Analysing Matt 28:19
By A. Plowman
here presented will be of four kinds:
4.) Internal Evidence
Most Bible helps contain a brief explanation of the methods of Textual Criticism. For example, SWETE, in the "Aids to the Student" in the Variorum Bible says:
"The text of the New Testament rests upon the combined testimony of streams of documentary evidence--extant Mss, of the Greek original, ancient versions, and "patristic" quotations, i.e. passages cited by a succession of ancient Christian writers known as "The Fathers."
Concerning the MSS: "The autographs of the New Testament Scriptures were probably lost within a few years after they were written. No early Christian writer appeals to them as still existing, ...men could not anticipate their importance to posterity."
Concerning the Versions: "Next in importance to the MSS, channels for the transmission of the text of the Greek Testament, must be placed the ancient Versions, which were made from the Greek manuscripts, in most cases older than any which we now possess. The old Latin and Syriac Versions belong to the second century, and carry us back to the lifetime of some of the immediate successors of the Apostles."
Concerning the Patristic writings: "So extensive are the quotations of the New Testament in the Greek and Latin Christian writers of the first five centuries that it would have been possible, in the event of all the MSS. of the Cannon having perished, to recover nearly the whole of the text from this source alone, ...there remains a large number of instances in which patristic authority goes far to turn the scale in favor of a disputed reading, or against it."
As to Matthew 28:19: "The Encyclopedia of Religion and Ethics says--It is the central piece of evidence for the traditional view. If it were undisputed, this would, of course, be decisive, but its trustworthiness is impugned on the grounds of textual criticism, literary criticism and historical criticism."
(Author's note: The presence of the word *baptising* in Matthew 28:19 is also disputed, but we are not now concerned with this point: many other passages uphold the truth concerning Baptism).
Whether or not the name-phrase of Matthew 28:19 is genuine or spurious can be decided only by the evidence of the MSS., of the versions, of the Patristic Writings, and by what is styled INTERNAL EVIDENCE. Let us therefore consider the evidence of the MSS.
Evidence Of The MSS
For the threefold name:
The two earliest MSS. extant (Sinaiticus and Vaticanus), written in the 4th century, both include the end of Matthew also contain the threefold name. "In all extant MSS, ...the text is found in the traditional form (Encyclopedia of Religion and Ethics)."
Against the threefold name:
There is no evidence in the MSS discovered to date.
It must be remembered that we have no manuscript that was written in the first, second, or third centuries. There is a gap of the three whole centuries between the writing of Matthew and the MSS that contain the threefold name
It must be remembered that no single MS. is free from textual error. Some have errors peculiar to themselves, and some have whole families of MSS. have the same errors. The textual critic aims to reproduce from an examination of all the evidence what was probably the original words.
But from the facts stated, it is within possibility that all the existing MSS. may have one or more textual errors in common. That fact must be admitted, however reluctantly.
Another fact that we have to face is that during that time-gap of three hundred years false teaching thrived and developed into the Great Apostasy. Moreover--"The Greek MSS. 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 (Dr. C. R. Gregory, one of the greatest textual critics)." But this aspect is dealt with in a later chapter.
Another writer has this to say: "A great step forward is taken when we propose to allow MSS. weight, not according to their age, but according to the age of the text which they contain. To Tregelles must be ascribed the honour of introducing this method of procedure, which he appropriately called "Comparative Criticism." It is a truly scientific method, and leads us for the first time to safe results. ...But a little consideration will satisfy us that as an engine of criticism,this method is far from perfect. It will furnish us with a text that is demonstrably ancient, and this, as a step towards the true text, is a very important gain. It is something to reach a text that is certainly in the third or the second century. But this can be assumed to be the autographic text ONLY. If we can demonstrate that the text current in the second or third century was an absolutely pure text. So far from this, however, there is reason to believe that the very grossest errors that have ever deformed the text had entered it 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."
Of course, when he speaks of "grossest errors" the writer is not speaking of errors of teaching, but, as a textual critic, of errors int he text itself.
The subject of the corruption of the text of Scripture concurrently with the corruption of teaching in the apostate churches is dealt with in a later chapter.
Before reaching any decision, let the reader consider the evidence of the Versions, as some of them are earlier than any of the MSS.
But first let us see what happened to the ancient MSS.
What Happened To The Earliest MSS?
Why have we no copies of the Scriptures written earlier than the 5th century (except for the two which were written in the 4th century)?
The following quotation will supply the answer: "Diocletian in 303AD ordered all the sacred books to be burnt, ...but enough survived to transmit the text (Swete in Variorum "Aids")."
"One of the reasons why no early MSS. have been discovered is that they were, when found, burned by the persecutors of the Christians: Eusebius writes: "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 (H.E. viii 2.)."
"Among such senses he could not fail to learn what books men held to be more precious that their lives (Dr. Westcott: General Survey of the History of the Canon of the N.T., p. 383)."
Evidence Of The Versions
For the threefold name:
All extant versions which contain the end of Matthew contain the threefold name.
BUT--"In all extant versions the text is found in the traditional form, though it must be remembered that the African old Latin and of the old Syriac versions are 'defective at this point' (Encyclopedia of Religion and Ethics).
Again, ...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 (F.C. Conybeare)."
So that we have no MS. earlier than the 4th century, and in the case of these two earlier versions the end page of Matthew has been destroyed?
In these circumstances we must turn to the early quotations, styled the "Patristic Writings" and examine their evidence, to see how they quoted Matthew 28:19, and this we will proceed to do.
Evidence Of the Early Writers
"In the course of my reading I have been able to substantiate these doubts of the authenticity of the text Matthew 28:19 by adducing patristic evidence against it,so weighty that in 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 Hibbert Journal)."
How true is this? What are the facts?
While no MS. of the first three centuries is inexistence, we do have the writings of at least two men who did actually possess, or had access to MSS. much earlier than our earliest now in existence. And there were others who quoted the passage of Matthew 28:19 in those early times.
Who were these men? When did they write? Has they access to very early MSS.? Were they reliable and exact? How did they quote Matthew 28:19? These are the questions that must be answered.
