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Matthew 28:19 (KJV)

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

Name is singular. Does it mean that Father, Son, Holy Ghost all share one name?

I think name is singular and pertains to a single name of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost. In Acts 2:38 (KJV):

Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.

In the name of John, in the name of James and in the name of Joses can be rewritten as "in the names of John, James and Joses."

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migrated from english.stackexchange.com Jul 27 '14 at 19:02

This question came from our site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts.

Also, the author of that sentence meant "the name of the father, and the name of the son, and the name of the holy ghost," but just didn't want to repeat it because it would sound ridiculous. it's fairly common to do this in many languages. –  George Capote Jul 22 '14 at 16:12
Research the Scutum Fidei when you get a chance. You'll find that the 'name' in this case is one name referring to the three unique entities (Father, Son, and Holy Ghost). –  fuandon Jul 22 '14 at 16:23
possible duplicate of One God and One Mediator –  FumbleFingers Jul 22 '14 at 16:48
@Oldcat Yes, but in in the name of Andrew, Choster and Edwin is there a Christian doctrine of unity? It's actually a matter of grammar too! –  Araucaria Jul 22 '14 at 17:26
Haha i just used "singular" in my title he migrated my question to ESL –  Vince Jul 29 '14 at 16:54

5 Answers 5

No, it does not mean that they all share the same name. It does not even mean that any of them has a name at all.

"In the name of" is a fixed phrase. It is a single unit with a fixed meaning, "with appeal to" or "by the authority of" and that's all there is to it. You are free to replace it, as a whole, with either of these paraphrases to see that everything is perfectly in order. But just as with any fixed phrase, trying to deconstruct it, taking it literally, or meddling with it in any other way will get you inane results.

So, in short:

  1. Saying "in the name of Lenin, Stalin, and Brezhnev" does not imply that the three are homonyms. Same for any and all noun phrases you choose to replace our beloved leaders with.
  2. Saying "in the names of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit" is, at worst, ungrammatical, and at best, given the right context and setup, could work as a wordplay. A joke. Just like you could say e.g. "in the shame of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit", and everyone would understand the pun. That works precisely because the original is a fixed phrase. Everyone knows it, everyone knows it's fixed, so everyone realizes you are building upon it in an unexpected way. That won't work for phrases that are not fixed. No one will take "I went to the supermarket" to be a clever pun on "I went to the cinema".

Lastly, as others have commented, none of this is specific to English. Indeed, equivalents (given the etymology, often even outright calques) of this particular phrase exist in a great many languages. Some are listed on the linked Wiktionary page.

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That only covers half of it ... For example according to the signed contract of Reg, Andrew and Choster could only work if they all had the same contract - but many other similar phrases could work here. Fixed phrases or not! –  Araucaria Jul 22 '14 at 17:51
@Araucaria "A fixed phrase" means "a phrase fixed in its own way". It does not mean "a phrase fixed in the exact same way as all other phrases". Different phrases work differently. No surprises there. –  ЯegDwight Jul 22 '14 at 18:02
Oh, yeah. I feel like everyone totally missed that. –  George Capote Jul 22 '14 at 18:16
Yes, but when the author of Matthew wrote (in Greek of course) "in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost" he was not using a fixed phrase, he was saying something no one had ever said before. I think that Vince might be asking what this means in its original context. –  fdb Jul 22 '14 at 19:07
This answer reflects my (inexpert) thoughts too. My guess is that other answers here completely missed the boat. I think it would be in the name of even if we were talking about Superman instead of a hypothetical holy trinity: in the name of truth, justice, and the American Way... –  Drew Jul 22 '14 at 19:27

Since my browser won't let me upload images here for some reason, here's a link to a picture of the Scutum Fidei, or Shield of the Holy Trinity.


The Scutum Fidei is a visual symbol meant to illustrate the meaning of the very quote in question here. The idea is simply that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost all share a singular name, and that name is God. Coincidentally, these three entities are unique beings all their own, with one name. So in answer to the OP's question, yes. That is referring to one name in this context.

Out of a religious context, I'd argue that this sentence is a shortened form of, say... 'In the name of the Father, and the name of the Son, and the name of the Holy Spirit', just shortened to avoid repetition.

For a quote like this, religious context is important, because how we grammatically interpret something from the Bible can drastically differ from its actual meaning.

More on the Scutum Fidei

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Fuandon, trinity is union of three persons or three Gods that does not fitted to be one God. –  Vince Jul 30 '14 at 20:46
![enter image description here][1] [1]: i.stack.imgur.com/oxwwt.jpg –  Vince Jul 30 '14 at 20:50

I am not sure whether this is a question about English, or about Christian doctrine. If it is about English, then I can only repeat what others have said: "In the name of Jim, and John, and Sarah" means in the name of each one of the three; it does not imply that they all shared the same name.

If you asking about doctrine, I need to say that there is no evidence for the doctrine of the Trinity in any Christian writer before the 4th century. To claim that your quotation from Matthew implies that the Father, the Son, and Holy Ghost are all the same thing is a historical anachronism.

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As far as whether there is or is not evidence, that's really a question for Christianity.SE, not here. –  Matt Gutting Jul 22 '14 at 19:16
I doubt whether a meaningful discussion of this matter is possible on that site. –  fdb Jul 22 '14 at 19:19
It's your privilege to doubt that, and that's fine; regardless, it's not a statement that can be properly evaluated on this site. –  Matt Gutting Jul 22 '14 at 19:22

Instead of citing "in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit," Eusebius of Caesarea twice mentioned a variant text of Matthew 28:19,

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.”

Eusebius of Caesarea, Ecclesial History, 3:5:3.


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 of Caesarea, Oration in Praise of Emperor Constantine, 16:8.

The text in itself is not clear enough. There are theological diversities in the early Church as testified with the extant variant texts. There are two possible interpretations regarding this variant: Unitarians use this variant text to justify their belief that the three manifestations is one and the same divine person, Jesus Christ. Trinitarians read this variant text as a reference to the Second Person of the Holy Trinity in Acts 2:38, "In the name of Jesus Christ." As a Catholic I read this passage not in itself but along with its liturgical usage in the early Church which distinguish the three divine persons explicitly.

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yes, the way a person knows that Jesus is, the Father and Son and Spirit is among other scriptures like Isaiah 9:6 says the Son is the Father. But looking at Math.28:19 it says to baptize in the NAME ; so when you look at all the scripture in the bible on how the Apostles baptized; they always every instance baptized people into Jesus name, thousands of people recorded. But if you try to find someone baptized in the titles of father, son , or holy ghost; there is not anyone baptized that way. I know the Apostles knew who Jesus was better than anyone living on this earth. Further searching caused me to find that the Roman Catholics started baptizing that way in the third century. Or further look at the first day of the church at Pentecost, Peter baptized thousands into Jesus name. (Acts 2:37 KJV) Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do?

(Acts 2:38 KJV) Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.

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Ron - Many, many people would agree with you, but this is not the framework of this website. We want to limit our analyses to explaining what passages mean; if we opened the floodgates to creeds and dogma, we would be overwhelmed by noise. Everyone comes from some doctrinal background (everyone); in order to eliminate any "noise" we limit ourselves to interpreting the passages. The hope is that we can focus on the "signal" and eliminate (or at least mitigate) the noise. Again, many many of us agree with you, but this website tries to maintain strict adherence to just what the Scriptures say. –  Joseph Mar 23 at 0:19

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