Jude Thomas

From Academic Kids

This entry discusses problems of the identity of Jude Thomas Didymus. The identity of several other members of the inner circle of Jesus also have perhaps become confused, unnecessarily multiplied, or obscured by periphrastic allusions in the canonical writings that compose the New Testament in the form in which it has evolved and survived.

"Jude" is the ordinary English translation of "Judas," which is a common name in many other European languages, nevertheless. The differentiation apparently stems from an unwillingness to apply the form of the name by which Judas Iscariot is recognized, to a member of Jesus' innermost circle. Early Syriac tradition expresses the same hesitation in the common formula "Judas not Iscariot" that is recorded in John 14:22: "Judas saith unto him, not Iscariot, Lord, how is it that thou wilt manifest thyself unto us, and not unto the world?"

In the triple name Didymus Judas Thomas, Didymus is Greek for 'twin;' it is used in the Gospel of John (11.16; 20.24; 21.2) to explain "Judas." In the Old Syriac Gospels, the question reported in John 14.22 is put to the Lord by "Judas Thomas," with precisely the same signification: in Aramaic t'oma also signifies "twin". See the Aramaic of Jesus for more information.

References in the Canon

Judas or Jude is mentioned in Mark 6:3 and Matthew 13:55 as a brother of James and of Jesus.

The identity of the "Judas [son] of James," mentioned among the apostles in Luke 6:16, is debated. A common Greek idiom regularly followed a man's name with his father's name in the genitive caseó the ordinary way in the papyri. Early English translators, William Tyndale and Myles Coverdale, understood this idiom correctly in translating Luke, but Theodore Beza introduced the mistaken (?) "brother of James," at Luke 6:16, which passed through the Geneva Bible (1560) ("Iudas Iames brother") into the King James Version of 1611.

Early references outside the Canon

Hegesippus (ca 110 A.D. – ca 180) wrote five books of Commentaries on the Acts of the Church. They are lost, but a few fragments are quoted by Eusebius in Historia Ecclesiae, 3.20. Among them is the following relation, ascribed to the reign of Domitian, 81–96 A.D.:

There still survived of the kindred of the Lord the grandsons of Judas, who according to the flesh was called his brother. These were informed against, as belonging to the family of David, and Evocatus brought them before Domitian Caesar: for that emperor dreaded the advent of Christ, as Herod had done. (See Desposyni.)

The most famous extracanonical reference is in the "sayings" Gospel of Thomas discovered at Nag Hammadi:

"The hidden sayings that the savior spoke to Judas Thomas, which I, Mathaias, in turn recorded. I was walking, listening to them speak with each other.'" (The Gospel of Thomas: The Hidden Sayings of Jesus, p. 67)

Among the library at Nag Hammadi is another manuscript, being called the Book of Thomas. It has a similar incipit:

Current positions

  • A local tradition of eastern Syria identifies Jude with the Apostle Thomas, also known by them as Jude Thomas, whom they believe is the twin brother of Jesus Christ
  • Protestants believe Jude is the uterine half-brother of Jesus Christ. A literal brother of Jesus, but at the same time not the Jude who is one of the twelve Apostles.
  • The Eastern Orthodox Church views Jude as a stepbrother of Jesus by a previous marriage of Joseph that was never mentioned in the canonic Gospels.
  • The Roman Catholic Church holds the belief, first expressed by Jerome, that Jude is a first cousin of Jesus, a son of Clopas the brother of Joseph, or Mary the sister of Jesus' mother Mary. The Catholic New American Bible opens its introduction to the Epistle of Jude
"This letter is by its address attributed to "Jude, a slave of Jesus Christ and brother of James" (Jude 1:1). Since he is not identified as an apostle, this designation can hardly be meant to refer to the Jude or Judas who is listed as one of the Twelve (Luke 6:16; Acts 1:13; cf John 14:22). The person intended is almost certainly the other Jude, named in the gospels among the relatives of Jesus (Matthew 13:55; Mark 6:3), and the James who is listed there as his brother is the one to whom the Letter of James is attributed (see the Introduction to James). Nothing else is known of this Jude, and the apparent need to identify him by reference to his better-known brother indicates that he was a rather obscure personage in the early church."

See also the further disambiguation at Jude.


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