MATTHEW 28:19 AND 1 JOHN 5:7,
(Answering Objections to Modalism)
(Excerpted from Godhead Theology, by Bishop Jerry Hayes)
“Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:” —Matthew 28:19.
“For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one. —1 John 5:7.
Supporters of Trinitarianism have very few passages in the Bible where all three titles, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, (or like terms) appear together; Matthew 28:19 and 1 John 5:7 are their two most important ones. When appealing to biblical support for their doctrine, these two texts are foundational. As uncomfortable as it is for this writer, doctrinal integrity compels us to look at the canonicity of both texts, but especially Matthew 28:19.
Given modern scholarship it can no longer be said that the jury is out concerning the validity of Matthew 28:19 and 1 John 5:7. All but the most radical King James Version advocates seem to agree that Matthew 28:19 could not have been the words of Jesus, and 1 John 5:7 (called the Johannine Comma) is not found in any of the oldest Greek manuscripts of 1 John, and none of the very early church fathers include it when quoting or referencing 1 John 5:7-8. The presence of the Johannine Comma in Greek manuscripts is actually quite rare until the 15th century A.D.; it is primarily found in Latin manuscripts. The scholarly consensus is that that passage is a Latin corruption that entered the Greek manuscript tradition in subsequent copies.
Since it is a forgone conclusion that the Johannine Comma is a spurious text, for the most part this chapter will deal with Matthew 28:19. Here are the names of scholars who likewise agree that Matthew 28:19 is spurious: F.C. Conybeare, K. Lake, J. Martineau, A. Harnack, A.S. Peake, H. Kosmala, Wilhelm Bousset, and Norman Pittenger. Karl Barth references Matthew 28:19 with the utmost caution; in fact, referencing it as an expansion of the shorter formula of “in the name of Jesus.”
According to F. C. Conybeare,
“Eusebius cites this text again and again in his works written between A.D. 300 and 336, namely in his long commentaries on the Psalms, on Isaiah, his Demonstratio Evangelica, his Theophany ...in his famous history of the Church, and in his panegyric of the emperor Constantine. I have, after a moderate search in these works of Eusebius, found eighteen citations of Matthew xxviii. 19, and always in the following form: “Go ye and make disciples of all the nations in my name, teaching them to observe all things, whatsoever I commanded you.”
Eusebius is not content merely to cite the verse in this form, but he more than once comments on it in such a way as to show how much he set store by the words “in my name.” Thus in his Demonstratio Evangelica he writes thus (col. 240, p. 136):
“For he did not enjoin them 'to make disciples of all nations' simply and without qualification, but with the essential addition 'in his name.' For so great was the virtue attached to his appellation that the Apostle says, God bestowed on him the name above every name, that in the name of Jesus every knee shall bow of things in heaven and on earth and under the earth. It was right therefore that he should emphasize the virtue of the power residing in his name but hidden from the many, and therefore say to his Apostles, Go ye and make disciples of all nations in my name.”
Conybeare proceeds: (in Hibbert Journal, 1902, p 105): “It is evident that this was the text found by Eusebius in the very ancient codices collected fifty to a hundred and fifty years before his birth by his great predecessors (deposited in the great library at Caesarea Maritima). Of any other form of text he had never heard, and knew nothing until he had visited Constantinople and attended the Council of Nice. Then in two controversial works written in his extreme old age, and entitled, the one, “Against Marcellus of Ancyra,” the other “About the Theology of the Church,” he used the common reading. One other writing of his also contains it, namely a letter written after the council of Nicea was over, to his see of Caesarea.”
In his Textual Criticism of the New Testament, Conybeare writes: “It is clear, therefore, that the MSS which Eusebius inherited from his predecessor, Pamphilus, at Caesarea in Palestine, some at least preserved the original reading, in which there was no mention either of Baptism or of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. It had been conjectured by Dr. Davidson, Dr. Martineau, by the Dean of Westminister, and by Prof. Harnack (to mention but a few names out of many) that here the received text could not contain the very words of Jesus, this, long before anyone except Dr. Burgon, who kept the discovery to himself, had noticed the Eusebian form of reading.”
An objection was raised by Dr. Chase, Bishop of Ely, who argues that Eusebius found the Testus Receptus (traditional text) in his manuscripts, but, “substituted the shorter formula in his works for fear of vulgarizing and divulging the sacred Trinitarian formula.” It is interesting to find one of more recent time reviving the very argument used 150 years before, in support of the forged text of 1 John 5:7, Johann Albrecht Bengel “...allowed that the words of the Johannine Comma were in no genuine MSS... surely, then, the verse is spurious! No: this learned man finds a way of escape. The passage was of so sublime and mysterious a nature that the secret discipline of the Church withdrew it from the public books, till it was gradually lost. Under what a want of evidence must a critic labor who resorts to such an argument" --Porson (Preface to his letters)!
