Did Constantine Write Matthew 28:19 into Our Bible?
What did Matthew actually write, “Baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost,” OR “Go ye, and make disciples of all the nations IN MY NAME”?
This article is based on a publication which was originally written in 1961 and titled “A Collection of the Evidence For and Against the Traditional Wording of the Baptismal Phrase in Matthew 28:19”. The author was a minister, presumably Protestant. He signed his work simply as A. Ploughman. He lived in Birmingham, England. The author had not encountered anything dealing with the authenticity of Matthew 28:19, during his 50 years of Biblical study except from out of print articles, books and encyclopedias. I would have never considered reviewing this information except for the fact that a trusted friend was quite zealous about the importance of the conclusions reached. In this article, only the secular historical quotations have been retained as written from Ploughman’s research.
Questioning the authenticity of Matthew 28:19 is not a matter of determining how easily it can or cannot be explained within the context of established doctrinal views. Rather, it is a matter of discovering the very thoughts of our God, remembering that His truth, and not our traditions, is eternal.
The information presented is extremely relevant to our faith. The amount of information supporting the conclusions presented may seem overwhelming, but for the serious seeker of truth, the search is well worth effort. I hope that you will allow the facts contained in this article to stir you into action. If you discover that you have not been baptized into the name of the true God, and have knowingly accepted a substitute, how would God respond?
However, it must be remembered that we have no known manuscripts that were written in the first, second or even the third centuries. There is a gap of over three hundred years between when Matthew wrote his epistle and our earliest manuscript copies. (It also took over three hundred years for the Catholic Church to evolve into what the “early church fathers” wanted it to become.) No single early manuscript is free from textual error. Some have unique errors; other manuscripts were copied extensively and have the same errors. Again, our aim is to examine all of the evidence and determine as closely as possible what the original words were.
Considering the fact that all of the scriptures from Genesis thru Malachi make no reference to a Trinitarian God, and that from Mark thru Revelation we also find no evidence for a Trinity, we must consider the possibility that all the existing manuscripts may have one or more textual errors in common.
According to the Biblical historian Dr. C. R. Gregory:
The Greek manuscripts of the text of the New Testament were often altered by the scribes, who put into them the readings which were familiar to them, and which they held to be the right readings.
More on these changes will be addressed later. Another writer said:
A great step forward is taken when we propose to give manuscripts weight, not according to their age, but according to the age of the text which they contain. By proving how honest a text is rather than strictly how old it is provides us with a text which has content that is truly ancient. When we verify that a text is older than the fourth century, that it was current in the third or better still the second century, we still cannot be sure that it has not been altered. We need to try to verify that the text is pure text. There is reason to believe that the very grossest errors that have ever deformed the text had entered it already in the second century. What we wish to ascertain, however, is not merely an ancient text but an accurate text.
Of course, “the grossest errors,” that this writer is referring to are not doctrinal errors, but the errors in the text itself. Not surprisingly though, some of these textual corruptions occurred simultaneously with the respective doctrinal changes as they were being introduced in the early church. This historic falling away will be addressed later.
Just as with the manuscripts, all extant Versions, containing the end of Matthew, also contain the Triune name. But, of course, there is more to be considered than what is present in a document. One must also take into consideration what is absent. Again quoting from the Encyclopedia of Religion and Ethics: “In all extant versions the text is found in the traditional [Trinitarian] form…though it must be remembered that the best manuscripts, both of the African Old Latin and of the Old Syriac Versions are defective at this point.”
F.C. Conybeare further elaborated:
In the only codices which would be even likely to preserve an older reading, namely the Sinaitic Syriac and the oldest Latin Manuscript, the pages are gone which contained the end of Matthew.
So then, though all early Versions contain the traditional Triune name in Matthew 28:19, the earliest of these Versions do not contain the verse at all. And curiously, not due to omission, but due to removal! We can not be certain of the motives why these pages were destroyed, but for the sake of our study we are now compelled to consult the early historical writings
Excerpts of Early Catholic Writers
Before we make references concerning these early writers, it should be emphatically stated, that if the question under consideration were one of doctrine, the written records of these Catholic writers would be totally irrelevant. Doctrine must be obtained from the pure Word of God alone, and not from Catholics, Jews or other sources. These self proclaimed “fathers” lived in an age of unrestrained heresy. Their testimony is valuable only because they provide an incidental and independent verification of scriptural texts much older than our current complete copies.
“In the course of my reading I have been able to substantiate these doubts of the authenticity of the text of Matthew 28:19 by adducing patristic [L. pater: “father”] evidence against it, so weighty that in the future the most conservative of divines will shrink from resting on it any dogmatic fabric at all, while the more enlightened will discard it as completely as they have its fellow-text of the ‘Three Witnesses’.” – F.C. Conybeare in the Hibbert Journal
Could this bold statement be true? While not a single manuscript from the first three centuries remains in existence, we do have “eye witness” observations of at least two men who actually had access to manuscripts dating much earlier than our earliest. Others also quoted Matthew 28:19, whose written works have been preserved, dating to much earlier times than our best manuscript copies. We are about to examine who these men were and what the circumstances were. We will attempt to determine if these are reliable quotations of the original scriptures. How did they quote Matthew 28:19? Did their comments imply an existing controversy surrounding the use of the scriptures being quoted? Was a Trinity implied? These are questions that can be answered.
In the pages ahead, we will consider evidence from the following men, either via quotations from their writings, or as commented upon through the writings of their contemporaries: 1) Eusebius of Caesurae, 2) The unknown author of De Rebaptismate, 3) Origen, 4) Clement of Alexandria, 5) Justin Martyr, 6) Macedonius, 7) Eunomius and 8) Aphraates.
