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tv   Finding Jesus Faith Fact Forgery  CNN  December 26, 2019 12:00am-1:00am PST

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he's on the side of the hill. he's not gonna be buried in the palace, but he's going to be buried in a great monument looking back towards jerusalem, as a reminder. "i'm the king of the jews, even in my death." >> he's the disciple famous for a lack of faith. >> seeing is believing or else. >> but he is transformed by the sight of the risen christ. >> my god. >> a convinced skeptic is the strongest kind of believer. >> an ancient tradition claims jesus sends him on a terrifying journey to the ends of the earth. he is martyred, his relics scattered, but did the most reluctant apostle triumph over
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fear to take the word of jesus from the holy land to india? >> a direct line to the very source of christian faith. >> science puts his relics to the test to reveal the truth about doubting thomas. >> a holy festival in the south indian state of kerala, worshippers here follow a liturgy they believe was handed to them directly by one of jesus twelve disciples, a man seven million indians claim brought
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christianity here: thomas. >> christianity appears in india at some point in the first few centuries of the common era. it's a little bit of a mystery. it may be there as early as the second century, and maybe it's plausible that it even arrived in the first century. >> is it possible the disciple famous in the bible for doubt founded one of the earliest christian churches in india? >> thomas is listed as one of the twelve, so we know that he's one of that inner group of jesus' disciples. >> he's best known as the one disciple who wasn't present when jesus first appeared after his crucifixion. >> thomas vanishes from the new testament after the resurrection, but an ancient text and recent archaeological documents may reveal what happened to him. >> there are early indications even before the middle ages that christianity had somehow,
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someway, come to india, so one could say, "why not by thomas?" >> in bari cathedral in italy is a relic believed to have been venerated for over 1,700 years across the christian world. it's said to be the arm that touched the resurrected jesus, the arm of saint thomas. >> so if the relics of saint thomas were found to be from the first century, that would be incredibly exciting. >> could this relic date to the time of jesus and help solve the mystery of what happened to the disciple famous for his doubt? >> thomas is present in all four gospels, but it's in jerusalem, after jesus has been crucified, in the gospel of john, that his story comes into focus. >> it's difficult to understand
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the trauma of the disciples at the arrest and eventual crucifixion of jesus. we get the sense that they believed this movement was over. >> thomas misses the defining event of christian faith. >> he's not there on easter sunday night when jesus first appears to the ten. he misses out on jesus saying, "receive the holy spirit." it strongly suggests that he'd not only abandoned hope in jesus, he'd abandoned the other
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disciples as well. >> where were you? >> away -- i went away. >> thomas, so little faith. >> it's over. >> perhaps he felt that now that jesus was dead, the group should fragment and break up. perhaps he decided to grieve privately. >> we have seen him. he was here in this room. >> no. >> we have seen him with our own eyes. >> and i saw him, crucified, dead and buried. >> it was hard for him to believe that something good could've come from the terrible crucifixion. >> unless i see in his hands the print of the nails and put my
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finger in the mark of the nails and put my hand in his side, i will not believe. >> it's really interesting that thomas doubts. he's straightforward, no nonsense, and this seems a little far-fetched, so in order to believe that jesus was resurrected, he's got to see it for himself, or he's just -- his constitution won't allow him to accept it. >> so fast-forward to the next recorded meeting of all the disciples, the 11, in the upper room, still behind locked doors. >> this is my body. >> this is my body.
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>> this is my blood. >> jesus appears again, and it appears quite specifically an appearance to recover thomas from his disbelief. >> put your finger here. see my hands. reach out your hand and put it in my side. stop doubting and believe. >> my lord, my god. >> thomas' proclamation in front
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of the risen christ, "my lord and my god," is one of the most important christian confessions of faith. >> it's the only place in the new testament where christ is called god. that, i think, is incredibly significant. >> because you have now seen me, you believe. blessed are those who have not seen me yet still believe. >> this is the only appearance to a specific disciple for the purpose of instructing someone in particular. jesus has appeared so that thomas will know that he is really resurrected from the dead. >> then in the gospels, thomas disappears. is it possible he undertook an epic journey of more than 3,000 miles to bring the
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>> kerala, south west india. every year, members of an ancient christian sect gather at the mar thoma shrine. they celebrate the most significant event in the history of their church, the arrival of the apostle thomas, who they believe came here in 52 ad.
