Saint Bartholomew

General Information

Saint Bartholomew was one of the Apostles, mentioned only in the lists of the Twelve (Matt. 10:3; Mark 3:18; Luke 6:14; Acts 1:13). His name means "son of Tolmai," and he is frequently identified with Nathanael (John 1). According to tradition, he was martyred in Armenia. Feast day: Aug. 24 (Western); June 11 (Eastern).

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Saint Bartholomew

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Bartholomew was a son of Tolmai, and one of the twelve apostles (Matt. 10:3; Acts 1:13); generally supposed to have been the same as Nathanael. In the synoptic gospels Philip and Bartholomew are always mentioned together, while Nathanael is never mentioned; in the fourth gospel, on the other hand, Philip and Nathanael are similarly mentioned together, but nothing is said of Bartholomew. He was one of the disciples to whom our Lord appeared at the Sea of Tiberias after his resurrection (John 21:2). He was also a witness of the Ascension (Acts 1:4, 12, 13). He was an "Israelite indeed" (John 1:47).

(Easton Illustrated Dictionary)

Saint Bartholomew

Catholic Information

One of the Twelve Apostles, mentioned sixth in the three Gospel lists (Matthew 10:3; Mark 3:18; Luke 6:14), and seventh in the list of Acts (1:13).

The name (Bartholomaios) means "son of Talmai" (or Tholmai) which was an ancient Hebrew name, borne, e.g. by the King of Gessur whose daughter was a wife of David (2 Samuel 3:3). It shows, at least, that Bartholomew was of Hebrew descent; it may have been his genuine proper name or simply added to distinguish him as the son of Talmai. Outside the instances referred to, no other mention of the name occurs in the New Testament.

Nothing further is known of him for certain. Many scholars, however, identify him with Nathaniel (John 1:45-51; 21:2). The reasons for this are that Bartholomew is not the proper name of the Apostle; that the name never occurs in the Fourth Gospel, while Nathaniel is not mentioned in the synoptics; that Bartholomew's name is coupled with Philip's in the lists of Matthew and Luke, and found next to it in Mark, which agrees well with the fact shown by St. John that Philip was an old friend of Nathaniel's and brought him to Jesus; that the call of Nathaniel, mentioned with the call of several Apostles, seems to mark him for the apostolate, especially since the rather full and beautiful narrative leads one to expect some important development; that Nathaniel was of Galilee where Jesus found most, if not all, of the Twelve; finally, that on the occasion of the appearance of the risen Savior on the shore of the Sea of Tiberias, Nathaniel is found present, together with several Apostles who are named and two unnamed Disciples who were, almost certainly, likewise Apostles (the word "apostle" not occurring in the Fourth Gospel and "disciple" of Jesus ordinarily meaning Apostle) and so, presumably, was one of the Twelve. This chain of circumstantial evidence is ingenious and pretty strong; the weak link is that, after all, Nathaniel may have been another personage in whom, for some reason, the author of the Fourth Gospel may have been particularly interested, as he was in Nicodemus, who is likewise not named in the synoptics.

No mention of St. Bartholomew occurs in ecclesiastical literature before Eusebius, who mentions that Pantaenus, the master of Origen, while evangelizing India, was told that the Apostle had preached there before him and had given to his converts the Gospel of St. Matthew written in Hebrew, which was still treasured by the Church. "India" was a name covering a very wide area, including even Arabia Felix. Other traditions represent St. Bartholomew as preaching in Mesopotamia, Persia, Egypt, Armenia, Lycaonia, Phrygia, and on the shores of the Black Sea; one legend, it is interesting to note, identifies him with Nathaniel.

The manner of his death, said to have occurred at Albanopolis in Armenia, is equally uncertain; according to some, he was beheaded, according to others, flayed alive and crucified, head downward, by order of Astyages, for having converted his brother, Polymius, King of Armenia. On account of this latter legend, he is often represented in art (e.g. in Michelangelo's Last Judgment) as flayed and holding in his hand his own skin. His relics are thought by some to be preserved in the church of St. Bartholomew-in-the-Island, at Rome. His feast is celebrated on 24 August. An apocryphal gospel of Bartholomew existed in the early ages.

Publication information Written by John Francis Fenlon. Transcribed by the Cloistered Dominican Nuns, Monastery of the Infant Jesus, Lufkin, Texas. Dedicated to Jesus the Redeemer The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume II. Published 1907. New York: Robert Appleton Company. Nihil Obstat, 1907. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John M. Farley, Archbishop of New York


LE CAMUS, Vie de Notre Seigneur (tr. New York, 1906), I; IDEM in VIG., Dict. de la Bible, where references are given for the sources of the traditions, FOUARD, Life of Christ (New York, 1891).

St. Bartholomew the Apostle

Orthodox Information

(This information may not be of the scholastic quality of the other articles in BELIEVE. Since few Orthodox scholarly articles have been translated into English, we have had to rely on Orthodox Wiki as a source. Since the Wikipedia collections do not indicate the author's name for articles, and essentially anyone is free to edit or alter any of their articles (again, without any indication of what was changed or who changed it), we have concerns. However, in order to include an Orthodox perspective in some of our subject presentations, we have found it necessary to do this. At least until actual scholarly Orthodox texts are translated from the Greek originals!)

