Free Online Bible Library | Bartholomew

We also have classes for: provides a comprehensive biblical education from world-class professors
to encourage spiritual growth in the church, for free.

Would you do us the favor of answering this two question poll so we can know how to serve you better? You will also be given the opportunity to join our team tasked with how to make better. Thank you.  --Bill Mounce



BARTHOLOMEW (bar-thŏl'ŏ-mū, Gr. from Aram., son of Tolmai or Talmai, Gr. Bartholomaios). One of the twelve apostles. He is mentioned in all four of the lists of the apostles in the NT (Matt.10.3; Mark.3.18; Luke.6.14; Acts.1.13). There is no further reference to him in the NT, and the traditions concerning him are not trustworthy. Some scholars think that Bartholomew is the surname of Nathanael, who was led to Christ by Philip (John.1.45-John.1.46). The reason for this is that in the list of the apostles in the Gospels the name of Bartholomew immediately follows that of Philip, and the synoptic Gospels never mention Nathanael, while John never mentions Bartholomew. This view has, however, not been conclusively established.

Apostle. The name is a patronymic meaning “son of Tolmai” and may not have been his only name. He is mentioned only in the lists of the twelve apostles and not in connection with any incident in or after the ministry of Jesus. Attempts have often been made to identify him with Nathanael, who is mentioned in John's gospel but not in the synoptics. There are a number of difficulties connected with this view. Eusebius reports that he took the Gospel to India.

BARTHOLOMEW bär thŏl’ ə mu (Βαρθολομαι̂ος, G978; Aram. בַּר תַּלְמַי, son of Talmai). One of Christ’s apostles, named in all four lists of the Twelve (Matt 10:3; Mark 3:18; Luke 6:14; Acts 1:13).

The name of Bartholomew occurs only in these lists of the Twelve, always in the second group of four. In the synoptics his name always stands next to that of Philip, who heads the second group in all the lists. In Acts the name of Thomas stands between Philip and Bartholomew.

Bartholomew may not have been the apostle’s complete name. As the first syllable indicates, the name prob. was a patronymic, Bar-Talmai, designating him simply as “the son of Talmai.” On this view it may be assumed that he had a personal name in addition. But it is possible that the name, while originally a patronymic, had become an independent proper name, like Barnabas. If he had no other name, we know nothing further about this apostle from the Scriptures.

A comparison of the lists of the Twelve in the synoptics with the story of the fourth gospel has led to the widely accepted view that Bartholomew is to be identified with Nathanael in the fourth gospel. Several observations support the identification. The synoptics never mention Nathanael, while the fourth gospel never speaks of Bartholomew. The juxtaposition of the names of Philip and Bartholomew in the lists of the Twelve suggests the close relationship between the two depicted in John 1:43-51. All the companions of Nathanael (1:35-51) are known apostles. In John 21:1, 2 Nathanael appears as a member of a group of apostles. Christ’s promise to Nathanael, that he would be a witness to the central role of the Son of Man in God’s revelation to men, suggests an apostolic function (1:50, 51). There is nothing against the identification; it creates no difficulties.

Yet the identification is not proved. To assume the identification without question, as is often done, is to go beyond the evidence. Categorically to reject the identification is likewise unwarranted. Other proposed identifications for Bartholomew—Matthew, Matthias, the unnamed Emmaus disciple (Luke 24:13-32), even Paul—are all groundless hypotheses. If Bartholomew is not the same as Nathanael, he remains a mere name among the Twelve. See Nathanael.

Tradition has been busy with the name of Bartholomew. Widely different fields of missionary labor have been assigned to him—India, Phrygia, and Armenia. Various apostles were named as his co-workers, and different forms of martyrdom were ascribed to him.


M. R. James, The Apocryphal NT (1924), 166-186; 467, 468; D. Browne, “Who Was Nathanael?” ExpT, XXXVIII (1927), 286; R. B. Y. Scott, “Who Was Nathanael?” ExpT XXXVIII (1927), 93, 94; W. P. Barker, Twelve Who Were Chosen (1957), 57-63; W. Barclay, The Master’s Men (1959), 102-113.

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)

One of the Twelve Apostles (Mt 10:3; Mr 3:18; Lu 6:14; Ac 1:13). There is no further reference to him in the New Testament. According to the "Genealogies of the Twelve Apostles" (Budge, Contendings of the Apostles, II, 50) "Bartholomew was of the house of Naphtali. Now his name was formerly John, but our Lord changed it because of John the son of Zebedee, His beloved." A "Gospel of Bartholomew" is mentioned by Hieronymus (Comm. Proem ad Matth.), and Gelasius gives the tradition that Bartholomew brought the Hebrew gospel of Matthew to India. In the "Preaching of Bartholomew in the Oasis" (compare Budge, II, 90) he is referred to as preaching probably in the oasis of Al Bahnasa, and according to the "Preaching of Andrew and Bartholomew" he labored among the Parthians (Budge, II, 183). The "Martyrdom of Bartholomew" states that he was placed in a sack and cast into the sea.

From the 9th century onward, Bartholomew has generally been identified with Nathanael, but this view has not been conclusively established.

See Nathanael.

Biblical Training

The BiblicalTraining app gives you access to 2,300 hours of instruction (129 classes and seminars). Stream the classes, or download and listen to them offline. Share classes via social media, email, and more.