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  • Writer's picturePhil


Birth Name: Nathanael or Bartholomew ( he seems to answer to both)

Patron Saint of: Armenia, tanners, plasterers, cheese merchants,

those with nervous disorders and Tourette's Syndrome.

Place of Origin: Cana in Galilee, or possibly Bethsaida (aka Julias).

Not much is known about Saint Bartholomew. He is mentioned by name four times in the New Testament—once in each of the synoptic gospels (Matthew 10:3; Mark 3:18; Luke 6:14) and once in the Acts of the Apostles (1:13). All four mentions are in the lists of Christ's apostles. But the name Bartholomew is actually a family name, meaning the "son of Tholmai" (Bar-Tholmai, or Bartholomaios in the Greek). Bartholomew is not mentioned by this name in John's Gospel. The name "Nathanael" means "Gift from God" whom Saint John alone mentions in his gospel (John 1:45-51; 21:2). Is it possible that "Nathanael" was the first name, the name by which he was known by friends, and "Bartholomew" a name, possibly a surname, to distinguish him from other Nathanaels?

This is a credible identification as Nathanael was brought to Christ by the disciple Philip (John 1:45), and in the lists of the disciples in the gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke, Bartholomew is always placed next to Philip.

Nathanael said to Philip "Can any thing good come from Nazareth?" (John 1:46).

Bethsaida (Julias) - from the time of Philip Herod

The Gospel of John tells us that Philip came from Bethsaida. During the time of Jesus' ministry, (Julias) Livia, the wife of the Roman Emperor Augustus, the mother of the-then reigning emperor Tiberius, died. In her memory, and in an effort to establish the Roman Imperial cult, Philip Herod (The Tetrarch) elevated the status of Bethsaida to the level of a city, and renamed it Julias. Josephus the historian maintained that Philip Herod made these changes by increasing the population and by strengthening the city.

The Gate to Bethsaida under the patronage of the bull-god, 9th cent BC.

Philip Came from Bethsaida. How come Nathanael from Cana was so well-acquainted with Philip? Had Nathanael's family been moved to Bethsaida as part of Herod's repopulation strategy? Whatever, Nathanael seems to have had a very low opinion of Nazareth!

Nathanael said to Philip "Can any thing good come from Nazareth?" (John 1:46).

Philip said to him, “Come and see.”

That remark evoked the response from Christ, upon first meeting Nathanael: "Behold an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no guile" (John 1:47). Bartholomew / Nathanael became a follower of Jesus because Christ told him the circumstances under which Philip called him ("under the fig tree," John 1:48). Christ told him he would see greater things: "you shall see the heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of man." - the Jacob's Ladder experience. (See Genesis 28)

There are no specific stories about Bartholomew / Nathanael outside of John’s “calling” story. Because he was an apostle, we know that Bartholomew spent a great deal of time with Jesus, learning from him and experiencing the effect he had on others. He was blessed to have witnessed the risen Christ, watched as Jesus ascended into heaven, and encountered the coming of the Holy Spirit. According to tradition, his commission was to spread the good news of Christ to the East, to Armenia, Mesopotamia, Persia, and perhaps as far as India. He met his death by a viciously-cruel martyrdom (apparently skinned alive).

Philip said to Nathanael, “Come and see.”

At Mass last Thursday, Fr Christopher asked us to bring to mind the person who invited us to see Jesus for the first time.

My main "Come and See" moment was All Saints' Day, aged five, being taken to School Mass in the "Tin Tabernacle" next to the School. Incense, candles, saints, the chanting of the Parish Priest ... and there for me was "the Jacob's Ladder experience",

as I felt I had entered heaven!

Who invited you to "COME AND SEE JESUS"?

Saint Bartholomew, who live in an agitated world where anguishes and fears,

nervousness, anxieties and depression surround us and which,

like tempestuous and stormy waves, intercede for us.

Saint Bartholomew! intercede for us, that inner peace

and peace in our homes may be restored.

Show me that God is always with me

and obtain for me the grace of

experiencing peace and tranquility in my life;

that, following your steps I may imitate your virtues, living a full life,

so as to merit, like you, the praises of God,

and be able to one day enjoy

the blessings worthy of all holy people.

I ask the prayers of Our Blessed Lady

and the Holy Apostle Bartholomew;

to God the Father, in the name

of Jesus Christ Our Lord, and in union

with the Holy Spirit. Amen

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