The holy, glorious and all-laudable Apostle Bartholomew (also known as Nathaniel) was one of the Twelve Great Apostles. He is referenced in the Synoptic Gospels and in the Acts of the Apostles. His feast days are celebrated on June 11 (with St. Barnabas) and August 25 (the translation of his relics). It is believed that he is the same person commemorated on April 22 with Apostles Luke and Clement as Nathaniel of the Seventy.


After the Ascension of Christ, Bartholomew preached in Asia with the Apostle Philip, Philip's sister Mariamma, and Apostle John. He later preached in India and then Armenia where he was martyred. Prior to India, he was crucified upside down in Hierapolis with the Apostle Philip for causing the death of a great serpent the people worshiped and healing people through prayer. He was removed from the cross during a great earthquake because the people thought God was judging them; St. Philip had already reposed.

He then went to India, translated the Gospel of Matthew and cured the Armenian king's daughter of insanity; but the king's envious brother had him crucified, skinned him, and finally beheaded him.

Christians buried his body but because of the miracles happening over his relics the pagans threw his coffin into the sea. The coffin ended up at the island of Lipara where Bishop Agathon—who met it via a revelation in a dream—buried it in a church. St. Bartholomew appeared to St. Joseph the Hymnographer and blessed him that he might be able to sing spiritual hymns, saying, "Let heavenly water of wisdom flow from your tongue!" He also appeared to Emperor Anastasius (491-518) and told him that he would protect the new town of Dara. Later his relics were translated to Rome where miracles continue to occur.


Troparion (Tone 3)

Holy Apostles Bartholomew and Barnabas,
entreat the merciful God
to grant our souls forgiveness of transgressions.

Kontakion (Tone 4)

You have appeared to the universe as a great sun,
shining with the radiance of your teachings and awesome miracles.
You enlighten those who honor you, apostle of the Lord, Bartholomew.


St. Nikolai Velimirovic, The Prologue of Ohrid

External links

Apostle Bartholomew of the Twelve (OCA)
Return of the Relics of the Apostle Bartholomew from Anastasiopolis to Lipari (OCA)
Bartholomew and Barnabas the Holy Apostles (GOARCH)
Return of the Body of Bartholomew the Glorious Apostle (GOARCH)
Martyrdom of the Holy and Glorious Apostle Bartholomew from Ante-Nicene
Fathers in the Christian Classics Ethereal Library
Saint Bartholomew, the Apostle (Prologue of Ohrid)

Saint Bartholomew, also known as Nathanael

Coptic Orthodox Information

The details of Bartholomew or Nathanael's call to discipleship are recorded in John 1:43-51. He was brought to Jesus by his friend Philip.

It is generally believed that Nathanael and Bartholomew are the same individual. The Synoptic gospels (Matthew, Mark and Luke) do not mention a Nathanael as a disciples. John's gospel makes no mention of Bartholomew.

Notice that Bartholomew's name is coupled with Philip's name in the listings of Matthew and Luke. It is found next to Philip in the list of Mark. This would seem to agree with the gospel of John, where the evangelist describes Philip as an old friend who brought Nathanael to Jesus.

Bartholomew means "son of Talmai (Tolmai)" which was ancient Hebrew name. It appears in 2 Samuel 3:3 where it is listed as the given name of the King of Geshur who was the father of a wife of David, Maacah. Just as we sometimes refer to close friends by their family name rather than their given name, so it appears that only John lists this disciple by his given name. The other three gospel writers apparently designated him by his family name, Bar-Tolmai.

Characteristics of This Disciple

Nathanael means "gift of God." John's account tells us that he was from Cana in Galilee, a small village about 5 miles northeast of Nazareth. He might well have been present when Jesus performed his first miracle in that town. One obscure legend even suggests that he was the bridegroom at that wedding; another pictures him as the former boyfriend of the bride who didn't quite make it. Thankfully we can ignore such reports. When Philip suggested that Jesus was the Messiah, Nathanael honestly expressed his doubts. He failed to see how such a great one could come from a town such as Nazareth. Bartholomew reminds us of the many very nice people we meet who straightforwardly tell us that they don't believe in Jesus as their Savior. Maybe they had a bad experience with a church or a pastor or some church members. Perhaps they are confused about religion in general. Like Nathanael, they need to see Jesus. We won't be able to change their minds, but we can invite them to "come and see."

Other than his call to be a disciple Nathanael/Bartholomew is not mentioned frequently in the biblical record. He is mentioned with the other apostles after the resurrection in the account recorded in John 21, in particular verse 2. His innocence and simplicity won high praise from the lips of the Savior when Philip brought him to Jesus.

Outside of Scripture, we hear little of this man. There is no mention of him in ecclesiastical literature before Eusebius, who records in his Church History that Pantaenus of Alexandria, the teacher of Origen, visited India in the second century and found there a Hebrew copy of the Gospel According to Matthew. He was told that Bartholomew had been to India before him and had left this gospel. We should note that "India," at the time, meant everything from Arabia to the east. Other traditions suggest that Bartholomew preached in Mesopotamia, Persia, Egypt, Armenia, Phrygia and the shores of the Black Sea.

Even church tradition cannot agree on his death. He supposedly died in Albanopolis (Urbanopolis) in Armenia. Some say he was beheaded and others insist that he was skinned alive and crucified head down at the command of King Astyages for having converted King Polymios.

In Michaelangelo's "Last Judgment" he is pictured as flayed and holding in his hand his own skin. Due to this account of his death, the symbol for Bartholomew/Nathanael is a skinning knife or a series of them. Sometimes the knives are pictured together with a "skin."

James F. Korthals

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