that a later-arriving Thomas in Kerala was conflated with the Apostle.
As far as Marco Polo as a reference, he also was shown "the grave of Adam," who is not particularly known to have been lived, or been buried, in India. Polo also reports meeting Prester John. He's hard to believe sometimes.
As far as "death" goes, don't we have to chronicle all the stories, and burial sites? We can't just pick one. And yes, that may mean that your favorite group of ancient people are accused of killing him. Sorry about that. I didn't record these stories myself!
Note that most Apostles/OT people are "buried" in several spots. I don't perceive this as a major problem for Christians. Student7 (talk) 17:12, 15 August 2013 (UTC)
"once Thomas supposedly arrives near the Indus River, where the New Testament believes he went" Could you give chapter and verse for saying the NT "believes" Thomas arrived near the Indus River? I would be astonished to find there is one.Smeat75 (talk) 02:11, 1 September 2013 (UTC)
Thanks Student7 for the comments. After reading through this talk page history, there is a need to first agree on the sources to be used. From my understanding:
* Primary sources not to be used directly for this article will include Acts of Thomas , memoirs of Marco Polo and the tradition of the Church. These will be used only by referring to Reliable secondary source that refer these primary document and report on the events.
* Tertiary source that also can not be used directly will include the Encyclopedia Britannica which is used as a source in the article.
* Reliable secondary source. I have listed one source above and suggested edits changes as above(to which I have now made some changes after review). Request other editors to advice if this is acceptable and also add other reliable sources for discussion.
Once we have agreement on the sources to use, we can then move to the article. I agree with Student7 that there are multiple myths surrounding this event that needs to be covered in the article space. Prodigyhk (talk) 15:33, 16 August 2013 (UTC)
Sounds like you have everything covered. I concede that my information was all derivative. Definitely agree on WP:PRIMARY.
Except for "borrowed" relics, maybe there aren't as many sites where the Apostle is after all. But don't the "claimed" sites need to be covered? It's like the guy on the grassy knoll for Kennedy. He was never there, but there was just too much speculation to ignore it completely, right? Student7 (talk) 22:02, 16 August 2013 (UTC)
All - most of my recent edits and comments on this page have mostly been of the "keeping the wolves at bay" variety and I freely admit that I am not much of a scholar and I also don't have much time on my hands. However, i have to agree with Student that so far this is tacking well. We HAVE had a number of recent issues lately with POV pushers and people claiming their sources were the only sources. As I've expressed a few times below and Student and Prod touch on, such a religious figure as Thomas will naturally have myth attached with him and this just needs to be clearly called out. "My myth" is no better or no worse than "your myth". Also the Acts of Thomas is not a cannon book and thus its contents need to be taken with a grain of salt. Hope some of thus helps. Yours - Ckruschke (talk) 23:57, 16 August 2013 (UTC)Ckruschke
Thanks Student7 & Ckruschke for your comments. Since, I am new to this article, I plan to wait for another week so that other interested editors could give their feedback. Then proceed to make the edits in the article space. In the meanwhile, will do further reading on the subject to help improve this. Prodigyhk (talk) 12:05, 19 August 2013 (UTC)
  • Thanks Prodigyhk for highlighting this thread in particular. The article is on my watchlist with hundreds of others so I tend to miss some things (I've actually just added an archiving feature to this page to allow all of us to keep better track of things - should kick in later today and then run automatically). Like Ckruschke, I'm no scholar, but I have spent plenty of time fighting vandalism on this and other related articles. Like Ckruschke, I also agree with Student7. I think you're approaching this from a place of collegial discussion and broad WP:CONSENSUS so that if anyone does end up having an issue with any of your inclusions, I don't think they would then have an issue raising it with you. That's about the best environment in which to make significant changes.
