Take the 2-minute tour ×
Biblical Hermeneutics Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for professors, theologians, and those interested in exegetical analysis of biblical texts. It's 100% free, no registration required.

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." If there is only one or same name of father, Son and Holy Ghost (Holy Spirit) it is possible that Father, Son and Holy Spirit is only one person?

share|improve this question

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

3 Answers 3

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.

share|improve this answer
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

share|improve this answer
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.

share|improve this answer
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

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.