Conybeare writes, refuting the arguments of the Bishop of Ely: “It is sufficient answer to point out that Eusebius’s argument, when he cites the text, involves the text ‘in my name.’ For, he ask, ‘in whose name?’ and answers that it was the name spoken of by Paul in his Epistle to the Philippians 2:10.”
The Encyclopedia of Religion and Ethics states: “The facts are, in summary, that Eusebius quotes Matthew 28:19, 21 times, either omitting everything between “nations’ and ‘teaching,’ or in the form ‘make disciples of all nations in my name,’ the latter form being the more frequent.”
Evidence of Other Witnesses
Author of De Rebaptismate: The anonymous author of De Rebaptismate in the third century dwells at length on “the power of the name of Jesus invoked upon a man by Baptism” (De Rebaptismate 6.7 Smith's Dictionary of the Bible, Vol. i, p. 352).
Origen: In Origin's works as preserved in Greek, the first part of the verse is thrice cited, but his citation always stops short at the words “the nations.” This suggests that his text has been censured, and words which followed, “in my name,” struck out.
Clement of Alexandria: “In the pages of Clement of Alexandria a text somewhat similar to Matthew xxviii. 19 is once cited; but from a gnostic heretic named Theodotus, and not as from the canonical text, as follows: ‘And to the apostles he gives the command. Going around preaching ye and baptize those who believe in the name of father and son and holy spirit’” (Excerpta, cap. 76, ed. Sylb. p. 987; --Conybeare).
Justin Martyr: “Justin Martyr quotes a saying of Christ as a proof of the necessity of regeneration, but falls back upon the use of Isaiah and apostolic tradition to justify the practice of baptism and the use of the truine formula. This certainly suggest that Justin did not know the traditional text of Matthew 28:19" (Encyclopedia of Religion and Ethics, p 380)
“In Justin Martyr, who wrote between A.D. 130 and 140, there is a passage which has been regarded as a citation or echo of Matthew xxviii. 19 by various scholars, e.g. Resch in his Ausser canonische Parallelstellen, who sees in it an abridgement of the ordinary text. The passage is in Justin's dialogue with Trypho 39, p. 258: ‘God hath not yet inflicted no (sic) inflicts the judgment, as knowing of some that still even to-day are being made disciples in the name of his Christ, and are abandoning the path of error, who also do receive gifts each as they be worthy, being illumined by the name of this Christ.’ The objection hitherto to these words being recognized as a citation of our text was that they ignored the formula ‘baptising them in the name of the Father and Son and holy Spirit.’ But the discovery of the Eusebian form of text removes this difficulty; and Justin is seen to have had the same text as early as the year 140, which Eusebius regularly found in his manuscripts from 300-340.” (Conybeare, Hibbert Journal p 106)
Macedonius: “We may infer that the text was not quite fixed when Tertullian was writing early in the third century. In the middle of that century Cyprian could insist on the use of the triple formula as essential in the baptism even of the orthodox. The pope, Stephen, answered him that the baptisms even of heretics were valid, ‘if the name of Jesus alone was invoked.’ (However, this decision did not prevent the popes of the seventh century from excommunicating the entire Celtic Church for its adhesion to the old use of invoking the one name.) In the last half of the fourth century the text ‘in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the holy Ghost’ was used as a battle-cry by the orthodox against the adherents of Macedonius, who were called pneumao-machi or fighters against the Holy Spirit, because they declined to include the Spirit in a Trinity of persons as co-equal, consubstantial and co-eternal with the Father and Son. They also stoutly denied that any text of the N.T. authorized such a co-ordination of the Spirit with the Father and Son. Whence we infer that their texts agreed with that of Eusebius.’” (F.C. Conybeare, Hibbert Journal, page 107)
Eunomius: “Exceptions are found which perhaps point to an old practice dying out. CYPRIAN (Ep.73) and the APOSTOLIC CANONS (no. 50) combat the shorter formula, thereby attesting its use in certain quarters. The ordinance of Canon Apostolic 50 runs: ‘If any Bishop or presbyter fulfill not three baptisms of one initiation, but one baptism which is given (as) into the death of the Lord, let him be deposed.' This was the formula of the followers of Eunomius (Socr. 5.24) for they baptized not into the Trinity, but into the death of Christ. They accordingly used single immersion only.” (Ency. Biblica, Art. Baptism)
Aphraates: “... Aphraates the Syriac father who wrote between 337 and 345... cites our text in a formal manner as follows: ‘Make disciples of all nations, and they shall believe in me.’ The last words appear to be a gloss on the Eusebius reading ‘in my name.’ But in any case they preclude the textus receptus with its injunction to baptise in the triune name. Were the reading of Aphraates an isolated fact, we might regard it as a loose citation, but in presence of the Eusebian and Justinian text this is impossible.” (Conybeare [THJ] page 107)
Conybeare: “In the only codices which would be even likely to preserve an older reading, namely the Sinaitic Syriac and the oldest Latin MS., the pages are gone which contained the end of Matthew. But in any case the conversion of Eusebius to the longer text after the council of Nice indicates that it was at that time being introduced as a Shibboleth of orthodoxy into all codices. We have no codex older than the year 400, if so old; and long before that time the question of the inclusion of the holy Spirit on equal terms in the Trinity had been threshed out, and a text so invaluable to the dominate party could not but make its way into every codex, irrespectively of its textual affinities,” (Hibbert Journal)
I. Evidence of the Context
When the context is examined, we find that in the AV the sense of the passage is hindered, but if we read as we suggest below, the whole context fits together and the tenor of the instruction is complete:
“All power is given unto ME ... go therefore... baptizing in MY name, teaching them... whatsoever I have commanded... I am with you...”