I will say, as I have with regard to other articles, that we need to be careful with sources from the 18th and 19th centuries that seek to discuss early Christian events/people in detail. Their understanding of archaeology was often tenuous... at best... and I've seen all sorts of... interesting... claims made by scholars of that era. In the same way that Student7 urges caution with regard to Marco Polo, just take everything with a grain of salt. Even Hunter, I note, is careful to couch his commentary on early Indian Christianity in terms like "early tradition" and "tradition narrates" and "it is said". It attempts to give balanced weight to the various "legends of St Thomas". As long as we generally accept and acknowledge that Hunter's scholarship is framed in that way, then citing his work shouldn't cause major problems because ours should generally be framed the same way. Stalwart111 12:50, 19 August 2013 (UTC)
I would suggest trying to find a source more recent than 1886, it is better not to use works from more than a hundred years ago, a lot of research may have taken place since then,and peoples' attitudes have changed a great deal.Smeat75 (talk) 02:05, 1 September 2013 (UTC)
The Catholic Encyclopedia of 1912 is not much more recent, but it calls these stories of Thomas in India "extravagant".[[2]] The entry on Thomas nevertheless could be of help to editors working on this article, which seems too long and unfocused to me, it does not need to go into such detail on every legend or locality associated with the saint in my opinion.Smeat75 (talk) 02:22, 1 September 2013 (UTC)
  • Hello Smeat75, Agree with you, the Catholic Encyclopedia entry we can use a reference for discussion in the talk page. But, since it is Tertiary source we can not use as source in article space. Regarding your concern of the book by the author W.W.Hunter. My opinion is Hunter is credible. Also Hunter is used as source in many WP articles. I do understand your concern on relying on only 1 source and so have found an additional reliable source for this section -> Doubting Thomas(2009) - By Glenn W Most | Publisher Harvard University Press |2009. The publisher and the author are credible and meet WP standards. The online copy of the book is here [3] Prodigyhk (talk) 01:51, 2 September 2013 (UTC)
No, it is quite OK to use other encyclopedias, or "tertiary sources" on WP,"Tertiary sources are publications such as encyclopedias and other compendia that summarize primary and secondary sources. Wikipedia is a tertiary source. Many introductory undergraduate-level textbooks are regarded as tertiary sources because they sum up multiple secondary sources.
Policy: Reliably published tertiary sources can be helpful in providing broad summaries of topics that involve many primary and secondary sources, and may be helpful in evaluating due weight, especially when primary or secondary sources contradict each other. Some tertiary sources are more reliable than others, and within any given tertiary source, some articles may be more reliable than others"WP:TERTIARY. I have used the Catholic encyclopedia as one source for a lot of articles and there are many (too many if you ask me) WP articles which are based almost entirely on the Encyclopædia Britannica Eleventh Edition, see Wikipedia:1911 Encyclopaedia Britannica for some thoughts about this.Secondary sources are best, though, and the book from Harvard University Press looks like an optimum source, supplemented by the 1886 book and the Catholic Encyclopedia. I find Jijithnr's comment above quite alarming, it is rather disturbing to think of people in India changing their religion because of this WP article, it shows you what a responsibility WP now carries world wide as the resource that comes up on most searches for information. I wonder if it would be a good idea to create a new article, Legends of St Thomas in India, or something like that, to put these stories into context, with just a bare summary and a link in this article, which really should keep the emphasis on the apostle in the New Testament in my opinion. People from different cultures really need to understand that there are many many stories and legends about saints which are most unlikely to have any actual historical value, for instance there is a somewhat similar legend that Saint James preached in Spain, and his relics were supposedly miraculously brought there, see [[4]]. It is really most unlikely that these stories reflect actual historical events, relics of saints were very important things for medieval churches to have, see [5] "Sometimes, “relics” of these saints are obtained. These can be bits of cloth from a habit, an object (such as a rosary or prayer book) used by the saint, or even a piece of the saint’s body. First-class relics (as these body parts are known) are often used to consecrate chapels or altars and are sometimes venerated in a special container called a reliquary." Most likely these stories of Jesus' disciples going to India and Spain are sheer invention, designed to increase the prestige of churches claiming to have their relics, but no one knows that for sure, and you could not put it that way on WP article space. All that is known is that the tradition of Thomas in India is very old. Let me know what you and others think about a separate article for Legends (or "Traditions") of St Thomas in India, I will be glad to help on it if others think it is a good idea.Smeat75 (talk) 03:57, 2 September 2013 (UTC)
I really don't know that there's much value in creating a separate article titled Legends of St Thomas in India. The current article is already based on 2000 year old (or thereabout) biblical recollection, apocryphal tradition, folklore and legend. What are we suggesting with a new article? That the current article is a factual account of St Thomas but that the new article is a summary of the other available stories? If there are other stories then we should account for those too but a content fork just to appease some people who prefer some stories to others doesn't seem like a good idea. Stalwart111 05:09, 2 September 2013 (UTC)
