St. Bartholomew Characteristics

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Characteristics of Apostle Bartholomew

Characteristics of Apostle Bartholomew shared an in-depth fact that everything that we can learn about Nathanael is taken from only seven verses of the Scripture.

Still, these seven verses give us great insight into his character.

According to the characteristics of the 12 apostles, what is known about this apostle is generally positive and has provoked at least some family members to say that I should have been called Nathanael instead of Nathan because, like that apostle, I am an Israelite in whom there is no guile.

Nathanael was from a small town called Cana of Galilee therefore Nathaniel was a bit of a country boy but did not think for a moment that country boys are uneducated or uninformed.

Nathaniel was a thinker.

Let’s consider three characteristics of Apostle Bartholomew:

  • A Man with Double Titles   
  • A Man with Devotional Traits
  • A Man with Deep Thoughts

Apostle Bartholomew Characteristics

One of the first characteristics of Nathaniel or Bartholomew was what appeared to be a prejudice in him, as when he says,

Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?

This is not to condemn or judge, but merely to try to give you a picture of what he was like in the natural realm as well as the spiritual realm.

A Man with Double Titles

The synoptic gospels speak of an apostle named Bartholomew but never Nathaniel. On the other hand, the Gospel of John speaks of Nathaniel but never Bartholomew. In the synoptic gospels, Bartholomew always follows Philip’s name. In the gospel of John, it was Philip that led Nathaniel to Christ.

He is also linked with Thomas, John, James, and Peter after the resurrection when the apostles decided to go fishing, just as stated in the Characteristics of the 12 Apostles.

Since the other gospels do not mention Nathanael and the Gospel of John does not mention Bartholomew, they must be the same man.

And apparently, his full name appears to have been Nathanael Bartholomew. It is not uncommon to find people with more than one name. Matthew is also called Levi. Saul is also Paul. And Peter had three names – Simon, Peter, and Cephas.

Nathanael, the name that John called him, means a gift from God. If nothing else, it definitely shows that his parents were mindful that their baby boy was a blessing from the Lord.

So, the chances are good that Nathaniel was raised in a fairly decent religious home. Nathaniel is an Old Testament name. We can find it in the Old Testament in three forms:

First, there was Nathan, a prophet of David, who tried to keep David straight. Second, there was the name El-Nathan. This name belonged to a couple of important people:

One was a well-known man in Jerusalem who was also the father of a queen. Another was a messenger for Ezra to bring back more Levites to Jerusalem. Another name was Nathaniel. There were at least ten men with this form of the name. The most well-known was the brother of David.

So, what do we learn from his name? He had a religious upbringing which is probably why he had his devotions under a fig tree.

characteristics of apostle bartholomew the martyrdom of saint bartholomew, 1634
The Martyrdom of Saint Bartholomew, 1634

Saint Bartholomew, who was flayed alive, was a subject Ribera treated several times. Here the painter focuses not so much on the physical anguish of the saint as on his mystical experience. The unusual X-shaped composition pulls the viewer into the scene to share the profound emotion that passes in the moment when Bartholomew confronts his executioner with eyes lifted to God. Attention is drawn also to the sharpening of the knife; the position of the blade and whetstone forms a cross -- involving us not only in Bartholomew's martyrdom but also in Christ's sacrifice and crucifixion.
Ribera's thick, rich paints communicate a real physical presence. He uses the coarse bristles of his brush to texture the paint and give it tactile dimension. White hairs in the saint's beard are created by silvery filaments of paint. Around his eye, the pigments wrinkle like old skin.
Before settling in Naples, Ribera had spent some time in Rome studying the works of Caravaggio. Evident in this picture is the influence of Caravaggio's dramatic lighting, deep shadows, and unremitting realism, but the intensity of Ribera's religious fervor and his skillful handling of paint are his own.

A Man with Devotional Traits

The characteristics of Apostle Bartholomew made us understand that he was a man with devotional traits. Earlier, Philip had told Nathaniel of Christ, but Nathaniel was not so quick to believe.

Nathaniel was the type of man who had to see for himself. When Philip spoke of one from Nazareth, he is not sure that Jesus is the one. He, like many others, held a poor estimation of Nazareth. It was not considered important or especially reputable.

This passage shows Nathanael to be a very devotional, blunt, and unpretentious person.

He openly expresses his doubts that anything good could come out of Nazareth. He then openly proclaims the supernatural knowledge Jesus possesses shows that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and the promised Messianic King of Israel.

Jesus Christ reads his character like an open book and likes what He sees promising greater miracles than the supernatural knowledge about the human character He possessed.

duomo di milano - saint bartholomew
Duomo di Milano - Saint Bartholomew

Saint Bartholomew the Apostle is said to have been skinned alive. This statue by Marco d'Agrate (1562) shows him draped in his own skin.
I distinctly remember having to portray Saint Barholomew in a church ritual as kid and being quite disappointed that I wasn't one of the cool characters. I'm happy to be proven wrong.

A Man with Deep Thoughts

Another characteristic of Apostle Bartholomew was a critical thinker. He was a ponderer. He meditated upon things before he committed himself to something. And that is why Nathanael makes a powerful statement concerning Christ: John 1:49 Nathanael answered and saith unto him, Rabbi, thou art the Son of God; thou art the King of Israel.

There were quite a number of Jews who were anticipating the Messiah’s arrival. Those who studied the Bible knew that the time of the Messiah’s arrival was near.

This passage shows Nathanael to be a thoughtful and reflective sort of person.

The statements of Jesus Christ about being an Israelite relate to his descent from Jacob, who was certainly a man full of guile and deceit during his early life.

That said, it would appear as if Nathanael was under the fig tree (a common representation of a philosophical sort of person) thinking about the dream of Jacob where angels went up and down the stairway to heaven, showing the relationship between heaven and earth and the possibility of communication between the two realms.

san bartolomeo.
San Bartolomeo

Lessons from Apostle Bartholomew’s Characteristics

There are a few lessons that one can learn from Bartholomew (Nathanael). These lessons include lessons about his personality as it appears in Scripture and what type of believer is likely to be a lot like this apostle. In learning about Bartholomew (Nathanael), we help learn that the qualities Jesus Christ praised in him are also praiseworthy in other believers and are useful for the body of Christ as a whole.

sant bartholomew, sealand, sir y fflint st bartholomew's church, sealand
Eglwys Sant Bartholomew, Sealand, Sir y Fflint

Summary Characteristics of Apostle Bartholomew

Let us, therefore, conclude with an honest admission that one would like to know a lot more about the characteristics of apostle Bartholomew than either the biblical or the historical record provides.

However, what the Bible does supply is at least a striking piece of evidence of how this particular disciple (and others like him) fits in with other disciples as a sounding board and a sincere and faithful companion, full of reflection well as sincerity.

#1. What century was Bartholomew born?

#2. What is Bartholomew not a patron saint of?

#3. With which apostle did Bartholomew preach in Armenia?

#4. What does the name Bartholomew mean?

#5. Why does Bartholomew hold skin?

#6. In what century did Bartholomew bring Christianity to Armenia?

#7. Bartholomew argued if anything good can come from where?

#8. Who referred to Bartholomew as Israelite without guile?

#9. What part of modern day Turkey did Bartholomew travel to?

#10. What is the feminine form of the name, Bartholomew?



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