International Standard Bible Encyclopedia
|Nathanael - (נתנאל,
“God has given”;
Nathanael, who was probably a fisherman, belonged to Cana in Galilee (Joh_21:2).
According to the “Genealogies of the Twelve Apostles” (compare Budge,
Contendings of the Apostles, II, 50), Nathanael was the same as
Simon, the son of Cleopas, and was one of the Twelve. He was among those
who met and conversed with Jesus during the preaching of John the
Baptist at Bethany beyond Jordan (compare
Joh_1:28). From the manner of the invitation extended to
him by Philip (Joh_1:45),
it is evident that Nathanael was well versed in ancient Scripture, and
that in him also the preaching of John had aroused a certain expectancy.
His reply to Philip, “Can any good thing come out of Nazareth? (Joh_1:46),
was prompted, not by any ill repute of the place, but by its petty
insignificance and familiarity in Nathanael's eyes. To this question
Philip made no direct answer, but replied, “Come and see.” It was the
answer best fitted to the man and the occasion; it appealed to
Nathanael's fair-mindedness and sincerity of purpose. He responded nobly
to the call, and on approaching Jesus was received with the words:
“Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile!” (Joh_1:47).
It was a tribute to that singleness of heart which enabled him to
overcome his initial prejudice. The same candor and openness
distinguished the after-interview of Nathanael with Jesus, as is evident
by his question, “Whence knowest thou me?” (Joh_1:48).
The reply of Jesus was not what he expected. It concerned the time he
had spent under the fig tree, kneeling, no doubt, in silent prayer and
communion with God, and brought to mind all the sacred hopes and
aspirations of that hour. It taught him that here was One who read on
the instant the inmost secrets of his heart, and was Himself the ideal
for whom he was seeking; and it drew from him the confession, “Rabbi,
thou art the Son of God; thou art King of Israel” (Joh_1:49).
Although Nathanael is mentioned by name only once again in the New Testament, where he is one of the seven who witnessed the appearance of the risen Jesus at the Sea of Tiberias (Joh_21:2), it is evident that the connection and companionship of Nathanael with Jesus must have been much closer than those two incidents would lead us to suppose. Accordingly, attempts have been made to identify him with other New Testament characters, the most commonly accepted being Bartholomew (compare BARTHOLOMEW). The principal arguments in support of this identification are: (1) Nathanael is never mentioned by the synoptists, and Bartholomew is never mentioned by John, who further implies that Nathanael was one of the twelve disciples (compare Joh_20:24-26; Joh_21:2); (2) in the Synoptists, Philip is closely connected with Bartholomew (compare lists of the apostles), and in John with Nathaniel (compare Joh_1:45 ff); (3) the fact that most of the other apostles bear two names. Arguments are also adduced to identify him wit h Simon the Cananean (compare SIMON). Nathanael has also been identified with Matthew and Mattbias (based on the similarity of name-meanings), with John the son of Zebedee, with Stephen, and even with Paul.
Bartholomew - (Βαρθολομαῖος, Bartholomaíos, i.e. “son of Tolmai or Tolmai”): One of the Twelve Apostles (Mat_10:3; Mar_3:18; Luk_6:14; Act_1:13). There is no further reference to him in the New Testament. According to the “Genealogies of the Twelve Apostles” (Budge, Contendings of the Apostles, II, 50) “Bartholomew was of the house of Naphtali. Now his name was formerly John, but our Lord changed it because of John the son of Zebedee, His beloved.” A “Gospel of Bartholomew” is mentioned by Hieronymus (Comm. Proem ad Matth.), and Gelasius gives the tradition that Bartholomew brought the Hebrew gospel of Matthew to India. In the “Preaching of Bartholomew in the Oasis” (compare Budge, II, 90) he is referred to as preaching probably in the oasis of Al Bahnâsâ, and according to the “Preaching of Andrew and Bartholomew” he labored among the Parthians (Budge, II, 183). The “Martyrdom of Bartholomew” states that he was placed in a sack and cast into the sea.
From the 9th century onward, Bartholomew has generally been identified with Nathanael, but this view has not been conclusively established. See NATHANAEL.
Taken from: International Standard Bible Encyclopedia by James Orr, M.A., D.D., General Editor