LEAVING THE DOCTRINE OF BAPTISMS 15-3
DID ROME CHANGE MATTHEW 28:19?
Matthew 28:19, The Trinity
We have already considered and rejected the characterization of the expression “in the name of” as being strict formulas to be said over a valid baptizing. I believe therefore that any seemingly contradiction is henceforth dispelled. Both Matthew 28:19 and Acts 2:38 complement each other and show the unity of the Godhead behind the commission of teaching and baptizing.
The authenticity of Matthew’s account. Some have posed that Matthew 28:19 was added to the Scriptures by the Roman Catholic Church to prove the concept of the trinity.i The anti-Matthew 28:19 claim: "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."ii Saying something came from Rome does not make it so. But is this true? Is there really evidence for collusion for adding to and corrupting the Scripture, Matthew 28?
The Roman Church And Motives And Opportunities
Proposition: Matthew 28:19 was not the child of the Roman Catholic Church. In order to add a false verse to Matthew 28, the Romans would have had to have both a (1) motive and (2) opportunity to do so.
I. The Romans did not have the motive.
The local language of Rome was Latin. During the first century the emperor Claudius in Rome had tried to limit the use of Greek, and on occasion revoked the citizenship of those who lacked Latin. However, even he had to speak Greek to communicate with Greek-speaking ambassadors.iii The New Testament originated in the Greek language. Would the Romans have been interested in the Greek manuscripts? Or only in the Latin translations?
The Originals Were Written in Greek. Prior to Constantine, the dominant language in both the Roman Empire and the Persian (Parthian) Empire was Greek in addition to each local native tongues (Acts 2:8-12). iv Gradually, local and native languages became more important in replacing Greek Scriptures in the western part of the empire. Responding to the common need in the West, scholars began translating the Greek Bible (both OT [LXX] and NT) into Latin. Greek New Testament texts apparently were translated into Latin early on.v
Note: This “standard” map of the divided Roman Empire does not show the far eastern extension of the churches in Persia, in India and in China.vi The Persian Empire in the Far East sought to destroy Christianity once Constantine was a convert out of fear of Christians being his spies.
Rome Had No Motive For The Greek Bible. The Roman church subsequently would have had no reason to be interested in the Greek Bible but in a good Latin version. In about the year 383 A.D. because of the many variant readings in the early Latin translations, the “first Roman bishop” to be called a “Pope”,vii Damasus I (366-384), had the linguist scholar Jerome revise the Latin translations of the Four Gospels which became the foundation for the Roman Vulgate.viii Jerome did the Vulgate with a comparison with the original Greek text.ix The Latin bishop might have been interested in what went into the Latin Bible but obviously not in changing the Greek.
Augustine, a hero of the Western Empire’s Christendom, did not even know Greek but was very proficient in Latin and hence his Latin writings have affected Western doctrines.
No Motive For Faking A Baptizing Formula. A formula for baptizing was not involved in the controveries during the 4th Century. It was rather mainly a question of whether Jesus was equal to God, the Father, or was a created being. Matthew 28:19 does not take sides in this issue. There is no motive to insert a change to the verse. Nobody denied there was the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.x
2. The Roman Catholic Church did not have the opportunity to affect any corruption of Matthew 28.
The Nicean Council was not supervised by Rome’s church. Their “representative” was notably absent.
Jude 3 claims that “the Faith” (NT) had been completed and delivered with the original autographed copies. “Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once* delivered unto the saints.” *“Once” in this passage means “conclusively” (Strong’s Dictionary). Revelation of the common salvation ceased with the first century with the death of the last of the apostles through whom it had come when directed by the Holy Spirit.
According to secular history a couple centuries passed from the age of the apostles when Rome’s church had no more power to influence any change in religion than any other church and that especially included the sacred texts. Being at the capital of the Western Empire, they would have been the first immediately suppressed by the continuing pagan persecution until the “converted” Emperor Constantine sit on the throne in the 4th century. Being in the western capital no doubt added prestige to the Roman church and its single “bishop.” The Emperor still reigned supreme over the Empire’s religious and civil authorities. He summoned 18 participants to Rome in 313 AD to resolve charges about excommunication.xi This quote: “A lasting link, between the papacy and temporal power, has begun. And there are immediate signs of the change.”xii
Ten or so years later in 325 A.D. Constantine sought to conciliate some warring factions within the church over Arianism in 325 A.D. but it was the Emperor that presided over the First Nicene Council of 300 bishops and the deacons, etc., that convened in Asia Minor (not Rome).xiii The Arian concept of Christ as a mere human who did not always exist but was begotten by God the Father. xiv xv Rome’s “bishop” was not even present. The resulting Creed would be modified by a Council fifty years later and was seen as the touchstone of orthodoxy on the doctrine of the Trinityxvi But it was not concerning Matthew 28 in any way.
The Roman church neither had a motive or an opportunity to tamper with the Matthew 28 record of the great commission by Jesus to His apostles.
Next: Ancient material discovered show that Matthew 28:19 was always like we read it. GW
- --- ---GAYLON WEST
i F. C. Conybeare claims that the Trinitarian baptismal formula of Matthew 28:19 was not original to the text of Matthew.
iii Rochette, "Language Policies in the Roman Republic and Empire," p. 552
vi India: http://www.pbs.org/wnet/religionandethics/2009/04/24/april-24-2009-ancient-christians-in-india/2754/;
vii Baumgartner, Frederic J. 2003. Behind Locked Doors: A History of the Papal Elections. Palgrave Macmillan. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bishops_of_Rome_under_Constantine_I#cite_note-b6-1.