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Bartholomew, perhaps the surname of Nathanael

Sincere Disciple in second squad led by Philip

Bartholomew is one of the twelve disciples as mentioned in Matthew 10:3; Mark 3:18; Luke 6:14; and Acts 1:13). There is no further reference to Bartholomew in the New Testament. His name is also pronounced Bar-tholomoeus. His Hebrew name Bartholomew suggests he was the son of Tolma, a man of regal descent.

It is believed that Bartholomew is the surname of Nathanael who was led to Christ by Philip as reported by the Gospel John (John 1:45-51; cf. (21:2). Nathaniel was known for his sincerity in communication with the Lord and his fellow disciples.

Philip told Nathanael they had found Him whom Moses in the law, and the prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph. It was Nathanael who asked the famous question of “Can there any good thing come out of Nazareth?” (John 1:46). Jesus saw Nathanael coming to him, and saith of him, Behold an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile! (John 1:47).

There was one other time when Nathanael is mentioned as being of Cana in Galilee when Jesus showed Himself at the Sea of Tiberias after His resurrection. (John 21:1-2).
The Three Squad Disciple Ministry of Jesus Christ
The twelve disciples were divided into three squads. The first group was led by Simon Peter, the second by Phillip, and the third by James of Alphaeus. There are four different orders of organization in the Gospels, but all orders list Peter as First, Phillip as Fourth and James of Alphaeus ninth. Each group of four men are named exactly in each Gospel, but some in different orders within their squad, even though the leaders are always the same. The first group consisted of Peter, Andrew, James of Zebedee, and John. The second squad had Phillip, Bartholomew, Thomas and Matthew the Publican. The third squad held James of Alphaeus, Thaddeus, Simon the Canaanite, and Judas Iscariot. (Matthew 10:2-5; Mark 3:16-19; Luke 6:14-16; Acts 1:13)

Each squad held different responsibilities in the ministry of Jesus Christ, and each squad varied in closeness to Him. The second squad led by Phillip, of whom Bartholomew was a member, was responsible for crowds, people, and social affairs. Their duties were similar to a Deacon in a church setting.

A little bit of Nathaniel's (Bartholomew’s) nature revealed

"The day following Jesus would go forth into Galilee, and findeth Philip, and saith unto him, Follow me. 44 Now Philip was of Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter. 45 Philip findeth Nathanael, and saith unto him, We have found him, of whom Moses in the law, and the prophets, did write, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph. 46 And Nathanael said unto him, Can there any good thing come out of Nazareth? Philip saith unto him, Come and see. 47 Jesus saw Nathanael coming to him, and saith of him, Behold an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile! 48 Nathanael saith unto him, Whence knowest thou me? Jesus answered and said unto him, Before that Philip called thee, when thou wast under the fig tree, I saw thee. 49 Nathanael answered and saith unto him, Rabbi, thou art the Son of God; thou art the King of Israel. 50 Jesus answered and said unto him, Because I said unto thee, I saw thee under the fig tree, believest thou? thou shalt see greater things than these. 51 And he saith unto him, 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." (John 1:43–51)

1. He held a bias against Nazareth, believing that nothing good could come from that part of the country.

2. He was sincere in his belief, and did not hesitate to question, even if it disagreed with others.

3. Jesus recognized that he had "no guile" as an Israelite. Guile is another word for craftiness or deceit. Through Jesus Christ's notice, it is easily recognized that He felt most Israelites were up to cunning trickery against Him. It is apparent that Bartholomew’s presence was refreshing to Him.

4. That Christ saw Nathaniel under the "fig tree", typologically reveals a spiritual character that is ruled exclusively by the LORD God's law, rather than faith. Whenever the fig tree is used within the Word of God, it is always symbolic representation of the nation of Israel and their need for obedience to His laws.

5. Nathanael recognized the Lord Jesus Christ as both a Holy Teacher, the Son of God, and the King of Israel, because Christ had seen him first, unbeknownst to him. Christ promises him even greater and more glorious sightings, which include the heavens opening, and the angels going up and coming down in communication with Him.

Traditional stories, rumors, and propoganda associated with Bartholomew
1. Bartholomew is said to have been a missionary at work in India by Eusebius. Another tradition places him as a missionary in the "region of Bosporus." A tradition mentioned by Eusebius associates Bartholomew with missionary work in India. Another tradition places him as a missionary in the region of the Bosporus. It is also suggested by Eusebius that Bartholomew left a translated Hebrew language copy of Matthew’s Gospel but there is no proof of its existence. [1]

2. The Gospel of Bartholomew is one of the New Testament apocryphal gospels that is also called Questions of Bartholomew or Book of Resurrection. Copies written in Greek, with recensions of Coptic, Latin, and Slavonic have survived; they are all dated ca. A.D. 400. It contains numerous questions which Bartholomew asks about the Rirgin Mary, the Risen Lord Jesus Christ, and satan, and discusses Christ's descent into hell, the numbers of souls that are saved or lost each day, marriage, and virginity. [2] It is mentioned in Jerome's commentary on Matthew as an apocryphal Gospel. Jerome says that Bartholomew "preached to the Indians and died in Albanopolis in Armenia."[3] Doubting Thomas, and his son Siophanes (whom tradition says was raised from the dead by his father) is also mentioned in this book. Bartholomew commands his son to protect these stories with great care and keep them from heretics and unbelievers. [4]


[1] David Noel Freedman, Allen C. Myers and Astrid B. Beck, Eerdmans Dictionary of the Bible (Grand Rapids, Mich.: W.B. Eerdmans, 2000), 151.

[2]Allen C. Myers, The Eerdmans Bible Dictionary (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 1987), 127.

[3] J. K. Elliott, The Questions of Bartholomew and the Book of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ by Bartholomew the Apostle, The Apocryphal New Testament (Oxford, 1993), 652–72.

[4] David Noel Freedman, Allen C. Myers and Astrid B. Beck, Eerdmans Dictionary of the Bible (Grand Rapids, Mich.: W.B. Eerdmans, 2000), 152.

Cite Article Source

MLA Style Citation:
Becker, David B. "Bartholomew. " Becker Bible Studies Jan 2006.   <>.

APA Style Citation:
Becker, David B. (2006, January) "Bartholomew." Becker Bible Studies Retrieved   from

Chicago Style Citation:
Becker, David B. (2006) "Bartholomew." Becker Bible Studies (January), (accessed )

About the Authors

Kathy L. McFarland is a Becker Bible Studies Teacher and Author of Guided Bible Studies for Hungry Christians. She has received her Bachelor of Science degree in Religious Studies from Liberty University, and is currently seeking her Master of Divinity (Professional Ministries Track) degree from Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary & Graduate School. Kathy is a noted expert on Old Testament exegesis, Christian apologetics, and Bible typology and mysteries.

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