Skip to content
Catholic Online SHopping 20% off RE-Grand Opening SALE

RE-Grand Opening
FREE Shipping over $49 (lower 48)

Pope Benedict on the Apostle Bartholomew

His "Words Present a Double Aspect of Jesus' Identity"

VATICAN CITY, OCT. 5, 2006 (Zenit) - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave at Wednesday's general audience, dedicated to present the figure of the Apostle Bartholomew.

* * *

Dear Brothers and Sisters:

In the series of apostles called by Jesus during his earthly life, today our attention is caught by the Apostle Bartholomew. In the early lists of the Twelve he always appears before Matthew, while the name of the one who precedes him changes: in some cases it is Philip (cf. Matthew 10:3; Mark 3:18; Luke 6:14) or Thomas (cf. Acts 1:13).

His name is evidently patronymic, as it makes explicit reference to the father's name. It is a name probably of Aramaic characteristics, "bar Talmay," which means "son of Talmay."

We do not have important information about Bartholomew. In fact, his name appears always and only within the lists of the Twelve that I have mentioned before; therefore, he is not the protagonist of any narration. Traditionally, however, he is identified with Nathanael: a name that means "God-given." This Nathanael was a native of Cana (cf. John 21:2); therefore, it is possible that he was witness of some great "sign" wrought by Jesus in that place (cf. John 2:1-11).

The identification of the two personages is probably due to the fact that Nathanael, in the scene of the vocation narrated by John's Gospel, is placed next to Philip, that is, in the place that Bartholomew has in the lists of the apostles referred to by the other Gospels. It was to this Nathanael that Philip had said that he had "found the one about whom Moses wrote in the law, and also the prophets, Jesus, son of Joseph, from Nazareth" (John 1:45).

As we know, Nathanael posed a weighty prejudice to him: "Can anything good come from Nazareth?" (John 1:46a). This expression is important for us. It allows us to see that, according to the Jewish expectations, the Messiah could not come from such an obscure village, as was the case of Nazareth (cf. also John 7:42).

At the same time, however, it shows the freedom of God, who surprises our expectations, manifesting himself precisely there, where we least expect him. Moreover, we know that, in reality, Jesus was not exclusively "from Nazareth," but that he was born in Bethlehem (cf. Matthew 2:1; Luke 2:4). Nathanael's objection, therefore, had no value, as it was founded, as often happens, on incomplete information.

Nathanael's case suggests to us another reflection: In our relationship with Jesus, we must not only be content with words. Philip, in his reply, presents a significant invitation to Nathanael: "Come and see" (John 1:46b). Our knowledge of Jesus is in need above all of a living experience: Another person's testimony is certainly important, as in general the whole of our Christian life begins with the proclamation that comes to us from one or several witnesses. But we ourselves must be personally involved in an intimate and profound relationship with Jesus.

In a similar way, the Samaritans, after having heard the testimony of the compatriot whom Jesus had met at Jacob's well, wished to speak directly with him and, after that conversation, they said to the woman: "We no longer believe because of your word; for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is truly the savior of the world" (John 4:42).

Returning to the scene of the vocation, the evangelist tells us that, when Jesus sees Nathanael approaching, he exclaims: "Here is a true Israelite. There is no duplicity in him" (John 1:47). It was praise that recalls the text of a psalm: "Happy those to whom the Lord imputes no guilt, in whose spirit is no deceit" (Psalm 32:2), but which arouses Nathanael's curiosity, who, surprised, replies: " How do you know me?" (John 1:48a). Jesus' answer at first is not understood. He said to him: "Before Philip called you, I saw you under the fig tree" (John 1:48b).

Today it is difficult to realize with precision the meaning of these last words. According to what the specialists say, it is possible that, given that at times the fig tree is mentioned as the tree under which the doctors of the law sat to read and teach the Bible, he is alluding to that type of occupation carried out by Nathanael at the moment of his calling.

Anyway, what counts most in John's narration is the confession of faith that Nathanael professes at the end in a limpid way: "Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel!" (John 1:49). Although it does not reach the intensity of Thomas' confession with which John's Gospel ends: "My Lord and my God!" (John 20:28), Nathanael's confession has the function to open the terrain to the fourth Gospel.

In the latter a first and important step is taken on the path of adherence to Christ. Nathanael's words present a double and complementary aspect of Jesus' identity: He is recognized both by his special relationship with God the Father, of whom he is the only-begotten Son, as well as by his relationship with the people of Israel, of whom he is called King, an attribution proper of the awaited Messiah.

We must never lose sight of either of these two elements, since if we only proclaim the heavenly dimension of Jesus we run the risk of making him an ethereal and evanescent being, while if we only recognize his concrete role in history, we run the risk of neglecting his divine dimension, which is his proper description.

We do not have precise information on the subsequent apostolic activity of Bartholomew-Nathanael. According to information referred to by the historian Eusebius in the fourth century, a certain Panteno found in India signs of Bartholomew's presence (cf. "Ecclesiastical History," V, 10,3).

In the later tradition, beginning in the Middle Ages, the account of his death by flaying was imposed, which later became extremely popular. Suffice it to think of the very famous scene of the Last Judgment in the Sistine Chapel, in which Michelangelo presented St. Bartholomew holding his own skin in his left hand, in which the artist left his self-portrait.

His relics are venerated here, in Rome, in the church dedicated to him on the Island of the Tiber, where they were brought by the German Emperor Otto III in the year 983.

Concluding, we can say that the figure of St. Bartholomew, despite the lack of information, tells us that adherence to Jesus can be lived and witnessed even without doing sensational works. Jesus is the extraordinary one, to whom each one of us is called to consecrate his life and death.

