What was St Batholomew (Nathaniel) was doing under the fig tree and why did Christ refer to this upon their introduction?
The fig tree
and/or figs are referenced forty-three times in the bible.
For example, "The fig tree is the third tree to be mentioned by name in the Bible. The first is the tree of life and the second is the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Adam and Eve used the leaves of the fig tree to sew garments for themselves after the Fall, when they realized that they were naked (Genesis 3:7)". from Wikipedia
Another biblical "fig" reference provides an additional layer. It is a parable told by Jesus about the budding fig tree.
And he spoke to them in a similitude. See the fig tree, and all the trees: When they now shoot forth their fruit, you know that summer is nigh; So you also, when you shall see these things come to pass, know that the kingdom of God is at hand. Amen, I say to you, this generation shall not pass away, till all things be fulfilled. Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away (LK 21:29-33, DRA).
Here Jesus is relating the coming of the kingdom and for Bartholomew this got real, didn't it?
One day, unexpectedly, he met the entire kingdom in the person of Jesus Christ.
The fig tree, for young rabbinic students, was a common place for prayer and this was probably what Nathaniel was doing there. However, to connect this point further, he was most likely praying for the messiah and this is why Jesus called him a true Israelite. Jesus was proclaiming to Nathaniel that he was indeed the messiah for which he was waiting and praying for under the fig tree.
The life of St Bartholomew
is sketchy. His name in Aramaic means "God is given". In the Gospel we read that St Phillip, a friend, introduced Bartholomew to Jesus and that Jesus commented, "this man has no guile".
An outstanding attribute of St Bartholomew is that he recognized the true nature of Jesus, proclaiming once "You are the Son of God"( Jn 1:49).
Batholomew came from Cana and was probably in attendance at the miraculous wedding feast with Jesus. He was one of the apostles who was with Jesus at the Sea of Tiberius after His resurrection and he was present at Pentecost. He set out to preach shortly after receiving the gift of the Holy Spirit and tradition has it that he traveled to India. Medieval stories tell how he was flayed, but we really don't know.
Traditional Orthodox portray Bartholomew as middle aged, with a short beard and hair. This is because one early church visionary, St Joseph the Hymnographer and Emperor Anastasius I (491-518), both claimed that St Bartholomew appeared to them and described him in this way.
The 13th century Golden Legend describes St Bartholomew as having black curly hair, fair skin and and a long, graying beard.
Michelangelo painted St Bartholomew in the Sistine Chapel holding his flayed skin and even inserted his own face for that of Bartholomew.
St Bartholomew's Patrimony
Pope Benedict XVI wrote that St Bartholomew shed light on Christ's identity and that he recognized Jesus "both in His special relationship with God the Father, of whom he is the Only begotten Son, and His relationship with the people of Israel, of whom He is declared King".
Pope Benedict XVI begs that we, too, should never loose site of this. He further writes:
IF WE ONLY PROCLAIM HIS HEAVENLY DIMENSION, WE RISK MAKING HIM AN ETHEREAL AND EVANESCENT BEING; AND IF, WE RECOGNIZE ONLY HIS CONCRETE PLACE IN HISTORY, WE END UP BY NEGLECTING THE DIVINE DIMENSION THAT PROPERLY QUALIFIES HIM. Apostles, Page 110
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