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Does the Immanuel in Matthew 1:23 Indicates That Jesus Is God?

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Does the Immanuel in Matthew 1:23 Indicate That Jesus Is God?

By Dr. Bill Gordon

I recently received an inquiry from a visitor to our website who questioned one of the claims I made in my article on the Trinity. He claimed that my article is wrong when it stated that the name Immanuel, as used in Matthew 1:23, indicates that Jesus is divine. He quoted Murray Harris, an evangelical scholar, to rebut my assertion. He implied that my statement regarding the deity of Christ and Immanuel in Matthew 1:23 is not supported by evangelical scholarship.

I have e-mailed Prof. Harris’ publisher asking for a clarification of his views on the meaning of Immanuel in Matthew 1:23. I will share his thoughts in a future blog, after I receive his response. In this blog, I want to explore whether the majority of evangelical scholarship questions the divine implications of Immanuel in Matthew 1:23.

Evangelical scholars Ted Cabal, Chad Owen Brand and E. Ray Clendenen state in The Apologetics Study Bible that the "name Jesus (“Yahweh saves”) describes what Jesus does; Immanuel (“God with us”) describes who Jesus is." They claim that Matthew purposely mentioned the prophecy of Isaiah in order "to assert the divinity of Jesus."1 Warren Wiersbe, in his commentary, likewise agrees that the title Immanuel defines Jesus’ being and has divine implications. He writes, “Jesus Christ is God! We find this name ‘Immanuel’ in Isaiah 7:14 and 8:8.”2

Craig Blomberg in his commentary on Matthew argues that the emphasis of Matthew in this passage is not the virgin birth, but rather that Jesus is "Immanuel" (God with us). He concludes, "The church in every age should recognize here a clear affirmation of Jesus’ deity and cling tightly to this doctrine as crucial for our salvation. At the same time, Matthew wants to emphasize that Jesus, as God, is ‘with us’; deity is immanent."3

A.T. Robertson, who was one of the greatest evangelical New Testament scholars of the late Nineteenth and early Twentieth Centuries, contended that the name Immanuel was more than a mere designation of Jesus. He explained the significance of the term Immanuel as follows: “God’s help, Jesus=the Help of God, is thus seen. One day Jesus will say to Philip: ‘He that has seen me has seen the Father’ (John 14:9).”4 The New Testament scholar Stuart K. Weber believed that the etymology of the Hebrew term Immanuel indicates that the ultimate fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy “could refer in its fullest sense only to the promised Messiah.”5

The prodigious evangelical scholar, Leon Morris also saw divine implications in the title Immanuel.

As far as our information goes, nobody ever called Jesus “Emmanuel”; it was not the child’s name in the same sense as “Jesus” was. Matthew surely intends his readers to understand that “Emmanuel” was his name in the sense that all that was involved in that name found its fulfillment in him. The quotation and the translation of the Hebrew name underline the fact that in Jesus none less than God came right where we are. And at the end of this Gospel there is the promise that Jesus will be with his people to the end of the age (Matt. 28:20)—God with us indeed.6

D. A. Carson, who earned his Ph.D. in New Testament studies from the University of Cambridge, maintained that the title Immanuel in Matthew 1:23 suggests the divine claims found in John 1:14, 187 Theologian Augustus Strong reminded his readers that Athanasius stressed that God came himself in the person of Christ. When one knows Christ, one knows God. Strong reasoned, “This gave the Church the doctrine of God immanent, or Immanuel, God knowable and actually known by men, because actually present.”8 Lewis Sperry Chafer concurred with Strong and maintained that Matthew, while under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, explained that the term Immanuel means “God with us.” Chafer concluded that this “indicates no less a fact than that God has entered the human sphere in the incarnation of the Son, who became flesh and dwelt among us.”9

Conclusion

The name Immanuel has significant implications for the deity of Christ. This is not a minor view, but is supported by a significant number of evangelical scholars. Jesus is God. He not only does the work of God, but he also bears the title “God with us.”10




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1Ted Cabal, Chad Owen Brand, E. Ray Clendenen et al., The Apologetics Study Bible: Real Questions, Straight Answers, Stronger Faith (Nashville: Holman Bible Publishers, 2007), 1405.
2Warren W. Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1996), Mt 1:23.
3Craig Blomberg, Matthew: The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2001), 22:60-61.
4A.T. Robertson, Word Pictures in the New Testament (Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, 1997), Mt 1:23.
5Stuart K. Weber, Matthew, Holman New Testament Commentary; Holman Reference (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2000), 1:19.
6Leon Morris, The Gospel According to Matthew (Grand Rapids, MI; W.B. Eerdmans, 1992), 31.
7D. A. Carson, Matthew: The Expositor's Bible Commentary, (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984), 8:80.
8Augustus Hopkins Strong, Systematic Theology (Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 2004), 330.
9Lewis Sperry Chafer, Systematic Theology (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 1993), 1:299.
10Matthew 1:23

Conclusion

 

The name Immanuel has significant implications for the deity of Christ. This is not a minor view, but is supported by a significant number of evangelical scholars. Jesus is God. He not only does the work of God, but he also bears the title “God with us.”10

 

 

 

 


1Ted Cabal, Chad Owen Brand, E. Ray Clendenen et al., The Apologetics Study Bible: Real Questions, Straight Answers, Stronger Faith (Nashville: Holman Bible Publishers, 2007), 1405.

2Warren W. Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1996), Mt 1:23.

3Craig Blomberg, Matthew: The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2001), 22:60-61.

4A.T. Robertson, Word Pictures in the New Testament (Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, 1997), Mt 1:23.

