Bartholomew in Early Texts

The New Testament contains very little direct information about the Apostle variously called Bartholomew or Nathaniel, so most legends about this shadowy saint have developed out of apocryphal documents and the writings of the early Church Fathers.

The Gospel of John describes Jesus granting the Apostle Bartholomew a special gift, some kind of heavenly vision: "You shall see heaven laid open and, above the Son of Man, the angels of God ascending and descending." In his article Ghostly mentor, teacher of mysteries: Bartholomew, Guthlac and the Apostle's cult in early medieval England (from Ferzoco, George & Carolyn Muessig, editors; Medieval Monastic Education, [London: Leicester University Press], 2000, pgs. 136-152) Professor Graham Jones interprets Bartholomew's visionary gift as the first intimation of the apostle's earthly and spiritual powers, especially with regard to identifying and discomfiting demons. Jones cites a number of texts from early Christian writings to trace the development of Bartholomew's legends.

Jerome's Commentary on Matthew mentions a number of no-longer-extant apocryphal gospels, including a document entitled The Gospel of Bartholomew. Sometimes called the Questions of Bartholomew, this document survives in four manuscripts, translated and edited by M.R. James for inclusion in his 1924 book The Apocryphal Gospels. The Gnostic Society has published both the James translation of the Questions and the Book of the Resurrection of Christ by Bartholomew the Apostle, for which the only surviving copy is in Coptic, most recently translated by Sir E. A. Wallis Budge in Coptic Apocrypha in the dialect of Upper Egypt, 1913.

The Martyrdom of Bartholomew, included in Book Eight of the Apostolic History attributed to Pseudo-Abdias, provides the earliest recording of Bartholomew's activities in India. The precise date of its creation is unknown, but Jones considers that contributions from a number of earlier texts -- a Nestorian document of approximately the fifth century, cited below, as well as writings from St. Ambrose of Milan -- push the origins of Bartholomew's legends to a much earlier date. The Martyrdom appears to be the original source for most of the medieval legends about St. Bartholomew, as seen by comparison to the apostle's entry in the Legenda Aurea

Material relating to Bartholomew/Nathaniel from these documents is provided below, with links to complete versions where online copies are available. These references are listed chronologically, at least in so far as we have estimates for the ages of the documents.

Biblical Material: Bartholomew/Nathaniel in the New Testament

Matthew 10: 1-4

And he called to him his twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every disease and infirmity. The names of the twelve apostles are these: first, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother; James the son of Zebedee and John his brother; Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; Simon the Cananaean, and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him.

Mark 3:13-19

And he went up into the hills, and called to him those whom he desired; and they came to him. And he appointed twelve, to be with him, and to be sent out to preach and have authority to cast out demons: Simon whom he surnamed Peter; James the son of Zebedee and John the brother of James, whom he surnamed Boanerges, that is, sons of thunder; Andrew, and Philip, and Bartholomew, and Matthew, and Thomas, and James the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus, and Simon the Cananaean, and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him.

Mark 6: 7-13

And he called to him the twelve, and began to send them out two by two, and gave them authority over the unclean spirits. He charged them to take nothing for their journey except a staff; no bread, no bag, no money in their belts; but to wear sandals and not put on two tunics. And he said to them, "Where you enter a house, stay there until you leave the place. And if any place will not receive you and they refuse to hear you, when you leave, shake off the dust that is on your feet for a testimony against them. So they went out and preached that men should repent. And they cast out many demons, and anointed with oil many that were sick and healed them.

Luke 6: 12-16

In these days he went out into the hills to pray; and all night he continued in prayer to God. And when it was day, he called his disciples, and chose from them twelve, whom he named apostles: Simon, whom he named Peter, and Andrew his brother, and James and John, and Philip, and Bartholomew, and Matthew, and Thomas, and James the son of Alphaeus, and Simon who was called the Zealot, and Judas the son of James, and Judas Iscariot, who became a traitor.

John 1: 43-51

The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. And he found Philip and said to him, "Follow me." Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter. Philip found Nathanael, and said to him, "We have found him of whom Moses in the law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph." Nathanael said to him, "Can anything good come out of Nazareth?" Philip said to him, "Come and see." Jesus saw Nathanael coming to him, and said of him, "Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no guile!" Nathanael said to him, "How do you know me?" Jesus answered him, "Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you." Nathanael answered him, "Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!" Jesus answered him, "Because I said to you, I saw you under the fig tree, do you believe? You shall see greater things than these." And he said to him, "Truly, truly, I say to you, you will see heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of man."

John 21: 1-8

After this [the Resurrection] Jesus revealed himself again to the disciples by the Sea of Tiberias; and he revealed himself in this way. Simon Peter, Thomas called the Twin, Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two others of his disciples were together. Simon Peter said to them, "I am going fishing." They said to him, "We will go with you." They went out and got into the boat; but that night they caught nothing.

Just as day was breaking, Jesus stood on the beach; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to them, "Children, have you any fish?" They answered him, "No." He said to them "Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some." So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in, for the quantity of fish. That disciple whom Jesus loved [John?] said to Peter, "It is the Lord!" When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on his clothes, for he was stripped for work, and sprang into the sea.

