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Should We Spell it "Immanuel" or "Emmanuel"?
Spell it out: God is With Us!
Depending on where you are looking, you will come across two different spellings of an important title for Christ from Isaiah 7:14: Immanuel and Emmanuel. This is a Hebrew word, meaning “with us” (‘immānû-; עִמָּנוּ) is “God” (-’ēl; אֵל). Altogether, it looks like this: ‘immānû ’ēl; עִמָּנוּ אֵל (remember: Hebrew reads right to left).
But, which spelling is correct? And why are there two spellings?
In fact, both are correct, but Immanuel is probably the better way to spell it generally. The reason for the difference has to do with the challenge of transliterating Hebrew letters into other languages.
If we are transliterating the Hebrew directly into English, then the vowel is an ‘I,’ not an ‘E,’ as I have transliterated it above.
But, when Isaiah 7:14 was translated into Greek in the Bible called the Septuagint (LXX), the word was transliterated into Greek letters with an ‘E’: “Emmanuel,” or Ἐμμανουήλ. It is this word that Matthew quotes in Matthew 1:23.
While many popular translations use the Hebrew spelling of “Immanuel” in both Isaiah 7:14 and Matthew 1:23 (CSB, ESV, NASB, NIV), other Bibles attempt to preserve the distinction by using (e.g., KJV) use “Immanuel” in Isaiah 7:14, but “Emmanuel” in Matthew 1:23.
So, while both work, it is probably more accurate to use Immanuel, since that is the direct transliteration from Hebrew. To use Emmanuel is to transliterate the Greek transliteration of Hebrew, which adds a step.
Either way, both spellings point to an extraordinary truth: in Christ, God has come to be with his people! This was extraordinary when Jesus walked the earth, and still more extraordinary when the Holy Spirit indwelled the church on the Day of Pentecost. Still, we await the ultimate expression of this, when God makes his dwelling place with us forever (Rev. 21:4).