Is the “name” of the Lord singular or collective in meaning?

Matt 28:19 (KJV)
19 Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:

Here, the word “name” is singular. Is the implication that Father, Son, and Holy Ghost has/have one “name”?

Notwithstanding, how can we come to understand the comments of Peter in the Book of Acts?

Acts 2:38 (KJV)
38 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

Is the apostle Peter in error when he refers to the “name” of Jesus as singular in meaning (that is, in reference to the one person of the Son)? In other words, how do we reconcile one “name” when there appears to be some plurality of persons involved in varying contexts?

  • 1
    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
    Commented Jul 22, 2014 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
    Commented Jul 22, 2014 at 16:23
  • @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
    Commented Jul 22, 2014 at 17:26
  • The answer will need to address the text criticism issue in the Matthew passage.
    – Jas 3.1
    Commented Jul 22, 2014 at 21:02
  • 1
    Vince, welcome - I refined your question; hope I captured the gist of your question. Also, feel free to copy the formatting for future posts (for example, how to display and hyperlink the verses for easy viewing). Thanks!
    – Joseph
    Commented Jul 23, 2014 at 3:26

8 Answers 8


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.

  • 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
    Commented Jul 22, 2014 at 17:51
  • 2
    @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
    Commented Jul 22, 2014 at 18:02
  • Oh, yeah. I feel like everyone totally missed that.
    – George Capote
    Commented Jul 22, 2014 at 18:16
  • 1
    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
    Commented Jul 22, 2014 at 19:07
  • 4
    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
    Commented Jul 22, 2014 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

  • Fuandon, trinity is union of three persons or three Gods that does not fitted to be one God.
    – Vince
    Commented Jul 30, 2014 at 20:46
  • ![enter image description here][1] [1]: i.sstatic.net/oxwwt.jpg
    – Vince
    Commented Jul 30, 2014 at 20:50
  • This answer doesn't answer the proposed question based on Scripture. @Vince your comment doesn't actually describe the Trinitarian doctrine as understood by Trinitarians who derived it from Scripture
    – eques
    Commented Oct 26, 2018 at 14:23

The Bible has a long history of using plurality and singularity interchangeably. You have already keyed in on one verse, but another is Deuteronomy 6:4. "Sh'ma Yisrael, Yahweh Eloheinu, Yahweh Echad" or translated - "Hear, O Israel, the LORD is our God, the LORD is One! ". In Elohenu and it's root Elohim are plural in form.

As such, most modern Christian scholars believe that this refers to the paradoxical triune nature of God as outlined in the Nicene Creed

According to Strong's Concordance, the word for "Name" used here in greek - ὄνομα | onoma entails and includes not just the moniker, but the entire essence, being and idea behind the moniker. In this way, to be baptized in God's name is to be baptized by God himself just as the 12 Apostles were at Pentecost.

As such, in this case it proper to use the singular and plural forms interchangeably when referring to God because although he has many names, there is only one God.


The name of the Lord is both singular in as much as it pertains to God, and collective, in as much as it refers to God as Father, God the Word (Son of God as Scripture refers to Him), or God as Spirit.

God told Moses, in regard to His name:

13 Then Moses said to God, "Indeed, when I come to the children of Israel and say to them, 'The God of your fathers has sent me to you,' and they say to me, 'What is His name?' what shall I say to them?" 14 And God said to Moses, "I AM WHO I AM." And He said, "Thus you shall say to the children of Israel, 'I AM has sent me to you.' "15 Moreover God said to Moses, "Thus you shall say to the children of Israel: 'YHWH God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you. This is My name forever, and this is My memorial to all generations.' (NKJV with YHWH)

Consider the parallel lines in this account:

God said to Moses, "I AM WHO I AM."
Thus you shall say to the children of Israel,
'I AM has sent me to you.' "
15 Moreover God said to Moses,
"Thus you shall say to the children of Israel:
'YHWH God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob,
has sent me to you.
This is My name forever, and this is My memorial to all generations.'

Somehow, I-A-Who-I-Am is parallel with YHWH is parallel with I-Am.
I-Am-What/Who-I-Am communicates that whatever is His nature or His character, that is His name. We have a few distinct examples in what have been regarded as His "Compound names":--He-Is-Righteousness. He-Is-Healer. He-Is-Shalom. He-Is-Shepherd. By the rest of the account we see that this is His name forever!

So, we consider, the name Jesus. This name means Yah-is-Salvation. Is it the nature and character of God to save? Is He, He-Who-Saves?

The writer of Hebrews says, Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever. Was He always the Word incarnate? No. So in what way is He the same yesterday, today and forever? Well, His name refers to His character, Yah-Salvation/Yah-Saves. He was not a man always! But He was God always! Judge for yourselves whether this is the name of God/the Spirit of God.

Jesus, as the Son of God said,

43 I have come in My Father's name, and you do not receive Me; if another comes in his own name, him you will receive.

Jesus was the name of God because he was given this name as a man. The incarnation was the manner in which God came to save. It was God who came to save!

