Then said Thomas, which is called Didymus, to his fellow disciples, Let us also go, that we may die with him.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)Then (or, better, therefore) said Thomas, which is called Didymus.—The second of these names is the Greek translation of the first, which is Hebrew. Both mean “twin.” Both are found together again in John 20:24; John 21:2. Comp. Notes on the Catalogues of the Apostles in Matthew 10:3, Mark 3:18, Luke 6:15, in all of which he is coupled with Matthew, whose twin-brother he possibly was; and in Acts 1:13, where he is coupled with Philip. The name belonged probably to his childhood, and we are wholly without the knowledge which can explain it. The various theories which attempt to do so, from the statement of the Apostolical Constitutions that he had a twin sister Lydia, to the view that the name was given by our Lord to signify his double or halting spiritual nature, are never more than, and are sometimes much less than, elaborate guesses. We may well believe that the name is due to the fact that he was a twin, but of whom it is of no importance that we should know, and it is quite certain that we cannot know.
And yet Peter, John, and Judas, are the only Apostles whose characters we know as well. This is owing to three incidents preserved to us by St. John—the present passage, John 14:5, and John 20:24 et seq. We have before us here a man looking at events from a mind full of the darkest apprehension. He is without hope that a return to Judæa can have any but one issue for his Master. The night is so clearly seen that the brightness of day is obscured. But with all this there is the full love of a devoted disciple, who will follow his Master even unto death.
Die with him - It has been much doubted by critics whether the word him refers to Lazarus or to Jesus. They who refer it to Lazarus suppose this to be the meaning: "Let us go and die, for what have we to hope for if Jesus returns into Judea? Lately they attempted to stone him, and now they will put him to death, and we also, like Lazarus, shall be dead." This expression, is supposed to be added by John to show the slowness with which Thomas believed, and his readiness to doubt without the fullest evidence. See John 20:25. Others suppose, probably more correctly, that it refers to Jesus: "He is about to throw himself into danger. The Jews lately sought his life, and will again. They will put him to death. But let us not forsake him. Let us attend him and die with him." It may be remarked that this, not less than the other mode of interpretation, expresses the doubts of Thomas about the miracle which Jesus was about to work.
Let us also go, that we may die with him—lovely spirit, though tinged with some sadness, such as reappears at Joh 14:5, showing the tendency of this disciple to take the dark view of things. On a memorable occasion this tendency opened the door to downright, though but momentary, unbelief (Joh 20:25). Here, however, though alleged by many interpreters there is nothing of the sort. He perceives clearly how this journey to Judea will end, as respects his Master, and not only sees in it peril to themselves, as they all did, but feels as if he could not and cared not to survive his Master's sacrifice to the fury of His enemies. It was that kind of affection which, living only in the light of its Object, cannot contemplate, or has no heart for life, without it.Thomas and Didymus were names of the same signification, only Thomas was the Hebrew, and Didymus the Greek name. This is that Thomas who to the last showed a greater difficulty in believing than many others of the disciples did, John 20:25. His words here signified great rashness and unbelief: Let us also go, that we may die with him; with Christ (say some). Seeing that our Lord will not be persuaded from going into Judea, where his life will be in apparent danger, for they will put him to death, let us also go and die with him. But it is more probable that Thomas meant with Lazarus, who, as our Saviour told them but now, was dead; and in that sense it was not only an expression of great passion, but great unbelief also. We ought not to be so affected with the death of our friends, as to wish or desire ourselves out of the world, where God hath set us in stations which we ought to keep, until God be pleased to remove us. Besides, Thomas ought to have believed our Saviour, who had told them, that though Lazarus slept the sleep of death, yet he went to awake him; which could have no other sense, than to raise him out of that sleep of death, of which he had spoken. Ah! To what errors do our passions betray us!
