(Na·thanʹa·el) [from Heb., meaning “God Has Given”].
Presumably the name of Bartholomew, hence one of Jesus’ 12 apostles. Bartholomew, meaning “Son of Tolmai,” was a patronymic term (that is, a designation derived from his father). The apostle John uses his given name Nathanael, whereas Matthew, Mark, and Luke call him Bartholomew. When doing so they associate Philip and Bartholomew together, in the same way that John links Philip with Nathanael. (Mt 10:3; Mr 3:18; Lu 6:14; Joh 1:45, 46) It was not uncommon for persons to be known by more than one name. For example, “Simon the son of John” also came to be known as Cephas and Peter. (Joh 1:42) Nor was it exceptional for Nathanael to be called Bartholomew, or the “Son of Tolmai,” as another man was called simply Bartimaeus, or “Son of Timaeus.” (Mr 10:46) The two names, Nathanael and Bartholomew, are used interchangeably by Christian writers of following centuries.
Nathanael was from Cana of Galilee. (Joh 21:2) He began following Jesus early in the Master’s ministry. Philip, after responding to Jesus’ call “Be my follower,” immediately looked up his friend Nathanael and invited him to “come and see” the Messiah. Nathanael asked, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” but then responded to the invitation. Jesus, seeing him approach, remarked: “See, an Israelite for a certainty, in whom there is no deceit.” Nathanael must have been an exceptional man for Jesus to make a statement like that. Because Jesus said this and stated that he saw Nathanael under a fig tree before Philip called him, Nathanael confessed that Jesus was indeed “the Son of God, . . . King of Israel.” Jesus assured him that he would “see things greater than these.”—Joh 1:43-51.
As one of the 12, Nathanael was in constant attendance throughout Jesus’ ministry, being trained for future service. (Mt 11:1; 19:25-28; 20:17-19, 24-28; Mr 4:10; 11:11; Joh 6:48-67) After Jesus’ death and resurrection, Nathanael and others of the apostles went back to their fishing, and it was while they were approaching shore in their boat one morning that Jesus called to them. Nathanael, unlike Peter, stayed in the boat until it got to shore, and then, joining the rest for breakfast, he took in the meaningful conversation between Jesus and Peter. (Joh 21:1-23) He was also present with the other apostles when they met together for prayer and on the day of Pentecost.—Ac 1:13, 14; 2:42.