Matthew 28:19:

A Key Text to The Triunity of God Pt. 1

Muslim polemicist Bassam Zawadi reposted two articles that seek to undermine the Trinitarian Baptismal formula found in Matthew 28:19:

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

The first article was taken from an anti-Trinitarian unitarian heretical website, and the other one comes from a fellow Muhammadan of Zawadi’s.

Here is a part of what the unitarian heretics that Zawadi references claim regarding Jesus’ instruction to baptize in the name of the Triune God:

  1. Eusebius (c. 260—c. 340) was the Bishop of Caesarea and is known as “the Father of Church History.” Although he wrote prolifically, his most celebrated work is his Ecclesiastical History, a history of the Church from the Apostolic period until his own time. Today it is still the principal work on the history of the Church at that time. Eusebius quotes many verses in his writings, and Matthew 28:19 is one of them. He never quotes it as it appears today in modern Bibles, but always finishes the verse with the words “in my name.” For example, in Book III of his History, Chapter 5, Section 2, which is about the Jewish persecution of early Christians, we read:

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.”

Again, in his Oration in Praise of Emperor Constantine, Chapter 16, Section 8, we read:

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 was present at the council of Nicaea and was involved in the debates about Arian teaching and whether Christ was God or a creation of God. We feel confident that if the manuscripts he had in front of him read “in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,” he would never have quoted it as “in my name.” Thus, we believe that the earliest manuscripts read “in my name,” and that the phrase was enlarged to reflect the orthodox position as Trinitarian influence spread.


Let’s see if whether the confidence of these heretics and pseudo-Christians is well founded or misplaced.

First off, Matthew 28:19 is found in every extant manuscript of this Gospel that contains the entire chapter, whether Greek, Latin, or any other ancient language. This is a fact, which these heretics cannot simply brush aside.

Secondly, Matthew’s Trinitarian baptismal formula was cited by many church fathers long before Eusebius and the Council of Nicaea, just as the following citations amply attest.

Didache – Teaching of the Twelve Apostles

Here is some historical background regarding the Didache so that the readers can appreciate the importance of this document:

Since it was discovered in a monastery in Constantinople and published by P. Bryennios in 1883, the Didache or Teaching of the Twelve Apostles has continued to be one of the most disputed of early Christian texts. It has been depicted by scholars as anything between the original of the Apostolic Decree (c. 50 AD) and a late archaising fiction of the early third century. It bears no date itself, nor does it make reference to any datable external event, yet the picture of the Church which it presents could only be described as primitive, reaching back to the very earliest stages of the Church’s order and practice in a way which largely agrees with the picture presented by the NT, while at the same time posing questions for many traditional interpretations of this first period of the Church’s life. Fragments of the Didache were found at Oxyrhyncus (P. Oxy 1782) from the fourth century and in coptic translation (P. Lond. Or. 9271) from 3/4th century. Traces of the use of this text, and the high regard it enjoyed, are widespread in the literature of the second and third centuries especially in Syria and Egypt. It was used by the compilator of the Didascalia (C 2/3rd) and the Liber Graduun (C 3/4th), as well as being absorbed in toto by the Apostolic Constitutions (C c. 3/4th, abbreviated as Ca) and partially by various Egyptian and Ethiopian Church Orders, after which it ceased to circulate independently. Athanasius describes it as ‘appointed by the Fathers to be read by those who newly join us, and who wish for instruction in the word of goodness’ [Festal Letter 39:7]. Hence a date for the Didache in its present form later than the second century must be considered unlikely, and a date before the end of the first century probable. (Jonathan Draper, Gospel Perspectives, v. 5, p. 269; bold emphasis ours)

And here is what Draper says in a footnote (op. cit., p. 284),

“A new consensus is emerging for a date c. 100 AD.”

Thus, the Didache is a very important witness since it is a late first century or early second century composition which gives us a window into the practices of believers around that time.