Acts 1: 12-14

Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a sabbath day's journey away; and when they had entered, they went up to the upper room, where they were staying, Peter and John and James and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot and Judas the son of James. All these with one accord devoted themselves to prayer, together with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers.

The Gospel of Bartholomew/The Questions of Bartholomew

The Questions of Bartholomew and The Book of the Resurrection of Christ by Bartholomew the Apostle -- hosted by the Gnostic Society -- all subsequent citations are from this document, verified on 1 Jan 2006

As its title implies, The Questions of Bartholomew describes several conversations between Jesus and the Apostles, after the Crucifixion, Christ's Harrowing of Hell, and the Resurrection. Although there are some slight variations between the texts, the Apostle Bartholomew is the most persistent questioner of his risen Lord, asking for information about what hell was like, about the "day to day" management (and exchange) of souls between Earth, Heaven and Hell, and about the nature of the Anti-Christ. Jesus explicitly grants Bartholomew power and authority over the denizens of Hell, which gives him the ability to question Satan about his battle with Heaven.

The following material is originally taken from The Apocryphal New Testament, translated and annotated by M. R. James (Oxford: Clarendon Press), 1924. James' translation breaks the text into 5 sections:
  1. The Harrowing of Hell, followed by a discussion on the numbers of souls saved and lost, and how the saved souls are received into heaven
  2. The Annunciation, described by the Virgin Mary
  3. A vision of the "bottomless pit," the abyss of Hell
  4. The summoning of Satan, in which the devil gives an account of his deeds
  5. A discussion of sin, defining the deadly sins; Christ's commission to his Apostles, and his departure. (James identifies this section as a later addition to the text.)
Jerome and Origen categorize a now-lost Gospel of Bartholomew as apocryphal; modern scholars believe that the Questions, which apparently achieved some level of popularity given the survival of versions in several different languages, including Greek, Latin and Slavonic. [The Slavonic version is striking given the eventual association of Bartholomew's mission with Armenia.]

The Catholic Encyclopedia notes that the Questions contain a strong Nestorian element. The Nestorian heresy taught that Jesus existed simultaneously as two distinct entities: the human Jesus, mortal and finite; and the divine Logos or "Word of God," which had existed with God the Father throughout all time. One of the primary tenets of the Nestorians was that Mary could not be described as the "Mother of God" because she had borne only the human Jesus. This belief forms the background of the second section of the Questions.

Citations below are identified by James' section designations and verse identifiers.

Book I: 4-9

4 Bartholomew therefore drew near unto the Lord and said: I have a word to speak unto thee, Lord.

5 And Jesus said to him: I know what thou art about to say; say then what thou wilt, and I will answer thee.

6 And Bartholomew said: Lord, when thou wentest to be hanged upon the cross, I followed thee afar off and saw thee hung upon the cross, and the angels coming down from heaven and worshipping thee. And when there came darkness, 7 I beheld, and I saw thee that thou wast vanished away from the cross and I heard only a voice in the parts under the earth, and great wailing and gnashing of teeth on a sudden. Tell me, Lord, whither wentest thou from the cross?

Book I: 13-15

[NB: Jesus is speaking in this passage.] 13 And when I had descended five hundred steps, Hades was troubled, saying: I hear the breathing of the Most High, and I cannot endure it. (Latin 2. He cometh with great fragrance and I cannot bear it.) 14 But the devil answered and said: Submit not thyself, O Hades, but be strong: for God himself hath not descended upon the earth. 15 But when I had descended yet five hundred steps, the angels and the powers cried out: Take hold, remove the doors, for behold the King of glory cometh down. And Hades said: O, woe unto me, for I hear the breath of God.
[The Questions names several different denizens of Hell, including Beliar, Hades, Death, and "the devil." Do these indication some sort of hierarchy similar to that of the angels in Heaven? Is it significant that Hades is the first being to identify Jesus as the Most High?]

Book I; 21-22

21 Bartholomew saith unto him: [Latin 2, I saw thee again, hanging upon the cross, and all the dead arising and worshipping thee, and going up again into their sepulchres.] Tell me, Lord, who was he whom the angels bare up in their hands, even that man that was very great of stature? [Slav., Latin. 2, And what spakest thou unto him that he sighed so sore?]

22 Jesus answered and said unto him: It was Adam the first-formed, for whose sake I came down from heaven upon earth. And I said unto him: I was hung upon the cross for thee and for thy children's sake. And he, when he heard it, groaned and said: So was thy good pleasure, O Lord.
According to the Catholic Encyclopedia, the only other description of the Harrowing of Hell comes from the Gospel of Nicodemus. Despite the apocryphal status of these two works, the idea that Christ entered Hell and brought souls out of torment and into Paradise clearly entered into orthodoxy, as shown by its inclusion in the Apostles' Creed: "I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth. And in Jesus Christ his only Son our Lord; who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead, and buried; he descended into hell; the third day he rose again from the dead; he ascended into heaven, and sitteth on the right hand of God the Father Almighty; from thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead. I believe in the Holy Ghost; the holy catholic Church; the communion of saints; the forgiveness of sins; the resurrection of the body; and the life everlasting. AMEN."

