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E06265: The three Homilies (memrā) on Apostle Thomas in India are written in Syriac during the late 5th/early 6th c. by Jacob of Serugh (c. 451-521). They celebrate the exploits of *Thomas (the Apostle, S00199) through a dramatic retelling of the account of his journey to India from the Acts of Thomas.

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posted on 2018-08-30, 00:00 authored by sminov
Jacob of Serugh, Homilies on Apostle Thomas in India


The primary focus of this trilogy is the journey of Apostle Thomas to India and his accomplishments there. The first and second homilies, based on the first Act of the Acts of Thomas, recount how Thomas quarrelled with other apostles, refusing to accept the result of the drawing of lots, and how the apostle was sold by the Lord to the merchant Habban so that he might reach India and bring Christianity to this land. The third homily, based on the second Act of the Acts of Thomas, tells how the apostle built a palace for the Indian king Gundophar, while distributing the money received for the project to the poor.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Thomas, the Apostle : S00199

Saint Name in Source


Type of Evidence

Literary - Sermons/Homilies Liturgical texts - Hymns


  • Syriac

Evidence not before


Evidence not after


Activity not before


Activity not after


Place of Evidence - Region


Place of Evidence - City, village, etc


Place of evidence - City name in other Language(s)

Serugh Edessa Edessa Ἔδεσσα Edessa

Major author/Major anonymous work

Jacob of Serugh

Cult activities - Liturgical Activity

  • Sermon/homily

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs

Composing and translating saint-related texts


The Homilies on Apostle Thomas in India are poetic celebrations of the Indian journey of Apostle Thomas. An original Syriac composition, it was almost certainly produced by the West-Syrian poet Jacob of Serugh (c. 451-521). The Homilies belong to the literary genre of memrā, a narrative poem that employs couplets all in the same syllabic meter. Such poems, which appear to have been recited rather than sung, were presumably used in the liturgy, though there is no evidence from Late Antiquity of exactly how it happened. While it is clear that the Homilies are based on the first two chapters of the Acts of Thomas (E###), no comparison of the two literary works has been carried out so far. A critical edition of the Homilies was published by W. Strothmann on the basis of four manuscripts, the earliest of which is British Library, Add. 14590 (8th/9th c.). Syriac text and German translation: Strothmann 1976. See also Strothmann 1969; Panicker 1989. For general information on Jacob and his oeuvre, see Brock 2011; Lange 2004; Alwan 1986.


The Homilies bear witness to the enduring popularity of the figure of Thomas among Syriac-speaking Christians of Mesopotamia during the late 5th and early sixth centuries. Moreover, they constitute so far the earliest specimen of the liturgical commemoration of the apostle in this milieu.


Main editions and translations: Strothmann, W., Jakob von Sarug. Drei Gedichte über den Apostel Thomas in Indien (Göttinger Orientforschungen, I. Reihe: Syriaca 12; Wiesbaden: Otto Harrassowitz, 1976). Further reading: Alwan, K., “Bibliographie générale raisonnée de Jacques de Saroug († 521),” Parole de l’Orient 13 (1986), 313-384. Brock, S.P., “Ya‘qub of Serugh,” in: S.P. Brock, A.M. Butts, G.A. Kiraz and L. van Rompay (eds.), Gorgias Encyclopedic Dictionary of the Syriac Heritage (Piscataway, NJ: Gorgias Press, 2011), 433-435. Lange, C., “Jakob von Sarug, † 521,” in: W. Klein (ed.), Syrische Kirchenväter (Urban-Taschenbücher 587; Stuttgart: W. Kohlhammer, 2004), 217-227. Panicker, G., “St. Thomas in India according to Jacob of Sarug,” The Harp 2 (1989), 59-64. Strothmann, W., “Die Thomasgedichte des Jakob von Sarug,” in: W. Voigt (ed.), XVII. Deutscher Orientalistentag vom 21. bis 27. Juli 1968 in Würzburg: Vorträge. Teil 2 (Zeitschrift der Deutschen Morgenländischen Gesellschaft, Supplement 1.2; Wiesbaden: Franz Steiner, 1969), 363-367.

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    Evidence -  The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity



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