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By what nuance of meaning, in context, would Jesus use εἰς (eis) in Matthew and while Peter would use ἐπί (epi) in Acts?

In Matthew 28:19,
Jesus instructs his disciples regarding the nations, that they are to be "...baptizing them in (εἰς - eis) the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit"

In Acts 2:38,
Peter instructs the Jews to "...be baptized every one of you in (ἐπί - epi) the name of Jesus Christ..."

These two words, ἐπί (epi) and εἰς (eis), are both translated as 'in' though they seem possess meanings distinct from each other:

Strong's Concordance Definition for ἐπί (epi):

on, upon

vs Strong's Concordance Definition for εἰς (eis):

to or into (indicating the point reached or entered, of place, time, purpose, result)

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  • 1
    Those baptising, (Matthew 28:19) baptise unto (eis). Those who are baptised (Acts 2:38) are baptised in (or within epi). The baptisers are external to the experience. The baptisees are within the experience. I see no contradiction. –
    – Nigel J
    Jan 21, 2023 at 21:53
  • Was any of this helpful?
    – Dottard
    Mar 31, 2023 at 22:18

4 Answers 4

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Baptism involves two different people; one who performs the baptism and one who is baptized. As such there are two different baptismal confessions. The first is made by the one who has chosen to be baptized. The second is made by the one who baptizes.

Perspective demands two different descriptions for the different individuals.

In Matthew Jesus instructs how to perform the baptism He requires. In Acts Peter instructs those who must receive the baptism Jesus requires.

The Gospel of John provides the meaning of preposition ἐπὶ in the context of baptism.

John 1:51 (ESV):

And he said to him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you will see heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.”
καὶ λέγει αὐτῷ ἀμὴν ἀμὴν λέγω ὑμῖν ὄψεσθε τὸν οὐρανὸν ἀνεῳγότα καὶ τοὺς ἀγγέλους τοῦ θεοῦ ἀναβαίνοντας καὶ καταβαίνοντας ἐπὶ τὸν υἱὸν τοῦ ἀνθρώπου

Nathanael would see the angels of God ascending and descending ἐπὶ on the Son of Man.

The individual who confesses faith on the name of Jesus Christ for forgiveness of sins, is baptized in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.

Since there is no other name under heaven by which we are saved (Acts 4:12) Peter tells the crowd to choose to be baptized by making a confession on the name of Jesus Christ.

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  • Very insightful response. Will have think this one over. It would aid me in that process if you were to identify other examples, especially related to baptism for which this rule of distinction holds. Nevertheless this is so far the most plausible and helpful response.
    – Austin
    Apr 4 at 16:31
  • @Austin I like John 1:51 for several reasons. Like Matthew it is what Jesus said. While it doesn’t speak directly to baptism it is in the context of John the Baptist’s ministry and his disciples. At the time Peter spoke many would have been baptized by John and Peter’s message is one of being baptized. For some it is being baptized a second time. We are not told what the Baptist said when performing a baptism, but his message was to repent and would not have reference to Jesus or Christ. Peter’s is for remission of sin and to receive the Holy Spirit. Apr 4 at 17:46
  • thanks again for the food for thought.
    – Austin
    Apr 6 at 7:43
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This question has been much debated and will not be settled here. So, let me confine my answer to the Biblical data concerning prepositions before the Greek word ὄνομα (onoma = "name").

διὰ [τὸ] ὄνομά = through/because of/on account of the name

  • Matt 10:22 - And you will be hated by all on account of the name of Me; but the one having endured to the end, he will be saved.
  • Mark 13:13 - And you will be hated by all on account of the name of Me; but the one having endured to the end, he will be saved.
  • Luke 21:17 - And you will be hated by all because of the name of Me.
  • John 15:21 - But they will do all these things against you on account of the name of Me, because they have not known the One having sent Me.

εἰς [τὸ] ὄνομα = in the name

  • Matt 10:41 - The one receiving a prophet in the name of a prophet will receive the reward of a prophet, and the one receiving a righteous man in the name of a righteous man will receive the reward of a righteous man.
  • Matt 10:41 - And whoever shall give to drink to one of these little ones only a cup of cold water in the name of a disciple, truly I say to you, he shall certainly not lose his reward."
  • Matt 28:19 - Therefore having gone, disciple all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit
  • John 1:12 - But as many as received Him, He gave to them authority to be children of God--to those believing in the name of Him
  • John 2:23 - And when He was in Jerusalem in the Passover, in the Feast, many believed in the name of Him, beholding His signs that He was doing.
  • John 3:18 - The one believing in Him is not judged, but the one not believing already has been judged, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.

