Questions, Insights, & Responses

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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.

You wrote:

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:

You also wrote:

"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:

You also wrote:

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:

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):

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):



Copyright 1996-2002 Robert Nguyen Cramer