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And she shall bring forth a son; and thou shalt call his name Jesus; for it is he that shall save his people from their sins. – Matthew 1:21

Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel; which is, being interpreted, God with us. – Matthew 1:23

Matthew’s Christmas narrative gives two names by which the Christ child would be called: Jesus and Immanuel. The name Jesus is a Greek transliteration of the Hebrew name Joshua or, in its later contracted form, Jeshua. It occurs frequently in the Septuagint (the ancient Greek translation of the Old Testament) as the Greek equivalent of these Hebrew names, and it was a fairly common name in the first century B.C. and A.D. (cf. Luke 3:29; Acts 13:6; Col 4:11). After the first century A.D., the Jews stopped using the name “Jesus” because of its Christian associations, while ancient Christians refused to use it as a common name out of reverence for their Lord.

When the angel told Joseph to call the Christ child “Jesus,” he gave an explanation of this name: it is he that shall save his people from their sins. The name Jesus means “Jehovah (Yahweh/the LORD) saves” or “Jehovah who saves.” Although other men in Christ’s day bore this name, only Jesus Christ actually fulfilled the meaning of it. Others with the name simply stated it as a fact, which they could not personally fulfill; but Jesus bore the name as a statement of His life’s work.

Unlike the name “Jesus,” the name “Immanuel” was not an official designation of Christ’s human name by the angel, nor was it a name by which Christ was known during His earthly life. Instead, Matthew cites it in a quotation from Isaiah 7:14, where a son is promised as a sign to the house of David. Matthew gives the meaning of this name himself: “God with us” (or, “God is with us”). This meaning of this name is significant because it testifies to the divinity of Christ and to the reality of the incarnation. This Jesus is God, yet He has come as a man to dwell with mankind.

Taken together, the names Jesus and Immanuel form a Matthean Christmas message: God is with us, and He has come to save us from our sins.

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