What did Jesus really say?

by Misha'al Abdullah Al-Kadhi

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5.11 Who was "Immanuel"?

"Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel (God is with us)."

Isaiah 7:14

Muslims are commanded in the Qur'an to believe in Jesus (pbuh) as a true and faithful prophet of God. For this reason, Muslims have no trouble believing that prophets of the Old Testament prophesied the coming of Jesus (pbuh). However, as we have already seen in chapter two, over the ages mankind continued to feel the need to embroider and improve upon the word of God. This was not restricted to merely inserting, deleting, or changing words as seen in previous chapters, rather, they even went so far as to try to "prove" their innovations through the citation of other ancient passages. There are many examples of this. One such example shall be studied here.

When members of the clergy read to their flock the verse of Isaiah 7:14, they then go on to explain to them: "Do you see? Prophet Isaiah prophesied the coming of the God Himself. Immanuel means 'God is with us,' so this is not only a prophesy of the coming of God but also a prophesy of the 'incarnation' of God Almighty in the form of Jesus".

It is true, Immanuel does mean "God is with us." However, this is a prime example of how the evangelists manage to constantly base their arguments on catch words or phrases and then quickly gloss over the details.

The phrase "a virgin" which we find in our English Bibles does not appear in the original Hebrew text. The word used is 'almah {al-maw'} meaning "a young woman of marriageable age". The Hebrew word for "virgin" is bthuwlah {beth-oo-law'}. When the Hebrew text is translated into Greek in the NT, it uses the word parthenos {per-then'-os}, which has a dual meaning; a young girl or a virgin. The translators have mistakenly chosen the latter. More recent and accurate versions of the Bible such as the Revised Standard Version present this verse as follows:

"Therefore, the Lord Himself will give you a sign. Look, the young woman is with child and shall bear a son, and shall name him Immanuel"

Isaiah 7:14 (RSV)

Biblical scholars have suggested that this prophesy was concerning the second son or possibly the third son of Isaiah by a Jewish maiden. It does not relate to Jesus or his virgin birth.

If Jesus (pbuh) was indeed intended by this prophesy, then why was he named "Jesus" and not "Immanuel" as the prophesy requires? Notice that the prophesy states that "his NAME shall be Immanuel." It does not say that "HE shall be Immanuel." There is a big difference between saying "His name shall be 'God is with us'" and between saying "He shall be God with us."

"Immanuel" is not the only name in the OT that contains the word "El" (God). There are hundreds of Hebrew names that consist of "El" and another noun. For example, "Ishmael" which means "God hears." Did God's sense of hearing come down to earth and live among us in the form of a man? Was God's sense of hearing "incarnated" in the form of a man?. There is also "Israel" (prince of God), and "Elijah" (my God is Jehovah), and so forth. As we can see, it was a very common occurrence for Israelites to have such names. Neither prophet Isaiah, nor King Ahaz, nor any Jew ever thought that the prophesy was for God himself to come down and live among them.

In Genesis 28:19 we read "And he called the name of that place Bethel (house of God)". Since the place was named "house of God," does this mean that God lived inside this house?

In Genesis 32:30, we are told that Jacob (pbuh) called a piece of land "Peni-el" (Face of God). The actual text states: "And Jacob called the name of the place Peniel," is this the same as saying: "And Jacob said this place is Peniel"? Was the patch of land the actual face of God? Was the face of God "incarnated" in this piece of land?

Gabriel, the name of the angle of God, has been interpreted in Biblical references as having the general meaning of "Strength of God." So, does this mean that the angle Gabriel is the "incarnation" of the "strength of God"?

"The name Immanuel could mean 'God be with us' in the sense 'God help us!'"

Interpreter's dictionary of the Bible, V2, p. 686.

Jesus (pbuh) was given his name by the angel Gabriel even before his birth (Matthew 1:21). Never was he named "Immanuel." King Ahaz was in danger. His enemies were closing in. This is when a promise was made to show him a sign, a pregnant woman, not a virgin Mary (pbuh) who would not show up until many centuries after he had turned to dust. Can we see how the Trinitarian doctrine of incarnation was forced upon the message of Jesus (pbuh) through "bending" of the prophesies and general glossing over of the "trivial details"? For more on how the "incarnation" was forced upon the message of Jesus centuries after his departure, please read Section 1.2.5.

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