Monday, July 03, 2017

The "Twin," the "Rock" and the "Tower": Nicknames in the Bible

The Incredulity of St Thomas, by Caravaggio
Today's feast of St Thomas the Apostle (first celebrated in Syria circa 250 AD!) brings us the fabulous story of "Doubting Thomas." Not that Thomas was ever called that by his fellow apostles. No, the Gospel of John tells us (twice) that Thomas was called "Didymus," "the Twin."

Until fairly recently I assumed that meant he was one of a pair; that somewhere in first century Palestine there was a brother or sister with whom Thomas had come into the world. Strange that he or she didn't get a mention in the Bible: was it that only Thomas was a disciple of Jesus and that he who would one day evangelize India had failed to win over his closest family member?

Or could it be that "Twin" was one of those nicknames that stick to someone like glue, especially in a close-knit group like that of Jesus and his disciples? Jesus himself bestowed nicknames, and at least in Peter's case that nickname effectively replaced his given name (which was, you will recall, "Simon"). I read a book about a year ago that suggested that Mary Magdalen was not Mary "of Magdala," but Mary, "the Tower" (migdal); perhaps a hint at the out-sized personality that made her such an effective "Apostle to the Apostles."

What if the disciples called Thomas "Twin" because he bore a striking physical resemblance to Jesus himself? What if Thomas was Jesus' look-alike, so close to the Lord in height and build and facial structure that it had taken a while before the others could tell them apart unless they were close enough for eye contact?

What if we're all called to become so much like Jesus that people who know us only from our words and deeds could "mistake" us for the Lord? I suspect that this is what our Baptism is meant to accomplish!

1 comment:

cynthiasolc said...

That truly is something to aspire too. Thanks for sharing this reflection. God Bless!