Is Jesus' name "Immanuel" or "Jesus?"

by Matt Slick

In Isaiah 7:14 the Bible gives a prophecy of the name of Jesus. It says, "Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call His name Immanuel."1 If we go to Matt. 1:21, it says, "And she will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for it is He who will save His people from their sins." (See also, Matt. 1:25; Luke 1:31; 2:21). Is this a contradiction? No. It is not.

In ancient times names were often given as representations of the hopes and dreams of the parents or even of recognition of divine assistance. Names in the Old Testament had understandable meanings. For example: Abram means "exalted father," but Abraham means "Father of a multitude." Some names could even be translated into complete sentences as in Uzziel (‘God is my strength’--Ex. 6:18), Adoniram (‘my lord is exalted’--1 Kings 4:6), and Ahimelek (‘my [divine] brother is king’--1 Sam. 21:1).2

Names are more descriptive in the Hebrew and Greek than they are in English. They often refer to the character, purpose, etc., of the one being named. The closest we come to understanding this is in Native American culture. We are familiar with such names as "Running Bear," or "Pretty Eagle, "or "White Owl" as names. These names meant something and were far more descriptive than "Bob," or "Tom," or "Sue."

When we come to Isaiah 7:14, we encounter a prophecy about the Messiah--stating that his name will be Immanuel. Immanuel literally means "God is with us." This is significant because Jesus is God in flesh:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God . . . and the Word became flesh and dwelt among us . . . " (John 1:1,14).

For in Him [Jesus] all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form" (Col. 2:9).

The Name Jesus

So, we can see that a prophecy of Jesus being "Immanuel" is dealing with his being God--the word in flesh. This was fulfilled in the birth of Jesus when the Word, known as the Son, second person of the Trinity, became flesh. We call this the incarnation.

When it came time to name the Lord, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and told Joseph to call his new son "Jesus, for it is He who will save His people from their sins" (Matt. 1:21). The word "Jesus" means "Jehovah is salvation." This is appropriate since Jesus is Jehovah, the second person of the Trinity, who became flesh and is our salvation.

  • 1. All scripture quotes are from The New American Standard Bible
  • 2. Achtemeier, Paul J., Harper’s Bible Dictionary, San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1985.

About The Author

Matt Slick is the President and Founder of the Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry.