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Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature


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Imman´uel, or Emmanuel. This word, meaning 'God with us,' occurs in the celebrated verse of Isaiah (), 'Behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.' In the name itself there is no difficulty; but the verse, as a whole, has been variously interpreted. From the manner in which the word God, and even Jehovah, is used in the composition of Hebrew names, there is no such peculiarity in that of Immanuel as in itself requires us to understand that he who bore it should be in fact God. Indeed, it is used as a proper name among the Jews at this day. This high sense has, however, been assigned to it in consequence of the application of the whole verse by the Evangelist Matthew () to our Divine Savior. Even if this reference did not exist, the history of the Nativity would irresistibly lead us to the conclusion that the verse—whatever may have been its intermediate signification—had an ultimate reference to Christ.

The state of opinion on this point has been thus neatly summed up by Dr. Henderson, in his note on the text:—'This verse has long been a subject of dispute between Jews and professedly Christian writers, and among the latter mutually. While the former reject its application to the Messiah altogether—the earlier Rabbins explaining it of the queen of Ahaz and the birth of his son Hezekiah; and the later, as Kimchi and Abarbanel, of the prophet's own wife—the great body of Christian interpreters have held it to be directly and exclusively in prophecy of our Savior, and have considered themselves fully borne out by the inspired testimony of the Evangelist Matthew. Others, however, have departed from this construction of the passage, and have invented or adopted various hypotheses in support of such dissent. Grotius and others suppose either the then present or a future wife of Isaiah to be the 'virgin' referred to. A second class are of opinion that the prophet had nothing more in view than an ideal virgin, and that both she and her son are merely imaginary personages, introduced for the purpose of prophetic illustration. A third think that the prophet pointed to a young woman in the presence of the king and his courtiers. A fourth class admit the hypothesis of a double sense: one in which the words apply primarily to some female living in the time of the prophet, and her giving birth to a son according to the ordinary laws of nature; or, as Dathe holds, to some virgin, who at that time should miraculously conceive; and the other, in which they received a secondary and plenary fulfillment in the miraculous conception and birth of Jesus Christ.





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Kitto, John, ed. Entry for 'Immanuel'. "Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature".

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