Rabbi Yehudah ben Shomeyr
If one were to list the 12 Disciples off the top of their head, it is likely that Bartholomew would either be left out and forgotten or named last, with an, “Oh yeah! I almost forgot about him!”
Scripturally, little is known about Nathanael, better known as Bartholomew.
Bartholomew’s real name was Nathanael bar Talmai (Nathanael son of Talmai) and from Bar Talmia we get Bartholomew.
Nathanael means, “God has given,” and Bar Talmai or Bartholomew means, “Son of the Plowman.”
So what do we know about this Nathanael bar Talmai (Bartholomew)? We first find his name in the book of John.
Some believe from this narrative that Phillip and Nathanael (Bartholomew) were brothers, just as Andrew and Simeon Peter were brothers and as James and John were brothers (Matt. 10:2). If they were not brothers they were extremely close friends, like unto brothers.
“There were together Simon Peter, and Thomas called Didymus, and Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, and the sons of Zebedee, and two other of his disciples.” – John 21:2
This passage has caused some to conclude that this Nathanael (Bartholomew) of Cana in Galilee, though John 1:44 tells us that Philip was from Bethsaida (not to be confused with Bethesda) may have been brothers because if one were to investigate, Cana was likely their home town and Bethsaida (which means “House of Fishing”) was where Phillip moved to and was where he and Nathanael-Bartholomew were employed. The reason Bethsaida is connected with Philip is because this is where Philip introduces Nathanael-Bartholomew to Yeshua. The likely reason Cana is connected with Nathanael-Bartholomew is because many believe that He was the one who got married in John 2:1-11, where Yeshua preformed his first recorded miracle, at the wedding was in Cana.
It is believed also that Cana may refer to Nathanael-Bartholomew’s ethnicity, hinting that he was a dark skinned (black) man. Also, in John 1:47 calling him an Israelite hints that he was from a tribe other than Levi or Judah, likely Gad, or of another tribe of the handmaids.
In Acts 1:13 Nathanael-Bartholmew was there in the upper room with the rest of the disciples after Yeshua’s ascension. In John 21:2 he was at the sea side when Yeshua appeared unto the disciples.
So from the passages thus far what can we gather about this Nathanael-Bartholomew?
Well, first off, Yeshua deemed him a guileless Israelite (John 1:47), meaning he shot straight from the hip, pulled no punches and told it like it was. What you see is what you get; Nathanael-Bartholomew put up no fronts. Guile in the Greek means, “subtlety, craft or deceit.” These passages also indicate that Nathanael-Bartholomew was a devoted follower of Rabbi Yeshua the Messiah and was there at crucial Gospel events involving the Master.
Even in the Catholic prayer to Bartholomew, he is praised for his guilelessness and how this is seen as a prophetic, discerning, indicative trait.
“O Glorious St. Bartholomew, Jesus called you a person without guile and you saw in this word a sign that he was the Son of God and King of Israel. Obtain for us the grace to be ever guileless and innocent as doves. At the same time, help us to have your gift of faith to see the Divine hand in the events of daily life. May we discern the signs of the times that lead to Jesus on earth and will eventually unite us to him forever in heaven.”
This combined with the scriptures we covered above, some believe (since his occupation was not spelled out in the Gospels that) he was a Torah scholar who may have specialized in the writings of the prophets and the prophecies concerning the coming of the Messiah.
As we have already discussed, Nathanael means, “God has given,” and Bar Talmai or Bartholomew means, “Son of the Plowman.” So all together his name means, “God has given to us the son of the plowman;” meaning (if all the above is remotely true) that Nathanael was a gift to the people from God. That likely coming from a warrior tribe (Gad) he had a disciplined warrior attitude in which he channelled by turning his warriors sword into a plowshare (Isa. 2:4, Mic. 4:3) and became gifted in plowing and turning up the rich prophetic Word of God for the people, a soil in which they could grow and flourish! His mind was a plowshare and his tongue was a prophetic, apologetical, double edged sword in which he used while on his missionary journeys to win the Lost Sheep of the House of Israel back to God.
If Nathanael-Bartholomew was indeed a Gadite this prophetic-ness may have ran in his blood for it is believed that the Great Prophet Elijah the Tishbite of Gilead was a Gadite, for Gilead was the territory of Gad. There is also an apocryphal book called, “Gad the Seer.”
So what does post Gospel literature say about this Nathanael-Bartholomew?
Well, there is no mention of Nathanael-Bartholomew in such literature before Eusebius, who mentions 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 Matthew written in Hebrew, which was still treasured by the Congregation. "India" was a name covering a very wide area, including even Arabia Felix. Other traditions represent Nathanael-Bartholomew as preaching in Mesopotamia, Ethiopia, Persia, Egypt, Armenia, Lycaonia, Phrygia, and on the shores of the Black Sea; one legend, it is interesting to note, identifies him with Nathaniel. His martyrdom is said to have occurred at Albanopolis in Armenia. Others say he was beheaded, still others maintain that he was flayed alive and crucified, head downward, by order of Astyages, for having converted his brother, Polymius, King of Armenia in 71 A.D. Because of this he is usually portrayed with a knife in one hand and skin of the other arm draping down to where you can see the muscle underneath. There also exists a pseudopigraphal gospel which bears his name.
