2 – Matthew 28 – History: Brendan Knudson
Historical Evidence in favour of Matthew Chapter 28:19 and Response to Claims of Inauthenticity
In a previous study, [https://gospelsoundersministry.org/1-matthew-28-the-triads] we examined the internal evidence which show that Matthew 28:19 fit the literary style of Matthew’s gospel, with his frequent use of triads. We also saw through the chiastic force of the Great Commission that not only baptism, but all Christian life is to happen “in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit”. But then we compared these words with Acts and saw how “the name of Jesus” harmonises with the words of Jesus in Matthew 28:19 such that the name “Jesus” represents the offices of Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
Now we move to examine the historical evidence regarding Matthew 28:19. The following claims have often been leveled against this verse:
- Other Scriptures contradict the words in this verse
- It doesn’t appear in any manuscript of Matthew before the third century A.D.
- Early Christians did not follow the instruction to baptise in the formula in Matthew 28:19
- Eusebius had an original copy of Matthew and doesn’t quote the words
- The Catholic Church confess to changing the words
- A Hebrew text of Matthew exists that doesn’t contain the words
- Most modern theologians agree that the words are inauthentic
These are rather representative of the main charges against Matthew 28:19 and I have ordered them so we can examine the matter in a way that will tell a somewhat historical story from the first century through until today. We will examine them one at a time.
Charge 1 – “Other Scriptures contradict the words in this verse”
This will cover some of the ground from our last study, but will expand on it in a large way. It is readily admitted that the words in Matthew 28:19 are not found anywhere else in Scripture. But there are many sayings that are only found once, in a single gospel. We do not throw out the parable of the Prodigal Son because it is only found in Luke. We do not throw out the story of Jesus turning water into wine because it is only found in John.
It can also be admitted that these words appear different to the words found in other places in Scripture. But this is not a strange phenomenon. We don’t throw out the beatitudes of Matthew 5 because they are not the same as the beatitudes of Luke 6. We don’t throw out the story of the woman who washes Jesus feet because it happens in a different chronological location in Luke’s gospel to the account in the other gospels. We’d lose a lot of the Bible if we threw out unique statements or statements that on the surface appear contradictory.
For example, there are a plethora of texts which indicate that the Father raised Jesus by His Spirit (Acts 2:24, 32; 3:15, 26; 4:10; 5:30; 10:40; 13:30, 33, 37; 17:31; 26:8; Romans 4:24; 6:4; 8:11; 10:9; 1 Corinthians 6:14; 15:15; 2 Corinthians 4:14; Galatians 1:1; Ephesians 1:20; Colossians 2:12; 1 Thessalonians 1:10; 2 Timothy 2:8; Hebrews 13:20; 1 Peter 1:3, 21). Yet there are also verses which indicate that Jesus raised Himself (John 2:19; 10:17-18). We don’t throw out the two to the expense of the many. We need to find meaning that harmonises the whole. That is how Bible study should occur. So let us look at the apparent contradictions.
Matthew’s gospel actually does present statements that reflect the Gospel work occurring in the name of Jesus:
Matthew 7:22 – “On that day many will say to Me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and cast out demons in Your name, and do many mighty works in Your name?'”
Matthew 10:21-22 – “Brother will deliver brother over to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death, and you will be hated by all for My name’s sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved.”
Matthew 12:14-21 – But the Pharisees went out and conspired against Him, how to destroy Him. Jesus, aware of this, withdrew from there. And many followed Him, and He healed them all and ordered them not to make Him known. This was to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah: ‘Behold, My servant Whom I have chosen, My beloved with Whom My soul is well pleased. I will put My Spirit upon Him, and He will proclaim justice to the Gentiles. He will not quarrel or cry aloud, nor will anyone hear His voice in the streets; a bruised reed He will not break, and a smoldering wick He will not quench, until He brings justice to victory; and in His name the Gentiles will hope.”
Matthew 18:5 – “Whoever receives one such child in My name receives Me”
Matthew 18:20 – “For where two or three are gathered in My name, there am I among them.”
Matthew 19:29 – “And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands, for My name’s sake, will receive a hundredfold and will inherit eternal life.”
Matthew 24:5 – “For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and they will lead many astray.
Matthew 24:9 – “Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations for My name’s sake.”
In this we see that Matthew frequently focuses on the name of Jesus. In fact, the most direct parallel to Matthew 28:19 is Matthew 20:18 where Christ’s presence is promised to His people who gather “in My name”. So it is clear that Matthew had an understanding of the Gospel being carried out in the name of Christ.
Mark repeats many of the same statements we see above in Matthew (Mark 9:37; 13:6, 13) but also has a few unique statements such as:
Mark 9:38-39 – “John said to him, ‘Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in Your name, and we tried to stop him, because he was not following us.’ But Jesus said, ‘Do not stop him, for no one who does a mighty work in My name will be able soon afterward to speak evil of Me.'”
Mark 16:17-18 – “And these signs will accompany those who believe: in My name they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up serpents with their hands; and if they drink any deadly poison, it will not hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover.”
Like we saw in the chiasm of Matthew, Mark also believes that much more than baptism is to be done in the “name”. Only Mark does not use the triad of Matthew but “My name”. Mark does not even mention baptism at all. But that is ok, because Luke does, as we shall now see. Luke repeats some of the same sentiments as Matthew and Mark (Luke 9:48-50; 21:8, 12, 17) but also contains some unique or slightly different sayings. Acts presents us with abundant evidence that Gospel work is to be done in the name of Jesus. Here is a representation of what Luke-Acts says:
Luke 10:17 – “The seventy-two returned with joy, saying, ‘Lord, even the demons are subject to us in your name!'”
Luke 24:45-49 – “Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and said to them, ‘Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.'”
Acts 2:21 – “And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”
Acts 2:38 – “And Peter said to them, ‘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.'”
Acts 3:6 – “But Peter said, ‘I have no silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk!'”
Acts 8:12 – “But when they believed Philip as he preached good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women.”
Acts 9:27-28 – “But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles and declared to them how on the road he had seen the Lord, who spoke to him, and how at Damascus he had preached boldly in the name of Jesus. So he went in and out among them at Jerusalem, preaching boldly in the name of the Lord.”
Acts 10:48 – “And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked him to remain for some days.”
Acts 16:18 – “And this she kept doing for many days. Paul, having become greatly annoyed, turned and said to the spirit, ‘I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her.’ And it came out that very hour.”
Acts 19:5 – “On hearing this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.”
Acts 21:13 – “Then Paul answered, ‘What are you doing, weeping and breaking my heart? For I am ready not only to be imprisoned but even to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.’
Acts 22:16 – “And now why do you wait? Rise and be baptized and wash away your sins, calling on his name.”
To this might be added these other verses from Paul’s letters.
2 Thessalonians 1:12 – “so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in Him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.”
Galatians 3:27 – For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.
1 Corinthians 1:2 – “To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours”
1 Corinthians 1:10-15 – “I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment. For it has been reported to me by Chloe’s people that there is quarreling among you, my brothers. What I mean is that each one of you says, ‘I follow Paul,’ or ‘I follow Apollos,’ or ‘I follow Cephas,’ or ‘I follow Christ.’ Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius, so that no one may say that you were baptized in my name.”
1 Corinthians 5:4 – “When you are assembled in the name of the Lord Jesus and my spirit is present, with the power of our Lord Jesus.”
1 Corinthians 6:11 – “And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.”
Romans 1:5 – “Through Whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of His name among all the nations.”
Romans 6:3 – Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?
Romans 10:13 – “For ‘everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.'”
Ephesians 5:20 – “Giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Colossians 2:12 – “Having been buried with Him in baptism, in which you were also raised with Him through faith in the powerful working of God, Who raised Him from the dead.”
Colossians 3:17 – “And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.”
As we can see from this survey, there is a preponderance of evidence that not only baptism, but ALL of the work of the Gospel is to be performed in the name of Jesus. Luke’s presentation of the Gospel Commission refers to baptism and repentance in Jesus’ name. These are the reasons people claim a contradiction with Matthew. But we must remember, that Matthew and Luke are choosing sayings from an event that would have been much longer than either writer represents. The gospel writers were constrained by the amount of material they could write upon. John supposed that if all the things Jesus did and said were recorded “that the world itself could not contain all the books that would be written.” (John 21:25). So it is that Luke recording baptism and repentence in Jesus’ name, Mark recording many other things not including baptism in Jesus name, and Matthew recording teaching, discipling, baptising, obedience etc. “in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit” were all reflecting different sections of the same event. So this is not really a contradiction, but two separate statements.