5Stuart K. Weber, Matthew, Holman New Testament Commentary; Holman Reference (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2000), 1:19.

6Leon Morris, The Gospel According to Matthew (Grand Rapids, MI; W.B. Eerdmans, 1992), 31.

7D. A. Carson, Matthew: The Expositor's Bible Commentary, (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984), 8:80.

8Augustus Hopkins Strong, Systematic Theology (Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 2004), 330.

9Lewis Sperry Chafer, Systematic Theology (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 1993), 1:299.

10Matthew 1:23

 

 

 

To Infinity and Beyond! Can We Understand the Trinity?

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“To Infinity and Beyond!” Can We Understand the Trinity?

By Tal Davis

 

One of the most troubling aspects of historic Christian theology to many people in other religions, or with no religion, is the doctrine of the Holy Trinity.  This is especially true for followers of Islam, Judaism,  Unitarianism,  Jehovah’s Witnesses, and Oneness Pentecostalism.  Theologians from these faiths have argued that the Trinity is either a pagan concept imposed on Christianity or a form of tri-theism and thus a violation of the commandment to worship only the one true God (egs. Allah or Jehovah).

Simply put, the doctrine of the Trinity states two basic propositions.  The first is that Bible teaches there exists only one infinite and eternal  God. Infinite in this context means without limitations of time or space.  Eternal in this context means without beginning or end (human life, like the material universe, had a beginning in time but will be eternal in the future).   In this regard, we are in agreement with the other historic monotheistic faiths. However, the second proposition is that the New Testament teaches that the one God exists in three infinite and eternal Persons: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. The three Person of the Godhead are each separate and distinct, and each fully God, but, nonetheless, compose only one infinite and eternal being.

“So,” the non-trinitarian may say. ”How is that possible? It sounds contradictory.  How can one being exist in three separate Persons?”  This obviously is the crux of the matter.  How can one God exist in three Persons?   The problem arises when we try to explain God’s infinite nature in finite terms.  Even well meaning Christians use clever analogies to explain the Trinity.  They may compare the Trinity to the three sides of a triangle, the three states of matter (i.e., solid, liquid, gas), three relational roles of a person (i.e., father, son, husband), or the three dimensions of space.  Every imaginative illustration fails, however, to describe accurately the indescribable Trinity. In fact, they may even lead to heresies like modalism, monarchianism, or Sabellianism.

I would suggest that the answer lies in the terms “infinite” and “eternal”.  That is to say that God, by definition, is limited by nothing, including time or space.  Also, by definition, there can only be one infinity and one eternity and they are without limits (despite Buzz Lightyear’s bold proclamation above, there is no “beyond” infinity).  The fact that each of the three Persons is, in and of Himself, infinite and eternal means that they are all included in that one infinity and eternity.  Remember, in the Christian view, none of the three Persons have ever been anything other than infinite and eternal. They did not become that way.  They have always been that way. The only way anything could ever be infinite or eternal is that it has always been so.  Something finite could never become infinite no matter how much time it takes or how big it grows.

Sometimes skeptics have argued that it just does not add up. 

 1 + 1 + 1 = 3  

no matter how you look at it, they say. You either have three different gods or one God with three divided modes of existence.

However, that objection fails to recognize the infinite (symbolized by ∞ ) nature of the three Persons. 

It is not 1 + 1 + 1, it is 1∞ +  1∞ +  1∞ =  1∞.

Also, even though the Second Person of the Trinity (Jesus) for a time took on the finite nature of man (while also retaining His Divine nature) , it did not diminish the infinite and eternal nature of the Godhead.  

In this way, and only in this way, in my opinion, does the Trinity make sense.

I don’t know if this defense of the Trinity is original. I am eager to receive comments on this idea from our readers.  I am certainly open to correction if this is not a sound proposition.  I’d love to hear from some of you about it.  Thank you.

 

Jesus and Accommodation

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Written by Bill Gordon, Th.D.

Did Jesus accommodate Himself to the false beliefs of His day?

Biblical critics often claim that Jesus accommodated Himself to the primitive beliefs and myths of the ancient world. Liberal scholars have a long tradition of advocating this accommodation theory.1 The scriptural evidence, however, indicates that Jesus did not accommodate Himself to the false views of His culture.2

This issue is an important question for Christians. For how can Jesus be God if He made false statements? The Bible teaches in Hebrews 6:18 that God cannot tell an untruth. Also, Christian theology insists that error is contrary to the nature of God.3

Liberals who advocate the theory of accommodation are mistaken. The Jesus presented in the New Testament is a very unaccommodating man. There is not a single instance of Jesus endorsing or expressing an untrue belief. Instead, Jesus goes out of his way to point out the mistaken beliefs of His society. Jesus even criticized the Jewish tradition when He believed it was incorrect. In Matthew 15:3, Jesus accuses the Pharisees and the scribes of breaking the commandments of God for the sake of their tradition.

Jesus was not accommodating with regard to the feelings of those with whom He disagreed. He called the Pharisees and the scribes blind guides and hypocrites. He strengthened His condemnation by accusing them of being vipers and whitewashed tombs. He rhetorically asked, "How are you to escape being sentenced to hell?”4

The words of Jesus recorded in the Bible are true and trustworthy. You can trust in them not only in this life, but in the life to come.


1 J. C. O’Neill, "Biblical Criticism," The Anchor Yale Bible Dictionary (New York: Doubleday, 1996), 1:727.

2 Norman L. Geisler, Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics, Baker reference library (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Books, 1999), 1-2.

3 Wayne A. Grudem, Systematic Theology : An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan Pub. House, 1994), 83.

4 Matthew 23:16-33, ESV.

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