Book I: 23-27

[Christ attributes the earthly events upon his death to the actions of an "Angel of Vengeance," whom Bartholomew was able to perceive in his vision.]
23 Again Bartholomew said: Lord, I saw the angels ascending before Adam and singing praises.

24 But one of the angels which was very great, above the rest, would not ascend up with them: and there was in his hand a sword of fire, and he was looking steadfastly upon thee only.

[Slav. 25 And all the angels besought him that he would go up with them, but he would not. But when thou didst command him to go up, I beheld a flame of fire issuing out of his hands and going even unto the city of Jerusalem. 26 And Jesus said unto him: Blessed art thou, Bartholomew my beloved because thou sawest these mysteries. This was one of the angels of vengeance which stand before my Father's throne: and this angel sent he unto me. 27 And for this cause he would not ascend up, because he desired to destroy all the powers of the world. But when I commanded him to ascend up, there went a flame out of his hand and rent asunder the veil of the temple, and parted it in two pieces for a witness unto the children of Israel for my passion because they crucified me.]

Book II: 2-4

This section of the Questions explicitly mentions Bartholomew's good nature and "cheerful countenance," even while questioning events that are beyond sinful man's ability to comprehend.
2 And Bartholomew came and said unto Peter and Andrew and John: Let us ask her that is highly favoured how she conceived the incomprehensible, or how she bare him that cannot be carried, or how she brought forth so much greatness. But they doubted to ask her. 3 Bartholomew therefore said unto Peter: Thou that art the chief, and my teacher, draw near and ask her. But Peter said to John: Thou art a virgin and undefiled (and beloved) and thou must ask her.

4 And as they all doubted and disputed, Bartholomew came near unto her with a cheerful countenance and said to her: Thou that art highly favoured, the tabernacle of the Most High, unblemished we, even all the apostles, ask thee (or All the apostles have sent me to ask thee) to tell us how thou didst conceive the incomprehensible, or how thou didst bear him that cannot be carried, or how thou didst bring forth so much greatness.
Apparently Bartholomew lacked the patience to wait for Peter and John to finish their argument about who should address the Apostles' questions to Mary.

Book III: 1-9

1 And he departed with them unto the mount Mauria (Lat. 2, Mambre), and sat in the midst of them. 2 But they doubted to question him, being afraid. 3 And Jesus answered and said unto them: Ask me what ye will that I should teach you, and I will show it you. For yet seven days, and I ascend unto my Father, and I shall no more be seen of you in this likeness. 4 But they, yet doubting, said unto him: Lord, show us the deep (abyss) according unto thy promise. 5 And Jesus said unto them: It is not good (Lat. 2, is good) for you to see the deep: notwithstanding, if ye desire it, according to my promise, come, follow me and behold. 6 And he led them away into a place that is called Cherubim (Cherukt Slav., Chairoudee Gr., Lat. 2 omits), that is the place of truth. 7 And he beckoned unto the angels of the West and the earth was rolled up like a volume of a book and the deep was revealed unto them. 8 And when the apostles saw it they fell on their faces upon the earth. 9 But Jesus raised them up, saying: Said I not unto you, 'It is not good for you to see the deep'. And again he beckoned unto the angels, and the deep was covered up.
Although this passage does not directly mention Bartholomew, I include it here for comparison to the vision in which he speaks to Rahere.

Book IV: 7-9

7 When Jesus appeared again, Bartholomew saith unto him: Lord, show us the adversary of men that we may behold him, of what fashion he is, and what is his work, and whence he cometh forth, and what power he hath that he spared not even thee, but caused thee to be hanged upon the tree. 8 But Jesus looked upon him and said: Thou bold heart! thou askest for that which thou art not able to look upon. 9 But Bartholomew was troubled and fell at Jesus' feet and began to speak thus: O lamp that cannot be quenched, Lord Jesu Christ, maker of the eternal light that hast given unto them that love thee the grace that beautifieth all, and hast given us the eternal light by thy coming into the world, that hast accomplished the work of the Father, hast turned the shame-facedness of Adam into mirth, hast done away the sorrow of Eve with a cheerful countenance by thy birth from a virgin: remember not evil against me but grant me the word of mine asking.
Bartholomew's faith in Christ is never shaken. His faith-borne confidence encourages him to persevere in asking Jesus to reveal Satan, so the devil will be known in all his guises.

Book IV: 10, 12, 15-24, 26-28

10 And as he thus spake, Jesus raised him up and said unto him: Bartholomew, wilt thou see the adversary of men? I tell thee that when thou beholdest him, not thou only but the rest of the apostles and Mary will fall on your faces and become as dead corpses....

(12) ... Beliar came up ...

