Matthew 28:19–Addressing Doubts

Go ye therefore and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost ~Jesus
(Matthew 28:19)

I’ve noticed that a growing number of Christians are starting to believe and teach some very bad misinformation about Matthew 28:19.  Some well-meaning people claim that Jesus never actually said “in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost”.  According to them, the the verse originally said “baptizing them in My name,” but it was later changed by someone (Constantine, the council of Nicaea, early Catholics; different people make different claims) to change baptism and prove the Trinity.  The way Matthew 28:19 is in our Bible today, according to these people, is a forgery.

Now normally I would just shrug this off as the fodder of a few internet conspiracy theorists who are obviously on the fringe.  People say the craziest things about the Bible sometimes.  But people who are otherwise educated, sane, sincere Christians are starting to believe that the three titles (“in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost”) are a forgery added to Matthew 28:19.  And I’ll be honest enough to admit that my fellow Oneness Pentecostals are some of the biggest ducks in this pond.  So I feel like it is my duty to address the growing misinformation about Matthew 28:19.

This issue is too long and too complex to cover in a single blog post, so I will be doing a short series of posts about it.  In this and the next few blog posts, I have a few goals.

  • I want to explain a few reasons why some people (let’s call them “the 28:19 doubters”) believe Matthew 28:19 is a forgery,
  • Discuss the scholarly or historical “evidence” that “the 28:19 doubters” give to “prove” Matthew 28:19 was changed, and
  • Respond to and correct various misunderstandings, proving why Matthew 28:19 does belong in our Bible.

In this blog post I am going to point out some general trends among “the 28:19 doubters” and give a quick summary of the false claims that “the 28:19 doubters” make.  In my next article I’m going to start explaining why these lines of reasoning don’t hold any water.

General Trends

The doubters seem to use mostly the same lines of reasoning to “prove” that Matthew 28:19 has been changed from “what it originally said” to “…in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost”.  Their general lines of reasoning are usually

  • arguments from other verses in the Bible,
  • arguments based on early (post-Biblical) church history,
  • arguments from the opinions of scholars
  • arguments involving (a misunderstanding of) textual criticism
  • arguments from the quote/unquote “original Hebrew version of Matthew”, and
  • arguments based on the writings of Eusebius.

Any given “28:19 doubter” website or article might employ only one of these arguments, or it might mention all of them.  I have also noticed that a lot of “the 28:19 doubter’s” websites, books, and articles, parrot one another—sometimes quoting the same sources in the same order and making the same arguments verbatim.  This means that most of the people spreading the false information about Matthew 28:19 aren’t doing their own research; they’re just reading the “research” of other people and copy-catting.

Since some of the categories I mentioned above don’t neatly separate from one another, the writings of “the 28:19 doubters” often involve a complex web of interlocking arguments that involve all six of the general categories I just mentioned.  This means that my responses probably won’t neatly address each one of these topics either, but I’m giving the list so that you’ll know basically what to expect from this series.

According to the Doubters…

There are too many books, pamphlets, websites, and articles written by “the 28:19 doubters” for me to specifically address each one.  So instead of having tons of quotes from a bunch of different sites, I’m just going to give their basic arguments and keep the quotes to a select few statements which illustrate the general beliefs of “the 28:19 doubters.”  Their general line of reasoning goes something like this.

Matthew 28:19 is the only verse that tells Christians to baptize “in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.”  But every time the Bible tells us about someone getting baptized (Acts 2:38, 8:16, 10:48, 19:5, 22:16) it is always done in the name of Jesus.  And for the first several hundred years of the church all baptism were done only in the name of Jesus.  Why would Peter and the first Christians go against what Jesus said?? So it is obvious Jesus couldn’t possibly have said it!

Many respected Bible scholars believe that the triune formula (“in the name of the F, S, and HG”) was not originally part of what Jesus said; it was added to the verse at a later time.  [At this point there is usually a long list of “respected Bible scholars,” sometimes thirty or more!]  All of these different scholars prove that Matthew 28:19 was changed in our Bibles!

Every manuscript of Matthew 28:19 has the triune formula.  But we have to remember that we don’t have the Greek manuscript that Matthew originally wrote, and we don’t have any first-century copies either.  Scholars say that scribes who copied the New Testament often made changes to the text.  The only manuscripts that we have for Matthew 28:19 come after the Council of Nicaea where the Catholics changed baptism from Jesus’ name to trinity baptism.  This means that all the manuscripts had to be changed by Catholic scribes trying to make people baptize in the trinity! [We Oneness people need a history lesson on the council of Nicaea before we say another word about it…just saying.]

But by the grace of God, a few sources have survived that PROVE Matthew’s Gospel has been changed.  The Shem Tov Hebrew Gospel—a version of Matthew in Hebrew carefully handed down from the Jews—leaves out the three titles from Matthew 28:19.  And the Oxford scholar Conybeare points out that Eusebius quoted the verse as “in My name” instead of in the titles.  Eusebius is a very important church historian, so if the manuscripts he read had said “in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost” then he certainly would have said so.  In fact, Eusebius doesn’t quote Matthew 28:19 with the three titles until after the Council of Nicaea.  This proves that trinitarians changed baptism at Nicaea in 326AD!!  

Before Nicaea Eusebius quoted the verse as “in My name,” so this obviously must have been what Matthew originally wrote—before the Catholics changed it!  Since we don’t have any manuscripts until after Nicaea in 326AD, the Catholics changed all of the manuscripts to support their fake trinitarian baptism.  Eusebius, the Shem Tov gospel, MANY conservative scholars, and other Bible verses prove that Matthew 28:19 is a forgery.  We need to change our Bibles back to what Matthew originally said, and stop being deceived by the Catholics from Nicaea!

In Conclusion

These are the types of statements and the types of arguments that “the 28:19 doubters” are claiming.  But when we begin to study these claims, we see that they don’t really hold water.  In my next several blog posts I will put these claims to the test, and show the truth about Matthew 28:19.

This verse—exactly how it is in our Bibles right now, with the three titles and all—does belong in our Bible.  It is not a forgery, but it is an authentic part of Matthew’s gospel.  If you’ve ever had doubts about whether this verse belongs in the Bible, or if you have ever been confused by how Matthew 28:19 “fits” with other verses about Jesus name baptism, these next few posts are for you.  Stay tuned.

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