Today is Trinity Sunday. The Gospel reading is the very end of Matthew, in which Jesus tells his disciples, “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you” (Matt. 28.19–20).
The only problem is, the apostles seem not to have followed Jesus’s command: According to the book of Acts, if they baptized in anyone’s name, it was that of Jesus alone, not of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
Something seems amiss here.
On that subject, here’s an excerpt from a piece I wrote last fall, Troubling Inconsistencies in the New Testament:
In Whose Name Should We Baptize —
the Trinity, or Just Jesus?
The orthodox, wishing to find support in the New Tesetament for the doctrine of the Trinity, set great store by the trinitarian baptismal formula in the Great Commission. If we believe the late manuscripts of Matthew -- as opposed to the early manuscripts that apparently do not -- Jesus commands the disciples to baptize in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit (Mt. 28:19). (See this discussion of the different manuscripts of Matthew containing the Great Commission.)
But in the Marcan version of the Great Commission, the reference to baptism does not mention baptizing in the name of anyone in particular (Mk. 14:16).
Moreover, in the Book of Acts -- long after the Great Commission would have taken place -- Peter and the disciples baptize in the name of Jesus only (Acts 2:38, 8:16, 10:48, 19:5).
Some scholars believe that the trinitarian formula was subsequently added to Matthew to justify a later-evolved doctrine of the Trinity.
That, of course, raises another question: What else in Matthew -- or in other New Testament documents -- might have been the work of later doctrinal editors?
A few months later, I got into a long debate on the Pontificator blog with an extremely-traditionalist priest from a continuing church. He went to extraordinary lengths to try to argue around this problem. Read the discussion, starting at comment #95 and continue working down, especially my comments #128 and #138. Decide for yourself whether he succeeded.
Isn't the baptism in the name of Jesus a shortened formula of the baptism in the name of the Trinity ?
Posted by: Gege | May 24, 2005 at 06:31 AM
"That, of course, raises another question: What else in Matthew -- or in other New Testament documents -- might have been the work of later doctrinal editors?"
Indeed - comparing the Gospels to the 'Gospel' that Paul received from Jesus Himself... one will find many issues to explore!
Posted by: Christofer | July 14, 2005 at 08:00 PM