Matthew 28:19

Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. (NIV)


Biblical Unitarian


1. Eusebius (c. 260'c. 340) was the Bishop of Caesarea and is known as "the Father of Church History." Although he wrote prolifically, his most celebrated work is his Ecclesiastical History, a history of the Church from the Apostolic period until his own time. Today it is still the principal work on the history of the Church at that time. Eusebius quotes many verses in his writings, and Matthew 28:19 is one of them. He never quotes it as it appears today in modern Bibles, but always finishes the verse with the words "in my name." For example, in Book III of his History, Chapter 5, Section 2, which is about the Jewish persecution of early Christians, we read:

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."

Again, in his Oration in Praise of Emperor Constantine, Chapter 16, Section 8, we read:

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 Savior 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."

Eusebius was present at the council of Nicaea and was involved in the debates about Arian teaching and whether Christ was God or a creation of God. We feel confident that if the manuscripts he had in front of him read "in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit," he would never have quoted it as "in my name." Thus, we believe that the earliest manuscripts read "in my name," and that the phrase was enlarged to reflect the orthodox position as Trinitarian influence spread.

2. If Matthew 28:19 is accurate as it stands in modern versions, then there is no explanation for the apparent disobedience of the apostles, since there is not a single occurrence of them baptizing anyone according to that formula. All the records in the New Testament show that people were baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus, just as the text Eusebius was quoting said to do. In other words, the "name of Jesus Christ," i.e., all that he represents, is the element, or substance, into which people were figuratively "baptized." "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). "On hearing this, they were baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus" (Acts 19:5). We cannot imagine any reason for the Apostles and others in Acts to disobey a command of the risen Christ. To us, it seems clear that Christ said to baptize in his name, and that was what the early Church did.

3. Even if the Father, Son and holy spirit are mentioned in the original text of this verse, that does not prove the Trinity. The doctrine of the Trinity states that the Father, Son and "Holy Spirit" together make "one God." This verse refers to three, but never says they are "one." The three things this verse refers to are: God the Father, the Lord Jesus and the power of holy spirit (We say "holy spirit" instead of "Holy Spirit" because we believe that this verse is referring to God's gift of holy spirit that is born inside each believer. It is lower case because it refers to the gift of God and not God. The original Greek texts were all written in what scholars call "uncial script," which uses all capital letters. Thus, although we today make a distinction between "Spirit" and "spirit," in the originals every use was just "SPIRIT." Whether or not it should be capitalized is a translator's decision, based on the context of the verse. For more on the form of the early texts, see the note on Heb. 1:8).

It should be clear that three separate things do not make "one God." Morgridge writes:

No passage of Scripture asserts that God is three. If it be asked what I intend to qualify by the numeral three, I answer, anything which the reader pleases. There is no Scripture which asserts that God is three persons, three agents, three beings, three Gods, three spirits, three substances, three modes, three offices, three attributes, three divinities, three infinite minds, three somewhats, three opposites, or three in any sense whatever. The truth of this has been admitted by every Trinitarian who ever wrote or preached on the subject."

4. It is sometimes stated that in order to be baptized into something, that something has to be God, but that reasoning is false, because Scripture states that the Israelites were "baptized into Moses" (1 Cor. 10:2).

5. It is sometimes stated that the Father, Son and spirit have one "name," so they must be one. It is a basic tenet of Trinitarian doctrine not to "confound the persons" (Athanasian Creed), and it does indeed confound the persons to call all three of them by one "name," especially since no such "name" is ever given in Scripture ("God" is not a name). If the verse were teaching Trinitarian doctrine and mentioned the three "persons," then it should use the word "names." There is a much better explanation for why "name" is used in the singular.

