Story of Bartholomew the Apostle

Bartholomew is mentioned as one of Jesus’ twelve disciples in each of the four references to the group (Matthew 10:3; Mark 3:18; Luke 6:14; Acts 1:13). He is frequently referred to as Nathanael in John’s Gospel (John 1:45–49; 21:2). Bartholomew is a Hebrew surname that means “son of Tolmai” in English. Tolman’s son, Nathanael Bar-Tolmie, is Nathanael.

In each disciple list, the names Philip and Bartholomew are linked, indicating that they were close companions or even related. The narrative of Jesus’ summoning to Bartholomew/Nathanael (John 1:45–49) is the only source of information we have about him.

the st. bartholomew altarpiece (r) detail
The St. Bartholomew Altarpiece (R) detail

After Jesus summoned Nathanael, Philip told him, “We have found the one Moses talked about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph” (John1:45) This seems to imply that Philip and Nathanael were Law and Prophets scholars and that Philip knew through their research that Jesus was the Messiah they had been waiting for.

This is evidenced by Bartholomew’s next remark,

“Nazareth! “Will anything good come of it?” (John 1:46)

demonstrates that he regarded Nazareth in the same way that many Jews did at the time. Nazareth and the neighboring Galilee region were considered inferior and immoral.

Even a Galilean, Bartholomew/Nathanael, doubted that anything acceptable, let alone God’s Messiah, could come from such a place.

The next verse elucidates Bartholomew’s character. “Here is a true Israelite, in whom there is no deception,” Jesus said as he approached. In Greek, “deceitful, devious, or full of guile” means “deceitful, devious, or full of guile.”

Jesus knew what was on Nathanael’s mind, just as He knows what is on everyone’s mind. Jesus saw Bartholomew as a “real” son of Abraham, a man who worshiped the true and living God without the deception or hypocrisy that characterized religious leaders.

A statement of Jesus’ divine essence and power follows. “I saw you by the fig tree before Philip summoned you,” Jesus said in response to Bartholomew’s inquiry.  Even though Jesus was not present when Philip called Nathanael, He had seen and heard everything they were saying, confirming His omniscience.

He recognized Nathanael’s heart and his nature, not simply his words. Nathanael (Bartholomew) saw traits of heavenly knowledge and the capacity to read hearts in the Man who stood before him. Nathanael recognized Jesus for who He was: the promised Messiah, Son of God, and King of Israel, because he was familiar with Old Testament predictions (verse 49).

This is all we know about Bartholomew/Nathanael from the Bible. As an apostle, Bartholomew witnessed the Ascension (Acts 1:1–11) and saw the risen Lord Jesus (John 21:2). Bartholomew was a gospel minister in Persia and India, according to mythology.

Although his death is not mentioned in the Bible, one tale claims that he was wrapped in a sack and thrown into the sea. According to another account, he was crucified. Except for the Apostle John, all traditions believe that he, like the other apostles, died a martyr’s death.

New Testament references

In works by Abdisho bar Berika, the 14th-century Nestorian archbishop of Soba, and Elias, the bishop of Damascus, Bartholomew was recognized as “Nathanael” in the East, where his evangelistic efforts were squandered.

Nathanael is only mentioned in John’s Gospel. Philip and Bartholomew are frequently mentioned together in the Synoptic Gospels, although Nathanael is never mentioned. Philip and Nathanael, on the other hand, are listed jointly in John’s tale.

“The Chaldeans confuse Bartholomew with Nathaniel,”

according to Giuseppe Simone Assemani. Some Biblical scholars, however, disagree with this conclusion.

story of bartholomew the apostle the martyrdom of saint bartholomew (1634) by jusepe de ribera, oil on canvas, national gallery of art, washington, dc.
The Martyrdom of Saint Bartholomew (1634) by Jusepe de Ribera, oil on canvas, National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC.

Tradition

Following the Ascension, Bartholomew traveled on a missionary expedition to India, according to Eusebius of Caesarea’s Ecclesiastical History where he left behind a copy of Matthew’s Gospel.

According to various reports, he served as a missionary in Ethiopia, Mesopotamia, Parthia, and Lycaonia. According to legend, Bartholomew preached the Gospel in India before arriving in Greater Armenia.

Mission to India

Two old accounts of Saint Bartholomew’s mission in India exist. Eusebius of Caesarea (early fourth century) and Saint Jerome are the authors of these books (late 4th century).

When they talk about Pantaenus’ reported trip to India in the second century, they bring up this tradition. According to the research of Fr A.C. Perumalil SJ and Moraes, Saint Bartholomew’s missionary activity took place in the Bombay region on the Konkan coast, which may have been known as the ancient city Kalyan.

Intellectuals had previously been united in their hostility to Saint Bartholomew, the Apostle’s apostolate in India.

In Armenia

The remnants of Saint Bartholomew Monastery in medieval Armenia, where the Apostle was martyred.

Along with his colleague apostle Jude “Thaddeus,” Bartholomew is credited with bringing Christianity to Armenia in the first century. As a result, the Armenian Apostolic Church considers both saints to be patrons.

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Saint Bartholomew Canvas print, wood

Saint Bartholomew, the saint of knives and martyrs, is portrayed here offering Jesus a gleaming blade.

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Apostle Bartholomew is said to have been executed in Albanopolis, Armenia. According to popular legend, the Apostle was flayed alive and decapitated.

According to some stories, he was crucified upside down (head downward), as was St. Peter. According to legend, he was assassinated for converting Armenian King Polymius to Christianity.

King Polymius’ brother, Prince Astyages, was enraged by the monarch’s conversion and feared a Roman retaliation, so he ordered Bartholomew’s torture and execution, which he received.