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>> jesus told the apostles, "go out of jerusalem to the entire world and preach the good news." so thomas decided to go to india. >> is it possible the disciple famous for his lack of faith brought a form of christianity here nearly 2,000 years ago? >> in the bible, the resurrected jesus leaves his disciples with a final mission. >> go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the father and of the son and of the holy spirit. >> well, apostle means to be
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sent, and after the resurrection, christ commissions them to go to the ends of the earth to proclaim the good news, to proclaim his resurrection, and it's a lifetime mission for them, and some of them literally did go to the ends of the earth to do so. >> but there is little in the acts of the apostles about what happens next. >> the acts of the apostles is badly misnamed. most of the 12 disappear off the landscape of early christianity once we get past the gospels. >> thomas simply vanishes from the pages of the new testament. >> but there is another account of the life of thomas that picks up where the bible narrative stops.
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dr. nicola denzey lewis has come to the british library, where there is a rare copy of an ancient book, the acts of thomas. >> this text is written in syriac, and that's significant because it's very closely related to aramaic, and aramaic is the language which jesus spoke with his disciples, so this is a really, really fabulous piece to the puzzle in uncovering a little more information than we had before about what thomas was up to. and the story goes that after jesus' death, the disciples are getting together, and they're trying to decide who goes where, and they actually draw lots. thomas chooses the short straw. >> the disciples believed drawing lots would allow god to decide where they should go to spread the word. thomas gets india. >> i cannot go. i do not wish to go. >> to a first-century judean,
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india was on the other side of the world, so it would've been enormously daunting for anyone to think about traveling to india. >> how can i, as a hebrew man, go among the indians to proclaim the truth? >> the lots are drawn. >> we have a human moment. thomas says, "i'd rather not go to india. i mean, that's a whale of a long way from here. and who says that i would even be able to understand the people at the end of the earth?" >> according to the acts of
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thomas, not even jesus can persuade him. >> fear not, thomas. go away to india and proclaim the word, for my grace shall be with you. >> wherever you wish to send me, send me elsewhere. to the indians, i am not going. >> i don't see thomas as a stubborn skeptic. i see him as someone who may be a critical thinker, someone who has to reason his way into faith, and too often we separate faith and reason, but faith is a reasoned trust. >> after a night of prayer, thomas finally accepts his lot. >> i go where ever you wish, oh, lord jesus. >> it would've been a hugely challenging proposition for someone who was from galilee to go to india. it would feel like being exiled to mars.
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>> the acts of thomas narrates thomas' journey from jerusalem to india by boat. he lands in the southwest corner of coastal india, what is today kerala. >> according to the story, upon arrival in india, thomas is introduced to a legendary king, gondophares. it's a fantastic tale, but could it be true? >> the acts of thomas is written over a century after books like the canonical gospels that we find in the new testament. they're stories that are
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speculations by later christians about the apostle thomas. >> what's problematic about the tradition of thomas reaching india is that we don't have first and second-century texts corroborating it. >> but a recent archaeological discovery provides evidence that thomas' journey to india was possible, and parts of the acts themselves may be rooted in history. blt
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>> india, the malabar coast, in modern day kerala. in 2007, scene of a spectacular archaeological discovery believed to be the site of the lost ancient port muziris. archaeologist professor p. j. cherian is leading excavations. >> we started our excavations in 2007, and so far, we have 61 trenches. that is 1,000-square-meter area. >> from the excavations at muziris, hundreds of thousands of pottery fragments have been found, thousands of which are
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clearly from the mediterranean world, particularly wine amphora, that's wine containers, on a scale that eclipses most other sites in india. >> muziris was the center of a thriving global trade in luxury goods that stretched from europe to china. >> huge quantities of spices and aromatics, however, were being brought to the roman world as a result of the indian ocean traders, as a result of connections to place like muziris. >> only an estimated 1 percent of the site has been excavated, but the volume of trade revealed suggests thomas could also have made the journey here in the first century. >> in the roman period, people know that if you follow the monsoon, you can get to india in under 40 days by ship. >> it would have been very hard, but it was certainly possible that thomas could have gone to india, and if jesus' message is to preach his good news to the
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ends of the world, then india would've been on that list. >> a stranger coming to muziris for the first time, it must have been quite a surreal experience. >> he would have encountered all kinds of people and languages and flavors and smells that he had never seen before and gods he had never even heard of. >> you've got a variety of different religious sects. these include brahmins, who are essentially early hindus. you've got jains, and you also have buddhists. >> a first point of contact for thomas might have been jewish traders, who spoke his language and shared his faith. >> because this was the center of spice trade, the jewish
