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Most scholars believe that Bartholomew in the Synoptic Gospels and Nathanael in John are different names of the same person. Nathanael means “El (God) has given” or “Gift of God (El).” Bartholomew signifies “son of Tolomæus” because he was a son of Tolomæus or Tolmai. Thus, Bartholomew is his patronymic name, referring to his father like Bar-Jonah (son of Jonah) that Jesus used for Peter (Mt 16:17). Bartholomew was from Cana in Galilee (and is mentioned in Mt 10:3; Mk 3:18; Lk 6:14; Jn 1:45-49, 21:2; and Acts 1:13).

Bartholomew, also called Nathanael, hailed from Cana in Galilee (Jn 21:2). Philip introduced Jesus to Nathanael. When Jesus saw Nathanael, he said of him: “Here is a true Israelite. There is no duplicity in him” (Jn 1:47). Nathanael asked Jesus, “How do you know me?” Jesus answered: “Before Philip called you, I saw you under the fig tree” (Jn 1:48). The Jews had a practice of reading and reflecting on the Holy Scripture under the shade of a fig tree. Based on his understanding of the Holy Bible and observing the words and actions of Jesus, Nathanael responded to Jesus with a profession of faith: “Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel” (Jn 1:49). Jesus promised Nathanael: “Amen, amen, I say to you, you will see the sky opened and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man” (Jn 1:51).

The specialties of Nathanael (Bartholomew) are:
1. His friend Philip introduced him to Jesus (Jn 1:45-46).
2. At first sight, Jesus certified Nathanael as a true Israelite and with no duplicity (Jn 1:47).
3. He confessed Jesus as “the Son of God” and “the King of Israel” at his first encounter with Jesus (Jn 1:49).
4. While the other apostles took time to understand Jesus as the Christ, Nathanael realized it before following Jesus.
5. Nathaniel was the first disciple to recognize Jesus Christ as the Son of God.
6. He was an expert in the Law and the Prophets, thus literate compared to the other apostles.
7. The gospels use his name differently. While John uses the name Nathanael, the Synoptic gospels present him as Bartholomew.
8. He was one among the seven disciples to whom Jesus appeared at the Sea of Galilee after His Resurrection (Jn 21:2).
9. The Synoptic Gospels paired Bartholomew with Philip in listing the apostles (Mt 10:3, Mk 3:18, Lk 6:14).

There are legends and traditions on Nathanael’s ministry after Pentecost. He paired up with Philip to evangelize in Turkey and Asia Minor. According to the fourth-century writer Eusebius of Caesarea, Bartholomew preached in India (https:// overviewbible.com/bartholomew-the-apostle). Popular belief is that Bartholomew was martyred by being skinned alive and then beheaded in Armenia in 72 AD. Another legend is that he was crucified upside down in Albania. His relics were supposedly taken to the Church of St. Bartholomew-in-the-Tiber in Rome. He is often depicted in Christian art holding a flaying knife, symbolizing his martyrdom. Christian sects celebrate his feast on different dates. The Catholic Church honors him on August 24th.


Nathanael’s study of the Holy Scripture helped him to identify Jesus as the Messiah. In a world of confusion between the truth and lies, the study of the Bible will help us understand and live according to the truth of God.

Nathanael’s skepticism towards Nazareth teaches the importance of overcoming prejudices and being open to God’s unexpected work in people and places. We must examine our biases and be willing to accept the truth. This willingness can result in powerful experiences with Christ.

Jesus described Nathanael as “an Israelite in whom there is no deceit” (Jn 1:47), highlighting his sincerity and integrity. Christians are advised to develop an honest and genuine faith. Honesty in one’s spiritual life fosters a deeper and more authentic relationship with God.

Nathanael’s declaration, “You are the Son of God; you are the king of Israel,” underscores the importance of recognizing and confessing Jesus’ divine nature and kingship. Christians are called to acknowledge Jesus as the Son of God and the true King, making this recognition central to their faith and witness.

Bartholomew’s tireless missionary efforts and eventual martyrdom demonstrate unwavering commitment to spreading the Gospel, despite brutal persecution. Christians should prioritize evangelism and sharing the Gospel, showing bravery and determination in tough situations.

Apostle Bartholomew/Nathanael’s transformation from doubt to strong belief, his genuine and honest nature, his acknowledgment of Jesus’ divine nature, his commitment to spreading the gospel, and his testimony of the resurrection serve as a complete example for Christian life. By following his example, we’re encouraged to embrace a sincere faith, overcome biases, boldly share the Gospel, and stay unwavering in our hope for resurrection.


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