There is one way of doubting that contains a promise. Thomas tied his fate to Jesus, even in despair.

There is a small thirteenth-century miniature from Cologne that depicts the decisive encounter of Jesus with doubting Thomas. (It is in the Gospel-book from Great St. Martin’s in Cologne, which dates from 1250 [Bibliotheque Royale, Brussels].) Christ, followed by his disciples, steps through the church door while Thomas stands outside, ready to test Jesus by placing his hand in the nail prints.

There are some significant details in this scene. Jesus stretches his arms over Thomas like a cross. It is as though the unhappy seeker already stood under the cross without realizing it. While he yet doubts, he is already touched by that gesture of Jesus’ blessing. The lines in the figure of Thomas have about them a tense excitement. It seems as though Thomas is saying, “Everything depends on what happens in the next few moments. Nothing less than my identity is at stake. Am I saved, or have I fallen prey to a gigantic illusion that will leave me spiritually bankrupt?” But one final intimation of the painter is the most astounding of all. Although he stands outside in a state of unmastered doubt, Thomas is encircled by a halo, the aura of a saint. He is already enveloped by rays of glory that Jesus’ other followers still lack, even though they appear secure in their discipleship.

What kind of figure is this, surrounded by doubt and hope at the same time? In a few strokes I would like to try to sketch a portrait of this man.

Here is a New Testament story that does not lend itself to theology or formula: What sort of theological doctrine would be distilled from it? Could one, for instance, formulate from it the thesis that faith requires ...

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