Nathanael Bartholomew from Cana in Galilee
an image of the Apostle for this month by Rev. Reingard Knausenberger
Three times Bartholomew’s name appears in the Gospels: Mt 10, Mk 3, Lk 6, always in the context of all the disciples’ names and then every time connected with Philip. In the Gospel of John (Jn 1, Jn 21) he appears as Nathanael. One more time his name appears in the Acts of the Apostles ch 1. The name already indicates something of his character and mission: Hebrew, Nathan=to give and El=God, translated as ‘God has given’ or ‘Gift of God’. Bartholomew indicates that Nathanael is the son of Tholomew (Bar=son of).
St. John describes the individuality, the other evangelists describe the blood connection to family and ancestry: Nathanael Bar-Tholomew. It is possible to hear in this name the expression of a spiritual status.
When Philip leads Nathaniel to Jesus Christ, he exclaims: ‘He is truly of the rank of a true Israelite in whom there is no false nor untruth!’ A true Israelite: this is a spiritual stage of initiation, where the person can merge with the higher guiding spirit of the whole nation. This individuality has the ability to rise into an expanded state of waking consciousness where he becomes a spiritual guardian of the nation of which he is a part. He becomes an active participant in the life of the archangel. When a person goes through everything it means to reach this stage of inner development, then the archangel can ‘read’ in such a soul as in a book, to gain orientation about what a nation needs. It is necessary that souls with this ability exist on earth as mediators for the archangels, that they can know how to guide the respective nation in the right way. (See also a lecture by Rudolf Steiner: lecture 3.10. 1913.)
Nathanael asks: ‘From where do you know me?’ Jesus answers: ‘Before Philip called you, I saw you when you were under the fig tree.’ This image of the fig tree is like a code. Nathanael recognises that Jesus of Nazareth is able to live and master the sphere of renewing, nurturing life forces which normally work on us in our sleep. He acknowledges him as his master, as it was only through deep undisturbed processes of meditation that anyone could access this dynamic etheric sphere. Here was someone who was wide awake in earthly day consciousness and could be at home in that sphere at the same time. ‘Master, you are the Son of God, you are the (spiritual leader) King of Israel!’ Then Jesus opens up a new perspective of initiation into the world of spirit for them: ‘I say to you all: You will see heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending above the Son of Man!’
Again this evokes a well-known image for those present: Jacob’s Ladder, another more objective image of the etheric sphere of life which works in us during sleep where truly there is a healing weaving between the angelic hierarchies and the human being. Also the mystery name ‘a true Israelite’ refers to Jacob as the first spiritual leader of a budding defined nation. Jesus draws attention to this connection. A new evolving of this reality is now beginning.
Is it coincidence that the Gospel then continues with the ‘first sign’ with which Jesus steps out into a public arena: the marriage at Cana -where Nathanael is at home- and the transforming of pure water (life-giving forces) into wine (an ‘I-conscious’ effective life force)? To be a disciple and a follower of Christ is a path of initiation to eventually be fully awake on each ‘rung of the ladder’, participating in the flow of creative life ascending and descending between heaven and earth. ‘This, the very beginning of his signs, Jesus fulfilled at Cana in Galilee. The radiating light-power of his being was made manifest, and a deep trust in him was awakened in his disciples’ (Jn 2:11). Was this possible, because Nathanael Bartholomew was part of their circle? Could Christ reveal himself on earth because each of the twelve disciples offered a different possibility for him to manifest his being? “There is no such thing as a lonely religion. Religion connects us with human beings, with our environment, with the earth, then in a right way with God” (John Wesley).
The Twelve Apostles of the New Jerusalem – Nathanael Bartholomew
an image as presented in January in a talk on the Twelve Apostles of the New Jerusalem
by Rev. Michaël Merle
When Andrew hears John the Baptist speak to himself: “There goes the Lamb of God” and grasps the significance of these words he goes in search of someone with whom to share what he has realised. Andrew finds Peter, his brother and they follow Jesus. Jesus finds Phillip, who is also a seeker and from the same city as Andrew and Peter. Philip finds Nathanael who is also seeking.
The suffix in his name – El – means God or God Most High. Nathanael is interested in the Father God. Philip tells Nathanael that they have found the fulfilment of the Old Testament, of the Law and the Prophets. This places Jesus in a clear lineage for Philip. Philip expects that Jesus would be of the Royal House of Bethlehem. He is therefore confused when Philip tells him Jesus is from Nazareth. Philip’s response to Nathanael’s disbelief is to suggest that he comes to see for himself and make his own assessment.
Bartholomew means that he is the son – bar – of Tholomew his father. It may be that he adopted the name Nathanael to signify his seeking of El, the full divinity of God.
When Jesus sees Nathanael approach, he describes him as a true Israelite in whom there is no deceit, or, more accurately, no crafty deceit. Crafty deceit was the condition of Adam and Eve. Jesus thereby signifies that Nathanael has developed to full consciousness; that he has reached a level of wisdom and that wisdom resides in him; Truth resides in him.
Jesus says to Nathanael that he perceived him under the fig tree. This places Nathanael on a particular spiritual path related to the town of Bethphage. Philip is also of this same spiritual stream. It is at Bethphage that Jesus curses the fig tree during Holy Week because this particular spiritual stream has come to its end.
There is now a community of Andrew, Philip and Nathanael, all three with a strong spiritual perception. They are meditants and thereby immediately recognise the Christ.
Nathanael is connected with Libra, the scales of Hermes to balance Law and Truth. The soul quality is contentment which must be transmuted to the spiritual quality of self control, harmony or composure. The stone connected with Libra is sard or carnelian.
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