SEARCH FOR THE TWELVE APOSTLES #9
This NAME LITERALLY means "son of Tolmai " He is mentioned
as one of the Twelve Apostles (Matt.10:3; Mark 3:18; Luke 8:14;
Acts 1:13). There is no further reference to him in the New
Testament. According to the "Genealogies of The Twelve Apostles,"
he was of the house of Naphtali. Elias of Damascus, a Nestorian
of the ninth century was the first man to identify Bartholomew
with Nathanael. In the lists of the Twelve in the first Three
Gospels and in Acts, the names of Philip and Bartholomew always
occur together. In the Fourth Gospel we learn that it was Philip
who brought Nathanael to Jesus (John 1:45). This has led many to
believe that Bartholomew and Nathanael are the same person.
In the apocryphal "Gospel o f Bartholomew" is the tradition
that he preached the gospel in India, and that he brought a copy
of Matthew's Gospel in Hebrew to that place. In the "Preaching of
St.Bartholomew in the Oasis" he is said to have preached in the
oasis of Al Bahnasa. According to "The Preaching of St.Andrew and
St.Bartholomew" he labored among the Parthians. Another tradition
has him preaching in Phrygia in Asia Minor.
The Acts of Philip tells how Philip and Bartholomew preached
in Hierapolis, and how Philip was martyred by being pierced
through the thighs and hung upside down. Bartholomew, however,
escaped martyrdom at that place. He is further said to have
preached in Armenia, and the Armenian Church claims him as its
founder. Another tradition has him martyred at Albana, which now
is modern Derbend, in the Soviet Union. However, this is near or
in Ancient Armenia, so there is no contradiction involved in
"The Martyrdom of St.Bartholomew" states that he was placed in a
sack and cast into the sea. There is, however, a contrary account
of his martyrdom in the city of Albana. This tradition is found
in the "Apostolic History of Abdias." Bartholomew is there
described as having healed the king's daughter, and exposed the
emptiness of the king's idol. The king and many others were
baptized, but the priests and the king's brother, Astyages,
remained hostile. They arrested Bartholomew, beat him and
eventually crucified him.
THE HISTORICAL AND TRADITIONAL ACCOUNTS OF BARTHOLOMEW
Apparently the traditions of St.Bartholomew have been long
and widely known, as the following accounts prove.
Dorman Newman in 1885 tells an astonishingly complete story:
"Bartholomew for the Enlargement of the Christian Church, went as
far as India for this purpose; he there found a Hebrew Gospel of
St.Matthew, amongst some who still retained the knowledge of
Christ, who assured him from the Tradition of the Ancestors, that
it had been left them by St.Bartholomew, when he preached the
Gospel in those Parts.
For a farther account of our Apostle, 'tis said, that he returned
from India to the North-West Parts of Africa. At Hierapolis in
Phrygia we find him in company with St.Philip, (as was observed
before in his life) at whose Martyrdom he was likewise fastened
to a Cross, in order to have suffered at the same time; but for
some special reason the Magistrates caused him to be taken down
again, and dismissed. Hence, probably, he went into Lycaonia,
where Chrysostom affirms, Serm. in SS. XII. Apost. that he
instructed the people in the Christian religion. His last Remove
was to Albanople in Armenia the Great, (the same no doubt which
Nicephorus calls Vrbanople, a City of Cilicia) a place miserably
overrun with Idolatry; from which, while he sought to reclaim the
People, he was by the Governour of the place condemned to be
crucified. Some add, that he was crucified with his Head
downwards; others that he was flead alive, which might well
enough consist with his Crucifixion; this Punishment being in
use, not only in Egypt, but amongst the Persians, next Neighbours
to these Armenians, from whom they might easily borrow this piece
of barbarous and brutish Cruelty. Theodorus Lector 1. 2. assures
us, that the Emperor Anastasius having built the City Daras in
Mesopotamia, A.D.508, removed St.Bartholomew's Body thither;
which Gregory of Tours seems to contradict, saying, that the
People of Liparis, near Sicily, translated it from the place
where he suffered into their Isle, and built a stately Church
over it. By what means it was removed from hence to Beneventum in
Italy, and afterwards to the Isle of Tiber at Rome, where another
Church was built to the Honour of this Apostle, is hard to
The Hereticks (according to their Custom) have forged a Gospel
under St.Bartholomew's Name, which Gelasius Bishop of Rome justly
branded as Apocryphal, altogether unworthy the Name and Patronage
of an Apostle. And perhaps of no better Authority is the Sentence
which Dionysius, the pretended Areopagite, ascribes to him, That
Theology is both copious, and yet very small, and the Gospel
diffuse and large, and yet twithal concise and short."