the same said unto his fellow disciples; the other eleven; though the Ethiopic version reads, "to the next of the disciples"; as if he addressed himself only to one of them, to him that was nearest to him:
let us also go, that we may die with him; either with Lazarus, as some think, or rather with Christ; for he, and the rest of the disciples, imagined that Christ, by returning to Judea, would be in great danger of losing his life; yea, by this expression they seem to be positive in it, that it was a matter out of question with them, that he would die, should be venture there again: and therefore Thomas stirs up his fellow disciples to go along with him, and die altogether; signifying, that they should have but little comfort when he was taken from them: but both Thomas, and the rest, were differently minded, when Christ was apprehended, for they all forsook him and fled, and provided for their own safety, and left him to die alone, Matthew 26:56.Then said Thomas, which is called Didymus, unto his fellowdisciples, Let us also go, that we may die with him.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)John 11:16. Thomas (תְּאֹם = תֹּאמָא), after the Greek translation of his name (twin), was called among the Gentile Christians Didymus. That Jesus gave him this name for the purpose of signifying that his nature was one which halted, and was divided between the old and the new man, is an invention of Hengstenberg’s, which he even goes so far as to base on Genesis 25:23 f.
Notwithstanding what had been said in John 11:9, Thomas looked upon the return of Jesus as leading to His death; with His quick temperament, he at once expresses what is in His mind; immediately, however, manifesting the resignation and courage of love, seeing that their business now was to obey the clearly and definitely declared will of the Lord (differently in John 14:5, John 20:24). There is no ground for charging him here with “inconsideratus zelus” (Calvin); or “Fear and Unbelief” (Chrysostom, Euth. Zigabenus); dualism of Belief and Unbelief (Hengstenberg), and the like.
μετʼ αὐτοῦ] refers to Jesus, not to Lazarus (Grotius, Ewald).
ΣΥΜΜΑΘΗΤΉς occurs in the New Testament only in this place; but see Plat. Euthyd. p. 272 c.
 Soph. Fragm. 690. Dind.: θανόντι κείνῳ συνθανεῖν ἔρως μʼ ἔχει. Eur. Suppl. 1009 ff.
 This reference follows in accordance with the context from ver. 8 and from καὶ ἡμεῖς, in which the καὶ points to Jesus. On the thought, comp. Matthew 26:35 and parallels.John 11:16. Εἶπεν οὖν Θωμᾶς ὁ λεγόμενος Δίδυμος Θωμᾶς is the transliteration and Δίδυμος the translation of חּאֹם, a twin. He is the pessimist among the disciples, and now takes the gloomy, and, as it proved, the correct view of the result of this return to Judaea, but his affectionate loyalty forbids the thought of their allowing Jesus to go alone. “To his mind there is nothing left for Jesus but to die. But now comes the remarkable thing. He is willing to take Jesus at the lowest, uncrowned, unseated, disrobed, he loves Him still.” Matheson. If Thomas is stiff and obstinate in his incredulity, he is also stiff and obstinate in his affection and allegiance. “In him the twins, unbelief and faith, were contending with one another for mastery, as Esau and Jacob in Rebecca’s womb.” Trench. συμμαθηταῖς occurs only here.—ἵνα ἀποθάνωμεν μετʼ αὐτοῦ, i.e., with Jesus. The expression is well illustrated by Wetstein.16. Then said] Therefore said.
Thomas, which is called Didymus] S. John thrice (John 20:24, John 21:2) reminds his readers that Thomas is the same as he whom Gentile Christians called Didymus. Thomas is Hebrew, Didymus is Greek, for a twin. In all probability he was a twin, possibly of S. Matthew, with whom he is coupled in all three lists of the Apostles in the Gospels: in the Acts he is coupled with S. Philip. That S. Thomas received his name from Christ (as Simon was called Peter, and the sons of Zebedee Boanerges) in consequence of his character, is pure conjecture. But the coincidence between the name and his twin-mindedness (James 1:8; James 4:8) is remarkable. “In him the twins, unbelief and faith, were contending with one another for mastery, as Esau and Jacob in Rebecca’s womb” (Trench). It is from S. John that we know his character: in the Synoptists and the Acts he is a mere name (see on John 1:41). He seems to have combined devotion to Christ with a tendency to see the dark side of everything. S. John’s care in distinguishing him by his Gentile name adds point to the argument derived from his never distinguishing John as the Baptist (see on John 1:6).