In this we can see that there are instances where God, Christ and the Spirit are referenced in relation to baptism, such as 1 Corinthians 6:11. John’s gospel gives us even more of a look at the prominence of Jesus’ name, but it also has some considerations that blends the statements about Jesus’ name with the triadic statement from Matthew 28:19.
John 1:12 – “But to all who did receive Him, who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God…”
John 2:23 – “Now when He was in Jerusalem at the Passover Feast, many believed in His name when they saw the signs that He was doing.”
John 3:18 – “Whoever believes in Him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.”
John 5:43 – “I have come in My Father’s name, and you do not receive Me. If another comes in his own name, you will receive him.”
John 10:25 – “Jesus answered them, ‘I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in My Father’s name bear witness about Me.‘”
John 14:13-14 – “Whatever you ask in My name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask Me anything in My name, I will do it.”
John 14:26 – “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.”
John 15:16 – “You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in My name, He may give it to you.”
John 15:21 – “But all these things they will do to you on account of My name, because they do not know Him who sent Me.”
John 16:23-27 – “In that day you will ask nothing of Me. Truly, truly, I say to you, whatever you ask of the Father in My name, He will give it to you. Until now you have asked nothing in My name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full. I have said these things to you in figures of speech. The hour is coming when I will no longer speak to you in figures of speech but will tell you plainly about the Father. In that day you will ask in My name, and I do not say to you that I will ask the Father on your behalf; for the Father Himself loves you, because you have loved Me and have believed that I came from God.”
John 17:6 – “I have manifested Your name to the people whom You gave Me out of the world. Yours they were, and You gave them to Me, and they have kept Your word.”
John 17:11 – “And I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to You. Holy Father, keep them in Your name, which You have given Me, that they may be one, even as We are one. While I was with them, I kept them in Your name, which You have given Me. I have guarded them, and not one of them has been lost except the son of destruction, that the Scripture might be fulfilled.”
John 17:26 – “I made known to them Your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which You have loved Me may be in them, and I in them.”
John 20:31 – “But these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in His name.
If we follow this, it is clear that Jesus Himself came in His Father’s name. Moreover, the Holy Spirit itself is sent in JESUS name. So we can see that the name of Jesus embraces the Father, Son and Spirit, for He was sent in the Father’s name and the Spirit is sent in His name. Now let’s repeat what we discussed in the previous study on this matter:
So what is the meaning of the phrase “in the name of”? The Greek word ὄνομα has several different nuances of meaning, depending on the context. It can mean a proper name, surname/family name, title or appellation (the same word is used for each of these separate categories in English). It can mean the character by which someone is known. It can also mean the authority by which a name is invested and the power a name carries by reputation. In the Lucan literature, it is clear that “in the name of” has a meaning closest to the latter of these options – that of power and authority. One narrative section demonstrates this very clearly.
In chapter 3 of Acts, Peter and John heal a crippled man at the temple. From this they launch into a sermon to the crowd, where among other things they say, “And His name–by faith in His name–has made this man strong whom you see and know, and the faith that is through Jesus has given the man this perfect health in the presence of you all” (Acts 3:16). Here we see the name connected to the power of faith. In the next chapter, Peter and John are put on trial, where they are asked, “By what power or by what name did you do this?” (Acts 4:7). Peter’s answer to this question is that “by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, Whom you crucified, Whom God raised from the dead–by Him this man is standing before you well” (Acts 4:10). As Peter reaches a peak in his discourse, he states, “And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). The result is that the Sanhedrin (futilely) forbids the disciples from speaking or teaching “in the name of Jesus” (Acts 4:18).
From this account we can see two things. Firstly there is a literal use of an actual proper name – that of Jesus Christ. The second thing is that the force of nuance over “name” (ὄνομα) extends to embrace power and authority. That this is also the force of the word in the closing words of Matthew is apparent by the context. The central statement of Jesus, containing the Great Commission proper, follows a statement by Jesus about His authority as to both it’s extent (all… in heaven and earth) and source (from the Father).
Coming back to Matthew, we can see that Jesus’ name is the one which fulfills all the contextual, stylistic, antitypical and parallel considerations of the passage. So the final question we need to understand is this:
“How does the name ‘Jesus’ relate to the three parts of the triad – ‘Father’, ‘Son’ and ‘Holy Spirit’?”
The syntax of the statement makes it clear that there is a single name to which the three titles of “Father”, “Son” and “Holy Spirit” bear a genitive relationship. We have seen that this singular name is “Jesus Christ” and the semantic nuance of “name” extends to include authority and power. With the emphasis on authority in Matthew 28:18-20, we can understand that there is a genitive of representation here. When we say, “the ambassador of France”, we mean “the ambassador WHO REPRESENTS France”. Thus the “of” can be switched out with “which represents”. This same type of sense is what we see happening in Matthew 28:19 – the “name” Jesus represents the triad of “Father”, “Son” and “Holy Spirit”.
The way in which Jesus represents the three offices can be discerned from the context of everything He says in these closing words, however there are additional insights that can be gleaned from other passages as well.
Jesus represents the office of “Father”
- Jesus represents the Father having been invested with Authority by Him (Matthew 28:18).
- The name “Jesus” which is given by Heaven (Matthew 1:21) literally contains the name of the Father – “Jesus” (“Yeshua” in Hebrew) literally means “YHWH Saves” (see also Exodus 23:23).
- Jesus also holds a title of “Father” over humanity in the sense that He stands as the Second Adam (1 Corinthians 15:45).
Jesus represents the office of “Son”.
- Jesus is known as the “Son of God” representing His divinity.
- Jesus is known as the “Son of man” representing His divinity in humanity.
- As the Second Adam, Jesus took the title “Son” in a new sense.
Jesus represents the office of “Holy Spirit”
- In the words immediately following the Great Commission Jesus gives assurance of His personal abiding presence giving power to fulfill His words. (Ephesians 4:9-10)
- Jesus understood His Words to be “Spirit and Life” (John 6:63).
- Jesus as the Second Adam “became a Life-Giving Spirit” (1 Corinthians 15:45).
So it is that “the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” IS the name Jesus. Ellen White appears to have understood this when she wrote:
“In his name the warfare of truth against error was to be carried forward, subverting the strongholds of idolatry and sin. People were to be stirred to carry the truth to all tongues and nations, giving the trumpet a certain sound, and rousing the slumbering nations from spiritual apathy and death. The disciples were to be his witnesses. Their every action was to fasten attention on his name, as possessing that vital power by which men may be brought into oneness with him who is the source of all power and efficiency. They were to center their faith in him who is the fountain of mercies, blessings, and power. They were to present their petitions to the Father in his name, and then their prayers would be answered. THEY WERE TO BAPTIZE IN THE NAME OF THE FATHER, AND OF THE SON, AND OF THE HOLY GHOST. CHRIST’S NAME WAS TO BE THEIR WATCHWORD, THEIR BADGE OF DISTINCTION, THEIR BOND OF UNION, THE AUTHORITY FOR THEIR COURSE OF ANTION, AND THE SOURCE OF THEIR SUCCESS. NOTHING WAS TO BE RECOGNIZED IN HIS KINGDOM THAT DID NOT BEAR HIS NAME AND SUPERSCRIPTION.” (RH, March 15, 1898)
So why might Jesus have used (and Matthew recorded) this triad, “Father, Son and Holy Spirit”? We also provided clear reasons in our last study, including the following:
Perhaps the most significant purpose behind some of Matthew’s use of triads might be the principle from the Torah that, “On the evidence of two witnesses or of three witnesses the one who is to die shall be put to death; a person shall not be put to death on the evidence of one witness” (Deuteronomy 17:6).
It is interesting that Ellen White’s commentary on this verse backs this up. Here is what she wrote:
“In baptism we are given to the Lord as a vessel to be used. Baptism is a most solemn renunciation of the world. Self is by profession dead to a life of sin. The waters cover the candidate, and in the presence of the whole heavenly universe the mutual pledge is made. IN THE NAME OF THE FATHER, THE SON, AND THE HOLY GHOST, man is laid in his watery grave, buried with Christ in baptism, and raised from the water to live the new life of loyalty to God. The three great powers in heaven are witnesses; they are invisible but present…
“Let every soul be careful how he shall conduct himself after he has made his profession before many witnesses. Who are these witnesses? THE FATHER, THE SON, AND THE HOLY SPIRIT, and all the heavenly universe are witnesses of that burial in the water in the likeness of Christ’s death. Those who have been truly converted have been buried with Christ in the likeness of His death, and raised from the watery grave in the likeness of His resurrection, to walk in newness of life. By faithful obedience to the truth these are to make their calling and election sure.” (Ms 57, 1900)
Charge 2 – It doesn’t appear in any manuscript of Matthew before the 3rd century A.D.