II. Evidence of Frequency
Is the phrase “in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit” used elsewhere in Scripture? NOT ONCE!
Did Jesus use the phrase “in my name” on other occasions? YES! 17 times! (Matthew 18:5, 20; 24:5; Mark 9:37, 39, 41; 13:6; 16:17; Luke 9:48; 21:8; John 14:13, 14, 26; 15:16; 16:23, 24, 26, etc..)
III. Evidence of Argument
Is any argument in Scripture based on the fact of the threefold name, or of baptism in the threefold name? None whatever!
Is any argument in Scripture based on the fact of baptism in the name of Jesus? Yes! This is the argument in 1 Corinthians 1:13: “Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptized in the name of Paul?"
From this argument, if carefully analyzed, it will appear that believers ought to be baptized in the name of that One who was crucified for them. The Father, in His amazing love, gave us His beloved Son, who by the Spirit was raised to incorruptibility, but it is the Lord Himself who was crucified, and in HIS name, therefore, must believers be baptized in water.
Dr. Thomas says: “There is but one way for a believer of the things concerning the Kingdom of God, and the Name of Jesus the Christ, to put him on, or to be invested with his name, and that is, by immersion into his name. Baptism is for this specific purpose.” (Revealed Mystery, Art. XLIV) “There is none other name under heaven” no other name or names “given among men, whereby we must be saved” —Acts 4:12.
“As for its significance: baptism is linked inseparably with the death of Christ it is the means of the believer's identification with the Lord's death" (God's Way, p190). Now the Father did not die, nor did the Spirit. “Buried with him,” not them (Father, Son, and Holy Ghost) —Romans 6:3-5.
Robert Roberts uses this argument: “According to trine-immersion, it is not sufficient to be baptized into the Son. Thus Christ is displaced from his position as the connecting link—the door of entrance [to] the ‘new and living way.’ And thus there are three names under heaven whereby we must be saved, in opposition to the apostolic declaration, ‘that there is none other name (other than the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth) under heaven given among men whereby we must be saved’” (The True Nature of Baptism, p. 13).
This, of course, is the same argument as Paul's (see above), and although Robert Roberts did not so intend, his argument is equally effective against the use of the triune name as against the practice of triune-immersion. Were ye baptized in the name of Paul, or the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, or in any other name that displaces Christ from his position as the connecting link, as the ONLY name for salvation? That is the argument, and confirms the genuine text of Matthew 28:19 to contain the phrase “in my name.”
IV. Evidence of Parallel Accounts
Now it happens that Matthew was not alone in recording the words of Jesus before his ascension. Let us compare the parallel accounts of Luke and Mark.
Luke, who writes in the third person: “And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached IN HIS NAME among all nations” —Luke 24:46-47. This passage therefore restores the correct text to Matthew 28:19 “in my name.”
Furthermore, Mark records the last discourse of Jesus before His ascension. Here, we have yet another witness to the correct text, for Mark, after using similar words to Matthew: “go ye ...all the world ...preach ....Every creature...baptize...” (Mark 16:15-17), includes not the triune formula but the phrase—“in my name.”
V. Evidence of Principle
It is written, “Whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus” (Col 3:17).
Now here is a principle laid down, and the comprehensive word “whatsoever” certainly includes baptism, which is a rite involving both word and deed. Now of the traditional reading of Matthew 28:19, i.e. the threefold name, is clearly not in accordance with the above principle. The shorter phrase is. This item of Internal Evidence, therefore, proves which of the two variant readings is the spurious one.
