A Disciple Know as the Twin, Was Jesus a Twin?

Did Mary not give birth not only to Jesus but his twin on Christmas day?

Jesus, sharing Mary’s womb with a lesser-known twin brother.

The question of whether Jesus was a twin arises in one’s thoughts.

We have no strong historical evidence to support the existence of a twin named Judas Thomas for Jesus.

As I said, strong evidence.

There is historical material and writings that can be used to support the idea of Jesus having a twin.

Evidence that we should just dismiss off-hand without first reviewing.

To understand how the idea of a twin of Jesus may have developed and why.

So let’s do that, explore the possibility of Jesus’ twinship.

Jesus’ Possible Twin

In the gospels, we are told that Jesus had 4 brothers, James and Joses and Judas and Simon (Matt.13:55, Mk 6:3).

The most notable is James. Who is later known as one of the leaders of the early church in Jerusalem (Acts 15, Gal.2:9). Josephus mentions him in Antiquities of the Jews in Book 20.9 references to “James, brother of Jesus.” Paul also refers to James as “the Lord’s brother” and sought his counsel in regard to his understanding of the faith (Gal.1:19).

There is some variation among church traditions in regard to who these “brothers” are.

The Orthodox tradition holds them to be Jospeph’s sons from a previous marriage. Being Jesus’ older stepbrothers.

Some Roman Catholics translate the term “brothers’ more closely, meaning relative. That these 4 brothers were, in fact, cousins of Jesus. Not blood brothers.

Both leave zero potential of Jesus having a twin.

Jesus' Brothers

But there is an early tradition, largely in Syria and India, that not only did Jesus have brothers but a twin.

Judas.

Not the Iscariot, who later betrayed him, but Judas, also known as Jude. Who tradition holds was the author of Jude in the New Testament. He starts by identifying himself as “Jude, a servant of Jesus Christ and a brother of James” (Jude 1:1). The assumption is that the “James” referred to here is the leader of the Jerusalem Church, the brother of Jesus.

But how do we go from Judas to Jude to the twin of Jesus?

The Riddle of Thomas, called Didymus.

One of Jesus’ appointed apostles is Thomas (Matt.10:2-4, Mk.3:13-19, Lk6:12-16).

The synoptic gospels record little about him, but the gospel of John does (11:16; 20:24; 21:2).

The most famous being when Jesus appeared to his disciples after his resurrection, but Thomas was not present at the time. When the other disciples tell Thomas about seeing the risen Jesus, he doubts them, stating that he will not believe unless he sees the marks of the nails in Jesus’ hands. A week later, Jesus appears once again, offering the signs that Thomas sought. He then believes (Jn.20:24-29).

The phrase Doubting Thomas is born.

But John gives an interesting note in verse 24.

“Now Thomas (also known as Didymus)”

In Greek, Didymus means “twin.”

But so does Thomas.

The Aramaic (Language Spoken by Jesus), the word for twin is “Oma.”

When Oma was transliterated into Greek, the common language of the Eastern Mediterranean and the language of the New Testament, an “S” was added to the end of the name, creating “Tomas.” The addition of an “S” at the end of a word is a typical Greek case ending used to fit the word into the grammatical structure of the Greek language.

A reader of both Aramaic and Greek would read verse 24 as “Now the twin (who was called twin).

Possibly making it more of a nickname than his official name.

But still leaving the question.

Who’s twin was he?

Why Thomas Might Be Regarded as Jesus’ Twin

The New Testament gives us no explanation as to why Thomas is referred to as “the twin.”

Leaving many curious about the reason behind this designation.

Early Christian apocryphal literature often have a deep affection for minor side characters and a penchant for filling in narrative gaps. One particular minor character that gets a lot of additional writing is Thomas.

Writings like the Gospel of Thomas, the Acts of Thomas, and the Book of Thomas.

The Gospel of Thomas is most renowned is a relatively concise collection of 114 sayings attributed to Jesus. Referred to by Scholars as a saying gospel due to its lack of narrative structure commonly found in the complete canonical gospels. Missing the passion narrative, crucifixion, resurrection, or Jesus’ miracles. Essentially, but a collection of Jesus’ teachings.

Jesus is portrayed as a wise sage, sharing his wisdom with the disciples. It can be likened to a Book of Proverbs, with some sayings similar to the gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke. However, there are other sayings that are unique to this Gospel and may seem more esoteric, leading to its occasional mislabeling as a Gnostic Gospel.

