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Nathanael - The True Israelite

Profile of Nathanael, Believed to Be the Apostle Bartholomew

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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)

Jack Zavada, a career writer and contributor for About.com, is host to a Christian website for singles. Never married, Jack feels that the hard-won lessons he has learned may help other Christian singles make sense of their lives. His articles and ebooks offer great hope and encouragement. To contact him or for more information, visit Jack's Bio Page.

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