This is going to be a much shorter section. This claim depends on highlighting the fact that the words of Matthew 28:19 are missing from many early manuscripts. The issue with this is that it is not only these words, but the entire last pages of Matthew that are missing from the earliest manuscripts. This is a common problem in early manuscripts. They didn’t have covers and so the last pages often go missing. To ascribe to this a conspiracy to remove evidence of the original words of Matthew is ridiculous. When we look at Bible manuscript evidence we find the following:
- There is no Greek manuscript of the last page of Matthew that does not include these words. None. Not a single one.
- The words are found in every Old Latin (Vetus Latina/Itala) that date to before the Vulgate. This includes the Waldensian text-type of the Romaunt. They are also found in all Vulgate manuscripts.
- The words are found in every Aramaic/Syriac edition including Tatian’s Diatessaron (Gospel Harmony) from the second century which is likely based off of the Old Syriac (Vetus Syra) Curetonian and Synaitic gospels, the Peshitta and the later Philoxenian and Harklean redactions.
- The words are found in every copy of the Boharic and Sahidic Coptic, Geez Ethipopic, Arabic, Armenian, Georgian, Gothic, Old Church Slavonic and Saxon versions which contain the last page of Matthew’s gospel.
- The only outlier is a very late Hebrew manuscript (dated to 1385 A.D.) of Matthew that we will examine in its own section.
So while it is true we don’t currently have any manuscript of Matthew’s last page before the third century, from the third century onwards there is an explosion of evidence that these words are authentic to Matthew’s gospel from as far east as Georgia and Armenia in the Caucasus, as far south as Ethiopia and as far west as the British Isles. There is no possible way that we would have such uniformity across such wide distances, in so many languages if Matthew didn’t write these words. This argument is an example of the logical fallacy called “argument from silence”. In our response to the next claim, it will be seen that there is abundant early evidence of Matthew 28:19 being quoted by early Christians of all persuasions.
Charge 3 – Early Christians did not follow the instruction to baptize in the formula in Matthew 28:19
We have already looked at the examples in the book of Acts and the letters of Paul regarding baptism and it is fair to conclude that the first century Christians did not see Matthew 28:19, specifically the words, “in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit” to be a prescriptive liturgical formula. That is, they understood this to be a phrase speaking of the totality of divine activity which was represented in the name Jesus Christ.
While we have no manuscripts to prove (or disprove) its inclusion in Matthew before the 3rd century, we are not without witnesses. Early Christians frequently quoted this verse, specifically relating to baptism. We are going to review all of the extant quotations and allusions prior to the Council of Nicea. Please note that we are only quoting these writings to prove the verse is ancient, not because we endorse the teachings which moved more and more towards the trinity during the third century.
Didache (c. 50-90 A.D.)
“And concerning baptism, baptize this way: Having first said all these things, baptize into the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, in living water. But if you have no living water, baptize into other water; and if you cannot do so in cold water, do so in warm. But if you have neither, pour out water three times upon the head into the name of Father and Son and Holy Spirit. But before the baptism let the baptizer fast, and the baptized, and whoever else can; but you shall order the baptized to fast one or two days before.” (Didache 7:1-5)
This is important because the Didache is dated to the mid or late first century. One writer called the Didache the “Judicium Petri” (Judgement of Peter). It was popular enough that it was placed as part of the canon by some early Christians. It’s early date can be further illustrated because while it quotes Matthew 28:19 it speaks of baptism “in the name of the Lord” in 9:5.
Justin Martyr, First Apology (c. 155 A.D.)
“For, in the name of God, the Father and Lord of the universe, and of our Saviour Jesus Christ, and of the Holy Spirit, they then receive the washing with water… And for this [rite] we have learned from the apostles this reason. Since at our birth we were born without our own knowledge or choice, by our parents coming together, and were brought up in bad habits and wicked training; in order that we may not remain the children of necessity and of ignorance, but may become the children of choice and knowledge, and may obtain in the water the remission of sins formerly committed, there is pronounced over him who chooses to be born again, and has repented of his sins, the name of God the Father and Lord of the universe; he who leads to the layer the person that is to be washed calling him by this name alone. For no one can utter the name of the ineffable God; and if any one dare to say that there is a name, he raves with a hopeless madness. And this washing is called illumination, because they who learn these things are illuminated in their understandings. And in the name of Jesus Christ, who was crucified under Pontius Pilate, and in the name of the Holy Ghost, who through the prophets foretold all things about Jesus, he who is illuminated is washed.” (First Apology, Chapter LXI)
Tatian, Diatessaron (c. 170-175 A.D.)
“Then said Jesus unto them, I have been given all authority in heaven and earth; and as my Father hath sent me, so I also send you. Go now into all the world, and preach my gospel in all the creation; and teach all the peoples, and baptize them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit; and teach them to keep all whatsoever I commanded you: and lo, I am with you all the days, unto the end of the world. For whosoever believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but whosoever believeth not shall be rejected. And the signs which shall attend those that believe in me are these: that they shall cast out devils in my name; and they shall speak with new tongues; and they shall take up serpents, and if they drink deadly poison, it shall not injure them; and they shall lay their hands on the diseased, and they shall be healed. But ye, abide in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be clothed with power from on high.” (Diatessaron 55:4-11)
Irenaus, Against Heresies (c. 190 A.D.)
“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 Ghost.’ For [God] promised, that in the last times He would pour Him [the Spirit] upon [His] servants and handmaids, that they might prophesy; wherefore He did also descend upon the Son of God, made the Son of man, becoming accustomed in fellowship with Him to dwell in the human race, to rest with human beings, and to dwell in the workmanship of God, working the will of the Father in them, and renewing them from their old habits into the newness of Christ.” (Against Heresies, Book 3, 17:1)
Irenaeus was a staunch opponent of gnostic heresies. He was also in possession of uncorrupted Bible manuscripts because it is from him that we can prove that the last 12 verses of Mark are ancient, as well as many other points.
Irenaeus, The Demonstration of the Apostolic Teaching (c. 195 A.D.)
“Now, that we may not suffer ought of this kind, we must needs hold the rule of the faith without deviation, and do the commandments of God, believing in God and fearing Him as Lord and loving Him as Father. Now this doing is produced by faith: for Isaiah says: If ye believe not, neither shall ye understand. And faith is produced by the truth; for faith rests on things that truly are. For in things that are, as they are, we believe; and believing in things that are, as they ever are, we keep firm our confidence in them. Since then faith is the perpetuation of our salvation, we must needs bestow much pains on the maintenance thereof, in order that we may have a true comprehension of the things that are. Now faith occasions this for us; even as the Elders, the disciples of the Apostles, have handed down to us. First of all it bids us bear in mind that we have received baptism for the remission of sins, in the name of God the Father, and in the name of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who was incarnate and died and rose again, and in the Holy Spirit of God. And that this baptism is the seal of eternal life, and is the new birth unto God, that we should no longer be the sons of mortal men, but of the eternal and perpetual God; and that what is everlasting and continuing is made God; and is over all things that are made, and all things are put under Him; and all the things that are put under Him are made His own; for God is not ruler and Lord over the things of another, but over His own; and all things are God’s; and therefore God is Almighty, and all things are of God. (Demonstration of the Apostolic Teaching, Section 3)
Tertullian, On Baptism (c. 200 A.D.)
“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.” (On Baptism, Chapter XIII).
Tertullian, Against Praxeas (c. 216 A.D)
“As if in this way also one were not All, in that All are of One, by unity (that is) of substance; while the mystery of the dispensation is still guarded, which distributes the Unity into a Trinity, placing in their order the three Persons — the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost: three, however, not in condition, but in degree; not in substance, but in form; not in power, but in aspect; yet of one substance, and of one condition, and of one power, inasmuch as He is one God, from whom these degrees and forms and aspects are reckoned, under the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. How they are susceptible of number without division, will be shown as our treatise proceeds.” (Against Praxeas, Chapter 2)
It is not until the beginning of the third century that we actually find evidence that these words were understood as a formula. Tertullian was one of the first to begin speaking of a “trinity” though his conceptualisation was very similar to the early Adventist understanding. Tertullian maintained that Christ was begotten and that the Holy Spirit was Christ.
Hipollytus, Against the Heresy of One Noetus (c. 230 A.D.)
“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 ye and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.’ And by this He showed, that whosoever omitted any one of these, failed in glorifying God perfectly. For it is through this Trinity that the Father is glorified. For the Father willed, the Son did, the Spirit manifested. The whole Scriptures, then, proclaim this truth.” (Against the Heresy of One Noetus, 14)
Origen, Commentary on Romans (c. 244 A.D.)
