How did Nathanael know?

Discussion in 'General Baptist Discussions' started by Jkdbuck76, Sep 20, 2011.

  1. Jkdbuck76

    Jkdbuck76
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    Compare these two verses.

    John 1:49 (nkjv)

    49 Nathanael answered and said to Him, “Rabbi, You are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!”


    and
    Matthew 16:16-17

    16 Simon Peter answered and said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
    17 Jesus answered and said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven.


    So how did Nathanael know? Was it from John the Baptist? How does Nathanael seem to know early on but it takes Peter 16 chapters to figure it out? Thoughts?
     
  2. Baptist Believer

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    I’ve always found Nathanael’s case very interesting. I have a strong opinion about the subject, based on the evidence that John gives, but it is not completely spelled out in scripture.

    I think Nathanael knew that Jesus was the Son of God in at least three ways that are referenced in the first chapter of John.

    1. The testimony of Philip (v. 45) that they have found “Him of whom Moses in the Law and also the Prophets wrote,” although Nathanael was skeptical (“Can anything good come out of Nazareth?”)
    2. Jesus knew Nathanael (v. 47-48) saying he was “an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no guile.”
    3. Jesus referred back to what I believe was a spiritual encounter Nathanael had with God before Philip found him under the fig tree. Jesus referenced something only Nathanael and God knew, and Nathanael understood immediately. In my imagination, I think Nathanael may have been sitting under a fig tree, meditating on the story of Jacob vision at Bethel, where Jacob saw the angels ascending and descending from the highest heavens to the earth. Jacob realized that God was very near to him even though he had not previously recognized it in that ordinary place. He named the place Bethel. I imagine that Nathanael had the epiphany that God was very near to him under that fig tree. When Philip greeted him with news of Jesus, he met the One Who already knew him. Jesus referenced Jacob’s vision and applied it to Himself in response to Nathanael’s confession of Jesus’s full identity, thereby communicating to Nathanael that He, Himself, was the center of God’s activity in the world.

    The Gospel of John is written, at least in part, to combat Gnosticism. Gnostic teachings promoted hidden knowledge that had to be revealed by those on the “inside” to the uninitiated. John wants to undermine that teaching so he records Nathanael’s testimony in his gospel.

    Regarding Peter: Peter is generally the spokesman for the 12. In my understanding, Nathanael’s testimony is more of the exception than the rule among the 12, and by the time we have Peter making his confession, he is speaking for the common consensus of the 12, not just for himself.
     
  3. humblethinker

    humblethinker
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    How is knowledge ever gained? It seemed he nathaniel had an 'aha!' moment. Peter doesn't seem like much of a reflective person. I agree with the post above regarding Nathaniel under the tree. I had always thought (and still do) that Jesus was sincere when he said that Nathaniel had "no guile". However, I have talked with a preacher that said that he thought Jesus was being sarcastic... that what Nathaniel had done/said under the tree was something of which he was ashamed.
     
  4. Baptist Believer

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    For Jesus to be sarcastic toward someone who is receptive toward Him seems completely out-of-character to me. Jesus could certainly be sarcastic/dismissive toward human authorities who were rejecting Him, that doesn’t seem to fit the context. Nathanael’s response, “How do you know me?” (a guileless response - no false modesty or evasion) indicates that he probably was a man without guile.

    This preacher you mention sounds like he's operating from a gospel of shame, where Jesus is more interested in chastising and beating the sheep instead of gathering them together, tending them and leading them to pasture.

    I’m glad I’m not a member of his congregation.
     
  5. Jkdbuck76

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    Good food for thought, everyone. John the Baptist proclaimed that Jesus was the Son of God, but God was communicating with him directly.

    Jesus said that Peter's revelation that He was the Son of God was given by God.

    All we know is that Nathanael knew somehow. Did Andrew hear John the Baptist say that Jesus was the Son of God? If so, then he didn't tell Peter.

    I'm not nitpicking, I'm chewing on this text because I'm going to preach about it next week (Lord willing). I am preaching about witnessing and John chapter 1 is chock-full of witnessing!

    Thanks for reminding me about how John's Gospel was written to combat the first great heresey. Pray for my illumination, fellas.
     
  6. Baptist Believer

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    God communicates with everyone directly, as well as through others and the scripture. There are just a number of people who don't know how to listen?

    Sure. It probably came gradually, with a final epiphany where everything finally came together for Peter and the others.

    Why do you think that? I think all of us hear things that don't completely make sense to us for a long time until we have the moment when everything suddenly makes sense. I heard quite a bit about Jesus growing up in church, but it didn't completely make sense to me until I was 13 years old and I heard a preacher talk about Peter stepping out of the boat and walking on water toward Jesus.

    Praying with you brother!
     
  7. humblethinker

    humblethinker
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    Regarding Jesus/Nathaniel, I agree.
    Regarding the preacher, he was a precious man, whith whom I felt I could share anything and still be loved. He passed away last year and I miss him. However, I am sympathetic to your last statement... funny how that can be the case though, huh? To be able to enjoy a person so much in most aspects but other aspects of disagreement would make a certain relationship untenable. Healthy boundaries are important.
     
  8. Baptist Believer

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    Looking back at what I wrote, I think it came across harder than it was intended to be. I grew up hearing a gospel of shame, where God was angry with us and was looking for an opportunity to destroy us until Jesus decided to take pity on us and took the beating from the abusive father figure in our place so that we could survive and continue until the thumb of a God who merely tolerated our existence because he had spent his bad temper on Jesus.

    That kind of gospel creates a certain kind of Christian... a Christian who sees everything in terms of shame and near defeat, hanging on until Jesus comes again. This kind of Christian does not know how to give or receive grace and is handicapped in loving his neighbor as himself.

    Of course you can drive yourself into the opposite ditch where everything is peachy with God, redemption is not necessary, and God has no claims on your life... but that's also a distorted gospel.

    Yes, boundaries are good. I have to say I have loved and appreciated many people with whom I have major areas of disagreement.

    Thanks for the good testimony!
     

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