Vol. 28 New Series October, 1967 No. 5

In 1962 I was sent a booklet containing "A Collection of the Evidence" concerning the phrase about baptism in Matt. 28:19; by its author Mr. A. H. Broughton, of 12, Kemeys Road, Rhoose, Barry, Glam., CF6 9DW; with a request for a review. At the time, pressure of other matters, including studies more relevant to our own standing and state, forced me to put it aside. But now that various queries have forced me to publish a fairly full study of the whole doctrine of baptism, including this verse, Mr. Broughton's booklet must be reckoned with.

He challenges the authenticity of the words: "baptizing them into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit." He cites Eusebius, who is stated to omit these words "again and again in works written between (A.D.) 300 and 336," and to have in his copies of Matthew, as an older reading, the words "in My name." Also he cites some other very early evidence, none of which carries as much weight as that of Eusebius. One quotation reads as follows:—

There can therefore be no doubt about what Eusebius believed. Against Eusebius is the fact (candidly admitted by Mr. Broughton) that there is no evidence in any extant text against the usual words.

However, as Mr. Broughton points out, we possess no text that is certainly correct right through. The earliest copies we have, including the text which we deduce must have been the basis of the numerous Cursives which eventually formed the Received Text, come from about the Fourth Century; and they disagree with one another at many points. Consequently, the fact must be faced that we cannot be absolutely sure of the authenticity of any reading about which there were anciently any reasonably valid doubts; though in the vast majority of cases the text is reasonably certain.

Yet to reject, as a matter of dogma, any reading about which there is no doubt of any sort in any text we possess, is to take a step which is impossible to justify. If we consider that we can rightly do it in one place, there ceases to be any sufficient reason why we, or anyone else, might not do it in another place, according to their prejudices or to serve their convenience.

The phrase "impossible to justify" has been queried by Mr. Broughton in a private letter; but I am afraid that for the reason given I cannot agree with him. He asserts that we should pay attention to outside proof, and that he has provided it. I agree; and on account of what he adduces, I am privately satisfied that much of Matt. 28:19 may well be no part of the original text; but that is only a private opinion, and only provisional, and therefore something which I would not dare to teach as a part of divine truth. This affords me no discomfort; because I am satisfied on other and firmer grounds that Matt. 28:19 does not apply to us, anyhow. In such circumstances we are entitled to hold private opinions, always provided that we hold them very lightly and are prepared to amend or even drop them if further light should be given.

In his discussion of this problem, Mr. Broughton does not explicitly reveal his inmost motives; but they come to view in one remark he makes towards the close, when he says (my italics): "Now in the matter of our Enquiry, it is important to settle what is the word of God, in order that we may obey." This desire to obey is most praiseworthy; but evidently it did not occur to him that this verse is in no way whatever a command for US to obey! This fact was, I believe, made quite clear in our Vol. 28, pp. 60-65. So, in sober fact, the problem which has been so important in Mr. Broughton's eyes really does not matter directly to us at all. Whether Eusebius was right, or whether all extant texts are right, ceases to be a vital issue for us. We may safely affirm, as a matter of faith, that when the future day dawns for the disciples on earth to obey the Lord's injunction here, He will have seen to it that the true text shall be known to them. All the baptisms in Matthew's Gospel are now out of order; for water baptism is entirely superseded by the baptism in spirit which occurs immediately we believe and which is our "one baptism."

The textual argument against the disputed words is even weaker than the textual argument for "the three heavenly witnesses" in the A.V. of 1. John 5:9. According to Alford: "Erasmus unfortunately pledged himself to insert the words if they existed in any one Greek ms. A Codex Britannicus was at length found which contained them. Erasmus, in his 3rd edition (1522) fulfilled his promise."

The practise in performing water baptism of triple immersion began at a very early date. Mr. Broughton quotes from the "Encyclopedia of Religion and Ethics":

Thus, we can justly have a strong suspicion that the formula now in Matt. 28:19 may have been inserted to comply with what had then become a universal, and wholly unjustifiable, practise. But that is all we can safely affirm. Even if we can be fairly certain that the words in question are an unlawful interpolation and that early copies did exist long ago which contained the form of words used by Eusebius; we have not achieved sufficient proof to justify a text which we cannot find in any extant Greek Ms. Therefore, the only proper course for the Christian is to leave matters as they are; trusting to the Lord Jesus, in His own good time, to put everything right. In this we are secure enough, for as single immersion is out of order now in any circumstances, triple immersion is triply out of order!

