Bartholomew, Apostle, St.
BARTHOLOMEW, APOSTLE, ST.
The name Bartholomew appears in all four lists of "the Twelve" (Mk 3:16–19; Mt 10:2–4; Lk 6:14–16; Acts 1:13) always coupled with the name Philip (cf. Acts 1:13). Bartholomew, however, is not mentioned outside
these lists in the New Testament, nor is he mentioned among those named as "one of the Twelve" in the Fourth Gospel. Instead one finds a disciple, unique to the Johannine tradition, named Nathanael. The discrepancy between the synoptic material and the Johannine material has been the cause of much speculation over the centuries. The question of Nathanael's identity has led many to explore further the identity of Bartholomew.
Among the early church fathers, including Augustine and Jerome, Nathaniel was not regarded as a member of the Twelve, but simply a disciple of Jesus. In contrast to this several early synaxaria (i.e., catalogues of saints) identified Nathanael with Simon the Zealot, a member of the Twelve. The association of these two names probably owes to the description of Simon as a Cananaean (Mk 3:18; Mt 10:4). The description of Nathanael one "from Cana in Galilee" (Jn 21:2) provides the basis for this identification. In the end, however, the identification of Simon with Nathanael is not well founded. The description of Simon as a Cananean (ὁ κανανα[symbol omitted]ος) does not mean that he is from Cana, rather it is related to the Aramaic word qan'ānā' ("to be zealous"). The fact that the Lucan lists call Simon a Zealot (ζηλωτής —a member of a nationalistic anti-Roman party; Lk 6:15; Acts 1:13) precludes the possibility of identifying Simon with Nathanael.
Nathanael/Bartholomew The most tenable approach to the discrepancy was first posited by the ninth century Nestorian bishop Isho’dad of Merv, who identified Bartholomew with Nathanael. This solution, though not without its problems, has been adopted by most scholars today. Two factors seem to support this. First, the name Bartholomew in Aramaic is patronymic (Bar-Talmai means "son of Tholmai," see Josh 15:14 and Jos. Ant. 20.1.1§5) while Nathanael is a surname. Many biblical scholars today believe that the surname was preserved in the Johannine tradition, while the family name was preserved in the synoptic tradition. Second, Bartholomew is closely associated with Philip in the synoptic lists of the Twelve, while the name of Nathanael is closely associated with Philip in one narrative portion of the Fourth Gospel. Any theological or biographical details about Nathanael/Bartholomew comes to us from the Fourth Gospel.
In the Fourth Gospel Nathanael serves as a symbol of Israel coming to God. In Jn 1:35–51, the call of the first disciples, Nathanael makes his only appearance in the NT. Jn 1:3542 narrates the encounter between Andrew and Jesus, then after the account of the call of Andrew and Simon Peter there is the account in which Philip brings Nathaniel to Jesus. As a result of this, Nathanael acknowledges the messianic identity of Jesus. In this narrative Jesus describes Nathanael as "a true Israelite in whom there is no guile" (δóλος –deceit). This identification links Nathanael to the description of Jacob in Gn 27:35 and is complemented by the reference to Gn 28:12 in Jn 1:51. Nathanael's doubt regarding Jesus calls to mind the behavior of "the Jews" throughout the rest of the gospel. However, Nathanael's lack of "guile" or deceit makes him different for "the Jews" who come to Jesus only to seek his destruction. Nathanael's character is punctuated by his willingness to approach Jesus and see the one to whom Philip has borne witness. Nathanael's initial doubt also links him to the story of Thomas in Jn 20:24–29. The two accounts form a literary inclusio that places emphasis on the theme of testimony (both Nathanael and Thomas express doubt when presented with testimony regarding Jesus) as well as the theme of christology (both Nathanael and Thomas make faith proclamations regarding Jesus identity).
Early Christian tradition states that Bartholomew preached the gospel in India (Eusebius) and then Armenia where he was martyred (see the Martyrdom of Bartholomew ). Several apocryphal works have been attributed to Bartholomew including "The Questions of Bartholomew," a work which probably represents a recession of the Gospel of Bartholomew mentioned by Jerome in his commentary on Matthew, and also mentioned by Bede. There also exist fragments of a Coptic work called The Book of the Resurrection of Christ by Bartholomew the Apostle which purports to be the record of the visions enjoyed by Bartholomew concerning the events surrounding Jesus' Resurrection.
Feast: Aug. 24.
Bibliography: r. e. brown, The Gospel According to John, 2 v. (Garden City, NJ 1966–1970). u. holzmeister, "Nathanael fuitne idem ac S. Bartholomeus Apostolus," Biblica 21(1940):28–39. e. leidig, "Nathanael, ein Sohn des Tholomäus," Theologische Zeitschrift 36 (1980): 374–5. j. p. meier, "The Circle of the Twelve: Did it Exist During Jesus' Public Ministry?" Journal of Biblical Literature 116 (1997): 635–72.