Matthew 1:23 (NIV) says:

“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)

But, nowhere in the Gospels is Jesus addressed as Immanuel—directly or indirectly. It appears to me that that the word with its literal meaning implies more of an attribute than a name. So, what is the Catholic view on Jesus having been given the name Immanuel?

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Since this a purely exegetical question (i.e., it doesn’t really affect a fundamental teaching about Jesus), the Church does not have an “official” position on how to interpret Matthew 1:23.

In this passage, Matthew is simply applying the prophecy in Isaiah 7:14 to Jesus:

Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.

In context, Isaiah is prophesying the birth of Hezekiah, the son of Ahaz. (Hezekiah is portrayed in the Old Testament as a holy and prudent king, unlike his father.) However, Matthew sees that the prophesy has a deeper meaning in Jesus Christ, who is, after all “God-with-us” in a much more perfect way than Hezekiah ever was.

It seems that neither Jesus nor any of his disciples ever used Immanuel as an actual title. Hence Matthew is merely applying the prophecy to Jesus, since it describes Jesus’ condition (as God-made-man) very well.

(As a source for these reflections, I used the Ignatius Catholic Study Bible: New Testament, the notes for Matthew 1:23.)


According to the Catholic Haydock Commentary, Estius wrote:

How happens it that nowhere in the gospels, or in any other part, do we find Christ called Emmanuel? I answer, that in the Greek expression the name is given for the thing signified; and the meaning is: He shall be a true Emmanuel, i.e., a God with us, true God and true man.

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