According to the Synaxarium of the Coptic Orthodox Church, his martyrdom is commemorated on the 1st day of the Coptic Calendar (1st day of the month of "Thout"), which currently falls on September 11 (corresponding to August 29 in the Gregorian Calendar). His feast is June 11 in Eastern Christianity, and August 24 in both forms of the Roman Rite of the Catholic Church.
In the Catholic Church he is thus the patron saint of shoemakers, leather workers, bookbinders and butchers. He is the patron saint against, nervous and neurological diseases. He is also the patron saint of the places he supposedly ministered and such places as Gad ended up or settled for a short time, such as Armenia, Plezn Czech Republic, Frankfurt Germany, Maastricht Netherlands to name a few.
According to Wikipedia:
The people of Lipari celebrated his feast day annually. The tradition of the people was to take the solid silver and gold statue from inside the Cathedral of St Bartholomew and carry it through the town. On one occasion, when taking the statue down the hill towards the town, it suddenly got very heavy and had to be set down. When the men carrying the statue regained their strength they lifted it a second time. After another few seconds, it got even heavier. They set it down and attempted once more to pick it up. They managed to lift it but had to put it down one last time. Within seconds, walls further downhill collapsed. If the statue had been able to be lifted, all the towns people would have been killed.
During World War II, the Fascist regime (German/Italian) looked for ways to finance their activities. The order was given to take the silver statue of St Bartholomew and melt it down. The statue was weighed, and it was found to be only a few grams. It was returned to its place in the Cathedral of Lipari. In reality, the statue is made from many kilograms of silver and it is considered a miracle that it was not melted down.
St Bartholomew is credited with many other miracles having to do with the weight of objects.” - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bartholomew_the_Apostle
Do such legends (as most legends do) hold any grain of truth to which the pearl around it is formed?
Recall, Yeshua did not call or send out the Disciples/Apostles to Gentile nations or peoples. He made clear that His and His Disciples/Apostles focus was to be to the Lost Ten Tribes of Israel.
“I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” – Matt. 15:24
“…Go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” – Matt. 10:6
Rav Sha’ul (Apostle Paul) was considered the Apostle to the Gentiles (70 Nations) and confirmed that Israel should be attempted to be reached first and then the Gentile (Rom. 1:16, 2:9-10).
Why go to Lost Israel first? Because there were two Kingdoms and two Captivities. Judah, the Southern Kingdom was taken off in to Babylon and returned. Yeshua and His Disciples were apart of and constantly among them (Judah) and thus the reason Yeshua has only targeted the “Lost Sheep of the House of Israel.” The Northern Kingdom consisting of 10 Tribes of Israel was taken into Assyrian Captivity and has never returned, they never came back into the Land and thus the reason the Apostle were sent out to the Lost Tribes.
If one will care to notice the 12 Tribes represent being gathered together. The 12 Apostles represents being sent out. Thus the Apostles are SENT to REGATHER the 12 Tribes.
Israel ENTERED the Land of Promise and is honored in the New Jerusalem by the 12 Gates according to their encampment around the Tabernacle in the wilderness. The word Apostle, means, “One who is sent,” and is honored by the Foundation Stones of the New Jerusalem. In order to see the layered foundation one must “go out” of the city in order to view them.
Thus being said, it seems logical Yeshua would pick 12 Apostles and assign one to each Lost Tribe!
Recall what Yeshua said regarding His Talmidim (Disciples):
And Jesus said unto them, Verily I say unto you, That ye which have followed me, in the regeneration when the Son of man shall sit in the throne of his glory, ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. – Matt. 19:28
That ye may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom, and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel. – Luke 22:30
12 Apostles to Rule 12 Tribes.
In James 1:1, the letter is addressed, “to the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad…” which would seem to indicate that the whereabouts of the 10 Tribes of Israel were known to the Apostles of the time. But can we possibly determine if a particular Apostle was sent to a particular Tribe?
If any of the Tribes whereabouts became unknown, it was prophesied that God would send out (Apostle) those to fish and hunt for them among the nations of the world.
“Behold, I will send for many fishers, saith the Lord, and they shall fish them; and after will I send for many hunters, and they shall hunt them from every mountain, and from every hill, and out of the holes of the rocks.” Jer. 16:16
In my book, “The 12/70 Principle I go into great detail regarding what tribe each Disciple/Apostle was sent to and I believe the evidence points to Gad and or Naphtali. For all the places where it is said Nathanael-Bartholomew went to minister after Messiah’s ascension, was to places it is believed Gad and Naphtali ended up, for the Disciple/Apostle fit the character and make up of those Tribes.