15 But Jesus came near and raised the apostles and gave them a spirit of power, and he saith unto Bartholomew: Come near, Bartholomew, and trample with thy feet on his neck, and he will tell thee his work, what it is, and how he deceiveth men. 16 And Jesus stood afar off with the rest of the apostles. 17 And Barthololmew feared, and raised his voice and said: Blessed be the name of thine immortal kingdom from henceforth even for ever. And when he had spoken, Jesus permitted him, saying: Go and tread upon the neck of Beliar: and Bartholomew ran quickly upon him and trode upon his neck: and Beliar trembled. (For this verse the Vienna MS. has: And Bartholomew raised his voice and said thus: O womb more spacious than a city, wider than the spreading of the heavens, that contained him whom the seven heavens contain not, but thou without pain didst contain sanctified in thy bosom, &c.: evidently out of place. Latin 1 has only: Then did Antichrist tremble and was filled with fury.)

18 And Bartholomew was afraid, and fled, and said unto Jesus: Lord, give me an hem of thy garments (Lat. 2, the kerchief (?) from thy shoulders) that I may have courage to draw near unto him. 19 But Jesus said unto him: Thou canst not take an hem of my garments, for these are not my garments which I wore before I was crucified. 20 And Bartholomew said: Lord, I fear lest, like as he spared not thine angels, he swallow me up also. 21 Jesus saith unto him: Were not all things made by my word, and by the will of my Father the spirits were made subject unto Solomon? thou, therefore, being commanded by my word, go in my name and ask him what thou wilt. (Lat. 2 omits 20.) 22 [And Bartholomew made the sign of the cross and prayed unto Jesus and went behind him. And Jesus said to him: Draw near. And as Bartholomew drew near, fire was kindled on every side, so that his garments appeared fiery. Jesus saith to Bartholomew: As I said unto thee, tread upon his neck and ask him what is his power.] And Bartholomew went and trode upon his neck, and pressed down his face into the earth as far as his ears. 23 And Bartholomew saith unto him: Tell me who thou art and what is thy name. And he said to him: Lighten me a little, and I will tell thee who I am and how I came hither, and what my work is and what my power is. 24 And he lightened him and saith to him: Say all that thou hast done and all that thou doest....

26 And again Bartholomew saith unto him: Reveal unto me all things and hide nothing from me. 27 And he said unto him: I swear unto thee by the power of the glory of God that even if I would hide aught I cannot, for he is near that would convict me. For if I were able I would have destroyed you like one of them that were before you. 28 For, indeed, I was formed (al. called) the first angel: for when God made the heavens, he took a handful of fire and formed me first, Michael second [Vienna MS. here has these sentences: for he had his Son before the heavens and the earth and we were formed (for when he took thought to create all things, his Son spake a word), so that we also were created by the will of the Son and the consent of the Father.
This passage may be the basis for later emphasis on the power of Bartholomew to bind and cast out demons.

Book IV: 37-39

37 Bartholomew saith unto him: How chastisest thou the souls of men? 38 Beliar saith unto him: Wilt thou that I declare unto thee the punishment of the hypocrites, of the back-biters, of the jesters, of the idolaters, and the covetous, and the adulterers, and the wizards, and the diviners, and of them that believe in us, and of all whom I look upon (deceive?)? (38 Lat. 2: When I will show any illusion by them. But they that do these things, and they that consent unto them or follow them, do perish with me. 39 Bartholomew said unto him: Declare quickly how thou persuadest men not to follow God and thine evil arts, that are slippery and dark, that they should leave the straight and shining paths of the Lord.) 39 Bartholomew saith unto him: I will that thou declare it in few words.
The Antichrist answers with a laundry list of punishments for various sorts of sins, including gluttons, idolaters, perjurers and hypocrites.

Book IV: 43-44

43 And Bartholomew said: Dost thou then do these things by thyself alone? 44 And Satan said: If I were able to go forth by myself, I would have destroyed the whole world in three days: but neither I nor any of the six hundred go forth. For we have other swift ministers whom we command, and we furnish them with an hook of many points and send them forth to hunt, and they catch for us souls of men, enticing them with sweetness of divers baits, that is by drunkenness and laughter, by backbiting, hypocrisy, pleasures, fornication, and the rest of the trifles that come out of their treasures.

Book IV: 46-51

46 Bartholomew saith: Be still (be muzzled) thou dragon of the pit. 47 And Beliar said: Many things will I tell thee of the angels....48 Bartholomew saith unto him: Be still (be muzzled) and be faint, that I may entreat my Lord. 49 And Bartholomew fell upon his face and cast earth upon his head and began to say: O Lord Jesu Christ, the great and glorious name. All the choirs of the angels praise thee, O Master, and I that am unworthy with my lips . . . do praise thee, O Master. Hearken unto me thy servant, and as thou didst choose me from the receipt of custom and didst not suffer me to have my conversation unto the end in my former deeds, O Lord Jesu Christ, hearken unto me and have mercy upon the sinners. 50 And when he had so said, the Lord saith unto him: Rise up, suffer him that groaneth to arise: I will declare the rest unto thee. 51 And Bartholomew raised up Satan and said unto him: Go unto thy place, with thine angels, but the Lord hath mercy upon all his world.