It is proposed to being forward evidence from the following,either to direct quotation form their writings, or indirectly through the writings of their contemporaries, viz. Eusebius of Caesarea, the unknown author of De Rebaptismate, Origen, Clement of Alexandria, Justin martyr, Macedonius, Eunomius and Aphraates.
BUT FIRST A CLARIFICATION--Let it be stated emphatically, that if the question under consideration were one of theology, the evidence of these "Fathers" would be of no value whatever. Our doctrine must be obtained from the pure Word of God alone, and not from any other source. These so-called "Fathers" lived in an age of theological darkness, and when we have the light of Scripture it is folly to search among the dim candle-lit darkness of the theologians. Our concern is to find out what Matthew wrote at the end of his book.
Before dealing with the other writers, let us examine Eusebius as to his integrity and reliability as a witness, seeing that in this enquiry he is a key witness.
Eusebius As A Witness
several men of this name. The one with whom we are concerned is known as
Eusebius Pamphili, or Eusebius of Caesarea. He was born about 270 A.D. and died
about 340 A.D. He lived in times of gross spiritual darkness, he was a
Trinitarian, and later in life he assisted in the preparation of the Nicene
Creed. Here follows the opinion of historians and others concerning him.
"Eusebius of Caesarea, to whom we are indebted for the preservation of so many contemporary works of antiquity, many of which must have perished had he not collected and edited them" (Robert Roberts, Good Company, vol. III, page 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; Fraternal Visitor, June 1924).
"Eusebius Pamphilius, Bishop of Caesarea in
"Eusebius, to whose zeal we owe most of what is known of the history of the New Testament" (Dr. Westcott, General Survey of the History of the Canon of the New Testament, page 108).
"The most important writer in the first quarter of the fourth century was Eusebius of Caesarea. Eusebius was a man of little originality or independent judgement. 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 somewhat confused, and at time not a little prejudice, erudition" (Peake's Bible Commentary, 1929,page 596).
"Some hundred works, several of them very lengthy, are either directly cited or referred to as 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 second head the most vital question if the sincerity of Eusebius. Did he tamper with his material 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" (Dictionary of Christian Biography and Literature).
"Eusebius was an impartial historian, and had access to the best helps for composing a correct history which his age afforded." (J. L. Mosheim: an editoral note).
"Of the patristic witnesses to the text of the New Testament as it stood in the Greek MSS, from about 300-340, none is so important as Eusebius of Caesarea, 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 that from this single collection of manuscripts at
So much for the honesty, ability, and opportunity of Eusebius as a witness to the text of the New Testament. Now we are ready to consider his evidence on the text of Matthew 28:19.
The Evidence Of Eusebius
Having introduced the first witness, it is time to ascertain what he wrote concerning the text of Matthew 28:19.
According to the editor of the Christadelphian Monatshefte, Eusebius among his many other writings compiled a collection of the corrupted texts of the Holy Scriptures, and "the most serious of all the falsifications denounce by him, is without doubt the traditional reading of Matthew 28:19."
Persistent inquiry has failed to trace the compilation referred to, and Knupfer, the Editor, has left his last Canadian address without a trace. But various authorities mention "a work entitled DISCREPANCIES IN THE GOSPELS or QUESTIONS AND SOLUTIONS ON SOME POINTS IN THE GOSPEL HISTORY" and another work on THE CONCLUDING SECTIONS OF THE GOSPELS.
According to F.C. Conybeare, "Eusebius cites this text again and again in his 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 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."
I have collected all these passages except one which is in a catena published by Mai in a German magazine, the Zeitschrift fur die neutestamentliche Wissenschaft, edited by Erwin Preuschen in
"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. Of any other form of text he had never heard, and knew nothing until he had visited
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 texxt) in his manuscripts, but substituted the shorter formula in his works for fear of vulgarising and divulging the sacred Trinitarian formula." It is interesting to find a modern Bishop reviving the very argument used 150 years before, in support of the forged text of 1 John 5--
"Bengel ...allowed that the words (the Three Witnesses) 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 continues, 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 Ency. Rel. 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."
Now let us look at the other early writers who quote Matthew 28:19.
EVIDENCE OF OTHER WRITERS
AUTHOR OF DE REBAPTISMATE
"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" (De Rebaptismate 6.7 Smith's Dictionary of the Bible, Vol. i, p. 352).
"In Origin's works as preserved in Greek, the first part of the verse is thrice adduced, but his citation always stops short at the words 'the nations;' and that in itself suggests that his text has been censured, and words which followed, 'in my name,' struck out" (Conybeare)
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 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" (Ency. Rel. 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 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).
"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).
"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).
"There is one other witness whose testimony we must consider. He is Aphraates the Syriac father who wrote between 337 and 345. He cites our text in a formal manner as follows:
'Make disciples of all nations, and they shall believe in
"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
How Biblical MSS Were Altered When The Great Apostasy Began
quotations will show the ease with which scribes freely altered the MSS of the
New Testament, so unlike the scribes and custodians of the Old Testament
Scriptures who copied the holy Writings with reverence and strict accuracy.
These quotations will also show the early start of the practice of trine immersion at the time when the doctrine of the Trinity was being formulated.
They will also show how the New Testament writings were made to conform to traditional practice.
"In the case just examined (Matthew 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 MSS 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, page 424."
"These facts speak for themselves. Our Greek texts, not only of the Gospels, but of the Epistles as well, have been revised and interpolate by orthodox copyist. 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 not been so corrected, but where we cannot today expose the fraud. It was necessary to emphasis this point, because Drs. Westcott and Hort used to say that there is no evidence of merely doctrinal changes 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, Adolph 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, 'Bridging the Gap' in The Christadelphian, January 1962, pp. 4-8.]
FRATERNAL VISITOR (1924, p. 148)
"Codex B. (Vaticanus) would be the best of all existing MSS 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 grounds for accusing the adherents of Athanasius and of the newly-arisen doctrine of the Trinity of falsifying the Bible more than once." Fraternal Visitor, in The Christadelphian Monatshefte, 1924, page 148.
"We certainly know of a greater number of interpolations and corruption's brought into the Scriptures... by Athanasius, and relating to the Doctrine of the Trinity, than in any other case whatsoever. While we have not, that I know of, any such interpolations and corruption, made in any one of them by either the Eusebians or Arians" Second letter to the Bishop of London, 1719, page 15.
