St Bartholomew is one of the 12 Apostles and after Our Lord’s Ascension he was one of the disciples who prayed together in the upper room in Jerusalem (Acts 1:12-14). ‘Bar’ means ‘son of’ and so Bartholomew is not the Apostle’s proper name – it is the name derived from his father and means the son of Tholomew or Tolmai (as in Bartimaeus and Barjona). (1)
In the lists of Apostles given in Matthew 10:3, Mark 3:18 and Luke 6:14, Bartholomew is put together with Philip. In St John’s Gospel no reference is made to Bartholomew but John does mention Nathanael who came with Philip to Jesus and was described by Jesus as “an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no guile” (1:45-51). Nathanael was one of the disciples to whom Jesus appeared at the Sea of Galilee after his resurrection (John 21:2). Nathanael is not mentioned at all by Matthew, Mark or Luke. It is therefore possible that Nathanael is the same person as Bartholomew. (2,3)
Bartholomew is associated with spreading the Gospel in India and Armenia, where he is said to have been martyred. However, there is no certainty about this. (4) His feast day is August 24th and the liturgical colour is red, symbolising a martyr’s blood.
A short talk for St Bartholomew’s day entitled To be with him is now available in this section of the Holy Faith website.
1. Butler, A. (1936) The lives of the Fathers, Martyrs and other principal Saints Vol III, London, Dublin and Belfast: Virtue and Company Limited.
2. Attwater, D. (1965) The Penguin Dictionary of the Saints, Harmondsworth: Penguin Books.
3. Butler, A. (1936) The lives of the Fathers, Martyrs and other principal Saints Vol III, London, Dublin and Belfast: Virtue and Company Limited.
4. Attwater, D. (1965) The Penguin Dictionary of the Saints, Harmondsworth: Penguin Books.