“For when he sent his own disciples to do this task, he did not merely say, ‘Go, baptize all nations,’ but, ‘Go, teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.’ Therefore, because he knew that both were at fault, he gave a remedy for both, so that even our mortal birth would be changed by the re-birth of baptism, and the teaching of godliness might shut out the teaching of godlessness.” (On Romans, Book 5, 2:11)
“You may perhaps also be asking this: Since the Lord himself told the disciples to baptize all nations in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, why does the Apostle employ here the name of Christ alone in baptism? For he says, ‘We have been baptized into Christ,’ although surely it should not be deemed a legitimate baptism unless it is in the name of the Trinity. But look at Paul’s good sense since, indeed, in the present passage he was not interested in discussing the subject of baptism as much as the death of Christ, in whose likeness he argues that we should die to sin and be buried with Christ. Obviously it was not appropriate to name either the Father or the Holy Spirit in a passage in which he was speaking about death. For “the Word became flesh”; and where there is flesh, it is fitting to treat the subject of death. But it was not fitting for him to say, ‘We who have been baptized in the name of the Father or in the name of the Holy Spirit, have been baptized into his death.'” (On Romans, Book 5, 8:7)
So we see that after baptism had become formulaic (and in some cases trine immersion was practiced) the early Christians still acknowledged the instances of baptism into Christ, even though we wouldn’t agree with Origen’s reasoning.
Xanthippe and Polyxena, Acts of Xanthippe and Polyxena (c. 250 A.D.)
“Therefore the great Paul straightway taking her hand, went into the house of Philotheus, and baptised her in the name of the Father and of the Son and the Holy Ghost.” (Acts of Xanthippe and Polyxena, XIV)
Gregory Thaumaturgus, Sectional Confession of Faith (c. 250 A.D.)
“Seest thou that all through Scripture the Spirit is preached, and yet nowhere named a creature? And what can the impious have to say if the Lord sends forth His disciples to baptize in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit? Without contradiction, that implies a communion and unity between them, according to which there are neither three divinities nor (three) lordships; but, while there remain truly and certainly the three persons, the real unity of the three must be acknowledged. And in this way proper credit will be given to the sending and the being sent (in the Godhead), according to which the Father hath sent forth the Son, and the Son in like manner sends forth the Spirit. For one of the persons surely could not (be said to) send Himself; and one could not speak of the Father as incarnate. For the articles of our faith will not concur with the vicious tenets of the heresies; and it is right that our conceptions should follow the inspired and apostolic doctrines, and not that our impotent fancies should coerce the articles of our divine faith.” (Section Confession of Faith, XIII)
Unknown Author, On Re-baptism (c. 254 A.D.)
“Neither must you esteem what our Lord said as being contrary to this treatment: ‘Go ye, teach the nations; baptize them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.‘ Because, although this is true and right, and to be observed by all means in the Church, and moreover has been used to be observed, yet it behoves us to consider that invocation of the name of Jesus ought not to be thought futile by us on account of the veneration and power of that very name, in which name all kinds of power are accustomed to be exercised, and occasionally some even by men outside the Church. But to what effect are those words of Christ, who said that He would deny, and not know, those who should say to Him in the day of judgment, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Thy name, and in Thy name cast out demons, and in Thy name done many wonderful works,’ when He answered them, even with emphasis, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, ye who work iniquity,’ unless that it should be shown to us, that even by those who work iniquity might these good works also be done, by the superfluous energy of the name of Christ? Therefore ought this invocation of the name of Jesus to be received as a certain beginning of the mystery of the Lord common to us and to all others, which may afterwards be filled up with the remaining things. Otherwise such an invocation would not avail if it should remain alone, because after the death of a man in this position there cannot be added to him anything at all, nor supplemented, nor can, in anything, avail him in the day of judgment, when they shall begin to be reproached by our Lord with those things which we have above mentioned, none of whom notwithstanding in this present time may by any man be so hardly and cruelly prohibited from aiding themselves in those ways which we have above shown. (On Rebaptism, Section 7)
This writing appears to interact with the same issues as Cyprian and may have even been in response to Cyprian’s position to re-baptize repenting heretics. Either way, it is clear that this author knew of Matthew 28:19 and did not see it as being at odds with the practice of baptism in Jesus’ name, which is heavily dwelt upon in the rest of the treatise.
Unknown Author, On the Heretic Novatian (c. 255 A.D.)
“And I, beloved brethren,—as I not heedlessly meditate these things, and not in harmony with human wisdom, but as it is permitted to our minds by the condescension of the heavenly Lord, needfully and pertinently to conceive,—say that that dove signifies to us of itself a double type. Formerly, that is, from the beginning of the divine administration, it suggests its own figure, the first indeed and chief—that is, the figure of the Spirit. And by its mouth the sacrament of baptism which is provided for the salvation of the human race, and that by the heavenly plan it is celebrated in the Church only. Moreover, three times sent forth from the ark, flying about through the air over the water, it already signified the sacraments of our Church. Whence also the Lord Christ charges upon Peter, and moreover also upon the rest of His disciples, ‘Go ye and preach the Gospel to the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.’ That is, that that same Trinity which operated figuratively in Noah’s days through the dove, now operates in the Church spiritually through the disciples.” (On the Heretic Novatian, Section 3)
Cyprian, Epistle to Jubaianus (c. 256 A.D.)
“And lest it should be wearisome to go through all the heresies, and to enumerate either the follies or the madness of each of them, because it is no pleasure to speak of that which one either dreads or is ashamed to know, let us examine in the meantime about Marcion alone, the mention of whom has been made in the letter transmitted by you to us, whether the ground of his baptism can be made good. For the Lord after His resurrection, sending His disciples, instructed and taught them in what manner they ought to baptize, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go, therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. He suggests the Trinity, in whose sacrament the nations were to be baptized.” (Epistle to Jubaianus, Section V)
Cyprian’s epistle reveals a controversy then ongoing about whether to baptize in the formulaic expression or in the name of Jesus. The bishop of Rome at this time, Stephen I, had declared that baptism in the name of Jesus was sufficient and accepted. Cyprian speaks of the “trinity” but like Tertullian, his conception is that God is the Father of Christ Who is a begotten Son. This entire epistle is worth reading for the discussion as he quotes John 14:6, 17:3 and makes interesting commentary on these. Cyprian is opposed to recognizing any baptism other than that which is performed by what he considered to be orthodox and appointed persons. This appears to be at odds with Stephen’s announcement.
Dionysius of Alexandria, letter to Xystus of Rome (c. 257 A.D.)
“Inasmuch as you have written thus, setting forth the pious legislation, which we continually read and now have in remembrance—namely that it shall suffice only to lay hands on those who shall have made profession in baptism, whether in pretense or in truth, of God Almighty and of Christ and of the Holy Spirit; but those over whom there has not been invoked the name either of Father or of Son or of the Holy Spirit, these we must baptize, but not re-baptize. This is the sure and immovable teaching and tradition, begun by our Lord after his resurrection from the dead, when he gave his apostles the command: ‘Go ye, make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.’ This then was preserved and fulfilled by his successors, the blessed apostles, and by all the bishops prior to ourselves who have died in the holy church and shared in its life; and it has lasted down to us, because it is firmer than the whole world. For, he said, heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away.” (First Letter to Xystus)
Victorinus, Commentary on the Apocalypse of the Blessed John (c. 300 A.D.)
“‘And His voice as it were the voice of many waters.’ The many waters are understood to be many peoples, or the gift of baptism that He sent forth by the apostles, saying: ‘Go ye, teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.'” (Commentary on the Apocalypse, 1:15)
And that brings us up to the fourth century. Of course, after this it continues to be quoted frequently and often, but it is clearly not a product of Eusebius or any other author during the trinitarian controversies because it was quoted as a saying of Jesus for 250 years by this time.
Now, I have briefly mentioned trine immersion. This practice appears around the same time as the statement from Matthew 28:19 was considered to be formulaic. While this is an aberration, it could not have come into being without Matthew 28:19 existing for it to be misunderstood. The Greek Orthodox church to this day continues trine immersion. From all of this, we know Matthew 28:19 to have been quoted as early as the late first century A.D. and to have been well understood to be a saying of Jesus.
Charge 4 – Eusebius had an original copy of Matthew and doesn’t quote the words
We could just move right on from this as we have disproved it by the previous sections. However, it is worth spending a bit of time to examine Eusebius’ use of Matthew and in fact his use of Scripture in general. This argument, that Eusebius quoted from a lost version of Matthew that doesn’t include the words “in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit” was popularized, if not originated, by F. C. Conybeare. We’ll discuss Conybeare in a later section of this study. However, modern scholars who have examined Eusebius’ use of Scripture have concluded that Eusebius frequently paraphrases the Biblical text, expanding, shortening and altering words as he saw fit to get his point across.
