'Tis the season to sing Christmas carols and one term is found in many. Immanuel. But then there’s also Emmanuel. Why?
Are these two the same or distinctively different? If they’re the same, then why are they spelled two different ways? It can be confusing.
To get to the bottom of this question we’ll take a deeper look.
Biblical Origin of Emmanuel
Both Immanuel and Emmanuel are found in the Bible. The Old Testament is originally recorded in Hebrew and Chaldean/Aramaic. The New Testament is originally recorded in Greek.
Typically, Immanuel is found in the Old Testament and Emmanuel is found in the New Testament. Here are the two verses where they’re found.
Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel (Isaiah 7:14 KJV).
Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us (Matthew 1:23 KJV).
Why the Different Spelling?
With the original text of the Bible not being in English, it must be translated. Different English translations of the Bible use different translation processes. The process that produces the different spelling is called transliteration.
Immanuel with an "I" is a transliteration of the original Hebrew word composed of “Immanu” (with us) and El (God), while Emmanuel with an "E" is a transliteration of the Greek "Emmanouel" (emphasis in the source).
However, there are some English translations of the Bible that do not adhere to this. This is seen in the following two translations of the same verses quoted above.
Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; behold, a virgin shall conceive in the womb, and shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name Emmanuel (Isaiah 7:14 Brenton Septuagint Translation).
“The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means "God with us") (Matthew 1:23 NIV).
The difference between transliteration and translation is that one translates the pronunciation from one language to the other, while the other translates the meaning.
Immanuel and Emmanuel point to the same meaning with two different spellings. Think of how we do this with modern names. For example, Cathy, Cathie, Kathy, and Kathi, or Alexander, Alexandre, Aleksander, and Aleksandr.
Emmanuel - Not Just a Name
Immanuel and Emmanuel may be translated as a name, but its biblical meaning goes much deeper.
Although it says in Isaiah 7:14 “thou shalt call his name Immanuel,” Mary and Joseph didn’t give their son that name. Instead, they followed the directions given specifically to them in Matthew 1:21 (Joseph in a dream) and Luke 1:31 (Mary by the angel Gabriel) to name Him Jesus.
As seen in Matthew 1:23 above, the meaning of Immanuel is “God with us.” The promised child was given the name of Jesus but was also Immanuel, God in the flesh.
God put Himself on display for us to know and understand Him through Jesus becoming Immanuel.
The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth (John1:14 NIV).
For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6 NIV)
It doesn’t matter how you spell Emmanuel, but the heart of God is always spelled, LOVE.
A Prayer to Emmanuel
Heavenly Father, You are Emmanuel, God with us. You are the God who gives peace. We remember that because of Jesus we can experience a Christmas free from turmoil and chaos. Regardless of our circumstances or our situations, you offer us peace that passes understanding.
That first Christmas, when you sent your Son, you sent the one who is called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, and Prince of Peace. Even the angels cried out, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” The angels knew your purpose. They know the gifts of hope, peace, joy, and love that Christmas held. They recognized that the fullness of God was wrapped in the tiny flesh of an infant as you humbled yourself and dwelt among us. Emmanuel. God with us as the baby Jesus.
Father, keep us in perfect peace as our mind stays on the truth of your powerful love. Thank you for your mighty, sovereign hand. Help us to trust fully in you and rest in the peace that you offer. It’s in the precious name of Jesus we pray. Amen. ~ Excerpt from What Is the Candle of Peace for Advent? Week 2
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Danielle Bernock is an international, award-winning author, coach, and speaker who helps people embrace their value and heal their souls through the power of the love of God. She’s written Emerging With Wings, A Bird Named Payn, Love’s Manifesto, Because You Matter, and hosts the Victorious Souls Podcast. A long-time follower of Christ, Danielle lives with her husband in Michigan near her adult children and grandchildren. For more information or to connect with Danielle https://www.daniellebernock.com/