"Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name [Greek, onoma] of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit." -- Matthew 28:19, New American Standard Version
This scripture is often used by trinitarians to make it appear that that there are three persons in God. Others refer to the scripture as meaning that Jesus is expressed as three modes, manifestations, etc. What we want to know is exactly what does this scripture say, what does it not say, and how does harmonize with the rest of the scriptures.
We first note that there is nothing in Matthew 28:19 that says the three mentioned are co-equal or co-eternal. We find nothing about three persons all of whom are the Supreme Being. We know many try to say that since it says "name" -- singular -- that this means that there are three persons being spoken of with one name, and that this proves that there is a trinity of persons in one God, or that there is something about Matthew 28:19 that would mean that all three are equal in being, uncreated, etc. Matthew 28:19 does not say that these are three persons, although two of those mentioned are persons. But even if it was speaking of three persons, it does not say or imply that the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are three persons in one Supreme Being.
It should be apparent that the word "name" here does not refer to any separate appellations of the three mentioned. We have the personal name of the Father -- Jehovah. We have the personal name of the Son -- Jesus. But the scriptures do not give a personal name for the holy spirit.
We note that the Bible does use of the word "name" in the Bible as meaning authority, power, character, reputation, etc. Thus David sent his men to Nabal in his name, that is, with his authority. (1 Samuel 25:5,9) In Matthew 7:22, many are described as claiming to have done many works in the Master's name, that is, with his authority. Peter and Paul were asked by the priests: "By what power, or in what name, have you done this?" (Acts 4:7) These references all show that by coming in the name of another means to come with the authority given by that person. It does not necessarily refer to the word or appellation itself that is used to distinguish that person. In reference to this Robertson states concerning Matthew 28:19:
- The use of name (onoma) here is a common one in the Septuagint and the papyri for power or authority. For the use of ei with onoma in the sense here employed, not meaning into, see Matthew 10:41ff. (cf. also Matthew 12:41). -- Robertson, A.T. "Commentary on Matthew 28:19". "Robertson's Word Pictures of the New Testament". http://www.biblestudytools.com/commentaries/robertsons-word-pictures/matthew/matthew-28-19.html. Broadman Press 1932,33, Renewal 1960.
However, we note that the disciples never used this formula when baptizing, but they simply baptized "in the name of Jesus." (Acts 2:38; 8:16; 10:48) Does this mean that Jesus is the Father, the Son and the holy spirit, as some -- usually promoting the "oneness" dogma -- have claimed? No, like the trinity, this idea has to be read into these scriptures. Jesus is the Son and is always represented as the Son of God as distinct from his God of whom he is the Son all through the New Testament. But the question does remain as to why the disciples baptized "in the name of Jesus", when he said to baptize in the name of the Father, and the of the Son and of the holy spirit.
There are many scholars, both trinitarian and non-trinitarian, who claim that Matthew 28:19 has been changed from what Jesus originally said. This conclusion is reached because of several reasons. The conclusion is that Jesus originally told his disciples to baptise "in my name", not in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Noting that Eusebius, who had copies of earlier manuscripts that no longer exist, cites Matthew 28:19 eighteen times always as: "Go and make disciples of all nations in my name," without the mention of "the name" of the Father, and of the Son, and of the holy spirit, we believe that that Matthew 28:19, as it has come to us, probably does indeed contain a textual corruption.
For instance, in his *Demonstratio Evangelica*, Eusebius gives this testmony concerning the commission of Matthew 28:19 (col. 240, p. 136):
For more on this line of reasoning, see:For he did not enjoin them 'to make disciples of all nations' simply and without qualification, but with the essential addition 'in his name.' For so great was the virtue attached 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 nations in my name.
http://www.godglorified.com/matthew_2819.htm http://www.altupc.com/altupc/articles/waterBaptism.htm http://www.focus-search.com/shc/matt2819.html http://www.lightbearer.org/archives/2004/04/10_tests_on_mat.html http://matthew2819-blog.blogspot.com/
These links are provided only because of the evidence presented; we do not necessarily agree with any other conclusions presented by the authors.
Furthermore, the Shem-Tobb's Evan Bohan manuscript presents Jesus as saying nothing about about baptizing anyone in Matthew 28:19. It simply says "Go" which is connected to Matthew 28:20. See: http://discover-the-truth.com/2013/08/05/trinity-investigating-the-authenticity-of-matthew-2819/
Due to the overwhelming evidence that has been presented to us, we have come to recognize that this line of reasoning as the most probable way to view Matthew 28:19.
