Claims In The Gospel of Matthew To Not Be Confused By

Continued from Part 27

The baptism formula

Some Christian commentators allege that the command by Matthew’s Jesus to, “Go therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19) shows the existence of a triune deity.  

However, it is doubtful that the Gospel of Matthew originally made this claim.  Even more uncertain is the notion that this directive was made by Jesus at the onset of the apostolic period (following the death of Jesus) or at any other time.  Belief in a triune deity entered into Christian belief independent of the composition of the Gospel of Matthew.  The trinitarian baptismal formula, as it is now found in the Gospel of Matthew, is a post-apostolic period doctrinal expansion of the text.

Eusebius of Caesarea (c. 260--c. 340) cites Matthew 28:19 at least twenty- one times in his writings,38 but not as it appears today in the New Testament.  He finishes the verse with the words “make disciples of all nations in my name” (cf. Luke 24:47--“And that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his [Jesus’] name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem”).  For example, in his Ecclesiastical History (c. 324 C.E.), he wrote:

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 ye and make disciples of all the nations in my name.”39

Again, in his Oration in Praise of Emperor Constantine (c. 335 C.E.), he wrote:

What king or prince in any age of the world, what philosopher, legislator or prophet, in civilized or barbarous lands, has attained so great a height of excellence, I say not after death, but while living still, and full of mighty power, as to fill the ears and tongues of all mankind with the praises of his name?  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 ye, and make disciples of all nations in my name.”40

In his Demonstratio Evangelica (c. 314 C.E.), he wrote:

For he did not enjoin them “to make disciples of all the nations” simply and without qualification, but with the essential addition “in his name.”  For so great was the virtue attaching to his appellation that the Apostle says, “God bestowed on him the name above every name, that in the name of Jesus every knee shall bow of things in heaven and on earth and under the earth.”  It was right therefore that he should emphasize the virtue of the power residing in his name but hidden from the many, and therefore say to his Apostles, “Go ye, and make disciples of all the nations in my name.41

38 Eusebius cites Matthew 28:19 many times in works written between 300-336 (as in his Commentaries on the Psalms and Commentaries on Isaiah, his Demonstratio Evangelica, his Theophania, his Ecclesiastical History, and his The Oration in Praise of Emperor Constantine), and always as “Go ye, and make disciples of all nations in my name.”.

39 Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History, 3. 5. 2, Trans. Arthur Cushman McGiffert, in Eds. Schaff and Wace, Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, Grand Rapids:  Eerdmans, Vol. 1, 1986, p. 138.

40 Eusebius, The Oration in Praise of Emperor Constantine 16. 8, in Eds. Schaff and Wace, p. 607.

41 Eusebius, Demonstratio Evangelica [The Proof of the Gospel], 3. 7, Trans. W.J. Ferrar, New York:  the Macmillan Co., Vol. 1, 1920, p. 136.

© Gerald Sigal