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The Seventh Day Adventist Church is by far the largest of the 7th Day Churches of God, but it is not included in our list of churches, because its Fundamental Beliefs (nos.2-5) include the unbiblical Trinitarian doctrine. It did not adopt this doctrine until 1980 at its Dallas Convention, shortly after which the Adventist Review wrote: “While no single Scripture passage states the doctrine of the Trinity, it is assumed as a fact … only by faith can we accept the existence of the Trinity.” (Vol.158, No.31, p.4.)
But doesn’t The Great Commission of Matthew 28:19-20 affirm the doctrine of the Trinity?
“19 Go ye therefore, and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit: 20 teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I commanded you: and lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.” [ASV]
Brian Hoeck (Truth on the Web Ministries) writes:
This “Great Commission” of Jesus Christ is an oft-quoted proof-text of trinitarians, used to promote their belief in the three-in-one/triune God. This is based on the use of the single noun, “name” (as opposed to “names”), applied to three separate nouns – the Father, Son, and holy spirit – thus supposedly three beings with one name (or, according to some versions of triune theology, one being in three manifestations).
The 1917 Scofield note on this verse states: “The word is in the singular, the “name,” not names. Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is the final name of the one triune God. It affirms: (1) That God is one.”
Is this true? Is this Scriptural proof of a trinity? Let’s dig down past the surface of this text and get a little deeper into a study of this matter.
Concerning these words, “baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost,” noted Bible scholar, E.W. Bullinger, in his Word Studies on the HOLY SPIRIT, pp.47, 48, states: “These words are contained in every Greek MS. [manuscript] known, and are, therefore, on documentary evidence, beyond suspicion: but yet there is one great difficulty with regard to them. The difficulty is that the Apostles themselves never obeyed this command; and in the rest of the New Testament there is no hint as to it ever having been obeyed by anyone. Baptism was always in the name of the one person of the Lord Jesus.”
Is this true? Let’s examine the Scriptures to prove all things.
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 ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.” [Baptism is to be performed in His name for the remission of sins because “…he had by himself purged our sins…” (Hebrews 1:3)].
Acts 8:16 “For as yet he [it] 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.”
Acts 19:5 “When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.”
Acts 22:16 “… arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord.”
1Cor 1:12-15 “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.”
[Editor’s note: Paul is implying here that the few baptisms that he performed there, without the use of water, but rather in spirit, as explained in Mk. 1:8 and in many other places, were all done in the name of Jesus Christ, who was crucified for us. Paul was referring to Jesus Christ – in whose name, he baptized spiritually the disciples.]
1Cor 6:11 “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.”
Rom 6:3 “Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death?”
Gal 3:27 “For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ.”
NOTE: In Matt 28:19, the word translated “in” in the phrase “in the name of…” is the Greek word “eis” which means “into.” The above two scriptures show what we are truly to be baptized into – not the name of the Father, Son, and holy spirit – but, into Christ and His death. “This was the formula of the followers of Eunomius (Socr.5.24) – ‘for they baptise not into the trinity, but into the death of Christ’.” (Encyclopedia Biblica, article: Baptism).
John 14:26 “But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom [which] the Father will send in my name…”
[Note: How does one receive the holy spirit? In the name of Jesus!]
Luke 24:47 “And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his [Jesus’s] name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.”
[Note: This verse ties directly with Matt 28:19 (preaching the Gospel among all nations) and Acts 2:38 (repentance and remission of sins, which comes in the name of Jesus Christ), and as we see here, both are to be done in the name of Jesus Christ – not in the name of a “triune god.”]
In the light of Scripture, we see baptism was never performed “in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the holy ghost,” but rather, in the name of Jesus Christ alone. Bullinger comments, “It is difficult to suppose that there would have been this universal disregard of so clear a command, if it had ever been given; or [if] it ever really formed part of the primitive text.”