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community settled there, and there's a jewish town in kochi, even today. >> an ancient jewish enclave still exists in the nearby port city of kochi. could this community of exiles have been where thomas started his mission to bring the teachings of jesus to india? >> we know that there were in fact jewish communities there in india, and that part of india is part of the trade networks early on for the first century. >> one of the important strands of thomas's work is the fact that he did come to minister to the jewish community. >> this is my body. >> this is my body. >> because as a jew himself, he felt that he's bringing this new way of relating with god. >> i think thomas would make the perfect apostle because he represents someone that had to go through a process in order to get to the place of believing,
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and i think that he represent many people. >> in the acts, one of thomas' first encounters is with an indian ruler, king gondophares. thomas instructs the king and his brother in the christian liturgy and eucharist. for years, king gondophares was regarded as a mythical figure, but a surprising discovery in the 19th century saw the acts of thomas cast in a new light. >> it appeared to provide some degree of verification for key -- a key detail in the acts of thomas, so it made people think, "well, maybe the book isn't quite as legendary as we thought it was." >> dr. nicola denzey lewis is at the british museum in london to see a 2,000-year-old coin that could connect thomas to india. >> this is the silver tetradrachm of gondophares.
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>> it's heavy. mm-hmm. >> it depicts the king -- >> mm-hmm. >> -- riding on horseback, and around the edge, the legend is written in greek: gondophares. >> and so where did this coin come from? >> these coins are found in pakistan. >> oh, wow. >> and gondophares was the -- the first, most important -- >> mm-hmm. >> -- of the kings that ruled in that area. >> do we know anything else about this figure, about this ruler? >> yes, we do. we know when he ruled, about 60 ad. >> that aligns pretty nicely with the time in which thomas, as an apostle, would've been doing his missionizing activity in india. so to be able to find a real
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historical object and say, "huh, this is interesting. this has a name on it that actually is the same as in this text," it makes that legendary text look a little bit more historical, a little bit more real, a little bit more reliable, and that's a very exciting moment for us. >> the discovery of coins of king gondophares in the 19th century added a completely different element into the mix. this proves that there are some historical elements in the acts of thomas. it's not all fantasy. >> can the testing of his relics add scientific proof to the tradition that thomas brought the teachings of jesus to india nearly 2,000 years ago? blt
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>> kerala, southwest india. around seven million christians here trace their faith directly to the apostle famous for his doubt. they believe their ancestors were baptized by one of jesus' 12 disciples, thomas. >> stop doubting and believe. >> my lord, my god. >> thomas vanishes from the new testament after the resurrection, but his story is taken up by a third-century epic narrative, the acts of thomas. >> now, it seems that the acts of thomas preserves at least some historically accurate information. >> but the acts of thomas is not the only account of his mission to india. >> [ speaking in foreign language ] >> there are two different sets of songs that we continue to sing. one is called the "ramban pattu," song of the ramban, which narrates the activities of saint thomas, his missionary activities in kerala, and the other is "margamkali," dance of the way, which is still being danced in kerala. >> it seems extraordinary, maybe even unlikely, to us that a song could survive for 2,000 years, but we have to realize that in antiquity, in the indian culture, there were trained village bards who would learn these songs, and these songs would be passed down from generation to generation orally, and in that way, they were very stable, and it's completely plausible that a song could have a very ancient background.
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saint thomas christians in kerala also maintain an ancient dance tradition. >> the songs tell us that the apostle was well-received wherever he went. people welcomed him and received his message and accepted the baptism from the apostle, and christian communities grew. >> the songs about thomas, it was about the works of thomas, and how he was as -- as an individual and as a disciple of jesus, was able to actually live that message of jesus in a different country. >> the songs describe thomas founding seven churches and baptizing 17,000 converts, missionary work common to the
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acts. >> what is fascinating about this is the song seems to preserve a tradition that makes sense when we compare it to the way that christianity spread in other parts of the world. >> saint thomas christians to this day maintain traditions they believe to be a direct legacy of first century christian culture. >> saint thomas christian churches even today follow that ancient biblical practice of men and women sitting separately and women covering their heads. >> most remarkable of all, elements of the thomas christian liturgy are performed in the language of earliest christianity. >> there are still priests in kerala who chant the institution narrative, "this is my body.