(The Lives and Deaths of the Holy Apostles, Dorman Newman, 1685).
In modern Iran, Christian leaders agree as to the first
century ministry of St.Bartholomew:
"By commonly accepted tradition the honour of sowing the first
seeds of Christianity in Armenia, and of watering them with their
blood, rests with St.Thaddeus and St.Bartholomew, who are
consequently revered as the First Illuminators of Armenia.
St.Bartholomew's labours and martyrdom in Armenia are generally
acknowledged by all Christian Churches. It is said that after
preaching in Arabia, the South of Persia and the borders of
India, he proceeded to Armenia, where he suffered martyrdom by
being flayed alive and then crucified, head downward, at Albac or
Albanopolis, near Bashkale.
The mission of St.Bartholomew in Armenia lasted sixteen years."
(The Armenian Apostolic Church in Iran, A Lecture Delivered by
John Hananian, Consolata Church, Teheran, 1969)
"The first illuminators of Armenia were St.Thaddaeus, and St.
Bartholomew whose very shrines still stand at Artaz (Macoo) and
Alpac (Bashkale) in southeast Armenia and have always been
venerated by Armenians. A popular tradition amongst them ascribes
the first evangelization of Armenia to the Apostles Judas
Thaddaeus who, according to their chronology, spent the years 43
to 66 A.D. in that country and was joined by St.Bartholomew in
the year 60 A.D. the latter was martyred in 68 A.D. at Albanus
(Derbend). Furthermore, the annals of Armenian martyrology refer
to a host of martyrs in the Apostolic age. A roll of a thousand
victims, including men and women of noble descent, lost their
lives with St.Thaddaeus, while other perished with St.
Bartholomew. On two occasions Eusebius (VI, xlvi) refers to the
Armenians in his "Ecclesiastical History." First, he states that
Dionysius of Alexandria, pupil of Origen, wrote an Epistle 'On
Repentance,' 'to those in Armenia ... whose bishop was
Meruzanes'" (A History of Eastern Christianity, Aziz S. Atiya, p.
Dr.Edgar Goodspeed touches on the location of the ministry
of St. Bartholomew:
"Yet we must also remember that 'India' was a term very loosely
used by the ancients, as the statement that Bartholomew went
there as a missionary and found 'the Gospel of Matthew in Hebrew'
shows. Eusebius declares, in his Church History, (v:10:12), that
about the time of the accession of Commodus, A.D.180, Pantanus,
the leading teacher in the church at Alexandria, was sent as
missionary as far as India. He goes on to say that Bartholomew
had preached to them, and left with them the Gospel of Matthew
'in the Hebrew language,' a very perplexing statement. Indeed, it
is sometimes said that 'India in the first century was very
loosely used, being understood to begin on the Bosporus.
Alexander's march to India had done much, three and a half
centuries before the Christian mission began, toward opening the
great Parthian hinterland to the western mind. He had reached the
easternmost of the tributaries of the Indus River before he
turned south to the Indian Ocean, and then west again. His great
march and the seventy cities he had built or founded had in a
measure opened the way to India." (The Twelve, Edgar J.
The story of Bartholomew in Persia was known very early:
"Pantaenus, a philosopher of the Stoic school, according to some
old Alexandrian custom, where, from the time of Mark the
evangelist the ecclesiastics were always doctors, was of so great
prudence and erudition both in Scripture and secular literature
that, on the request of the legates of that nation, he was sent
to India by Demetrius, bishop of Alexandria, where he found that
Bartholomew, one of the twelve Apostles, had preached the advent
of the Lord Jesus according to the gospel of Matthew. On his
return to Alexandria he brought this with him written in Hebrew
characters." (The Ante-Nicene Fathers, Nicene and Post Jerome,
Gennadius, Rufinus, p.370).
