ST. THOMAS CHRISTIANS– Founded by Thomas the Apostle in India – Appx. 52-55 A.D.
The Saint Thomas Christians are sometimes referred to as “Syrian Christians of Malabar” . Eusebius, the first Christian historian writes at the beginning of the 4th century about the travel, evangelism to, and martyrdom at the hands of the Hindus of the Indian Subcontinent. Many received Thomas’ gospel, converted to Christianity and have survived two thousand years of being ostracised and persecuted by Hindu culture and exist today in numbers of nearly 7 million. A number of which I have spent time with in my travels to Dimapur in the Northeast of the sub-continent. Their tradition holds that their ancestors, who all came from the high castes of Hindu society, were converted by the Apostle Saint Thomas, who landed in India in the year 52 AD. The land and sea routes were open from the Mediterranean via the Persian Gulf to India, and there were indeed intense contacts between these areas around this time. Archaeologists have unearthed Roman coins of the first century AD in southern India which further corroborates the presence of westerners in India during this time.
Thomas was killed with a spear, according to Foxe’s Book of Martyrs: “Called Didymus, preached the Gospel in Parthia and India, where exciting the rage of the pagan priests (Brahmin), he was martyred by being thrust through with a spear.” It is important to note that there are fabricated fairy tales spun by the ancient Gnostics which tell of water suspended in mid air which led to a Brahmin desire to be baptised, attempts at stoning Thomas which resulted in paralysed hands and other maladies. These silly stories should be completely eliminated as the source for such nonsense is from heretic pseudepigrapha attempting to be passed off as “Scripture”.
In 345 A.D. it is reported that Syrian Christians came into contact with the St Thomas Christians of India when Thomas of Kana, a Syrian merchant from Persia, arrived in Cranganore, accompanied by seventy families. Thomas of Kana and the bishops who accompanied him established a permanent contact with the Syrian Church establishing an Indian and a Syrian composite which is, ecclesiastically and culturally, akin to the Syrian Christian denomination. Thus the St Thomas Christians’ everyday culture and customs are typically Indian but have a language of worship and high-caste culture which is largely Syriac for nearly 1700 years.
Eastern Orthodox denominations – the Oriental Orthodox churches broke off in the earliest of schisms in Church history. Some were Nestorians, others were “monophysites” (a complex understanding of Christology unfairly declared heretical). This family still has a representation of denominations dating back to the third century – Coptic Christians in Egypt (heavily persecuted by Muslims), Church of India (established by the Apostle Thomas), Armenian Orthodox, Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church (possibly dating as far back as the Biblical encounter between the Apostle Philip and the influential Ethiopian eunich in Acts 8)