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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

 

 

 


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