by OCP on January 30, 2013

in Articles,Featured Article

Varghese Mathai
OCP Articles

Bartholomew was one of the Twelve Apostles of Jesus and is usually identified with Nathaniel, who is mentioned in the St. John 1. He was introduced to Christ by Philip, another of the twelve apostles as per (John 1:43-51), where the name Nathaniel first appears. The theologian considers the presence of Nathaniel of Cana, in Jesus’ miracle at the Marriage at Cana recorded in St. John chapter 2. He is also mentioned as “Nathaniel of Cana in Galilee” in John 21:2. The name Nathaniel is the one used for him in John’s Gospel. The relationship between Philip an Nathaniel is noted as per John 1:43-51. Bartholomew Greek name, transliterated “Bartholomaios” comes from the Aramic bar-Tolmay, meaning son of Tolmay or son of the furrows (perhaps a ploughman).

According to the Coptic Orthodox Church, his martyrdom is commemorated on the 1st day of the Coptic Calendar (1st day of the month of “Thout), which currently falls on September 11 corresponding to August 29 in the Gregorian calendar. His feast is June 11 in Eastern Christianity, and August 24 in both forms of the Roman Rite of the Catholic Church.

New Testament references

In the East, where Bartholomew’s evangelical labours were expended, he was identified as Nathanael. According to Abdisho bar Berika (often known as Ebedjesu in the West), the 14th century Nestorian metropolitan of Soba and Elias, the bishop of Damascus, Nathanael is mentioned only in the Gospel according to John. In the Synoptic gospels, Philip and Bartholomew are always mentioned together, while Nathanael is never mentioned; in John’s gospel. On the other hand, Philip and Nathanael are similarly mentioned together.

Guiseppe Simore Assemani specifically remarks, “the Chaldeans confound Bartholomew with Nathaniel”. However, some Biblical scholars reject this identification.

As Bartholomew

Bartholomew is listed among the Twelve Apostles of Christ in the three Synoptic gospels, Mathew 10.1-4, Mark 3.13-19, and Luke 6.12-16. Bartholomew also appears as one of the witnesses of the Ascension of Jesus Acts 1:4, 12, 13; however each time he is named in the company of Philip. He is not mentioned in St. John.

As Nathanael

In the Gospel of John,1:45-51 Nathanael is introduced as a friend of Philip. He is described as initially being skeptical about the Messiah coming from Nazareth, saying: “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?”, but nonetheless, follows Philip’s invitation. Jesus immediately characterizes him as “Here is a man in whom there is no deception.” Some scholars hold that Jesus’ quote “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you”, is based on a Jewish figure of speech referring to studying the Torah. Nathanael recognizes Jesus as “the Son of God” and “the King of Israel”. He reappears at the end of John’s gospel 21.2 as one of the disciples to whom Jesus appeared at the Sea of Galilee after the resurrection.


Eusebius of Caesarea’s Ecclesiastical History, states that after the Ascension, Bartholomew went on a missionary tour to India, where he left behind a copy of the Gospel of Matthew. Other traditions record him as serving as a missionary in Ethiopia, Mesopotamia, Parthia, and Lycaonia. Along with his fellow apostle Jude, Bartholomew is reputed to have brought Christianity to Armenia in the 1st century. Thus both saints are considered the patron saints of the Armenian Apostolic Church.He is said to have been martyred in Albonopolis in Armenia. According to one account, he was beheaded, but a more popular tradition holds that he was flayed alive and crucified, head downward. He is said to have converted Polymius, the king of Armenia, to Christianity. Asyages, Polymius’s brother, consequently ordered Bartholomew’s execution.The 13th century Saint Bartholomew Monastery was a prominent Armenian monastery constructed at the site of the martyrdom of Apostle Bartholomew in the Vaspurakan Province of Greater Armenia (now in southeastern Turkey)

Mission in India

Two ancient testimonies exist about the mission of Saint Bartholomew in India. These are of Eusebius of Caesarea (early 4th century) and of Saint Jerome (late 4th century). Both these refer to this tradition while speaking of the reported visit of Pantaneus to India in the 2nd century.

The studies of Fr A.C Perumalil SJ and Moraes hold that the Bombay region on the Konkan coast, a region which may have been known as the ancient city Kalyan, was the field of Saint Bartholomew’s missionary activities.

Bartholomew’s relics

The 6th-century writer in Constantinople, Theodorus Lector, averred that in about 507 Emporor Anastasius gave the body of Bartholomew to the city of Dura-Europos, which he had recently re-founded. The existence of relics at Lipari, a small island off the coast of Sicily, in the part of Italy controlled from Constantinople, was explained by Gregory of Tours by his body having miraculously washed up there: a large piece of his skin and many bones that were kept in the Cathedral of St Bartholomew the Apostle, Lipari, were translated to Beneventum in 803, and to Rome in 983 by Holy Roman Emperor Otto II, conserved at the basilica of San Baartolomeo Bartolomeo allIsola. In time, the church there inherited an old pagan medical centre. This association with medicine in course of time caused Bartholomew’s name to become associated with medicine and hospitals. It is also believed that Some of Bartholomew’s skull was transferred to the Frankfurt Cathedral, while an arm is venerated in Canterbury Cathedral.


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  • Marc

    Typo: “Are Bartholomew and Nathaniel” – “is” is grammatically incorrect.

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