Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found him about whom Moses in the law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus son of Joseph from Nazareth.” Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.” When Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him, he said of him, “Here is truly an Israelite in whom there is no deceit!”
Nathanael asked him, “Where did you get to know me?” Jesus answered, “I saw you under the fig tree before Philip called you.” Nathanael replied, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” Jesus answered, “Do you believe because I told you that I saw you under the fig tree? You will see greater things than these.”
And he said to him, “Very truly, I tell you, you will see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.”
New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved.
While Bartholomew the Apostle always appears in the Synoptic Gospels alongside Philip, in John’s Gospel, Philip is always linked with “Nathaniel.” Thus, the Eastern Church has long identified Bartholomew and Nathaniel as one and the same apostle. The deliciously skeptical remark that fell from Nathaniel/Bartholomew’s lips before he met Jesus – “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” – is especially poignant in light of the apostle’s subsequent witness to faith in Christ.
Saint Bartholomew is one of the so-called “flayed martyrs” among the church’s saints. According to popular hagiography, the apostle was skinned alive and beheaded for having converted the Armenian king to Christianity. (The Jesuit Saint Andrew Bobola, in 1657, met a similarly horrifying end.) In art, Bartholomew is often depicted holding his flayed skin or the curved knife with which he was flayed. Historically, depictions of Saint Bartholomew – the patron saint of doctors and surgeons – were often used by medical students to aid in their anatomy studies.
About his 2006 bronze, “Saint Bartholomew, Exquisite Pain,” the British sculptor Damien Hurst remarks of Bartholomew’s extreme exposure and pain, “It’s kind of beautiful, yet tragic.” Yes, it is. The journey from radical skepticism to a martyr’s faith is beautiful and tragic. What would so move Bartholomew to give his life in witness to Jesus? What would drive people to such horrifying lengths to silence him?
In terms of my own faith, and the martyrs of our time, where do I stand between these two extremes? “Here is a true child of Israel,” Jesus said of him. “There is no duplicity in him.”
—Christopher Pramuk is the University Chair of Ignatian Thought and Imagination and an associate professor of theology at Regis University.
it seems that you were transformed when you met Jesus
moved from cold skepticism to undying faith,
a faith that would lead to your death
by those for whom you were an aberration.
They stripped you violently of everything, even your skin,
yet not everything.
Can anything good come from Nazareth?
I know your skepticism, hardened into cynicism; I see it in myself:
Can anything good come from these hard days? From my country? From me?
And I ask for a measure today
of your faith, your courage, your trust in Jesus.
This day, with your help, let Jesus say of me, “There is no duplicity in him.”
—Christopher PramukPlease share the Good Word with your friends!