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The Blue Letter Bible
Study Resources :: Text Commentaries :: Don Stewart :: What Everyone Needs to Know about Jesus

Don Stewart :: Why Was Jesus Called Immanuel?

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Why Was Jesus Called Immanuel? (God with Us)

What Everyone Needs to Know about Jesus – Question 7

There is word used of Jesus whose meaning has puzzled many people. In Matthew’s gospel, Jesus is called “Immanuel”:

“Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel,” which means, “God is with us.” (Matthew 1:23 NRSV)

When Scripture says they shall name Him Emmanuel does this mean that it is His personal name? Should we call Him this instead of Jesus?

Actually this passage is not giving a new name or a personal name to Jesus. The fact that Jesus was born is a fulfillment of Bible prophecy, Isaiah 7:14. The fulfillment is not in the naming of the child Jesus, but rather in the whole account of His life and ministry. It is not that Jesus ever bore the name Immanuel. He did not. The name indicates His role. Jesus is the One who brought God’s presence to humanity.

Matthew explains to his readers what this phrase means. It is actually a transliteration of four small Hebrew words into Greek. When the Hebrew words are joined together the sound is “Immanuel.” Thus, this word by Matthew is not a name for Jesus it is rather a statement about the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy. God is now with us!

God Is with Us Because of Jesus

Thus, it is a statement about Jesus, it is not a proper name nor is it a prayer. Matthew’s use of this term may be understood in one of two ways. They are as follows.

Option 1: It Describes Jesus’ Coming

The phrase “God is with us” describes the coming of Jesus. He is God who has become a human. Therefore, this one phrase is a mini summary of Jesus’ purpose of arriving on the earth. Indeed, He is God who became one of us. John wrote,

No one has ever seen God. The One and Only Son—the One who is at the Father’s side—He has revealed Him. (John 1:18 HCSB)

God the Son came to this earth to let us know what the living God is like. Jesus is the One who explained Him. In that sense, He is “God with us.”

Option 2: It Describes God’s Grace by Sending the Messiah

There is a second option. Matthew may have wanted to show that the virgin conception was not something new, but that it had been predicted by the prophet Isaiah.

Therefore “God is with us” would not so much describe the exact nature of Jesus coming to the world, but rather that God has been gracious to His people by sending His Messiah. In other words, God keeps His promises. He is still with His people.

However we understand the description of Jesus, it is consistent with the teaching of the remainder of the New Testament; God became a human being in Jesus Christ. In doing so, He showed that He was still with the people of the nation of Israel. In this sense, it could truly have been said by the people of Jesus’ day that “God is with us.”

Summary – Question 7
Why Was Jesus Called Immanuel? (God with Us)

When the conception of Jesus was announced to Joseph the angel told him that a Son would be born who would be called Immanuel—God with us. Does this mean that Immanuel is the personal name of Jesus?

It does not. It is actually a transliteration of a number of Hebrew words which translated means “God with us.” Therefore, Jesus is not to be called “Immanuel.” Indeed, this name is never used of Him in the New Testament.

It likely is emphasizing one of two things.

The phrase may be highlighting the truth of the gospel that God became a human being in Jesus Christ. Indeed, the coming of Jesus Christ, God the Son, was for the purpose of explaining God to the human race. “God with us” is a mini summary of His coming.

It is also possible that Matthew is emphasizing that God was faithful to His promises in sending the Messiah to His people the Jews. In other words, God is with us in the fact that He always keeps His word.

Either way, it is consistent with the idea that God became human in Jesus Christ.

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When the conception of Jesus was announced to Joseph the angel told him that a Son would be born who would be called Immanuel—God with us. The phrase may be emphasizing the truth of the gospel that God became a human being in Jesus Christ. It is also possible that Matthew is emphasizing that God was faithful to His promises in sending the Messiah to His people the Jews. Either way, it is consistent with the idea that God became human in Jesus Christ.

Does the Bible Indirectly Teach That Jesus Is God? ← Prior Section
What Does Jesus' Preexistence Mean? Next Section →
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