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this is my blood," in the aramaic language, just the way jesus did at the last supper. >> what's compelling about the oral tradition about thomas going to india is just how similar all of the stories are. we don't often find these kinds of similar traditions in any particular region, particularly a region so far away from where thomas started. the fact that everyone tells the same story about thomas for 1,500 years suggests that there might be a historical kernel of truth here. >> according to the oral tradition, thomas sets off from kerala on what will be his final journey. the acts of thomas also says the apostle moves on. >> thomas moves to another kingdom. this one has a king whose name is misdaeus. and he starts doing the same thing in misdaeus' kingdom.
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he baptizes people, and people start converting, and he gets himself kind of on the wrong side of politics in this way because he's converting people who are very high up within the kingdom, and they start to pull their loyalties away from the king. it makes the king angry, and by the time thomas converts his wife and the king's son as well, misdaeus has had enough. the jealous king dispatches his men to capture and kill thomas. >> his final words repeat the same acclamation he made in the gospel of john when jesus, the risen christ, appeared to him. >> my lord, my god, i have fulfilled the work you gave me and obeyed your every command. today, i receive my final freedom.
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>> he dies being pierced with spears. >> thomas has understood something very important about discipleship, that it's all about following jesus whatever the consequences, and that will include persecution, suffering and death. >> according to local tradition, in 72 ad, his body is laid to rest in mylapore, now part of modern day chennai, but it will not remain there. >> tradition holds that his followers took his body back to the west to mesopotamia and that they lay in the city of edessa there until the crusades
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resulted in the bones being brought to europe. >> dr. georges kazan and professor tom higham from oxford university have been granted permission to test a sample of the bone brought here in 1102 ad. >> by getting a date for these bones, we'll be able to work out whether or not the bones are from the first century ad. >> could the testing of his relics provide evidence to support the belief that thomas brought christianity to india in the first century?
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>> bari, italy. professor tom higham and dr. georges kazan have come to test a relic believed to belong to thomas, the disciple famous in the bible for doubting the resurrection and believed by 7 million thomas christians to have brought the teachings of jesus to india nearly 2,000 years ago. >> it's really exciting because a first-century date would potentially open the door towards validating the tradition of whether thomas went to india. we're hoping to get a small sample to find out more about
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the relic. >> if you look closely, you can just see the relic through the window here. and then we've got a couple of screws here, by the look of it, and then you can just lift this right off and get access to the relic. okay. keep going. i've got the bone. yep. it's quite a big bone. it's like a forearm, isn't it? >> yes. it's supposed to be the left radius. what about the surface? how's it looking to you? >> this could be a problem because that's got a quite a lot of surface varnish or consolidation on it.
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we want to date the bone collagen. we don't want to date this stuff. when you have an important bone, people tend to cover it with a protecting material. hopefully, it's just the surface that's been -- that's been treated. >> tom needs to extract enough organic material to provide a test sample without destroying the relic. >> okay. i think that's enough. we're done. >> by exploring aspects such as the date and the genetic origin of this relic, we might be able to begin the journey towards testing this tradition. >> in india, 7 million thomas christians believe their ancestors were baptized by thomas after he was sent by jesus to spread the story of the resurrection in the first century. his arrival in kerala and his mission to baptize the local people are recalled and celebrated in local song and
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dance, but there is no surviving written record that supports the tradition. >> in 1498, the portuguese arrived in india with a different christianity. >> initially, they were fascinated by the fact that there were christians here, but then you -- slowly they realized these christians worship in a different language. >> they seemed to have believed in astrology and reincarnation. they had carvings of elephants and dancing girls on their crosses. this didn't seem like christianity at all. >> the problem with them is they weren't catholics, and they didn't look proper to the portuguese. >> in 1599, the catholic church declared the saint thomas christians heretics. >> they collected up all the documents that they had from
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these thomasine christians and destroyed them, burnt them. >> the history of early christianity in india, recorded on palm leaf manuscript, was put to the flame. >> much of the documents of the saint thomas christians were burnt at the time, so they were all destroyed. >> a team of archivists are hunting down the few surviving palm leaf records. >> it's an all-india phenomena, palm leaf as writing material because that was what was available readily in kerala, unlike in the middle east, where you would have parchments or scrolls and paper. >> many of their inscriptions are written in syriac, the language of many early christians, close to aramaic, the language spoken by jesus and
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thomas. >> so far, the oldest dates to 1291. >> what they have achieved so far is very, very important because, for a long time, the story of thomas was kind of brushed aside as a kind of a mythical legend by the western scholarship. >> certainly the story about thomas going to india, even if reluctantly, from the third century acts of thomas, is a story that suggests that sometimes we simply have to take it on faith and trust that something happened or else there wouldn't be early indications of christianity in india, and in fact, there are. >> can the testing of his relic, believed to be his bone, provide scientific evidence to support the tradition that thomas brought christianity to india? >> any such evidence and proof
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would actually validate the presence of a tradition that has been there for nearly 1,800 years. >> the time has come to put the relic to the test.