Thomas is not explicitly referred to as the twin of Jesus in the Gospel of Thomas. But it is possible that the author held this belief with the theme of twinship subtly presented. A passage from the Gospel of Thomas reads, “When you see your likeness, you rejoice. But when you see your images that existed before you, in which neither died nor manifested, you will have much to endure.”

Seeing yourself in the mirror

Perplexing, Yes.

But these “images that existed before you” are Thomas’ own reflection in his identical twin, Jesus.

Seeing his own likeness.

This theme is further played into in The Acts of Thomas. A 3rd-century text recounts Thomas’ missionary expedition to India, written approximately 100 years after the Gospel of Thomas.

The Acts of Thomas contains an intriguing account of someone mistaking Jesus for Thomas due to their striking resemblance. At a wedding, the groom observes Jesus conversing with the bride. The groom mistakes him for Judas Thomas because of his appearance. Jesus responds to the groom, “I am not Judas Thomas, but his brother.”

Thirdly in the Book of Thomas, sometimes referred to as the Book of Thomas the Contender. Also dating to the third century, presents a dialogue between Jesus and his twin brother, Judas Thomas. Jesus shares esoteric knowledge to Thomas, emphasizing their relationship as twins. Encouraging Thomas to introspect and discover his true identity.

Although these texts differ significantly, they share some notable similarities.

All likely originated in Syria, indicating that Syrian Christians held Thomas in high regard within their form of Christianity.

Thomas, a relatively minor figure in the New Testament, was elevated to a central role by these Syrian Christians.

Additionally, all three texts refer to him as Judas Thomas, reinforcing the idea of him as Jesus’ twin brother.

With his new elevated status. The mystery of the “twin” is then linked to Jesus.

That he was Jesus’ twin.

Conclusion: Was Jesus a Twin?

It is fun to contemplate the possibility of Jesus being a twin.

The potential of what an identical twin could do for Jesus.

Some Mandaeans even hold to the idea that it was not Jesus who was crucified but his twin brother, Thomas. Which, if true, would have huge theological and historical implications.

But that is where I think we must start and end.

Is it true that Jesus had a twin identical brother?

There is myths, traditions and theories about Jesus being a twin.

But using Occam’s razor, where we seek the simplest explanation with the fewest assumptions. Jesus was not born a twin.

The birth stories of Matthew and Luke do not include the birth of a twin. Even if you do not take these as entirely historical, which many scholars do not. It is odd that such a significant fact of a twin would fail to creep into text till hundreds of years later.

Even these texts, you may have noticed, took a fair bit of explaining and added assumptions to bring out the idea of Jesus having a twin.

Making the idea of Thomas the twin highly unlikely to be the twin of Jesus.

It is interesting that he has such a name and that John seems to emphasize it.

But we may be reading too much into its meaning.

My name, Ryan, means “little king.” But I can assure you I have no kingdom. Nor would I consider my statue of just under 6′ as being little. My parents simply liked the name.

Maybe Thomas’ parents did too. And John read a little too much into it.

Or maybe the apostles used it as a nickname for whatever reason. With his striking similarity in appearances to someone. The writer of John never tells us who this someone is; the possibilities are almost endless. However, it’s not likely that he was Jesus’ twin.

Resources

  • https://bibletolife.com/resources/questions/did-jesus-have-a-twin/
  • https://www.blueletterbible.org/Comm/stewart_don/faq/objections-to-the-resurrection-of-jesus-christ/12-was-there-a-twin-brother-of-jesus-who-appeared-to-jesus-disciples.cfm
  • https://discover.hubpages.com/religion-philosophy/Christ–Twin

Ryan Nickel

Two loves of my life beyond my wife and 4 children are history and the person of Jesus. From childhood, I was captivated by history and still love reading and learning about the past. One life in particular that intrigues me in history is the person of Jesus. It's fascinating to think about how the course of human history was changed by a carpenter turned preacher. Both in our times and also in his. I attempt to process all I am learning about him through conversations, writing and shooting videos about the life and teachings of Jesus. With each word drawing me closer into his life. Ryan Nickel has been part of range of churches, including Baptist, Evangelical Free and Church of Christ. In 1999 I graduated from Peace River Bible Institute with a Bachelor of Religious Studies.

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