ἐπὶ τῷ ὀνόματί = in/on/upon/unto the name

  • Matt 18:5 - And whoever shall receive one such little child in the name of Me, receives Me.
  • Matt 18:20 - For where two or three are gathered together unto My name, there am I in their midst."
  • Matt 24:45 - For many will come in the name of Me, saying, 'I am the Christ,' and they will mislead many.
  • Mark 9:37 - "Whoever shall receive one of such little children in the name of Me, receives Me; and whoever shall receive Me, does not receive Me, but the One having sent Me."
  • Mark 9:39 - And Jesus said, "Do not forbid him. For there is no one who will do a work of power in [the] name of Me, and will be able readily to speak evil of Me.
  • Mark 13:6 - Many will come in the name of Me, saying, 'I am He,' and they will mislead many.
  • Luke 1:59 - And it came to pass on the eighth day, they came to circumcise the child, and were calling it after the name of his father, Zechariah.
  • Luke 9:48 - and He said to them, "Whoever shall receive this child in the name of Me, receives Me; and whoever shall receive Me, receives the One having sent Me. For the one being least among you all, he shall be great."
  • Luke 21:8 - And He said, "Take heed, lest you be led astray; for many will come in the name of Me, saying, 'I am He,' and 'The time is drawn near.' Do not go after them.
  • Luke 24:47 - and repentance and forgiveness of sins to be proclaimed in the name of Him to all nations, having begun from Jerusalem.
  • Acts 2:38 - And Peter says to them, "Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
  • Acts 4:17 - But that it might not spread further on among the people, let us warn them to speak no longer to no-one in the name of this [man]."
  • Acts 4:18 - And having called them, they commanded them not to speak nor to teach at all in the name of Jesus.

ἐν [τῷ] ὀνόματί = in/on the name

  • Matt 21:9 - And the crowds going before Him and those following were crying out, saying: "Hosanna to the Son of David!" "Blessed is the One coming in the name of the Lord!" "Hosanna in the highest!"
  • Mark 9:38 - John answered Him, "Teacher, we saw someone who does not follow us casting out demons in the name of You, and we were forbidding him, because he was not following us."
  • Mark 9:41 - For whoever might give you to drink a cup of water because you are Christ's in name, truly I say to you, that he shall certainly not lose his reward.
  • Mark 11:9 - And those going before and those following were crying out: "Hosanna!" "Blessed is the One coming in the name of the Lord!"
  • Mark 16:17 - And these signs will accompany those having believed: In the name of Me they will cast out demons; they will speak with new tongues;
  • Luke 9:49 - And John answering said, "Master, we saw someone casting out demons in the name of You, and we were forbidding him, because he does not follow with us."
  • Luke 10:17 - And the seventy-two returned with joy, saying, "Lord, even the demons are subject to us through the name of You."
  • Luke 13:35 - Behold, your house is left to you. And I say to you, you shall not see Me until the time comes when you say, 'Blessed is the One coming in the name of the Lord.'"
  • Luke 19:38 - saying: "Blessed is the King who comes in [the] name of the Lord!" "Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!"
  • John 5:43 - I have come in the name of the Father of Me, and you do not receive Me; if another should come in the name of his-own, you will receive him.
  • John 10:25 - Jesus answered them, "I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in the name of Father of Me, these bear witness concerning Me.
  • John 12:13 - took the branches of the palm trees and went out to meet Him, and were shouting: "Hosanna!" "Blessed is the One coming in [the] name of the Lord!" "And the King of Israel!"
  • John 14:13 - And whatever you might ask in the name of Me, this I will do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son.
  • John 14:14 - If you ask Me anything in the name of Me, I will do it.
  • John 14:26 - But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in the name of me, He will teach you all things and will bring to your remembrance all things that I have said to you.
  • John 15:16 - You did not chose Me, but I chose you and appointed you, that you should go and you should bear fruit, and your fruit should remain, so that whatever you might ask the Father in the name of Me, He may give you.
  • John 16:23 - And in that day, you will ask of Me nothing. Truly, truly, I say to you, whatever you may ask the Father in the name of Me, He will give you.
  • John 16:24 - Until now you have asked nothing in the name of Me. Ask and you will receive, that your joy may be full.
  • John 16:26 - In that day you will ask in the name of Me, and I do not say to you that I will implore the Father for you.
  • John 17:11 - And I am no longer in the world, and yet they are themselves in the world, and I am coming to You. Holy Father, keep them in the name of You, which You have given Me, that they may be one as we are.
  • John 17:12 - When I was with them, I was keeping them in the name of You, which You have given Me. And I guarded them, and none of them has perished, except the son of destruction, that the Scripture might be fulfilled.
  • John 20:31 - But these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in the name of Him.
  • Acts 3:6 - But Peter said, "Silver and gold, to me there is none; but what I have, this I give to you: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk!"
  • Acts 4:10 - let it be known to all of you, and to all the people of Israel, that in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth--whom you crucified, whom God raised out from the dead--in Him this man stands before you sound.

