Festival of Bartholomew the Apostle

24 Aug
St Bartholomew

St Bartholomew (Photo credit: Lawrence OP)

One of the Twelve but even so, little is known about St. Bartholonew or his life. St. Bartholonew (as he is known in the Synoptic Gospels) is usually identified with Nathanael (alternatively spelled Nathaniel), who is mentioned in John 1. If one wonders why the synoptic Gospels always call him Bartholomew, it would be because the name Nathanael in Hebrew is equivalent to that of Matthew, since both in Hebrew signify gift of God; in this way the Evangelists avoided all confusion between the two Apostles.

There are some biblical scholars who reject this interpretation but they are in the minority. Interestingly some early patristic writers suggest that Nathanael was not one of the Twelve and stands in Saint John’s Gospel as a representative of Israel coming to God.


Sadly in European history Saint Bartholomew’s Day (today) is remembered for the massacre of Reformed Protestants (Huguenots) that took place on this day in Paris in 1572.


In the Synoptic Gospels, Bartholomew is only mentioned three times and each time is in the respective account of Jesus calling His twelve Apostles. The only other biblical mention for Bartholomew is in the book of Acts (1:4, 12-13) where he is a witness to Christ’s ascension. As Nathanael he appears in the book of John twice, first time (1:45-51) as a friend of Philip, who through his friendship is introduced to Jesus. Nathanael responds positively and accepts Christ is the son of God. His innocence and simplicity of heart deserved to be celebrated with this high praise of Christ: “here is truly an Israelite in whom there is no deceit”. The second time (in 21:2) is again as part of the group of apostles to whom Jesus appears after the resurrection.


Pantenus of Alexandria is said by Eusebius to have found in India during the second half of the second century Gospel of Matthew, written in Hebrew and left behind by Bartholomew. Roman Martyrology attributed to him an apostolate in India and Armenia. Tradition states after the Ascension, Bartholomew went on a missionary journey to India (with the Gospel of Matthew) whereas other traditions recording the serving as a missionary in Ethiopia, Mesopotamia, Parthia and Lycaonia. Bartholomew is also linked with the apostle dude in bringing Christianity to Armenia in the first century and as such both saints are considered the patron saints of the Armenian Apostolic Church.

Armenia is where Bartholomew said to be marketed when he was flailed alive and crucified upside down by the jealous brother the king of Armenia, jealous because his brother became had converted to Christianity. Other traditions agree with the location of Bartholomew’s death say he was beheaded. Of these conflicting accounts of his missionary activity, Armenia has the strongest support


To finish, the collect for the day:

Almighty and everlasting God, who gave to your apostle Bartholomew grace truly to believe and to preach your Word: Grant that your Church may love what he believed and preach what he taught; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.


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