A friend of mine and I had a debate this evening about whether or not the apostles were actually believers in Jesus. She claimed that since the Bible does not explicitly say that each man declared belief that Jesus was who he said he was, that one cannot assume that they did believe him. She said that they might have just thought he was doing some "cool stuff" (miracles) and liked what he had to say. She specifically mentioned that Thomas was not a believer until John 20, when he was face to face with the resurrected Jesus. Thomas' statement of "until I see the nail marks...I will never believe" somehow means, to her, that Thomas was never a believer up until he saw Jesus.

My question is this then: is it logical to think that the twelve apostles (also called disciples) were believers in Jesus and his message prior to his crucifixion/resurrection? I am of the belief that since they were selected by Jesus, and considered disciples who followed him everywhere for his 3+ years of ministry and witnessed his execution on the cross, I'd say that they were all believers (even Judas, who committed suicide because of guilt). Thomas decided to not go with the other apostles when they heard that he had resurrected, and when the others told him that Jesus was alive, he didn't believe it. It's not like people rise from the dead all the time; I'd be skeptical too.

Anyway, thoughts? I'm curious to see what the varying denominations believe. (I'm Church of Christ.)

  • I'm not sure that this question, as written, is answerable definitively from the point of view of a specific Christian denomination - and those are the only sorts of questions that this site is really designed to answer. As you've written it, it sounds more like a forum post designed to elicit personal opinions. Maybe you could edit it to ask what particular denominations, or groups of denominations, believe about the subject? Sep 30, 2014 at 13:44
  • The key thing here is that "belief in Jesus" means a lot of different things. Nowadays the term can refer to the whole gospel - birth, teaching, death, resurrection, everlasting life. To believe in the resurrection before it had actually happened would be a tall order, but presumably that's not what you mean?
    – Waggers
    Oct 2, 2014 at 10:49

2 Answers 2


Was Thomas a believer before seeing the resurrected Jesus?

Yes and No.

Faith is not a binary option - it comes in degrees, has differing objects in view, and requires testing to discern it's genuine worth.

Thomas was a believer in the sense of trusting in Jesus as his master and teacher and forsaking all to follow him - this was akin to the faith of the Old Testament saints. He may even have agreed at one point with Peter's assertion that Jesus was 'the Christ, the Son of the living God'. However, prior to 'receiving the Holy Spirit' (post resurrection) he did not fully understand what this meant (even though Jesus had forewarned his disciples on multiple occasions) - that the Christ would have to suffer and die for the sake of the sins of His people and would be later raised to life as Lord over all creation.

Thomas was yet to receive what most Evangelical Christians think of as 'saving faith' through the work of the Holy Spirit in Regeneration which did happen sometime in the period between his first post-resurrection encounter and the outpouring at Pentecost. There are some differences of opinion amongst Christians (even amongst Evangelicals) as to exactly when this happened, the main options being:

a. Through Revelation by the Holy Spirit of the risen Christ as Lord (immediately prior to Thomas's declaration of 'my Lord and God'.

b. When Jesus breathed on his disciples to receive the Holy Spirit.

c. When the disciples received the outpoured Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost.

Scripture References: John 20:19-29, Luke 24:36-53, Acts 1:1-14, Acts 2:1-4

  • 1
    @bruisedreed "Faith is not a binary option....." Sums it all. excellent , +1 from me.
    – shakAttack
    Sep 30, 2014 at 18:26
  • So are you saying that Thomas believed in Jesus before the resurrection, but did not believe in the resurrection until afterward, after seeing the proof? Apr 1, 2015 at 11:52
  • @BrianHitchcock That sounds almost right, it's just missing a caveat regarding "Thomas believed in Jesus before the resurrection": The 'faith' that he had in Jesus was embryonic at best as he had not yet experienced regeneration; later, it wasn't just belief in the resurrection that he had (it was actually knowledge of it), but a saving faith in a resurrected Messiah. Apr 1, 2015 at 14:08
  • Ah, yes...faith is not believing what you have seen, but believing what you haven't seen. Apr 2, 2015 at 6:38

Your Question is a good one, but difficult to answer since there is little evidence either way in the Bible. It is safe to say that until Jesus was physically resurrected, none of them expected to see him alive again in his physical body. That is evidenced by:

Matthew 28:1 through 6 In the end of the sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, came Mary Magdalene and the other Mary to see the sepulchre. 2 And, behold, there was a great earthquake: for the angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat upon it. 3 His countenance was like lightning, and his raiment white as snow: 4 And for fear of him the keepers did shake, and became as dead men. 5 And the angel answered and said unto the women, Fear not ye: for I know that ye seek Jesus, which was crucified. 6 He is not here: for he is risen, as he said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay.

This true even of Peter who had said:

Matthew 16:14 through 16 And they said, Some say that thou art John the Baptist: some, Elias; and others, Jeremias, or one of the prophets. 15 He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am? 16 And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.

And even though Jesus had told them on at least two occasions that he would rise again.

Matthew 17:9 And as they came down from the mountain, Jesus charged them, saying, Tell the vision to no man, until the Son of man be risen again from the dead.

Matthew 26:32 But after I am risen again, I will go before you into Galilee.

And it is quite evident that the Sanhedrin was concerned about Jesus rising from the dead:

Matthew 27:62 through 64 Now the next day, that followed the day of the preparation, the chief priests and Pharisees came together unto Pilate, 63 Saying, Sir, we remember that that deceiver said, while he was yet alive, After three days I will rise again. 64 Command therefore that the sepulchre be made sure until the third day, lest his disciples come by night, and steal him away, and say unto the people, He is risen from the dead: so the last error shall be worse than the first.

The surprise shown at his resurrection, at least shows that they were expecting some other miracle of Jesus to release them from the bondage under the Romans, and not the release from bondage under sin.

Hope this helps.

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