Many people today consider the New Testament documents to be the expression of a naÃ¯ve, easy believism. â€œAfter all,â€ they ask, â€œwerenâ€™t people in the first century AD quite unsophisticated and unscientific? It would have been easy to put one over on them.â€
The documents actually tell quite a different story.
Jesusâ€™ resurrection and first appearances didnâ€™t catch all the disciples at the same time.Â There were some who werenâ€™t present and so would not necessarily have known what to make of their fellow disciplesâ€™ assertions of the resurrection of Jesus and of his bodily appearance to them.Â The Gospel of John 20:24-29, for example, tells us that the disciple Thomas was one.
Notwithstanding the other disciplesâ€™ repeated and vigorous affirmations (â€œthey kept on sayingâ€) that they had seen the risen Lord, Thomas declared he would remain unconvinced until he himself had incontrovertible evidence. John records Thomas to have said, â€œUnless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe it.â€
He would not content himself with hearing from others; or even seeing for himself. Thomas would believe only after both visual and full tactile confirmation. This sounds both sophisticated and scientific!
John writes that â€œa week later,â€ Thomas was with the other disciples in the meeting place.Â He notes further that â€œthough the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among themâ€ and at his appearing, he declared to them â€œPeace be with you!â€ Turning to Thomas, Jesus then said, â€œPut your finger here; see my hands.Â Reach out your hand and put it into my side.â€ He was challenging Thomas to satisfy himself through physically probing the wounds in confirmation that he was indeed Jesus Christ, risen from the dead.Â Jesus chided Thomas, â€œStop doubting and believe.â€
Seeing Jesus was apparently enough.Â John says at v. 28 that Thomas declared, â€˜My Lord and my God!â€™â€Â These are the titles of deity!