1

Both the Gospel of Matthew and the Didache present a very similar "Trinitarian baptismal formula":

“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit ...” (Matthew 28:19 - bolding added)

Having first recited all these things, baptize {in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit} in living (running) water. (Didache, 7:2, trans. and ed., J. B. Lightfoot - bolding added)

The NET Bible translation appends this footnote to Matthew 28:19:

2tc Although some scholars have denied that the trinitarian baptismal formula in the Great Commission was a part of the original text of Matthew, there is no ms support for their contention. F. C. Conybeare, “The Eusebian Form of the Text of Mt. 28:19,” ZNW 2 (1901): 275-88, based his view on a faulty reading of Eusebius’ quotations of this text. The shorter reading has also been accepted, on other grounds, by a few other scholars. For discussion (and refutation of the conjecture that removes this baptismal formula), see B. J. Hubbard, The Matthean Redaction of a Primitive Apostolic Commissioning (SBLDS 19), 163-64, 167-75; and Jane Schaberg, The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit (SBLDS 61), 27-29.

La Bible de Jerusalem (2003), in its footnote c appended to the "trinitarian baptismal formula (see at p. 1730, @ archive.org) says:

c) Il est possible que cette formule se ressente, dans sa précision, de l'usage liturgique établi plus tard dans la communauté primitive. On sait que le Actes parlent de baptizer «au nom de Jésus». cf. Ac 1 5+, 2 38+. Plus tard on aura explicité le rattachement du baptisme aux trois personnes de la Trinité. Quoi qu'il en soit de ces variations possibles, la realité profonde reste la même. Le baptême rattaché a la personne de Jésus Sauveur; or tout son oeuvre de salut procède de l'amour du Père et s'achève dans l'effusion de l'Esprit.

(It is possible that this formula resonates, in its precision, with the liturgical usage established later in the primitive community. We know that Acts speak of baptizing "in the name of Jesus". cp. Acts 1 5+, 2 38+. Later the connection of baptism to the three persons of the Trinity would have been made explicit. Regardless of these possible variations, the underlying reality remains the same. Baptism associated with the person of Jesus the Savior; now all his work of salvation proceeds from the love of the Father and ends in the outpouring of the Spirit.)


Who came first? Matthew 28:19 or Didache 7:2? Did one use the other as a source? Or is it possible that they both adopted the "trinitarian baptismal formula" from a third 1st century source?


P.S. I was asked whether this, Was the text of Matthew 28:19 changed?^ answers my Question?

^ I presume, The Question itself and the Answers given to it.

The answer is NO, especially after Hold To The Rod edited it ("Did one use the other as a source?")

5
  • Re VTC, I propose keeping the question open. The Didache is in scope for this site, and the focused question at the end is fundamentally about source-criticism, which is also in scope. I amended the question very slightly to emphasize this point. May 27 at 18:50
  • There are several elements at play here: Christ's actual words; their original rendition in the initial version(s) of Matthew's Gospel; the latter's current form; and the possible textual evolution of the Didache itself (unless, of course, one thinks that the Apocrypha came down from Heaven all but leather-bound and cross-referenced, and have been miraculously preserved in their purest form by divine intervention, more so than the text of the canonical scriptures themselves).
    – Lucian
    May 27 at 23:01
  • @Dottard The NET Bible translation footnote to Matthew 28:19 is factually incorrect What would be "incorrect" about fn 2tc appended to Matthew 28:19 NET? What would the a.m. fn "question"? May 28 at 7:51
  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – Steve Taylor
    May 28 at 8:01
  • (+1) It's great to see more questions on contemporary/tertiary texts. I would affirm that this is a source criticism question, and the 'trinitarian' aspect is relevant from the perspective of potential scribal motives for appending words or phrases to texts. It's very close to the similar question (and could be distanced by focusing more explicitly on the Didache), but is still distinct in its focus on the dating/relationship between these two texts.
    – Steve Taylor
    May 28 at 8:13
1

The relationship between the Gospel of Matthew & the Didache has been studied for years without clear resolution. That they are related--including multiple verbatim quotes--is clear. At least 4 possibilities have been suggested:

  1. The Didache relies upon the Gospel of Matthew
  2. The Gospel of Matthew relies upon the Didache
  3. Both documents cite an earlier written source
  4. Both documents rely on common oral sources

--

As the Lord commanded in His Gospel

One of the strongest arguments for #1 and against #4 is the statement in chapter 8 of the Didache:

But let not your fasts be with the hypocrites; for they fast on the second and fifth day of the week; but fast on the fourth day and the Preparation. Neither pray as the hypocrites; but as the Lord commanded in His Gospel, thus pray: Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done, as in heaven, so on earth. Give us today our daily (needful) bread, and forgive us our debt as we also forgive our debtors. And bring us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one (or, evil); for Yours is the power and the glory forever. (see translation by Riddle here)

This passage repeatedly quotes text found in the Gospel of Matthew, refers to its source as the "Gospel", and states that the authority for these principles is not the apostles (as most of the Didache claims), but the Lord Himself. Note the very similar quotation of Matthew, again citing "the Gospel", in Didache chapter 15.

This is very high praise for the Didache's source--that a concrete, authoritative, well-known source is cited suggests that oral tradition alone is an insufficient explanation.

To claim that the Didache is reliant upon an earlier, now unknown source, is to multiply entities beyond necessity. It also leaves a very perplexing question--how is it that a source considered so well-known (it's called the Gospel) and authoritative was not only lost, but lost without ever being cited in any other Christian document?

The simplest solution is that the Didache quotes Matthew.

(For a thoughtful, competing argument, see chapter ten here).

--

The Great Commission

As noted in the OP, the authenticity of the Great Commission has been challenged by some. I propose that the most solid testimony in favor of the Great Commission is its appearance (in similar forms) in Luke 24:47 & Acts 1:8.

(A similar command is also found in the Gospel of Mark, but the last 12 verses of Mark are problematic for other reasons. But at the very least, whoever wrote the last 12 verses of Mark believed the general sense of the commission was an authoritative statement).

That some form of commission was given to take the gospel to the world is multiply attested.

--

The formula

The formula, sometimes referred to as "the trinitarian formula", naming the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, is not found in Mark or Luke's versions of the Great Commission. It is therefore possible that the multiply attested commission itself is original, but the formula is not, and was later appended to the commission.

If we accept that the Didache used the Gospel of Matthew as a source, the earliest attestation for the formula in Matthew would be the Didache!

As Frank Luke noted here, the formula is present in all early manuscript evidence and Ante-Nicene patristic citations of the passage. The preponderance of evidence appears to favor the authenticity of the formula.

--

Conclusion

While it is not possible to rule out common third source (we cannot prove a negative here), I suggest:

  • The Father, Son, and Holy Ghost formula is more likely than not to be part of the original text of the Gospel of Matthew

  • The Didache used the Gospel of Matthew as a source

If so, the answer to the OP's questions would be:

Who came first? Matthew 28:19 or Didache 7:2? Matthew 28:19 came first.

Did one use the other as a source? The Didache used Matthew as a source

Is it possible that they both adopted the "trinitarian baptismal formula" from a third 1st century source? It is possible but the possibility remains conjecture, as supporting evidence is absent.

1

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

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