Our search through their writings is not to establish any doctrine, but to find early witnesses to the verse in question.
Eusebius of Caesurae
Our first witness will be Eusebius of Caesurae, also known as Eusebius Pamphili. He was born around 270 A.D., and died around 340 A.D. He lived in times of rampant doctrinal change, was a Trinitarian, and in later life assisted in the formation of the Nicene Creed. Regarding our inquiry into Matthew 28:19, Eusebius is our key witness. Therefore, to establish his veracity as a credible witness, let us consider the following quotes: “Eusebius of Caesurae, to whom we are indebted for the preservation of so many contemporary works of antiquity, many of which would have perished had he not collected and edited them.” Robert Roberts, in Good Company, vol. III, pg. 10
“Eusebius, the greatest Greek teacher of the Church and most learned theologian of his time…worked untiringly for the acceptance of the pure Word of the New Testament as it came from the Apostles…Eusebius…relies throughout only upon ancient manuscripts, and always openly confesses the truth when he cannot find sufficient testimony.” E.K. in the Christadelphian Monatshefte, Aug. 1923 from Mosheim, in an editorial footnote.
Eusebius Pamphili, Bishop of Caesurae in Palestine, a man of vast reading and erudition, and one who has acquired immortal fame by his labors in ecclesiastical history, and in other branches of theological learning. Chapter 2, 9…Till about 40 years of age he lived in great intimacy with the martyr Pamphilus, a learned and devout man of Caesurae, and founder of an extensive library there, from which Eusebius derived his vast store of learning. Dr. Wescott, in “General Survey,” page 108
“Eusebius, to whose zeal we owe most of what is known of the history of the New Testament.” Peake Bible Commentary, page 596
“The most important writer in the first quarter of the fourth century was Eusebius of Caesurae…Eusebius was a man of little originality or independent judgment. But he was widely read in the Greek Christian literature of the second and third centuries, the bulk of which has now irretrievably perished, and subsequent ages owe a deep debt to his honest, if some-what confused, and at times not a little prejudiced, erudition.” Dictionary of Christian Biography and Literature
“Some hundred works, several of them very lengthy, are either directly cited or referred to as having been read by Eusebius. In many instances he would read an entire treatise for the sake of one or two historical notices, and must have searched many others without finding anything to serve his purpose. Under the head the most vital question is the sincerity of Eusebius. Did he tamper with the materials or not? The sarcasm of Gibbon (Decline and Fall, c. xvi) is well known…The passages to which Gibbon refers do not bear out his imputation…Eusebius contents himself with condemning these sins…in general terms, without entering into details…but it leaves no imputation on his honesty.” Mosheim, again in an editorial note.
“Eusebius was an impartial historian, and had access to the best helps for composing a correct history which his age afforded.” Mosheim
“Of the patristic witnesses to the text of the New Testament as it stood in the Greek Manuscripts from about 300-340 A.D., none is so important as Eusebius of Caesurae, for he lived in the greatest Christian Library of that age, that namely which Origen and Pamphilus had collected. It is no exaggeration to say from this single collection of manuscripts at Caesurae derives the larger part of the surviving ante-Nicene literature. In his Library, Eusebius must have habitually handled codices of the gospels older by two hundred years than the earliest of the great uncials that we have now in our libraries.” F.C. Conybeare, in the Hibbert Journal, October 1902.
Considering the honesty, ability and opportunity of Eusebius as a witness to the “New Testament” text, let us now move on to his evidence concerning Matthew 28.
The Evidence of Eusebius
According to Ludwig Knupfer, the editor of the Christadelphian Monatshefte, Eusebius, among his many other writings compiled a file of corrupted variations of the Holy Scriptures, and:
…the most serious of all the falsifications denounced by him, is without doubt the traditional reading of Matthew 28:19.
His source material has been lost, as he later wrote:
…through events of war I have lost all of my files and other materials connected with the magazine.
But various authorities mention a work entitled Discrepancies in the Gospels, and another work entitled The Concluding Sections of the Gospels.
According to Conybeare:
Eusebius cites this text (Matt. 28:19) again and again in works written between 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 28:19, 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.’
Ploughman’s research uncovered all of these quotations except for one, which is in a catena published by Mai in a German magazine, the Zeitschrift fur die neutestamentliche Wissenschaft, edited by Dr. Erwin Preuschen in Darmstadt in 1901. Eusebius was not content merely to cite the verse in this form, but he more than once commented on it in such a way as to show how much he confirmed the wording “in my name”. Thus, in his Demonstratio Evangelica he wrote the following:
For he did not enjoin them “to make disciples of all the nations” simply and without qualification, but with the essential addition “in his name”. For so great was the virtue attaching 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 the nations in my name.’ (col. 240, p. 136)
Conybeare proceeded, in Hibbert Journal, 1902:
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. 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,’ and 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 Nice was over, to his seer of Caesurae.
In his Textual Criticism of the New Testament Conybeare wrote:
It is clear therefore, that of the manuscripts which Eusebius inherited from his predecessor, Pamphilus, at Caesurae 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 has been conjectured by Dr. David-son, Dr. Martineau, by the Dean of Westminster, and by Prof. Harnack (to mention but a few names of the 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 the reading.
Naturally an objection was raised by Dr. Chase, Bishop of Ely, who argued that Eusebius indeed found the traditional text in his manuscripts, but substituted the briefer wording in his works for fear of vulgarizing the “sacred” Trinitarian wording. Interestingly, a modern Bishop revived the very argument used 150 years earlier, in support of the forged text of 1 John 5:7-8:
For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one. And there are three that bear witness in earth, the spirit, and the water, and the blood: and these three agree in one.
