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Chofi Rast wrote:

Dear Gentlemen —

I was searching on the internet yesterday for information about the Trinity and I got some interesting results on Baptism: "In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit" as it is written in Matthew 28:19.

As I read some statements from various Catholics, a question came to my mind:

  • Is it because of the authority that the Church holds upon the earth, given in Matthew 16:18 to Saint Peter, that the Church made some adjustment to the verse of Matthew 28:19 so the people would have a better understanding of the Trinitarian truth?

Below you can see some of the statements I got on the internet.

The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume II, page 263:

"The baptismal formula was changed from the name of Jesus Christ to the words Father, Son, and Holy Spirit by the Catholic Church in the second century."

The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. 1923, New Testament Studies Number 5:
The Lord's Command To Baptize An Historical Critical Investigation by Bernard Henry Cuneo,
page 27 states:

"The passages in Acts and the Letters of St. Paul. These passages seem to point to the earliest form as baptism in the name of the Lord."

Also we find:

"Is it possible to reconcile these facts with the belief that Christ commanded his disciples to baptize in the trine form? Had Christ given such a command, it is urged, the Apostolic Church would have followed him, and we should have some trace of this obedience in the New Testament. No such trace can be found. The only explanation of this silence, according to the anti-traditional view, is this, the short Christological (Jesus Name) formula, was (the) original, and the longer trine formula was a later development."

Catholic Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger makes this confession as to the origin of the chief Trinity text of Matthew 28:19 saying:

"The basic form of our (Matthew 28:19 Trinitarian) profession of faith took shape during the course of the second and third centuries in connection with the ceremony of baptism. So far as its place of origin is concerned, the text (Matthew 28:19) came from the city of Rome."

The Trinity baptism and text of Matthew 28:19 therefore did not originate from the original Church that started in Jerusalem around 33 A.D. It was rather, as the evidence proves, a later invention of Roman Catholicism completely fabricated. Very few know about these historical facts.

The Jerusalem Bible, a scholarly Catholic work, states:

"It may be that this formula, (Triune Matthew 28:19), so far as the fullness of its expression is concerned, is a reflection of the (Man-made) liturgical usage established later in the primitive (Catholic) community. It will be remembered that Acts speaks of baptizing "in the name of Jesus,"..."

I'll be looking forward to your reply.

Chofi

  { Were adjustments made to Matthew's Gospel so the people could better understand the Trinity? }

Mary Ann replied:

Chofi —

I see that you cut and pasted some things from another site. Perhaps you want to make a point rather than ask a question. The fact is that Ratzinger is referring to the Nicene Creed.

In any case, the book of Matthew and all the Gospels were written in the first century, and the Synoptics were written far early in the century than has been formerly estimated. Moreover,
the Gospel of Matthew is based on a very early Aramaic Matthew. If the phrase in question was
a change, it was a change made during the Apostolic age. In any case, our faith does not come from the Scripture, but from the Spirit-guided Apostolic community, which authorized the final versions of the Scriptures.

Mary Ann

Eric replied:

Chofi —

Testimony for the authenticity of this verse in Matthew goes all the way back to circa 50 A.D.
In the Didache, Chapter 7, we find instructions to baptize using the Trinitarian formula:

"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"

Didache, Chapter 7

This document dates as early as 50 A.D., putting it earlier than many books of the New Testament and squarely in the Apostolic age. It's repeated in 170 A.D. and circa 200 A.D. See:

  • Ignatius of Antioch, Epistle to the Philadelphians, 9.2
  • Irenaeus, Against Heresies, Book III, Chapter 17.1
  • Tertullian, Prescription Against the Heretics, 20.

Also the quote from Cardinal Ratzinger was inaccurate, it really said:

It may be useful to preface the discussion with a few facts about the origin and structure of the Creed; these will at the same time throw some light on the legitimacy of the procedure. The basic form of our profession of faith took shape during the course of the second and third centuries in connection with the ceremony of baptism. So far as its place of origin is concerned, the text comes from the city of Rome; but its internal origin lies in worship; more precisely, in the conferring of baptism. This again was fundamentally based on the words of the risen Christ recorded 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."

Thus the text that "comes from Rome" is the Creed, not the baptismal formula or the verse; and the authority cited is Matthew 28:19, which is referred to as "the words of Christ".

Now, to your question. The Catholic Church would not consider itself to have the authority to add to Scripture, (by which I mean to say, compose fresh text and append it) nor to modify it.
It does, however, have the authority to recognize which received texts are authentic. Given that we have evidence this text goes back to 50 A.D., not ruling out that its origins are earlier,
it certainly seems that it is authentic.

The reference to the Catholic Encyclopedia is not useful; there are many works by that name, and without an author or date, it's hard to pin it down. I looked at the most popular one from the early twentieth century and found no such quote.

As for the quote:

"The passages in Acts and the Letters of St. Paul. These passages seem to point to the earliest form as baptism in the name of the Lord."

from Cuneo, this seems to be taken out of context. This text starts:

"The stronghold of the negative view, however, is set in the network of knotted problems suggested by the passages in the Acts and the Letters of St. Paul.
These passages seem to point to the ..."

Here Google Books cuts it off. It seems that the book is presenting someone else's point of view here. We don't know if he's going to refute it or not, but it appears that this quote is being taken out of context as well. Note that he says "seem" which implies that it doesn't really, or at least appears to but has qualifications.

Then with:

"Had Christ given such a command, it is urged, the Apostolic Church would have followed him, and we should have some trace of this obedience in the New Testament. No such trace can be found."

This seems to me an argument from silence. There is no trace, so they say, that the Apostles obeyed Jesus's command.

  • Why does there have to be?
  • Why "should" we have this?
  • There are many things mentioned in the Gospels that we have no evidence of in Acts or the epistles, and why should we?

They served different purposes. Here you are playing off one Scripture against the other; not content that this formula is mentioned in Matthew, it is contended that, well, it's not mentioned anywhere else, so it must not be true.

  • Does everything have to be duplicated in Scripture before we believe it?

So we have two quotes we know were munged or taken out of context, one quote that cannot be found, and another reference (the Jerusalem Bible) that is likewise vague enough to be impossible to verify. By the way, the Jerusalem Bible is not "a scholarly work", it's just an ordinary bible.
Note that I am giving you very specific references that are easy to look up in context, in contrast to these vague citations and obscure books that web site provided.

With respect to why there are different formulations between Acts and Matthew, Acts, which frequently discusses people who had the baptism of John, and not the baptism of Jesus, uses the term "baptized in the name of Jesus" as a shorthand way to distinguish this baptism from John's baptism. Plus given how often they mention it, it would be awkward to use "baptize in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit" every time it was mentioned. The Acts references are not intended as a liturgical baptismal formula. That is what Matthew is intended to be.

I hope this helps.

Eric

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