NATHANAEL (na-thăn'ā-ĕl, Heb. nethan’ēl, God has given). One of the apostles introduced to Christ by Philip (John.1.45ff.; John.21.2). Nathanael was presumably of Cana in Galilee. The circumstances surrounding his calling are somewhat striking, since Christ praises his integrity at their initial encounter and demonstrates to Nathanael his own foreknowledge by reference to the fig tree. Evidently Nathanael’s knowledge of the Scripture was considerable because of the remarkable theological repartee that occurred between Christ and him (John.1.47-John.1.51). Nathanael is commonly identified as Bartholomew. The two names are used interchangeably by the church fathers.

Nathanael is mentioned only in John. Efforts to identify him with the Apostle Bartholomew are only conjectures. Though double names (even double Sem. names) were sometimes used, there is no real ground for an identification of these two individuals.

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)


(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 2Ch 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 Ezr 10:22.

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

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

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; 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.