Monday, August 24, 2015

St. Bartholomew in Scripture and Tradition

Today marks the yearly feast of St. Bartholomew on the Roman calendar, who is one of the Twelve Apostles as listed in the Synoptic Gospels (Matt. 10, Mark 3, Luke 6). Usually he is identified with St. Nathanael, who appears twice in St. John’s Gospel. When Christ told St. Philip to “follow me,” he immediately found Nathanael,
and told him, “We have discovered who it was Moses wrote of in his law, and the prophets too; it is Jesus the son of Joseph, from Nazareth.” When Nathanael asked him, “Can anything that is good come from Nazareth?” Philip said, “Come and see.” Jesus saw Nathanael coming towards him, and said of him, “Here comes one who belongs to the true Israel; there is no falsehood in him.” “How dost thou know me?” Nathanael asked; and Jesus answered him, “I saw thee when thou wast under the fig-tree, before Philip called thee.” Then Nathanael answered him, “Thou, Master, art the Son of God, thou art the King of Israel.” Jesus answered, “What, believe because I told thee that I saw thee under the fig-tree? Thou shalt see greater things than that. And he said to him, Believe me when I tell you this; you will see heaven opening, and the angels of God going up and coming down upon the Son of Man.” (John 1; Knox trans.)
Nathanael appears again after the Resurrection when Christ directs an apostolic fishing expedition to a catch of a hundred and fifty-three fish (John 21).

When it came time for the Blessed Virgin to die, the Twelve were miraculously brought to her deathbed,
And Bartholomew said: “I was in the Thebais proclaiming the word, and behold the Holy Spirit says to me, ‘The mother of your Lord is taking her departure; go, then, to salute her in Bethlehem.’ And, behold, a cloud of light having snatched me up, brought me to you.”
Eusebius notes that Bartholomew had preached in India and brought the Gospel of St. Matthew with him to the heathens there. Other traditional sources speak of his martyrdom in Armenia, how he was crucified, flayed, and finally beheaded, after having overthrown the devil-god Baldad (or Baldach) of that land. The Blessed Jacobus de Voragine tries to sort out the various traditions of his death thusly:
There be divers opinions of the manner of his passion. For the blessed Dorotheus saith that he was crucified, and saith also: “Bartholomew preached to men of India, and delivered to them the gospel after Matthew in their proper tongue.” He died in Alban, a city of great Armenia, crucified the head downward. Saint Theoderus saith that he was flayed, and it is read in many books that he was beheaded only. And this contrariety may be assoiled in this manner, that some say that he was crucified and was taken down ere he died, and for to have greater torment he was flayed and at the last beheaded.

No doubt St. Bartholomew received his vision of the angels ascending and descending upon the Son of Man before his death. Perhaps this happened during his martyrdom, just as St. Stephen beheld the Son of Man in the opened heavens while St. Paul was consenting to his stoning.

The translation of his relics is celebrated tomorrow in Rome and in the East, as His Traddiness has written about before. His primary feast day in the East is June 11.

St. Bartholomew, pray for us!


  1. I am planning to name one of my future sons after him, Insha'Allah. What a wonderful saint.