SMITH'S DICTIONARY OF CHRISTIAN ANTIQUITIES [Art. Baptism Sec. 50]
"While trine immersion was thus an all but universal practice, Eunomius (circ. 360) appears to have been the first to introduce simple immersion 'unto the death of Christ' ...This practice was condemned on pain of degradation, by the Canon Apost. 46 (al 50). But it comes before us again about a century later in
"In the '
Eastern Churches, trine immersion is regarded as the only valid form of
baptism" [Vol. 1. p. 243 fn].
"The threefold immersion is unquestionably very ancient int he Church. ...Its object is, of course, to honor the Three Persons of the Holy Trinity in whose name it is conferred" [p. 262].
RELIGION AND ETHICS
"If it be thought as many critics think, that no MS represents more than comparatively late recessions 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" [Art. Baptism].
"The exclusive survival of (3) in all MSS., both Greek and Latin, need not cause surprise. 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].
"Athanasius... met Flaivan, 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, Good Company, Vol. iii, p. 49].
"The Eusebians... sometimes named the very time when, the place where, and the person whom they (i.e. forms of doxology) were first introduced... thus Philoflorgius, a writer of that very age, assures us in PHOTIUS'S EXTRACTS that A.D. 348 or thereabouts, Flavianus, Patriarche 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." [Second Letter concerning the Primitive Doxologies, 1719, p.17].
"There are two or three insertions in the NT which have been supposed to have their origin in the 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 might have led to his inserting them. This is the source to which Dr. Tregelles assigns the Doxology at the close of the Lord's Prayer in Matt. 6, which is wanting most of the best authorities. Perhaps also Acts , containing the baptismal profession of faith, which is entirely wanting in the best authorities, found its way into the Latin text in this manner" [Hammond, Textual Criticism Applied to the NT, (1890) p 23.]
The reader having reviewed the evidence of the MSS, of the Versions and of the Patristic writings, will no doubt have reached the conclusion that in the early centuries some copies of Matthew did not contain the triune name clause. In legal practice, where copies of the same lost document vary, resource is had to what is called "Internal Evidence," that is, a comparison with the rest of the text of the document that is not in dispute, in order to ascertain which of the variant readings is the more likely. Our next chapter, therefore will set forth some of this Internal Evidence.
This method is useful in ascertaining the original text of Scripture where two or more readings obtrude.
As an example, take the word "broken" in 1 Cor. 11:24. Most versions include the word (in Greek) but the best MSS at their first writing (i.e. before being altered by a later hand) omit the word.
Which is correct?
Now the following Scriptures are suffice to decide the point: Ex. 12:46; Nu. 9:12; Ps. 34:20; Jn 19:36.
But in addition we have a verbatim record of the exact words of Jesus in Lu. "This is my body which is given for you." So that the word "broken" is shown by Internal Evidence to be spurious, and should therefore be struck out of the AV and excluded from exhortation and prayers at the Breaking of the Bread.
Certain ancient Greek MSS leave a blank space where this word appears in other copies. The structure of the sentence in Greek requires some word to be inserted. Evidently, some scribe, seeing this space (honestly left blank by some other copyist who refrained from inserting a word of their own to fill the gap) made a guess and slipped in the word for "broken," thus starting an error which has continued right up to the AV, and persists in Church services throughout Christendom.
The Revised Version reads "which is for you." It would have been more correct, however to have left the gap that is found in the early MSS.
N.L.B.—“Baptizing in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit” does not mean three acts of immersion. This is shown by Paul’s explanation of what immersion signifies. He says it is a being “baptized into the death of Christ,” a being “planted in the likeness of his death ” ( Rom. 6:4 ); a being buried with Christ.—( Col. 2:12 .) There were not three deaths but only one, nor three burials, but only one. Three acts of baptism would, therefore, be not a likeness but an unlikeness of what it relates to. One act of baptism corresponds with the death and burial of Christ, and with the description of all the cases of immersion recorded in the “New Testament.” How then come the three names of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit to be mentioned by Christ in connection with this one act? Because they are all concurrently concerned in the matter with which the act establishes a connection. What is this? Christ the Saviour. Why should not his name be mentioned alone? Because he was not alone. He was the Father manifested among men by the Spirit for their salvation, that the glory might be to the name of Yah —the Creator and Upholder. The single mention of the Son would have tended to conceal the great truth which Jesus constantly proclaimed—that of himself he was nothing: that the Father within him was the Doer and the Speaker; and that by the Spirit proceeding from the Father, was this great marvel achieved through the Son among men. The significance of the formula—“Father, Son and Holy Spirit”—is, therefore, doctrinal. The use of it tends to keep in view the great fact that there is but one God — one Redeemer; and that Jesus is not another, but the Eternal One in manifestation, accomplishing the great work of salvation by his Eternal Spirit, operative through the seed of David according to the flesh. The name of Jesus is, therefore, the Father’s name, placed in a man by the Spirit. This is the name of salvation, than which, there is none other given among men. Baptism is the act of induction into it, and, therefore, a baptism into the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. In the early ages, when many winds of false doctrine were raised by Scripture wresters, a three-fold immersion was deduced from this form of words, and practised by many. Some in our day are reviving the absurd, unmeaning and unscriptural practice— trine-immersionists , who talk of “one baptism in three immersions.” They might just as well talk of “one immersion in three immersions.” The precedents of a benighted ecclesiastical antiquity are miserable ground on which to rest our faith and practice. One baptism, which is equivalent to one immersion, was the simple, sensible, apostolic practice from which wise men will not depart.
THE LORD’S COMMAND TO BAPTIZE
1—THE TEXTUAL EVIDENCE
“And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit: teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen” ( Matt. 28 : 18–20 ).
THE command of the Risen Lord was given with the fullness of
authority in heaven and in earth which had been vested in him. With that
authority he commissioned the disciples no longer to confine their ministry to
the “lost sheep of the house of
The words “baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit”, as one commentator has said, “describe, not a formula to be used at baptism, but the end and aim which would be secured in and through baptism”. 1 There is no set formula for baptism; there is nothing magical in a form of words, though it is a fitting practice to use the words of the Lord so that what is done is done in the full Name, and acknowledges the full scope of the fellowship.