“When Eusebius paraphrases, he feels free to write, to omit or to expand passages, to alter the emphases of the original, and he often misreports, just as if he had composed his paraphrase from memory. When he quotes extant writers directly, Eusebius often truncates his source, beginning or ending a quotation in the middle of a sentence. As a result, he sometimes misrepresents his authority or renders the mutilated sentence unintelligible… In any event, it is unwise to rely on Eusebius’ reports as reproducing exactly the precise tenor, or even main import, of lost evidence.” (Timothy D. Barnes, Constantine and Eusebius, 140-141)
It is true that there are many instances where Eusebius quotes Matthew 28:19 where he does not include the words “in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit” and instead have “in my name”. In fact, in the instances that he doesn’t mention these words he also leaves out the word “baptizing them”. Then there are instances where he does quote the text as we know it. So we have quotes from Eusebius which contain the words and quotes that exclude the words. However, Eusebius’ paraphrases are not all the same either. The words “in my name” are left out of some of his quotes.
Here is a breakdown of Eusebius’ works and the form he quotes in each instance:
History of the Church (c. 313 A.D.)
“For the Jews after the ascension of our Saviour, in addition to their crime against him, had been devising as many plots as they could against his apostles. First Stephen was stoned to death by them, and after him James, the son of Zebedee and the brother of John, was beheaded, and finally James, the first that had obtained the episcopal seat in Jerusalem after the ascension of our Saviour, died in the manner already described. But the rest of the apostles, who had been incessantly plotted against with a view to their destruction, and had been driven out of the land of Judea, went unto all nations to preach the Gospel, relying upon the power of Christ, who had said to them, ‘Go and make disciples of all the nations in my name.'” (Book 3, Chapter 5, Section 2)
The Proof of the Gospel (c. 314-318) – this work originally contained 22 books, of which only 10 remain today.
“Hence, of course, our Lord and Saviour, Jesus the Son of God, said to His disciples after His Resurrection: ‘Go and make disciples of all the nations,’ and added: ‘Teaching them to observe all things, whatsoever I have commanded you.'” (Book 1, Chapter 3)
“This law going forth from Sion, different from the law enacted in the desert by Moses on Mount Sinai, what can it be but the word of the Gospel, ‘going forth from Sion’ through our Saviour Jesus Christ, and going through all the nations? For it is plain that it was in Jerusalem and Mount Sion adjacent thereto, where our Lord and Saviour for the most part lived and taught, that the law of the new covenant began and from thence went forth and shone upon all, according to the commands which He gave his disciples when He said: ‘Go ye, and make disciples of all the nations, teaching them to observe all things, whatsoever I have commanded you.'” (Book 1, Chapter 4)
“Such was the message to all nations given by the word of the new covenant by the teaching of Christ. And the Christ of God bade His disciples teach them to all nations, saying: ‘Go ye into all the world, and make disciples of all the nations teaching them to observe whatsoever I have commanded you.'” (Book 1, Chapter 6)
“With one word and voice He said to His disciples: ‘Go, and make disciples of all the nations in My Name, teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you,’ and He joined the effect to His Word; and in a little while every race of the Greeks and Barbarians was being brought into discipleship, and laws were spread among all nations opposed to the superstition of the ancients, laws inimical to daemons, and to all the deceits of polytheism, laws that have made Scythians, Persians, and the other barbarians temperate, and revolutionized every lawless and uncivilized custom, laws that have overturned the immemorial habits of the Greeks themselves, and heralded a new and real religion.” (Book 3, Chapter 6)
“Whereas He, who conceived nothing human or mortal, see how truly He speaks with the voice of God, saying in these very words to those disciples of His, the poorest of the poor: ‘Go forth, and make disciples of all the nations.’ ‘But how,’ the disciples might reasonably have answered the Master, ‘can we do it? How, pray, can we preach to Romans? How can we argue with Egyptians? We are men bred up to use the Syrian tongue only, what language shall we speak to Greeks? How shall we persuade Persians, Armenians, Chaldrearis, Scythians, Indians, and other barbarous nations to give up their ancestral gods, and worship the Creator of all? What sufficiency of speech have we to trust to in attempting such work as this? And what hope of success can we have if we dare to proclaim laws directly opposed to the laws about their own gods that have been established for ages among all nations? By what power shall we ever survive our daring attempt?’ But while the disciples of Jesus were most likely either saying thus, or thinking thus, the Master solved their difficulties, by the addition of one phrase, saying they should triumph ‘In MY NAME.’ For He did not bid them simply and indefinitely make disciples of all nations, but with the necessary addition of ‘In my Name.'” (Book 3, Chapter 7)
“And the power of His Name being so great, that the apostle says: ‘God has given him a name which is above every name, that in the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth,’ He shewed the virtue of the power in His Name concealed from the crowd when He said to His disciples: ‘Go, and make disciples of all nations in my Name.’ He also most accurately forecasts the future when He says: ‘For this gospel must first be preached to all the world, for a witness to all nations.'” (Book 3, Chapter 7)
“I am irresistibly forced to retrace my steps, and search for their cause, and to confess that they could only have succeeded in their daring venture, by a power more divine, and more strong than man’s, and by the co-operation of Him Who said to them: ‘Make disciples of all the nations in my Name.'” (Book 3, Chapter 7)
“And He bids His own disciples after their rejection, ‘Go ye and make disciples of all nations in my name.” (Book 9, Chapter 11)
Theophania (c. 313-318 A.D.)
“After his resurrection from the dead, all of them,– being together as they had been commanded,–went to Galilee, as He had said to them. But, when they saw Him, some worshipped Him, but others doubted. But He drew near to them, spoke with them, and said: ‘All power (both) in heaven and earth, is given to me of my Father. Go ye and make Disciples of all nations, and baptize them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. And teach them to observe all that I have commanded you. And, behold! I am with you always even to the end of the world.’ Observe now, in these things, the consideration and caution evinced by the Disciples: (viz.) that they did not all worship Him when they saw Him. Some of them indeed did this faithfully and devotedly, but others refrained for the present. It was not easily and suddenly, that they gave in to this miracle; but, it was after much investigation and with every caution they were so at last persuaded, that they went out to all mankind. They became too, the Preachers of His Resurrection; because it had prophetically said in the Scriptures of the Prophets, in His Person, ‘Ask of me, and I will give thee the heathen for thine inheritance, and (for thy) possessions, the uttermost parts of the earth.’ Just as the testimony of this prophecy has now been fulfilled in fact, He said to His Disciples; ‘All power is given to me, as in heaven, so in earth.’ For, He had possessed the sovereignty of the things which are in heaven from eternity; but now, He said was given to Him, by His Father, those upon earth, in conformity with this (viz.) ‘Ask of me, and I will give thee the nations for thy possession.’ For, from ancient times,–as Moses attests,– ‘The most High, when dividing the nations, appointed the boundary of the people, according to the number of the angels.’ So that the Angels of God were, from ancient times, Rulers over all that was on the earth. But, when mankind had been perverted to the error of many Gods, and the Angels, who were the Rulers, were unable to afford any remedy for this; the common Saviour of all Himself taught, by means of His Divine manifestation, and after His victory over Death, that the empire of the nations upon earth, should no more be given by his Father to the Angels, but to Himself. And on this account, He commanded his Disciples,–not from ancient times–but now, that they should make the circuit, and make Disciples, of all nations. And He necessarily added the mystery of cleansing. For it was necessary to those, who should be converted from among the heathen, that they should be cleansed by His power from every pollution and uncleanness; because they had been defiled by the error of Demons, and had been holden by the worship of Idols, and by uncleanness of every sort, but had now first been changed from that life of abomination, and of lawless practices. These very persons then, did He direct to teach,–after this cleansing, which is by the mystery of His doctrine,–not, that they should observe the precepts of the Jews, nor yet the Law of Moses, but all those which He commanded them to observe. And these are those which the whole of the Disciples,–making severally the circuit of all the nations,–equally delivered to every Church throughout the whole creation. He necessarily therefore, stirred them up, and made them readily to confide,–to undertake the circuit of all nations, and to make Disciples of all races of men, through the promise by which He counselled them, saying: ‘Behold, I myself am with you.'” (Book 4, Section 8)
