This calendar of saints is drawn from several denominations, sects, and traditions. Although it will no longer be updated daily, the index on the right will guide visitors to a saint celebrated on any day they choose. Additional saints will be added as they present themselves to Major.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

August 24 -- Feast of Saint Nathaniel Bar-Tholomew

Nathaniel Bar-Tholomew was an apostle, one of the original twelve. He doesn't get much attention, though. No big speeches or monumental failures of faith. He's just one of the twelve, walking through the Holy Land, doing the apostle thing.

However, he does have one very quotable line. He was sitting under a fig tree, munching peacefully, when Philip calls him to meet this Nazarene that everyone's talking about. Quoth Nate, "Can anything good come out of Nazareth?" Of course he gets blown away by the Messiah when he meets him and signs up for the whole evangelical tour.

The accounts of Nathaniel's work after the crucifixion have him evangelizing everywhere: India, Mesopotamia, Persia, Armenia, even Egypt. In the fourth century, Eusebius wrote that Pantaneus went to India and found a copy of the Gospel of Matthew in Hebrew characters that had been left with them by Nathaniel. It was probably a Rig Veda written in sanskrit -- Pantaneus couldn't tell the difference and the locals were too polite to disabuse him of his error. [Well, that's my hypothesis and I'm sticking to it.]
In the pictures above, you'll see that Nathaniel made a good end of it. Or at least that the artists imagine he did. He was flayed alive and then beheaded. He is, contrary to all good taste, the patron saint of tanners. The sculpture pictured above is a common way of representing him: he has his own skin draped over him arm. One of his real arms, by the way, is kept in Canterbury Cathedral. Other parts of him are in Rome.

courtesy of The Brick Testament,
And finally, the name thing. I suppose we are not certain that Bartholomew and Nathaniel are the same guy, but here's the argument for linking them. Bartholomew is actually a last name: Bar= son of and thomomew was the name Tolmai. Matthew, Mark, Luke, and the Book of Acts mention him but do not list him next to Philip in the Apostle roll call. The Gospel of John does not mention Bartholomew, but it does mention Nathaniel, who was called by Philip to meet Jesus.

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