Bartholomew is counted among the twelve apostles of Jesus Christ and ancient tradition identifies him with Nathanael in the Gospel according to Saint John.

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In the lists of apostles, which appear in the Gospels of Matthew (10:3), Mark (3:18) and Luke (6:16), Bartholomew is mentioned together with Philip. These books give no details about him. A tradition identifies Bartholomew with one of the first disciples of Jesus in the Gospel according to Saint John, where his name is Nathanael and he is from Cana. According to what John tells us, Nathanael was an acquaintance of Philip, and they were in the area of the Jordan when Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist. When Jesus called Philip to follow him (on the second day after his baptism), Philip met his friend Nathanael, who had difficulty believing that the Messiah could come from Nazareth.

"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" (John 1:47-51).

According to ancient Christian traditions, Bartholomew travelled throughout the world in order to proclaim Jesus Christ who was raised from the dead. According to many, he died a martyr's death in India.