Concerning the "Internal Evidence" adduced by Mr. Broughton, this may be said. His test of "Context" carries little weight with me; for not enough is said by the Lord Jesus here for there to be any adequate "context" in such a sense. True, the phrase "in My name" when baptizing in water was in accord with usage during the time covered by the early part of Acts (see Acts 2:38; 10:48—all the occurrences); but those two are hardly sufficient for much to be made of them even for that period; and certainly they afford no authority whatever for bringing the idea into present conditions when there is no scriptural water baptism, still less into future ones. The baptism "into the name of the Lord Jesus" occurs in Acts 8:16; 19:5. Otherwise, the only occurrences of the idea of baptism "into the name" occur at 1. Cor. 1:13 and 15, both referring to a nonexistent baptism into the name of Paul. The words baptism and name never occur together.

This brings into view the other passages where into and name are associated. These are Matt. 10:41 (twice), 42; 18:20; John 1:12; 2:23; 3:18; Acts 8:16; 19:5. The last two, mentioned already, merit special attention; as they both refer to a baptism which was not complete in itself and which had to be supplemented by a placing of hands on those concerned so that they could obtain holy spirit.

Mr. Broughton draws attention, too, to the fact that the conjunction of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit appears nowhere else in Scripture. He might well have pointed out also that the doctrine in the Nicene Creed that the Holy Spirit "proceeds from the Father and the Son" is wholly unscriptural, and that the only places in which anything like "the Father and the Son" occur together are 1. John 1:3 and 2:24.

Perhaps another point is worth mention. The words en, in, and onoma, name, come into conjunction some 48 times. Those in the epistles are 1. Cor. 5:4; 6:11; Eph.5:20; Phil. 2:10; Col. 3:17; 2. Thess. 3:6; James 5:14. In Luke 24:47 the Greek reads "on His name." This matter will have to be looked into at the appropriate point in a series I am preparing on the Greek prepositions.

Mr. Broughton has most kindly given me a photostatic copy of an article by F. C. Conybeare in the Hibbert Journal (1902), and I am greatly indebted to him; for among other things it establishes what Eusebius actually wrote about Matt. 28:19, a thing which I could not ascertain on my own account. Of this Conybeare quotes:

Conybeare adds after the quotation: "The Greek words are: poreuthentes mathEteusate panta ta ethnE en to onomati mou." This is, rendered literally: "When going, disciple all the Gentiles in the name of Me."

The words of Eusebius here are followed by, "teaching them to observe all things, whatsoever I commanded you"; and Conybeare states that he has found eighteen such citations in the works of Eusebius, all in this form. He adds: "It is evident that this was the text found by Eusebius in the very ancient codices collected fifty to one hundred and fifty years before his birth by his great predecessors. Of any other form of text he had never heard, and knew nothing until he had visited Constantinople and attended the Council of Nicea." He states also that Eusebius used the now ordinary reading two or three times after the Council of Nicea and in his extreme old age. The inference is obvious. The eighteen citations are found in works written between A.D. 300 and 336.

Not only does all this tend to discredit the trinitarian formula but also the reference to baptism. To me, this is particularly striking, for my worst difficulty of all in my recent studies or baptism has been to perceive how any baptism in water can ever become meaningful again, though Matt. 28:19 and Mark 16:16 are always assumed to involve just that. For every reference to baptism in water is in Scripture either to John's baptism or to some vestige of it. This can readily be seen from the only conjunctions of baptizO and baptisma with hudor, water. These are Matt. 3:7-16; Mark 1:8-10; Luke 3:16; John 1:26-33; 3:22-24; Acts 1:5; 8:36-39; 10:47, 48; 11:16. Acts 10:47, 48 might perhaps be cited as an exception but for 11:16, which plainly refers to it.