William Barclay mentions two legends crediting St.Jerome
with the following:
"By far the most interesting conjecture comes from Jerome. Jerome
passes on the suggestion that Bartholomew was the only one of the
twelve to be of noble birth. As we have seen, his name means 'son
of Tolmai,' or possibly son of Talmai. Now in 2 Sam.3:3 there is
mention of a Talmai who was king of Geshur; this Talmai had a
daughter called Maacah; and this Maacah became the mother of
Absalom, whom she bore to David. The suggestion is that it was
from this Talmai that Bartholomew was descended, and that,
therefore, he was of nothing less than royal lineage. Later still
another story arose. The second part of Bartholomew's name was
connected with Ptolemy, and he was said to be called son of
Ptolemy. The Ptolemies were the kings of Egypt, and it was said
that Bartholomew was connected with the royal house of Egypt It
cannot be said that these suggestions are really likely; but it
would be of the greatest interest, if in the Apostolic band one
who was of royal lineage lived in perfect fellowship with the
humble fishermen of Galilee.
He is said to have preached in Armenia, and the Armenian Church
claims him as its founder; and he is said to have been martyred
at Albana, which is the modern Derbend. There is an account of
the martyrdom of Bartholomew in 'The Apostolic History of
Abdias,' although there the death of Bartholomew seems to be
located in India. The story runs as follows. Bartholomew preached
with such success that the heathen gods were rendered powerless.
A very interesting personal description of him is given. 'He has
black, curly hair, white skin, large eyes, straight nose, his
hair covers his ears, his beard long and grizzled, middle height.
He wears a white robe with a purple stripe, and a white cloak
with four purple gems at the corners. For twenty-six years he has
worn these, and they never grow old. His shoes have lasted
twenty-six years. He prays a hundred times a day and a hundred
times a night His voice is like a trumpet; angels wait upon him;
he is always cheerful, and knows all languages.'
Bartholomew did many wonderful things there, including the
healing of the lunatic daughter of the king, and the exposing of
the emptiness of the king's idol, and the banishing of the demon
who inhabited it. The demon was visibly banished from the idol by
an angel and there is an interesting description of him - 'black,
sharp-faced, with a long beard, hair to the feet, fiery, eyes,
breathing flame, and spiky wings like a hedge-hog.'
The king and many others were baptized; but the priests remained
hostile. The priests went to the king's brother Astyages. The
king's brother had Bartholomew arrested, beaten with clubs,
flayed alive and crucified in agony. And so Bartholomew died a
martyr for his Lord.
There is still extant an apocryphal 'Gospel of Bartholomew' which
Jerome knew. It describes a series of questions which Bartholomew
addressed to Jesus and to Mary in the time between the
Resurrection and the Ascension."
(The Master's Men, Barclay, p.104).
The Armenian tradition concerning Bartholomew is a source of
pride to the Armenian Patriarchate:
"The indestructible and everlasting love and veneration of
Armenians for the Holy Land has its beginning in the first
century of the Christian Era when Christianity was brought to
Armenia directly from the Holy Land by two of the Apostles of
Christ, St.Thaddeus and St.Bartholomew. The Church that they
founded converted a greater part of the people during the second
and third centuries. At the beginning of the fourth century, in
301, through the efforts of St.Gregory the Illuminator, the Icing
of Armenia Tiridates the Great and all the members of his family
and the nobility were converted and baptized.
The early connection with Jerusalem was naturally due to the
early conversion of Armenia. Even before the discovery of the
Holy Places, Armenians, like other Christians of the neighbouring
countries, came to the Holy Land over the Roman roads and the
older roads to venerate the places that God had sanctified. In
Jerusalem they lived and worshipped on the Mount of Olives.
After the declaration of Constantine's will, known as 'Edict of
Milan, the discovery of the Holy Places,' Armenian pilgrims
poured into Palestine in a constant stream throughout the year.
The number and importance of Armenian churches and monasteries
increased year by year.
Bishop Macarius of Jerusalem who presided over the discovery and
construction of the Holy Places in and around Jerusalem, was in
communication with the head of the Armenian Church, Bishop
Vertanes. One of the epistles which he wrote to him between the
years 325 and 335 A.D. deals with certain ecclesiastical
questions and conveys greetings to the bishops, priests and
people of Armenia."
(The Armenian Patriarchate of Jerusalem, St. James Press, p.3,5).
This tradition is believed universally by the Armenians:
"The traditional founders of the Armenian Church were the
apostles Thaddeus and Bartholomew, whose tombs are shown and
venerated in Armenia as sacred shrines."
(Treasures of the Armenian Patriarchate of Jerusalem, Arpag
Mekhitarian, Helen and Edward Mardigian Museum-Catalogue No. 1
Jerusalem, Armenian Patriarchate, 1989).