In the last sixty years, however, verse 19 , which contains both the command to baptize and the threefold name, has been attacked on grounds both of textual and historical criticism, and a reading has been advanced which omits both elements of the command. It is necessary to distinguish between the differing grounds of criticism, since only a few scholars have questioned that the words were actually a part of the text of Matthew, while a larger number have doubted whether Jesus spoke them. 2 To parade a list of names of eminent critics of the passage without making this distinction is misleading.
Chief of the textual critics to attack the passage was F. C. Coneybeare (1856–1924), a scholar in Armenian MSS. who had rationalist sympathies and was at one time a member of the Rationalist Press Association. 1 In the Hibbert Journal of 1902 Conybeare wrote an article entitled “Three early doctrinal modifications of the text of the Gospel”. The three passages he discussed were Matt. 1 : 16 , in which he contended for a variant reading noted in the R.V. margin, eliminating mention of the Virgin Birth; Matt. 28 : 19 ; and Matt. 19 : 17 , where Matthew reads “Why askest thou me concerning that which is good?” while the parallels in Mark and Luke are “Why callest thou me good?” Only in the first of these could he cite any variant in the Greek text itself.
On Matt. 28 : 19 he relied mainly, if not wholly, on a reading in one “Early Father”, the prolific writer Eusebius. Conybeare wrote: “Eusebius cites it again and again in works written between 300 and 336 . . . I have after a moderate search in these works of Eusebius found 18 citations of Matt. 28 : 19 , and always in the following form: ‘Go ye and make disciples of all nations in my name , teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I commanded you.’” Conybeare contended that it was only after attending the Council of Niceae that “in two controversial works of his extreme old age” Eusebius used the common reading. He argued that it was “then being introduced as a shibboleth of orthodoxy”; and that Eusebius testified to an earlier reading which “the vigilance of the church” had not allowed to escape.
Conybeare concluded: “It may be confidently predicted that when the Greek and Latin fathers who wrote before 400 have been more carefully edited than hitherto from the best codices, scores of old readings will be restored in the text of the New Testament of which no trace remains in any Greek MS.”
Sixty years later this “confident
prediction” remains unfulfilled, and the general dependability of the New
Testament text stands in higher repute than it has done among critics for a
century. In his day Conybeare could say that none of the existing N.T.
manuscripts went beyond the fourth century of the Christian era. But when this
statement was repeated by Bishop Barnes in his Rise of Christianity
(1947), the greatest textual scholar of the time, Sir Frederic Kenyon, replied:
“In view of the discovery of the Chester Beatty papyri, this is simply untrue .
. . It would have been more true to say that it must never be forgotten that we
now have substantial portions of the Gospels, Acts and Revelation, and an
almost complete manuscript of the Pauline Epistles, going back to the beginning
of the third century, which in spite of verbal variations not affecting
doctrine guarantee the integrity of the tradition and the substantial
trustworthiness of the record of the texts of the books as they originally took
shape.” 2 Since Kenyon wrote there have been further discoveries,
including the almost complete Bodmer papyrus of John’s Gospel now in
Within a few years Dr. F. H. Chase
was able to write that Conybeare’s conclusions on Matt. 28 : 19 had been
“controverted in an able and learned article by Professor Riggenbach of
On the textual evidence he was brief but weighty: there is in fact little to be said, for the testimony of Greek manuscripts is unanimous. He wrote, “I believe that it is only when we shut our eyes to the facts that we can persuade ourselves, or allow ourselves to be persuaded, that it is possible for words to have been interpolated in the text of the Gospels without a trace of their true character surviving in MSS.” Versions, and in statements of the Fathers . . . The whole evidence—such I believe must be the verdict of scientific criticism—establishes without a shadow of doubt or uncertainty the genuineness of Matt. 28 : 19 .” With that emphatic verdict, strengthened by later MS. discovery, we might surely rest content.
Conybeare makes a comparison between
this text and the “three witnesses” passage in 1 John 5 : 7 , 8 , but he is
incorrect in saying that “until the middle of the nineteenth century” they
shared the task of furnishing scriptural evidence for the doctrine of the
Trinity. The three witnesses passage was denounced by Gibbon in the Decline
and Fall , and he received weighty support from one of the most celebrated
of Greek scholars, Richard Porson of
As far back as the ninth century the British scholar Alcuin omitted the “three witnesses” passage from the text of the Latin which he prepared for the Emperor Charlemagne; and Erasmus omitted it from the first and second editions of his Greek text, and only inserted it in his third edition under pressure. Luther omitted it from his German version. The evidence in the two cases is almost exactly opposite: all Greek texts, all early versions, and many early Fathers from Justin and Irenaeus onwards contain the Matthew passage or allusions to it; no Greek MS. contains the “three witnesses” except two which are very late and critically worthless; no version except the Vulgate (and even there it is an interpolation), and no writer of the first five centuries. Comparison of the two instances is therefore grossly misleading.
The main attack on Matt. 28 : 19 comes on the ground of an alleged conflict with Acts, which in reference to baptism mentions only “the name of Jesus Christ” or “of the Lord Jesus”. But the very early Christian document the Didachē (“Teaching of the Twelve Apostles”), quotes Matt. 28 : 19 word for word when describing the practice of baptism, but in an incidental reference elsewhere has “baptized in the name of the Lord”. 4 The reasonable interpretation is that the writer saw no conflict between the briefer and the fuller forms. Why then should the Apostles or Luke in Acts? The real reason for finding a conflict is to be found in theories of the development of the Church held by certain critics from Harnack onwards. Among Christadelphians the reason is admittedly uneasiness with a passage which may be given a Trinitarian interpretation.
On both textual and historical grounds, therefore, it can be said that the evidence is completely in favour of Matt. 28 : 19 as it stands in our Bibles, with which modern versions agree (including that of the Jew Hugh Schonfeld). Doctrinal questions will be considered in a further article.
L. G. Sargent.
( He is not ashamed to call them brethren —HEB. ).
