According to tradition, the disciples St. Bartholomew and St. Thaddeus were the first church planters in Armenia. They came from the coasts of Galilee to the highlands of Ararat, with their Hebrew attire and Aramaic accents to share news of their friend’s resurrection. These two apostles came with nothing but the Gospel and changed the course of Armenian history.
Bartholomew is listed as one of the twelve disciples in the synoptic gospels of Mark, Luke and Matthew. According to many scholars, Bartholomew is the last name of Nathaniel mentioned in the Gospel of John. Just like how Peter’s last name is Bar-Jonah, which means “Son of Jonah, Bartholomew in Aramaic means “Son of Talmai.” His last name probably indicates that he came from a family of farmers.
At the end of the first chapter in John’s Gospel, we find Bartholomew’s story. Bart was chilling under a fig tree and suddenly was interrupted by his friend Philip, who said, “We have found him! The one Moses and the prophets were talking about! Jesus Son of Joseph from Nazareth!” Bart was not amused and said, “Can anything good come from Nazareth?” Phil said, “Come and see for yourself!’
As Bart approached him. Jesus remarked, “Look! An Israelite in whom there is no deceit.” Nathanael responded, “You don’t know me?” Jesus said, “I saw you under the fig tree, before you were talking to Phillip.” For some reason, Bart was convinced and proclaimed, “Teacher! You are the Son of God, The King of Israel! Jesus replied, “Hold up, are you telling me that you believe just because I told you I saw you under the fig tree? You haven’t seen anything yet!” Bartholomew followed him and witnessed heaven on earth.
Thaddeus was the other Judas. Not the Judas Iscariot who sold Jesus out for money, but the one who is the son of James. Just like how Hitler ruined Charlie Chaplin’s mustache; Judas Iscariot ruined anyone named Judas. Therefore, the other Judas would be remembered throughout church history as Thaddeus.
Thaddeus is known in the Bible for his question during the Last Supper, found in the Gospel of John chapter fourteen. Jesus was telling his disciples that it was good for them that he would be leaving them, since they would be able to receive the Holy Spirit who will be their comforter and guide. Thaddeus, confused by all this asked, “Lord, How is it that you will manifest yourself to us and not the world?” Jesus responded, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.” After Jesus’ resurrection, Thaddeus would understand what his master was saying when he received the Holy Spirit.
The Apostles Thaddeus and Bartholomew came to the Armenians with the power of the Holy Spirit, proclaimed Jesus as the Christ and welcomed others into God’s family. They would become martyrs for their mission, but they planted the seed of faith that continues to grow today.