ST. BARTHOLOMEW THE APOSTLE, & FIG TREE NUT BREAD
St. Bartholomew was born around the same time as Jesus in Cana. He is named as one of the Twelve Apostles in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke. He’s honored as the patron saint of the Armenia Apostolic Church along with St. Jude for bringing Christianity to Armenia before they were martyred there. The Roman Catholic and Anglican (including Episcopal) Churches celebrate his feast day on August 24. He is honored in Eastern Christianity on June 11.
Because the name “Bartholomew” doesn’t appear in John, it’s commonly believed that he’s the one named “Nathanael” in John because Nathanael appears often with Philip in John, and Bartholomew appears often with Philip in the other Gospels. Also, the Gospel of John has some editing issues, so it’s seems plausible that this was another mistake.
And while “Bartholomew” is an excellent name for a pet cat, let’s go with the Nathanael passage because it the only one we got, and it’s a good one:
The next day Jesus decided to leave for Galilee. Finding Philip, he said to him, “Follow me.”
Philip, like Andrew and Peter, was from the town of Bethsaida.
Philip found Nathanael and told him, “We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote — Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.”
“Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?” Nathanael asked.
When Jesus saw Nathanael approaching, he said of him, “Here truly is an Israelite in whom there is no deceit.”
“How do you know me?” Nathanael asked.
Jesus answered, “I saw you while you were still under the fig tree before Philip called you.”
Then Nathanael declared, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the king of Israel.”
Jesus said, “You believe because I saw you under the fig tree. You will see greater things than that.” He then added, “Very truly I tell you, you will see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.” — John 1:43-51
Can’t you just hear Nathanael’s voice dripping with scorn when he says, “Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?” It’s pretty funny, considering. And we think that maybe when Philip brings Nathanael to Jesus, he will be scolded.
But Jesus did the opposite. He didn’t refer to what Nathanael said to Philip. He based his verbal assessment of Nathanael on what he was doing under the fig tree BEFORE Philip called him. There’s something solid in that. Something about being judged by who we are rather than what we do or say. I mean, we could all use some of that sometimes.
And even if Jesus were referring to the whole exchange between Philip and Nathanael, to be judge positively by Jesus for speaking his version of the truth, whether it was polite or not, overwhelmed Nathanael.
He took Jesus’s knowledge of his true character to heart. Perhaps because Nathanael knew how rarely human beings judge each other this way. And that’s why he immediately believed Jesus of little ol’ Nazareth was the Son of God.
Jesus, of course, was all, stick with me kid, you ain’t seen nuttin’ yet.
Speaking of nuts, let’s honor St. Bartholomew/Nathanael with:
FIG TREE NUT BREAD
1 cup apple juice
1/2 stick ( 1/4 cup) butter
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups dried figs, stems removed, chopped
1 cup all purpose flour
3/4 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 teaspoon baking POWDER
1/4 teaspoon baking SODA
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1/4 cup sugar
2 TBSP brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup walnuts
Canola (or equivalent) oil for greasing loaf pan
In a small saucepan, heat apple juice over high heat about three minutes until it just begins to boil. Remove from heat, add butter, and stir until melted. Stir in salt and figs. Set aside to cool to room temperature.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
In a large bowl, stir together all purpose flour, whole wheat flour, baking power, baking soda, cinnamon, and ginger.
In a medium bowl, combine eggs, sugar, brown sugar, and vanilla. Beat with fork until well mixed. Stir in fig mixture.
Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients. Add walnuts. Stir just until all the dry ingredients are mixed in. Spoon the batter into a greased 8″ x 4″ x 2″ loaf pan.
Bake for about 1 hour or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean or with just a few crumbs. Cool upright in the pan on a wire rack for at least 10 minutes. Remove and serve warm, or let cool completely for later.
Bonus Material July 31, 2019:
When I studied St. Bartholomew/Nathanael and the gospel story of Jesus seeing him under the fig tree before he was Called, I was so inspired by the idea of Jesus seeing our whole selves and not just our mistakes, I wanted to honor that with a Nathanael Under the Fig Tree statue. Of course, he’s not popular enough for a garden statue, so I bought one of St. Francis of Assisi remembering Jesus seeing Nathanael sitting under the fig tree.
Interesting thing about this fig tree, my dad planted it as a gift for me in 2003. It started off as a cutting he rooting from their yard in Boiling Springs Lakes when they tried living down here during the winters for a few years. It grew slowly because there was too much shade in that spot. And then, Hurricane Florence gave it a wallop when large branches fell on top of it, crushing it and breaking off some top branches. And yet, it’s recovered and bearing fruit. See, the damaging storm also provided it with more sunshine so it will grow better from now on. Funny how the Universe presents life with exactly what it needs to find a way.