Readers Question / Comment - Why wasn't Jesus called Immanuel?


Dear JPN Question-Answerer,
I was impressed by the logic and factuality of the answers I happened to read through on your website today, and by your familiarity with rabbinic sources I don't know of. I really appreciated your response about Hezekiah not being "Immanuel." So here's my question about an apparent contradiction, which I hope you will tackle.
Isaiah's prophecy about Immanuel was about a child who was to be given that name at birth. It would not just be a title or characterization bestowed upon him years later. It would be at birth. I have noticed that in the Isaiah Dead sea Scroll, the name Immanuel is written (three times) as a single word as in a name, and not as the two words "with-us God." (However,
in the much later Masoretic text they use the two words, as if by then they preferred that Isaiah had meant a characterization.)

Then when we come to Matthew 1:21-25, we find that the child was named "Jesus" at birth, not "Immanuel." Therefore Isaiah's prophecy re Immanuel was not fulfilled. Yet the writer of Matthew obviously believed that Isaiah's prophecy had been fulfilled. (So did others -- Paul, Justin Martyr, Irenaeus...) How could the writer of Matthew have lived with this contradiction? Did he try to resolve it by putting his quotation from Isaiah into the passive tense? Yet, that wouldn't alter the fact that Isaiah had been speaking of a baby that would be called by the name Immanuel.

JPN Reply:


thanks for the email and question. I'm not an expert in such things and you may be better off asking someone like Arnold Fructembaum at who would be able to give you a Jewish perspective on the matter.

It is an interesting question and I see the dilemma, but for me personally, I don't have a problem with it. I think we tend to approach such things with a western mindset and say that if He wasn't actually given that name then it wasn't fulfilled. But I don't think the Hebrew mind would draw such a hard and fast rule. The Messiah would be known by many names. And these names often declared His nature, not His actual name (although He could well be called Immanuel as His actual name at His return).

Isaiah 9:6 For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; And the government will rest on His shoulders;
And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.

Jeremiah 23:5-6 "Behold, the days are coming," declares the LORD, "When I will raise up for David a righteous Branch; And He will reign as king and act wisely And do justice and righteousness in the land. (6) "In His days Judah will be saved, And Israel will dwell securely;
And this is His name by which He will be called, 'The LORD (Yahweh) our righteousness.'

An example from Genesis showing the difference between who someone is in essence and what they are called would be the following:

Gen 2:23 The man said, "This is now bone of my bones, And flesh of my flesh;
She shall be called Woman, Because she was taken out of Man."
Gen 3:20
Now the man called his wife's name Eve, because she was the mother of all the living.

The first passage tells us who Eve was in her nature - Woman. The second tells us the name by which she will be known.
Jesus is Immanuel in essence. He is Immanuel in His nature for He is God with us.

Just as a side note I've always thought that Jesus may be called Immanuel as His actual name at His second coming for those two names, Jesus and Immanuel, seem to give the main roles that He would play in His two comings. The first coming was to die to save His people. Hence the name Jesus - The Lord Saves. His second coming is to live and rule on this planet amongst His people, hence Immanuel, God with us. It's not unusual to have more than one name. Esau was given that name at birth but he was also later known as Edom for:

Genesis 25:30 and Esau said to Jacob, "Please let me have a swallow of that red stuff there, for I am famished." Therefore his name was called Edom.

If this doesn't help then I would encourage you to ask the question of a Jewish believer and if you get an answer send it through to me. Another who may be able to help is Dr Michael Brown here:

All the best in your search!