According to Porson (in a preface to his Letters):
Bengel…allowed that the words (The Three Witnesses) were in no genuine manuscripts…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 lack of evidence must a critic labor who resorts to such an argument!?
Conybeare continued, refuting the argument of the Bishop of Ely:
It is sufficient answer to point out that Eusebius’ argument, when he cites the text, involves the text ‘in my name.’ For, he asks, ‘in whose name?’ and answers that it was the name spoken of by Paul in his Epistle to the Philippians 2:10.
Finally, the Encyclopedia of Religion and Ethics states:
The facts are, in summary, that Eusebius quotes Matthew 28:19 twenty-one times, either omitting everything between ‘nations’ and ‘teaching,’ or in the form ‘make disciples of all the nations in my name,’ the latter form being the more frequent.
Having considered the evidence of Eusebius, let us also consider some other early writers.
Other Early Writings
“The anonymous author of De Rebaptismate in the third century so understood them, and dwells at length on ‘the power of the name of Jesus invoked upon a man by Baptism’. (The Author of De Rebaptismate, from Smith’s Dictionary of the Bible, Vol. I, page 352.)
In Origen’s works, as preserved in the Greek, the first part of the verse is cited three times, but his citation always stops short at the words ‘the nations’; and that in itself suggests that his text has been censored, and the words which followed, ‘in my name’, struck out. – Conybeare
“In the pages of Clement of Alexandria a text somewhat similar to Matthew 28:19 is once cited, but from a Gnostic heretic named Theodotus, and not as from the canonical text, but as follows: ‘And to the Apostles he gives the command: Going around preach ye and baptize those who believe in the name of the Father and Son and Holy Spirit.’” – Excerta cap. 76, ed. Sylb. page 287, quote from Conybeare.
“Justin [Martyr]…quotes a saying of Christ…as a proof of the necessity or regeneration, but falls back upon the use of Isaiah and apostolic tradition to justify the practice of baptism and the use of the triune formula. This certainly suggests that Justin did not know the traditional text of Matthew 28:19.’ – Enc. of Religion and Ethics
“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 28:19 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 afflicted nor inflicts the judgment, as knowing of some that still even today 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 illuminated by the name of this Christ.’ The objection hitherto to these words being recognized as a citation our of text was that they ignored the formula ‘baptizing them in the name of the Father and Son and Holy Spirit.’ But the discovery of the Eusebian form of text removes the 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 to 340.” – Conybeare (Hibbert Journal)
“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 the heretics were valid, if the name of Jesus alone was invoked. (This decision did not prevent the popes of the seventh century from excommunicating the entire Celtic Church for its remaining faithful to the old use of invoking in Jesus 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 ‘pneumato-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 in the New Testament authorized such a coordination of the Spirit with the Father and Son. Whence we infer that their texts agreed with that of Eusebius.” – Conybeare (Hibbert Journal)
“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 to its use in certain quarters. The ordinance of the Apostolic Canon therefore 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.” – Encyclopedia Biblia (Article on “Baptism”)
There is one other witness whose testimony we must consider. He is Aphraates…who wrote between 337 and 345. He cites our text in a formal manner, as follows: ‘Make disciples of all the nations, and they shall believe in me’. The last words appear to be a gloss on the Eusebian reading ‘in my name’. But in any case, they preclude the textus receptus with its injunction to baptize in the triune name. Were the writing of Aphraates an isolated fact, we might regard it as a loose citation, but in the presence of the Eusebian and Justinian texts this is impossible. – Conybeare
How the Manuscripts Were Changed
The following quotations demonstrate how freely the scribes altered the manuscripts of the “New Testament”, in stark contrast to the scribes of the “Old Testament” scriptures who copied the holy writings with reverence and strict accuracy. These quotations also show the early heretical beginning of Triune immersion at a time when the doctrine of the Trinity was being formulated, and how the “New Testament” writings were changed to conform to the synchronized practice.
“In the case just examined (Matt. 28:19), it is to be noticed that not a single manuscript or ancient version has preserved to us the true reading. But that is not surprising, for as Dr. C.R. Gregory, one of the greatest of our textual critics, reminds us: ‘The Greek Manuscripts of the text of the New Testament were often altered by scribes, who put into them the readings which were familiar to them, and which they held to be the right readings.’ (Canon and Text of the N.T. 1907, pg. 424). ‘These facts speak for themselves. Our Greek texts, not only of the Gospels, but of the Epistles as well, have been revised and interpolated by orthodox copyists. We can trace their perversions of the text in a few cases, with the aid of patristic citations and ancient versions. But there must remain many passages which have been so corrected, but where we cannot today expose the fraud. It was necessary to emphasize this point, because Dr. Wescott and Hort used to aver that there is no evidence of merely doctrinal changed having been made in the text of the New Testament. This is just the opposite of the truth, and such distinguished scholars as Alfred Loisy, J. Wellhausen, Eberhard Nestle, Adolf Harnack, to mention only four names, do not scruple to recognize the fact.’ While this is perfectly true, nevertheless, ‘there are a number of reasons why we can feel confident about the general reliability of our translations.’” – Peter Watkins, in an excellent article ‘Bridging the Gap’ in The Christadelphian, January, 1962, pp. 4-8.
“Codex B. (Vaticanus) would be the best of all existing manuscripts…if it were completely preserved, less damaged, (less) corrected, more easily legible, and not altered by a later hand in more than two thousand places. Eusebius therefore, is not without ground for accusing the adherents of Athanasius and of the newly arisen doctrine of the Trinity of falsifying the Bible more than once.” – Fraternal Visitor 1924, page 148, translation from Christadelphian Monatshefte.
