Meet Nathanael

Can you name all 12 of the original Apostles of Jesus? 
(cover the list below and try it!!)  I thought I had the 12 names firmly in hand during our recent adult Sunday School class in Luke.  As the class called out the names and I wrote them on the board, the list began with the better known disciples (Peter, James & John).  Then someone said “Thaddaeus” (which I was ready for) and then another said “Nathanael,” at which my firm grip started to unravel!  You see, the Synoptic Gospels (Matthew 10, Mark 3 and Luke 6) generally ‘see things together’ and give basically the same list for the Twelve, starting with the two pairs of brothers: 

  1. Peter
  2. Andrew
  3. James
  4. John
  5. Philip 
  6. Matthew (also called Levi)
  7. Thomas
  8. Bartholomew
  9. James son of Alphaeus
  10. Thaddaeus (Lebbaeus, or Judas son of James)
  11. Simon the Zealot
  12. Judas Isacriot (always listed last).  

Even Acts 1 gives basically the same list.  But on this Sunday, I was unable to account for Nathanael — who appears in John 1 and chapter 21 as one of the Twelve.  I had not recalled that John’s Gospel never mentions a Bartholomew, but does (always) include a Nathanael.  They appear to be one and the same man!   In all the lists, Philip and Nathanael/Bartholomew are mentioned together — and, Nathanael and Bartholomew are never mentioned together — as if they were different men).   This association of Philip and Nathanael/Bartholomew should not surprise us, for it was Philip who first encountered Jesus Christ, who went and brought Nathanael to the Lord, as recorded in John 1.   One good explanation for this is that the man’s personal name is Nathanael, while his family name is represented as Bartholomew (which is commonly understood to mean ‘Son of [Bar-] Tolmai’).I would remind you that while we have various names for ourselves or for others, the Scriptures tell us that the Lord, as the Good and Great Shepherd, knows believers’ names,  and calls each of His own by name — He has a personal relationship with each and every disciple!    

JOHN 10:1 “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door but climbs in by another way, that man is a thief and a robber. 2 But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. 3 To him the gatekeeper opens. The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. 4 When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. 5 A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.”    

JOHN 10:14 I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, 15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep.   

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