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Was Jesus’ Name Really Jesus?

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The prophecy in Isaiah tells us that He is to be called “Immanuel.” So, why did the angels tell Mary to call him “Jesus?”


When it comes to interpreting the prophecies of the Bible, there can always be some confusion and debate amongst scholars. The large majority of all scholars of antiquity agree that Jesus Christ existed and began a ministry preaching after being baptized by John the Baptist. Many details of His life are universally accepted—such as the fact that He was executed by authorities in Rome after being arrested and tried. However, what about the detail of His name? Was His name really Jesus?

In the gospels of Matthew and Luke, we see that the angels told both Joseph and Mary to name the child Jesus. However, the original prophecy had said that He would be called “Immanuel.” The first time the word “Immanuel” appears in the Bible is in the book of Isaiah as a way to show that God will protect the House of David during a war:

“And he said, ‘Hear ye now, O house of David; is it a small thing for you to weary men, but will ye weary my God also? Therefore, the Lord Himself shall give you a sign; behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call His name Immanuel. Butter and honey shall He eat, that He may know to refuse the evil, and choose the good” (Isaiah 7, 13-15).

The rabbinical tradition and some scholars teach that this was meant as an encouragement to the people in that it explained that a women who was pregnant during the war would survive. Therefore, the term “God is with us” would be more of a gesture of gratitude for God’s protection. However, Matthew clearly interprets this prophecy as literally meaning that “God is with us.”

So why wasn’t Jesus named “Immanuel?”

The best answer to this is that “Immanuel” was a title for Jesus, and more of a role He was meant to play.

The name “Jesus” comes from the Greek form of the Hebrew name “Jeshua, or Joshua, or again Jehoshua, meaning ‘Jehovah is salvation.” The Greek name is associated with the verb iasthai, “to heal,” and further study has connected it’s Hebrew derivation and it’s meaning “soter,” a Greek term meaning “savior.” 

While the name “Jesus” was a common one during the time—such as we might think of the name “John” today, it carried with it a special meaning. The angel instructed Mary to give her child the name Jesus, “calling Him by the ordinary name of His people; He is coming to identify with them.” And He is also meant to be a deliverer for them.

Not only was Jesus meant to be viewed as a Savior, but also as God incarnate, come to earth, come to “be with us” and save the world.