Perhaps we should realize that, in view of the foregoing, we need not take "baptized" as necessarily meaning "baptized in water." Scripture avoids saying so. Why, then, should we say so? Have we any sort of right to assume that Rom. 6:2-11 refers to baptizing in water when the subject is baptizing into death? We should pay attention to Paul's very positive assertion in 1. Cor. 1:17. Those mentioned in vv. 14-16 were probably very early believers; but, however that may be, as a prop to support water baptism for all believers the passage is too weak to be worth considering.

The crux, however, appears when we consider together Mark 10:35-40 and Rom. 6:4; Col. 2:12. Sharing that baptism with the Lord Jesus was something that James and John could not then do; but it is the essential feature of baptism in spirit as it came about at Pentecost. It is far apart from the baptism of John the Baptist, which could do no more than look forward to it. He proclaimed baptism in his ministry of heralding the Kingdom. When Peter unlocked the Kingdom at Pentecost, then the whole point of John's baptism had gone, and it had become only a relic, to disappear as full light arrived.

Surely the great emphasis on water in John's baptism is not undersigned. As his Lord increased, so he decreased (John 3:30). Shortly he vanished from the scene. His disappearance was abrupt, that of his baptism necessarily gradual; but nevertheless it had to fade out after he had gone. There is, and can be, no abiding place for two baptisms together, particularly as the former one existed only as looking forward to the latter. There is no place for John's baptism now, there never was any after it had served its purpose; so why should there be any future place for it. How can something persist which existed solely to pave the way for what was to follow, and did follow, the promised baptism in spirit? To reject a trinitarian formula of baptism, and yet to accept a binitarian baptism: water and spirit, seems very illogical. For us, baptism is one; baptism in spirit. That comes about the instant we believe that the Lord Jesus is the Christ and, believing, have life in His name.

Lest anyone should think that I am dismissing the alleged double baptism (i.e. of water and spirit) too lightly, I must point out that it is among theologians, not in Scripture, that this notion is to be found. The point is easily demonstrated by examining the passages where pneuma, spirit, and hudor, water, come into contact. First there is a group, consisting of Matt. 3:11-16; Mark 1:6-11; Luke 3:15-17; John 1:32-34; Acts 1:5; 11:16. These all deal with John the Baptist's baptism in water and, in particular, his baptism of the Lord Jesus; and by their very terms they cannot possibly be instanced as "baptism in water and spirit," separating as they do John's water baptism and the Lord's baptism in spirit. The last of them emphasizes the point. Acts 10:47 discloses baptism in water undertaken after the Holy Spirit had been obtained. Acts 8:36-39 is a special case; for though it is an example of water baptism, nothing whatever is said about baptism in holy spirit. There remain three more passages. John 3:3-8 has nothing whatever to do with baptism, but with being begotten, with new life rather than with death and burial. John 7:37-39 also has no connection whatever with baptism; and the same applies even more emphatically to 1. John 5:1-8.

Again I would like to draw attention to this most powerful tool of Scripture research. Twice in this paper has it produced results so convincing that they leave no room for argument.

One last point. Now that evidence has reached me that the accepted reading of Matt. 28:19 may after all be spurious; the fact of the existence of evidence tending to show that the only other reference to baptism in the future is spurious becomes, to my mind, remarkably suggestive. This occurs in Mark 16:16, in the last twelve verses of Mark's Gospel, a passage concerning the authenticity of which doubts have been expressed for a century or more. Here, surely, is legitimate ground for suspending judgment and, in Conybeare's words, we may well "shrink from resting on it any dogmatic fabric at all." His "it" is the disputed part of Matt. 28:19; but even more does it apply to the close of Mark. To shrink thus is to be on the safe side; for no one has the right to reprove us for refusing to build on doubtful foundations. It is a pity that others have been less cautious and, frankly, less rational. For example, Young in his "Literal Translation of the Bible" encloses most of Matt. 28:19, 20 within brackets but gives no indication whatever that stronger evidence exists against the last twelve verses of Mark's Gospel, and no explanation that I can discover of his curiously arbitrary act.

By God's mercy, we do not need to build doctrine on any thing about which there is legitimate doubt.

R.B.W. Last updated 23.3.2006