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Bible Dictionaries

Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament

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BARTHOLOMEW (Βαρθολομαῖος) appears as an apostle in all four lists of the Twelve (Matthew 10:3, Mark 3:18, Luke 6:14, Acts 1:13), always in the second of the three groups of four. In the Gospels he comes next after Philip (who in all four lists heads the second quaternion), and is followed by Matthew and Thomas: in Acts the order is ‘Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew.’ The name, as the first syllable indicates, is a patronymic, and it is commonly interpreted ‘son of Talmai.’ In the LXX Septuagint Talmai has many variants (Θολμί, Θολμεί, Θαλαμεί, Θολομεί, Θολμαίλημ): and in Josephus (Ant. XX. i. 1) we have a bandit chief named Θολομαῖος. It is often assumed that ‘Talmai’ represents ‘Ptolemy,’ and that Bartholomew means ‘son of Ptolemy’; but the Θ is against this. Edersheim (Messiah, i. p. 521) makes it mean ‘son of Telamyon.’ Bartholomew may be either a genuine patronymic used in addition to a proper name, like Simon Bar-jona; or it may have become an independent proper name, like Barnabas. If the apostle Bartholomew had no other name, we know nothing about him from Scripture, and the later traditions about him are very untrustworthy (Lipsius, Apokryphcn Apostelgeschiehten und Apostellegenden, iii. pp. 54–108). These traditions begin with Eusebius (Historia Ecclesiastica v. x. 3), and ascribe to him widely different fields of missionary labour, with different apostles as his companions, and different forms of martyrdom. He is often made to be one of the Seventy.* [Note: On the possibility that there was another Bartholomew, identical with the apostle Matthias, among the Seventy, see note by Dr. Nestle in Expos. Times, ix. [1898] p. 566 f.]

But both by the early Church and by most modern writers Bartholomew is commonly identified with Nathanael. To treat this as almost certain (Schaff-Herzog) is to go beyond the evidence; to call it ‘the merest conjecture’ (Encyc. Bibl.) is to err in the opposite direction.

In favour of the identification are the following points. (1) Bartholomew being a patronymic, the bearer may easily have had another name; (2) the Synoptists never mention Nathanael, St. John never mentions Bartholomew; (3) the Synoptists in their lists place Bartholomew next to Philip, as James next to his probable caller John, and Peter (in Mt. and Lk.) next to his caller Andrew; (4) all the other disciples mentioned in John 1:38-51 became apostles, and none of them is so commended as Nathanael; (5) all the companions of Nathanael who are named in John 21:2 are apostles. But all these reasons do not make the identification more than probable. St. John nowhere calls Nathanael an apostle, and we are not obliged to find room for him among the Twelve. The conjecture that he is Matthew or Matthias (Hilgenfeld) is supported by no reasonable evidence; and that he is John himself under a symbolical name (Späth) is contradicted by John 21:2, where the sons of Zebedee are mentioned in addition to Nathanael.

On the other hand, there is nothing against the identification: it creates no difficulty. To say that a Galilaean would have remembered Isaiah 9:1, and therefore would not have asked whether any good could come out of Nazareth, is unsound criticism. A person with Isaiah 9:1 in his mind, and convinced that rich blessings would come from Galilee, might nevertheless think that Nazareth was not a likely place to be the dwelling-place of the Messiah. And who can tell whether a particular Galilaean would or would not remember a particular text?

Literature.—In addition to the works cited above, reference may be made to artt. ‘Bartholomew’ and ‘Nathanael’ in Hasting's Dictionary of the Bible; and to Garrett Horder, The Poet’s Bible, NT, p. 102 ff.

A. Plummer.

Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Bartholomew'. Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/​dictionaries/​eng/​hdn/​b/bartholomew.html. 1906-1918.
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