From this survey we observe the following facts:

  • Several of these prepositions appear (in this context) to be used interchangeably such as ἐν vs ἐπὶ (Mark 9:37, 38, 39, 41); see also Luke 9:48 vs Luke 9:49; and Acts 4:10 vs $;17, 18.
  • The prepositions ἐπὶ and εἰς are sometimes used interchangeably (as the OP has observed) in places like Matt 28:19 and Acts 2:28.
  • Further, the meanings of these prepositions overlap considerably and that is why they are often used interchangeably.

In a few places, a preposition is completely absent and the article acts in its place such as:

  • Acts 2:21 - And it shall be that everyone who shall call upon the name of the Lord will be saved.'
  • Acts 3:16 - And on the faith in His name, this man whom you see and know, His name has strengthened; and the faith which is through Him has given to him this complete soundness before all of you.

Many have tried to make very fine distinctions between the use of these prepositions such as, "on the subject of" vs "in the authority/power of", etc. However, it appears that the NT writers at times almost deliberately blurred these differences (if any really exist). Thus all that one might conclude is that invoking the name of God, the Father or Jesus simply means to act on/by their authority and teaching.

[BDAG has an extended article about this subject of the "the name" under ὄνομά which I have summarized in the brief statement above.]

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  • What name will one use to invoke the name of God? Jan 21, 2023 at 23:38
  • 1
    @AlexBalilo - nice try but I will not bite except to quote what the NT clearly says: "that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in the heavens and on earth and under the earth," Phil 2:10.
    – Dottard
    Jan 22, 2023 at 0:00
  • 1
    Why not? Part of your answer says "one might conclude is that invoking the name of God,," So this God you speak of has a name,. Is it because you do not want to his name known, contrary to what Jesus said? By the way, this God that you refuse to name is the God that gave Jesus the name that is above every other name. Philippians 2:9. Nice try. Jan 22, 2023 at 2:26
  • 2
    @AlexBalilo this is not an appropriate use of Comments.
    – Steve can help
    Jan 22, 2023 at 21:30
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As individuals, we can take two distinct actions based on our faith. First: Calling 'on' the Name of God or the name of the Lord as in Acts 22:15, 16 NKJV:

15 For you will be His witness to all men of what you have seen and heard. 16 And now why are you waiting? Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord.’

Secondly: After calling on the name of the Lord we give ourselves to be baptized 'in' the Name of Jesus.

Paul expounds how the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus is played out in our conversion which begins with us calling on the Name of the Lord to save us.
This leads to repentance-death [to sin] then our baptism-burial of [our old nature] 'in' the name of Jesus; so that we can rise-resurrect to new life when we receive the Holy Spirit.

Romans 6:2-4 NKJV

2 Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it? 3 Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? 4 Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.

Note in Matthew the command translated 'in' the 'name' [is singular]. This was fulfilled when Peter commanded in Acts 2:38 to be baptized in the 'name' of Jesus since the singular name of God [Immanuel] is Jesus; namely Jehovah is Salvation or Yah-Saves.

Matthew 28:19 NKJV

Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit

Acts 2:38 NKJV

Then Peter said to them, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

Jesus reserved the proclamation of these key steps for Peter who he gave the 'keys' so that Peter unlocks the Kingdom of heaven for the Jews in Acts 2; the Samaritans in Acts 8 and the Gentiles in Acts 10-11.

Matthew 16:19 NKJV

And I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.

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The hypothesis that the Gospel of Matthew was written in Hebrew is pertinent to the case of prepositions, as Greek is a geometric language. In the case of the Gospel of Matthew, the fact that there is a less rigorous translation and with fewer resources, such as the number of witnesses, weighs heavily.

However, the εἰς τὸ ὄνομα (Acts 8:16 and Acts 19:5 NAS27) verses are in compatibility with Matthew 28:20, so does this indeed suggest a different understanding for the use of a different preposition? Does the author of Atos de Apostolos interchange prepositions without rigor in other passages of the book?

The verses of Matthew 28:19; João. 3:18; chiefly Acts 8:16; 19:5 and even 1 John 5:13 support the baptizing of waters, while the construction using ἐπί in Acts 2:38 refers to receiving the gift (dorea) of the holy spirit, referring/recalling the authorization given by Jesus Christ as verified in these verses: Mattews 18:5; 24:5; Mark. 9:37, 39; 13:6; Luke. 1:59; 9:48; 21:8; 24:47; Acts 4:17-18; 5:28, 40.

And having come near, Jesus spake to them, saying, 'Given to me was all authority in heaven and on earth; having gone, then, disciple all the nations, (baptizing them -- to the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit (Matt. 28:18-19 YLT)

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  • Matthew undoubtedly was translated into Hebrew for the benefit of Jews who were not fluent in Greek, but the evidence is strong that it was written in Greek. Apr 4 at 17:50

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