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THE next in order of the twelve is Bartholomew. Respecting him there is a still greater dearth of information, than there is respecting Philip; for there is absolutely nothing told of him in the New Testament, unless we resort to the supposition, which many scholars have adopted, that he is the same person with Nathanael. In favor of this supposition there are several arguments, which form together a body of strong presumptive evidence.
It is observed, in the first place, that the evangelists Matthew, Mark, and Luke, who all place Bartholomew on their catalogues of the apostles, never mention Nathanael; and that John, who gives the particulars of Nathanael's conversation with our Lord, never mentions Bartholomew. Secondly, as John acquaints us with the fact, that Philip led Nathanael to Jesus, so in the lists of the apostles by the other evangelists, Philip and Bartholomew are constantly joined together as
companions. "As they were jointly called to the discipleship," says Cave," so they are jointly referred in the Apostolic Catalogue, as afterwards we find them joint companions in the writings of the church." Thirdly, it is remarked, that Nathanael is introduced, in the company of several apostles, in the twenty-first chapter of John's Gospel, in such a manner as to lead us to suppose that he likewise might be one. The passage is that which relates to the appearance of Jesus, after his resurrection, at the sea of Tiberias; on which occasion Peter swam to him from the vessel in which he and the rest were fishing. The disciples, who were present, are thus named; "There were together, Simon Peter, and Thomas, called Didymus, and Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, and the sons of Zebedee, and two other of his disciples." Fourthly, the difference in the two names, which may at first appear to be an argument against this supposition, is rather in its favor. Bartholomew signifies the son of Tolmai, just as Bartimeus, the blind man whom Jesus restored to sight, signifies the son of Timeus; bar being the Hebrew word for son. Nathanael, therefore, might have also been called Bartholomew, after his father, just as Simon was also called Barjonas after his father. Bartholomew could hardly have
been the only name of the apostle, because it is a patronymic; and when circumstances agree so well, why might not his first name have been Nathanael? That John never calls Nathanael by the other name of Bartholomew, is no proof that he had no other name; for Matthew, though his other name was Levi, never calls himself by that name, throughout the whole of his own Gospel. And finally, we are led naturally to the presumption that Nathanael must have been an apostle, not only by the circumstance of his being named in the midst of four apostles, but by the tenor of the conversation which Jesus held with him, and the probability that he was one of the very earliest disciples.
If we are convinced by these considerations that Bartholomew was the same person with Nathanael, we of course know something of his character and history. We view him as an inhabitant of Cana, in Galilee, where was performed the first miracle of his Lord, soon after his interview with him; as probably called to be an apostle on the same day with Philip, by whom he was introduced to Jesus; and as one who was characterized by the Saviour, and therefore deservedly, as an "Israelite indeed, in whom there was no guile."
The guilelessness, candor, and honesty of Nathanael, or Bartholomew, were indeed strikingly exhibited in all the circumstances of that interview. Impressed with the idea of his countrymen, that Nazareth could not furnish any celebrated prophet, and surely not the Messiah, as soon as Philip uttered the words, "Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph," he exclaimed, "Can there any good thing come out of Nazareth?" But when Philip, very wisely, instead of arguing the point, simply said, "Come and see," he went at once, clearly perceiving the justice of the appeal, and determined to put his prejudice, or his opinion, to the only proper test of experiment. And when he had received a small, though to his mind sufficient proof of the superior knowledge of Jesus, he gave in his adhesion on the spot, saying Rabbi, thou art the Son of God; thou art the king of Israel." Pleased with this readiness of conviction, the Saviour seems to have taken him from this moment into his confidence; for he promised him that he should "see greater things than these;" stronger proofs than the one just given of the divinity of his mission; wonders and testimonies so mighty and divine, that heaven would appear, as it were, 66 open, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of man."
Let our prepossessions and prejudices vanish, as did those of Nathanael, as soon as they are touched by the beams of truth. Let us be sincere, simple, open-hearted, free from guile, as he was; "without partiality and without hypocrisy." To such a character belongs by inheritance the promise given to Nathanael. He who possesses it will see greater things day by day; he will be continually receiving brighter manifestations of truth and heaven.
"The child-like faith, that asks not sight,
Shall see things greater, things divine.
"Heaven on that gaze shall open wide,
'Twixt God above, and Christ below."
Nothing is particularly related concerning this apostle, by the sacred writers, beside what has been already adduced. By early ecclesiastical historians, he is said to have carried the Gospel as far as India, by which must be meant, as Cave thinks, the hither India, which was the country bordering upon the Asian Ethiopia, or Chaldea. Pantænus, a Christian philosopher of the latter part of the second century, and preceptor of