Matthew 1:21-23, God the Son? Part III of IV

And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins. Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us.

//Matthew loves to quote scripture. Jesus wasn’t named Emmanuel, but that doesn’t matter: If Isaiah had prophesied a child named Fred Flintstone, I suspect Matthew would have found a way to tie that name in, so badly does he wish to show Jesus as the fulfillment of scripture.

Continuing  the theme of the last two posts, we’re discussing the title God the Son (which was never used in the Bible), and whether or not Matthew shared John’s vision that Jesus was God incarnate. Some readers point to today’s verse as evidence of Jesus being God, but it really proves little. “God with us” doesn’t mean “I am God”…if it did, no other person on earth would be named Emmanuel. More likely, Matthew imagined Emmanuel to mean something along the lines of, “I am bringing the Kingdom of God to you.” Matthew, in fact, explains precisely how he relates the name Emmanuel to the name Jesus in today’s verse:  “for he shall save his people from their sins.” And in Matthew’s version, this is done without God, who forsook Jesus on the cross. Bluntly put: to Matthew, Emmanuel could be pretty much anybody except God.

Sometimes the loudest argument is one from silence. If Matthew wanted to convey that Jesus is God, he could have said so simply, as John did. But Matthew never once refers to Jesus as God. Not once, despite ample opportunities throughout the Gospel to do so. As I said, Matthew dearly loves to quote the prophets. If he wanted to portray Jesus as God, here is a very powerful verse, a missed opportunity, from Matthew’s favorite prophet, Isaiah:

Isaiah 9:6, For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.

Wow! Could any prophecy in the Bible be more useful to a theology of God incarnate? Problem is, Matthew wants absolutely nothing to do with it. It doesn’t match Matthew’s beliefs. Instead, he goes with the biteless Emmanuel prophecy, turning Jesus’ birth into a miracle story, and the theology of God creating a Son by impregnating a virgin.

Jesus is God? John says yes. But it never crossed Matthew’s mind.

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