Last revised: August 18, 2003
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ST. BARTHOLOMEW, APOSTLE — August 24
RCL: Exodus 19:1-6; 1 Corinthians 12:27-31a; John 1:43-51
1. Raymund Schwager, Jesus in the Drama of Salvation; a section related to the theme of the text: “The Election of Israel,” pp. 125-126. Reciting an overview of Israel’s history of hardship and oppression, Schwager concludes,
Finally, the faith of Israel also withstood the destruction of the second Temple in the year 70 C.E. and the subsequent exile of nearly two thousand years without loss of identity. Israel thus stands as a unique phenomenon in world history.
From which he concludes that such a history speaks strongly of divine intervention, or against the “‘dogmatic’ thesis that it is only people who are actors in history.”
1 Corinthians 12:27-31a
1. Robert Hamerton-Kelly, Sacred Violence, pp. 179-180. Link here for the whole section “The Church as a Structure of Agape Based on the Imitation of Christ Crucified,” pp. 174-182.
General Notes on the Text and the Day
1. This text also appears in the lectionary at Epiphany 2B. See the notes at Epiphany 2B for resources and reflections.
2. A great irony of using this text for the Festival of St. Bartholomew is that the name “Bartholomew” doesn’t appear in the text — or anywhere in John! The synoptic Gospels and John appear to have a differing tradition of the name of this disciple. In the synoptics and Acts, Bartholomew follows Philip in their lists of the Twelve. In the fourth gospel, Philip is connected with Nathaniel. One hypothesis is that “bar-Tholomew” may have been Nathaniel’s last name, (e.g., “Simon bar-Jonah” in Matthew 16:17).
3. Outside of the few texts in the New Testament, nothing is known for sure about Nathanael/Bartholomew. There are several traditions about his later labors. He is variously reported to have preached in Asia Minor, Mesopotamia, Persia, and India; in connection with India, Eusebius says that Bartholomew left a copy of the Gospel of Matthew in Hebrew which Pantaenus, a missionary of the third century, found there in the hands of the local people. Most of these stories agree that St. Bartholomew spent his last years preaching in Armenia and was flayed and beheaded in Albanus (modern Derbend) on the Caspian coast. (The flayed Bartholomew is portrayed in a prominent place in the Sistine Chapel in Michaelangelo’s fresco of the Last Judgment.) The Armenian Church believes that the apostles Bartholomew and Thaddeus were the first to bring the gospel to the Armenians, and that Bartholomew spent a number of years there before his death. The Armenian Church commemorates him on two days of the year: once together with St. Thaddeus and again together with an Armenian martyr. One might remember the church in Armenia if celebrating St. Bartholomew.
A very different story of St. Bartholomew’s mission appears in the traditions of the Coptic and Ethiopian churches, which also revere him highly, observing his day on August 29. Their accounts tell of his preaching at an oasis in Upper Egypt (there is a special commemoration of this event on November 15), then going among the Berbers where he was rescued from wild beasts by a cannibal, and finally preaching along the coast of North Africa where a local king, Agrippa, had him sewn into a leather bag and dropped into the sea.
August 24 has been St. Bartholomew’s day on calendars of the Western church since the eighth century, but no reason for the date is known. The Eastern Orthodox churches commemorate him with St. Barnabas on June 11. In European history St. Bartholomew’s Day is remembered for the massacre of Protestants which took place on that day in Paris in 1572. (information gathered and quoted from Philip H. Pfatteicher, Festivals and Commemorations: Handbook to the Calendar in Lutheran Book of Worship, Copyright © 1980 Augsburg Publishing House)