That we are presenting a true exegesis is proved by other Scripture. It was Paul who enunciated the Principle introduced here.. Did it, in his opinion, include baptism? Acts 19:3-5 supplies the answer. The baptism of John, like the baptism of Jesus (then and now), was a baptism of repentance for the remission of sins (Mark 1:4, Acts 2:38-39). Also John preached the coming of the Messiah who should baptize with the Holy Spirit. The difference between the baptism of John and baptism after Pentecost is that the latter was in the name of JESUS. NO OTHER DIFFERENCE IS SHOWN IN SCRIPTURE. Now it is written of the disciples at Ephesus that although they had been baptized unto John's baptism, they were later re-baptized, in the presence of Paul, “in the name of the Lord Jesus” (Acts 19:3-5). This evidence provides a doubly-strong proof of the authenticity of the phrase “in my name” for Matthew 28:19. God foreknew the record of the parting words of Jesus to his Disciples would be tampered with. He, in His wisdom, provided a remedy for those who have “eyes to see” in providing the principle enunciated by Paul in Colossians 3:17 and the record of Paul’s application of that principle in Acts 19:3-5.
The Opinion Of Scholars
Sufficient evidence has been produced to enable the reader to decide whether or not the triune names in Matthew 28:19 are spurious. Listed below, however, are the opinions of certain scholars concerning our topic of discussion. Now, while the opinions of others should not be the sole criteria for our understanding of holy Scripture, the thoughts of learned men and women should shine out of the darkness of the night of uncertainty as beacons by which we, who are searchers for truth, may steer our vessels safely through perilous waters.
Hastings, Encyclopedia of Religion and Ethics
“The cumulative evidence of these three lines of criticism (Textual Criticism, Literary Criticism, and Historical Criticism) is thus distinctly against the view that Matthew 28:19 (in the AV) represents the exact words of Christ” (Art. Baptism: Early Christians).
“The command to baptize into the threefold name is a late doctrinal expansion. Instead of the words, ‘baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost’ we should probably read simply: ‘into my name’" (Bible Commentary, p. 723).
F. Whiteley, in The Testimony
“There is the ‘triune’ baptismal formula, which may prove a very broken reed when thoroughly investigated, but ... we may leave it for separate treatment. The thoughtful may well ponder, meantime, why one cannot find one single instance in Acts or the Epistles of the words ever being used at any of the many baptism[s] recorded, notwithstanding Christ's (seemingly) explicit command at the end of Matthew's Gospel” (The Testimony, Oct. 1959, p. 351. Art. Back to Babylon, 4).
“Doubtless the more comprehensive form in which baptism is now everywhere administered in the threefold name... soon superseded the simpler form of that in the Name of the Lord Jesus only” (Christian Institutions).
E.K. in the FRATERNAL VISITOR
“The striking contrast and the illogical internal coherence of the passage... lead to a presumption of an intentional corruption in the interest of the Trinity. In ancient Christian times a tendency of certain parties to corrupt the text of the New Testament was certainly often imputed. This increases our doubt almost to a decisive certainty concerning the genuineness of the pas-sage.” (Art. The Question of the Trinity and Matthew 28:19. 1924, pp. 147-151, trans from the Christadelphian Monatshefte.)
In his Literal Translation of the Bible Dr. Robert Young places the triune name in Matthew 28:19 in parentheses, thus indicating the words to be of doubtful authenticity.
“The very account which tells us that at last, after his resurrection, he commissioned his disciples to go and baptize among all nations, betrays itself by speaking in the Trinitarian language of the next century, and compels us to see in it the ecclesiastical editor, and not the evangelist, much less the Founder Himself” (Seat of Authority, 1905, p. 568).
Black’s Bible Dictionary
“The Trinitarian formula (Matthew 28:19) was a late addition by some reverent Christian mind.”
Ency. Religion and Ethics
“The obvious explanation of the silence of the New Testament on the triune name, and the use of another formula in Acts and Paul, is that this other formula was the earlier, and that the triune formula is a later addition.”
Professor Adolf von Harnack
Dismisses the text almost contemptuously as being “no word of the Lord” (History of Dogma, German edn. i 68).
F. Whiteley in The Testimony
“Clerical conscience much troubled (see Comp. Bible App. 185) that apostles and epistles never once employ ‘the Triune Name’ of Matthew 28:19. Even Trinitarians, knowing Trinity idea was being resisted by Church in 4th century, admit (e.g. Peake) ‘the command to baptize with the threefold name is a late doctrinal expansion,’ but prior to oldest yet known Ms. (4th Century). (Its sole counterpart, 1 John 5:7 is a proved interpolation). Eusebius (A.D. 264-340) denounces the Triune form as spurious, Matthew’s actual writing having been ‘in my name.’” (Footnotes to Art: Baptism  in The Testimony, Aug., 1958).
