Summary: This is a study of Nathanael based on 12 Ordinary Men. It has a lot of added notes and scripture.
Note: This is a study from the book 12 Ordinary Men by John McArthur an excellent book. There is also a fill in the blank outline from Adult Bible Fellowships of First Baptist Church Orion that I have posted in the series. This is not original but worth posting for study.
Twelve Ordinary Men
Nathanael – the Guileless One
Nathanael answered and said to Him, “Rabbi, You are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel.” - John 1:49
I. Some general observations about Nathanael
a. In the four biblical lists of the Twelve, he is always called Bartholomew which is Hebrew for “
Son of Tolmai. John refers to him as Nathanael which is Hebrew for “God has given.” So he is
Nathanael, son of Tolmai.
What a name "God has given". Maybe this is what drove Nathanael to study and research God's purpose, he knew that he was a gift of God.
According to the latter passage, Nathanael was from Cana, the town in Galilee where Jesus turned
water into wine.
He may have been the one that invited Jesus to the wedding.
c. Virtually all we know about him, comes from John 1:35-51 which describes his first encounter
John 1:43-51 The following day Jesus wanted to go to Galilee, and He found Philip and said to him, "Follow Me." (44) Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter. (45) Philip found Nathanael and said to him, "We have found Him of whom Moses in the law, and also the prophets, wrote--Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph." (46) And Nathanael said to him, "Can anything good come out of Nazareth?" Philip said to him, "Come and see." (47) Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward Him, and said of him, "Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom is no deceit!" (48) Nathanael said to Him, "How do You know me?" Jesus answered and said to him, "Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you." (49) Nathanael answered and said to Him, "Rabbi, You are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!" (50) Jesus answered and said to him, "Because I said to you, 'I saw you under the fig tree,' do you believe? You will see greater things than these." (51) And He said to him, "Most assuredly, I say to you, hereafter  you shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man."
II. His Love of Scripture
Phillip and Nathanael must have been close friends because in each of the scripture listings of the names of the apostles they were linked in scripture.
a. Philip’s appeal to Nathanael to come and see Jesus, implies that he knew him and the
b. It is interesting that Philip did not seek to sell Nathanael on the idea of going to meet Jesus on the
basis of how Jesus might make his life better (fix your marriage or problems). Instead, he spoke of
Jesus as the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecies, because he knew that would pique Nathanael’s
c. Incidentally, it appears that all the apostles, with the exception of Judas Iscariot, were to some
degree already true seekers after divine truth before they met Jesus. Compare with Rom. 3:11
and Acts 18:24-19:7.
Characteristics of a growing Christian is to be a student of Christ and the Word.
III. His Prejudice
(45) Philip found Nathanael and said to him, "We have found Him of whom Moses in the law, and also the prophets, wrote--Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph." (46) And Nathanael said to him, "Can anything good come out of Nazareth?" Philip said to him, "Come and see."
a (1) : preconceived judgment or opinion (2) : an adverse opinion or leaning formed without just grounds or before sufficient knowledge
a. Although he was a student of Scripture and a searcher for the true knowledge of God, he was
b. His response to Philip’s statement about Christ reveals what bigotry Nathanael had for the
whole town of Nazareth.
c. Nazareth was a rough town. The Judeans looked down on the Galileans, but even the
Galileans looked down on the Nazarenes.
d. Prejudice cuts a lot of people off from the truth. John Bunyan (author of the Pilgrims Progress)
understood this danger of prejudice. In his allegory The Holy War, Bunyan names the guard that Satan
sets at the Ear-gate of the town of Mansoul, Mr. Prejudice.
e. Philip suggested the right way to deal with prejudice: confront it with the facts _ - “Come and
2 Corinthians 4:3 But even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, (4) whose minds the god of this age has blinded, who do not believe, lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine on them.