St Bartholomew MdiGiovanni.jpg

whose Festival we celebrate today, has been supposed to be the same as the
Nathanael mentioned in the text. Nathanael was one of Christ’s first converts,
yet his name does not occur again till the last chapter of St. John’s Gospel,
where he is mentioned in company with certain of the Apostles, to whom Christ
appeared after His resurrection. Now, why should the call of Nathanael have
been recorded in the opening of the Gospel, among the acts of Christ in the
beginning of His Ministry, unless he was an Apostle? Philip, Peter, and Andrew,
who are mentioned at the same time, were all Apostles; and Nathanael’s name is
introduced without preface, as if familiar to a Christian reader. At the end of
the Gospel it appears again, and there too among Apostles. Besides, the
Apostles were the special witnesses of Christ, when He was risen.  He
manifested Himself, “not to all the people,” says Peter, “but
unto witnesses chosen before of God, even to us, who did eat and drink with Him
after He rose from the dead.” [Acts x. 41.] Now, the occasion on which
Nathanael is mentioned, was one of these manifestations. “This is now the
third time,” says the Evangelist, “that Jesus was manifested to His
disciples, after that He was risen from the dead.” It was in the presence
of Nathanael, that He gave St. Peter his commission, and foretold his
martyrdom, and the prolonged life of St. John
. All this leads us to conjecture
that Nathanael is one of the Apostles under another name. Now, he is not
Andrew, Peter, or Philip, for they are mentioned in connexion with him in the
first chapter of the Gospel; nor Thomas, James, or John, in whose company he is
found in the last chapter; nor Jude (as it would seem), because the name of
Jude occurs in St. John’s fourteenth chapter. Four Apostles remain, who are not
named in his Gospel,–St. James the Less, St. Matthew, St. Simon, and St.
Bartholomew; of whom St. Matthew’s second name is known to have been Levi,
while St. James, being related, was not at any time a stranger to our Lord,
which Nathanael evidently was. If then Nathanael were an Apostle, he was either
Simon or Bartholomew. Now it is observable, that, according to St. John, Philip
brought Nathanael to Christ; therefore Nathanael and Philip were friends: while
in the other Gospels, in the list of Apostles, Philip is associated with
Bartholomew; “Simon and Andrew, James and John, Philip and
Bartholomew.” [Matt. x. 3.] This is some evidence that  Bartholomew
and not Simon is the Nathanael of St. John
. On the other hand, Matthias has
been suggested instead of either, his name meaning nearly the same as Nathanael
in the original language. However, since writers of some date decide in favour
of Bartholomew, I shall do the like in what follows.

What then do we learn from
his recorded character and history? It affords us an instructive lesson.

Philip told him that he had found the long-expected Messiah of whom Moses
wrote, Nathanael (that is, Bartholomew) at first doubted. He was well read in
the Scriptures, and knew the Christ was to be born in Bethlehem; whereas Jesus
dwelt at Nazareth, which Nathanael supposed in consequence to be the place of
His birth,–and he knew of no particular promises attached to that city, which
was a place of evil report, and he thought no good could come out of it. Philip
told him to come and see
; and he went to see, as a humble single-minded man,
sincerely desirous to get at the truth. In consequence, he was vouchsafed an
interview with our Saviour, and was converted.

Blessed John Henry Newman

Plain and Parochial Sermons, 27