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Bartholomew: Biblical Apostle

Bartholomew is one of the lesser-known apostles. He may also be Nathanael. Matthew, Mark, and Luke always mention him in conjunction with Phillip, but never with Nathanael. John connects Nathanael with Philip, and never Bartholomew. (In listings of the apostles in the Bible, the first three always say, “Phillip and Bartholomew.) Since both are linked to his friend Philip, it is presumed, but not certain, that they are the same person. Bartholomew is a patronymic, a name derived from a male ancestor. If so, then his given name may have been Nathanael. Bartholomew was of Cana in Galilee.

Bartholomew appears to have been a friend of Phillip’s. Phillip found Bartholomew and said that they had found Jesus of Nazareth, the one Moses and other prophets had prophesied of. Bartholomew was apparently skeptical or teasing, and asked if any good thing could come out of Nazareth. Philip told him to come along and see for himself.

When Bartholomew approached Jesus, the Savior gave him the compliment that has come to represent him: “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no guile.”  Bartholomew was surprised and asked the Savior how He knew him. Jesus said that He had seen Bartholomew under a fig tree before Phillip had called him. This may have been figurative, representing someone who was contemplative of eternal things and may have been meant to show why Bartholomew was being called—he was a person who cared about and pondered important spiritual things and he had no guile.

Bartholomew promptly testified of the Savior’s divine heritage. Jesus responded, “Because I said unto thee, I saw thee under the fig tree, believest thou? thou shalt see greater things than these. Verily, verily, I say unto you, Hereafter ye shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of man.” (See John 1.)

The Bible does not tell us about his work as a disciple, although a number of legends exist. Other than appearing in listings, after his call, we know only that he was with Peter, Thomas, James, John, and two other apostles the third time Jesus showed himself to the apostles after his resurrection. They had caught nothing but in the morning, the Savior stood on the bank and called out to ask if they had any meat. They didn’t recognize him, but answered that they didn’t. He told them to cast their nets to the right of the ship, which they did, and their nets quickly filled. John realized who had given them instruction and informed Peter. Peter quickly dressed and jumped into the water. The others came in on a small boat, bringing their catch. When they arrived, they saw the fire had already been laid and that fish and bread awaited them. Jesus told them to bring their fish and then to join him. When they gathered, he served them breakfast Himself and then instructed and prophesied to them.

When Jesus ascended into Heaven, Bartholomew joined the other apostles, Jesus’ mother, and several other women in an upper room to pray.

*This article was adapted from the LDS Bible Dictionary and Every Person in the New Testament by Lynn F. Price (Horizon Publishers, [2002], 25-26).

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