TEEN TREE      OF LIFE

THE TWELVE APOSTLES

Part 7

November 5, 2017

 

BEFORE we begin, if you are a believer in Jesus Christ, take a moment to name your sins to God the Father. This will allow you to be filled with the power of The Holy Spirit as you read this booklet (EPH 5:18 & 1JO 1:9). IF YOU HAVE never believed in Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, you have that opportunity right now. Simply tell God the Father that you are believing on His Son Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior. If you make that decision, you are now a believer and will always be a child of God! When you die, you will spend eternity with Him forever in heaven! (JOH 3:16 & ACT 16:31).

 

The name Bartholomew has Hebrew origins with “Bar Talmay” meaning, “son of Tolmai.” Tolmai means “a plowman,” so literally his name is “son of a plowman.” In the first three Gospels, MAT 10:3; MARK 3:18; LUKE 6:14, Bartholomew is used in the list of twelve, as it is in ACTS 1:13. But Nathanael was his proper name and Bartholomew (Bar-Tolmai) his last name. Nathanael is Greek from the Hebrew (Nathan – el) that means, “given/gift of God” or “God has given.”

 

In the Synoptic Gospels, Philip and Bartholomew are always mentioned together, while the name Nathanael is never mentioned; in John’s Gospel. On the other hand, Philip and Nathanael are similarly mentioned together, but nothing is said of Bartholomew.

 

According to the “Genealogies of the Twelve Apostles,” “Bartholomew was of the tribe of Naphtali. His name was formerly John, but our Lord changed it because of “John the son of Zebedee, His beloved.” There is no mention of his name being John in Scriptures. Bartholomew was born in Cana of Galilee according to JOH 21:2 – the place of Our Lord’s first miracle (see JOH 2:1-11).

 

In the first three Gospels, Philip and Bartholomew are constantly named together. The “Smith Bible Dictionary” states, “Bartholomew is named by each of the first three evangelists immediately after Philip, while by Luke he is coupled with Philip precisely in the same way as Simon with his brother Andrew, and James with his brother John.” In the fourth Gospel, Philip and Nathanael are similarly combined. Therefore, from this and other early church writers, we understand Bartholomew and Nathanael to be one and the same person.

 

In JOH 1:43-50, Philip, having accepted Jesus, told Nathanael that he had “found Him of whom Moses in the Law and also the Prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth.” To his question Bartholomew said, “Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?” Philip replied, “Come and see.” Nathanael’s critical reluctance was soon dispelled by Our Lord Jesus when, as He saw him coming toward Him, uttered the statement: Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no deceit!” (JOH 1:47) This elicited the inquiry from Nathanael as to how he had become known to Jesus. The answer, “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you” satisfied him that Jesus was more than man and led him to reply, “Rabbi, You are the Son of God; You are the King of Israel”.

Our Lord best describes him as an “Israelite indeed, without any deceit (JOH 1:47) after seeing him under the fig tree, where he may have been in prayer or meditating on Scripture. Some scholars say this is a Jewish figure of speech, referring to studying the Torah.

 

Bartholomew is listed in the Bible along with the other Apostles in MAT 10:3; MARK 3:18; LUKE 6:14; ACTS 1:13. Look at this verse: Jesus answered and said to him, “Because I said to you that I saw you under the fig tree, do you believe? You will see greater things than these.” (JOH 1:50) In this verse, Our Lord makes a fascinating promise of the blessings Bartholomew would enjoy here on earth.

 

Bartholomew was one of seven of the disciples to whom The Lord appeared after the Resurrection at the Sea of Tiberias. He was also a witness of the Ascension and returned with the other apostles to Jerusalem: Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a Sabbath day’s journey away. When they had entered the city, they went up to the upper room where they were staying; that is, Peter and John and James and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus, and Simon the Zealot, and Judas the son of James. (ACTS 1:12-13) Some believe that his lesser role in this list of disciples was because he was a learned Hebrew and Our Lord wanted to transform the world through the unlearned, to show The Power of God (although the appointment of Paul works against that theory). Like several other apostles, there is no word about him or any of his actions in the New Testament.

 

Tradition only speaks of his subsequent unsubstantiated history of being a missionary and preaching the Gospel along with Philip and Thomas in many countries, especially in India, where he left behind a Hebrew copy of the Gospel of Matthew. Other stories tell of him as serving as a missionary in Ethiopia, Mesopotamia, Parthia, and Lycaonia. Along with the apostle Jude, Bartholomew is reputed to have brought Christianity to Armenia in the 1st century. They are both considered the patron saints of the Armenian Apostolic Church.

