Why Do You Claim the Inauthenticity of Matt 28:19?


I read in your literature that the Trine Baptismal formula stated by Jesus in Matthew 28:19 may not be authentic text. What is your authority for this statement?


The text in question reads: “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matt. 28:19). This so-called Trine Baptismal Formula, “in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit” appears in the common manuscripts from which the New Testament is translated.

However, many serious students of Scripture have questioned it. For example, the following:

“…the New Testament knows only baptism in the name of Jesus (Acts 2:38; 8:16; 19:5; Gal. 3:27; Rom. 6:3; 1 Cor. 1:13-15), which still occurs even in the second and third centuries, while the Trinitarian Formula occurs only in Matt. 28:19, and then only again in the Didache 7:1, and Justin, Apologies1:61. It is unthinkable that the Apostolic Church thus disobeyed the express command of the Lord, which it otherwise considered the highest authority. Occurrences like those of Acts 19:1-7 ought to have shown that the prescribed formula baptism could not have been shortened to ‘the name of the Lord Jesus,’ if the character of baptism was to be retained as commanded.”—Schaff-Herzog Religious Encyclopedia, “Baptism,” p.435

The Hastings Encyclopedia of Religion and Ethics, under the topic “Baptism (Early Christian),” offers this thought under the subheading of “textual criticism”:

“In all extant manuscripts and versions the text is found in the traditional form, though it must be remembered that the best manuscripts both of the African Old Latin and of the Old Syriac versions are defective at this point.”

The author mentions also that some of the earliest church fathers (e.g., Eusebius and Justin Martyr) who quoted this passage of Scripture were not familiar with the Trine Formula,—a fact which suggests strongly that the Trine Formula may have been added at a later date.

This is not conclusive evidence of itself, but it supports what we find in the rest of the New Testament, where no mention is made of a Trine Formula for baptism, or, in fact, of the Trinity in any form.

The above-mentioned article gives this summary statement as its conclusion:

“On the whole, then, the evidence of literary criticism is against the historical character of the traditional text of Matthew 28:19.”

If Jesus’ command in Matthew 28:19 was intended to extol the godhead in its association with baptism, Paul totally missed the point—or flagrantly disobeyed (which was entirely unlike him), for there is no evidence that he complied with the command. In fact, he seemed to depreciate the significance of the baptisms he did perform (1 Cor. 1:14-17). Being the apostle to the Gentiles, he was showing the deeper meaning of baptism—the death to sin and sinful tendencies, which each believer must complete.

The Apostles were sent out to preach and to baptize in the name of the Lord, and even if they did use the so-called “triune formula,” it does not say that the three are one being or one organism, nor does it lend any credence to the common belief in the Trinity. The apostles spoke often of the Father and the Son, but they distinguished them as two separate entities. They spoke of “God the father and our Lord Jesus Christ” two beings; and “God, and our Savior Jesus Christ”two beings. The Holy Spirit also was distinct, being a power which was given, which they received, and by which they worked (see Acts 1:7-9; John 7:39).