With that said, this document twice references the Matthean Baptismal formula, serving as an independent witness that this text was known and in use within the first century:

Chapter 7. Concerning Baptism. And concerning baptism, baptize this way: Having first said all these things, baptize into the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, in living water. But if you have no living water, baptize into other water; and if you cannot do so in cold water, do so in warm. But if you have neither, pour out water three times upon the head into the name of Father and Son and Holy Spirit. But before the baptism let the baptizer fast, and the baptized, and whoever else can; but you shall order the baptized to fast one or two days before. (Roberts-Donaldson translation:; bold and underline emphasis ours)

Here is another translation of this same passage:

7:1 But concerning baptism, thus shall ye baptize.
7:2 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.
7:3 But if thou hast not living water, then baptize in other water;
7:4 and if thou art not able in cold, then in warm.
7:5 But if thou hast neither, then pour water on the head thrice in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.
7:6 But before the baptism let him that baptizeth and him that is baptized fast, and any others also who are able;
7:7 and thou shalt order him that is baptized to fast a day or two before. (J.B. Lightfoot’s translation; bold and underline emphasis ours)

There are other witnesses besides the Didache.

Ignatius of Antioch (ca. AD. 107-112)

Chapter IX.-The Old Testament is Good: the New Testament is Better.

… The priests indeed, and the ministers of the word, are good; but the High Priest is better, to whom the holy of holies has been committed, and who alone has been entrusted with the secrets of God. The ministering powers of God are good. The Comforter is holy, and the Word is holy, the Son of the Father, by whom He made all things, and exercises a providence over them all. This is the Way which leads to the Father, the Rock, the Defence, the Key, the Shepherd, the Sacrifice, the Door of knowledge, through which have entered Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, Moses and all the company of the prophets, and these pillars of the world, the apostles, and the spouse of Christ, on whose account He poured out His own blood, as her marriage portion, that He might redeem her. All these things tend towards the unity of the one and only true God. But the Gospel possesses something transcendent [above the former dispensation], viz. the appearing of our Saviour Jesus Christ, His passion, and the resurrection itself. For those things which the prophets announced, saying, “Until He come for whom it is reserved, and He shall be the expectation of the Gentiles,” have been fulfilled in the Gospel, [our Lord saying,] “Go ye and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.” All then are good together, the law, the prophets, the apostles, the whole company [of others] that have believed through them: only if we love one another. (Epistle of Ignatius to the Philadelphians; bold and underline emphasis ours)

Chapter II.-Unity of the Three Divine Persons.

There is then one God and Father, and not two or three; One who is; and there is no other besides Him, the only true [God]. For “the Lord thy God,” saith [the Scripture], “is one Lord.” And again, “Hath not one God created us? Have we not all one Father? And there is also one Son, God the Word. For “the only-begotten Son,” saith [the Scripture], “who is in the bosom of the Father.” And again, “One Lord Jesus Christ.” And in another place, “What is His name, or what His Son’s name, that we may know? ” And there is also one Paraclete. For “there is also,” saith [the Scripture], “one Spirit,” since “we have been called in one hope of our calling.” And again, “We have drunk of one Spirit,” with what follows. And it is manifest that all these gifts [possessed by believers] “worketh one and the self-same Spirit.” There are not then either three Fathers, or three Sons, or three Paracletes, but one Father, and one Son, and one Paraclete. Wherefore also the Lord, when He sent forth the apostles to make disciples of all nations, commanded them to “baptize in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost,” not unto one [person] having three names, nor into three [persons] who became incarnate, but into three possessed of equal honour. (Epistle of Ignatius to the Philippians; bold and underline emphasis ours)

Irenaeus (ca. 130-200)

Chapter XVII.-The Apostles Teach that It Was Neither Christ Nor the Saviour, But the Holy Spirit, Who Did Descend Upon Jesus. The Reason for This Descent.

