Tradition says he lost his skin,
Being flayed alive and then
Beheaded; so the paintings show
Him with a large knife and his own
Skin, draped sometimes as a shroud,
Sometimes like a robe of glory.
And there is only one story
Which the Scriptures tell of him;
He carries there another name –
Nathanael, the true Israelite
Who questioned and still trusted, so
In him there was found nothing false.
The other stories that we hear
May hold some skerrick of the truth,
While others may be hollow myths;
We cannot know, nor is there need.
His name evades us, as does he;
We only know whom he believed.
If he withstood the shedding of
His skin; if all his earthly robes
Were taken from him; it just says
With flesh and blood what we can know
To still be true within his soul,
And thus know all that we need:
That, finding from mean Nazareth
The Son of God, he gave up all
He had – his days, his nights, his years,
His name, his flesh, his very skin –
To serve the one who gave His life,
So that Bartholomew might live.