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Commentary from 




Rivingtons, London, 1884


[AUGUST 24.]

There is no festival of St. Bartholomew in the Lectionary of St. Jerome, but it appears in the Sacramentary of St. Gregory.  In the Eastern Church this Apostle is commemorated on the same day with St. Barnabas, as St. Simon and St. Jude are connected in the Western Church; but on this day there is also a commemoration of the translation of St. Bartholomew.  There is absolutely nothing but his name recorded of St. Bartholomew in the New Testament (though it has usually been supposed that Nathanael and Bartholomew are two names for the same person); but the Gospel of the day perpetuates an old tradition that St. Bartholomew was of noble birth, and that hence arose the "strife" among the Apostles, "which of them should be accounted the greatest" in their Master's expected kingdom.


The reasons why Nathanael and Bartholomew are supposed to be the same person are as follows: [1] The call of St. Bartholomew is nowhere mentioned, while that of Nathanael appears to be the call of an Apostle.  [2] The Evangelists who mention Bartholomew do not name Nathanael, while St. John, who tells us of the latter, does not name Bartholomew.  [3] Bar-Tholmai may be only an appellation of Nathanael, as Bar-Jona is of St. Peter, since it signifies "the son of Tholmai," as the latter does "the son of Jonas," and as Barnabas means "the son of consolation."  But strong as these reasons seem, there is the strong testimony of the Fathers against them.  St. Augustine, St. Chrysostom, and St. Gregory the Great all declare that Nathanael was not one of the twelve: and the opinion that he was identical with Bartholomew is first found in a Benedictine author named Rupert, who wrote in the twelfth century.  St. Augustine uses the fact that Nathanael was not an Apostle as a proof of his great holiness and ready perception of Christ:--"This was not said to Andrew, nor said to Peter, nor to Philip, which is said to Nathanael, 'Behold an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile:'"--and assigns his learning and position in life as a reason why He Who chose the weak things of the world to confound the strong did not make him an Apostle.


The common tradition of the Church respecting St. Bartholomew is that he evangelized Northern India, leaving there a Hebrew copy of St. Matthew's Gospel, which afterwards came into the hands of Pantaenus, head of the college of Alexandria, about A.D. 190.  It is believed that, having once escaped crucifixion at Hierapolis in Phrygia, through the remorse of his persecutor, St. Bartholomew was afterwards martyred at Albanopolis on the Caspian Sea, where the king Astyages ordered him to be flayed alive (perhaps on the cross), a mode of punishment not uncommon among Oriental nations.