April , 1962
THE BAPTISMAL FORMULA
SOME brethren and sisters have been disturbed by a recently circulated pamphlet which questions the threefold baptismal formula in Matt. 28 : 19 and several brethren have suggested that a reference be made to it in The Christadelphian in view of the fact that it has been a traditional practice among us to use the words of Matt. 28 : 19 at our baptisms. The pamphlet apart, the apparently Trinitarian character of the language of Matt. 28 : 19 has naturally perturbed many readers. This is evident from the number of times answers to questions dealing with this verse have appeared in The Christadelphian . They are like a recurring decimal. Those who possess a file for the last sixty years will find the matter dealt with in 1906, page 25; 1910, page 170; 1924, page 456; 1935, page 27.
It is easy to couple Matt. 28 : 19 with the spurious passage in 1 John 5 : 7 and reject it outright as also spurious. To do this is to be guilty of two errors: 1. It flies in the face of textual evidence; 2. It ignores the fact that the formula provides a fulness of statement on the significance of the Name which is missing in shorter forms; it also ignores the fact that there are several other passages which group together the Father, the Lord Jesus and the Spirit of God.
What are the facts concerning the text? The textual evidence of the manuscripts is provided in the apparatus of Tregelles’ Greek New Testament or, more briefly, in the Greek New Testament published by the British and Foreign Bible Society.
Plummer sums up the evidence in his Exegetical Commentary on Matthew: He says, “With regard to our Lord’s command to baptize, as recorded here, several questions have been raised to which an answer ought to be given. 1. Is verse 19 , as we have it in our Bibles, part of the genuine text of Matt.? 2. If it is, does it give the substance of words actually uttered by our Lord? 3. Does it order the use of a particular baptismal formula?”
He answers emphatically on the question of Text: “The question of the genuineness of the verse may be answered with the utmost confidence. The verse is found in every extant Greek Manuscript, whether uncial or cursive, and every extant Version, which contains this portion of Matthew. In a few witnesses the conclusion of the Gospel is wanting, but there is no reason for believing that in these witnesses the verse or any portion of it was omitted. It has been argued by F. C. Conybeare ( Hibbert Journal , of Oct., 1902) and by Professor Lake (Inaugural Lecture at Leiden, 27 Jan., 1904) that the clause, ‘baptizing them . . . Holy Spirit’ was very early interpolated for dogmatic reasons in some copies of Matthew, and that it was not firmly established as part of this Gospel till after the Council of Nicea. The chief argument is that Eusebius, Bishop of Caesarea ( a.d. 313–319), where he had access to a great library, often quotes this passage and habitually omits, or stops short of, the words which speak of baptism. Therefore the original text was simply, ‘Go and make disciples of all nations’, perhaps with the addition ‘in My name’. Dr. Chase has conclusively shown the fallacious character of the argument. Eusebius quotes the verse, with the command to baptize into the name of the Trinity, when he requires the command for this purpose; when he requires the rest of the verse, but not the command, he omits the latter. It is incredible that an interpolation of this character can have been made in a text of Matthew without leaving a trace of its unauthenticity in a single manuscript or Version. (See Burkitt, Evangelion da-Mepharreshe , 2, page 153). The evidence for its genuiness is overwhelming.”
We now ask, do the words provide a formula for use? The answer from apostolic practice is “NO”. See Acts 3 : 38 ; 8 : 16 , 10 : 48 ; 19 : 5 ; Rom. 1 : 9 ; Gal. 3 : 27 .
On a matter of such importance as this, one feels a repugnance to the idea, in view of the evident divine care and preservation of the text of scripture, that this passage is either a corruption or an interpolation. Doubts concerning the text should be received with care.
Let us now quote a previous answer by bro. C. C. Walker in 1906. Under the heading:
B.F.M. writes: What formula is used
in baptism in
Answer: We can only speak of the
practice in the
With regard to our correspondent’s question as between Matt. 28 : 19 and Acts 8 : 16 , the following further extract from the Guide (same page), is to the point: “As regards the form of words, it is better to say, ‘baptized into the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit,’ than simply ‘baptized into the Lord Jesus’, for this reason. The first form of words keeps the truth concerning Christ in the foreground—that he is the manifestation of the Father by the Holy Spirit, and that what he did, he did not of himself as a man, whereas the latter leaves the way open for the idea to grow up that Jesus came in his own name (which he expressly says he did not), and not in his Father’s name (which he expressly says he did). True, the formula is ‘orthodox’, but then it is also apostolic, and essential to the full expression of the truth concerning Jesus.”
As to our correspondent’s last
question: it seems to contain a false assumption. The Acts of the Apostles
nowhere gives us the formula used . The expression, “They were baptized
in the name of the Lord Jesus” ( Acts ; 19 : 5 ), does not mean that the immerser in each case
pronounced the words, “in the name of the Lord Jesus” over them. The
Samaritans, believing “the things concerning the name of Jesus Christ”, would
be instructed in the doctrine above referred to, and which they would see
further exemplified when they received the Holy Spirit at the hands of the
apostles according to the promise of the Lord. So with the twelve men at
The Johannine Comma
THERE are some passages in the Authorised Version of Scripture which appear at first sight to give support to certain orthodox doctrines. The version of Christ’s words to the thief on the cross is one example and in 1 John 5:7 we find another. Sometimes our contention that the translation is inaccurate or the verse has been interpolated is met with the charge that we are only manipulating the text to suit our own interpretation. For instance, many years ago there appeared a pamphlet criticising “the comma trick”, by which Christadelphians make the text in Luke 23:43 read, “Verily I say unto thee today, Thou shalt ...”, instead of punctuating it as in the Authorised Version, which implies the promise of an immediate reception of the penitent robber into paradise.
It impresses our critics more and places us on surer ground, if instead we can harmonise such passages in the light of Scripture as a whole. The Scriptural use of the word “Today”, for example, in connection with Psalm 95:7 and Hebrews 3:15 and 4:7 is worthy of a separate study in itself (see also Elpis Israel , page 61, 1942 edition). However, the claim that the original text has been wrongly interpreted or manipulated by copyists is not always entirely without foundation.
How Many Witnesses?
Perhaps the classic example is 1 John 5:7–8 , which in the Authorised Version reads as follows:
“For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Spirit: 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.”
