It is the 24th of August 2021 Welcome to the Christian History Almanac brought to you by 1517 at 1517.org, I’m Dan van Voorhis.
Hey Hey and a happy St. Bartholomew’s Day!
In today’s show, we will talk about what we know historically about the disciple…
Well, that wraps up today’s show, the last word…wait.
It might be that Bartholomew was one of the disciples about whom we know nothing else.
I recently heard a pastor preach about the Good news of Bartholomew’s calling. Maybe there was nothing written because there was nothing particularly special about him. Perhaps his good works are known by his contemporaries and God alone.
Or maybe Bartholomew was actually named “Nathaniel Bar Tolmai” and thus would be the same disciple who was brought to the Messiah by Phillip. This tradition can be dated back to the 9th century.
The idea that Bartholomew was unremarkable just wouldn’t do for the early church and thus we have a collection of possibly spurious, possibly partially true stories which are instructive nonetheless because people believed they were true.
According to tradition, Bartholomew traveled into the Middle East, India, Africa, and then up into Turkey and Armenia. According to legend, he was responsible for the conversion of an Armenian nobleman which set the stage for the Armenian church (the first Kingdom to embrace Christianity). And legend has it that on account of converting that nobleman he was led to his martyrdom. And the martyrdom is one for the ages. In fact, it is so graphic it became very popular to depict and can even be found on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. According to legend Bartholomew was flayed alive, burned, and decapitated. The story of his flaying has been so widely copied in the art that he became the patron saint of tanners, butchers, leatherworkers, etc… which is weirdly ironic but also follows the association with the saints and the very things that caused their shame.
St. Paul wrote:
But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty; and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen…that no flesh should glory in His presence.”
Perhaps Martin Luther would call this a true theology of the cross. It is taking the simple and shameful but pointing to it as the picture of a mighty God hidden under suffering.
St. Bartholomew’s Day, this the 24th of August, has however been more associated with the Massacre on this day.
We’ve talked about it before, but as a refresher, it was like the Game of Thrones “Red Wedding” except it involved a city of Protestants lured out with a Catholic/Protestant wedding only for the poor Prots to be massacred when the bells tolled. Catholics wore white crosses on their clothes to be identified and not killed. The massacre would spread from town to town until some 70,000 may have been killed. The term “massacre” may have initially meant “butcher shop”. The brutality was so much that the term was affixed to the violence and now means indiscriminate terror and death. We remember this tragic event as:
- The result of the “second” or “later” Reformation.
- The hardening of lines between the Protestant North and Catholic South of Western Europe.
- The stoking of more Protestant martyrologies and the trope of the bloodthirsty Catholic.
So, sorry St. Bart? Overlooked, flayed, associated with mass murder… but called by Jesus. According to legend, he died on this, (the equivalent of) the 24th of August.
The last word for today comes from the Gospel of John- the story of Nathaniel:
The next day Jesus wanted to go into Galilee, and he found Philip. Jesus said to him, “Follow me.” Philip was from Bethsaida, the hometown of Andrew and Peter.
Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law and the Prophets: Jesus, Joseph’s son, from Nazareth.”
Nathanael responded, “Can anything from Nazareth be good?”
Philip said, “Come and see.”
Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him and said about him, “Here is a genuine Israelite in whom there is no deceit.”
Nathanael asked him, “How do you know me?”
Jesus answered, “Before Philip called you, I saw you under the fig tree.”
Nathanael replied, “Rabbi, you are God’s Son. You are the king of Israel.”
This has been the Christian History Almanac for the 24th of August 2021 brought to you by 1517 at 1517.org.
The show is produced by Christoper “Rains of Castamere” Gillespie.
The show is written and read by Dan van Voorhis who blesses the rains in Africa.
(Gonna take some time to do the things we never had, ooh, ooh)
You can catch us here every day- and remember that the rumors of grace, forgiveness, and the redemption of all things are true…. Everything is going to be ok.