Where Esebeius Comes To Play In The Christian Trinity

Continued from Part 28

Eusebius, who supported the orthodox trinitarian position, was present at the Council of Nicaea and was involved in the debates concerning whether Jesus was part of the essence of God or a creation of God.  

If the manuscript of the Gospel of Matthew that he used read “in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,” and thus could be used to support the trinitarian position, he would not have quoted it so frequently as “in my name.”  Thus, it can be assumed that the earliest manuscripts read “in my name,”42 and that the phrase was enlarged and officially adopted to reflect the orthodox position as trinitarian influence spread following the Council of Nicaea (325).

Eusebius lived at the great Christian library of Caesarea collected by Origen43 and Pamphilus.  He had access to codices of the Gospels containing the disputed verse which were much older than those now available.44  Evidently, the text of Matthew 28:19 with which he was familiar read “Go ye and make disciples of all the nations in my name.”  It is only sometime after he attended the Council of Nicaea that his writings contain any reference to the expanded version of the text.  This version is found in two works written in his old age, and entitled respectively, Against Marcellus of Ancyra, and About the Theology of the Church.  The expanded reading is also found in a letter addressed by Eusebius, after the Council of Nicea, to his church in Caesarea.  These citations of the expanded formula either reflect conformity to avoid accusations of heresy in the post-Nicene period or may be the result of interpolation by later copyists.

42 One scholar, George Howard, has found what may be an early Hebrew version of the Gospel of Matthew embedded in a fourteenth century Hebrew manuscript.  The treatise, Even Boh�an (“The Touchstone”), was written in Spain, by Shem-Tov Shaprut.  Forced by Christian theologians and born-Jewish apostates to Christianity to debate the merits of Judaism verses Christianity, Jews in Europe, during the Middle Ages, wrote polemical works.  The Even Boh�an is Shem-Tov’s polemical treatise against Christianity.  As with many of these works, Shem-Tov’s Even Boh�an contains a Hebrew text of a Gospel.  Until Howard’s study of this work, it was thought that this Hebrew rendering of Matthew was a fourteenth century Hebrew translation of the Greek, or its Latin version.  Although there are notable differences between the Greek and Hebrew texts he believes the similarities in arrangement and wording of the Hebrew and Greek texts of Matthew show that one text served as a model for the other.  There is no evidence as to which came first, the Greek or the Hebrew, and Howard maintains that both works are originals, neither a translation.  Shem-Tov’s Hebrew Matthew reads at 28:19, “Go and (teach [some manuscripts read “guard”]) them to carry out all the things which I have commanded you forever.”  This wording has some affinity to the phraseology in my name.  (George Howard, Hebrew Gospel of Matthew, Macon, Ga.:  Mercer University Press, 1995, p. 151.)

43 In all of his writings, Origen (c. 185-c. 254) makes no mention of the supposed command to baptize using the triune name formula (although there are a number of obvious interpolations into his works that cite the expanded form of Matthew 28:19).

44 There are no Greek New Testament manuscripts today earlier than the fourth century containing Matthew 28:19.  Of the fourth century there are two post-Council of Nicaea manuscripts:  the Vaticanus and the Sinaiticus—both have the expanded text.  All other known New Testament Greek manuscripts are from the fifth century or later.  The oldest Syriac manuscript containing the Gospel of Matthew is missing the folio which contained the end of Matthew.  This is also true of the oldest Latin manuscript.

© Gerald Sigal