For our Bible study group, we are in the midst of reading the Book of Joshua, but the priest in our group gave us all an assignment to look up an apostle and write a bit of a report on them. It occurred to me to post it here, too, so I am. :)
I chose Bartholomew particularly because I really didn’t know much about hir. I hadn’t remembered reading much about hir in scripture, nor have I heard much history of hir ministry. In the Bible, Bartholomew is also known as Nathaniel, and ze was first called to follow Jesus in John 1:43-51. For some greater clarity, I’m going to quote from the New Living Translation:
The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, “Come, follow me.” Philip was from Bethsaida, Andrew and Peter’s hometown.
Philip went to look for Nathanael and told him, “We have found the very person Moses and the prophets wrote about! His name is Jesus, the son of Joseph from Nazareth.”
“Nazareth!” exclaimed Nathanael. “Can anything good come from Nazareth?”
“Come and see for yourself,” Philip replied.
As they approached, Jesus said, “Now here is a genuine son of Israel—a man of complete integrity.”
“How do you know about me?” Nathanael asked.
Jesus replied, “I could see you under the fig tree before Philip found you.”
Then Nathanael exclaimed, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God—the King of Israel!”
Jesus asked him, “Do you believe this just because I told you I had seen you under the fig tree? You will see greater things than this.” Then he said, “I tell you the truth, you will all see heaven open and the angels of God going up and down on the Son of Man, the one who is the stairway between heaven and earth.
Other than this quote there isn’t a whole lot in the Bible itself about Bartholomew except that in every entry about hir, ze is always spoken of accompanying Philip, so at the least, the two of them appear to have been friends.
According to various historical records and traditions, Bartholomew’s missionary endeavors included taking the gospel to India, Ethiopia, Mesopotamia, Parthia, Lycaonia, and Armenia. According to hir entry on Wikipedia, there are several diverse tales of hir martyrdom, but a popular one is that after converting King Polymius of Armenia to Christianity, ze is said to have been martyred by the king’s brother. The ruins of the Saint Bartholomew Monastery (actively in use until 1915) can also be found in Armenia.
I also happen to have a great book about Episcopalian feast days, Brightest and Best: A Companion to the Lesser Feasts and Fasts, by Sam Portaro, in it the author talks about how though there isn’t a whole lot about Bartholomew out there compared to many of the other apostles of Jesus, the absence of a lot speaks to the many ways that one can approach their faith (p. 147-148):
Paul reminds the Christians of Corinth
... (1 Corinthians 4:9-13)
.... that faith and witness take many forms; evangelism and its expressions are as different as the followers of Jesus. Similarly, Jesus told those among the disciples who disputed their relative ranking that they had missed the point. All witnesses are necessary—the oldest and the youngest, the leader and the servant—and each is blessed, in the telling of God’s story among us (Luke 22:24-30).
We are never to
... look down on those whose genuine gifts manifest themselves quietly. The meditative and the thoughtful, the quiet and unassuming, also serve.
“Here is truly an Israelite in whom there is no deceit!” Jesus greets Nathanael bar Tolmai (John 1:47). Behold, a man of Israel, a simple and artless person. It was his only qualification, and his gift. And he was called.
It is surely so beautiful, that the diversity of people is reflected in the diversity of ways that they serve God, themselves, and each other. Praise be to Bartholomew for hir example of one of the many ways to live a life of faith – in quiet, unassuming service.
As well, in the Episcopal Church, of which I am a part, the feast day for Saint Bartholomew is on August 24th every year. It’s the wellest.