Book IV: 60

60 Then Bartholomew commanded him to go into hell.

Book IV: 65-68

65 When he had thus prayed Jesus said unto him: Bartholomew, my Father did name me Christ, that I might come down upon earth and anoint every man that cometh unto me with the oil of life: and he did call me Jesus that I might heal every sin of them that know not . . . and give unto men (several corrupt words: the Latin has) the truth of God.

66 And again Bartholomew saith unto him: Lord, is it lawful for me to reveal these mysteries unto every man? Jesus saith unto him: Bartholomew, my beloved, as many as are faithful and are able to keep them unto themselves, to them mayest thou entrust these things. For some there are that be worthy of them .... 68 And also they are secret, because of those that cannot contain them; for as many as can contain them shall have a part in them. Herein ( Hitherto?) therefore, my beloved, have I spoken unto thee, for blessed art thou and all thy kindred which of their choice have this word entrusted unto them; for all they that can contain it shall receive whatsoever they will in the of my judgement.

Book V: 1-6

1 Bartholomew saith unto him: Declare unto us, Lord what sin is heavier than all sins? 2 Jesus saith unto him: Verily I say unto thee that hypocrisy and backbiting is heavier than all sins: for because of them, the prophet said in the psalm, that 'the ungodly shall not rise in the judgement, neither sinners in the council of the righteous', neither the ungodly in the judgement of my Father. ... 3 And Bartholomew saith unto him: What is the sin against the Holy Ghost? 4 Jesus saith unto him: Whosoever shall decree against any man that hath served my holy Father hath blasphemed against the Holy Ghost: For every man that serveth God worshipfully is worthy of the Holy Ghost, and he that speaketh anything evil against him shall not be forgiven.


[Jesus continues to speak]

6 Ye, therefore, go ye and preach unto all the world the word of truth, and thou, Bartholomew, preach this word unto every one that desireth it; and as many as believe thereon shall have eternal life.

Book V: 7-8, 10

7 Bartholomew saith: O Lord, and if any sin with sin of the body, what is their reward? 8 And Jesus said: It is good if he that is baptized present his baptism blameless: but the pleasure of the flesh will become a lover. ... 10 And Bartholomew worshipped him with the apostles, and glorified God earnestly, saying: Glory be to thee, Holy Father, Sun unquenchable, incomprehensible, full of light. Unto thee be glory, unto thee honour and adoration, world without end. Amen.
James continues with a discussion of a Coptic document entitled The Book of the Resurrection of Christ by Bartholomew the Apostle. This passage, quoted in James' book, emphasizes Bartholomew's humility in the face of his apostolic mission -- a humility we will see echoed in Rahere's response to his vision of the Apostle.
As for me, Bartholomew, I remained many days without food or drink, nourished by the glory of the vision.

The apostles thanked and blessed Bartholomew for what he had told them: he should be called the apostle of the mysteries of God. But he protested: I am the least of you all, a humble workman. Will not the people of the city say when they see me, 'Is not this Bartholomew the man of Italy, the gardener the dealer in vegetables? Is not this the man that dwelleth in the garden of Hierocrates the governor of our city? How has he attained this greatness? ....

The Father, with the Son and the Holy Ghost, laid His hand on the head of Peter (and made him archbishop of the wholeworld: Paris B). All that is bound or loosed by him on earth shall be so in heaven; none who is not ordained by him shall be accepted. Each of the apostles was separately blessed (there are omissions of single names in one or other of the three texts). Andrew, James, John, Philip (the cross will precede him wherever he goes), Thomas, Bartholomew (he will be the depositary of the mysteries of the Son), Matthew (his shadow will heal the sick) James son of Alphaeus, Simon Zelotes, Judas of James, Thaddeus, Matthias who was rich and left all to follow Jesus).

And now, my brethren the apostles, forgive me: I, Bartholomew, am not a man to be honoured.
James continues:
The glorification of St. Bartholomew is another purpose of the writer: the special blessings given to him recall the attitude which he takes in the Gospel (i. 1, 8) as inquiring into the mysteries of heaven, and seeing things which are hidden from others. Both Gospel and Book are specially interested in the Descent into Hell, the Resurrection, and the redemption of Adam.

Bartholomew (Nathanael) was told (in St. John's Gospel) that he would see the angels ascending and descending upon the Son of Man. This promise is fulfilled in the Gospel (i. 6, 231 and very often in the Book: in St. John we also read of his being 'under the fig-tree', and this was probably enough to suggest to the Coptic author of the Book that he was a gardener.

The Martyrdom of the Holy and Glorious Apostle Bartholomew

Introductory Notice to Apocrypha of the New Testament -- Notes written by Professor M.B. Riddle, D.D., describing the writings of the ante-Nicene fathers, such as the apocryphal acts of the apostles after Christ's ascension.
But while the early Church exercised proper discernment, and the Canon of the New Testament was soon definitely recognised and universally accepted, the apocryphal writings were not without influence. The sacred legends, the ecclesiastical traditions, all too potent in their effect, are in many cases to be traced to these writings.