“We certainly know of a greater number of interpolations and corruptions brought into the Scriptures…by the Athanasians, and relating to the Doctrine of the Trinity, than in any other case whatsoever. While we have not, that I know of, any such interpolation or corruption, made in any one of them by either the Eusebians or Arians.” Whiston – in Second Letter to the Bishop of London, 1719, p. 15.
“While triune immersion was thus an all but universal practice, Eunomius (circa 360) appears to have been the first to introduce (again) simple immersion ‘unto the death of Christ.’ This practice was condemned on pain of degradation, by the Canon Apostolic 46 (al 50). But it comes before us again about a century later in Spain; but then, curiously enough, we find it regarded as a badge of orthodoxy in opposition to the practice of the Arians. These last kept to the use of triune immersion, but in such a way as to set forth their own doctrine of a gradation in the three Persons.” Smith’s Dictionary of Christian Antiquities (Article on Baptism)
“In the ‘Two Ways’ of the Didache, the principal duties of the candidates for baptism and the method of administering it by triple immersion or infusion on the head are outlined. This triple immersion is also attested to by Tertullian (Adverses Prax 26)…The most elaborate form of the rite in modern Western usage is in the Roman Catholic Church.” Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church – pp. 125-126
“The threefold immersion is unquestionably very ancient in the Church…Its object, of course, to honor the three Persons of the Holy Trinity in whose name it is conferred.” Catholic Encyclopedia – page 262
“If it be thought, as many critics think, that no manuscript represents more than comparatively late recensions of the text, it is necessary to set against the mass of manuscript evidence the influence of baptismal practice. It seems easier to believe that the traditional text was brought about by this influence working on the ‘Eusebian’ text, than that the latter arose out of the former in spite of it.” Encyclopedia of Religion and Ethics – Article on “Baptism”
“The exclusive survival (of the traditional text of Matt. 28:19) in all manuscripts, both Greek and Latin, need not cause surprise…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…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 dominant party could not but make its way into every codex, irrespective of its textual affinities.” Conybeare – In the Hibbert Journal
Athanasius…met Flavian, the author of the Doxology, which has since been universal in Christendom: ‘Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, etc.’ This was composed in opposition to the Arian Doxology: ‘Glory to the Father, by the Son, in the Holy Spirit’. Robert Roberts, in “Good Company” (Vol. iii, page 49)
Whiston, in Second Letter Concerning the Primitive Doxologies, 1719, page 17, wrote:
The Eusebians…sometimes named the very time when, the place where, and the person by whom they (the forms of doxology) were first introduced…Thus Philoflorgius, a writer of that very age, assures us in ‘Photius’ Extracts’ that in A.D. 348 or thereabouts, Flavianus, Patriarch of Antioch, got a multitude of monks together, and did there first use this public doxology, ‘Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit’.
And regarding the alteration of scripture based on liturgical use, Hammond, in “Textual Criticism Applied to the N.T.” (1890) page 23 wrote:
There are two or three insertions in the New Testament which have been supposed to have their origin in ecclesiastical usage. The words in question, being familiarly known in a particular connection, were perhaps noted in the margin of some copy, and thence became incorporated by the next transcriber; or a transcriber’s own familiarity with the words may have led to his inserting them. This is the source to which Dr. Tregelles assigns the insertion of the doxology at the close of the Lord’s Prayer in Matthew 6, which is lacking in most of the best authorities. Perhaps also Acts 8:37, containing the baptismal profession of faith, which is entirely lacking in the best authorities, found its way into the Latin text in this manner.
Considering the evidence of the manuscripts, the versions and now the early writings, you should by now have come to conclusion that in the early centuries some copies of Matthew did not contain the modern Triune wording. Regardless of the opinions or positions taken by our commentators, we must at the very least admit that fact.
In legal practice where copies of an original lost document vary, the “Internal Evidence” is used to resolve the discrepancy. That is, a comparison of the undisputed text with text in question, in order to determine which of the variant wordings is more likely to be the original. With both variants in mind, we will now turn to the scriptures themselves for our internal evidence.
“Prove all things; hold fast that which is good.” (1 Thessalonians 5:21) In this verse, the Greek word translated as “prove” is dokimazo, and it means, “to test, examine, prove, scrutinize (to see whether a thing is genuine or not), to recognize as genuine after examination, to approve, deem worthy.”
In our efforts to determine which reading of Matthew 28:19 is original, we will submit both renderings to ten “tests”. In doing so, we will be able to recognize the genuine, and expose the spurious.
1. The Test of Context
When examining the context, we find that today’s Trinitarian wording lacks logical syntax, that is, the true understanding of the verse is obscured by a failure of the varying concepts to harmonize. If however, we read as follows, the whole context fits together and the progression of the instructions is comprehensible:
All power is given unto me…go therefore…make disciples in my name, teaching them…whatsoever I have commanded …I am with you… (Matthew 28:18-20)
2. The Test of Frequency
Is the phrase “in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit” used elsewhere in the scripture? Not once. Did Jesus use the phrase “in my name” on other occasions? Yes, 17 times to be exact, examples are found in Matt. 18:20; Mark 9:37,39 and 41; Mark 16:17; John 14:14 and 26; John 15:16 and 16:23.
