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."Whoever Nathanael is, he lived in Bethsaida, where Andrew, Peter and Philip were called to follow Christ; and Philip introduced Nathanael to Jesus. In Matthew, Mark and Luke, Philip and Bartholomew are strongly associated, as shown in the verses above. Most scholars resolve this apparent discrepancy by concluding that Nathanael and Bartholomew are the same person. For some long-lost reason, Nathanael son of Tholmai, Nathanael Bar Tholmai, became known by his surname, Bartholomew, in most later Church writings. If this conclusion is correct, John's description provides several valuable clues to Bartholomew's character:
of these characteristics is embroidered into later stories about
Bartholomew. These stories do not enter the canonical New Testament,
but they form the basis of much later belief in the apostle, as well as
framing the nature of Bartholomew's mediation between men on earth and
(Image of St. Bartholomew, from a 1567 edition of the English Book of Common Prayer. The small figures in the background appear to be enacting the Apostle's martyrdom by flaying.)
The medieval version of the origin of this late Apostles' Creed read:Scholars believe that the apostles were "assigned" segments of the Creed based on the lists provided in Matthew and the Acts of the Apostles, rather than being associated based on personal characteristics of the individuals, with the exception of James and Thomas:
"On the tenth day after the ascension when the disciples were gathered for fear of the Jews, the Lord sent the promised Paraclete. And when he had come as a flaming fire and they were filled with the knowledge of all tongues, they composed this symbol. Peter said: I believe in God the Father almighty, maker of heaven and earth. Andrew said: And in Jesus Christ his only Son, our Lord. James said: Who was conceived by the holy Spirit, born of Mary the virgin. John said: Suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead, and buried. Thomas said: Descended into Hades, on the third day rose from the dead. James said: Ascended into heaven, sitteth at the right hand of God the Father almighty. Philip said: Thence he is about to come to judge quick and dead. Bartholomew said: I believe in the holy Spirit. Matthew said: Holy catholic church, communion of saints. Simon said: Remission of sins. Thaddeus said: Resurrection of the flesh. Matthias said: Life eternal." (From A. C. McGiffert's The Apostle's Creed, 1902, cited by Conrad Henry Moehrman in The Origin of the Apostle's Creed, published in the Journal of Religion, Vol. 13, Issue 3 (July 1933), pgs. 301-319)
Whatever the method of dividing the text into articles, the ascription of these articles to the various Apostles does not seem, with two possible exceptions, to have been established primarily with reference to their personal characteristics. ... One significant variation of the Canon sequence reverses the positions of James and John; and in the resulting assignment of ... the clause "...born of Mary the virgin" to John, St. Albert, who follows this order, clearly alludes to John's relation to Mary after the crucifixion as narrated in the Fourth Gospel (xix 26-27). Also, in the two most common sequences the name of Thomas occurs earlier than in the others, thus facilitating the ascription to him of the article of the resurrection. For that reason it is tempting to suppose that the obvious propriety of assigning this article to the Apostle for whom the resurrection had to be proved determined the choice. (From James D. Gordon's The Articles of the Creed and the Apostles, published in Speculum, Vol. 40 (October 1965), pgs. 634-640).From the scholarly point of view, therefore, we are not to assume that Bartholomew's presumed authorship of the line "I believe in the holy Spirit" has any relationship at all to his immediate and deep profession of faith in Jesus Christ as described in the Gospel of John (cited above).
crest of St. Bartholomew, located on the church-facing side of the
Smithfield Gate, the entrance into the churchyard of St.
Bartholomew-the-Great. The flaying knife represents Bartholomew's
martyrdom; the image is surrounded with a banner containing the Latin
phrase credo in
spiritum sanctum, "I believe in the holy Spirit."
(photo taken by tbird, October 2004)
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. Much that Rome inculcates is derived from these books, which the Western Church constantly rejected.
...we all know how much fabulous matter is apt to gather round the names of popular heroes even in modern times.
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. (from M. B. Riddle's Introductory Notice to Apocrypha of the New Testament, 1870)
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 Nathanael. 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.These "other" traditions apparently coalesce into the story of Bartholomew's martyrdom, published as an anonymous chapter in The Ante-Nicene Fathers, and summarized here. [For more detailed information about the document, including the parts most relevant to the history of St. Bartholomew the Great, please consult my discussion of the Martyrdom of Bartholomew.]
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 news of Bartholomew's power spread quickly, as his ability to control Astaruth and Beliar became more apparent. Finally the king of the region, a man named Polymius, brought his daughter to the Apostle for healing.
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.This excerpt from an early hymn, originally published in F. J. Mone's Latin Hymns of the Middle Ages (Leipzig, 1855), 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).
et reddit ægros,
atque curat energumenos.
Nam Indici natam
regis diu lunaticam
sola prece salvam fecerat.
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
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.)
And when the Lord had conquered the tyrant [Satan], 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...Ironically, the argument which makes Bartholomew's final point, and converts Polymius, is offered by the demon Astaruth himself. Astaruth described the harrowing of Hell and Christ's resurrection, crying out "And he [Christ] put to death Death himself, our king, and he bound our prince [Satan] 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."
... 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 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.
In later epochs the form of the martyrdom changed from beheading to
flaying, which has lead to the adoption of the flaying knife as Bartholomew's most characteristic icon.