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In Whose Name Are We Supposed to Baptize?

 

In Matthew 28:19 as it reads today, we read:

Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,

Thus, this uses the Trinitarian formula of Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Is this how it originally read?

Based solely upon the Greek text tradition, all evangelical scholars as well as several Catholic authorities admit this bolded portion was added to the original Matthew. This is despite the fact no Greek text omits it -- but all Greek surviving texts of this verse post-date the Trinitarian controversy that began in 325 AD and ended in 381 AD. (See below "Matthean Text Changed After 325 AD")

There are several early versions of Matthew in Aramaic, Hebrew and Latin which omit this trinitarian formula. In fact, the Hebrew version of Matthew (which long predated 325 AD) was quoted without this text. The early 'fathers' such as Jerome, Origen, etc., called it the Gospel According to the Hebrews (by Matthew) which they spoke about with reverence.

First Proof of Addition to Matthew 28 from Hebrew Matthew

The original Hebrew Matthew does not have what we read in present-day Matthew 28:19.

What we read in the Hebrew Gospel of Matthew printed by Professor Howard is:

"19 Go

20 and teach them to carry out all things which I have commanded you forever."

This parallels the similar passage in Mark 16:15: "And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature."

Thus, if the Hebrew Matthew is the accurate original, there was no command from Jesus to baptize in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. (For reason to believe many other variants in the Hebrew Matthew are more original, see our discussion of the "Hebrew Matthew.")

All Other Scripture Says To Baptize Only In Jesus' Name

Everywhere else in the NT (except present-day Matthew 28:19), it says that baptism is in the name of the Lord Jesus.

Hence, when we look at our current Scripture other than Matthew 28:19, it exclusively teaches us to baptize in one name: that of the Lord Jesus. And this is a strong proof of the invalidity of the trinitarian formula in the Greek canonical Matthew 28:19.

Biblical Evidence

First, Acts 19:3-5 teaches: "On hearing this, they were baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus." Likewise in Acts 2:39, Peter teaches: "Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit." In Acts 8:16 "because the Holy Spirit had not yet come upon any of them; they had simply been baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus." In Acts 10:48, we read: "So he ordered that they be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ." In Acts 22:16, we read: "And now why tarriest thou? arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord."

Early Church Only Baptized In Jesus' Name

What confirms that the Acts formula is authentic, and the post-Hebrew Greek version of Matthew 28:19 is inauthentic, is that any notion of baptism in a name in the early church was solely in the name of Jesus Christ, and not the Trinity formula.

The Protestant authority The New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge (Funk & Wagnalls, 1908) at 435 agrees that Matthew 28:19's trinity formula is a false addition:

"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...."

An equally important Protestant authority agrees.  In The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (ed. James Orr)(1915) Vol. 4 at 2637, under "Baptism," it 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."

The opinion of all leading Christian scholars agree. Christian Henry Forney inThe Christian ordinances: being a historical inquiry into the practice of  trine immersion, the washing of the saints' feet and the love-feast (Board of Publication of the General Eldership of the Church of God, 1883) at 83 explains that there was one and only one early practice: baptism into the name of Jesus Christ:

Neander, the prince of modern ecclesiastical historians, says that theformula of baptism which is regarded as the older is the "shorter one which refers only to Christ, to which there is allusion in the New Testament." Dr. Hare also says in his Church History: "Baptism as an initiatory rite was performed simply in the name of Jesus." This sentence occurs in his chapter on the "Apostolic Church," in his " History of the Christian Church." Robinson, in his History of Baptism, says: "There is no mention of baptizing in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost,'' in immediately post-Apostolic times." This testimony, of a negative character, certainly becomes very strong and significant in view of the fact that Peter enjoined baptism "in the name of Jesus Christ."

The Encyclopedia Brittanica (1911) Vol. 26 at 774 explains that analysis of Matthew 28:19 supports that it did not originally have the Trinity formula we see today, matching how other passages in the NT read:

There are traces in the New Testament of a baptismal confession simply of the name of Christ (1 Cor. i. 13, 15; Rom. vi. 2; cf. even the late verse Acts viii. 37), not of the threefold name. Moreover, textual criticism points to an early type of reading in Matt, xxviii. 19 without the threefold formula.

The Methodist Review (January 1906) Vol. 88 at 148 details the history that calls into question whether Matthew 28:19 originally read to mention Father, Son & Holy Spirit for the baptismal name to use:

Mark and Luke have no baptismal command whatever, and the spurious ending of Mark contains no reference to baptism, but only to preaching the gospel to every creature. And there is reason to believe that originally the commandment in Matthew referred only to baptism in the name of Christ. This reading, which can be traced down as far as the fourth century, would correspond with the fact that in the apostolic age and beyond baptism was administered in the name of Christ. The Acts of the Apostles leaves no doubt on this point. Peter exhorted his hearers to repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ that they might receive the Holy Ghost (Acts 2. 38). ...[B]aptism in the name of Christ is ...[in] Acts 8. 16, where Peter and John are represented as praying for the converts of Samaria who had been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus that they might receive the Holy Ghost;...Again in 10. 48 Peter exhorted the heathen to be baptized in the name of Christ. In Ephesus (Acts 19. 5) Paul baptized the disciples of John in the name of the Lord Jesus, while his language in 1 Cor. 1. 13 implies, and in Rom. 6. 3 declares, that the Christians were baptized only in the name of Jesus. The early Christian book, The Shepherd of Hermes, speaks repeatedly of baptism in the name of the Son of God. and a hundred years after the trinitarian formula was established in the church there was lively discussion as to whether baptism in the name of Jesus,which was still practiced by some, should be recognized as valid. When and under what circumstances the longer formula came into use we do not know; even as we do not know how Matthew's "Father, Son, and Holy Ghost" took the place of the formula "God, Jesus Christ, and Holy Spirit." It is entirely probable that a formula with three numbers arose in connection with the custom of trine immersion,....