Nevertheless, what if Jesus did actually say the words as they appear in our Bible today? It should be apparent from the scriptures as a whole that the singular use of the word "name" does not indicate three persons in one Supreme Being, nor that Jesus is being spoken of three modes all of whom are Jesus Christ. One has to go beyond what is written to come these conclusions. The word "name" is often used singularly to denote a distributive commonality even when speaking of many individuals, especially when speaking in the sense of reputation or authority: Genesis 5:2; 48:6; Deuteronomy 7:24; 9:14; 12:3; 18:20; Joshua 23:7; Ruth 1:2; Ezra 2:61; Nehemiah 7:63; Psalm 9:5; 109:13; Hosea 32:14; Zephaniah 3:19; Revelation 3:1.
Another thought concerning the usage of the singular word "name" in Matthew 28:19: We notice that Psalm 77:20 states: "You led your people like a flock, By the hand of Moses and Aaron." It speaks of Jehovah leading Israel by the hand [singular] of Moses and Aaron. This supplies another example of the usage of a singular with more than one person, in this case, two persons: Moses and Aaron. We would not think that since the singular [hand] is used of two, that these two persons must be one human being (as it is claimed that Matthew 28:19 shows two persons in one God being), nor should we think that since the singular [name] is used of three in Matthew 28:19, that these three must be one "God" being.
Concerning the Messiah it is prophesied that he was to speak in the name of Jehovah, his God. -- Deuternomy 18:15-19.
- Jehovah said to me, They have well said that which they have spoken. I will raise them up a prophet from among their brothers, like you; and I will put my words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I shall command him. It shall happen, that whoever will not listen to my words which he shall speak in my name, I will require it of him. -- Deuteronomy 18:17-19.
Jesus said: "I have come in my Father's name, and you don't receive me. If another comes in his own name, you will receive him." The Jewish leaders claimed that when Jesus called God his Father, that Jesus was making himself equal to God. In saying the above, Jesus was letting these Jewish leaders know where he received his authority, that is, from Jehovah his God and Father.
Likewise, when the disciples are told to go make disciples and baptize, Jesus told them by what authority they were to baptize. In Matthew 28:19: the word "name" is used to represent of the solidarity with authority/cause in the Father, the Son and the holy spirit. Thus to baptize in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit would also signify to baptize in union with the all three, which authority in the cause of all three is in total agreement.
As mentioned before, the word "name" is often used singularly as a collective term to denote a commonality even when speaking of many individuals, especially when speaking in the sense of reputation or authority:
- Genesis 5:2 - He created them male and female, and blessed them, and called their name Adam, in the day when they were created.
- Genesis 48:6 - Your issue, who you become the father of after them, will be yours. They will be called after the name of their brothers in their inheritance.
- Deuteronomy 7:24 - He will deliver their kings into your hand, and you shall make their name to perish from under the sky: there shall no man be able to stand before you, until you have destroyed them. See also Deuteronomy 9:14; 12:3.
- Deuteronomy 18:20 - But the prophet, who shall speak a word presumptuously in my name, which I have not commanded him to speak, or who shall speak in the name of other gods, that same prophet shall die.
- Ruth 1:2 - The name of the man was Elimelech, and the name of his wife Naomi, and the name of his two sons Mahlon and Chilion, Ephrathites of Bethlehem-judah. They came into the country of Moab, and continued there.
- Ezra 2:61 - Of the children of the priests: the children of Habaiah, the children of Hakkoz, the children of Barzillai, who took a wife of the daughters of Barzillai the Gileadite, and was called after their name.
- -- See also: Nehemiah 7:63; Psalm 9:5; 109:13; Hosea 32:14; Zephaniah 3:19; Revelation 3:1.
Consequently, if we assume that the text as we have it is correct, the singular usage of the word "name" in Matthew 28:19 should be recognized as being distributed to each of the three given, as representing the in the authority of, or in harmony with.
Additionally, we have the verse preceding the statement that all authority that Jesus has is given to Jesus, thus indicating that the Son receives his authority from another, a superior being to himself, that is, the Father. This agrees with John 17:1,3, where Jesus refers to his Father as the "only" true Supreme Being, and then excludes himself from being any part of that only true Supreme Being by saying that he was sent forth by that only true Supreme Being. This is further corroborated by John 20:17, where Jesus refers to the Father as the Supreme Being over himself. Nor could this have been a temporary condition, for we find similar statements by Jesus in Revelation 3:12, after his exaltation by the Father. This is also shown in Ephesians 1:17-22, in that the Supreme Being of our Lord Jesus "set him" at his own right hand in the heavenly places. Thus Jesus has been given authority above all the governments and dominions. -- Daniel 7:13,14; Psalm 2:6-8; 110:1,2; Matthew 11:27; John 3:35
Regardless, there is no reason to read "trinity" into the phrase "name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit". There is absolutely nothing in this phrase that hints of three persons in one God. Such an idea has to be "read into" what is stated in Matthew 28:19. -- Genesis 5:2; 48:6; Deuteronomy 7:24; 9:14; 12:3; 18:20; Joshua 23:7; Ruth 1:2; Ezra 2:61; Nehemiah 7:63; Psalm 9:5; 109:13; Hosea 32:14; Zephaniah 3:19; Revelation 3:1.