We have in ancient literature, especially Greek literature, a long series of fabulous histories attached to the names of men who made themselves famous either in arts or arms.... It is not to be wondered at, then, that round the names of Christ and His apostles, who had brought about social changes greater than those effected by the exploits of any hero of old, there should gather, as the result of the wondering awe of simple-minded men, a growth of the romantic and the fabulous....These stories came at length to form a sort of apostolic cycle, of which the documents following are portions. They exists also in a Latin form in the ten books of the Acts of the Apostles, compiled probably in the sixth century, and falsely attributed to Abdias, the first bishop of Babylon, by whom it was, of course, written in Hebrew.
XI. Martyrdom of Bartholomew.-This Greek text, now for the first time edited by Tischendorf, is very similar to the account of Bartholomew in Pseudo-Abdias. The editor is inclined to believe, not that the Greek text is a translation of Abdias, which it probably is, but that both it and Abdias are derived from the same source.

Martyrdom of the Holy and Glorious Apostle Bartholomew (published by The Interactive Bible)
The Martyrdom of St. Bartholomew (published by New Advent)

Both copies of the text seem to have been drawn from the same source, probably The Ante-Nicene Fathers: Translation of the Writings of the Fathers Down to A.D. 325 (Latin Christianity), by Roberts et al., most recently published by Eerdmans in 1951.

This translation differs in descriptive details from the Martyrdom edited by James, but the events of the stories are the same.

Below I provide parts of the Martyrdom which emphasize Bartholomew's ability to heal illness and to cast out demons. Such miracles are particularly relevant to the work of Guthlac, an Anglo-Saxon predecessor of Rahere who founded Croyland Abbey,  whose story provides precedents for several incidents in the founding of St. Bartholomew the Great; and of course to Rahere's foundation of the Priory and Hospital of St. Bartholomew.
To this India, then, the holy Bartholomew the apostle of Christ went, and took up his quarters in the temple of Astaruth, and lived there as one of the pilgrims and the poor.

In this temple, then, there was an idol called Astaruth, which was supposed to heal the infirm, but rather the more injured all.... And he brought upon them troubles, infirmities, damage, violence, and much affliction; and when any one sacrificed to him, the demon, retiring, appeared to give a cure to the person in trouble; and the foolish people, seeing this, believed in him.

And it came to pass, that while the holy apostle of Christ, Bartholomew, stayed there, Astaruth gave no response, and was not able for curing. And when the temple was full of sick persons, who sacrificed to him daily, Astaruth could give no response; and sick persons who had come from far countries were lying there.
[Presumably after the arrival of Bartholomew, Astaruth was not able to harm people at all, so those who were still ill were those afflicted before the Apostle arrived.]
And having there sacrificed, they demanded, asking why their god Astaruth had not responded to them. And the demon Becher answered and said to them: From the day and hour that the true God, who dwelleth in the heavens, sent his apostle Bartholomew into the regions here, your god Astaruth is held fast by chains of fire, and can no longer either speak or breathe. They said to him: And who is this Bartholomew? He answered: He is the friend of the Almighty God, and has just come into these parts, that he may take away all the worship of the idols in the name of his God.
[The following passage provides the only surviving written description of Bartholomew's appearance from the early Church.]
And the servants of the Greeks said to him: Tell us what he is like, that we may be able to find him. And the demon answered and said: He has black hair, a shaggy head, a fair skin, 2 large eyes, beautiful nostrils, his ears hidden by the hair of his head, with a yellow beard, a few grey hairs, of middle height, and neither tall nor stunted, but middling, clothed with a white undercloak bordered with purple, and upon his shoulders a very white cloak; and his clothes have been worn twenty-six years, but neither are they dirty, nor have they waxed old. Seven times a day he bends the knee to the Lord, and seven times a night does he pray to God. His voice is like the sonnet of a strong trumpet; there go along with him angels of God, who allow him neither to be weary, nor to hunger, nor to thirst; his face, and his soul, and his heart are always glad and rejoicing; he foresees everything, he knows and speaks every tongue of every nation.
And it came to pass, that one who was a demoniac set to work to cry out: Apostle of the Lord, Bartholomew, thy prayers are burning me up. Then said the apostle to him: Hold thy peace, and come out of him. And that very hour, the man who had suffered from the demon for many years was set free.
[The following passage forms the basis of at least one surviving hymn to Bartholomew, quoted in F.J. Mone's Hymni Latini Medii AEvi, volume iii, pg. 123.]
And Polymius, the king of that country, happened to be standing opposite the apostle; and he had a daughter a demoniac, that is to say, a lunatic. And he heard about the demoniac that had been healed, and sent messengers to the apostle, saying: My daughter is grievously torn; I implore thee, therefore, as thou hast delivered him who suffered for many years, so also to order my daughter to be set free. And the apostle rose up, and went with them. And he sees the king's daughter bound with chains, for she used to tear in pieces all her limbs; and if any one came near her, she used to bite, and no one dared to come near her. The servants say to him: And who is it that dares to touch her? The apostle answered them: Loose her, and let her go. They say to him again: We have her in our power when she is bound with all our force, and dost thou bid us loose her? The apostle says to them: Behold, I keep her enemy bound, and are you even now afraid of her? Go and loose her; and when she has partaken of food, let her rest, and early to-morrow bring her to me. And they went and did as the apostle had commanded them; and thereafter the demon was not able to come near her.
The king attempted to reward Bartholomew with gifts of gold and precious stones, which the apostle refused.
And it happened, when the night had passed, and the following day was dawning, the sun having risen, the apostle appeared alone with the king in his bed-chamber, and said to him: Why didst thou seek me yesterday the whole day with gold and silver, and precious stones, pearls, and raiment? For these gifts those persons long for who seek earthly things; but I seek nothing earthly, nothing carnal.
The story that converts Polymius is the story of Christ's incarnation, of the redemption of Eve via Mary's pledge of virginity and the subsequent miraculous birth of Jesus.
And as this virgin did not know man, so she, preserving her virginity, vowed a vow to the Lord God. And she was the first who did so. For, from the time that man existed from the beginning of the world, no woman made a vow of this mode of life; but she, as she was the first among women who loved this in her heart, said, I offer to Thee, O Lord, my virginity.
The pledge of virginity emphasizes Mary's ability to resist temptation from both mortal and immortal sources. As in the Questions of Bartholomew, this passage carries hints of its possible Nestorian origins, describing the Incarnation as the miraculous containment of an infinite Divine within a finite, mortal (though sinless) woman.

