Immanuel ‏עִמָּנוּ ‏אֵל

First semester Hebrew students usually have enough background to understand this Hebrew:

עִמָּנוּ ‏אֵל

Here we find the preposition עם with a 1cp suffix נוּ so we translate “with us.” This is followed by אֵל , which we translate “God.” So in context (Is. 7:14; 8:8), we are told that the child to be born will be named “Immanuel” meaning “God with us.” In the ESV, NET, and NRSV we find the spelling to begin with “I” but in many carols we read “Emmanuel.” Why is this? Because, when Matthew quotes the OT passage (Matt. 1:23), the Greek reads:
ἰδοὺ ἡ παρθένος ἐν γαστρὶ ἕξει καὶ τέξεται υἱόν,
καὶ καλέσουσιν τὸ ὄνομα αὐτοῦ Ἐμμανουήλ,
ὅ ἐστιν μεθερμηνευόμενον μεθ᾿ ἡμῶν ὁ θεός.

Thus, the English spelling renders the NT Greek as “Emmanuel.”

I still prefer to write the “I” in Immanuel, because my students can then remember that even the prepositions and suffixes that they learn are alive with meaning.

6 thoughts on “Immanuel ‏עִמָּנוּ ‏אֵל

  1. Joel H.

    Surprisingly, many translations (such as the KJV, NAB, and NRSV), have “Emmanuel” in Matthew but “Immanuel” in Isaiah. I think that even more important that the “E” or the “I” is making it clear that it’s the same name in both places.


  2. Karyn Post author

    Hi Joel,

    The reason that it is spelled differently in the OT and in the NT (of the translations you mentioned) is precisely because we are transliterating two different languages (Hebrew and Greek). The NT writers were usually quoting a Greek translation of the Hebrew text and were writing in Greek, so we get a different spelling there. A footnote in the text might help to explain why the spelling is different for readers who do not know the original languages.


  3. Dori

    Important point: from a Jewish perspective there is no OT or NT, just one Revelation at Sinai.

    Thus, value-free descriptions of the different scriptures would be
    Hebrew and Christian Scriptures
    or, perhaps better
    Hebrew and Christian Bibles.

    The Christian Bible obviously contains the Jewish Pentateuch, but with (sometimes critically) different interpretations of meaning in various places.

    I hope this gives a fresh perspective.

  4. Karyn Post author

    Hi Dori,

    I agree with you and you are right. On my blog, I most typically prefer to use HB (Hebrew Bible) when referring to the Hebrew/Jewish Scriptures, but I probably slip into the OT and NT designations out of habit or when responding to (Christian) readers who are perhaps not familiar with the HB designation.

  5. Dori


    Now that you are aware… you may try not ‘to slip into’ Christian views of the Torah… 😉

  6. Annette


    I’m sorry I still haven’t completely understood how exactly the greek translator managed to turn the “i” into an “e”.
    Thanks for explaning. Still a lot to learn, thanks for helping!

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