Who was Nathanael? Simon or Bartholomew?

Lion of Patmos - Topical Video #2

In our previous video we identified that Simon was a Kananean, (being from the town of Kana in Galilee where Yahshua had turned the water into wine).

And now that we understand this: what can we glean from it?

 We see recorded in John’s Gospel account a profound encounter which a man named Nathanael had experienced when being introduced to Yahshua Christ, during the beginning of His ministry. This person Nathanael only appears twice in John’s Gospel: being mentioned in its opening chapter as Christ was immersed in the Jordan river, and in its closing chapter when the Resurrected Christ had appeared to some of His apostles by the sea of Galilee.

 Thus we see Nathanael is present with the apostles at the beginning of the ministry of Christ and at its end.

 But who was this man?




 Because Daniel’s 70 weeks prophecy had given a window of time for the arrival of the Christ, many expectant people knowing this prophecy were on the lookout for the Messiah. This is why so many had hoped that John the Baptist was the Messiah, and many of the early apostles were followers of John before meeting Yahshua.

 Two of these early followers of John the Baptist were Andreas, the brother of Peter, and an unnamed apostle whom we can only imagine is the apostle John himself. Having been called by Yahshua after His immersion in the Jordan river, Andreas had then went and notified his brother Simon, later called Peter.

 Yahshua had also called Phillipos, and Phillipos then went to Nathanael who also shared the same eager expectation of a Messiah, just as Andreas, John, and Simon Peter.

 When Nathanael came to see for himself the estimation of Phillipos’ excitement, Yahshua had said something about him which all men should hope and pray for: He said “Behold! An Israelite indeed in whom there is no guile!”

Nathanael then asked Yahshua where He knew him from, because He had said these words about Him with so much authority despite apparently having never met Him before.

 When Yahshua replied that He saw Nathanael under the fig tree, this revelation must have been something which was very personal and significant to Nathanael, and he was convinced in that moment that Yahshua was the Messiah.


Yahshua replied and said to him:

John 1:49 Nathanael replied to Him: “Rabbi! You are the Son of Yahweh! You are King of Israel!”


This was Nathanael’s first encounter with Yahshua and we can see that he immediately believed that He was the anointed one.

 Now why would Nathanael simply leave after such a deeply personal and moving encounter? Why would a man depart after having found the Messiah which he had waited for his entire life?

Because Nathanael is present at the ending of John’s Gospel, it would only be logical for us to assume that he was there the entire time. We must remember that the focus of the Gospels is of course Christ, and everyone else remains in the peripheral vision. But if all of these men in the first chapter of John’s account had gone on to be apostles of Christ; why would someone who was so singularly commended and immediately zealous for Christ be excluded from that number?

 We see that when the apostles had sought a replacement for Judas Iscariot, that they had specified that the replacement would have to be (much like them) an eye witness of everything Yahshua had done from the very beginning to the very end. Isn’t that only fitting for someone who would testify of the things that Yahshua had done?

 Act 1:21-22: Therefore it is necessary, of the men gathering together with us during all the time in which Prince Yahshua came in and went out with us, beginning from the immersing of Iohannes until the day when He was taken up from us, for one of them to become a witness with us of His resurrection.

 Nathanael would have fit this criteria, being immediately zealous for Christ at the very beginning and being present also at the very end, eating a breakfast meal with the resurrected Yahshua on the coast of the Sea of Galilee. Being intimate enough with the apostles to have been fishing with them in these closing days only suggests the obvious conclusion.

 Simply put, Nathanael’s extraordinary encounter with Yahshua and his presence with the other apostles during their days with the resurrected Christ more than strongly suggests that he was an apostle (an ambassador with a testimony to testify) and not merely a disciple (a student).

 So if Nathanael was one of the apostles, then we must identify him with one of the men in the lists of apostles as they are found in the Synoptic Gospels.

 A short time after the calling of Nathanael, we see in John’s account that Christ had attended a wedding feast in the town of Kana. This is where He turned the water into wine, and John later mentioned in his Gospel’s closing chapter that Nathanael was also from this town of Kana.  

 Thus begins our first clue: and we should remember in our previous video we explored the fact that Simon was also from the town of Kana.


Simon Nathanael of Kana…or Bartholomew?

 Many men during the time of Christ had more than one name, as there wasn’t really a concept of a so-called legal name back then. Perhaps the sons of Zebedee had known Nathanael more closely, and for that reason John had chosen to refer to him by a more intimate name than what is seen in the Synoptic accounts.

 The way John lists Nathanael with the apostles in his closing chapter suggests that he considered Nathanael to be as much as an ambassador as the others were. He even takes the time to give Nathanael’s name, and humbly lists him before he mentions himself and his brother, while keeping two of the other apostles anonymous for the sake of brevity:

There were together Simon Petros and Thomas who is called “Twin” and Nathanael who is from Kana of Galilaia and the sons of Zebedaios and two others of His students.” – John 21:2

Both Simon and Nathanael are from Kana, and John takes time to note that Nathanael was known for being from Kana just as Matthew and Mark did in their Gospels with Simon. Because Nathanael of Kana is fishing here with the other apostles in the days of their interactions with the Resurrected Christ, it is only logical to assume that he is the apostle Simon of Kana.

Now the church has in relatively recent times has taken upon themselves to hypothesize that Bartholomew and Nathanael were the same person. The argument which they give is the fact that Phillipos is listed beside Bartholomew in the Synoptic lists, and that Phillipos was the one who went to tell that Nathanael that they had found the Messiah.

But is it because of association that the apostles are listed this way? In Mark 6:7 we see that Yahshua had sent the apostles off in pairs, and this is the more Scriptural explanation for their groupings in the Synoptic lists.

The Phillip-Bartholomew connection isn’t rationally consistent, as Phillip is just as much associated with Andrew in John 12:22. Phillip was called by Christ after Andrew. Phillip was from the settlement of Bethsaida, just as Andrew was (John 1:44). Phillip is also listed beside Andrew in Mark 3:18.

Therefore we can see that the reasoning to connect Philip with Bartholomew so decisively simply because they’re listed together in the Synoptic accounts isn’t as narratively consistent as some may think that it is. It is irrational to reach a conclusion such as this because of the Synoptic listings alone.

While all of the Synoptic writers speak of Bartholomew and never of Nathanael, and John makes mention of Nathanael but never of Bartholomew: just as much as this do the Synoptic writers speak of Simon and never of Nathanael, and John makes mention of Nathanael but never of Simon.

And because that both Nathanael and Simon are explicitly connected with the town of Kana, which is unique to these two men in the entire Gospels, it is more logical to side with this grouping rather than the Synoptic listings: as we must remember that Christ had sent the men off in pairs.

I’ll make a quick mention of the fact that because Luke calls Simon the zealot in his account, there are some among those who identify Simon with Nathanael that  have suggested that the reason Phillipos had gone to him was because he was a known member of the political party “the Zealots”.

This was a sect founded by Judas of Galilee who were awaiting the warrior Messiah (see my video on the Latter Rain). While it is technically possible, I would never conclusively associate Simon with this sect.

Now topics like these can be interesting to discuss because they help bring our Gospels to life as we compare the different accounts. We will see where the truth stands once we join these men in the Kingdom, but as for now the evidence stands much more strongly that Nathanael and Simon of Kana were one and the same person.

Praise Yahweh and thank you for watching.

5 2 votes
Article Rating
(Visited 305 times, 1 visits today)
Would love your thoughts, please comment.x