The Roman Catholic tradition tells of the disposition of the
remains of the Apostle:
"A written account says that after the Emperor Anastasius built
the city of Duras in Mesopotamia in 508, he caused the relies to
be taken there. St.Gregory of Tours assures us that, before the
end of the sixth century, they were carried to the Lipari Islands
near Sicily; and Anastasius, the Librarian, tells us that in 809
they were taken to Benevento and then transported to Rome in 983
by the Emperor Otto III. They now lie in the church of St.
Bartholomew-on-Tiber in a porphryr shrine under the high altar.
An arm was sent by the Bishop of Benevento to St.Edward the
Confessor, who gave it to Canterbury Cathedral."
(A Traveller's Guide to Saints in Europe, Mary Sharp, p.29.).
The above quotation represents the Roman Catholic tradition
in part; however, there is also a Greek Orthodox tradition which
cannot be ignored. John Julius Norwich in his monumental book,
"Mount Athos," tells the story of his travels to the remote Greek
Orthodox Monasteries located in Mt.Athos, Greece.
"As the sun began to sink over the mountain we reached our goal
for the night, 'the cenobitic abbey of Karakallou,' favoured
retreat of Albanians and Epirote.
The sacristan appeared, suitably invested, and exposed the relics
on a trestle table in front of the iconostasis: the skulls of the
Apostle Bartholomew and St.Dionysius the Areopagite, the remains
of a neo-martyr, St.Gideon, a converted Turk."
("Mount Athos," John Julius Norwich, p.142).
It is obvious from the above account that the bones (relics)
of Bartholomew, like those of most of the other Apostles, are
widely scattered today.
Otto Hophan adds a few more details:
"An Armenian tradition maintained that his body was buried in
Albanopolis - also written Urbanopolis - a city of Armenia where
the Apostle is said to have suffered martyrdom. Then his remains
were taken to Nephergerd-Mijafarkin, and later to Daras, in
(The Apostles, Otto Hophan, p.167).
Nevertheless the larger parts of the body of St.Bartholomew
are probably in Rome. It is as Hoever writes:
"The relics of the saint are preserved in the church of St.
Bartholomew on the island in the Tiber River near Rome."
("Lives of the Saints," Rev.Hugo Hoever, p.333).
"Saint Martin, the apostle Bartholomew, and Mary Magdalene were
represented in the arm collection and as for such relics as
fingers, toes, and small joints, this category was so extensive
that only three well-known saints were not represented: Saint
Joseph, Saint John the Baptist, and Saint James (the last being
preserved entire at Santiago de Compostela in northwestern
Spain). Philip's successors added to the collection and there are
now more than 7,000 relics at the Escorial, including 10 bodies,
144 heads, and 306 limbs."
("El Escorial, The Wonders of Man," Mary Cable and the Editors of
the Newsweek Book Division, P.91).
A SUGGESTED BIOGRAPHY OF BARTHOLOMEW
Bartholomew seems to have been the "son of Tolmai." The
suggestion that there was a political movement called the "sons
of Tolmai" seems to be without wide support. Even if such a group
did exist, there is no reason to suppose that Bartholomew was
connected with it. The greater probability is that he was a
patronymic, that is, a person bearing the name of his father.
(Thus, John's son becomes Johnson, etc.).
He was led to Christ in the region of Galilee, possibly by
Philip, and is listed as an Apostle in the final list in Acts
1:9. He would naturally have been present in the company of the
other Apostles during the early years of the Jerusalem church.
His ministry belongs more to the tradition of the eastern
churches than to the western churches. It is, however, evident
that he went to Asia Minor (Turkey), in the company of St.
Philip, where he labored in Hierapolis (near Laodicea and Colosse
The wife of the Roman proconsul had been healed by the
Apostles and had become a Christian. Her husband ordered Philip
and Bartholomew to be put to death by crucifixion. Philip was
indeed crucified, but Bartholomew escaped and went eastward to
Armenia. Bartholomew carried with him a copy of Matthew's gospel,
(which copy was later found by a converted Stoic philosopher,
Pantaenus, who later brought it to Alexandria). Bartholomew
labored in the area around the south end of the Caspian Sea, in
the section that was then called Armenia, but which today is
divided between Iran and the Soviet Union.
The modern name of the district where he died is Azerbaijan
and the place of his death, called in New Testament times
Albanopolis, is now Derbend. Derbend is the sea gate through
which the wild horsemen of the Steppes (Scythians, Alans, Huns
and Khazars) later rode down upon civilized communities. The city
of Tabriz, which was the chief mart of Iranian Azerbaijan, was
also located in this area. It was visited by Marco Polo in 1294.
