What’s in a name?

Around late Advent, just before Christmas, it is common to have this reading from the Gospels:

Matthew 1:18-23

18 The birth of Jesus Christ came about this way: After His mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, it was discovered before they came together that she was pregnant by the Holy Spirit. 19 So her husband Joseph, being a righteous man, and not wanting to disgrace her publicly, decided to divorce her secretly. 20 But after he had considered these things, an angel of the Lord suddenly appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, don’t be afraid to take Mary as your wife, because what has been conceived in her is by the Holy Spirit.  21 She will give birth to a son, and you are to name Him Jesus, because He will save His people from their sins.” 22 Now all this took place to fulfill what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet: 23 See, the virgin will become pregnant and give birth to a son, and they will name Him Immanuel which is translated “God is with us.”

Matthew 1:23 refers to Isaiah 7:14.

Isaiah 7:14

14 Therefore, the Lord Himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive, have a son, and name him Immanuel.

(FYI – Immanuel is sometimes spelled “Emmanuel”.)

So is the prophecy fulfilled? A virgin did conceive and give birth to a son – but he was named Jesus, not Immanuel.  Does it matter?

Jesus is the Greek form of the Hebrew name “Joshua,” which means “The Lord saves” or “Yahweh saves.”

So his name doesn’t even mean the same thing – “God is with us” and “The Lord saves” are not the same.

It reminds me of the discrepancy with the death and resurrection – it wasn’t three days – it wasn’t even 48 hours – that Jesus was entombed.

Does it matter?

Is it a deal breaker?

And how come nobody else has pointed this out?


(All translations are from the Holman Christian Standard Translation)