After telling the story of the incarnation, Bartholomew describes Christ's sinlessness, by relating the story of the temptation in the desert.
And there was a third temptation for the Lord; for he takes Him up to the pinnacle of the temple, and says, If thou art the Son of God, cast thyself down. The Lord says to him, Thou shall not tempt the Lord thy God. And the devil disappeared. And he indeed that once conquered Adam, the son of the virgin earth, was thrice conquered by Christ, the Son of the Virgin Mary.
And when the Lord had conquered the tyrant, He sent His apostles into all the world, that He might redeem His people from the deception of the devil; and one of these I am, an apostle of Christ. On this account we seek not after gold or silver, but rather despise them, because we labour to be rich in that place where the kingdom of Him alone endures forever...

... At the same time hear also by what means he injures all those who are lying sick in the temple. The devil himself by his own art causes the men to be sick, and again to be healed, in order that they may the more believe in the idols, and in order that he may place the more in their souls, in order that they may say to the stock and the stone, You are our God. But that demon who dwells in the idol is held in subjection, conquered by me, and is able to give no response to those who sacrifice and pray there. And if you wish to prove that it is so, I order him to return into the idol, and I will make him confess with his own mouth that he is bound, and able to give no response.
The demon Astaruth then describes the Harrowing of Hell, in which after the crucifixion, Jesus entered Hell and led righteous souls to Heaven. Astaruth also reports Christ's resurrection, and (somewhat ironically) confirms Bartholomew's statements about the divinity of Jesus. This is a conversion story in which Satan clinches the deal.
...the devil [Astaruth] began to cry out: Refrain, ye wretched ones, from sacrificing to me, lest ye suffer worse for my sake; because I am bound in fiery chains, and kept in subjection by an angel of the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, whom the Jews crucified: for, being afraid of him, they condemned him to death. And he put to death Death himself, our king, and he bound our prince in chains of fire; and on the third day, having conquered death and the devil, rose in glory, and gave the sign of the cross to his apostles, and sent them out into the four quarters of the world; and one of them is here just now, who has bound me, and keeps me in subjection.

The apostle says to him: Why dost thou not save all that have come to thee? The demon says to him: When we injure their bodies, unless we first injure their souls, we do not let their bodies go. The apostle says to him: And how do you injure their souls? The demon answered him: When they believe that we are gods, and sacrifice to us, God withdraws from those who sacrifice, and we do not take away the sufferings of their bodies, but retire into their souls.

