Nathanael (a.k.a. Bartholomew) ~ son of Tolmai

Referenced in the Bible:

• Matthew 10:3

• Mark 3:18

• Luke 6:14

• John 1:45-49

• John 21:2

• Acts 1:13

Key Verse: 

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)

Introduction:[1] (By Jack Zavada).

Nathanael – The True Israelite Believed to Be the Apostle Bartholomew

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.


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


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.


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

Life Lessons:

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


Cana in Galilee


Early life unknown, later, disciple of Jesus Christ.

Father – Tolmai

Who was Nathanael in the Bible?[2]

Nathanael, whose name is spelled Nathaniel in popular modern usage, was one of the disciples called by Jesus (John 1:43). Nathanael was from Cana in Galilee (John 21:2) and was brought to Jesus by his friend, Philip, who also became one of Jesus’ disciples. Nathanael was one of the first to express belief in Jesus Christ as the Son of God (John 1:49). His name means “God has given” in Hebrew.

The call of Philip and Nathanael to discipleship is recorded in the first chapter of John, beginning in verse 43. Jesus went to Galilee and found Philip first, who then went to Nathanael, his friend. Philip told Nathanael that he had found “the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph” (John 1:45). Nathanael was skeptical and said, “Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?” (verse 46). This skepticism was understandable; at that time Nazareth was an obscure little hill town, remote and of no consequence. It was not sophisticated or glamorous, quite the opposite—it was not a place that anyone expected the Messiah to come from. Despite his skepticism, Nathanael followed Philip to meet Jesus. When the Lord saw Nathanael coming toward Him, He said, “Here truly is an Israelite in whom there is no deceit” (verse 47). Nathanael accepted this description as true and wondered how Jesus knew his character, having never met him before. Jesus explained: “I saw you while you were still under the fig tree before Philip called you” (verse 48). Nathanael then immediately recognized Jesus as the Christ, calling him the “Son of God” and the “king of Israel” (verse 49).

It has been speculated that there was something in Nathanael’s mind or actions under the fig tree that caused Jesus to refer to him as “an Israelite in whom there is no deceit.” This would help explain Nathanael’s amazement, as simply having seen Nathanael under the fig tree does not necessarily denote spiritual foresight or anything miraculous. It is obvious that Jesus’ mention of “no deceit” triggered amazement in Nathanael; it points to the fact that Jesus knew his thoughts.

Jesus responds to Nathanael ’s statement of faith with a prophecy: “You believe because I told you I saw you under the fig tree. You will see greater things than that” (John 1:50). Then Jesus prophesies that Nathanael will see angels ascending and descending on the Son of Man (verse 51). This is a reference to the story of Jacob’s ladder in Genesis 28. But instead of ascending and descending on a ladder as they did in Jacob’s dream, the angels will ascend and descend on the Son of Man—meaning that Jesus Himself will be the final, efficacious connection between God and humanity (see Hebrews 9:12; 10:10).

Easton’s Bible Dictionary – Nathanael[3]

given or gift of God, one of our Lord’s disciples, “of Cana in Galilee” ( John 21:2 ). He was “an Israelite indeed, in whom was no guile” ( John 1:47 John 1:48 ). His name occurs only in the Gospel of John, who in his list of the disciples never mentions Bartholomew, with whom he has consequently been identified. He was one of those to whom the Lord showed himself alive after his resurrection, at the Sea of Tiberias.

Encyclopedias – International Standard Bible Encyclopedia – Nathanael[4]

na-than’-a-el (Nathanael):

(1) One of the “captains over thousands” who furnished the Levites with much cattle for Josiah’s Passover (1 Esdras 1:9) equals “Nethanel” of 2 Chronicles 35:9.

(2) (Nathanaelos, Codices Vaticanus and Alexandrinus omit):

One of the priests who had married a “strange wife” (1 Esdras 9:22) equals “Nethanel” of Ezra 10:22.

(3) An ancestor of Judith (Judith 8:1).

(4) One of the Twelve Apostles. See next article.

Wikipedia: Nathanael (follower of Jesus)[5]From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Nathanael (Hebrew נתנאל, “God has given”) of Cana in Galilee is a follower or disciple of Jesus, mentioned only in the Gospel of John in Chapters 1 and 21.


In the Gospel of John, Nathanael is introduced as a friend of Philip, from Bethsaida.[6]Driscoll, James F. “Nathanael.” The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 10. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1911. 10 Aug. 2014 The first disciples called by Jesus are all portrayed as reaching out immediately to family or friends: thus, Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found Him of whom Moses in the law, and also the prophets, wrote — Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph”.[7]John 1:45

Nathanael is described as initially being skeptical about whether the Messiah could come from Nazareth, saying: “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?”,[8]John 1:46 but nonetheless, he accepts Philip’s invitation to find out. Jesus immediately characterizes him as “an Israelite in whom is no deceit”.[9]John 1:47 Some scholars hold that Jesus’ quote “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you”, is based on a Jewish figure of speech, referring to studying the Torah. Nathanael recognizes Jesus as “the Son of God” and “the King of Israel”.

He reappears (as “Nathanael of Cana”) at the end of John’s Gospel, as one of the disciples to whom Jesus appeared at the Sea of Galilee after the Resurrection.[10]Driscoll, James F. “Nathanael.” The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 10. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1911. 10 Aug. 2014

Nathanael has often been identified with Bartholomew the Apostle mentioned in the synoptic gospels,[11]Driscoll, James F. “Nathanael.” The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 10. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1911. 10 Aug. 2014,[12]John Wesley’s Notes on the Gospel according to Saint John on Chapter 1, accessed 2 February 2016 although most modern commentators reject the identification of Nathanael with Bartholomew.[13]Smith, D. Moody. Abingdon New Testament Commentaries: John. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1999. ISBN 0687058120


1.0) Source: (By Jack Zavada)

2.0) Source: | Tittle: “A Guide to Key Events, Characters and Themes of the Bible”

3.0) Source:

4.0) Source:

5.0) Source:

6.0) Source:

Related: Biblical Overviews List of Key Old Testament Characters


1 (By Jack Zavada).
5 From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
6, 10, 11 Driscoll, James F. “Nathanael.” The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 10. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1911. 10 Aug. 2014
7 John 1:45
8 John 1:46
9 John 1:47
12 John Wesley’s Notes on the Gospel according to Saint John on Chapter 1, accessed 2 February 2016
13 Smith, D. Moody. Abingdon New Testament Commentaries: John. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1999. ISBN 0687058120

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