It certainly was in the power of the apostles to declare that Christ descended upon Jesus, or that the so-called superior Saviour [came down] upon the dispensational one, or he who is from the invisible places upon him from the Demiurge; but they neither knew nor said anything of the kind: for, had they known it, they would have also certainly stated it. But what really was the case, that did they record, [namely,] that the Spirit of God as a dove descended upon Him; this Spirit, of whom it was declared by Isaiah, “And the Spirit of God shall rest upon Him,” as I have already said. And again: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He hath anointed Me.” That is the Spirit of whom the Lord declares, “For it is not ye that speak, but the Spirit of your Father which speaketh in you.” And again, giving to the disciples the power of regeneration into God, He said to them, “Go and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.” For [God] promised, that in the last times He would pour Him [the Spirit] upon [His] servants and handmaids, that they might prophesy; wherefore He did also descend upon the Son of God, made the Son of man, becoming accustomed in fellowship with Him to dwell in the human race, to rest with human beings, and to dwell in the workmanship of God, working the will of the Father in them, and renewing them from their old habits into the newness of Christ. (Against Heresies, Book III; bold and underline emphasis ours)

Tertullian (ca. 160-220)

Chapter XX.-Christ First Delivered the Faith. The Apostles Spread It; They Founded Churches as the Depositories Thereof. That Faith, Therefore, is Apostolic, Which Descended from the Apostles, Through Apostolic Churches.

… Accordingly, after one of these had been struck off, He commanded the eleven others, on His departure to the Father, to “go and teach all nations, who were to be baptized into the Father, and into the Son, and into the Holy Ghost.” Immediately, therefore, so did the apostles, whom this designation indicates as “the sent.”… (Tertullian The Prescription Against Heretics:; bold and underline emphasis ours)

Chapter VI.-The Angel the Forerunner of the Holy Spirit. Meaning Contained in the Baptismal Formula.

Not that in the waters we obtain the Holy Spirit; but in the water, under (the witness of) the angel, we are cleansed, and prepared for the Holy Spirit. In this case also a type has preceded; for thus was John beforehand the Lord’s forerunner, “preparing His ways.” Thus, too, does the angel, the witness of baptism, “make the paths straight” for the Holy Spirit, who is about to come upon us, by the washing away of sins, which faith, sealed in (the name of) the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, obtains. For if “in the mouth of three witnesses every word shall stand:” -while, through the benediction, we have the same (three) as witnesses of our faith whom we have as sureties of our salvation too-how much more does the number of the divine names suffice for the assurance of our hope likewise! Moreover, after the pledging both of the attestation of faith and the promise of salvation under “three witnesses,” there is added, of necessity, mention of the Church; inasmuch as, wherever there are three, (that is, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit,) there is the Church, which is a body of three. (Tertullian On Baptism:; bold and underline emphasis ours)

Chapter XIII.-Another Objection: Abraham Pleased God Without Being Baptized. Answer Thereto. Old Things Must Give Place to New, and Baptism is Now a Law.

Here, then, those miscreants provoke questions. And so they say, “Baptism is not necessary for them to whom faith is sufficient; for withal, Abraham pleased God by a sacrament of no water, but of faith.” But in all cases it is the later things which have a conclusive force, and the subsequent which prevail over the antecedent. Grant that, in days gone by, there was salvation by means of bare faith, before the passion and resurrection of the Lord. But now that faith has been enlarged, and is become a faith which believes in His nativity, passion, and resurrection, there has been an amplification added w the sacrament, viz., the sealing act of baptism; the clothing, in some sense, of the faith which before was bare, and which cannot exist now without its proper law. For the law of baptizing has been imposed, and the formula prescribed: “Go,” He saith, “teach the nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” The comparison with this law of that definition, “Unless a man have been reborn of water and Spirit, he shall not enter into the kingdom of the heavens,” has tied faith to the necessity of baptism. Accordingly, all thereafter who became believers used to be baptized. Then it was, too, that Paul, when he believed, was baptized; and this is the meaning of the precept which the Lord had given him when smitten with the plague of loss of sight, saying, “Arise, and enter Damascus; there shall be demonstrated to thee what thou oughtest to do,” to wit-be baptized, which was the only thing lacking to him. That point excepted, he bad sufficiently learnt and believed “the Nazarene” to be “the Lord, the Son of God.” (Ibid.; bold and underline emphasis ours)