The Anchor Bible Dictionary
“The historical riddle is not solved by Matthew 28:19, since, according to a wide scholarly consensus, it is not an authentic saying of Jesus, not even an elaboration of a Jesus-saying on baptism” (The Anchor Bible Dictionary, Vol. 1, 1992, page 585; underling mine).
The Dictionary of the Bible
“It has been customary to trace the institution of the practice (of baptism) to the words of Christ recorded in Matthew 28:19. But the authenticity of this passage has been challenged on historical as well as on textual grounds. It must be acknowledged that the formula of the threefold name, which is here enjoined, does not appear to have been employed by the primitive Church, which, so far as our information goes, baptized ‘in’ or ‘into the name of Jesus’ or ‘Jesus Christ’ or ‘Lord Jesus:’ Acts 2:38, 8:16, 10:48, 19:5, 1 Cor. 1:13, 15. (The Dictionary of the Bible, 1947, page 83; underling mine)
The Encyclopedia of Religion and Ethics:
As to Matthew 28:19, it says: “It is the central piece of evidence for the traditional (Trinitarian) view. If it were undisputed, this would, of course, be decisive, but its trustworthiness is impugned on grounds of textual criticism, literary criticism and historical criticism. The same Encyclopedia further states that: "The obvious explanation of the silence of the New Testament on the triune name, and the use of another (JESUS NAME) formula in Acts and Paul, is that this other formula was the earlier, and the triune formula is a later addition.” (Bolding mine.)
Edmund Schlink, The Doctrine of Baptism, page 28:
“The baptismal command in its Matthew 28:19 form can not be the historical origin of Christian baptism. At the very least, it must be assumed that the text has been transmitted in a form expanded by the [Catholic] church.” (Bolding mine.)
Hastings Dictionary of the Bible 1963, page 1015:
“The Trinity.-...is not demonstrable by logic or by Scriptural proofs,...The term Trias was first used by Theophilus of Antioch (c AD 180),...(The term Trinity) not found in Scripture... The chief Trinitarian text in the NT is the baptismal formula in Mt 28:19 ... This late post-resurrection saying, not found in any other Gospel or anywhere else in the NT, has been viewed by some scholars as an interpolation into Matthew. It has also been pointed out that the idea of making disciples is continued in teaching them, so that the intervening reference to baptism with its Trinitarian formula was perhaps a later insertion into the saying. Finally, Eusebius's form of the (ancient) text (‘in my name’ rather than in the name of the Trinity) has had certain advocates. (Although the Trinitarian formula is now found in the modern-day book of Matthew), this does not guarantee its source in the historical teaching of Jesus. It is doubtless better to view the (Trinitarian) formula as derived from early (Catholic) Christian, perhaps Syrian or Palestinian, baptismal usage (cf Didache 7:1-4), and as a brief summary of the (Catholic) Church's teaching about God, Christ, and the Spirit:...”
The Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge:
“Jesus, however, cannot have given His disciples this Trinitarian order of baptism after His resurrection; for the New Testament knows only one baptism in the name of Jesus (Acts 2:38; 8:16; 10:43; 19:5; Gal. 3:27; Rom. 6:3; 1 Cor. 1:13-15), which still occurs even in the second and third centuries, while the Trinitarian formula occurs only in Matt. 28:19, and then only again (in the) Didache 7:1 and Justin, Apol. 1:61...Finally, the distinctly liturgical character of the formula...is strange; it was not the way of Jesus to make such formulas... the formal authenticity of Matt. 28:19 must be disputed...” page 435. (Bolding mine.)
The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, Vol. 4, page 2637, Under "Baptism," says:
“Matthew 28:19 in particular only canonizes a later ecclesiastical situation, that its universalism is contrary to the facts of early Christian history, and its Trinitarian formula (is) foreign to the mouth of Jesus.” (Bolding mine.)
James Moffett's New Testament Translation:
In a footnote on page 64 about Matthew 28:19 he makes this statement: “It may be that this (Trinitarian) formula, so far as the fullness of its expression is concerned, is a reflection of the (Catholic) liturgical usage established later in the primitive (Catholic) community, It will be remembered that Acts speaks of baptizing "in the name of Jesus, cf. Acts 1:5 +.” (Bolding mine.)
Peake's Commentary on the Bible, 1929, page 723:
“The Church of the first days did not observe this world-wide command, even if they knew it. The command to baptize into the threefold name is a late doctrinal expansion. In place of the words “baptizing... Spirit” we should probably read simply “into my name,” i.e. (turn the nations) to Christianity, “in my name,” i.e. (teach the nations) “in my spirit” (underling mine).
