THIS IS IN RESPONSE to Joseph George wrote …
Comment posted Hindu Traditions of St. Thomas –Thondacchan and the Four Silver Coins by Dr. K C Jerome.
THIS IS IN RESPONSE to Joseph George wrote on September 23rd, 2007
Don’t be so confused between the Bible and Indian history. If the authors of the New Testament can be believed for carrying their story of Christ thus far into our times, so could a folk story survive amidst a section of Hindu Nairs as their version of the truth. It is but a simple tale of their own forefathers and an encounter with a strange foreigner called Thondachan! Mark, Luke, Mathew, John, Paul and others who contributed to the New Testament were not here in Kerala, or for that matter in India to record and include St. Thomas doings in this country. Neither was the Bible written for that purpose. To be sacrosanct about everything in the Bible is fine. But dismissing everything in local and regional history because it is not contained in the Bible is to wear blinkers! Being judgmental without due investigation amounts to trying to read the book blindfolded.
Nowhere in Paula Gruber’s story does she say that the Apostle St. Thomas was deified by the Nairs within his lifetime. It could have happened many years later. Don’t we canonize exceptional Christians posthumously? And who is to know what upheavals- personal, political or religious that was experienced by this Tharavad more than 2000 years ago to place their faith in St. Thomas? I would assume that it would have been a swifter Hindu religious directive that would have attempted to thwart this family’s motive for deifying St. Thomas rather than the Apostle himself! It is a measure of the Hindu family’s faith that their belief in Thondacchan survived.
I wish Paula Gruber had written- “St. Thomas stood astonished wondering how the Tharavad healed his sailors.” But she didn’t!
If she had, it would have made good sense to wonder why St. Thomas could not heal his companions or himself. The so-called contradiction that has been pointed out by Joseph George would certainly have occurred to every Nair child hearing this story generation after generation for 2000 years! But remove the blinkers and consider this:- If a doctor falls off a flight of stairs in your presence and injures himself would you not offer any assistance, albeit as an act of courtesy? Would you not offer a cook food to eat?
It is apparent from Paula’s story that the sailors had just arrived on the coast when they were taken to the local tharavad. The disease “scurvy” was well understood by the tharavad, well in keeping with Kerala’s seafaring and ayurvedic traditions. Again in keeping with tradition, if they proceeded to be good hosts to these weary travellers and offered to medicate and treat them, they could only have drawn St. Thomas’ appreciation. Were they, in that first encounter, to even know who he was? Why St. Thomas had a sore throat that he chose not to heal is as good as some of the mysteries in Jesus’s own life. Perhaps he didn’t care much about his discomfort or the loss of his voice for a few days considering what his own master had endured not very long ago! Neither has it been said anywhere that St.Thomas was NOT going to cure the sailors of their disease. What must have really astonished the tharavad was when they experienced the weary St. Thomas’ kindness and saw for themselves that he was himself a healer by a method of simply laying hands! They showed their gratitude in the best of tradition, and St. Thomas must have felt immensely pleased. A mutual exchange of skills and goodwill between a good host and a kind guest does not punch holes in the story nor challenge the Bible. In any case one cannot be instantly precise and judgmental about a tradition that has been a family folk tale of more than 2000 years without oneself bearing witness to what exactly occurred on that day! Neither St. Thomas nor the tharavad traditions appear to have ever complained about it.
With regard to how St. Thomas received those very thirty pieces of silver that were believed to have been used to “betray” Jesus, the truth is slowly emerging as clear-thinking Christians look for clues outside the “standard version” of the Bible. The National Geographic Society has been part of an international effort, in collaboration with the Maecenas Foundation for Ancient Art and the Waitt Institute for Historical Discovery, to authenticate, conserve, and translate a 66-page codex, which contains a text called James (also known as First Apocalypse of James), the Letter of Peter to Philip, a fragment of a text that scholars are provisionally calling Book of Allogenes, and the only known surviving copy of the Gospel of Judas.
The Gospel of Judas gives a different view of the relationship between Jesus and Judas, offering new insights into the disciple who “betrayed” Jesus. Unlike the accounts in the canonical Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, in which Judas is portrayed as a reviled traitor, this newly discovered Gospel portrays Judas as acting at Jesus’ request when he hands Jesus over to the authorities. The Gospel provides an alternative view of the Jesus-Judas relationship and evidences the diverse theological beliefs that circulated among early Christians.
As the evidence emerges who knows what the story of the thirty coins might be and how it wound up with St. Thomas? Perhaps what sounds hard to believe in an ancient Nair folktale may well serve as a starting point of research for Indian Christianity. While some of the best of Christian brains in the world are painstakingly picking out fragments of truth by corroborating archaeology, tradition and folklore, it would be foolish to dismiss something on our own soil without proper verification by sounding an immediate and premature clarion call of- “Highly Improbable.” Don’t worry, neither St. Thomas, Jesus our Lord nor their teachings will in any way be tarnished by the truth.
Dr. K C Jerome
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