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In Matt 28:19, Jesus commanded the apostles to baptize in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, but we see in Acts of the Apostles that they baptized in the name of Jesus only (Acts 2:38, 8:16, 19:5). Why did the apostles not adhere strictly to the instructions of the Lord concerning water baptism?

  • This is controversial; some nontrinitarians use this discrepancy as evidence against trinitarianism. For how defenders of trinitarianism deal with this challenge, see Why didn’t the disciples baptize using a Trinitarian formula as commanded in the Great Commission? on Christianity.SE. – Nathaniel Oct 24 '18 at 21:14
  • Paul didn't have particularly high thoughts about water baptism. In 1 Cor 1:17 he writes: " Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel", Mat 28:19 could, therefore, mean: Immerse them in teaching about righteousness, unselfish love, and chastity. – Constantthin Oct 26 '18 at 10:18
  • Jesus and Jesus only are two different things. (Since baptism was originally a Jewish practice, the distinction between the Jewish mikveh and Christian baptism was that the latter also included the name of Christ). – Lucian Nov 8 '18 at 7:26
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Acts 19:1-5 (DRB)

And it came to pass, while Apollo was at Corinth, that Paul having passed through the upper coasts, came to Ephesus, and found certain disciples. 2 And he said to them: Have you received the Holy Ghost since ye believed? But they said to him: We have not so much as heard whether there be a Holy Ghost. 3 And he said: In what then were you baptized? Who said: In John's baptism. 4 Then Paul said: John baptized the people with the baptism of penance, saying: That they should believe in him who was to come after him, that is to say, in Jesus. 5 Having heard these things, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.

Notice that to be baptized into this "baptism into the name of the Lord Jesus" is baptism into "the Holy Ghost," per St. Paul's question, which implies, or rather necessitates that to be baptized in the aforementioned way is to be baptized into the name of the Holy Ghost also, not literally "I baptize you in the name of the Lord Jesus."

The fact that Peter says what he says in Acts 2:38 even precludes that "in the name of Jesus" is meant as any kind of exclusive formula for baptism. What does it mean then? It simply must be, contextually, a qualified way of identifying the kind of baptism, whether of John or Jesus (except with Jesus' you are baptized "into" Him, not just 'by Him'—and I need not explain the Hebraic use of 'name' here as designating a party or identity to belong to: "believed in His name" =" "believed in him").

So in summary, "in the name of Jesus" isn't the exclusive 'formula' of the baptism mentioned, but rather a primitive identification of that baptism among the different kinds (John's, and perhaps what would have been viewed as a baptism of the Holy Spirit in would be called centuries later the sacrament Confirmation or Chrism: Acts 8:16-17' Mk 1:8).

Sometimes the mutlivalence of meaning in the Greek word εις doesn't help here, since it can be read in the "into" or "in" sense. In English we sometimes associate an "in" + "[name]" formula to be literal, whereas the more Hebraic understanding would be the "into" sense: being radically united with Jesus in baptism:

Romans 6:3 (ESV) Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?

  • You wrote: "So in summary, "in the name of Jesus" isn't the exclusive 'formula' of the baptism mentioned". Is Matthew 28:19 "the exclusive formula"? – Ruminator Oct 25 '18 at 14:33
  • Yes. For several reasons. The first of course being that we don't have to guess because we know this was the formula of baptism used from history. Another being that this is not intended to distinguish it from other baptisms: it being the first time God asked anyone to baptize with this formula. Another being that since a list was given, it must be assumed to be exclusive (or, put another way, the absurdity of a liberty to 'add' persons as you so choose without requisite instruction from God, a specific list already given). – Sola Gratia Oct 25 '18 at 19:33
  • Moreover, the New Testament is clear on the intrinsic union of the Father, Son, Holy Ghost. No one ever enters into this trinity. To add is without warrant and to assume a knowledge about the category they are in that is not revealed (i.e. what Jesus intended by 'the [one] name of [the three persons]. E.g. you can't omit the word; you can't add 'Stephen,' or 'Paul.' – Sola Gratia Oct 25 '18 at 19:34
  • So you can't add to Matthew's list of completely equal authorities. What about removing one? For example, I read this as only one God (and that is the Father). Does this say "Three" to you?: KJV 1 Cor 8:6 "But to us there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we in him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we by him." Where, in Paul's God do you see three eternally co-equal persons? So can you subtract from the list? – Ruminator Oct 25 '18 at 19:40
  • You wrote: "...we don't have to guess because we know this was the formula of baptism used from history...". It is not used anywhere else in the scriptures other than Matthew 28:19. In every other case in scripture it is in the name of Jesus. – Ruminator Oct 25 '18 at 19:42
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There is excellent evidence that Matthew 28:19 was added to the text so that the "Trinity" would be in the scriptures (kinda, sorta). The article I cited above begins:

A Baptismal Formula At Variance With NT The Trinitarian Baptismal Formula appears in only one place in the New Testament: in the canonical Greek Matthew at 28:19. The parallel in Mark 16:15 is otherwise identical except it lacks any trinitarian baptismal formula.

Indeed, every surviving Greek manuscript of Matthew 28:19 has the trinitarian formula. The only non-Greek texts which have a variant that omits it are the Shem-Tob Hebrew Matthew and some old Latin and Syriac texts. Is it possible Matthew 28:19 was fraudulently changed to vindicate trinitarianism because very conveniently every surviving Greek text of Matthew [28:19] dates from 340 AD or later? It clearly could be modified and no one would be the wiser. Only quotes by the church fathers from an earlier time could betray the truth, as indeed seventeen such quotes exist and do so—each one omitting the trinitarian baptismal formula in their direct quotes from Matthew 28:19

The evidence is compelling. And just as compelling is the confusion of the addition itself. It is full of self-contradiction. Name is singular while "Father, Son and Holy Ghost" are three. So what is the singular name of these three? The name of the middle "God" is "Jesus". The modified passage is drivel.

Update

This source is even better. I quote:

...One might also ask why the apparent disobedience of the Apostles if this verse were genuine as there is not one who obeyed these supposed words of Jesus Christ from Matthew 28:19. Here are all the scriptures relating to baptism in the New Testament. New converts were all baptized into the name of Jesus Christ only.

Acts 2:38 “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 you shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.”

Acts 8:12 “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.”

Acts 8:16 “For as yet he was fallen upon none of them: only they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.”

Acts 10:48 “And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord. Then prayed they him to tarry certain days.”

Acts 19:5 “When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.”

Acts 22:16 “And now why tarriest you? arise, and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord.”

Romans 6:3 “Know you not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death?”

1 Corinthians 1:13 “Is Christ divided? was Paul crucified for you? or were you baptized in the name of Paul?” [Implied]

Galatians 3:27 “For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ.”

So should Matthew 28:19 read “baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.” or “baptizing them in My name.” And based on your conclusion, which of the following is correct?

Colossians 2:12 “Buried with the Father, Son and Holy Spirit in baptism, wherein also you are risen with them through the faith of the operation of God, who has raised them from the dead.” or Colossians 2:12 “Buried with him in baptism, wherein also you are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who has raised him from the dead.”

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    Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – Soldarnal Oct 25 '18 at 17:37

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