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Musical Musings: Advent


Transcribed by Joseph P. Thomas

This article is reprinted here with the kind permission of Kevin Knight, who has undertaken a project to transcribe an online version of the 1907 Catholic Encyclopedia.

Emmanual (Sept. Emmanouel; A.V. Immanuel) signifies "God with us" (Mt 1:23), and is the name of the child predicted in Is 7:14- "Behold a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and his name shall be called Emmanuel". The various views advanced as to the identity of the child cannot be fully explained and discussed here; the following observations must suffice:

  • The child is not a merely ideal or metaphorical person, he cannot be identified with the regenerate people of Israel (Hoffmann), nor with religious faith (Porter), for "he shall eat butter and honey."
  • The Prophet does not refer to a child in general, but points to an individual (cf. Boorda, Kuenen, W.R. Smith, Smend, Duhm, Cheyne. Marti); both text and context require this.
  • The child is not a son of the Prophet Isaiah (cf. Hitzig, Reuss); Is 8:1-4, shows that the Prophet's son has a name different from that Emmanuel.
  • The child is not a son of Ahaz (cf. Lagarde, McCurdy); for Ezchias did not possess the most essential characteristics of Emmanuel as described by Isaiah.
  • The Emmanuel is the Messiah foretold in the other prophecies of Isaiah. In Is 8:8, Palestine is called the land of Emmanuel, though in other passages it is termed the land or the inheritance of Yahweh (Is 14:2,25; 47:6; Hos 9:3; Jer 2:7; 12:14; etc), so that Emmanuel and Yahweh are identified. Again, in the Hebrew text of Is 8:9-10, the Prophet predicts the futility of all the enemies' schemes against Palestine, because of Emmanuel. In 9:6-7, the characteristics of the child Emmanuel are so clearly described that we can doubt no longer of his Messianic mission. The eleventh chapter pictures the Messianic blessings which the child Emmanuel will bring upon the earth. Moreover, Saint Matthew (1:23) expressly identifies the Emmanuel with Jesus the Messiah, and Christian tradition has constantly taught the same doctrine.
The question why the Messiah was called Emmanuel, or "God with us", admits of a double answer: the name is a pledge of Divine help and also a description of the nature of the Messiah. King Ahaz had not believed the Prophet's first promise of deliverance from his enemies, Rasin, King of Syria, and Phacee, King of Israel (Is 7:1-9). And when the Prophet tried a second time to restore his confidence, Ahaz refused to ask for the sign which God was ready to grant in confirmation of the prophetic promise (7:10-12). The Prophet, therefore, forces, in a way, King Ahaz to confide in God, showing that the Messiah, the hope of Israel and the glory of the house of David, implies by his very name "Emmanuel", or "God with us", the Divine presence among his people. A number of the Fathers, e.g. Saint Irenaeus, Lactantius, Saint Epiphanius, Saint Chrysostom, and Theodoret, regard the name "Emmanuel", not merely as a pledge of Divine assistance, but also as an expression of the mystery of the Incarnation by virtue of which the Messiah will be "God with us" in very deed.

Transcribed by Joseph P. Thomas

The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume V
Copyright © 1911 by Robert Appleton Company
Online Edition Copyright © 1999 by Kevin Knight
Nihil Obstat, February 1, 1911. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor
Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York
Reprinted by permission of copyright owner.

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