3. The Test of Doctrine
Is any doctrine or concept of scripture based on an understanding of a threefold name, or of baptism in the threefold name? None whatsoever. Is any statement in scripture based on the fact of baptism in the name of Jesus? Yes! This is clarified in 1 Corinthians 1:13: “Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were ye baptized in the name of Paul?” These words, when carefully analyzed, suggest that believers should to be baptized in the name of the One who was crucified for them. The Father, in His unfathomable love, gave us His only Son to die in our stead, He being later raised to incorruptibility by the Spirit of God. But it is the Lord Jesus Himself who was crucified, and therefore in His name believers must be baptized in water.
According to Dr. Thomas, in Revealed Mystery Article XLIV:
There is but one way for a believer of ‘the things concerning the Kingdom of God, and the name of Jesus 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. As for it’s 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, pg. 190. The Father did not die, nor the Holy Spirit. As the scripture says, “buried with Him (Jesus) in baptism,” not with the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. (Romans 6:3-5)
R. Roberts used this explanation in “The Nature of Baptism”, page 13):
According to triune 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, 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 (than the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth) under heaven given among men whereby we must be saved.’ (Acts 4:12).
This, of course, is the same reasoning offered by Paul. Were ye baptized in the name of Paul? Or in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, or in any other name that replaces Christ from His position as the sacrificial Lamb and the only name given to us for salvation? Based on the above understanding alone, we can ascertain the genuine text of Matthew 28:19 confirming the use of the phrase, “in my name.”
4. The Test of Analogy
Does any other scripture make reference to baptism in the Triune name? No. Does any other scripture reference baptism in the name of Jesus? Yes! The Father baptized the disciples with the gift of the Holy Spirit, a promise that came according to Jesus “in His name.” (John 14:26) This is because Jesus is the “common denominator” [Literally: Name] in both water baptism and baptism of the Holy Spirit, as made apparent by the following scriptures:
* John 16:7 Nevertheless I tell you the truth; it is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you.
* John 14:26 But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you. (See also John 7:39).
* Acts 8:12 But when they believed Philip preaching the things concerning the kingdom of God, and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women.
Notice that they were baptized as a result of the preaching of the name of Jesus Christ, not the titles “Father, Son and Holy Ghost.” By analogy, we should therefore be baptized in Jesus’ name, because the invoking of His Name is the catalyst of understanding that prepares us for the baptism of the Spirit, which is also given in His name. (Acts 2:38-39, 19:1-5, John 3:3-5)
5. The Test of Consequence
When we are baptized, do we “put on” the name of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost? No. Do we put on the name of Jesus? Yes. When we are baptized in the name of Jesus Christ, according to all baptismal accounts recorded in scripture, we are quite literally being baptized “into” the name of Jesus Christ.
Galatians 3:27 For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ.
No mention is made in scripture of any baptism being related to the titles of Father, Son and Holy Ghost. Every actual account mentions a clear connection with the person of Christ, and His atoning sacrifice.
6. The Test of Practice
Did the disciples, as they were implementing the “Great Commission” ever once baptize into the Trinity? Never! Did they baptize in the name of Jesus? Always! (Acts 2:38, 8:16, 10:48 (inferred); 19:5, etc.) The argument has been made when defending Triune immersion; “I would rather obey Jesus, than to imitate the Apostles.” This kind of reasoning though, places the Apostles in rebellion, and makes all Apostolic baptisms contrary to the word of God. If all of God’s Word was inspired, and it was, then we should not try to pit one verse against another, but rather seek to reconcile all of God’s Word in proper context, and rightly apply it to our lives. It is easier to believe that the disciples followed the final instructions of Christ, than to believe that they immediately disobeyed His command.
7. The Test of Significance
What significance is mentioned in scripture for baptizing believers in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost? None. What significance is conveyed toward being baptized in the name of Jesus? First, scripture teaches that baptism in the name of Jesus is an act of repentance leading to the forgiveness of sins (Acts 2:38). Second, baptism in His name alone is associated with the promise of God’s Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38, 19:1-5). Third, baptism in the name of Jesus is compared to our personal willingness to be living sacrifices or even die with Christ. (Romans 6:1-4 and Colossians 2:12). Fourth, being baptized into Christ is how we ‘put on’ Christ (Galatians 3:27). Fifth, baptism in His name is called the “circumcision of Christ,” and reflects our “putting off” of the man of sin, therefore becoming a “new creature in Christ Jesus.” (Colossians 2:11-12, 2 Corinthians 5:17). Baptism in the name of Jesus expresses faith in the physical life of Jesus, the crucifixion of the Son of God for our sins, and the remission of sins through His name. Trinitarian baptism can only express faith in Catholic theology itself.
8. The Test of Parallel Accounts
Matthew 28 is not the sole record in the gospels of the “Great Commission” of the Church. Luke also recorded this event in great detail. In Luke 24:46-47, he wrote of Jesus speaking in the third person: “And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name among all nations.” This passage alone, in contradiction to the falsified text, establishes the correct wording of Matthew 28:19, where Jesus spoke in the first person, “in my name.” Further, the Gospel of Mark also records another version of the “Great Commission,” using some of the same patterns of speech: “Go ye…all the world…preach the gospel…every creature …baptized…in my name…” (Mark 16:15-18) Of course, it is not baptism that “in my name” refers to here, but rather the works that the disciples would do. Yet compared to Matthew, the similarity is striking, for neither is baptism explicitly mentioned there, but that disciples should be made, “in my name.”