In reconciling the use of the name in regard to a singular person, Jesus is still only one name whether the name is used to refer to Father, Son, or Holy Spirit. Father, Word (became Son) and Spirit are one. If one considers in what way Father, Word and Spirit are one (namely one God), God's name is He-Who-Saves. Father, Word/Son and Spirit may rightly be referred to as Jesus.


We read in Matthew 28:19 "Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:" The disciples or Apostles who all knew Jesus personally recognized the name of the father. Jesus is the name of the father. "I am come in my Father's name, and ye receive me not: if another shall come in his own name, him ye will receive." (John 5:43) So they baptized "In the name of the father" which was Jesus. And everybody there knew that Jesus was the name of the son. "And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name Jesus: for he shall save his people from their sins." (Matthew 1:21) Lastly, what was the name of the Holy Ghost or Holy Spirit? "But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you." (John 14:26) God sent the Holy Spirit in the name of Jesus.

That is why whenever someone believed in the name and power of Jesus, they then baptized that person in the name. First, before showing all the New Testament baptisms, that were all done in the name of Jesus exclusively, let us look at the importance of the name "Jesus." The name JESUS means "JEHOVAH SALVATION" from Fausset's Bible Encyclopedia, Page 359. The word Jesus should be translated: YHWH saves, (is) salvation. From Jesus (Name) in Wikipedia. We read the following facts about Jesus name.

"Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved." Acts 4:12 So no other name or title saves.

"And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth." (Matthew 28;18) Jesus and His name alone have all power. Anything else is powerless.

"And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him." (Colossians 3:17) Though people try to get around this very fact, Jesus name is to be used for all things, to include our baptism.

So now we let the Scriptures speak for themselves. No testimony or validation concerning anything can be valid with out two or three witnesses according to the word of God. Nobody except Satan uses a one Scripture doctrine. Read Matthew 4:1-11 to see how the devil manipulated a Scripture out of context to Jesus.

"At the mouth of two witnesses, or three witnesses, shall he that is worthy of death be put to death; but at the mouth of one witness he shall not be put to death." (Deuteronomy 17:6)

"This is the third time I am coming to you. In the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word be established." (2 Corinthians 13:1)

"But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established." (Matthew 18:16)

Baptism Scriptures

"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." (Acts 2:38) Peter said that everyone should be baptized in the name of Jesus, for the forgiveness of their sins. Though some say this is meant only for the Jews, later verses will prove that every type of person whether Jew, Samaritan or Gentile (all non-Jews) were all required by God to get baptized in the singular name of Jesus, if they believed in Him. Matthew was there with the rest of the Apostles, and helped baptize the Jews and agreed to the formula method. (Acts 2:41-42)

"But when they believed Philip preaching the things concerning the kingdom of God, and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women. (For as yet he was fallen upon none of them: only they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.)" (Acts 8:12-16) So the Samaritans (half-Jews) received the word of God and became baptized in the name of Jesus.

"And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord. Then prayed they him to tarry certain days." (Acts 10:36) Peter commanded all the gentiles to get baptized in the name of the lOrd Jesus. How do we get that? If you read the whole chapter of Acts 10, then go to verse 36 you will find this fact. "The word which God sent unto the children of Israel, preaching peace by Jesus Christ: (he is Lord of all:)"

Consider that the Apostle Paul wrote these words. "But contrariwise, when they saw that the gospel of the uncircumcision was committed unto me, as the gospel of the circumcision was unto Peter; 8(For he that wrought effectually in Peter to the apostleship of the circumcision, the same was mighty in me toward the Gentiles:)" So Paul wrote that Peter was the Apostle to the Jew, and He to the gentile. What did peter say of Paul? Did he agree to the words of Paul? Yes. "And account that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation; even as our beloved brother Paul also according to the wisdom given unto him hath written unto you; As also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction." (2 Peter 3:15-16) Here Peter warns of one Scripture wrestling out of context verse people. Now unto all other baptismal Scriptures.

"And a certain woman named Lydia, a seller of purple, of the city of Thyatira, which worshipped God, heard us: whose heart the Lord opened, that she attended unto the things which were spoken of Paul. And when she was baptized, and her household, she besought us, saying, If ye have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come into my house, and abide there. And she constrained us." Lydia heard the word of God, believed it and got baptized. (Acts 16:15).

"And brought them out, and said, Sirs, what must I do to be saved? And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house. And they spake unto him the word of the Lord, and to all that were in his house. And he took them the same hour of the night, and washed their stripes; and was baptized, he and all his, straightway. And when he had brought them into his house, he set meat before them, and rejoiced, believing in God with all his house." (Acts 16:30-34) Paul told the jailer the Gospel truth. Who when he believed it he got baptized.

"And Crispus, the chief ruler of the synagogue, believed on the Lord with all his house; and many of the Corinthians hearing believed, and were baptized." (Acts 18:8) Crispus believed and got baptized into the name of Jesus Christ.

"Then said Paul, John verily baptized with the baptism of repentance, saying unto the people, that they should believe on him which should come after him, that is, on Christ Jesus. When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus." (Acts 19:4-5) Some of John's former disciples now got re-baptized into the name of Jesus Christ. John baptized unto Christ, saying unto the people that they should believe in him (Jesus the Christ). His baptism was not wrong for the period, but outdated as all believers were told to be baptized into Jesus Christ after the Resurrection, the Great Commission (Mark 16:15-17; Luke 24:45-47) and the church age began.