“Our Saviour said to them therefore, after His resurrection, ‘Go ye and make Disciples of all nations in my name,’ And these things He said, who formerly had commanded: ‘In the way of the Gentiles go ye not’ but (enjoined) that they should preach to the Jews only. But, when these had abused (their) Inviters, then He dismissed the servants the second time, and said, ‘Those that were called were not worthy. Go ye out into the ways and paths, and all that ye find call to the feast.’ And this they fulfilled in deed. They went out into the whole creation, and they preached to all nations, the divine and heavenly calling; and ‘they collected together as many as they could find, (both) bad and good.’ Let no one therefore wonder, that, of those, who are collected into the Church of Christ, all are not good; but, that in the mixture together with the good, the evil will also be collected. Nor did this escape the foreknowledge of our Saviour. And it is accordingly seen to remain in fact, in conformity with that foreknowledge: and, what the end of those will be, who are brought together unworthily in His Church, He Himself shews; for He afterwards teaches these things in the parable, saying, ‘And the feast was filled with guests: but, when the king came in to see the guests, he saw there a man who had not (on) wedding garments. And he said to him, My friend! how earnest thou in hither not having put on wedding garments ? And he was silent. Then the king said to the ministers: Bind him hands and feet, and cast him out into outer darkness. There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. For many are the called, but few the chosen.’ He likewise previously rebuked, with these predictive words, those who should conduct themselves unrighteously in His Church.” (Book 4, Section 16)
“He (the Saviour) said in one word and announcement to His Disciples, ‘Go and make disciples of all nations in my name, and teach ye them every thing that I have commanded you.’ And the deed He made to follow the word. For thence, every race of the Greeks and Barbarians became at once, and in a short space of time, (His) Disciples: The laws too of our Saviour were not written in any Book of His; but, without book, were disseminated at His command among all nations; (and) these were opposed to the ancient worship of a plurality of Gods:–laws at enmity with the Demons, and unfriendly to every error of a multitude of Deities :–laws purifying the Scythians, the Persians, and other Barbarians, and converting (them) from every savage, and lawless sort of life:–laws subversive of the customs, which had obtained from ancient times among the Greeks, and teaching the new and genuine worship of God. How then have they dared so (to advance) such things as these, that one should say of Him, that He was probably aided (in) this magic by others,–the ancient magicians,–who were before His times? But, if there was no other person, whom any one could say resembled Him ; neither was there consequently, who could have been the cause of His possessing all this superiority.–It is now time therefore that we should confess, that an extraordinary and Divine Nature came into the world, which first and alone performed the things which had never before been commemorated among men.” (Book 5, Section 17)
“But observe of Him, who availed himself of nothing either human or mortal, how, in reality, He again put forth the word of God in the precept, which He gave to these His powerless Disciples, (viz.) ‘Go ye and make Disciples of all nations!’ It is likely too, His Disciples would thus address their Lord, by way of answer: How can we do this? For, How can we preach to the Romans? And, How can we discourse with the Egyptians? What diction can we use against the Greeks; being brought up in the Syrian language only? How can we persuade the Persians, the Armenians, the Chaldeans, the Scythians, the Hindoos, and other nations called Barbarians, to desert the gods of their forefathers, and to worship the one Creator of all things? And, upon What superiority of words can we rely, that we shall succeed in this? Or. How can we hope, that we shall prevail in the things attempted? (viz.) that we shall legislate for all nations, in direct opposition to the laws laid down from ancient times, (and this) against their gods? And, What power have we upon which to trust, that we shall succeed in this enterprise? These things therefore, the Disciples of our Saviour would either have thought, or said. But He who was their Lord solved, by one additional word, the aggregate of the things of which they doubted, (and) pledged them by saying, ‘Ye shall conquer in my name.’ For it was not that He commanded them, simply and indiscriminately, to go and make Disciples of all nations; but with this excellent addition which He delivered, (viz): ‘In my name.’ Since it was by the power of His name that all this came to pass; as the Apostle has said, ‘God has given Him a name, which is superior to every name: that, at the name of Jesus, every knee should bow which is in heaven, and which is in earth, and which is beneath the earth.’ It is likely therefore, that He would shew forth the excellency of the unseen power, which was hidden from the many, by His name; and, (accordingly) He made the addition, ‘In my name.’ He thus accurately foretold moreover, something which should come to pass, (when) He said, ‘It is expedient that this my Gospel be preached in the whole world, for the testimony of all nations.’ Now, this matter was then declared in a corner of the earth, so that those only who were at hand could have heard it. But, How could they have believed Him when He said this, unless they had taken experiment as to the truth of His words, from the other Divine acts which were done by Him? For this, you are compelled to confess when it is considered, that they gave credence to what He said. For, when He gave them the command, not so much as one sought to be excused; but they confided in what He had intimated: and, just as His promises had been, so DID they make Disciples of the whole race of men! They did go forth from their own land into all nations; and, in a short time, His words were seen in effect! His Gospel was therefore shortly preached, throughout the whole creation, for the testimony of all nations, so that the Barbarians and Greeks received the Scriptures, respecting the common Saviour of all, in the handwriting of their Progenitors, and in the words of their spiritual Fathers.” (Book 5, Section 46)
“I myself however, investigating for myself with effort, and in the love of truth, this same thing (singly), should perceive not one virtue in it (making it) credible, nor even any thing great, or worthy of faith, nor so persuasive, as adequate to the persuading of even one illiterate person, much less men wise and intellectual. Nevertheless, when again I view its power, and the result of its doings; how the many myriads have given their assent to it, and how Churches of tens of thousands of men have been brought together, by these very deficient and rustic persons; –nor that these were built in obscure places, nor in those which are unknown, but rather in the greatest cities, I say in the Imperial city of Rome itself, in Alexandria, in Antioch, in all Egypt, in Libya, in Europe, in Asia, both in the villages and (other) places, and among all nations; I am again compelled to recur to the question of (its) cause, and to confess, that they (the Disciples) could not otherwise have undertaken this enterprise, than by a Divine power which exceeds that of man, and by the assistance of Him who said to them, ‘Go, and make Disciples of all nations in my name.’ And, when He had said this to them, He attached to it the promise, by which they should be so encouraged, as readily to give themselves up to the things commanded. For He said to them, ‘Behold I am with you always, even to the end of the world.’ It is stated, moreover, that He breathed into them the Holy Ghost with the Divine power; (thus) giving them the power to work miracles, saying at one time, ‘Receive ye the Holy Ghost;’ and at another, commanding them, to ‘Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, and cast out Demons:—freely ye have received, freely give.'” (Book 5, Section 49)
Commentary on Isaiah (c. 325 A.D.)
“This is what the Savior himself commanded you when he said to you: ‘But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel,’ and: ‘Go and make disciples of all nations in my name.'” (On Isaiah 18:2)
“For he who said to them, ‘Make disciples of all nations in my name’, also forbad them to establish their churches in one and the same place.” (On Isaiah 34:16)
Letter on the Council of Nicaea to Caesarea (c. 325 A.D.)
“We believe in One God, the Father Almighty, the Maker of all things visible and invisible. And in One Lord Jesus Christ, the Word of God, God from God, Light from Light, Life from Life, Son Only-begotten, first-born of every creature, before all the ages, begotten from the Father, by Whom also all things were made; Who for our salvation was made flesh, and lived among men, and suffered, and rose again the third day, and ascended to the Father, and will come again in glory to judge the quick and dead. And we believe also in One Holy Ghost: believing each of these to be and to exist, the Father truly Father, and the Son truly Son, and the Holy Ghost truly Holy Ghost, as also our Lord, sending forth His disciples for the preaching, said, ‘Go teach all nations, baptizing them in the Name of the Father and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost’. Concerning Whom we confidently affirm that so we hold, and so we think, and so we have held aforetime, and we maintain this faith unto the death, anathematizing every godless heresy. That this we have ever thought from our heart and soul, from the time we recollect ourselves, and now think and say in truth, before God Almighty and our Lord Jesus Christ do we witness, being able by proofs to show and to convince you, that, even in times past, such has been our belief and preaching.” (Section 3)
Against Marcellus (c. 335 A.D.)
“But what in the world was this gospel instead of which there was no other one, if not, I suppose, that very gospel that indeed it is recorded that the Savior publicly proclaimed when he was handing it over to his disciples, saying, ‘Go, make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit’?” (Book 1, Chapter 1)
“Therefore, ‘there is one God’ and ‘one mediator of God’ for all creatures, the saving mediation beginning not now, but even before his divine appearance among men, as the statement thus showed. Given that these things have been laid out in brief to the same Galatians from the only letter addressed to them, and that the saving faith provides the mystical regeneration ‘in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,’ and that in addition to the divine writings the universal Church of God from one end of the earth to the other confirms the testimonies from the divine Scriptures by its unwritten tradition, now it remains also to examine in detail the statements of Marcellus and to undertake the demonstrations that were promised by us, lest anyone think that the man is unjustly disparaged by us.” (Book 1, Chapter 1)
Ecclesiastical Theology (c. 335 A.D.)
