Bartholomew the Disciple and Apostle
Bartholomew most certainly accompanied Jesus to the wedding feast in Cana—some even believe that he was the groom!1 He accompanied Jesus into Jerusalem, heard Him teach in the temple, and baptized many people in Judea before returning to Galilee.2 Throughout the 3 ½ years that Bartholomew followed Jesus, he heard much teaching and saw many miracles that confirmed for him that his initial confession about Jesus was correct. However, like the other men who were chosen to be Jesus’ closest associates, he abandoned the Lord and fled for his life.3
The Sunday after the resurrection, Bartholomew gathered with the rest of the apostles (except for Thomas, who was absent) in a room with the doors shut, fearful that the Jews would come after them. He had been told by Mary Magdelene that Jesus had risen from the grave, but he didn’t believe her.4 But now, gathered with nine other apostles, Bartholomew saw Jesus appear in their midst; he saw the wounds in His hands and side, and he believed.5
After that event, Bartholomew was one of the men who told Thomas about the encounter, trying to convince the doubting disciple that Jesus truly had risen from the grave. The next Lord’s Day (though it was not yet given that designation), Jesus appeared to the eleven apostles once again, and Bartholomew must have been overjoyed to hear Thomas make the same basic declaration that he himself had made years earlier: “My Lord and my God!”6
Bartholomew, a matter of days later, decided to join Peter after hearing him say, “I’m going fishing.” Along with Thomas, James, John, and two of the other disciples, they spent all night fishing, but caught nothing. The next morning, they heard a man cry out to them, “Do you have any meat?” They had to, frustratingly, admit that they had caught nothing, and then they heard the man say “Cast your net on the right side of the ship, and you shall find [fish].” Bartholomew and the other disciples did as the man said, and caught so many fish that they weren’t able to bring up the net.
John realized it was Jesus, and told Peter, who dove in the sea and swam to shore, leaving Bartholomew and the other disciples to drag the net of fishes to shore. When they made it to the shore, they saw Jesus had already started a fire, had fish cooking, and had bread ready for them.7
That is the last time the name Nathanael appears in the Scripture. But less than a month later, he was standing with the other apostles, listening to Jesus speak, and watched as He ascended into heaven and was received by a cloud. He was present when Peter stood up and explained from prophecy that Judas must be replaced. He was in Jerusalem on the Day of Pentecost when the Holy Spirit came upon them all and they began to speak the wonderful words of God in foreign languages. He spent a good portion of that day teaching and baptizing people.
Other than being arrested and beaten for preaching the word,8 being with the apostles during Saul’s persecution,9 and gathering in Jerusalem to discuss the circumcision controversy,10 we are not told anything else about Bartholomew. But we do know that he died in faith, for his name is inscribed on the foundation of the Holy City, New Jerusalem.11
-Bradley S. Cobb
1 See McClintock and Strong’s Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological, and Ecclesiastical Literature, Vol. 1, page 675. The reason for this belief, apparently, is that John makes a special point to mention at the end of his gospel account that Nathanael (Bartholomew) was from Cana of Galilee (John 21:2).
2 These events are recorded in John 2-4.
3 Matthew 26:56.
4 Mark 16:9-11. There are those who wish to discredit Mark 16:9-20, but the overwhelming weight of evidence proves its inspiration. See The Last Twelve Verses of Mark by John W. Burgon for a full treatment of this topic.
5 John 20:19-20.
6 John 20:26-28.
7 John 21:1-14.
8 Acts 4.
9 Acts 8:1-4.
10 Acts 15
11 Revelation 21:14.