We note below some online quotes in English that make use of the singular name in reference to more than one person. No one would think of these as being one being made up of more than one person.
"Columbus .... took possession of the land in the name of the king and queen of Spain."
"Deputy Prime Minister Kong Sam Ol, head of a Royal Ministry delegation of Cambodia, visited the embassy and laid this basket in the name of the king and the queen before the portrait of the president there and paid tribute to him."
"Such medals shall be presented personally by the President of the United States for and on behalf, and in the name of the President and the Congress of the United States of America."
We should note examples where "name" (singular) is used in reference to persons as well as abstract principles, such as: "in the name of the Queen and the law!"
The above references are not in the Bible, and are in English, not Hebrew or Greek. As stated earlier, we have no specific Biblical references that follow the same construction using the singular word "name" (or the plural word "names") as given in Matthew 28:19. But, we believe that if one looks hard enough one will find this is true in most languages, that the phrase "in the name of" is usually singular even though more than one person and/or things are being of. There is no plural usage in the Bible of the phrase "in the names of" at all. All of the other usages of "in the name of" in the Bible relate to only one person, so there is nothing else in the Bible itself -- neither in the Old Testament or the New Testament -- to compare Matthew 28:19, as far as the phrase, "in the name" followed by persons or things connected with "and". We believe that if such a claim that the singular usage of "name" in Matthew 28:19 was so important as proof of the alleged trinity doctrine, then God would have made sure that there were other scriptures for comparison with the same or similar construct, but we do not find any, either with the singular usage of the phrase "in the name of", or the plural usage as "in the names of". Without such an example for comparision, perhaps the expression would be used "in the names of [this person], and of [that person] and of [someone else], then one could at least say there would be a better argument that the singular usage of the word "name" in Matthew 28:19 had a greater significance, although such a comparison would still not be enough to make Matthew 28:19 say what trinitarians wish to make it say, that is, that there are three persons in one God.
What we do find in the Bible, however, are many usages of the singular word "name" in reference to more than one person or thing (although in some cases it should be apparent that the singular is used collectively). Genesis 5:2; 11:4; 48:6; Exodus 17:7; 23:13; Deuteronomy 7:24; 9:14; 12:3; 18:20; Joshua 7:9; 23:7; Ruth 1:2; 2 Samuel 7:9; 1 Chronicles 4:38,41; 1 Chronicles 6:65; 7:16; 12:31; 16:41; 17:18; Ezra 2:61; Nehemiah 7:63; Psalm 9:5; 109:13; Hosea 2:17; Zephaniah 3:19; Revelation 3:1.
There is one usage that is spoken of by David Moore in the "bgreek" discussion threads. He states:
- On the use of the singular ONOMA with more than one name, as in Mat. 28:19, let me mention Deissmann's citation of a possibly related construction in a papyrus from Fayyum in the "reign of Antonius Pius" (?). The phrase runs in Greek as follows: TA U(PARCONT[A] EIS ONOMA DUEIN. Which translates to, "that (i.e. property or means) which belongs to the name of the two." http://www.ibiblio.org/bgreek/archives/greek-3/msg00388.html
The argument is made that the word "name" signifies a single name, that is, an appellation that applies to all three. Where would this kind reasoning lead us? What would this "name" be? There is no record in the New Testament writing of anyone being baptized in the name of Jehovah (Yahweh), or in the name of the Father, or the name of the Spirit. One site says the single "name" referred to is "God". Again, we find no reference to anyone being baptized in the name of "God" in the New Testament. As far as we know, there is no reference in the ante-Nicene writings of the so-called "church fathers" that support this idea either. In the New Testament writings the only "name" referred to in which one is baptized is the name "Jesus." (Acts 2:28; see also: Acts 8:16, 10:48, 19:5) Making an application of this to the single usage of the word "name" in Matthew 28:19 would cause us to believe that the name, "Jesus", being applied to the Father and the holy spirit, as well as to the Son of God.
Some trinitarians seem to contradict themselves with this idea, for in reference to Matthew 28:19 they will refer to the "names" [plural] of the Father and of the Son and the holy spirit, but then at the same time insist that the singular usage of "name" means that this is speaking of three persons in one God.
In actuality, the word "name" isnot referring to any appellation, but rather to the common cause into which the disciples were to baptize, or possibly in the common authority of the three.See also: Matthew 28:19 - One Name
Link to Site Owned By Bible Students
In Whose Name Are We to Be Baptized?
Updated December 2013, June, 2014; January 2016.