“Listen to how [Marcellus] interprets this saying, ‘Therefore, in all likelihood, the Master spoke about the birth in the flesh through the prophet Solomon, when he [the latter] said, ‘Before the springs abounding with water came forth.” And he adds, ‘For in this sense the Savior spoke to the holy springs, ‘Go make disciples of all nations.”” (Book 3, Section 3)
“None of these spirits can be compared with the Comforting Spirit. Therefore this one alone is comprised in the holy and thrice-blessed Trinity, as also our Lord in commanding his disciples to administer baptism to all the nations who would believe in him, did not order them to administer it in any other way than by baptising them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost”. (Book 3, Section 5).
Commentary on the Psalms (c. 355-339 A.D.)
“It is known to all that neither were the people subjected to the sons of Core, nor were the nations brought under their feet; whence these things are said in the person of the Apostles. For they following the command of the Savior himself to teach all the nations, were filled with his power and went forth to all the nations and penetrated even into the barbarous tribes, and traversed the entire inhabited world.” (On Psalm 46:4)
“The Jews are mentioned in the first place, because to them first should the kingdom of God be announced; but after them Christ commanded his disciples to preach the Gospel to all the nations in his name.” (On Psalm 59:9)
“Hence we should rejoice in him, who by his power endureth forever. We should understand these words of that saying of Christ: ‘All power is given to me in heaven and on earth. Going make disciples of all the nations in my name.” (On Psalm 65:5-6)
“That Christ’s voice was endowed with power is evident from his deeds; for when he said to his disciples: ‘Come, follow me, and I shall make you fishers of men’, he actually fulfilled this promise by his power; and again when he commanded them saying: ‘Going make disciples of all the nations in my name,” he manifested his power in very deed”. (On Psalm 67:34)
“This passage receives light from his promise to his disciples: ‘Going make disciples of all nations in my name’, and ‘Behold I am with you all days even to the end of the world.’ For through out the entire world, invisibly present to his disciples, he traveled on the sea of life, and in the many waters of the nations. This he accomplished by his invisible and hidden power.” (On Psalm 76:20)
“To whom must we consider these words addressed, if not to those who later fulfilled them in deed, those namely who announced to all the nations the salvation of God? Who are they that carry out these words by their works? They are the disciples of Jesus, who heard the command: ‘Going make disciples of all the nations'”. (On Psalm 95:3)
Praise of Constantine (c. 339 A.D.)
“Surely none save our only Saviour has done this, when, after his victory over death, he spoke the word to his followers, and fulfilled it by the event, saying to them, ‘Go, and make disciples of all nations in my name.’ He it was who gave the distinct assurance, that his gospel must be preached in all the world for a testimony to all nations, and immediately verified his word: for within a little time the world itself was filled with his doctrine.” (Chapter 16, Section 8)
Observations of Eusebius’ use
So we can see that Eusebius’ usage is not at all uniform. We have seen Eusebius to use three basic forms of the text of Matthew 28:19. These are:
- “Go and make disciples of all the nations.” (7 times)
- “Go and make disciples of all the nations in my name.” (17 times)
- “Go and make disciples of all the nations baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” (5 times)
There are some variations to these three basic forms, which we shall now further outline. Very few citations continue with the words “teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you”. These words appear in Proof of the Gospel 3:6 and Theophania 5:17. The word for “Go” is omitted in Proof of the Gospel 3:7 and in the Commentary on Isaiah 34:16. It should also be acknowledged that he omits the command to baptize in all 17 times that the words “in my name” appear as well as the additional 7 wherein he stops at the word “nations” as well as the words “teaching them to observe…” 19 times.
There are several writings where Eusebius is seen to alternate between his uses. For example, in Theophania, Eusebius alternates between all three of the above forms. In his Ecclesiastical Theology, he uses the shortest and longest forms, while in Proof of the Gospel and Commentary on Psalms he uses the two shortest forms, with and without the words “in my name”. There is absolutely no uniformity to Eusebius’ use and this befits the academic consensus that Eusebius paraphrases those portions of the text necessary to establish the point that he is making in any given situation. The context in each of the cases that he leaves out reference to baptism, he is not speaking about that topic whatsoever so it was unnecessary for him to use the full citation.
So let us look at why Eusebius would insert the words “in my name” into the text so many times. There are indications that Eusebius blends parallel accounts together, sometimes even blending verses that are from different accounts. For example, in Proof of the Gospel 3:7, we see that Eusebius strings together the command to “Go and make disciples of all the nations” with the words “in my name” and the words from the account of the woman who washed Jesus’ feet “For this gospel must first be preached to all the world, for a witness to all nations.” These words are a gloss on both Matthew 26:13 and Mark 14:9. As can be seen, Eusebius was rather loose with the quoting of Scripture. This verse is connected with the Great Commission in Theophania 4:10 and several other places.
With this blending of accounts, it seems highly likely that in adding “in my name” to the verse “Go and make disciples of all the nations” Eusebius is blending the endings of Matthew 28 and Mark 16. In the Praise of Constantine, Eusebius follows his comments on Matthew 28:19 with an extended homily about Christ’s power including the casting out of evil spirits in the invocation of Christ. This is clearly a reference to Mark 16:17. In an even clearer example, Theophania, 5:49 links Matthew 28:19, John 20:22 (“receive ye the holy ghost”) and direct quotes of Mark 16:17-18. In one Greek fragment of the Theophany (Which is largely preserved in Syriac) Eusebius is found quoting Matthew The fact that Eusebius’ commentary on the Great Commission involves paraphrased harmony of accounts from Matthew, Mark and Luke is strengthened by these examples as well as by the fact that in none of the accounts does he give the citation for his words, revealing that he is not quoting verbatum. As it stands, the Eusebian use is not evidence of an alternate reading of Matthew 28:19.
Charge 5 – The Catholic Church confesses to changing the words
This is probably the weakest of all the arguments. This can be considered to be debunked by all the evidence we have seen up until this point. However, sometimes there is a lack of care in reading the words of the Catholic writers. Most of these so-called ‘confessions’ do not pertain to the text of Matthew 28:19 but the use of Matthew 28:19 as a liturgical baptismal formula. For example:
“The baptismal formula was changed from the name of Jesus Christ to the words Father, Son, and Holy Spirit by the Catholic Church in the second century.” (Catholic Encyclopedia, Vol. II, p. 263)
Notice that this statement pertains to the formula used in baptism. We have seen that the words of Matthew 28:19 were not originally a formula and that this later development occurred in the second and third centuries. So this is simply a reflection of fact. Perhaps the most misused quote from the Catholic Church on this regard is from then future pope, Joseph Ratzinger.
“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 comes from the city of Rome; but its internal origin lies in worship; more precisely, in the conferring of baptism.” (Joseph Ratzinger, Introduction to Christianity, 2nd Edition)
This quote is used dishonestly by many who reject the words of Matthew 28:19. The “text” that is being referred to in the quote is not the text of Matthew 28:19, but the Apostles Creed. Note the discussion leading immediately up to the above quote:
“All that we have said so far has done no more than attempt to answer the formal question of what belief as such is and where in the world of modern thought it can find a starting point and a function to perform. The more far-reaching problems relating to its content thus necessarily remained open-with the whole subject permaps looking only too pale and ill-defined. The answers can only be found by looking at the concrete shape of Christian belief, and this we now mean to consider, using the so-called Apostles’ Creed as a guiding thread. It may be useful to preface the discussion with a few facts about the origin and structure of the Creed; these will at the same time through some light on the legitimacy of the procedure.” (loc. cit.)
In fact, Ratzinger later goes on to quote Matthew 28:19 as the basis for the Apostles Creed, showing that Ratzinger understands these to be the words of Christ.
“This again was fundamentally based on the words of Christ recorded in Matthew 28:19: ‘Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” (loc. cit.)
So it is clear that whoever first used this quote to question the wording of Matthew 28:19 did so dishonestly. All who have subsequently used these words have done so lazily, never checking the context.
Charge 6 – A Hebrew text of Matthew exists that doesn’t contain the words
The so-called “Shem Tov” Hebrew gospel of Matthew refers to a text of Matthew and parts of Mark which is interspersed amongst a Jewish, anti-Catholic, medieval work called The Touchstone, written by Shem Tov ben Isaac ben Shaprut. It is dated to the year 1385 A.D. It has been published as a text of Matthew by George Howard who has worked to separate the text of Matthew from the document which served as a commentary of it. It is unknown whether they reflect an exact text that was known to Shem Tov or whether they reflect Jewish paraphrases. The latter seems very likely as the text is unique in many of the following ways.
