Nathanael - The True Israelite

Profile of Nathanael, Believed to Be the Apostle Bartholomew

Apostle Nathanael
Engraving of the Apostle Nathanael. Photo: Getty Images

Nathanael was one of the 12 original apostles of Jesus Christ. Little is written about him the Gospels and book of Acts.

Most Bible scholars believe Nathanael and Bartholomew were the same person. The name Bartholomew is a family designation, meaning "son of Tolmai." Nathanael means "gift of God." In the synoptic Gospels, the name Bartholomew always follows Philip in lists of the Twelve. In the Gospel of John, Bartholomew is not mentioned at all; Nathanael is listed instead, after Philip.

John also describes Nathanael's call by Philip. The two may have been friends, for Nathanael scoffs, "Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?" (John 1:46, NIV) Seeing the two men approach, Jesus calls Nathanael a "true Israelite, in whom there is nothing false," then reveals that he saw Nathanael sitting under a fig tree before Philip called him. Nathanael responds to Jesus' vision by proclaiming him the Son of God, the King of Israel.

Church tradition says Nathanael carried a translation of Matthew's Gospel to northern India. Legend claims he was crucified upside down in Albania.

Accomplishments of Nathanael

Nathanael accepted Jesus' call and became his disciple. He witnessed the Ascension and became a missionary, spreading the gospel.

Nathanael's Strengths

Upon meeting Jesus for the first time, Nathanael overcame his skepticism about the insignificance of Nazareth and left his past behind.

He died a martyr's death for Christ.

Nathanael's Weaknesses

Like most of the other disciples, Nathanael abandoned Jesus during his trial and crucifixion.

Life Lessons from Nathanael

Our personal prejudices can skew our judgment. By being open to God's word, we come to know the truth.

Hometown

Cana in Galilee

Referenced in the Bible

Matthew 10:3; Mark 3:18; Luke 6:14; John 1:45-49, 21:2; Acts 1:13.

Occupation

Early life unknown, later, disciple of Jesus Christ.

Family Tree

Father - Tolmai

Key Verses

John 1:47
When Jesus saw Nathanael approaching, he said of him, "Here is a true Israelite, in whom there is nothing false." (NIV)

John 1:49
Then Nathanael declared, "Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel." (NIV)

Old Testament People of the Bible (Index)
New Testament People of the Bible (Index)

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Zavada, Jack. "Nathanael - The True Israelite." ThoughtCo, Feb. 12, 2017, thoughtco.com/nathanael-the-true-israelite-701068. Zavada, Jack. (2017, February 12). Nathanael - The True Israelite. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/nathanael-the-true-israelite-701068 Zavada, Jack. "Nathanael - The True Israelite." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/nathanael-the-true-israelite-701068 (accessed January 24, 2018).