 

“Foxes Book of Martyrs” tells us that he preached in several countries and having translated the Gospel of Matthew into Indian, he circulated it in that country. He died after being cruelly beaten for a long period of time and then crucified.

Our next apostle is Thomas – a Hebrew name which means, “double or twin.” He was also called Didymus, his Greek last name, with the same meaning: Therefore Thomas, who is called Didymus, said to his fellow disciples, “Let us also go, so that we may die with Him.” (JOH 11:16)

 

Some believe that Thomas was born in Antioch, but Galilee is also considered his native home, like most of the other Apostles. There is much confusion regarding who his siblings are and his actual identity. Because of the meaning of his name (“twin”), several in the early Christian era attempted to identify his twin brother or sister. But, it is likely that the twin is not even mentioned in the New Testament, making such identification impossible. We have with no real or credible evidence of his family background.

 

From the three main accounts of Thomas, we are able to learn something about his personality. In JOH 11:16, we learn about his willingness to die with the Lord (see verse above). In JOH 14:5, we learn about his longing to remain with the Lord: Thomas said to Him, “Lord, we do not know where You are going, how do we know the way?” In JOH 20:24-29, we learn about his hesitation to believe that the Lord had risen: But Thomas, one of the twelve, called Didymus, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples were saying to him, “We have seen the Lord!” But he said to them, “Unless I see in His hands the imprint of the nails, and put my finger into the place of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe.” After eight days His disciples were again inside, and Thomas with them. Jesus came, the doors having been shut, and stood in their midst and said, “Peace be with you.” Then He said to Thomas, “Reach here with your finger, and see My hands; and reach here your hand and put it into My side; and do not be unbelieving, but believing.” Thomas answered and said to Him, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus said to him, “Because you have seen Me, have you believed? Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed.” This verse is an amazing one. Look at the lesson: God wants us to believe without seeing. That is what FAITH is! Another cool thing about this verse is that this scene is why he is called “Doubting Thomas!”

 

Thomas’ personality was complex, revealing a courageous boldness with loyalty and faithfulness, while also being pessimistic at times. It has been written that he was charming and interesting. He had an eager devotion as revealed in his desire to die with the Lord.

 

Likewise, his eager devotion did not want to endure separation from the Lord, which led him to ask in John 14:5, “Lord, we do not know where You are going, how do we know the way?”  He has been characterized as slow to believe, subject to hopelessness, seeing all the difficulties of a case, and viewing things on the darker side. To give him the benefit of doubt, it may be that he was a critical thinker, in which he did not recognize the statement of eyewitnesses as a sufficient ground of faith. Yet, he too, being a Galilean, had a bold, strong, and courageous temperament.

 

Only the Gospel of John reveals information regarding various acts of Thomas. The synoptic Gospels purely identify Him and list him third or fourth in the second grouping. The rest that we know of him is derived from JOH 11:15-16; 14:4-5; 20:24-29. John lists him second in the second of the three groups of four.

When Jesus declared His intention of going to Bethany after Lazarus’s death, the disciples were resisting Jesus’ decision to return to Judea, where the Jews had previously tried to stone Him. Thomas, also apprehensive of danger, said to the other disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with Him,” (JOH 11:16)

 

At the Last Supper, when Jesus was speaking of His departure, Thomas said to Him, “Lord, we do not know where You are going, how do we know the way?” (JOH 14:5)

 

He was absent when Jesus first appeared to the Disciples after the Resurrection. Then came the infamous doubtful reaction with regards to the risen Lord.  (The Bible never states whether Thomas actually touched Christ’s wounds.) When convinced of the Resurrection, he made an historic confession of faith, in Verse 28: “My Lord and my God!”

 

After that, we only hear of Thomas twice more, once on the Sea of Galilee, with six other disciples Post-Resurrection in witness of the risen Lord and finally in the assembly of the Apostles, after the Ascension:  When they had entered the city, they went up to the upper room where they were staying; that is, Peter and John and James and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus, and Simon the Zealot, and Judas the son of James. These all with one mind were continually devoting themselves to prayer, along with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with His brothers. (ACTS 1:13-14)

{to be continued}

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