Word Biblical Commentary, Vol 33B, ... Donald A. Hagner, 1975, page887-888:
“The disciples are further told to ‘baptize’ (the second of the participles functioning as supplementary imperatives) new disciples. The command to baptize comes as somewhat of a surprise since baptism is referred to earlier only in chap. 3 (and 21:25) where only John's baptism is described (among the Gospels only in John 3:22; 4:1-2 do we read of Jesus or his disciples baptizing others). Matthew tells us nothing concerning his view of Christian baptism. Only Matthew records this command of Jesus, but the practice of the early church suggest its historicity. (cf. Acts 2:38, 41; 8:12, 38; 9:18; 10:48; 19:5; 22:16; etc.). The threefold name (at most only an incipient Trinitarianism) in which the baptism was to be performed, on the other hand, seems clearly to be a liturgical expansion of the evangelist consonant with the practice of his day (thus Hubbard; cf. Did. 7.1). There is a good possibility that in its original form, as witnessed by the ante-Nicene Eusebian form, the text read “make disciples in my name” (see Conybeare). This shorter reading preserves the symmetrical rhythm of the passage, whereas the triadic formula fits awkwardly into the structure as one might expect if it were an interpolation. ... It is Kosmala, however, who has argued most effectively for the shorter reading, pointing to the central importance of “name of Jesus” in early Christian preaching, the practice of baptism in the name of Jesus, and the singular “in his name” with reference to the hope of the Gentiles in Isaiah 42:4b, quoted by Matthew in 12:18-21. As Carson rightly notes of our passage: “There is no evidence we have Jesus’ ipsissima verba
here” (598). The narrative of Acts notes the use of the name only of “Jesus Christ” in baptism (Acts 2:38; 8:16; 10:48; 19:5; cf. Rom. 6:3; Gal. 3:27) or simply “the Lord Jesus” (Acts 8:16; 19:5).” (underling mine).
History of Dogma, Vol. 1, Adolph Harnack, 1958, page 79:
“It cannot be directly proven that Jesus instituted baptism, for Matthew 28:19 is not a saying of the Lord. The reasons for this assertion are: (1) It is only a later stage of the tradition that represents the risen Christ as delivering speeches and giving commandments. Paul knows nothing of it. (2) The Trinitarian formula is foreign to the mouth of Jesus and has not the authority of the Apostolic age which it must have had if it had descended from Jesus himself. On the other hand, Paul knows of no other way of receiving the Gentiles into the Christian communities than by baptism, and it is highly probable that in the time of Paul all Jewish Christians were also baptized. We may perhaps assume that the practice of baptism was continued in consequence of Jesus’ recognition of John the Baptist and his baptism, even after John himself had been removed. According to John 4:2, Jesus himself baptized not, but his disciples under his superintendence. It is possible only with the help of tradition to trace back to Jesus a “Sacrament of Baptism,” or an obligation to it ex necessitate salutis, through it is credible that tradition is correct here. Baptism in the Apostolic age was in the name of the Lord Jesus (1 Cor. 1:13; Acts 19:5). We cannot make out when the formula in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit emerged.” (Underling mine.)
The Seat of Authority in Religion, James Martineau, 1905, page 568:
“The very account which tells us that at the last, after his resurrection, he commissioned his apostles to go and baptize among all nations (Matt 28:19) betrayed itself by speaking in the Trinitarian language of the next century, and compels us to see in it the ecclesiastical editor, and not the evangelist, much less the founder himself. No historical trace appears of this baptismal formula earlier that the “Teaching of the Twelve Apostles” (ch. 7:1, 3 The Oldest Church Manuel, ed. Philip Schaff, 1887), and the first Apology of Justin (Apol. i. 61.) about the middle of the second century: and more than a century later, Cyprian found it necessary to insist upon the use of it instead of the older phrase baptized “into Christ Jesus,” or into the “name of the Lord Jesus.” (Gal. 3:27; Acts 19:5; 10:48. Cyprian Ep. 73, 16-18, has to convert those who still use the shorter form.) Paul ... was baptized, ... and he certainly was baptized simply “into Christ Jesus.” (Rom. 6:3) Yet the tri-personal form, unhistorical as it is, is actually insisted on as essential by almost every Church in Christendom, and, if you have not had it pronounced over you, the ecclesiastical authorities cast you out as a heathen man, and will accord to you neither Christian recognition in your life, nor Christian burial in your death. It is a rule which would condemn as invalid every recorded baptism performed by an apostle; for if the book of Acts may be trusted, the invariable usage was baptism “in the name of Christ Jesus,” (Acts 2:38) and not “in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” And doubtless the author (Luke) is as good a witness for the usage of his own time ... as for that of the period whereof he treats” (Underling mine.)