Hippolytus (ca. 170-236)

  1. These things then, brethren, are declared by the Scriptures. And the blessed John, in the testimony of his Gospel, gives us an account of this economy (disposition) and acknowledges this Word as God, when he says, In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. If, then, the Word was with God, and was also God, what follows? Would one say that he speaks of two Gods? I shall not indeed speak of two Gods, but of one; of two Persons however, and of a third economy (disposition), viz., the grace of the Holy Ghost. For the Father indeed is One, but there are two Persons, because there is also the Son; and then there is the third, the Holy Spirit. The Father decrees, the Word executes, and the Son is manifested, through whom the Father is believed on. The economy of harmony is led back to one God; for God is One. It is the Father who commands, and the Son who obeys, and the Holy Spirit who gives understanding: the Father who is above all, and the Son who is through all, and the Holy Spirit who is in all. And we cannot otherwise think of one God, but by believing in truth in Father and Son and Holy Spirit. For the Jews glorified (or gloried in) the Father, but gave Him not thanks, for they did not recognise the Son. The disciples recognised the Son, but not in the Holy Ghost; wherefore they also denied Him. The Father’s Word, therefore, knowing the economy (disposition) and the will of the Father, to wit, that the Father seeks to be worshipped in none other way than this, gave this charge to the disciples after He rose from the dead: Go and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. And by this He showed, that whosoever omitted any one of these, failed in glorifying God perfectly. For it is through this Trinity that the Father is glorified. For the Father willed, the Son did, the Spirit manifested. The whole Scriptures, then, proclaim this truth. (Against Noetus; bold and underline emphasis ours)

Cyprian (ca. 200-258)

Lucius of Castra Galbae said: Since the Lord in His Gospel said, You are the salt of the earth: but if the salt should have lost its savour, wherewith shall it be salted? It is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out of doors, and to be trodden under foot of men. Matthew 5:13 And again, after His resurrection, sending His apostles, He gave them charge, saying, All power is given unto me, in heaven and in earth. Go and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Matthew 28:18-19 Since, therefore, it is manifest that heretics— that is, the enemies of Christ— have not the sound confession of the sacrament; moreover, that schismatics cannot season others with spiritual wisdom, since they themselves, by departing from the Church, which is one, having lost the savour, have become contrary to it—let it be done as it is written, The house of those that are contrary to the law owes a cleansing. And it is a consequence that those who, having been baptized by people who are contrary to the Church, are polluted, must first be cleansed, and then at length be baptized. (The Seventh Council of Carthage: On the Baptism of Heretics; bold and underline emphasis ours)

Victorinus (ca. 270-303)

  1. “And His voice as it were the voice of many waters.”] The many waters are understood to be many peoples, or the gift of baptism that He sent forth by the apostles, saying: “Go ye, teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.” (Victorinus Commentary on the Apocalypse of the Blessed John; bold and underline emphasis ours)

More importantly, Zawadi and his cohorts are simply mistaken concerning Eusebius since this church father did in fact cite the Trinitarian Baptismal formula. As the following NT scholar explains:

We follow here the longer reading of UBS4=NA27 for Matt 28.19.