9. The Test of Complimentary Citation
While there is no text that offers a complimentary citation of Trinitarian baptism, there is a striking resemblance between the actual wording of Matthew 28:18-20 and Romans 1:4-5. Matthew contains the Commission of Christ to His Apostles, while the Romans account is Paul’s acceptance of his own commission as an apostle. Consider the following similarities:
Matthew 28:18-20………………………………….Romans 1:4-5
“all power is given unto Me”……………………“the Son of God with power”
“Go ye” ……………………………………………….“received…apostleship”
“teaching them to observe”………………………“for obedience to the faith”
“all nations”…………………………………………..“all nations”
“in My name”…………………………………………“for His name”
10. The Test of Principle
It is written: “whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus…” (Colossians 3:17). In this principle laid down by Paul, the implication is clear. The word “whatsoever” would of certain necessity include baptism, which is a command involving both word and deed. The traditional wording of Matthew, containing the Trinitarian wording, is clearly not in accordance with the above principle. The shorter wording, without the falsified insertion, follows this principle. This establishes which of the two wordings is the contradictory one. God’s Word does not contradict itself; rather it compliments and completes itself. Paul not only expressed this principle, but he applied it specifically to the topic of baptism. In Acts 19:1-6 there is an account concerning the disciples of John who had been baptized under his ministry. Like baptism in Jesus’ name, John’s baptism was one of repentance for the remission of sins (Mark 1:4, Acts 2:38). John message, which accompanied his baptism, was that One would come after him, who would “take away the sins of the world” and “baptize with the Holy Spirit.” Paul introduced these disciples to that One, and applied the above principle re-baptized them. “When they heard this, they were baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus. And when Paul laid his hands upon them, the Holy Spirit came upon them…” And so, applying the test of principle to our two readings in Matthew 28:19, we find very strong support for the phrase “in My name.”
Sufficient evidence has been produced to enable the reader to decide whether or not the Trinitarian wording in Matthew 28:19 is genuine. The following quotations are presented by way of interest, and are not used in the arena of textual criticism thus far employed.
“The cumulative evidence of these three lines of criticism (Textual Criticism, Literary Criticism and Historical Criticism) is thus distinctly against the view that Matt. 28:19 (in the traditional form) represents the exact words of Christ.” – Hastings Encyclopedia of Religion and Ethics, Article: Baptism: Early Christian.
“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’.” Dr. Peake – Bible Commentary, page 723
“There is the “triune” baptismal formula, which may prove a very broken reed when thoroughly investigated, but…we leave it for separate treatment. The thoughtful may well ponder, meantime, why one cannot find one single instance, in Acts or Epistles, of the words ever being used at any of the main baptisms recorded, notwithstanding Christ’s (seemingly) explicit command at the end of Matthew’s Gospel.” F. Whiteley in The Testimony (Oct. 1959, pg. 351. “Back to Babylon”)
“The command to baptize in Matt. 28:19 is thought to show the influence of a developed doctrine of God verging on Trinitarianism. Early baptism was in the name of Christ. The association of this Trinitarian conception with baptism suggests that baptism itself was felt to be an experience with a Trinitarian reference.” Williams R.R. – Theological Workbook of the Bible, page 29
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. Dean Stanley – “Christian Institutions”
“The striking contrast and the illogical internal incoherence of the passage…lead to a presumption of an intentional corruption in the interests 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 passage.” E.K. in the Fraternal Visitor – Article: “The Question of the Trinity and Matt. 28:19.” 1924, pg. 147-151, from Christadelphian Monatshefte.
In his Literal Translation of the Bible, Dr. Robert Young placed the Trinitarian “names” of 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.
“The Trinitarian formula (Matt. 28:19) was a late addition by some reverent Christian mind.” James Martineau – Black’s Bible Dictionary, article “Seat of Authority”,
“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.” Encyclopedia of Religion and Ethics
“Professor Harnack dismissed the text almost contemptuously as being ‘no word of the Lord’.” Professor Harnack – History of Dogma (German Edition)
“Clerical conscience much troubled (see Comp. Bible App. 185) that the apostles and epistles never once employ the triune name of Matt. 28:19. Even Trinitarians, knowing the idea of the Trinity was being resisted by the Church in the fourth century, admits (e.g. Peake) ‘the command to baptize with the threefold name is a late doctrinal expansion’, but still prior to our oldest yet known manuscripts (Fourth Century). Its sole counterpart, 1 John 5:7 is a proven interpolation. Eusebius (A.D. 264-340) denounces the triune form as spurious, Matthew’s actual writing having been baptizing them ‘in my name’.” F. Whiteley in The Testimony footnotes to Article: Baptism, 1958.
Should we correct the text of Matthew 28:19? We could not find a more serious divinely appointed symbolism in the entire Bible. The symbolic value of baptism in Matthew 28:19 could not be of less concern to God than that of the Ark of the Covenant was in ancient Israel. Uzzah died when he touched it, and few would conclude that his motives were anything but commendable!
Every symbolic action required by God is associated with actual cause and effect. Consider the following cause-and-effect examples. When Joshua pointed his spear there was victory (Joshua 8:18) Only three victories were given to Joash when he struck the ground only three times (2 Kings 13:19-25) The Passover Lamb had to be without blemish (even as was Christ), if a household was to be protected from the Death Angel (Exodus 12:5). None of God’s rituals are without true meaning and consequences. When God speaks, it is done! Christ called Lazarus, and Lazarus arose! In matters of ritual, such as Baptism and the Passover, we are dealing with God’s rituals, not man’s.
All man-made rituals, no matter how well intentioned, when they deviate from the Word of God, are nothing more than unprofitable traditions that “making the Word of God of no effect” (Mark 7:13). Obedience to God’s commands, however, will always “cause” a desirable “effect”.
In the matter of establishing the original text of Matthew 28:19, it is indeed important to determine what is genuine, and what is spurious, in order to properly obey God’s command. After all, that is the essence of our introductory text from Deuteronomy 4:2, “You shall not add…nor take from…that you may keep the commandments.” When we are obedient to the true command of our Lord, we can expect an eternal effect.