History of New Testament Criticism, Conybeare, 1910, pages, 98-102, 111-112:
“It is clear, therefore, that of the MSS which Eusebius inherited from his predecessor, Pamphilus, at Caesarea in Palestine, some at least preserved the original reading, in which there was no mention either of Baptism or of Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. It had been conjectured by Dr. Davidson, Dr. Martineau, by the present Dean of Westminister, and by Prof. Harnack (to mention but a few names out of many), that here the received text, could not contain the very words of Jesus? This long before any one except Dr. Burgon, who kept the discovery to himself, had noticed the Eusebian form of the reading.” "It is satisfactory to notice that Dr. Eberhard Nestle, in his new edition of the New Testament in Latin and Greek, furnishes the Eusebian reading in his critical apparatus, and that Dr. Sanday seems to lean to its acceptance.” (Underling mine.)
A Dictionary of Christ and the Gospels, J. Hastings, 1906, page 170;
“It is doubted whether the explicit injunction of Matt. 28:19 can be accepted as uttered by Jesus. ...But the Trinitarian formula in the mouth of Jesus is certainly unexpected.” (Underling mine.)
The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, James Orr, 1946, page 398:
Feine (PER3, XIX, 396 f) and Kattenbusch (Sch-Herz, I, 435 f.) argue that the Trinitarian formula in Matthew 28:19 is spurious. “No record of the use of the Trinitarian formula can be discovered in the Acts [or] the epistles of the apostles.”
The Jerusalem Bible, 1966, Page 64:
Footnote to Matthew 28:19, “It may be that this formula, so far as the fullness of its expression is concerned, is a reflection of the liturgical usage established later in the primitive community. It will be remembered that the Acts speak of baptizing ‘in the name of Jesus,’ Acts 1:5 +. But whatever the variation on formula the underlying reality remains the same.” (Underling mine.)
The Interpreters Dictionary of the Bible, 1962, page 351;
Matthew 28:19 “... has been disputed on textual grounds, but in the opinion of many scholars the words may still be regarded as part of the true text of Matthew. There is, however, grave doubt whether thy may be the ipsissima verba of Jesus. The evidence of Acts 2:38; 10:48 (cf. 8:16; 19:5), supported by Gal. 3:27; Rom 6:3, suggest that baptism in early Christianity was administered, not in the threefold name, but “in the name of Jesus Christ” or “in the name of the Lord Jesus.” This is difficult to reconcile with the specific instructions of the verse at the end of Matthew” (Underling mine.)
The Philosophy of the Church Fathers, Vol. 1, Harry Austryn Wolfson, 1964, pg 143:
“Critical scholarship, on the whole, rejects the traditional attribution of the tripartite baptismal formula to Jesus and regards it as of later origin. Undoubtedly then the baptismal formula originally consisted of one part and it gradually developed into its tripartite form.”
Baptism in the New Testament, G.R. Beasley-Murray, Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1962, pg. 83:
G.R. Beasley-Murray in his book, Baptism in the New Testament and a believer of the trinity doctrine, gives us some new insight on how the original text of Matthew 28:19 was structured: “A whole group of exegetes and critics have recognized that the opening declaration of Matt. 28:18 demands a Christological statement to follow it: ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me’ leads us to expect as a consequence, ‘Go and make disciples unto Me among all the nations, baptising them in My name, teaching them to observe all things I commanded you.’ In fact, the first and third clauses have that significance: it looks as thought the second clause has been modified from a Christological to a Trinitarian formula in the interests of the liturgical tradition.” (Underling mine.)
One can look to the listing of the Papyri as found in Kurt and Barbara Aland's The Text of the New Testament, 2nd Edition, 1995, pages 96-103. This list gives a description of the verses contained in each of the 96 papyri's listed. Matthew 26:52 (P 37) seems to be the last verse from Matthew found in the Papyri. So there is virtually a two chapter gap (as well as a three century gap) from the earliest manuscripts and the traditional rendering of the Matthew 28:19 Trinity baptism formula.
Philip Comfort and David Barrett also bear out this fact in their book, The Complete Text of the Earliest New Testament Manuscripts, 1999, pages 6 & 13. Page 6 contains the list of the various verses from Matthew, (with Matthew also ending at 26:52). They were providing only those manuscripts that were dated from the early second century to the beginning of the fourth (A.D. 100-300). Needless to say, Matthew 28:19, and the Trinity baptism formula is NOT among the verses found there!