In view of the fact that in John 1:1 it is declared that “the Word was God” prior to its manifestation in flesh and that according to John , “God is a Spirit”, there is no real difficulty in seeing how the testimony of the three heavenly witnesses is “one”, or entirely consistent with itself. No Trinitarian concept could be read into the verse unless it had been previously derived from another source, especially since the text says “the Word” and not “the Son”. Incidentally there is no justification for the distinction being made between “bearing record” and “bearing witness”, since the verb is the same in both expressions.
Nevertheless we are on perfectly safe ground in declaring that the whole passage, from “in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Spirit” to “that bear witness in earth”, is indeed an interpolation, deliberately added by someone devoted to the Trinitarian dogma. The testimony comes from within the Catholic Church itself.
Peter de Rosa, a former Jesuit priest, is typical of several modern writers with a profound knowledge of the affairs of the Vatican and the papacy who, while remaining devoted to the Catholic faith, have not shrunk from criticising events of the past, notably the deeds of former popes, in an attempt to reform and help preserve their church from further error as it passes through its current critical stage. There have been many others who have lapsed from the faith as a result of their researches and their criticisms have been naturally far less sympathetic.
A Tangle over the Bible!
In his Vicars of Christ , de Rosa has a section entitled “Bible Truth for Catholics”, in which he states that “even before Pius X the Catholic Church had got itself into a tangle over the Bible, in particular in a passage in the First Epistle of St. John ( 5:7 ), known as the Johannine Comma”. 3 (This verse embraces verse 8 also in our version.) “In 1897 the Holy Office took it upon itself to decide that this was genuine Scripture. It forbade Catholic scholars to say otherwise. This was first in a long line of official errors”.
De Rosa’s own testimony is that the
reference to the witnesses in heaven does not figure in a single early Greek
manuscript. It was added to the Latin manuscripts, probably first in
For thirty years from 1897 Catholic scholars were required to ignore the evidence and follow the edict of the Holy Office (formerly the Inquisition) in blind obedience and, says de Rosa, “from this time on, Bible scholarship was a hazardous occupation”. After 1927, however, the Holy Office decided that Catholics were entitled to “incline against the genuineness of the Comma, provided they profess themselves ready to stand by the judgement of the church (italics ours) to which Jesus Christ entrusted the office not only of interpreting the Sacred Scriptures but also of faithfully guarding them”.
How grateful we should be for the privilege of having an open Bible set before us and how careful to preserve that which has been committed to our trust, as humble hearers and doers of the Word!
 THE CHRISTADELPHIAN
( He is not ashamed to call them brethren — Heb. )
In the Name
In his last commission to his disciples Jesus commanded them to go unto all nations preaching the gospel, and baptizing those who believed “in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit”. As this stands in the A.V. there is ambiguity, for the phrase “in the name” might be understood as meaning “with the authority of” or “on behalf of”. “In”, however, is really “into”, which permits of only one interpretation.
The apostles obeyed Christ’s commandment, and the message
was preached in
In Paul’s epistles there are still other forms of words, but
obviously with the same meaning. “So many of us as were baptized into Jesus
Christ were baptized into his death” (
To be baptized “into Jesus Christ” or “into Christ” is the same as baptism “into the name of the Lord Jesus” or “of the Lord”, or “of Jesus Christ”; and all these signify the same thing as baptism “into the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit”.
Here it should be noticed that baptism is into a “name” whether that name be described by one or other of the phrases quoted. It is one name, not three; and baptism “into the name” is equivalent to baptism “into Christ”. What then is the Scriptural import of the “name”?
When Peter had healed a man lame from birth, he was asked, “By what power, or by what name , have ye done this?” He answered: “By the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom ye crucified, whom God raised from the dead, even by him doth this man stand here before you whole. This is the stone which was set at nought of you builders, which is become the head of the corner. Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men whereby we must be saved” ( Acts –12 ). He declared the same truth to Cornelius when he said: “To Christ give all the prophets witness, that through his name whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins” ( 10 : 43 ). The “name” then is a “name of salvation”.
A “name” is that by which a person is known. In human relationships it may only distinguish one person from another for record purposes, as on payrolls or membership lists. Some men, however, acquire a “name” other than their Christian name and surname. It may be a “name” as a successful general, a great painter, a clever writer, or for eminence in any walk of life. A man may earn a “name” for roguery or baseness. In this sense men have a name because of what they have done.
The “name of the Lord” combines both senses. God gave Himself a name at the bush, not only to distinguish himself as the God of Abraham from any of the gods that Pharaoh worshipped, but also to indicate His purpose. “I will be what I will be” is His declared intention, and the memorial form of this, self-given by God, is Yahweh, “He-who-shall-be”. This name at once marks Yahweh out as the Holy One of Israel and also declares that He will do something which is a “becoming” in some way of Himself; in other words, that God would manifest Himself in human history for men’s salvation.
This manifestation—God manifest in flesh—in its initial
sense occurred nineteen and a half centuries ago when the babe was born in
To introduce “the Trinity” of pagan philosophy, incorporated in the Creeds of a Christendom that had strayed far from the teaching of the apostles, is to bring in ideas extraneous to the thought of Jesus. The parallels to which attention has been drawn point to the right meaning and connect the saying with the testimony concerning the manifestation of God in human life revealed in earlier times in promises and prophecies recorded in the Old Testament.
“Baptism into the name” relates to that purpose, those who so render “obedience of faith” and makes them heirs, if they continue faithfully in well doing, of the further development of the name in “the manifestation of the sons of God” in the day when God brings again the first-begotten into the world ( Heb. 1: 6 —margin; Rom. 8: 19 ). Then will the work of the centuries during which God has been “taking out of the Gentiles a people for his name” ( Acts 15: 14 ) be completed, in constituents of the name becoming manifestations of God in spirit-nature, their bodies being changed and fashioned like unto the body of the glory of Christ, according to the Godendowed spirit energy whereby he is able to subdue all things unto himself.
THE BAPTISMAL “FORMULA”
Dear Brother Editor,
It has come to my notice that many ecclesias baptize in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit ( Matt. 28:19 ) whilst others baptize in the Name of the Lord Jesus ( Acts ; ; ). Matthew 28:19 appears in total isolation with seemingly no support from the practice and teaching of the Apostles.
