Powered by Fr. Abraham Mutholath Foundation NFP

NATHANAEL: Why he said, “Can anything good come from Nazareth?”

Why Nathanael (Bartholomew) asked Philip, “Can anything good come from Nazareth?” (Jn 1:46).

Biblical scholars attribute distinct reasons for this question from Nathanael –

  1. Nazareth was a small village with around 400 inhabitants. So, people could expect nothing significant from there.
  2. Notably, Nathanael wasn’t just asking about the place of Messiah’s origin but also questioning the possibility of anything good coming from the place. Some believe that this was because of the jealousy or prejudice between Cana and Nazareth that were neighboring villages.
  3. There could possibly have been an ill reputation attached to Nazareth during that period. People from neighboring villages might have been looking upon the Nazoreans with contempt because of possible unacceptable behavior on their part or some awful events that might have occurred there. So “can anything good come….?” could mean, not even any person of nobility or thing of excellence could ever come from Nazareth. This became clear later when Jesus progressed in his public ministry there. “He did not work many mighty deeds there because of their lack of faith” (Mt 13:58). “He was amazed at their lack of faith” (Mk 6:6). They were all filled with fury and led Jesus to the brow of a hill to hurl him headlong (Lk 4:28-29). So, “He left Nazareth and went to live in Capernaum” (Mt 4:13).
  4. Nathanael who was an expert in the Law and the Prophets, could not find any supporting prophecy of the Messiah coming from Nazareth. According to the Evangelist Matthew, “He went and dwelt in a town called Nazareth, so that what had been spoken through the prophets might be fulfilled, ‘He shall be called a Nazorean’” (2:23). However, there is no direct mention of Nazareth in the Old Testament other than a resemblance of the name Nazareth with Isaiah 11:1 that states: “But a shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jesse, and from his roots a bud shall blossom.” The word for shoot or bud is nēser, which resembles the name Nazareth. Unlike Matthew, Nathanael could not find this relationship between the words.
  5. The prophecy of the coming of the Messiah was from Bethlehem, the City of David. “But you, Bethlehem- Ephratha, least among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel; whose origin is from of old, from ancient times” (Mic 5:1). Being unaware of the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem, it was reasonable for Nathanael to doubt the arrival of Jesus as the Christ from Nazareth.

©Bibleinterpretation.org. All Rights Reserved 2024