Some have claimed that the text at Matthew 28:19 is spurious.
“… disciple all the nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit…”Christ’s command at Matthew 28:19, Berean Literal Bible
It is argued that “into the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit” is spurious, that in the third century a scribe added this text to written manuscripts in order to support the trinity doctrine. Is there evidence? No.
For example, one former Jehovah’s Witness teaches:
“…there is a strong body of evidence that indicates that verse was added by a scribe in the 3rd century to bolster belief in the Trinity, since no manuscript from before that time contains it.”
However, the oldest papyrus manuscripts of the new testament are all lacking Matthew 28, and therefore cannot be used as support for this argument that the verse was modified by a third century scribe to suit a trinitarian agenda.
All of the Unicals, the oldest manuscripts we have to date, universally have the same text:
“Go therefore, making disciples of all the nation, baptizing them into the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit…”Unical manuscripts rendering Matthew 28:19, dated mid-300’s
Rather than accept all the manuscripts we to date as written, those who argue Matthew 28:19 is spurious next point to the writings of Eusebius of Caesarea.
Examining the writings of Eusebius you will find in every single instance of his discussion of baptism he faithfully renders Matthew 28:19:
“…baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit”.Eusebius — see Contra Marcellum I.1.9; I.1.36; Theologia III. 5.22; Epistle to Caesarea 3 (Socrates, Eccl. Hist 1.8); Psalms 117.1-4; and Theophania 4.8
When Eusebius discusses discipling the nations, as opposed to baptism, he abbreviates the verse or alludes to it — for example, only quoting so far as “the nations” or some other contraction.
This is the only textual evidence that exists today for “in my name”.
Again, every single reference Eusebius makes to baptism, and quotes Matthew 28:19, he includes the complete verse including “…baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit”.
“I saw with mine own eyes the houses of prayer thrown down and razzed to their foundations, and the inspired and sacred Scriptures consigned to the fire in the open market place…”Eusebius, personal testimony regarding why we do not have early manuscripts
The Sinaiticus and Vaticanus, the two earliest extant manuscripts, written in the 4th century, also include the full verse with the traditional rendering.
The reasons people like Petersen have suspected that Matthew 28:19-20 were not original are
(1) the verses sound like they embrace the later doctrine of the trinity and
(2) they are not found in [all] Eusebius’s quotations.
Most scholars have not been convinced, however, primarily because the verses are found in every solitary manuscript of Matthew, whether Greek, Latin, or …. any other ancient language, and are cited by yet other church fathers.
Most interpreters think that the later doctrine of the trinity is not necessarily implied by the verses, but that they are simply read that way by people who know about the trinity.
But in any event, most textual scholars think that the verses are almost certainly original to Matthew.
Hope this helps,
— Bart EhrmanBart D. Ehrman, author of NYTimes bestseller Misquoting Jesus: The Story Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why via Nick Norelli (Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth)
For those who continue to argue that the apostles did not go “…baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit”, I ask what other name or names should the disciples of Acts 8:14-16 been baptized in?
“…the apostles… they prayed for them to receive the Holy Spirit. For He was not yet fallen upon any of them, but they had only been baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus. Then Peter and John laid their hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit.”Acts 8:14-16, Berean Literal Bible
What was the effect of having only been baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus?
In conclusion, there is no evidence in the manuscripts discovered to date to support the argument that “the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit…” is spurious in Christ’s command and last words on earth at Matthew 28:19.
Ignatius of Antioch (ca. AD. 107-112) in the “Epistle of Ignatius to the Philadelphians” attests,
“…in the Gospel, [our Lord saying,] “Go ye and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.”
And again in chapter 2 regarding “Unity of the Three Divine Persons”:
“Wherefore also the Lord, when He sent forth the apostles to make disciples of all nations, commanded them to “baptize in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost,” not unto one [person] having three names, nor into three [persons] who became incarnate, but into three…”
Justin Martyr testifies to his own baptism.
“Then they are brought by us where there is water, and are born again, for they then receive washing in water in the name of God the Father and Master of all, and of our Savior Jesus Christ, and of the Holy Spirit… (Justin Martyr, 1st Apology ch. 61, dated to between AD 155-157)
Irenaaeus, another 2nd century Christian author, wrote:
“…And again, giving to the disciples the power of regeneration into God, he said to them, ‘Go and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.’…” (Irenaeus, Against Heresies, book 3 ch. 17.1, c. 175-185)
Tertullian (ca. 160-220) quotes the verse (Tertullian The Prescription Against Heretics):
“Accordingly, after one of these had been struck off, He commanded the eleven others, on His departure to the Father, to “go and teach all nations, who were to be baptized into the Father, and into the Son, and into the Holy Ghost.” Immediately, therefore, so did the apostles, whom this designation indicates as “the sent.””