Then the apostle says to the people: Behold, the god whom you thought to cure you, does the more mischief to your souls and bodies.
...if you wish that I should pray for you, and that all these may receive health, take down this idol, and break it to pieces; and when you have done this, I will sanctify this temple in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ; and having baptized all of you who are in it in the baptism of the Lord, and sanctified you, I will save all.
Then the king gave orders, and all the people brought ropes and crowbars, and were not at all aide to take down the idol. Then the apostle says to them: Unfasten the ropes. And when they had unfastened them, he said to the demon dwelling in it: In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, come out of this idol, and go into a desert place, where neither winged creature utters a cry, nor voice of man has ever been heard. And straightway he arose at the word of the apostle, and lifted it up from its foundations; and in that same hour all the idols that were in that place were broken to pieces.
The next section of the Martyrdom describes a variation on the Apostles' Creed, and once again emphasizes his commission to drive out demons and cure the ill.
Then the holy Bartholomew, having spread forth his hands to heaven, said: God of Abraham, God of Isaac, God of Jacob, who for the salvation of men hast sent forth Thine only begotten Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, in order that He might redeem by His own blood all of us enslaved by sin, and declare us to be Thy sons, that we may know Thee, the true God, that Thou existest always to eternity God without end: one God, the Father, acknowledged in Son and Holy Spirit; one God, the Son, glorified in Father and Holy Spirit; one God, the Holy Spirit, worshipped in Father and Son; and acknowledged to be truly one, the Father unbegotten, the Son begotten, the Holy Spirit proceeding; and in Thee the Father, and in the Holy Spirit, Thine only begotten Son our Lord Jesus Christ is, in whose name Thou hast given us power to heal the sick, to cure paralytics, to expel demons, and raise the dead: for He said to us, Verily I say unto you, that whatever ye shall ask in my name ye shall receive.
Then the king, and also the queen, with their two sons, and with all his people, and with all the multitude of the city, and every city round about, and country, and whatever land his kingdom ruled over, were saved, and believed, and were baptized in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. And the king laid aside his diadem, and followed Bartholomew the apostle of Christ.
And after these things the unbelievers of the Greeks, having come together to Astreges the king, who was the eider brother of the king who had been baptized, say to him: O king, thy brother Polymius has become disciple to a certain magician, who has taken down our temples, and broken our gods to pieces.
Astreges sends a thousand men, along with the outraged priests, to seize Bartholomew from his brother. Did Astreges have some sort of seniority over Polymius, that would give him the right to capture the Apostle? Astreges interrogates Bartholomew angrily:
Art thou he who has perverted my brother from the gods? To whom the apostle answered: I have not perverted him, but have converted him to God. The king says to him: Art thou he who caused our gods to be broken in pieces? The apostle says to him: I gave power to the demons who were in them, and they broke in pieces the dumb and senseless idols, that all men might believe in God Almighty, who dwelleth in the heavens. The king says to him: As thou hast made my brother deny his gods, and believe in thy God, so I also will make you reject thy God and believe in my gods. The apostle says to him: If I have bound and kept in subjection the god which thy brother worshipped, and at my order the idols were broken in pieces, if thou also art able to do the same to my God, thou canst persuade me also to sacrifice to thy gods; but if thou canst do nothing to my God, I will break all thy gods in pieces; but do thou believe in my God.
And when he had thus spoken, the king was informed that this god Baldad and all the other idols had fallen down, and were broken in pieces. Then the king rent the purple in which he was clothed, and ordered the holy apostle Bartholomew to be beaten with rods; and after having been thus scourged, to be beheaded.

And innumerable multitudes came from all the cities, to the number of twelve thousand, who had believed in him along with the king; and they took up the remains of the apostle with singing of praise and with all glory, and they laid them in the royal tomb, and glorified God. And the king Astreges having heard of this, ordered him to be thrown into the sea; and his remains were carried into the island of Liparis.

And it came to pass on the thirtieth day after the apostle was carried away, that the king Astreges was overpowered by a demon and miserably strangled; and all the priests were strangled by demons, and perished on account of their rising against the apostle, and thus died by an evil fate.

And there was great fear and trembling, and all came to the Lord, and were baptized by the presbyters who had been ordained by the holy apostle Bartholomew. And according to the commandment of the apostle, all the clergy of the people made King Polymius bishop; and in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ he received the grace of healing, and began to do signs.

Moses of Chorene's History of Armenia

Also included in vol. VIII of the Ante-Nicene Fathers is a history of Armenia, attributed to Moses of Chorene. This extract is taken from a two volume work entitled MOISE, DE KHORENE, auteur du Ve Siecle: HISTOIRE D'ARMENIE, Texte Armenien Et Traduction Francaise, avec notes explicatives et precis historiques sur l'Armenie, par P. E. LE VAILLANT DE FLORIVAL, published in Paris. The year of publication is not included in the reference.

Most scholars assume that Armenia is contained within the more generic land of "India" as described above in the Martyrdom. Moses' writing is the earliest reference I can find that definitely places Bartholomew in the land of Armenia itself. Section ix of the document states: "There came then into Armenia the Apostle Bartholomew, who suffered martyrdom among us in the town of Arepan."

Stamps portraying Sts. Thaddeus and Bartholomew Bartholomew and Thaddeus are considered to be the patron saints of Armenia. They were portrayed in a series of commemmorative stamps in 1995, celebrating the 1700th anniversary of the arrival of Christianity in Armenia.

A Hymn to St. Bartholomew the Apostle

This excerpt from an early hymn, originally published by F.J. Mone (cited above), praises Bartholomew for driving the demon out of Polymius' daughter. Dr. Norman Moore describes it as "A hymn contained in a manuscript old enough to have been read by our founder thus sums up the medical powers of our patron saint [Rahere]" (A Brief Relation of the Past and Present State of the Royal and Religious Foundation of St. Bartholomew's, (London: Adlard and Son) 1895).

Mundat leprosos
saluti pristinæ
et reddit ægros,

Vestivit cæcos
præsenti lumine
fecitque sanos.

Oratio ejus
paralyticos erigit
atque curat energumenos.

Nam Indici natam
regis diu lunaticam
sola prece salvam fecerat.

He cleanses the lepers
and restores the infirm to pristine good health,

He clothes the blind
in the light of their surroundings
and makes them see

His prayers
raise the paralyzed
and heal those possessed by devils.

For by his sole prayer
he saved the king's daughter,
who had long been insane.

(Translated with much assistance from Daniel Police.)

Click here to see the full text in Latin, awaiting translation.

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