Many scholars such as Randall Duane Hughes and Prof. Bart D. Ehrman write that disputes over Christology prompted Christian scribes to alter words of the Scripture in order to “make them more serviceable.” Some church historians, such as Archdeacon Wilberforce, go so far as to see a vast conspiracy to “correct” (sic) the texts to be more compatible to the orthodoxy of the time.
As teachers of the word of God we are faced with the probability that Matthew 28:19 and 1 John 5:7 are spurious texts. It is good to know that, because these two passages are Trinitarian proof texts—for all intents and purposes, the only ones they have. However, to teach this truth to young believers may do more harm, in the beginning, than good, because it brings suspicion upon the Bible as being dependable. In my humble opinion the following paragraph is the best way to deal with these dubious texts when teaching from them.
Is the Bible the Word of God? Absolutely. But we say it is only the unadulterated Word of God in its original autograph. The burden is on those who would teach the Scriptures to sift through the debris of the centuries to uncover truth. Here is my conviction, and it is just the opinion of this author, so each can take it for what it is worth: I believe that the God of Heaven has protected His word. So that, even when one attempts to alter it, the altered text is made to teach truth. for example, Matthew 28:19, still teaches that one is to be baptized into the single name of Jesus; 1 John 5:7 still teaches that the Father, Word, and the Holy Spirit “are one” God; not that they “agree in one” as does the Spirit, water, and the blood are said to do in the same passage. So, there is a very real sense in which they are the word of God—even if attempted corruptions. I think of Balaam the prophet, and Caiaphas the high priest, both spoke as the oracles of God even when they were attempting to do evil.
What are some other things we should know about Matthew 28:19?
Answer: Since, for the most part, most of us are going to continue dealing with Matthew 28:19 as it appears in our Bibles (this, because we are preachers to, and teachers of, common people and not to seminarians) the following information on Matthew 28:19 is necessary to profitably handle the passage:
- The command is to baptize “into” a single name, not into plural names. Some may say that this is a play on words; that too much weight is being placed on one small letter, i.e. the English “S”. However, notice Galatians 3:16 where the apostle Paul stresses the very same argument on the very same word ending, i.e. the English “S,” in order to establish another important doctrine on the person of Christ.
- The context of the verse is important to its understanding. In v18, the person of focus is Jesus; also, in v20, the person of focus is Jesus. Therefore, v19 is positioned within this context; it is framed in by vv18 and 20 where Jesus is the person of focus. The Law of Context would suggest that Jesus would also be the person of focus of v19 as well.
- The disciples understood that Jesus was speaking of Himself, for He had already told them that He and the Father were one and the same person (John 10:30; 14:7-9). They knew Him to be the Christ, the Son of the Living God —John 6:39. Even before this, He had told them that He was the Holy Ghost and that He would come from heaven and indwell them (John 14:17, 18, 26; 16:7; see Matthew 3:11 where we’re told that it is Jesus who baptizes with the Holy Ghost; therefore, the Holy Ghost is Christ in us the hope of glory, Colossians 1:27).
- The same “Great Commission” is recorded by all three of the other evangelist (Mark 16:15-18; Luke 24:47; and John 20:21-23). The accounts of the other three evangelist must be consulted for a complete understanding of Matthew’s record.
- The Greek text has: eis to onoma - “into the name.” Therefore, there is more than just authority in view here. The baptized one is put, placed, immersed into the NAME - positionally. (See questions 18, 19, and 20.)
- One law of Scriptural interpretation is the “Law of Witnesses.” This law requires two or three witnesses to establish any evidence (Deut 17:6; 19:15; Matt 18:16; 2 Cor 13:1; 1 Tim 5:19; and Heb 10:28 ). Matthew 28:19 is the ONLY verse in the entire Bible that mentions the titles Father, Son, and Holy Ghost in reference to Water Baptism. Therefore, it is scripturally illegal to use it as evidence for baptism into the titles.
- The Apostle Matthew recorded Jesus’ words in Matthew 28:19; the Apostle Peter was the one who gave the command to baptize repentant sinners into the single name of Jesus, as is recorded in Acts 2: 38. There could not have been any disagreement between these two apostles on this matter, because the Bible says, “But Peter, standing out with the eleven,” (notice that Matthew was standing with him) “and lifted up his voice, and said unto them,...” (Acts 2:14). It was during this particular sermon, with Matthew at his side, that Peter said, “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins.” (Acts 2:38).
- Here we give Matthew 28:19 diagramed. The titles Father, Son, and Holy Ghost are objects in the prepositional phrases functioning as adjectives describing the single name: “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:”
This has been an excerpt from my book, Godhead Theology. You may acquire this book either from me, Amazon.com/Books or order it anywhere books are sold; request your public library acquire a copy. Ask for it by title and author.
☩ David Ignatius
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