Eusebius’ shorter reading (otherwise unattested): πορευθέντες μαθητεύσατε πάντα τά έθνη έν τω όνόματι μου, διδάσκοντες… [Demonstratio 3.6, 7(bis); 9.11; Hist. Eccl. III.5.2; Psalms 65.6; 67.34; 76.20 (59.9 not the same reading); Isaiah 18.2; 34.16 (v.l.); Theophania 4.16; 5.17; 5.46; 5.49; Oratio 16.8] is not to be regarded as original (despite Conybeare, ‘The Eusebian Form of the Text Matth. 28, 19’; ‘Three Early Doctrinal Modifications of the Text of the Gospels’, pp. 102-108; History of New Testament Criticism, pp. 74-77; Lohmeyer, Matthäus, p. 412; Vermes, Jesus the Jew, p. 200; Green, ‘The Command to Baptize and Other Matthean Interpolations’, pp. 60-62; ‘Matthew 28:19, Eusebius, and the lex orandi’).The omission of the phrase can be explained as due to Eusebius’ tendency to abbreviate, as Eusebius elsewhere often cites the longer form [Contra Marcellum I.1.9; I.1.36; Theologia III. 5.22; EpCaesarea 3 (Socrates, Eccl.Hist 1.8); Psalms 117.1-4; Theophania 4.8]. The shorter reading ‘in my name’ could have been formed as a result of harmonising Luke 24.47 and Mark 16.17 (as seems to occur in Psalms 59.9). Note that Eusebius also alludes to this passage without using either ‘in my name’ or the full clause [Demonstratio 1.3, 4, 6; Psalms 46.4; 95.3; 144.9; Isaiah 41.10; Theophania 3.4; Theologia III.3]. See further Hubbard, The Matthean Redaction of a Primitive Apostolic Commissioning, pp. 151-175; Schaberg, The Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, pp. 27-29 (who refer to earlier studies). (Peter M. Head, Christology and the Synoptic Problem: An Argument for Markan Priority (Society for New Testament Studies Monograph Series) [Cambridge University Press, 1997], pp. 212-213; bold emphasis ours)

And here are two citations from Eusebius where we find him quoting Matthew’s Trinitarian formula:

  1. As we have received from the Bishops who preceded us, and in our first catechisings, and when we received the Holy Laver, and as we have learned from the divine Scriptures, and as we believed and taught in the presbytery, and in the Episcopate itself, so believing also at the time present, we report to you our faith, and it is this :
  1. We believe in One God, the Father Almighty, the Maker of all things visible and invisible. And in One Lord Jesus Christ, the Word of God, God from God, Light from Light, Life from Life, Son Only-begotten, first-born of every creature, before all the ages, begotten from the Father, by Whom also all things were made; Who for our salvation was made flesh, and lived among men, and suffered, and rose again the third day, and ascended to the Father, and will come again in glory to judge the quick and dead. And we believe also in One Holy Spirit: believing each of these to be and to exist, the Father truly Father, and the Son truly Son, and the Holy Spirit truly Holy Spirit, as also our Lord, sending forth His disciples for the preaching, said, Go teach all nations, baptizing them in the Name of the Father and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit Matthew 28:19. Concerning Whom we confidently affirm that so we hold, and so we think, and so we have held aforetime, and we maintain this faith unto the death, anathematizing every godless heresy. That this we have ever thought from our heart and soul, from the time we recollect ourselves, and now think and say in truth, before God Almighty and our Lord Jesus Christ do we witness, being able by proofs to show and to convince you, that, even in times past, such has been our belief and preaching. (Letter of Eusebius of Cæsarea to the people of his Diocese; bold and underline emphasis ours)


“That at the outset he said that he would make them fishers of men, and in the end openly after his example they should make disciples of all peoples, together with his peculiar aid (or power).  From the Gospel of Matthew:– After his resurrection from the dead, all of them together, as was commanded them, went to Galilee, as he told them.  But when they saw him some of them worship him, but others doubted.  But he drew near, gazed on them and said, All power in heaven and on earth is given to me of my Father. Go ye and make disciples of all peoples, and baptise them in the name of Father and Son and Holy Ghost. And teach them to observe all that I have commanded you. And, behold, I am with you always even to the end of the world.” (Theophania of Eusebius, published and translated by Dr. Samuel Lee, 4.8, p. 223; bold and underline emphasis ours)

This in itself sufficiently puts to rest the assertion that Matthew 28:19 did not originally contain the Trinitarian Baptismal formula.

However, we have more for Zawadi and his brand of “Christian” heretics in the next part of the rebuttal.






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