Seeing vs. Understanding: Mapping out the Complexity of Thomas’s Infamous Skepticism

In contemporary vernacular, the word “seeing” is often used to imply “understanding,” as in “I see,” a common expression used to validate the information at hand. We often ask our listeners, “Do you see what I mean?” a juxtaposed question that invokes the visual to reaffirm the verbal. Academic and religious parlance has also exploited the use of this word to imply an understanding that goes far deeper than mere visual perception. When Philip says to Jesus, “Lord, show us the Father and we will be satisfied,” he seems to be requesting a visual of what he believes to be the missing link in the, as yet, nebulous understanding of the Father’s character. Jesus replies, “Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and you still do not know me?” (Note the translated word “know” to Philip’s request of “showing.”) “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?”[1] In these verses, we sense a mild exasperation at their inability to recognize the divine through the corresponding visual that had revealed itself to them day in and day out for a solid three years.

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Soul-searching, deep-reaching reflections. Art and commentary that enlightens.
Thank you LRC and Spectrum.


Beautifully and thoughtfully written. Your commentary on Caravaggio’s masterpiece was superb. As I read your description and studied the painting, I had a momentary jolt: what if Thomas was physically blind? He would have the heightened awareness of the tactile and the need for it to confirm what his hearing was telling him. Just a thought. I’ve always identified with Thomas and the story of the disciples on the road to Emmaus has become for me a liminal moment that I return to again and again for its depths of mystery, awe, and love. Thank you for a wonderful essay.


Interesting perspective on the possibility of blindness, or failing eyesight. It certainly adds greater credence to Newsom’s analysis on the “deeper underlying emotions”. Thank you.

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