Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” John 8:31b-32
Bartholomew was one of the twelve men chosen by Jesus as his apostles. They learnt from their master, “that he might send them out to preach and to have authority to drive out demons” (Mark 3:14b-15). Bartholomew certainly fulfilled his calling, taking the Gospel to countries as far away as India where he translated the Gospel of Matthew into a local language.
Bartholomew and the man named Nathanael in John’s Gospel are believed to be one and the same person. Nathanael is described by Jesus as “an Israelite in whom there is no deceit” (John 1:47b). In a conversation with Philip, Nathanael doubts that Jesus is the promised Saviour until he encounters “the Son of God… the King of Israel” for himself (John 1:45-49).
In India, Bartholomew is said to have destroyed the images that were worshipped there. The king and queen, as well as many of the people, became Christians, which prompted the local religious leaders to complain to the king’s older brother. On his orders, Bartholomew was flayed alive.
The valiant twelve, the chosen few,
on them the Spirit fell;
and faithful to the Lord they knew
they faced the host of hell.
They died beneath the brandished steel,
became the tyrant’s prey,
yet did not flinch at their ordeal –
who follows them today?
Reginald Heber (1783-1826)