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>> oxford university, england.
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professor tom higham and dr. georges kazan are about to test a sample of bone, a sample taken from a relic venerated as an arm of the apostle thomas, believed by millions of thomas christians to have brought the teachings of jesus to india in the first century. >> the first stage of the laboratory process is to make sure that what we're dating is the original carbon from the bone rather than the bone plus contaminations. >> once the sample is clear of any form of chemical contamination, collagen is extracted from the bone. >> the end result is a material that looks rather like cotton wool. >> finally, a mass spectrometer
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is used to date the bone and reveal the age of the relic. >> this is where the samples are coming. >> yep. >> they're now positively, triple-positively charged through here. >> yep, yep. >> and they're going about 15 million miles an hour. >> in india, a tradition preserved in song, dance and the acts of thomas tells how the apostle came here to spread the word of jesus in the first century. >> i think it's possible, even plausible, that thomas went to india because we know that this was a fairly well-trod route, and we have a text that explains thomas' evangelical mission to india, and we have a community in this corner of india that goes back to antiquity. >> to this day, saint thomas christians perform parts of the liturgy in syriac, the language of early christianity, close to that spoken by jesus. >> indian christians are fond of saying that it is as likely that thomas went to india as it is
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that peter went to rome, and i think that's basically fair. >> but indian christian culture was deemed heretical by catholic portuguese colonists in the 16th century and violently suppressed. can science finally provide evidence to support the thomas tradition in india? in oxford, england, the results are in. >> and this is the result right here, look. so it's between 130 and 330 ad. >> yes. >> so it's a little bit later than thomas would be attested to, but it's still incredibly old. >> well, that's very exciting. >> wow. well, that's great. in terms of other relics that we've dated, that is one of the oldest that we've ever, ever looked at, and they're
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interesting because they seem to cover the period where we find the first historical reference to his remains coming back from india. >> the 1,800-year-old relic does not provide evidence of thomas in india. >> do we have ancient sources that attest to their antiquity all the way to the first century? no, but we don't have that kind of evidence for christian presence anywhere. >> here, i feel a little bit like the doubting thomas myself. just because we have bones and a body, do we know that that was really thomas'? we don't. at a certain point, it's a question of faith, and it's a question of -- of personal opinion. >> over 400 years after declaring the thomas christians heretics, the roman catholic church made thomas the patron saint of india. in 1986, pope john paul ii visits india and holds an
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audience in mylapore at the shrine dedicated to the martyrdom of saint thomas. >> in terms of history of christianity in india, i think that declaration of thomas as the patron saint of india gave recognition to the long history, or long held history, of thomas christians. >> the story of saint thomas in the gospel is the story of the importance of faith, reason and doubt. doubt and faith are two sides of the same coin. >> my lord, my god. >> without jesus' commission to his disciples to become apostles, that is to go out from judea and galilee and spread his message around the world, there would be no christianity. frankly, the followers of jesus
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would've gone down in history as a sect of judaism. >> it's one of the great ironies of the way we talk about thomas, that we call him doubting thomas, when actually, we should call him faithful thomas because what's happened is, he's gone on his journey, and in the end, he makes the right decision. he comes to faith. >> my lord, my god. >> doubting thomas might be the perfect apostle because he, in a sense, represents all of us. we all have doubts in the spiritual life, and all of us, i think, out of our human nature, want proof. ♪
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