In agreement is the additional following resource: Maurice Arthur Canney, Encyclopedia of Religion (Routledge, 1921) at 53 which says:

Persons were baptized at first in the "name of Jesus Christ" (Acts 2:38, 48) or in the "name of the Lord Jesus." (Acts 8:16;19:5.) Afterwards, with the development of the doctrine of the Trinity, they were baptized in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost. Cf. Justin Martyr, Apol. I,61.

The Matthean Text Changed After 325 AD

This change in Matthew likely first took place after the Council of Nicea in 325 A.D. We can infer this from the changes in Eusebius's quotation of this passage after the Council. Ross Drysdale explains why:

Eusebius lived between 264-340 A.D....He had the advantage of being much closer to the original of Matthew 28:19. Yet he never quoted it in the Triune formula, but in all his citations (which number eighteen or more) he renders it: "Go and make ye disciples of all the nations IN MY NAME, teaching them to observe all things, whatsoever I commanded you....Perhaps the most compelling evidence is that after his visit to Constantinople and his attendance at the Council of Nicea, he changed his references to Matthew 28:19 and began quoting it in the Triune formula. Thus he switched to the Trinitarian rendering immediately after Nicea, with its imperial threats of banishment to all who reject the newly officialized Trinity doctrine. He never knew or quoted any other form but the MY NAME rendition until his visit to Nicea. Discretion appears to be the better part of valor in his case. (Quoted in Oneil McQuick, The Voice (2005) at 459.)

Scholar Edmund Schlink inThe Doctrine of Baptism (Concordia, 1972) at 28, concluded the variance between Matthew 28:19 and the repeated reference in Acts to simply baptizing in Jesus's name points to a deliberate alteration: "[It] must be assumed that the text has been transmitted in a form expanded by the church." (Quoted in Oneil McQuick, The Voice (2005) at 459.)

The article "Baptism, Early Church," in Hastings Encyclopedia of Religion and Ethics (1963) at 1016 concluded: "The cumulative evidence of these three lines of criticism (textual, literary and historical) is distinctly against the view that Matthew 28:19 represent the exact words of Christ." (Quoted in Oneil McQuick, The Voice (2005) at 459.)

Catholics even appear to admit their mischevious change in Matthew 28:19. The Jerusalem Bible (N.Y.: 1966), a scholarly Catholic work, states at 64 note g:

"It may be that this formula, [i.e., the Triune Matthew 28:19) 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 Acts speaks of baptizing "in the name of Jesus,"...."

We should not be thus surprised that Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope, may have admitted four years after the Jerusalem Bible's statement -- in 1970 --- that Rome created and added the Trinity formula to the liturgy of Baptism. Talking about the baptismal formula in the apostle's creed, he wrote: "The basic form of our profession of faith took shape during the course of the second and third centuries in connection with the ceremony of baptism. So far as its place of origin is concerned, the text came from the city of Rome." (Pope Benedict XVI, Joseph Ratzinger, Introduction to Christianity (1970) - viewable quote.) He does go on to say it was based fundamentally upon Matthew 28:19, yet at the same time, he appears to speak like the Jerusalem Bible that the "profession" in Baptism -- the Father, Son and Holy Spirit -- had its origin at Rome in an evolution centuries after Christ.

The crack in the Catholic position began long prior to the Jerusalem Bible. In 1923, Bernard Henry Cuneo wrote The Lord's Command To Baptize: An Historical Critical Investigation as part of the Catholic University's New Testament Studies (No. 5)(Washington DC) where at page 27 / archive.org we read:

The passages in Acts and the Letters of St. Paul. These passages seem to point to the earliest form as baptism in the name of the Lord...Is it possible to reconcile these facts with the belief that Christ commanded his disciples to baptize in the triune form? Had Christ given such a command, it is urged, the Apostolic Church would have followed him, and we should have some trace of this obedience in the New Testament. No such trace can be found. The only explanation of this silence, according to the anti-traditional view, is this the short christological (Jesus Name) formula was original, and the longer trine formula was a later development."

Thus, even the Catholic scholars and leaders recognize the compelling evidence that had Matthew 28:19 included the trinity-formula for baptism as Jesus's own command, we inexplicably have abundant NT quotes that baptism was only in Jesus' name.

The truth is obvious. The Trinity baptism text of Matthew 28:19 did not originate from the original Church that started in Jerusalem around AD 33. It was a deliberate forgery, apparently added after 325 A.D. to support the emerging Trinity doctrine.


 STUDY NOTES

This issue over Matthew 28:19 is discussed in S. Rives, Original Gospel of Matthew (2d Ed. 2014), in Appendix J in volume 2. We have excerpted it here with authorizaiton.