If we take a Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance and look up the word “Name” starting at Acts 2:21 through to Revelation 22:4 , we are nowhere told to do anything in the Name of the Father or in the Name of the Holy Spirit, but discover that all things were done in the Name of the Lord Jesus. Paul tells us in Colossians 3:17 to do all things in the Name of Jesus. Does that mean that the Name of Jesus ought to be used in baptism, especially as Peter in Acts 2:38 exhorts people to repent and be baptized everyone in the Name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins? Romans 10:9–10 seems to suggest that the Name of Jesus should be confessed with the mouth. This is borne out by the example of Peter in Acts 3:6 , who not having silver and gold to offer to the impotent man offered something far more desirable, for Peter said “Silver and gold have I none, but such as I have give I thee: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth rise up and walk.” Peter emphasises the power of the name in Acts 4:10–12 , and Paul reminds us that he has been given a name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee shall bow ( Phil. 2:9 ).
It is something of a puzzle that people are baptized into the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit and yet would not dream of working, singing or praying in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, which suggests a possible inconsistency. The apostle Paul tells us in Romans 6:3 that baptism into Jesus Christ is a baptism into his death . We are buried with him , who was cut off from the land of the living. We are not buried with the Father or with the Holy Spirit. The burial is in fact indicative of the removal of those things which God cannot abide and are in conflict with His Holy Spirit, for he bore our sins in his body on the tree. It is Jesus that has tasted death for every man; it seems obvious therefore that only in His Name can we be baptized.
A comparison of parallel accounts in Luke 24:47 with that of Matthew 28:19 could be helpful, bearing in mind that Luke was noted for his accuracy and attention to detail—very necessary qualities in a doctor—and his record seems to restore the correct wording for Matthew 28:19 : “ That repentance and the remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations beginning at Jerusalem ”.
Sincerely your brother
This question arises from time to time and has been discussed at some length in The Christadelphian , most recently in two articles by Brother L. G. Sargent (1963, pp. 152 and 202). In this whole discussion there are several very important points to notice. They are: (1) there is no textual or historical evidence that the words of the Lord’s commands in Matthew 28:19 are not correctly represented; (2) there are several places in Scripture where God, Christ and the Spirit are linked together, e.g. 1 Cor. 12:3 ; 2 Cor. 13:14 ; 1 Cor. 6:11 ; Titus 3:4–7 , the last two passages directly concerning baptism; (3) The Ecclesial Guide (page 9) sets out the procedure followed by most ecclesias, and makes the following points: “Nothing depends upon a set form of words. It is the believer’s submission to the commandment of God that is counted to him for righteousness and union with Christ. Still, it is more seemly that a Scriptural and appropriate description should accompany the act performed … As regards the form of words, it is better to say, ‘baptized into the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit’, than simply ‘baptized into the Lord Jesus’, for this reason: the first form of words keeps the truth concerning Christ in the foreground—that he is the manifestation of the Father by the Holy Spirit and that what he did, he did not of himself as a man; whereas the latter leaves the way open for the idea to grow up that Jesus came in his own name (which he expressly says he did not), and not in his Father’s name (which he expressly says he did).”— Editor
THE LORD’S COMMAND TO BAPTIZE
HAD there been no uneasiness about the doctrinal teaching of Matt. 28 : 19 it is most unlikely that any Christadelphian would have questioned the text. It is greatly to be regretted that textual scholarship should be made to serve the ends of doctrine rather than belief submitting to the Word of God.
Yet even on doctrinal grounds the absence of Matt. 28 : 19 would leave a puzzling gap. The only other passage in the Synoptic Gospels which is anything like a direct command from the Lord to baptize is Mark 16 : 15–16 ; yet even the stoutest defender of the integrity of the last twelve verses of Mark must admit that the evidence against them is stronger than anything that can be adduced against the verse in Matthew. It is not conclusive; as Burgon showed, there is a strong case on the other side: but it exists. If Matt. 28 : 19 were to be rejected on the kind of evidence which has been advanced, it would be inconsistent indeed to retain the ending of Mark. If both these passages were to be eliminated, then there would be no command to baptize in the first three gospels, and we should come on to the third chapter of John before finding a direct injunction on this vital subject. If critical attitudes to the Fourth Gospel are to be taken account of, then we should at least find ourselves in much argument to defend baptism as a command of Jesus at all. The critics who question Matt. 28 : 19 do in fact deny the historicity of John 3 . Such could be the logical chain of consequences of one ill-judged venture into criticism to serve an ulterior motive.
The difficulty, of course, comes in the words “in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit”, commonly referred to as the “Trinitarian formula”. Yet this is not unique: the three are named together several times in the New Testament, and (as will be shown later) at least twice in direct connexion with baptism. The existence of Father, Son and Holy Spirit is inwrought into the New Testament. We cannot deny that there are three, or that they are intimately related. We need not turn to paganism to find a “threeness”. What we can and must deny on scriptural ground is that they are three co-equal and co-eternal persons. It is this belief which constitutes the Doctrine of the Trinity, and has corrupted and distorted the theology of the Church. This we must repudiate decisively. Our concern is not whether there are three, but what is their nature and what is the relationship between them. Here we must affirm with Paul that there is “one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we unto him; and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things, and we through him”; and “one Spirit, even as also ye were called in one hope of your calling”. 1 Yet the Son is born at a point in history, and the Spirit is defined as “the power of the Highest” 2 rather than a distinct Person. The Spirit, as the words used for it indicate, is indeed the “outbreathing” of God. This character it retains, even though (like the “Word”) it can sometimes be spoken of as though it were in some way independent and acting on its own.
The most familiar passage which names the three together is 2 Cor. 13 : 13 : “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion (or fellowship) of the Holy Spirit be with you all.” The Corinthian ecclesia existed, as do all the churches of God, through the grace that came through the Lord Jesus Christ, emanating from the love of the Father. They had come into a fellowship through the activity of the Holy Spirit—however we interpret that activity, whether it be through the giving of the Word, providential control, the forgiveness of sins in baptism, or in any other way. It is through the Spirit that God performs His acts. Paul’s prayer is that the Corinthians may continue to receive that grace and love, and abide in that fellowship.