  • Hello Smeat75 - partially related to the above, I've undone one line from your recent edit (but re-spaced the rest as required). There's nothing wrong, I think, with qualifying key claims in the article so as to ensure that certain things are according to either tradition, the Bible, etc. But there's no need to re-qualify the same claims again and again so I removed one from the infobox. There are already two references to make it clear who the claim was "according to", yeah? Surely readers understand this is about the biblical figure, so it's according to the bible, or tradition, or whatever. It would be a problem if we were claiming somewhere that a particular portion was unquestionably factual. Anyway, not a big deal but I thought it was overkill and I thought I should explain why. Stalwart111 03:15, 2 September 2013 (UTC)
Hi Stalwart, I was posting the message above and got an edit conflict with your message. As you can see I find it alarming that according to User:Jijithnr above, some people in India have actually changed their religion because of this WP article and I really do not think the infobox should give a specific date and location for Thomas' death without clarifying that it is "traditional" or "legend". In fact as User:Prodigyhk states above, there are conflicting traditions of Thomas' death in other locations, so "Died 21 December 72,Mylapore (modern day India) is far, far from being an established historical fact as the infobox would seem to indicate.Maybe it would be better not to have an entry for "death" in the infobox at all, it is a subject that requires more nuance and explanation than can be given there. I do not want to edit war though and will not change it back and wait to see what other editors think.Smeat75 (talk) 03:57, 2 September 2013 (UTC)
Thank you for your comprehensive reply and apologies for the edit conflict. The infobox is basically just a quick summary of what is in the article and the article itself goes into much more detail (as it should; more so with your additions). That's the way it should be. I wasn't then, nor am I now convinced by Jijithnr's claims that people have based their religious views and beliefs on an article on Wikipedia. That, I think, is as credible as suggesting that business people are basing their corporate research and feasibility studies on information they found here. And I might add that beyond a few wild claims, Jijithnr hasn't been able to substantiate anything with reliable sources. Even if, for some strange reason, a group of people had chosen to do so, it would still not be our responsibility to operate and edit on that basis. We report what has been recorded in reliable sources and (in the case of historical subjects where there is some conjecture) the reliability of those sources is judged by editors, consensus and long-standing policy and guidelines. In essence, nothing is an "established historical fact" just because it is printed here, in fact we acknowledge that Wikipedia is not a reliable source. Wikipedia does not exist to promote a particular view. If some evangelists have found a way to bastardise or misinterpret or misrepresent what is in reliable sources to convert people from one religion to another then that's a matter for those they are trying to convert. It is not our job to then "balance" the reliable sources in our articles here with unreliable blogs (as Jijithnr suggested) to "prove" those evangelists "wrong". Stalwart111 04:41, 2 September 2013 (UTC)
Infobox - Since, based on reliable sources, we (WP editors) are not able to give definitive answer, suggest we follow similar to James the Apostle and Simon the Apostle. Correct infobox to --> * Place of death Unclear. Different traditions indicate Persia or city of Chennai
Regarding new page detailing the legends, my opinion it may not be required. Prodigyhk (talk) 05:22, 3 September 2013 (UTC)
Prodigyhk, I think that is an excellent idea. Smeat75, would you be comfortable with that solution? Stalwart111 05:51, 3 September 2013 (UTC)
Absolutely.Smeat75 (talk) 11:20, 3 September 2013 (UTC)
One important point. I have used the place name as Chennai and not Mylapore. Reason - as per South Indian Nasrani christian tradition, St. Thomas died at a place now called as St. Thomas Mount and his body was later interned at a place now called Santhome. If one was to walk between the 2 places :) as per google maps here [6], it will take more than 2 hours! Since, both these locations are within the city of Chennai,have used it as the place name. Prodigyhk (talk) 06:24, 3 September 2013 (UTC)
As per our discussions, have now proceeded with the changes in Info Box and the section Death. Please do review my edits and correct any errors. Prodigyhk (talk) 17:31, 3 September 2013 (UTC)
Appreciate the comments of the editors above. Sounds like you've worked things out pretty well.
My comment on "believe near Indus River," is a combination, hopefully not WP:SYNTH, but nearly so without WP:RS. 1) There is a comment somewhere that Thomas went to "India." 2) "India", at that time in Europe/Middle East meant "around the Indus River." Knowledge of Eastern geography was scant, to say the least, and I have no idea what the inhabitants at the time called themselves. It seems unlikely that the people of what is today India, thought of themselves as a single country or even a single people. Student7 (talk) 16:15, 7 September 2013 (UTC)
The article " Silk Road " gives some info on the international trade route in the 1st century. The Chera Kingdom, that is modern Kerala in Southern India, was part of that trade route. Jossyys (talk) 08:44, 8 September 2013 (UTC)

"Reputed relics"[edit]

Someone has changed to the phrase "reputed" relics for relics of Thomas that I, too, consider questionable. However, the wording appears to disagree with WP:CLAIM IMO. It would be nice to use some less pov adjective. I can't think of any offhand or would change it myself. For example, "Reference x has stated that these are relics of St. Thomas" seems npov. Who should be "reference x?" Student7 (talk) 15:27, 7 September 2013 (UTC)

Suggest we rework the relics sections. Many information are not relevant and many parts are not written well. Also, noticed that it has missed the the Basilica of the Holy Cross in Jerusalem is in Rome, that holds the finger of St. Thomas. Over the next few weeks, will include my notes on this section here for review. Prodigyhk (talk) 15:49, 7 September 2013 (UTC)