“It is a question, therefore, whether we have here something beyond the reach of science, or the powers of ordinary Textual Criticism. As to the Greek MSS., there are none beyond the fourth Century [Of the fourth century, there are two: the Vaticanus and the Sinaiticus – BOTH CORRUPT. All other known Greek MSS. are from 5th Century and upward], and it seems clear that the Syrian part of the Church knew nothing of these words.” (Word Studies on the HOLY SPIRIT, p.48)
Why is it that no Greek MSS. exist from prior to the fourth century? It is due to the fact that in 303 AD Diocletian ordered all the sacred books to be burned. Church historian, Eusebius, wrote, “I saw with mine own eyes the houses of prayer thrown down and razed to their foundations, and the inspired and sacred Scriptures consigned to the fire in the open market place.” (H.E. viii 2).
This has left a large gap of three centuries (a time of great apostasy, which was already starting in Paul’s and Jude’s day – II Thes 2:7 & Jude 4), from which there are no known complete Greek MSS – from the first century, in which Matthew recorded his Gospel account, until the fourth and fifth centuries. This left plenty of time for perversion of the text to occur.
Fred Conybeare notes, “In the only codices which would be even likely to preserve an older reading [a non-triune reading of Matt 28:19], namely the Sinaitic Syriac and the oldest Latin Manuscript, the pages are gone which contained the end of Matthew.”
(Hibbert Journal, 1902, Fred C. Conybeare)
Is it possible that the destroyed manuscripts and these missing pages might have included a different reading of Matthew 28:19 – a reading that would agree with the above listed Scriptures, which show baptisms performed in Christ’s name alone? Let us examine some of the writings of the so-called “early church fathers”, who had access to older manuscripts.
Please note that we are NOT turning to them for any theological doctrine. The “early church fathers” were pagan converts who did not truly convert, rather they “Christianized” their pagan doctrines by applying Christian names and ideas to them. The only real value of these writings lies in the fact that their authors had access to these missing manuscripts, and they quoted from them quite frequently – so much so that almost the entire New Testament could be gathered from these sources alone. What text did their manuscripts contain? How did they quote Matt 28:19,20? We shall see.
Concerning Matthew 28:19, Conybeare states, “Eusebius cites this text of Matthew 28:19 again and again in works written between 300-336 AD, namely in his long commentaries on the Psalms, on Isaiah, his Demonstratio Evangelica, his Theophany … in his famous history of the Church, and in his panegyric of the emperor Constantine. I have, after a moderate search in these works of Eusebius, found eighteen citations of Matthew 28:19, and always in the following form: ‘Go ye and make disciples of all nations in my name, teaching them to observe all things, whatsoever I commanded you’.” (Hibbert Journal, F. Coneybeare). Eusebius’s rendering here (…make disciples of all the nations IN MY NAME…) ties directly with Luke 24:47 as listed above (repentance and remission of sins should be preached IN HIS [Jesus’s] NAME among all nations).
Conybeare states, “I have collected all these passages, except one which is in a catena published by Mai in a German magazine, the Zeitschrift fur die neutestamentliche Wissenschaft, edited by Dr. Erwin Preuschen in Darmstaft in 1901. And Eusebius is not content merely to cite the verse in this form, but he more than once comments on it in such a way as to show how much he set store by the words ‘in my name’.
Thus, in his Demonstratio Evangelica he writes thus (col. 240, p.136): “For he did not enjoin them to ‘make disciples of all the nations’ simply and without qualification, but with the essential addition ‘in his name.’ For so great was the virtue attached to this appellation that the Apostle [Paul] says: ‘God bestowed on him the name above every name, that in the name of Jesus every knee shall bow, of things in heaven and on earth and under the earth.’ It was right therefore that he [Jesus] should emphasize the virtue of the power residing in his name but hidden from the many, and therefore say to his Apostles: ‘Go ye, and make disciples of all nations in My name’.” (Hibbert Journal quoting Eusebius)
Conybeare continues, “It is evident that this [in My name] was the text found by Eusebius in the very ancient codices collected fifty to a hundred and fifty years before his birth by his great predecessors. Of any other form of text [than the “in My name” reading], he had never heard and knew nothing, until he had visited Constantinople and attended the Council of Nice. Then in two controversial works, written in his extreme old age, and entitled: ‘Against Marcellus of Ancyra,’ and the other ‘About The Theology Of The Church,’ he used the common reading after Nice.” (Hibbert Journal, p.105).
