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Why does Jesus have so many names?

“Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.”Isaiah 7:14

Jesus has so many names in Scripture. It can be confusing – especially for a kid. I remember as one still struggling with whether there was a Santa Claus or a Jesus, wondering about all the different names for this God who died for us.

Not having really been told the story, I wondered why His name was alternatively Jesus and Immanuel.

In the span of 18 verses in Luke 1, we read:

It was easy for a kid trying to understand why the prophet Isaiah instructed that Jesus should be called Immanuel, yet the angel Gabriel told Mary He should be called Jesus.

I attended many years of church and Sunday school classes, hoping someone would point out why. I was too shy to ask, fearing I might be deemed a heretic at the age of 8, God forbid.

And then there were many more names to come – in Bible verses and Christmas carols.

I really loved the sound of one of the latter – “O come, O come, Emmanuel.” “But wait a minute,” I remember thinking. “In Isaiah 7:14 He’s called Immanuel and in Matthew 1:23 He’s called Emmanuel. Can’t the editors of this book get their spelling straight?”

At last Matthew explains that the name “Emmanuel” actually means something: “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.

Read the lyrics to the Christmas carol for the introduction of even more names added to the mix!

O come, O come, Emmanuel
And ransom captive Israel
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear

Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel

O come, O come, Thou Lord of might
Who to Thy tribes, on Sinai’s height
In ancient times didst give the law
In cloud, and majesty and awe

Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel

O come, Thou Rod of Jesse, free
Thine own from Satan’s tyranny
From depths of hell Thy people save
And give them victory o’er the grave

Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel

O come, Thou Dayspring, come and cheer
Our spirits by Thine advent here
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night
And death’s dark shadows put to flight

Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel

O come, Thou Key of David, come
And open wide our heavenly home
Make safe the way that leads on high
And close the path to misery

Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel

O come, Thou Wisdom from on high
And order all things, far and nigh
To us the path of knowledge show
And cause us in her ways to go

Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel

O come, desire of nations, bind
In one the hearts of all mankind
Bid Thou our sad divisions cease
And be Thyself our King of peace

Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel

Here Jesus is called “the Son of God,” “The Rod of Jesse,” “the Dayspring,” “Thou Key of David,” “Thou Wisdom from on high” and “the desire of nations.”

Maybe you already know all the reasons for these names behind Jesus, which, interestingly enough, He was never called in His life. He was more well known in His land of Israel as “Yeshua.”

And He was called many other things before and since, including but not limited to, “Christ,” “Messiah,” “Redeemer,” “Lord,” “Master,” “Logos,” “the Word,” “Father,” “Son of Man,” “Son of David,” “Lamb of God,” “Bread of Life,” “the Lion of Judah.” “the New Adam,” “the Second Adam,” “the Last Adam,” “the Light of the World,” “the King of the World,” “the King of the Jews,” “Rabboni,” “Rabbi,” “the Nazarene,” “the I Am,” “the Chosen One” and many more.

It turns out, as most reading this today understand, these are indeed names, but also better understood as titles – titles that, if understood, tell the Gospel story.

Understanding the story and the names is much easier when we recognize the Good News developed and best told, in word or song, through the eyes and ears of Israel, in Hebrew – the land He came to and language He used to tell a story of liberation from sin.

I’m glad no one gave the story away to me. It forced me to find it for myself – like a great mystery story. After all, God could have dictated a 200-word dictum making it simple, but just think of how we would have lost all the majesty and beauty.

Like what you read here? Joseph Farah is the author of what many are calling a “breakthrough Bible book,” “The Gospel in Every Book of the Old Testament.”

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