- The narrator of this version of Matthew never references Jesus as “Christ” or “Messiah”. This identification is only found when others identify Him as such.
Greek 1:1 – The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ Shem Tov 1:1 – These are the Generations of Jesus
Greek 1:17 – the deportation to Babylon to the Christ fourteen generations Shem Tov 1:17 – the Babylonian exile unto Jesus were fourteen generations
Greek 1:18 – Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way Shem Tov 1:18 – The birth of Jesus was in this way
Greek 11:2 – Now when John heard in prison about the deeds of the Christ Shem Tov 11:2 – John, when he was in captivity, heard of the work of Jesus
Greek 16:21 – From then began Jesus Christ to show his disciples Shem Tov 16:21 – Henceforth Jesus began to reveal to his disciple
- The text shows preservation of Rabbinical teachings such as exclusivity.
Greek 1:21 – for he shall save his people from their sins Shem Tov 1:21 – he shall save my people from their sins
Greek 16:12 – Told to beware the doctrine of the Pharisees Shem Tov 16:12 – beware of the behavior of the Pharisees
- Removes reference to Jesus forgiving sin.
Greek 9:2 – thy sins be forgiven thee Shem Tov 9:2 – It is by the faith of God that your sins have been forgiven
- Makes the temple greater than Christ.
Greek 12:6 – But I say unto you, in this place is one greater than the temple Shem Tov 12:6 – the temple is greater than this
- Elevates Elijah as Saviour.
Greek 17:11 – Elijah shall truly shall first come and restore all things Shem Tov 17:11 – Elijah will come and save all the world
- Removes the Son of Man reference in places.
Greek 13:37 – He that soweth the good seed is the son of man Shem Tov 13:37 – the one who sows good seed is man
Greek 19:28 – When the Son of man shall sit in the throne of his glory” Shem Tov 19:28 – when man sits upon the throne of his glory
- The preaching of the Gospel is the anti-Christ
Greek 24:14-16 – And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come. When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation spoken of by Daniel the prophet stand in the holy place (whoso readeth, let him understand:) Then let them which be in Judaea flee into the mountains.
Shem Tov 24:14-16 – And this gospel, that is, evungili, will be preached un all the earth for a witness concerning me to all the nations and then the end will come. This is the Anti-Christ and this is the abomination which desolates. Then those who are in Judaea let them flee to the mountains.
- Jesus is hanged, not crucified
Greek 26:2 – the Son of man is betrayed to be crucified Shem Tov 26:2 – delivered into the hand of the Jews for the gallows
Greek 27:23 – Let him be crucified Shem Tov 26:2 – let them hang him
Greek 27:31 – led him away to crucify him Shem Tov 27:31 – gave orders to hang him
Greek 27:32 – him they compelled to bear his cross Shem Tov 27:32 – compelled him to carry the gallows, that is ‘The Cross’
Greek 27:40 – Come down from the cross Shem Tov 27:40 – come down from the gallows
Greek 28:5 – ye seek Jesus who was crucified Shem Tov 28:5 – Jesus who was hung
So we can see that there are severe differences between the Shem Tov and every single Greek manuscript which lower the position of Christ, uphold Rabbinical teachings, and destroy the Cross having Christ suffer the same fate as Judas. Therefore it isn’t surprising that Shem Tov has a different reading in Matthew 28:19. In fact, the entire Great Commission is changed. Here is how Shem Tov has these words:
Matthew 28:18-20 – Jesus drew near to them and said to them: To me has been given all power in heaven and earth. Go and (teach) them to carry out all the things which I have commanded you forever.
Here this version omits reference to making disciples, baptising, and the enduring presence of Christ, “lo I am with you always, even to the end”. As a result of these considerations which are only a fraction of the differences between the texts, we should not rely upon this text in understanding the Bible. It is clearly written with a Rabbinical polemic modifying the original words of Matthew and Jesus.
Charge 7 – Most modern theologians agree that the words are inauthentic
There are numerous problems with this claim. First of all, it is an appeal to authority, which is a logical fallacy. Second, it is untrue. Most theologians who believe in the authority of the Bible accept this verse as authentic. Doubt in the authenticity of this verse originated with a scholar who practiced higher criticism and has been carried forth primarily by those who also practice higher criticism.
Higher criticism is different to textual criticism. Textual criticism refers to the practice of seeking to determine which manuscripts were the original or closest to the original autographs of the Bible. Everyone engages in textual criticism, whether they prefer the so-called “Textus Receptus” or the Byzantine Majority text or the ecclectic Alexandrian text-type. If you like a particular translation over others, you’ve unwittingly engaged in textual criticism. Higher criticism on the other hand is a process which begins with skepticism about the Bible and about the Biblical narrative. It imposes human reasoning over and above the Scriptures. Higher criticism does not accept the Bible at its word, but questions the Bible. From higher criticism have come all sorts of “source” theories, such as the “documentary hypothesis”, wherein multiple authors wrote the Torah and it was compiled at a late date. Higher criticism often questions the attributed authorship of Biblical writings.
- C. Conybeare was a higher critic. He accepted the historicity of Jesus, but made many attacks on the Bible as well. He questioned whether Colossians, Thessalonians, Timothy and Titus were “genuine works of Paul” (The Historical Christ, p. 152) and stated that the “first Epistle of Peter is very likely pseudepigraphic” (op cit, p. 153). His higher critical approach is clearly seen in the book “Myth, Magic, and Morals: A Study of Christian Origins). This book clearly rejects the claims the Bible makes of itself, treating Mark as being compiled from earlier written sources (a precursor to the “Q” hypothesis) and Matthew and Luke being derived from Mark and other sources. This rejects the idea that Matthew and Mark were eyewitnesses of Jesus.
It is important to highlight these things because F. C. Conybeare is the chief “authority” who popularised the criticism against Matthew 28:19. His article, “The Eusebian Form of the Text of Matthew 28:19” appeared in the Journal “Zeitschrift fur Neutestamentlich Wissenchaft” on pages 275-288 in 1901. This is the primary
Before Conybeare, doubt about the originality of this verse was proposed by higher critics such as Daniel Schenkel in an article in Bible-lexicon (1875), Bernhard Weiss and David Eaton in “Biblical Theology of the New Testament” (1883), Eduard Riehm in an article in “Handworterbuch des Biblischen Alerthums fiir gebildete Bibelleser” (1884) and J Robinson in an article on Baptism in the Encyclopaedia Biblica (1899) and an article called “In My Name” in the “Journal of Theological Studies” (1905). After Conybeare’s treatment, higher critics such as C. A. Scott in an article on Baptism in “Hastings Dictionary of the Bible” (1909), Paul Feine in “Theologie des Neuen Testaments” (1910), George Fisher in “History of Christian Doctrine” (1914) and Kirsopp Lake in an article on Baptism in “Hasting’s Encyclopaedia of Religion and Ethics” (1918) also attacked the verse. Most of these focused on forcing a contradiction between Matthew 28:19 and the practice of baptism in Jesus’ name in other places.
Another form of attack can be found in those who questioned whether baptism was commanded by Jesus at all. These authorities not only questioned the words “in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit” but the commission to “baptise”, because it was not found in Luke 24:47 and Eusebius among other reasons. Examples of these critics include James Martineau in “The Seat of Authority in Religion” (1890), Arthur Cushman McGiffert in “A History of Christianity in the Apostolic Age” (1903), J. V. Bartlett an article on New Testament Baptism in “Hastings Encyclopaedia of Religion and Ethics” (1918) as well as some of the others we’ve already mentioned. Among these authors, some claim that the text was added at a later date, others claim that Matthew wrote them but deny that Jesus spoke those words.
Today, many Bible commentaries and even translations presuppose some of these higher critical positions. Thus it is not at all out of the ordinary to see that the doubt cast upon Matthew 28:19 has been repeated in the last 100 years by critical scholars simply as they have continued to reference the original proponents who have claimed its spuriousness. These additional references do not constitute additional witnesses if they have only been regurgitating the same claims with the same evidence or with no evidence but to reference the claim itself. Among conservative, evangelical Christians who accept the Scriptures as supernaturally inspired, there is no credibility given to the higher critical attacks on this verse.
The sum of all things
We have traversed the entirety of the historical evidence and have seen that there is no substance to any of the claims that are presented against this verse which are based upon higher criticism, lazy research, logical fallacies and a failure to find the harmony between this verse and the other verses which show that the name of Jesus is the name which represents Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Let us stand with Scripture!