The King James Version of the Bible uses the spelling Emmanuel. The English Standard Version and others (e.g., NASB, NLT, NKJV, HCSB, NIV) use the spelling Immanuel. The New English Translation employs both spellings, Immanuel (Isaiah 7:14) and Emmanuel (Matthew 1:23).
So, which spelling is correct?
Well, to be fair, there really is no “right” way to transliterate words from one alphabet to another. The process of transliteration is all about getting the sounds into the other language, and both spellings, Immanuel and Emmanuel, allow us to pronounce the original word correctly.
But still, why the difference in spelling? And why would the NET Bible use both spellings?
The answer lies in the languages behind the English translations. The Old Testament is written in Hebrew (and some Aramaic), and the New Testament is written in Greek. The Hebrew for Immanuel looks like this: עִמָּנוּ אֵל. Reading right-to-left, the first letter “עִ” (Ayin) is silent (with a vowel point beneath it) and typically gets transliterated as an “I.” So, the English transliteration of the Hebrew word usually looks like Immanuel.
The Greek transliteration of עִמָּנוּ אֵל looks like this: Ἐμμανουήλ. Do you see the “E” (Epsilon) in there? The Gospel of Matthew has Ἐμμανουήλ present in Matthew 1:23. Epsilons often come over to English as “E’s.”
Now, knowing the Greek and Hebrew background, we have our answer.
The translations that use “Immanuel” favor the Hebrew, which was the original language for the name and predates the Greek versions. The translations that use “Emmanuel” favor the Greek. And of course, now we can see why the NET Bible uses both spellings.
But the most important thing about Immanuel is not the spelling. What is most important is the meaning behind the name. What does “Immanuel” mean? It means “God with us,” and this is the name that was applied to Jesus (Matthew 1:23). The Gospel of John describes the arrival of Jesus as the arrival of God-with-us: “ In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God… And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth… No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known” (John 1:1, 14, 18).
So, the name “Immanuel” reminds us that one of the amazing facts of the Gospel is that in Jesus God drew near. He is not a god who is far off; He is the God who is near, near to the brokenhearted, near to His people.