Is This Phrase proof Enough That Jesus Is A God?

Continued from Part 29

Can the Eusebian phraseology, “Go ye, and make disciples of all the nations in my name,” be considered as decisive proof that the clause “baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit” was lacking in the manuscripts available to Eusebius?

Perhaps, in writing “in my name” Eusebius was simply abbreviating the longer clause.  What militates against this proposal is that Eusebius cites the shorter version so often that it is difficult to suppose that he is simply paraphrasing the text.  Moreover, the shorter form agrees with the baptismal formula used by the apostles as described in the Book of Acts.

If Matthew 28:19 as found in modern versions is accurate, then the apostles ignored Jesus, since there is not a single occurrence of them baptizing anyone according to that formula.  All the relevant passages in the New Testament show that in the early years of Christianity people were baptized “into Christ” (Galatians 3:27) or “in the name of Jesus,” just as the Eusebian text said to do and not as directed by the present-day reading of Matthew 28:19.  Thus, we find:  “Peter replied, ‘Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins’” (Acts 2:38).   “They had simply been baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus” (Acts 8:16).   “So he ordered that they be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ” (Acts 10:48; see also Romans 6:3, Galatians 3:27).   “On hearing this, they were baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus” (Acts 19:5).  From these citations we see that this was the procedure followed, whether or not Jesus actually so ordered.  In Acts, the apostles always use the name of “the Lord Jesus” or “Jesus Christ” in baptizing, but never any trinitarian type formula.  It is difficult to imagine that the apostles would have disregarded a clear command of Jesus if they knew of it.

All the evidence shows that the references to the receiving of “the holy spirit” with baptism which are found in the New Testament do not refer to a third member of the triune deity.  They refer to the spiritual gifts believed by Christians to be bestowed by God upon those who receive baptism in the name of Jesus (see Acts 1:8).  It should be remembered that the Gospel of Matthew was written in the post-apostolic period.  The notion of a triune deity was present among some Christians in the ante-Nicene period, but that does not prove that the existence of a triune deity was taught by the New Testament.45  If the longer formula was used by the author of Matthew it would still not conform to apostolic usage.  Their practice puts in doubt any thoughts that Jesus ever uttered these exact words.  There is simply no passage in the New Testament which asserts that God is three in any sense whatsoever.

45 There is indication that a threefold formula was already in use by some Christians during the second century, even if it was not in the New Testament itself.  Justin Martyr (c. 100-165) wrote: “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.  For Christ also said, ‘Except ye be born again ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven’” (Justin Martyr, The First Apology of Justin 61, in Eds. Roberts and Donaldson, The Ante-Nicene Father, Grand Rapids:  Eerdmans, Vol. 1, 1996, p. 183.  Although Justin used the triune formula, it does not mean that it was in his text of the Gospel of Matthew.  Interestingly, while not formally citing the short form of Matthew 28:19 he echoed it when he wrote that “daily some [of you Jews] are becoming disciples in the name of Christ, and quitting the path of error” (Dialogue With Trypho, 39).

© Gerald Sigal