"And now why tarriest (wait) thou? arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord." (Acts 22:16) Paul himself got baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus. That's why he baptized others, as previously noted, in the name above all name (Philippians 2:8-10).

The rest of what I will present will not be actual baptisms, but what Paul wrote baptized believers in the name of Jesus concerning the topic of baptism. I do this in order to help your understanding of what the early church taught and believed on that subject.

"Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment. For it hath been declared unto me of you, my brethren, by them which are of the house of Chloe, that there are contentions among you. Now this I say, that every one of you saith, I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ. Is Christ divided? was Paul crucified for you? or were ye baptized in the name of Paul? I thank God that I baptized none of you, but Crispus and Gaius; Lest any should say that I had baptized in mine own name. And I baptized also the household of Stephanas: besides, I know not whether I baptized any other. For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel: not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect. For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God." 1 Corinthians 1:10-18) Paul wrote that though he baptized others in the name of Jesus, like many preachers today, he was called mainly to preach and not simply baptize people. But he wanted no divisions in the baptismal formula of the name of Jesus.

"And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God." (1 Corinthians 6:11) Baptism is defined as a submersion, overwhelming in a liquid or washing. Here it mentions Jesus name in connection to it.

"For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ. For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit." (1 Corinthians 12:12-13) Again, as members of the body of Jesus Christ, we have His name in the body of believers.

"Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection." (Romans 6:3-5) Baptism was clearly done in the name of Jesus as referenced here by Paul.

"For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus." (Galatians 3:26-28) We become children of faith by believing and becoming baptized into the name of the the Lord Jesus Christ.

In closing, I have not exhausted the Scriptural references to the name of Jesus or the need of becoming baptized in His name. However, this is more than enough proof for any sincere believer to have to show why they are baptized only in His saving name. May the peace of God which passes all understanding be yours in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.


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.

  • As far as whether there is or is not evidence, that's really a question for Christianity.SE, not here. Commented Jul 22, 2014 at 19:16
  • I doubt whether a meaningful discussion of this matter is possible on that site.
    – fdb
    Commented Jul 22, 2014 at 19:19
  • 4
    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. Commented Jul 22, 2014 at 19:22
  • +1 for stating the truth of the word
    – Steve
    Commented Nov 22, 2020 at 6:53

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.


I would interpret this verse in a spiritual sense rather than a physical sense. One meaning of the word name is 'authority' another is 'character', and that is what I see as being meant here. Look at this quote:

For this bible study this is an important consideration, because it reveals another fundamental aspect what Jesus was talking about when he said, "baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit:" (Matthew 28:19). The fact that the name reveals the character is true for people as well as for God. Nabal is a good example, Nabal means "folly" (acts of foolishness), and his wife Abigail said of him, "as his name is, so is he;" (1 Samuel 25:25). Nabal was a foolish man, and his name revealed it. The name Jacob means "heelcatcher, supplanter, deceiver, defrauder", the very character of Jacob. Esau said of him, "Is not he rightly named Jacob? for he has supplanted me these two times: he took away my birthright; and, behold, now he has taken away my blessing." (Genesis 27:36). Later, when his character changed, and he wrestled with "God", and prevailed (Genesis 32:24-30), God changed Jacob's name to Israel; "Your name shall be called no more Jacob, but Israel: for as a prince you have power with God and with men, and have prevailed." (Genesis 32:28). Israel has been variously translated to mean "Prince with God", or "Soldier of God", or "One who wrestles with God". Having prevailed against men (Genesis 25:29-34; 27:1-29; 31:1-55), and now with God (Genesis 32:24-30), as God's chosen, Jacob's name had to be changed to suit his new character. Changing someone's name often went along with a change of position or character; Jesus gave Simon the name Cephas (John 1:42), translated Peter (Matthew 10:2) (Gr. Πέτρος, Gtr. Petros), which means "a stone" or "a rock". It was a name which described something solid, steady, and firm, which he eventually was to be like. We have already seen that when Jesus said, "I have come in my Father's name," (John 5:43), that he came with his Father's authority (See #3. Baptism Father Son Holy Spirit), but another meaning to the statement is that he came to manifest his Father's character. In every way Jesus portrayed the Father, to such a degree that he could say, "I and my Father are one." (John 10:30), and "he who has seen me has seen the Father;" (John 14:9). The very words that he spoke were exactly as the Father gave him to say (John 3:34; 8:28; 8:38; 12:50; 14:10; 17:8), and the works that he did were those given to him by the Father (John 5:36; 9:4; 17:4). One literal name can never reveal the fullness of the character of God, because he has far too many attributes, but in the Old Testament God revealed himself through many names, each one of which he used to reveal to his people some part of his nature or character.

So in Matthew 28:19 Jesus was instructing the disciples to baptize them into (Gr. eis) the character of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. This is not an instruction for how to perform a water baptism.

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