The statement that St.Bartholomew was skinned alive before being
beheaded, is contained in the Breberium Apostolorum, prefixed to
certain ancient manuscripts.
In Butler's "Lives of the Saints," which is a notable Roman
Catholic summary of the biographies of Saints, the following
account appears with references:
"The popular traditions concerning St.Batholomew are summed up in
the Roman Martyrology, which says he 'preached the gospel of
Christ in India; thence he went into Greater Armenia, and when he
had converted many people there to the faith he was flayed alive
by the barbarians, and by command of King Astyages fulfilled his
martyrdom by beheading...' The place is said to have been
Albanopolis (Derbend, on the west coast of the Caspian Sea), and
he is represented to have preached also in Mesopotamia, Persia,
Egypt and elsewhere. The earliest reference to India is given by
Eusebius in the early fourth century, where he relates that St.
Pantaenus, about a hundred years, earlier, going into India (St
Jerome adds 'to preach to the Brahmins'), found there some who
still retained the knowledge of Christ and showed him a copy of
St.Matthew's Gospel in Hebrew characters, which they assured him
that St.Bartholomew had brought into those parts when he planted
the faith among them. But 'India' was a name applied
indifferently by Greek and Latin writers to Arabia, Ethiopia,
Libya, Parthia, Persia and the lands of the Medes, and it is most
probable that the India visited by Pantaenus was Ethiopia or
Arabia Felix, or perhaps both. Another eastern legend says the
apostle met St.Philip at Hierapolis in Phrygia, and travelled
into Lycaonia, where St.John Chrysostom affirms that he
instructed the people in the Christian faith. That he preached
and died in Armenia is possible, and is a unanimous tradition
among the later historians of that country; but earlier Armenian
writers make little or no reference to him as connected with
their nation. The journeys attributed to the relics of St.
Bartholomew are - even more bewildering than those of his living
body; alleged relics are venerated at present chiefly at
Benevento and in the church of St.Bartholomew-in-the-Tiber at
Although, in comparison with such other apostles as St.Andrew,
St.Thomas and St.John, the name of St.Bartholomew is not
conspicuous in the apocryphal literature of the early centuries,
still we have what professes to be an account of his preaching
and 'passion', preserved to us in Greek and several Latin copies.
Max Bonnet (Analecta Bollandiana, vol. xiv, 1895, pp.353-368)
thinks the Latin was the original; Lipsius less probably argues
for the priority of the Greek; but it may be that both derive
from a lost Syriac archetype. The texts are in the Acta
Sanctorum, August, vol. v; in Tischendorf, Acta Apostolorum
Apocrypha, pp.243-260; and also in Bonnet, Act. Apocryph., vol.
ii, pt.1, pp.128 seq. There are also considerable fragments of an
apocryphal Gospel of Bartholomew (on which see the Revue Biblique
for 1913, 1921 and 1922), and traces of Coptic 'Acts of Andrew
and Bartholomew.' The gospel which bears the name of Bartholomew
is one of the apocryphal writings condemned in the decree of
Pseudo-Gelasius. The statement that St.Bartholomew was flayed
alive before being beheaded, though this is not mentioned in the
passio, is contained in the so-called 'Breviarium Apostolorum'
prefixed to certain manuscripts of the 'Hieronymianum.' It is the
flaying which has probably suggested the knife, often associated
as an emblem with picture of the saint; but on St.Bartholomew in
art see Kunstle, Ikonographie, vol. ii, pp. 116-120. The Indian
question is examined in some detail by Fr.A.C.Perumalil in 'The
Apostles in India' (Patna, 1953)."
(Lives of the Saints, Butler, pp.391,392).
What is not realized by most is that in the areas where the
apostles travelled to proclaim the Gospel, were not only Jews,
but people of the lost Tribes of Israel, people of the 10 tribes
who were known as the House of Israel. Some were still around,
scattered in the areas around Palestine. Some had moved into
Europe, and some centuries earlier, from the tribe of Judah, had
with their leader Brutus (around 1100 B.C.) moved into the
British Isles. The Druid teachings and noble kings and leaders of
the British clans, still containing many Hebrew (Abraham, Moses)
laws, made its transition from Druidism to Christianity, a very
smooth and easy transition. Britain was the first nation in the
world to declare itself a "Christian nation." This is all
recorded in ancient and secular history, as well as Christian
church history, some of which you will find on this Website.
Entered on this Website January 2008