Nathan'ael (Ναθαναήλ, but Ναθανάηλος in 1 Esdr. 9:22; for the Heb. נתִנאֵל, given of God, i.q. θεόδορος; comp. Nathan), the name of three men in the Apocrypha and one in the N.T. SEE NETHANEEL.
1. A brother of Samaras the Levite, in the time of Josias (1 Esdr. 1:8); evidently the NETHANEEL SEE NETHANEEL (q.v.) of the Heb. text (2Ch 25:9).
2. One of the "sons of Phaisus" who renounced their Gentile wives after the captivity. (1 Esdr. 9:32); evidently the NETHANEEL (s.v.) of the Heb. text (Esdr. 10:22).
3. Son of Samael and father of Eliab among the ancestry of Judith (Jud. 8:1), and therefore a Simeonite (9:2). SEE JUDITH.
4. One of the earliest disciples of our Lord, concerning whom, under that name at least, we learn from Scripture little more than his birthplace, Cana of Galilee (Joh 21:2), and his simple, truthful character (Joh 1:47). We have no particulars of his life. Indeed the name does not occ'ur in the first three Gospels. We learn, however, from the evangelist John that Jesus on the third or fourth day after his return from the scene of his temptation to that of his baptism, having been proclaimed by the Baptist as the Lamb of God, was minded to go into Galilee. He first then called Philip to follow him, but Philip could not set forth on his journey without communicating to Nathanael the wonderful intelligence which he had received from his master the Baptist, namely, that the Messiah so long foretold by Moses and the prophets had at last appeared. Nathanael, who seems to have heard the announcement at first with some distrust, as doubting whether anything good could come out of so small and inconsiderable a place as Nazareth — a place nowhere mentioned in the Old Testament — yet readily accepted Philip's invitation to go and satisfy himself by his own personal observation (Joh 1:46). What follows is a testimony to the humility, simplicity, and sincerity of his own character from One who could read his heart, such as is recorded of hardly any other person in the Bible. Nathanael, on his approach to Jesus, is saluted by him as "an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no guile" — a true child of Abraham, and not simply according to the flesh. So little, however, did he expect any such distinctive praise, that he could not refrain from asking how it was that he had become known to Jesus. The answer, "before that Philip called thee, when thou wast under the fig-tree, I saw thee," appears to have satisfied him that the speaker was more than man — that he must have read his secret thoughts, and heard his unuttered prayer at a time when he was studiously screening himself from public observation, as was the custom with pious Jews (Tholuck, Comment. on John, ad loc.). The conclusion was inevitable. Nathanael at once confessed, "Rabbi, thou art the Son of God; thou art the King of Israel" (Joh 1:49). B.C. 25. The name of Nathanael occurs but once again in the Gospel narrative, and then simply as one of the small company of disciples to whom Jesus showed himself at the Sea of Tiberias after his resurrection. B.C. 29. On that occasion we may fairly suppose that he joined his brethren in their night's venture on the lake — that, having been a sharer of their fruitless toil, he was a witness with them of the miraculous draught of fishes the next morning — and that he afterwards partook of the meal, to which, without daring to ask, the disciples felt assured in their hearts that he who had called them was the Lord (Joh 21:12). Once therefore at the beginning of our Savior's ministry, and once after his resurrection, does the name of Nathanael occur in the sacred record.
This scanty notice of one who was intimately associated with the very chiefest apostles, and was himself the object of our Lord's most emphatic commendation, has not unnaturally provoked the inquiry whether he may not be identified with another of the well-known disciples of Jesus. It is indeed very commonly believed that Nathanael and Bartholomew are the same person. The evidence for that belief is as follows: John, who twice mentions Nathanael, never introduces the name of Bartholomew at all. Mt 10:3; Mr 3:18; and Lu 6:14, all speak of Bartholomew, but never of Nathanael. It may be, however, that Nathanael was the proper name, and Bartholomew (son of Tholmai) the surname of the same disciple, just as Simon was called Bar-Jona, and Joses, Barnabas. It was Philip who first brought Nathanael to Jesus, just as Andrew had brought his brother Simon, and Bartholomew is named by each of the first three evangelists immediately after Philip; while by Luke he is coupled with Philip precisely in the same way as Simon with his brother Andrew, and James with his brother John. It should be observed, too, that as all the other disciples mentioned in the first chapter of John became apostles of Christ, it is difficult to suppose that one who had been so singularly commended by Jesus, and who in his turn had so promptly and so fully confessed him to be the Son of God, should be excluded from the number. Again, that Nathanael was one of the original twelve, is inferred with much probability from his not being proposed as one of the candidates to fill the place of Judas. Still we must be careful to distinguish conjecture, however well founded, from proof. To the argument based upon the fact that in John's enumeration of the disciples to whom our Lord showed himself at the Sea of Tiberias Nathanael stands before the sons of Zebedee, it is replied that this was to be expected, as the writer was himself a son of Zebedee; and, further, that Nathanael is placed after Thomas in this list, while Bartholomew comes before Thomas in Matthew, Mark, and Luke. But as in the Acts Luke reverses the order of the two names, putting Thomas first and Bartholomew second, we cannot attach much weight to this argument. St. Augustine not only denies the claim of Nathanael to be one of the Twelve, but assigns as a reason for his opinion that whereas Nathanael was most likely a learned man in the law of Moses, it was, as Paul tells us (1Co 1:26), the wisdom of Christ to make choice of rude and unlettered men to confound the wise (in Johan. Ev. chapter 1, § 17). St. Gregory adopts the same view (on John 1:33, chapter 16, B). In a dissertation on Joh 1:46, to be found in Thes. Theo. philolog. 2:370, the author, J. Kindler, maintains (Nath. vere Israelites [Viteb. 1680]) that Bartholomew and Nathanael are different persons.
There is a tradition that Nathanael was the bridegroom at the marriage of Cana (Calmet), and Epiphanius (Adv. Haer. 1, § 223) implies his belief that of the two disciples whom Jesus overtook on the road to Emnmaus Nathanael was one. The following additional monographs are extant:
Lange, Nath. cosfessio (Lips. 1755); Pignatelli, De Apostolatu Nath. Barth. (Par. 1560); Robert, Nathanael Barth. (Duaci, 1519); Hartmann, Examen Jo. 1:47 (Abose, 1753). SEE BARTHOLOMEW.