Bartholomew: “Minor” Apostles and Women
None of the apostles can have been ordinary people; Jesus doubtless was very careful in his selection of his inner circle of followers. It seems to RT, however, that some of the apostles were more dynamic than others, serving as centers of activity and interpretation after Jesus’s death. Others among the twelve were drawn to their intensity and leadership. Peter and James, Jesus’s brother (though not an apostle), for instance, appear to have been focal points of the movement. RT has a hunch that Mary Magdalene should also be included in this list of leaders.
On the other hand, one person that RT is fairly certain was not a leader was Bartholomew. That is not to say that Bartholomew was unimportant; rather he may have worked as a consensus-builder in the difficult first years after Jesus’s departure.
Based on his reading of a work variously called the Gospel of Bartholomew or the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, RT thinks that Bartholomew belongs in the Peter-James the Brother camp; that is to say, he was what today would be called a Jewish-Christian, Law-compliant, a follower of a Christology significantly different from the Christian view.
These are deep waters, made deeper by the existence of materials other than the Acts of the Apostles to read and consider. RT will confine himself to remarking on a single point about Bartholomew and his gospel. In GBarth, there is a scene where Peter and Mary the Mother debate who is worthiest to approach Jesus; Peter refers to Mary as the Tabernacle; Mary calls Peter the Rock of the Church. Very high compliments, to be sure, until one considers a similar passage in the Gospel of Mary, in which Peter denounces Mary Magdalene as unfit to have visions from Jesus (and thus to be a leader) because she is a woman.
It seems from these two passages that Peter and Mary Magdalene were competitors for the leadership of the movement, a conflict that apparently was resolved by praising women as mothers and above all the mother of Jesus, while ejecting Mary Magdalene from her leadership position. RT is also curious to find out what may have happened to Salome and other women who evidently were close to Jesus during his life. The Gospel to the Egyptians, preserved mostly in quotations from Clement of Alexandria, consists exclusively of a dialog between Jesus and Salome. RT can’t help but think of this text as The Gospel of Salome.
Already the “minor” apostle Bartholomew, rarely mentioned in the canonical Gospels, has taken us deep into the world of Jesus and the disciples, a world where a wide-ranging debate took place over Jesus and his mission. RT thinks it appropriate to end by pointing out that Jesus founded not one, but two, major religions, Christianity and Gnosticism. Many of the women in the Magdalene’s camp might have been attracted to the latter movement, which embraced, at least to some extent, the notion of equality for women.
RT’s Related Posts: 1) Gospel of the Egyptians–Reconstruction of a Fragment
Painting: St John and St Bartholomew; Giovanni di Niccolo Luteri (1527); WikiCmns; Public Domain.