Believers were taught to anoint the sick “with oil in the name of the Lord.” (James 5:14) The result would be “that you may be healed”. When two or three gather together “in His name”, the result is that He is there in the midst of them. As our evidence reveals, Jesus commanded us to go and make disciples “in His name”. As a result, He would be with them “always, even to the end of the age.” Anything we do “in His name” directly involves Him. It is no wonder that Paul so clearly charged those believers in Colosse: “Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by Him!”
1. The Light is Dawning
In 1960, The British and Foreign Bible Society published a Greek Testament, and the alternative rendering for Matthew 28:19 was phrased “en to onomati mou” (“in my name”). Eusebius was cited as the authority. The Jerusalem Bible, of 1966, a Roman Catholic production, has this footnote for Matthew 28:19:
It may be that this formula…is a reflection of the liturgical usage established later in the primitive community. It will be remembered that Acts speaks of baptizing in the name of Jesus.
2. But Matthew 28:19 and Luke 24:47 Say Nothing of Baptism!
This is true. They refer only of “making disciples of all nations” and “repentance and remission of sins.” However, once we have established that the original text of Matthew 28:19 simply says “in my name,” we have essentially eliminated all support for baptizing “in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost!” Because of this far reaching implication, we were forced to examine the internal evidence regarding baptism, in order to find any other possible support for the traditional reading, because the Trinitarian doctrinal concept that was added to Matthew 28:19 is connected with baptism. Though baptism is not specifically mentioned in Matthew 28:19 or Luke 24:47, it is inferred by the following two points:
1. In Matthew, the command is to “make disciples in my name.” To “make a disciple” of necessity includes baptism in the conversion process (Mark 16:15-16, John 3:3-5), and the entire process is under the umbrella of the specification to do so “in His name.”
2. In Luke, “repentance and remission of sins” would be preached “in His name.” By the testimony of other scriptures (Luke 3:3, Acts 2:38), it is clear that remission of sins comes through baptism, preceded by repentance. Both of these are to be preached “in His name.”
3. The Evidence of Eusebius
Jerome was born A.D. 331 and died in 420. He wrote many exegetical and controversial treatises and letters, as well as the renowned Latin Vulgate translation of the Scriptures.) He made an interesting statement which is as follows (from the Catalogue of Ecclesiastical Writers):
Matthew, who is also Levi…composed a gospel…in the Hebrew language and characters…Furthermore, the Hebrew itself is preserved to this day in the library at Caesurae which the martyr Pamphilus so diligently collected.
Now Eusebius of Caesurae (260-340 A.D.) inherited from that Pamphilus (who died in A.D. 310) that famous Library, a library that was commenced by Origen (185-254 A.D.). The wording of that statement by Jerome apparently meant that the original Manuscript of Matthew was still to be seen in the Library at Caesurae. It could have meant that an early copy of Matthew’s Hebrew writing was there, but the phraseology of Jerome appeared to indicate that it was the actual Manuscript written by Matthew himself.
4. The Mental Reservations of Eusebius
On page 14, of the above reference, mention is made of the fact that after the Council of Nicaea Eusebius three times used the triune name-phrase in writing. The following three extracts shed light on this strange affair:
1. “At the Council of Nicaea (A.D. 325) Eusebius took a leading part…He occupied the first seat to the emperor’s right, and delivered the opening address to Constantine when he took his seat in the council chamber…Eusebius himself has left us an account of his doings with regard to the main object of the council in a letter of explanation to his church at Caesurae…This letter…is written to the Caesareans to explain that he would resist to the last any vital change in the traditional creed of his church, but had subscribed to these alterations, when assured of their innocence, to avoid appearing contentious.” Dictionary of Christian Biography and Literature; Eusebius
2. “Our concern here is only with Nicaea as it affected Eusebius…his own account of the matter is transmitted to us…in the letter he addressed to his diocese an explanation of his actions at the Council, for with some misgiving he had signed the document bearing the revised text of the creed he had presented…But being satisfied that the creed did not imply the opposite Sabellian pitfall …he signed the document.” Wallace Hadrill, in ‘Eusebius of Caesurae,’ (1960)
3. “The Nicene Council followed, in the summer of A.D. 325. Eusebius, of course, attended and was profoundly impressed by the sight of that majestic gathering…He occupied a distinguished position in the Council; he was its spokesman in welcoming the Emperor…On the next day, as if yielding to those representations, and moved by the express opinion of Constantine, he signed the Creed, and even accepted the anathematism appended to it; but did so, as we gather from his own statement, by dint of evasive glosses which he certainly could not have announced at that time. While then he verbally capitulated in the doctrinal decisions of the Nicene Council…he did so reluctantly, under pressure, and in senses of his own…He knew that he would be thought to have compromised his convictions, and therefore wrote his account of the transaction to the people of his diocese, and, as Athanasius expresses it ‘excluded himself in his own way’.” William Bright in his Preface to Burton’s ‘Text of Eusebius Ecclesiastical History’
5. Second Century Mutilations of the Sacred Text
In the book, mention is made of the fact that textual critics have been able to reproduce the Sacred Text substantially correct as it existed in the second or third century. As was pointed out on page 7, “there is every reason to believe that the grossest errors that have ever deformed the text had entered in already in the second century…If our touchstone only reveals to us texts that are ancient, we cannot hope to obtain for our result anything but an ancient text. What we wish however, is not merely an ancient, but the true text.” The following three excerpts are interesting and illustrate that pronouncement:
1. The Introduction contains the following: “It may be accepted with confidence that we have at command the New Testament substantially as the writings contained in it would be read within a century of their composition.” The Authentic New Testament was translated by Dr. Hugh J. Schonfield, published in 1962.