Again, “Tertullian on Baptism” quotes it again in the “Meaning Contained in the Baptismal Formula” attesting “faith, sealed in (the name of) the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, obtains.” And again in “Chapter XIII.-Another Objection: Abraham Pleased God Without Being Baptized. Answer Thereto. Old Things Must Give Place to New, and Baptism is Now a Law.” he argues quoting the verse:
“For the law of baptizing has been imposed, and the formula prescribed: “Go,” He saith, “teach the nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” The comparison with this law of that definition, “Unless a man have been reborn of water and Spirit, he shall not enter into the kingdom of the heavens,” has tied faith to the necessity of baptism.”
Hippolytus (ca. 170-236) in “Against Noetus” reasons:
“The economy of harmony is led back to one God; for God is One. It is the Father who commands, and the Son who obeys, and the Holy Spirit who gives understanding: the Father who is above all, and the Son who is through all, and the Holy Spirit who is in all. … The Father’s Word, therefore, knowing the economy (disposition) and the will of the Father, to wit, that the Father seeks to be worshipped in none other way than this, gave this charge to the disciples after He rose from the dead: Go and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.”
Cyprian (ca. 200-258) in “The Seventh Council of Carthage: On the Baptism of Heretics” also refers to Matthew 28:19:
“And again, after His resurrection, sending His apostles, He gave them charge, saying, All power is given unto me, in heaven and in earth. Go and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Matthew 28:18-19”
Eusebius often cites the form: Contra Marcellum I.1.9; I.1.36; Theologia III. 5.22; EpCaesarea 3 (Socrates, Eccl.Hist 1.8); Psalms 117.1-4; Theophania 4.8, for example see the “Letter of Eusebius of Cæsarea to the people of his Diocese”.
Lastly, The Didache or or Teaching of the Apostles (see chapter 7), for which new consensus is emerging for a date c. 100 AD, refers twice to the formula.
And finally, Peter M. Head, Affiliated Lecturer in New Testament at the University of Cambridge, and Sir Kirby Laing Senior Lecturer in New Testament at Tyndale House, an expert in New Testament textual criticism, with PhD seminars on Eusebius’ Ecclesiastical History:
The only evidence for the shorter text of Matthew 28.19 is found only in Eusebius, and may well be the product of his loose quotation and harmonising.
Here is what I wrote in my book (Christology and the Synoptic Problem, CUP, 1997), 212f:
We follow here the longer reading of UBS4=NA27 for Matt 28.19. Eusebius’ shorter reading (otherwise unattested): πορευθέντες μαθητεύσατε πάντα τά έθνη έν τω όνόματι μου, διδάσκοντες… [Demonstratio 3.6, 7(bis); 9.11; Hist. Eccl. III.5.2; Psalms 65.6; 67.34; 76.20 (59.9 not the same reading); Isaiah 18.2; 34.16 (v.l.); Theophania 4.16; 5.17; 5.46; 5.49; Oratio 16.8] is not to be regarded as original (despite Conybeare, ‘The Eusebian Form of the Text Matth. 28, 19’; ‘Three Early Doctrinal Modifications of the Text of the Gospels’, pp. 102-108; History of New Testament Criticism, pp. 74-77; Lohmeyer, Matthäus, p. 412; Vermes, Jesus the Jew, p. 200; Green, ‘The Command to Baptize and Other Matthean Interpolations’, pp. 60-62; ‘Matthew 28:19, Eusebius, and the lex orandi’).
The omission of the phrase can be explained as due to Eusebius’ tendency to abbreviate, as Eusebius elsewhere often cites the longer form [Contra Marcellum I.1.9; I.1.36; Theologia III. 5.22; EpCaesarea 3 (Socrates, Eccl.Hist 1.8); Psalms 117.1-4; Theophania 4.8].
The shorter reading ‘in my name’ could have been formed as a result of harmonising Luke 24.47 and Mark 16.17 (as seems to occur in Psalms 59.9). Note that Eusebius also alludes to this passage without using either ‘in my name’ or the full clause [Demonstratio 1.3, 4, 6; Psalms 46.4; 95.3; 144.9; Isaiah 41.10; Theophania 3.4; Theologia III.3]. See further Hubbard, The Matthean Redaction of a Primitive Apostolic Commissioning, pp. 151-175; Schaberg, The Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, pp. 27-29 (who refer to earlier studies).Peter M. Head, Christology and the Synoptic Problem, CUP, 1997 via Nick Norelli (Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth)