Saturday, August 24, 2013

Saintly Saturdays: Saint Bartholomew

Today is the feast day of St. Bartholomew the Apostle, referred to as Nathaniel in the Gospel of John. Bartholomew means son of Tholomai in Hebrew, and it is possible that he belonged to a group called the Tholmaens who devoted themselves to the study of scripture. Although there is little written about St. Bartholomew in Scripture, here is what we do know

1) He was one of the twelve apostles:

Now the names of the twelve apostles are these: The first, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother; and James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother; 3Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; Simon the Zealot, and Judas Iscariot, the one who betrayed Him. Matthew 10:2-4

2) He was a friend of Phillip’s.

The following day Jesus wanted 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." And Nathanael said to him, "Can anything good come out of Nazareth?" Philip said to him, "Come and see."

3) Nathaniel was an honest man.

Nathaniel wasn’t the kind of man to deceive anyone about his thoughts. How do we know this? Because of what Jesus said upon meeting him for the first time:

When Jesus saw Nathanael approaching, he said of him, “Here truly is an Israelite in whom there is no deceit.”

4) Nathaniel wasn’t likely to accept things on just the word of a friend. He wanted proof.

“How do you know me?” Nathanael asked. Jesus answered, “I saw you while you were still under the fig tree before Philip called you.”

5) He was someone who had been searching for the Messiah

Then Nathanael declared, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the king of Israel.”

Jesus said, “You believe because I told you I saw you under the fig tree. You will see greater things than that.” He then added, “Very truly I tell you, you will see ‘heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending on’ the Son of Man.”

6) He was not always faithful.

St. Bartholomew was not the one who stayed at the foot of the cross. Like the rest of the disciples, he ran when Christ needed him most.

According to Church tradition and historical evidence, though, after the Ascension of our Lord Jesus Christ, Bartholomew went to India and there brought the Gospel of Matthew to the people who were worshipping false idols. He was later martyred by first being beaten and then beheaded for the “crime” of converting to Christianity the King of Armenia, Polymius, by his brother Astyages.

Eusebius, a bishop and early Church historian, wrote in his volumes on Church History 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.

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