A similar linking together of the three is found in 1 Cor. 12 : 4 : “Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same spirit, And there are diversities of ministrations, but the same Lord. And there are diversities of workings, but the same God, who worketh all things in all.” 3
John, in the passage quoted in the previous article, says “and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son, Jesus Christ”; 1 and while the Holy Spirit is not directly mentioned, the action of the Spirit in Christ and through the apostles is implied as the basis of the fellowship.
The two passages which directly concern baptism are 1 Cor. 6 : 11 and Titus 3 : 4–7 . The first of these reads in the A.V.: “But ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.” James Moffatt gives the force of the verbs by rendering them in the past tense and making the first reflexive—an action done to oneself: “You washed yourselves clean, you were consecrated, you were justified in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.” The subject of the statement is a past act accomplished once for all, and it can therefore only refer to baptism. The washing was their own deed: the consecration and justification were acts done to them as with sins forgiven, and brought into covenant with God, they rose from the waters. But cleansing, sanctification, justification, were accomplished in the name of Christ, which now embraced them, and in the Spirit of God through whose action they were placed within the way of salvation. The Spirit is indeed identified with God, as it must be; it is inseparable from Him. God is spirit, and spirit is God; and the Spirit is God in action. Yet none the less three are mentioned as all involved in that which happens in baptism in the order—Christ, Spirit, God. Forgiveness, rebirth, adoption as sons consecrated to Him, are God’s acts towards believing and obedient men, accomplished in His Son and through His Holy Spirit. Baptism is an act performed in “calling upon the name of the Lord”; the person baptized in faith is brought within the Name and so within the compass of the redeeming work of God through His Spirit.
The passage in Titus is one of a number in the Pastoral Epistles which the Apostle emphasizes as “faithful sayings”: 1
“But after that the kindness and love of God our Saviour toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Spirit; which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour; that being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.”
This names (1) “God our Saviour”, (2) the Holy Spirit, and (3) “Jesus Christ our Saviour”. Of God it is said “According to his mercy he saved us”—a past act; his salvation is on His part an accomplished fact, whatever they do with it. His kindness and love to man have been made manifest. The saving is “through the washing 1 of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit”. It is a washing of rebirth and a renewal through or by means of the Holy Spirit. If verse 6 seems to be an allusion to Pentecost, it obviously cannot mean that all are recipients of a Pentecostal outpouring at baptism, for that would be accompanied by visible signs. Nor did the Holy Spirit come on that day upon those who were baptized as it had come upon the apostles. It was truly said to them “Ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit”, but the “gift” was that of the Holy Spirit’s redeeming action. No mention is made of those three thousand converts receiving “spirit gifts” or such visible outpouring as had endowed the apostles with their powers, or indeed in any obvious sense “receiving the spirit” at all.
In what way can it be said, then, that there is an “outpouring” for us now? First it is to be noted that the outpouring is for us “through Jesus Christ”. Whether or not he bestows Spirit gifts, he is the channel through whom the Spirit is active. Receiving the Spirit without measure and accomplishing the work of the Spirit in his death and resurrection, and being presented to us as the object of our faith, he is the Spirit to us. In him the Spirit works for our salvation; and through the grace that is in him we are justified and made heirs in the hope of eternal life. Thus Father, Son and Holy Spirit are all actively involved in our salvation, which has its beginning in our new birth through baptism.
So far, then, from Matt. 28 : 19 being unique in the New Testament in its mention of the threefold Name, the redemptive activity of God through the Holy Spirit and in His Son is essential to Paul’s doctrine of baptism. Whether or not he has the threefold Name in Matthew directly in mind—as indeed he may—Paul’s teaching on baptism forms an exposition of the words spoken by the Lord. That teaching, so far as it concerns the threefold Name, can hardly be better expressed than in the ascription of glory which concludes one of our hymns—a hymn which surely could only have been written by a Christadelphian steeped in Scripture and in the writings of Dr. Thomas:
Glory to the Father be
By the Son’s supremacy
In the Spirit’s mystery;
Hallelujah! Yea, Amen.
L. G. Sargent.
. Vol. 11: The Christadelphian : Volume 11. 2001,
c1874. The Christadelphian, volume 11. (electronic ed.). Logos Library System
(Vol. 11, Page 234-235).
1 W. E. Allen , International Critical Commentary .
2 “Many modern critics, indeed, have denied the
institution of the Sacrament (of baptism) by Christ,
together with the historicity of Matt. 28 : 19 , and even in a few cases the
authenticity of the text.”—
1 To be distinguished from W. J. Conybeare (1815–1857), collaborator with Dean Howson in The Life and Epistles of St. Paul .
2 The Bible and Modern Scholarship (1948), page 37; see also pages 18, 21.
2 New Schaff-Hertzog Encyclopaedia of Religious Knowledge (1908), article “Baptism”.
4 Didachē , 7:1 ; 9:5 . This document possibly dates from the first half of the second century, and some have even attributed it to the first century.
. Vol. 100: The Christadelphian : Volume 100. 2001,
c1963. The Christadelphian, volume 100. (electronic ed.). Logos Library System
(Vol. 100, Page 152-154).
. Vol. 99: The Christadelphian : Volume 99. 2001,
c1962. The Christadelphian, volume 99. (electronic ed.). Logos Library System
(Vol. 99, Page 179).
3 It is not certain why this particular passage was so described, but the most probable explanation is this: since the comma was unknown in Greek punctuation, where it appears in a Latin manuscript it is in some sense itself an interpolation. So the whole disputed passage here is ironically described as a very significant ‘comma’! This is a very different kind of ‘comma’, however, from the one we discussed in connection with Luke 23:43 .
. Vol. 127: The Christadelphian : Volume 127. 2001,
c1990. The Christadelphian, volume 127. (electronic ed.). Logos Library System
(Vol. 127, Page 293).
. Vol. 83: The Christadelphian : Volume 83. 2001,
c1946. The Christadelphian, volume 83. (electronic ed.). Logos Library System
(Vol. 83, Page 170).
. Vol. 121: The Christadelphian : Volume 121. 2001,
c1984. The Christadelphian, volume 121. (electronic ed.). Logos Library System
(Vol. 121, Page 150).
1 1 John 1 : 3 .
1 According to J. A. Robinson in St. Paul’s Epistle to the Ephesians , “washing” is a more correct rendering than “laver” (R.V. margin) in Eph. 5 : 26 and Titus 3 : 5 .