However, no record of any Arsacid dynasty Armenian monarch named “Polybius.” According to contemporary research, Bartholomew is more likely to have died at Kalyan, India, where a man named “Polybius” served as a government official.

pinturicchio_(bernardiono_di_betto),_saint_bartholomew,_ca._1497.jpg
Pinturicchio_(Bernardiono_Di_Betto),_Saint_Bartholomew,_ca._1497.jpg

The Saint Bartholomew Monastery in Vaspurakan, Greater Armenia, was a prominent Armenian monastery erected on the site of Apostle Bartholomew’s martyrdom in the 13th century (now in southeastern Turkey).

Relics

In Benevento, the Altar of San Bartolomeo Basilica houses Bartholomew’s relics.

According to Theodorus Lector, a 6th-century writer in Constantinople, the Byzantine emperor Anastasius, I Dicorus transferred the remains of Bartholomew to the city of Daras in Mesopotamia, which he had recently refounded in around 507, according to Theodorus Lector.

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

Gregory of Tours explained the existence of relics at Lipari, a small island off the coast of Sicily in the part of Italy controlled by Constantinople, by his body miraculously washing up there: and a few others are doing it is a large piece of his skin and many bones kept in the Cathedral of St Bartholomew the Apostle, Lipari, were translated to Benevento in 838, where they are still kept now in the Basilica San Bartholomeo.

In 1983, Holy Roman Emperor Otto II sent a portion of the relics to Rome, stored in San Bartolomeo all Isola, which was erected on the Asclepius temple and served as a major Roman medical institution at the time.

Over time, Bartholomew’s name became associated with medicine and hospitals due to his association with medicine. A piece of Bartholomew’s alleged skull was transferred to Frankfurt Cathedral, while an arm was honored at Canterbury Cathedral.

Miracles

The Martyrdom of Saint Bartholomew by Jusepe de Ribera (1634)

The people of Lipari, a small Italian island, are aware of two of the many miracles attributed to Bartholomew before and after his death.

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The people of Lipari celebrated his feast day every year. The people had a ritual of carrying the solid silver and gold statue across town from St. Bartholomew’s Cathedral. The statue became quite heavy while being carried down the hill toward town and had to be placed down.

The statue was hoisted for the second time after the men carrying it regained their strength. After a few more seconds, it became heavier. They placed it on the ground and attempted to pick it up again.

They could lift it, but they had to place it back down. Further downward, the walls fell in seconds. The entire community would have been killed if the statue had been lifted.

bartholomew apostle hajdudorog frame
Bartholomew Apostle Hajdudorog Frame

During World War II, the Nazi government looked for ways to fund its activities. The silver statue of Saint Bartholomew was ordered to be melted down. When the statue was weighed, it was revealed that it weighed only a few grams.

It was reinstalled in its proper location at the Lipari Cathedral. The statue is made of a large amount of silver, and its survival is considered a miracle.

Saint Bartholomew is also credited with several additional miracles involving the weight of items.

Culture

The August festival has long been a time for markets and fairs, such as the Bartholomew Fair, held in Smithfield, London, since the Middle Ages and served as the setting for Ben Jonson’s 1614 eponymous farce.

Around the beginning of September, the annual St Bartholomew’s Street Fair takes place in Crewkerne, Somerset.

The fair dates back to Saxon times, and it is described as an important traders’ market in the Domesday Book. During Henry III’s (1207–1272) reign, the St Bartholomew’s Street Fair in Crewkerne is reported to have been granted a charter.

The earliest surviving court record is from 1280 and can be found at the British Library.

Story of Bartholomew the Apostle In Islam

There are no names, numbers, or extensive accounts of Jesus’ disciples’ lives in the Qur’anic account. In contrast, Muslim exegesis largely agrees with the New Testament list of disciples, asserting that Peter, Philip, Thomas, Bartholomew, Matthew, Andrew, James, Jude, James, son of Alphaeus, John, and Simon the Zealot were among them.

Synopsis

Saint Bartholomew was one of Jesus Christ’s Twelve Apostles and lived in the first century AD. He encountered Jesus Christ through Saint Philip and is also known in John’s Gospel as “Nathaniel of Cana in Galilee.” Several miracles relating to weight have been credited to Saint Bartholomew. He was either decapitated or skinned alive as a martyr in Armenia.

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The Death of Apostle Bartholomew

There are numerous accounts about how he died. Because most art representing Jesus shows him grasping or wearing his skin somehow or is associated with flaying knives, the most famous and prolific tradition is that he was flayed and then beheaded.

FAQ Story of Bartholomew the Apostle

What is Bartholomew the patron saint of

Bartholomew is the patron saint of butchers and tanners.
There’s not a lot of information out there about why Bartholomew is the patron saint of butchers and tanners, but it’s likely because both professions are associated with death and decay. Butchers process animal carcasses, and tanners work with animal skins—both of which can be seen as symbols of death.

Why was Saint Bartholomew skinned?

Bartholomew, one of Jesus’ 12 apostles, was skinned alive by the order of the Armenian king. The reason for the gruesome execution is unknown. Some say Bartholomew preached Christianity in Armenia and angered the king, while others believe he may have been killed because of his wealth.
Whatever the true motive, Bartholomew’s grisly death is a reminder that even saints weren’t immune to violence and persecution. It’s also a sobering reminder that cruelty and brutality are not confined to any one time period or region of the world. No matter how civilized we think we are, there’s always the potential for terrible things to happen when anger, hatred, or fear take hold.

Is there an angel called Bartholomew?

Yes, there is an angel called Bartholomew. He is mentioned in the Bible, and he is one of the angels who guard the gates of heaven.

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