This has led scholars to suspect that he was persuaded to replace the original text.
“The exclusive survival [of the trinitarian text of Matthew 28:19] in all MSS, both Greek and Latin, need not cause surprise. But in any case, the conversion of Eusebius to the longer text after the Council of Nice indicates that it was at that time being introduced as a shibboleth of orthodoxy into all codices. The question of the inclusion of the Holy Spirit on equal terms in the Trinity had been threshed out [at the Council], and a text so invaluable to the dominant party [the trinitarians] could not but make its way into every codex, irrespective of its textual affinities (Hibbert Journal).”
Conybeare concludes: “It is clear, therefore, that [of all] the MSS which Eusebius inherited from his predecessor, Pamphilus, at Caesarea in Palestine, some at least preserved the original writing, in which there was no mention either of baptism or of the words ‘Father, Son, and Holy Ghost’ [in Matthew 28:19]” (Fred Conybeare).
At least two texts have been found that make no mention of these things:
“Go forth into all the world and teach all the nations in my name in every place.”
(Matthew 28:19 as cited in: E. Budge, Miscellaneous Coptic Texts, 1915, pp. 58 ff., 628 and 636)
“Go and teach them to carry out all the things which I have commanded you forever.” (Matthew 28:19, Hebrew Gospel of Matthew, translated by George Howard from Shem Tob’s Evan Bohan)
Let’s now examine some writings of the other early “church fathers.”
“The anonymous author of De Rebaptismate in the third century…dwells at length on ‘the power in the name of Jesus invoked upon a man in baptism’.”
(Smith’s Dictionary of the Bible, Vol. i, p 352, quoting De Rebaptismate 6.7).
In the Shepherd of Hermas (dated approximately 120 AD), it notes, “Before man bears the name of the Son of God, he is dead, but when he has received the seal [through baptism], he lays aside mortality and receives life.” It also states, “They are such as have heard the word and were willing to be baptized in the name of the Lord.”(emphasis mine)
The Hibbert Journal notes that Origen quotes Matt.28:19 three times – ending the quote abruptly at “nations” each time, and “that in itself suggests that his text has been censored, and the words which followed, ‘In my Name’, struck out.” (Conybeare).
“In Justin Martyr, who wrote about AD 130 and 140, there is a passage which has been regarded as a citation or echo of Matthew 28:19 by various scholars, e.g. Resch in his Ausser canonische Parallelstellen, who sees in it an abridgement of the ordinary text.
The passage is in Justin’s dialogue with Trypho 39, p 258: ‘God hath not yet afflicted nor inflicts the judgment, as knowing of some that still even today are being made disciples in the name of his Christ, and are abandoning the path of error, who also do receive gifts each as they be worthy, being illuminated by the name of this Christ.’ The objection hitherto to these words being recognized as a citation of our text was that they ignored the formula ‘baptising them in the name of the Father and Son and Holy Spirit.’ But the discovery of the Eusebian form of text removes this difficulty: and Justin is seen to have had the same text [“in My name”] as early as the year 140, which Eusebius regularly found in his manuscripts from 300 to 340.”
(Hibbert Journal F. Conybeare – emphasis mine).
“Justin quotes a saying of Christ … as a proof of the necessity of regeneration, but falls back upon the use of Isaiah [“Through the washing of repentance and knowledge of God, therefore, which was instituted for the sin of the people of God, as Isaiah says, we have believed, and we make known that the same baptism which he preached, and which is alone able to cleanse those who repent, is the water of life.” (Justin’s dialogue with Trypho)] and [so-called] Apostolic tradition to justify the practice of baptism and the use of the triune formula.
This certainly suggests that Justin did not know the traditional [trinitarian] text of Matthew 28:19.” (Encyclopedia of Religion and Ethics).
