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#28 - Immanuel and Jesus
by Robert Nguyen Cramer
This BibleTexts website administrator has very much enjoyed questions and insights that have been emailed to him ever since this site was launched in September of 1996. On this page I share with BibleTexts browsers a few of the questions, insights, and responses, so that we all can further learn from and with each other.
Question/insight #28: "Would you please answer a question [about "Immanuel" and "Jesus"] that has been bothering me for years?... "
Response #28: There are a number of important issues that you raise. I'll address them one by one.
"Taking Isaiah 7:14 into consideration, and comparing it to the Angel's admonition in Matthew as to what the child should be called, why is it that Mary and Joseph did not follow the Angel's directions to name the child Immanuel (A strong god with us)."
In Matthew 1:23, the writer of Matthew quoted directly the Septuagint (Greek Old Testament) text of Isaiah 7:17. Of course, the writer added the explanation of the meaning of Immanuel, which means simply "God is with us." (The Greek Septuagint was the most common Bible of the Christian community at the time that the Gospel of Matthew was written. The Septuagint had become the Jewish Bible of the Diaspora Jews as they sojourned in a Greek speaking world.)
Eduard Schweizer (The Good News according to Matthew, Atlanta: John Knox Press, 1975, page 32) comments regarding Matthew 1:23:
It is true that the quotation… does not quite fit the context, which is speaking of "Jesus" rather than "Immanuel." But for Matthew "salvation" (from sins) is identical with God's being with men. Isaiah 7:14 speaks of a birth in the time of King Ahaz. But the period immediately following is depicted in such glowing colors that it can only be described by the word "Immanu-El," "with us God" (Isaiah 8:8,10)… When Matthew finds this prophecy fulfilled in the birth of Jesus, he is right, not in the sense that precisely fulfilled what Isaiah expected has come true - Isaiah expected something different and sooner - but in his sense of the continuity of God's providence, operating coherently from the past and on into the future.
You also wrote:
"Immanuel … certainly make much more sense to me than to name the child Jesus, a name of Greek origin, of which Mary and Joseph were Hebrews. If this is a name above every name [a reference to Phi 2:9], then why was it the first name, also, of one of the thieves (Barrabus) and thousands of men of Spanish descent."
"Jesus" is simply the English translation of the Greek name Iesous, which itself is the Greek translation of the Hebrew name Joshua, which was a very common Hebrew name meaning "Yahweh is salvation" or "Yahweh saves." (Yahweh is the pronunciation of the Hebrew tetragram YHWH. Yahweh is a more correct pronunciation of what has traditionally has been known as Jehovah.)
Jesus grew up in a Jewish community and typically would have been most commonly called by his Hebrew name of Joshua. Galilee as a whole was a culturally diverse, predominantly Greek-speaking area, so when Jesus spoke Greek, he may have referred to himself as "Iesous" rather than "Joshua." But the fact remains that his name, Jesus, is of Hebrew origin. Whether from Spain, America, Mexico, Canada, or from anywhere else, all those whose name is either Joshua or Jesus have the same name as the man for whom the 6th book of the Bible is named, and the same name as the Galilean prophet, teacher, healer, and founder of Christianity.
Regarding your reference to Philippians 2:9, in any translated work, especially when it involves a different time period and a different culture, we need to try to understand the message as it was first presented in the original text, as expressed by the original author. We need also to be careful not to take any English Bible translation too literally, because it is still only a translation of what was first written in Hebrew (the entire Old Testament, except Daniel, which was first written in Aramaic) or first written in Greek (the entire New Testament). It wasn't the verbalized or written Hebrew name Joshua or Greek name Iesous to which Paul in Philippians 2:9 referred. The "name" of Jesus referred to his nature, his character, his attributes, his reputation, his authority.
FW Beare (The Epistle to the Philippians, London: A&C Black, 1973, page 86) comments on Philippians 2:9, on which you comment:
The Name - in ancient thought, not merely a designation to distinguish one individual from another, but an index of character and status. To grant the Name that is "above every name" is not merely to confer a high title of honour, but to commit plenary authority; it is parallel to the thought of Matthew xxviii. 18: "All authority has been given to me in heaven and upon earth."
You also wrote:
"I believe that Yahweh is the name of our Saviour…"
It is interesting to note that Gen 1:1 to Gen 2:4a uses the Hebrew word Elohim -- translated as "God;" whereas, Gen 2:4b and 3 uses the Hebrew tetragram YHWH, translated as "the Lord," or uses the combined Hebrew words YHWH Elohim, translated as "the Lord God" (CEV, KJV, NAB, NASB, NEB, NIV, NKJV, NRSV, RV, TEV), "Yahweh" (NJB, Rotherham), or "Jehovah God" (ASV). (Note: It is generally accepted by modern biblical scholars that the Gen 1:1 to Gen 2:4a constitutes one account of creation, and Gen 2:4b through Gen 3 constitutes a wholly different account of creation. Both accounts were edited by a different editorial group, were formulated at a different time, and, as mentioned above, even used a different term for God.)
You also wrote:
"Why is it that everyone appears to worship the son, when He, himself, admonished everyone to worship God the Father with all their heart. He (Jesus) did not come to seek his own glory, but to point to the Father."
Your point is well-taken: "He (Jesus) did not come to seek his own glory, but to point to the Father." Some of the terms/concepts in the New Testament are often misunderstood. As used in Mat 2:2,8,11; Mat 8:2; Mat 9:18; Mat 14:33; Mat 15:25; Mat 18:26; Mat 20:20; Mat 28: 9; Mat 28:17; Mar 5:6; Mar 15:19; Luk 24:52; Joh 9:38, "Worship" is one of those often misunderstood concepts.
Heinrich Greeven writes in The Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, Volume VI (edited by Gerhard Kittel and Gerhard Friedrich, Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans, 1968, pages 763-764):
When the NT [New Testament] uses proskunein [worship (verb: present, active, infinitive)], the object is always something -- truly or supposedly -- divine... It is... not quite correct to say that when those who seek help fall down before the Jewish rabbi this is a secular proskynesis [proskunesis, worship (noun)] before Jesus which is no more than the customary form of respectful greeting. This is certainly not true in Mt. Perhaps there was such a form of greeting... But in Mt. the use of proskunein shows that those who thus fall down already involuntarily and unconsciously declare by their attitude with whom they have to do. The proskynesis of the wise men (Mt. 2:2,11, assumed in 2:8) is truly offered to the Ruler of the world... In comparison with suppliants there is little reference to proskynesis on the part of the disciples. Where this occurs it is especially motivated by dawning recognition of the divine sonship (Mt. 14:33..., cf. Jn. 9:38) or an appearance of the risen Lord (Mt. 28:9, 17; Lk. 24:52).
For more explanation on "worship" in the New Testament, you are welcome to browse:
I hope that the above honest explanations help you to further think through - and pray through - the issues you raised. We all can more consistently heed the words of James 1:5 (TEV), "If any of you lack wisdom, you should pray to God, who will give it to you; because God gives generously and graciously to all." And Paul wrote in that wonderful Chapter 8 of Romans (Rom 8: 26-28, TEV):
In the same way the Spirit also comes to help us, weak as we are. For we do not know how we ought to pray; the Spirit himself pleads with God for us in groans that words cannot express. And God, who sees into our hearts, knows what the thought of the Spirit is; because the Spirit pleads with God on behalf of his people and in accordance with his will. We know that in all things God works for good with those who love him, those whom he has called according to his purpose.
Copyright 1996-2002 Robert Nguyen Cramer