[At the end of the audience, the Holy Father greeted pilgrims in several languages. In English, he said:]

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Today I want to continue my series of reflections on the Apostles by speaking of Saint Bartholomew. The New Testament gives us very little direct information about him -- his name is simply included in lists of the Twelve. However, he is traditionally identified with Nathanael, who was brought to Jesus by Philip at the beginning of Saint John's Gospel.

When Philip tells Nathanael that Jesus of Nazareth is the one foretold by Moses and the Prophets, Nathanael says, "Can anything good come out of Nazareth?" He could not believe that the Messiah would come from somewhere so obscure. Yet we know that Jesus was born in Bethlehem. Nathanael's objection was prejudiced and it was based, as so often, on incomplete information. This passage teaches us that God acts in unexpected ways.

Philip's reply is to say, "Come and see." This shows us that, while others have a part to play in bringing us to Jesus, we need to discover him for ourselves. Then we will be able, like Nathanael, to make that great profession of faith, "You are the Son of God, you are the King of Israel!" Both elements of Nathanael's statement are important for us. We need to recognize Jesus' unique relationship with the Father, and we also need to acknowledge his place in history. Our Savior is true God and true man.

I welcome the English-speaking pilgrims here today, and I greet especially the Board of Directors of Serra International, the deacon candidates from the North American College, and the group of new students from the Beda College. I pray that you will respond generously to the call to discipleship that you have received. May God bless you all.

© Copyright 2006 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana

Contact

Catholic Online
http://www.catholic.org CA, US
Catholic Online - Publisher, 661 869-1000

Email

info@yourcatholicvoice.org

Keywords

Apostle, Bartholomew, Pope, Benedict, Jesus

More Catholic PRWire

Showing 1 - 50 of 4,718

A Recession Antidote
Randy Hain

Monaco & The Vatican: Monaco's Grace Kelly Exhibit to Rome--A Review of Monegasque-Holy See Diplomatic History
Dna. Maria St. Catherine Sharpe, t.o.s.m., T.O.SS.T.

The Why of Jesus' Death: A Pauline Perspective
Jerom Paul

A Royal Betrayal: Catholic Monaco Liberalizes Abortion
Dna. Maria St.Catherine De Grace Sharpe, t.o.s.m., T.O.SS.T.

Embrace every moment as sacred time
Mary Regina Morrell

My Dad
JoMarie Grinkiewicz

Letting go is simple wisdom with divine potential
Mary Regina Morrell

Father Lombardi's Address on Catholic Media
Catholic Online

Pope's Words to Pontifical Latin American College
Catholic Online

Prelate: Genetics Needs a Conscience
Catholic Online

State Aid for Catholic Schools: Help or Hindrance?
Catholic Online

Scorsese Planning Movie on Japanese Martyrs
Catholic Online

2 Nuns Kidnapped in Kenya Set Free
Catholic Online

Holy See-Israel Negotiation Moves Forward
Catholic Online

Franchising to Evangelize
Catholic Online

Catholics Decry Anti-Christianity in Israel
Catholic Online

Pope and Gordon Brown Meet About Development Aid
Catholic Online

Pontiff Backs Latin America's Continental Mission
Catholic Online

Cardinal Warns Against Anti-Catholic Education
Catholic Online

Full Circle
Robert Gieb

Three words to a deeper faith
Paul Sposite

Relections for Lent 2009
chris anthony

Wisdom lies beyond the surface of life
Mary Regina Morrell

World Food Program Director on Lent
Catholic Online

Moral Clarity
DAN SHEA

Pope's Lenten Message for 2009
Catholic Online

A Prayer for Monaco: Remembering the Faith Legacy of Prince Rainier III & Princess Grace and Contemplating the Moral Challenges of Prince Albert II
Dna. Maria St. Catherine Sharpe

Keeping a Lid on Permissiveness
Sally Connolly

Glimpse of Me
Sarah Reinhard

The 3 stages of life
Michele Szekely

Sex and the Married Woman
Cheryl Dickow

A Catholic Woman Returns to the Church
Cheryl Dickow

Modernity & Morality
Dan Shea

Just a Minute
Sarah Reinhard

Catholic identity ... triumphant reemergence!
Hugh McNichol

Edging God Out
Paul Sposite

Burying a St. Joseph Statue
Cheryl Dickow

George Bush Speaks on Papal Visit
Catholic Online

Sometimes moving forward means moving the canoe
Mary Regina Morrell

Action Changes Things: Teaching our Kids about Community Service
Lisa Hendey

Easter... A Way of Life
Paul Spoisite

Papal initiative...peace and harmony!
Hugh McNichol

Proclaim the mysteries of the Resurrection!
Hugh McNichol

Jerusalem Patriarch's Easter Message
Catholic Online

Good Friday Sermon of Father Cantalamessa
Catholic Online

Papal Address at the End of the Way of the Cross
Catholic Online

Cardinal Zen's Meditations for Via Crucis
Catholic Online

Interview With Vatican Aide on Jewish-Catholic Relations
Catholic Online

Pope Benedict XVI On the Easter Triduum
Catholic Online

Holy Saturday...anticipation!
Hugh McNichol

Never Miss any Updates!

Stay up to date with the latest news, information, and special offers.

Catholic Online Logo

Copyright 2017 Catholic Online. All materials contained on this site, whether written, audible or visual are the exclusive property of Catholic Online and are protected under U.S. and International copyright laws, © Copyright 2017 Catholic Online. Any unauthorized use, without prior written consent of Catholic Online is strictly forbidden and prohibited.