Concerning Aphraates, of Nisibis, Conybeare states, “There is one other witness whose testimony we must consider. He is Aphraates … who wrote between 337 and 345. He cites out text in a formal manner as follows: ‘Make disciples of all nations, and they shall believe in me.’ The last words appear to be a gloss of the Eusebian reading ‘in my name.’ But in any case, they preclude the textus receptus with its injunction to baptize in the triune name. Were the writing of Aphraates an isolated fact, we might regard it as a loose citation, but in the presence of the Eusebian and Justinian texts this is impossible.” (Conybeare).
“Now Eusebius, the great Ecclesiastical historian, died in 340 A.D., and his work belonged, therefore, in part to the third century. Moreover, he lived in one of the greatest Christian Libraries of that day. If the Greek MS. there contained these words [“baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost”], it seems impossible that he could have quoted this verse eighteen times without including them.”
“Professor Lake … and Mr. Conybeare have called attention to this fact, and shown that neither Justin Martyr (who died in 185 A.D.), nor Aphraates, of Nisibis (who flourished in Syria, 340 A.D.), knew anything of these words.”
“It looks, therefore, as though the words got into the text (perhaps from the margin) in the Church of North Africa [possibly Alexandria, as we’ll look at in a moment]; and that the Syrian Churches did not have them in the MSS. at their disposal.” (Bullinger, Word Studies on the HOLY SPIRIT, pp.48,49)
Many reference works denote the skepticism of scholars concerning the accuracy of this verse. The Encyclopedia of Religion And Ethics states: “It is the central piece of evidence for the traditional view [trinitarian formula]. If it were undisputed, this would, of course, be decisive, but its trustworthiness is impugned on the grounds of textual criticism, literary criticism, and historical criticism.”
It continues, “The facts are, in summary, that Eusebius quotes Matthew 28:19 twenty one times, either omitting everything between ‘nations’ and ‘teaching,’ or in the form ‘make disciples of all nations in my name,’ the latter form being the more frequent.”
It also comments on the verse as such: “If it be thought as many critics think, that no MS represents more than comparatively late recensions of the text, it is necessary to set against the mass of manuscript evidence the influence of baptismal practice [which was almost universally performed with the triune formula in the post-apostolic days].
It seems easier to believe that the traditional [trinitarian] text was brought about by the [trinitarian baptismal] influence working on the Eusebian [“in My name”] text, than that the latter arose out of the former in spite of it.” (Encyclopedia Of Religion and Ethics; article: Baptism).
In fact, Sir William Whiston stated, “We certainly know of a greater number of interpolations and corruptions brought into the Scriptures by the Athanasians, and relating to the Doctrine of the Trinity, than in any other case whatsoever. While we have not, that I know of, any such interpolation or corruption made in any one of them [the Scriptures] by either the Eusebians or Arians.” (Second letter to the Bishop of London, 1719, p 15).
“Different from the post-apostolic and later Christian liturgical praxis, which is marked by the trinitarian formula of Mt 28:19 (see Did. VII. i. 3; Just. Apol. LXI 3, 11, 13), the primitive Church baptized ‘in’ or ‘into the name of Jesus,’ (or ‘Jesus Christ,’ or ‘the Lord Jesus’; see I Co 1:13,15; Ac 8:16, 19:5; Did. ix. 5).” (Dictionary of the Bible, James Hasting, 1963, p.88, article: Baptism).
“… the trinitarian formula (Matt. 28:19) was a late addition.” (Harper’s Bible Dictionary sixth edition, 1959, p.60 article: baptism). And in the eighth edition of Harper’s Bible Dictionary, it states, “While the earliest formula of baptism seems to have been ‘in the name of the Lord Jesus’ (Acts 8:16, 10:48) the trinitarian formula obviously became the standard at a very early time.”
“Critical scholarship, on the whole, rejects the traditional attribution of the tripartite baptismal formula to Jesus and regards it as a later origin.” (The Philosophy of the Church Fathers, Henry Austryn Wolfsan, p. 277).
