Bartholomew appears in the New Testament simply as one of the twelve apostles listed in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke, and against in Acts. The name is a patronymic representing the Aramaic bar Tolmai, “son of Tolmai [Ptolmey]” (cf. Simon Bar-jonah in in Matthew 16). Bartholomew may therefore have another, personal name. In the Synoptic lists he is joined with Philip. In the Fourth Gospel, however, Philip is associated with Nathanael rather than Bartholomew, and it is sometimes suggested that the apostle’s given name was Nathanael. The identification of Nathanael with Bartholomew, dating from the ninth century, is reflected in the Roman Catholic and Lutheran Gospel for the day…Nathanael was from the town of Cana in Galilee where Jesus performed his first miracle. He was invited to discipleship by Philip, who told him that he and Andrew and Peter had found the Messiah in the person of Jesus of Nazareth. At first Nathanael was doubtful, but after a word from Jesus, he followed. Early patristic writers suggest that Nathanael was not one of the Twelve and stands in Saint John’s Gospel as a representative of Israel coming to God.
The story of his call (John 1) is all that is recorded in the New Testament of the life of Nathanael, but there are several traditions about the life and labors of Bartholomew. Some sources credit Bartholomew with having written a Gospel, the existence of which was known to Jerome and Bede, but which is now lost. Bartholomew is variously reported to have preached in Asia Minor, Mesopotamia, Persia, and India. In connection with India, Eusebius says that Bartholomew left a copy of the Gospel of Matthew in Hebrew that Pantaenus of Alexandria, a missionary of the latter half of the second century, found there in the hands of the local people. Most of these traditions agree that Saint Bartholomew spent his last years preaching in Armenia and that he was flayed and beheaded in Albanus (modern Derbend) on the Caspian coast. [In Western iconography he is traditionally represented holding a flaying knife, one of the instruments of his martyrdom.] The Armenian Church commemorates him on two days during the year: once together with Saint Thaddeus and again together with another Armenian martyr.
A very different tradition of Bartholomew’s mission appears in the traditions of the Coptic and Ethiopian churches, who also revere him highly, observing his feast day on August 29. Their accounts tell of his preaching at an oasis in Upper Egypt (there is a special commemoration of the event on November 15), then going among the Berbers where he was rescued from wild beasts by a cannibal, and finally preaching along the coast of North Africa where a local king, Agrippa, had him sewn into a leather bag and dropped into the sea.
Bartholomew’s relics are venerated in the tenth-century Church of Saint Bartholomew on the island Isola Tiberina in Rome. He is the patron of the city and cathedral of Frankfurt, which claims to possess his skull. [Emma, the wife of the Danish Cnut, king of England and Denmark, gave an arm of Saint Bartholomew to Canterbury Cathedral in the eleventh century, which probably contributed to the diffusion of his veneration in England.]
August 24 has been Saint Bartholomew’s feast day on calendars of the Western Church since the eighth century, but the reason for the date is not known. The Eastern Orthodox Churches commemorate him with Saint Barnabas on June 11[, and the Church of the East in Persia commemorated him on June 13].
In European history Saint Bartholomew’s Day is remembered for the massacre of Reformed Protestants (Huguenots) that took place on this day in Paris in 1572.
taken from The New Book of Festivals and Commemorations
(Philip H. Pfatteicher), with additions
Almighty and everlasting God, who gave to your apostle Bartholomew grace truly to believe and to preach your Word: Grant that your Church may love what he believed and preach what he taught; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
“The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your brothers—it is to him you shall listen—just as you desired of the Lord your God at Horeb on the day of the assembly, when you said, ‘Let me not hear again the voice of the Lord my God or see this great fire any more, lest I die.’ And the Lord said to me, ‘They are right in what they have spoken. I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers. And I will put my words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him.
He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High, *
abides under the shadow of the Almighty.
He shall say to the LORD,
“You are my refuge and my stronghold, *
my God in whom I put my trust.”
He shall deliver you from the snare of the hunter *
and from the deadly pestilence.
He shall cover you with his pinions,
and you shall find refuge under his wings; *
his faithfulness shall be a shield and buckler.
You shall not be afraid of any terror by night, *
nor of the arrow that flies by day;
Of the plague that stalks in the darkness, *
nor of the sickness that lays waste at mid-day.
A thousand shall fall at your side
and ten thousand at your right hand, *
but it shall not come near you.
Your eyes have only to behold *
to see the reward of the wicked.
Because you have made the LORD your refuge, *
and the Most High your habitation,
There shall no evil happen to you, *
neither shall any plague come near your dwelling.
For he shall give his angels charge over you, *
to keep you in all your ways.
They shall bear you in their hands, *
lest you dash your foot against a stone.
You shall tread upon the lion and adder; *
you shall trample the young lion and the serpent under your feet.
Because he is bound to me in love,
therefore will I deliver him; *
I will protect him, because he knows my Name.
He shall call upon me, and I will answer him; *
I am with him in trouble;
I will rescue him and bring him to honor.
With long life will I satisfy him, *
and show him my salvation.
1 Corinthians 4:9-15
For I think that God has exhibited us apostles as last of all, like men sentenced to death, because we have become a spectacle to the world, to angels, and to men. We are fools for Christ’s sake, but you are wise in Christ. We are weak, but you are strong. You are held in honor, but we in disrepute. To the present hour we hunger and thirst, we are poorly dressed and buffeted and homeless, and we labor, working with our own hands. When reviled, we bless; when persecuted, we endure; when slandered, we entreat. We have become, and are still, like the scum of the world, the refuse of all things.
I do not write these things to make you ashamed, but to admonish you as my beloved children. For though you have countless guides in Christ, you do not have many fathers. For I became your father in Christ Jesus through the gospel.
A dispute also arose among them, as to which of them was to be regarded as the greatest. And he said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them, and those in authority over them are called benefactors. But not so with you. Rather, let the greatest among you become as the youngest, and the leader as one who serves. For who is the greater, one who reclines at table or one who serves? Is it not the one who reclines at table? But I am among you as the one who serves.
“You are those who have stayed with me win my trials, and I assign to you, as my Father assigned to me, a kingdom, that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.
The Lesson, Epistle, and Gospel are taken from the English Standard Version Bible. The Collect and Psalm are taken from the Book of Common Prayer (1979).
The icon of Saint Bartholomew was painted by Antonio da Venezia, c. 1376.