Comments by Kermit Zarley
Matthew, in his birth narrative, quotes Isaiah 7.14 and explains Immanuel. It reads,
“‘BEHOLD, THE VIRGIN SHALL BE WITH CHILD, AND SHALL BEAR A SON, AND THEY SHALL CALL HIS NAME IMMANUEL,’ which translated means, ‘GOD WITH US’” (Matthew 1.23).
The word Immanuel represents the joining of two Hebrew words: immanu and el. Since el is the shortened Hebrew form for “God” (elohim), some Christians have asserted that ascribing the title Immanuel to Jesus effectively identifies him as God. On the contrary, calling Jesus “Immanuel” means only that God is present with his people through Jesus as his agent. It means what someone exclaimed when Jesus raised the widow’s dead son to life, that “God has visited His people” (Luke 7.16). And the Apostle Peter once preached that Jesus “went about doing good and healing” people because “God was with Him” (Acts 10.38).
Jewish NT scholar Geza Vermes explains,
“Jews would have known that the name Emmanuel (‘God is with us’) signified not the incarnation of God in human form, but a promise of divine help to the Jewish people.”
Most scholars who have written extensively that Jesus is God concede that Matthew 1.23 does not mean that. Murray Harris explains, “Matthew is not saying, ‘Someone who is “God” is now physically with us,’ but ‘God is acting on our behalf in the person of Jesus.’”
Calling Jesus “Immanuel” is similar to the names of some OT saints. For example, Israel, Elijah, Elisha, Daniel, Michael, Ezekiel, and Joel contain el, meaning “God;” yet parents who so named their son did not deem it a declaration that their child was God.
This article is authored by Kermit Zarley (Servetus the Evangelical). Visit his website--servetustheevangelical.com--to read fifty such articles. They are condensations of his well-researched, biblically in-depth, 600-page book entitled The Restitution of Jesus Christ (2008).