“In the last half of the fourth century, the text ‘in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost’ was used as a battle-cry by the orthodox against the adherents of Macedonius, who were called ‘pneumatomachi’ or ‘fighters against the Holy Spirit’, because they declined to include the Spirit in a Trinity of persons as co-equal, consubstantial, and co-eternal with the Father and the Son. They also stoutly denied that any text in the New Testament authorized such a co-ordination of the Spirit with the Father and Son. Whence we infer that their texts agreed with that of Eusebius [meaning, they lacked the triune reading of Matt 28:19]” (Hibbert Journal , F. Conybeare).
How did these spurious words get into the text and from where did they come? Fred Conybeare notes, “In the pages of Clement of Alexandria, a text some what similar to Matthew 28:19 is once cited – but as from a gnostic heretic, named Theodotus, and not as from the canonical text as follows – ‘And to the Apostles he gives the command: Going around preach ye and baptize those who believe in the name of the Father and Son and Holy Spirit’ ” (Conybeare, quoting from Excerpta cap.76, ed Sylb. p.287).
Alexandria was a hotbed of philosophical thought. Jewish philosopher, Philo, lived in Alexandria and taught his false doctrines of Gnosticism there. He spoke of “…one God, who in Himself is unity, yet appears in the likeness of a triad.” He stated that a “holy and divine vision” of the Rulership is perceived “…in such a way, that a single vision appears to him [the one having the vision] as a triad, and a triad as unity…” And again, he states that “…the intellect perceives most clearly a unity, although previously it learned to apprehend it under the similitude of a Trinity.” (E.R. Goodenough Light, By Light: the Mystic Gospel of Hellenistic Judaism, p.33).
Philo clearly taught the trinity doctrine, as did fellow philosophers, Pythagoras and Plato – a doctrine which they all received from the Mystery teachings of Babylon. These Mystery teachings were the source of Theodotus’s “Christianized” Gnostic trinitarian doctrine, cited by Clement of Alexandria.
When did the corruption of the baptismal formula arise? According to Canney’s Encyclopedia of Religion, the early church baptized in the name of Jesus until the second century. Encyclopaedia Brittanica (11th ed., Vol 3, p365) agrees, stating that baptism was changed from the name of Jesus to the words Father, Son, and Holy Ghost in the 2nd century. And in Volume 2 of the Encyclopaedia of Religion and Ethics, p.389, it notes that baptism was always performed in the name of Jesus until the time of Justin Martyr.
It should now be clearly seen that all things are to be done in Jesus’s name (Col 3:17), and that the words, “baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost,” have been added to God’s word to support the trinitarian doctrine, brought in by the philosophers and other pagan “converts” to “Christianity”. These words were not part of the original God-inspired text, much like the added words recorded in I John 5:7 (which are not in any Greek MS. prior to the 16th century).
“Until the middle of the nineteenth century the text of the three witnesses, 1 John 5:7-8, shared with Matthew 28:19 the onerous task of furnishing scriptural evidence of the Trinity. [These added words of I John 5] … are now abandoned by all authorities except the Pope of Rome. By consequence, the entire weight of proving the Trinity has of late come to rest on Matthew 28:19.” (Conybeare). And we have just seen that, in light of Scripture and the early “church” writings, it too is unauthentic.
“In the course of my reading, I have been able to substantiate these doubts of the authenticity of the text Matthew 28:19 by adducing patristic evidence against it so weighty that in future the most conservative of divines will shrink from resting on it any dogmatic fabric at all, while the more enlightened will discard it as completely as they have its fellow-text of the three witnesses [I John 5:7,8].” (Hibbert Journal F. Conybeare).
So what is the true “Great Commission” of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ? Matt 28:19,20 should read as such:
“Go therefore, and make disciples of all the nations in My name: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, behold, I am with you all the days until the completion of the age. Amen.”
** If anyone finds information PROVING OR DISPROVING the claims of this study, by all means, contact me with that information so that I may update, revise, correct, or even remove – if disproven, the information I present here. **
Thank you. ~ Author’s Email: Brian Hoeck