fellow-disciples] The word occurs here only. It has been remarked that S. Thomas would scarcely have taken the lead in this way had S. Peter been present, and that had S. Peter been there he would probably have appeared in the previous dialogue. If he was absent, we have an additional reason for the absence of this miracle from S. Mark’s Gospel, the Gospel of S. Peter, and undoubtedly the representative of the oldest form of the Synoptic narrative.
die with him] Of course with Christ (John 11:8). It is strange that any should understand it of Lazarus. They could not die with him, for he was dead already, and S. Thomas knew this (John 11:14).John 11:16. Ὁ λεγόμενος Δίδυμος, who is called Didymus) John wrote in Greek.—καὶ ἡμεῖς, let us also) Thomas perhaps had had some peculiar tie of connection with Lazarus.—ἵνα ἀποθάνωμεν, that we may die) Thomas seems to have taken the words of Jesus immediately preceding in this sense, as though Jesus would have been about to die with Lazarus, had He been present, and as though, now that the faith of His disciples had been still further established, He was about to depart this life at Bethany, and that by the plots of the Jews against Him, John 11:8, “The Jews of late sought to stone Thee.” He [Thomas] was, as it were, standing mid-way [indifferent] between this life and death, without sorrow or joy, ready to die; not however without faith. Comp. ch. John 14:5, “Thomas saith unto Him, Lord, we know not whither Thou goest.” In this view he seems to have understood the πρός, unto, in the discourse of Jesus, in the same sense as it occurs 2 Samuel 12:23, [David of his dead child] “I shall go to him, but he shall not return to me.”—μετʼ αὐτοῦ, with Him) with Jesus. Not unlike is the meaning of Peter’s words, Luke 22:33, “Lord, I am ready to go with Thee into prison and to death.”Verse 16. - Thomas, in Aramaic, is equivalent in meaning to the Greek name Didymus, or "twin." This apostle is mentioned in the synoptic Gospels with Matthew, and in Acts (Acts 1:13) with Philip. He is classed with the fishermen (John 21:2), and may therefore have been a Galilaean. Ecclesiastical tradition has associated him with Judas (not Iscariot) (Eusebius, 'Hist. Eccl.,' 1:13), and with Judas the brother of Jesus. He is reputed to have preached ultimately in Parthia and India, there to have suffered martyrdom. The various references to him in this Gospel give, by a few vivid touches, a biography and characterization of singular congruity. He said to his fellow-disciples (the word συμμαθητής is only used in this place, and shows that the body of the disciples were being more and more blended into a unity), Let us go, that we may die with him. Here he manifests a fervent love to his Master, tinged with a sorrowful, melancholy temperament. He saw the danger to his Lord, but at once, with the spirit of self-surrender, was ready to share his fate. Moulton says these words reveal love, but they are "the language of despair and vanished hope. This is the end of all - death, not Messianic kingdom." Surely Thomas may have pondered much the Lord's words about his approaching death, and may have felt ready, along the same line, willingly to yield up his own life for his Master's or with his Master. Too much has been made of Thomas's skepticism and criticism. He was one who wanted visible, tangible evidence; but he was prepared to act impulsively, and to give powerful expression to his faith, whenever the evidence was granted. In John 14:5 he was still in the dark, but it was not an evil darkness. How could he know, with the clearness which his mind naturally desiderated, whither our Lord was going? No brainless or heartless unbelief led him to ask, "How can we know the way?" At last (John 20:24, etc.), when he wanted ocular, personal, tangible evidence of the resurrection of Jesus, and absented himself in deep melancholy from the company of the eleven, it is clear that his soul was ready for the full manifestation. Before he could have put his finger into the print of the nails, he exclaimed, with adoring gratitude, "MY LORD AND MY GOD!" His hesitation and his conviction, with his superlative ecstatic cry, form the culminating point of the Gospel.
Not a surname of Thomas, but the Greek equivalent of the Aramaic name, twin. See on Mark 3:18. The word occurs only in John's Gospel.
Only here in the New Testament.
We may die
"He will die for the love which he has, but he will not affect the faith which he has not" (Westcott).
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