It is in that century, as has been pointed out, that the “very grossest textual errors” deformed the Sacred Text.
2. The S.P.E.C. commenting on Matthew 28:19 stated:
“One would expect this name to be that of Jesus and it is surprising to find the text continuing with ‘the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Ghost,’ which are no names at all. The suspicion that this is not what Matthew originally wrote naturally arises. In ‘Father, Son and Holy Ghost’ we have the Trinitarian formula…which was associated with Christian Baptism in the second century, as evidenced in the Didache, chapter seven.” The S.P.C.K. published in 1964, Volume One, of the Clarified New Testament.
3. F.C. Kenyon, in The Text of the Greek Bible, pages 241-242 said:
“At the first each book had its single original text, which it is now the object of criticism to recover, but in the first two centuries this original Greek text disappeared under a mass of variants, created by errors, by conscious alterations, and by attempts to remedy the uncertainties thus created.”
6. The Source of the Error
The earliest reference to the Trinitarian doctrinal insertion is found in the Didache. The Didache is a collection of fragments of writings from five or more documents. They were originally written, it is thought, between A.D. 80 and 160. Although we now have only 99 verses, those verses contain the seeds of many false teachings that developed into the Papal Superstitions. The seeds of Indulgences, the Mass, the Confessional, the substitution of sprinkling for immersion and other gross errors are to be found in that disreputable pseudo-Christian document. (Refs: IV1, IX2-4, X2-6, XIII3, XIV1 and IV6.)
In the Didache, among all the above mentioned apostate beliefs, is found the Trinitarian phrase that later wormed its way into the text of Matthew 28:19, displacing the authentic words of Christ. Here, then, is the source of the erroneous written teaching reflecting the practice of apostate “Christians” in the second century.
7. Should you be Re-Baptized?
After restoring the text of Matthew 28:19 to its original form, i.e., “Go ye therefore, and make disciples of all the nations in my name,” the following question naturally arises: “I was baptized in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Since this is not Biblical, should I be re-baptized?” Rather than answer according to our own wisdom or bias, let us find the answer to this important question in the Word of God itself, for that alone is the true standard against which to measure our experience with the Lord. Turning to Acts we find the answer.
Acts19:1-6 And it happened, while Apollos was at Corinth, that Paul, having passed through the upper regions, came to Ephesus. And finding some disciples he said to them, Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed? So they said to him, We have not so much as heard whether there is a Holy Spirit. And he said to them, “Into what then were you baptized? So they said, Into John’s baptism. Then Paul said, John indeed baptized with a baptism of repentance, saying to the people that they should believe on Him who would come after him, that is, on Christ Jesus. When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. And when Paul had laid hands on them, the Holy Spirit came upon them, and they spoke with tongues and prophesied.
By reading the above narrative, it is easy to discover the answer to our question. Paul found disciples, who like most of us today, had heard the message of the Kingdom of God, and had responded to that message by being baptized following our repentance. However, in this situation, these “disciples” had yet to hear the full gospel message, namely that Jesus, in His death, burial and resurrection had purchased salvation for all mankind by becoming the very Lamb of God that John had preached about. Because of this, their baptism, under the ministry and authority of John (who preceded Christ) did not reflect an association with the death and burial of Jesus that made baptism in His name effective.
While we responded to the complete gospel message, they affirmed their belief by a baptism that only associated them with a doctrinal creed, rather than the atoning blood of Jesus that is only appropriated through His name. For Paul, the next step was obvious. Knowing that the promise of the Holy Spirit was given to those who through the obedience of faith had repented of their sins, and been baptized in the name of Jesus, he instructed them to be re-baptized:
Acts 4:12 …for there is no other name under heaven, given among men by which we must be saved.
Was Paul mistaken? Or have we been? Certainly Paul was not, for according to God’s promise, He laid hands on the people and they received the Holy Spirit only moments after being baptized in His name. Remember, baptism in the name of Jesus expresses faith in the Incarnation, the authentic human life of Jesus, the death of the Son of God on the stake for our sins, and the remission of sins through His name. In summary, using the name of Jesus in the baptismal formula expresses faith in:
1. The Person of Christ (who He really is);
2. The Work of Christ (His death, burial and resurrection for us); and
3. The Power and Authority of Christ (His ability to save us by Himself).
For these very reasons, baptism was then, and should continue now to be administered in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. His Word, not the tradition and fabrications of men, should be the standard which we teach, believe and obey. As the opening scripture so aptly admonishes us:
Deuteronomy 4:2 You shall not add to the word which I command you, nor take from it, that you may keep the commandments of the Lord your God which I command you.
It is extremely disconcerting to me that this glaringly problematic “scriptural” assertion has been blindly accepted for centuries. On the day that I was baptized by a WCG minister back in 1973, I had serious reservations about the procedure as I watched those being baptized ahead of me, among a sizeable group of people, into the Trinity. I had not been able to confirm my suspicions about this scripture at that time, but I was bothered by this contradictory practice for 28 years before taking the appropriate action. I am indebted to Ploughman, now deceased, for his scholarly effort. He made a life long study of Matthew 28:19! He was quite passionate about exposing the fraud of early scribes. Were you baptized into apostasy?
This article “Did Constantine Write Matthew 28:19 into Our Bible?” by Lon Martin was excerpted from: www.wordoftruth.com website. Used by permission. September 2001. It may be used for study & research purposes only.