Did Thomas believe because he saw Jesus? Is seeing believing? The writer of Hebrews said that believing (faith) was assurance about the invisible, the unseeable (Heb 11:1). So believing isn't seeing, and seeing doesn't seem to be believing. We walk by faith, not sight (2 Cor 5:7). Therefore, when Jesus said to Thomas: "You became a believer because you saw Me," what did He mean? The translators of the New American Standard Version of the Bible recognize the problem. They translate John 20:29 with a question mark instead of a period. The New American Standard Version Bible reads: "Because you have seen Me, have you believed?"
Jesus may be saying in this passage that seeing precedes faith, although He seems to prefer hearing as a prelude to faith (see Rm 10:17). Seeing and/or hearing only give us a basis for faith. To accept God's gift of faith we must use seeing or hearing as a springboard to make what the philosopher, Blase Pascal, called "the leap of faith." For example, Thomas leaped from recognizing Jesus risen to acknowledging Him as "Lord and God" (see Jn 20:28). Just because a person is risen doesn't mean he or she is God. Lazarus was risen, but he wasn't God. When Thomas recognized Jesus as Lord and God, he had jumped to that conclusion and made "the leap of faith." Nathanael did a similar thing when he acknowledged Jesus as "Son of God" and "King of Israel" after merely hearing Jesus tell him: "I saw you under the fig tree" (Jn 1:49, 50). Thomas, Nathanael, and all true believers become believers not because of seeing or hearing, but because of leaping to total commitment to Jesus after seeing or hearing.
|Rescript: In accord with the Code of Canon Law, I hereby grant the Nihil Obstat ("Permission to Publish") for One Bread, One Body covering the period from June 1, 2009 through July 31, 2009.
†Reverend Joseph R. Binzer, Vicar General of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, January 5, 2009.