A study of the culture and language shows that the word "name" stood for "authority." Examples are very numerous, but space allows only a small selection. Deuteronomy 18:5 and 7 speak of serving in the "name" (authority) of the Lord. Deuteronomy 18:22 speaks of prophesying in the "name" (authority) of the Lord. In 1 Samuel 17:45, David attacked Goliath in the "name" (authority) of the Lord, and he blessed the people in the "name" (authority) of the Lord. In 2 Kings 2:24, Elisha cursed troublemakers in the "name" (authority) of the Lord. These scriptures are only a small sample, but they are very clear. If the modern versions of Matthew 28:19 are correct (which we doubt, see above), then we would still not see this verse as proving the Trinity. Rather, they would be showing the importance of the three: the Father who is God, the Son (who was given authority by God [Matt. 28:18]) and the holy spirit, which is the gift of God.

6. In reading the book of Matthew, we note that there is no presentation of the doctrine of the Trinity. Some prominent Trinitarians doubt that the apostles were even introduced to the doctrine until after they received holy spirit. It would be strange indeed for Christ to introduce the doctrine of the Trinity here in the next-to-last verse in the book without it being mentioned earlier. [For further study on the subject of baptism, read "Two Baptisms: Which Is Which?"]

Morgridge, pp. 13-15, 28, 98-101

Norton, pp. 215-218

Racovian Catechism, pp. 36-39

Snedeker, pp. 109-115





Matthew 28:19




Misha'al Ibn Abdullah Al-Kadhi


Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:"

If ex-President George Bush told General Norman Schwartzkopf to "Go ye therefore, and speak to the Iraqis, chastising them in the name of the United States, Great Britain, and the Soviet Union," does this require that these three countries are one physical country? They may be one in purpose and in their goals but this does in no way require that they are the same physical entity.

Further, the "Great Commission" as narrated in the Gospel of Mark, bears no mention of the Father, Son and/or Holy Ghost (see Mark 16:15). As we shall see in chapter two, Christian historians readily admit that the Bible was the object of continuous "correction" and "addition" to bring it in line with established beliefs. They present many documented cases where words were "inserted" into a given verse to validate a given doctrine. Tom Harpur, former religion editor of the Toronto Star says:

"All but the most conservative of scholars agree that at least the latter part of this command was inserted later. The formula occurs nowhere else in the New Testament, and we know from the only evidence available (the rest of the New Testament) that the earliest Church did not baptize people using these words - baptism was 'into' or 'in' the name of Jesus alone. Thus it is argued that the verse originally read 'baptizing them in my name' and then was expanded to work in the dogma. In fact, the first view put forward by German critical scholars as well as the Unitarians in the nineteenth century, was stated as the accepted position of mainline scholarship as long ago as 1919, when Peake's commentary was first published: 'The church of the first days did not observe this world-wide commandment, even if they new it. The command to baptize into the threefold name is a late doctrinal expansion.'"

"For Christ's sake," Tom Harpur, p. 103

This is confirmed in 'Peake's Commentary on the Bible' published since 1919, which is universally acclaimed and considered to be the standard reference for students of the Bible. It says:

"This mission is described in the language of the church and most commentators doubt that the Trinitarian formula was original at this point in Mt.'s Gospel, since the NT elsewhere does not know of such a formula and describes baptism as being performed in the name of the Lord Jesus (e.g. Ac. 2:38, 8:16, etc.)."

For example, these Christian scholars observed that after Jesus allegedly issued this command and then was taken up into heaven, the apostles displayed a complete lack of knowledge of this command.

"And Peter said to them, 'Repent, and let each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins;...'"

Acts 2:38.

These Christian scholars observed that it is extremely unlikely that if Jesus had indeed specifically commanded his apostles to "baptize in the name of the father and the son and the holy Ghost" that the apostles would later disobey his direct command and baptize only in the name of Jesus Christ, alone.

As a final piece of evidence, it is noted that after the departure of Jesus, when Paul decided to preach to the Gentiles, this resulted in a heated debate and a great difference of opinion between him and at least three of the apostles. This would not be the case if Jesus had, as claimed, openly commanded them to preach to the Gentiles (see section 6.13 for more). So we notice that not only does this verse never claim that the three are one, or even that the three are equal, but most scholars of Christianity today recognize that at the very least the last part of this verse ("the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost") was not originally part of the command of Jesus but was inserted by the church long after Jesus' departure.






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