Monday, February 3, 2014

Heretics United: A Defense of the Textual Integrity and Trinitarian Interpretation of Matthew 28:19 -- Part 1b

Part 1a can be found here.
In the interests of being somewhat thorough, especially for those who might look beyond this unitarians’ article to the works of other closely related attacks on the Triniarian baptismal clause, before moving on to the second objection the reader should be alerted to the fact that many of the scholarly sources that people often cite against the triune pronouncement in Matthew 28:19 are frequently taken out of context. By throwing such quotations in anti-Trinitarians pad their case and make it appear like it has more scholarly backing than it actually enjoys. This is the sort of thing that people like PW routinely fall for and that enable them to claim that something is “the consensus of scholarship,” etc. Ironically, taking things out of context is the worst kind of scholarship and doesn’t really even deserve to be dignified with such a name.
The following articles from Socinians, Arians, Modalists and Muslims, where they all seem to be shamelessly borrowing from one another, are rife with examples of what I have in mind here: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5; et al.
A perusal of these articles will show that it is quite popular to see the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia quoted to this effect:
The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, Vol. 4, page 2637, Under "Baptism," says:
"Matthew 28:19 in particular only canonizes a later ecclesiastical situation, that its universalism is contrary to the facts of early Christian history, and its Trinitarian formula (is) foreign to the mouth of Jesus." (Emphasis original)
If saying that this statement is found in volume 4 under “Baptism” is not enough to suggest that something fishy is going on, for what Encyclopedia doesn’t get to the letter “B” until the fourth-volume in a five-volume series?, then surely the fact that this sentence as quoted reads like it was picked up in mid-sentence should be an obvious tipoff.
As it turns out, by actually consulting the above resource, the words actually come from the section on “Sacraments” rather than the section on “Baptism,” and just like it appears the quote comes midstream in a fuller sentence. Furthermore, and most significantly, the snippet is not even a statement of the author as to that which he holds on the matter, but is rather a description of what some others say about it, to which the author goes on to register his objection. Here is what the contributing author to ISBE, J. C. Lambert, actually says in context:
The assumption made above, that both Baptism and the Lord’s Supper owe their origin as sacraments of the church to their definite appointment by Christ Himself, has been strongly challenged by some modern critics.
(1) In regard to Baptism it has been argued that as Mk 16 15f occurs in a passage (vs 9-20) which textual criticism has shown to have formed no part of the original Gospel, Mt 28 19, standing by itself, is too slender a foundation to support the belief that the ordinance rests upon an injunction of Jesus, more esp. as its statements are inconsistent with the results of historical criticism. These results, it is affirmed, prove that all the narratives of the Forty Days are legendary, that Mt 28 19 in particular only canonizes a later ecclesiastical situation, that its universalism is contrary to the facts of early Christian history, and its Trinitarian formula “foreign to the mouth of Jesus” (see Harnack, History of Dogma, I, 79, and the references there given). It is evident, however, that some of these objections rest upon anti-supernatural presuppositions that really beg the question at issue, and others on conclusions for which real premises are wanting…. (J. C. Lambert, “Sacraments,” in James Orr, M.A., D.D., Gen Ed., International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, Vol. IV, NAARAH—SOCHO (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1952), p. 2637.) (Bold emphasis mine)
For another example, a number of the articles linked above also have this statement, which supposedly gives us the view of Williston Walker from his A History of the Christian Church:
1953 by Williston Walker former Professor of Ecclesiastical History at Yale University. On page 95 we see the historical facts again declared. “With the early disciples generally baptism was ‘in the name of Jesus Christ.’ There is no mention of baptism in the name of the Trinity in the New Testament, except in the command attributed to Christ in Matthew 28:19. That text is early, (but not the original) however. It underlies the Apostles' Creed, and the practice recorded (*or interpolated) in the Teaching, (or the Didache) and by Justin. The Christian leaders of the third century retained the recognition of the earlier form, and, in Rome at least, baptism in the name of Christ was deemed valid, if irregular, certainly from the time of Bishop Stephen (254-257).”
The critical phrases in parentheses above DO NOT appear in Walker’s text and no indication is given anywhere in the article that material found in parentheses are not those of the author being quoted, thus giving out a false impression. Here is the unadulterated text of Walker:
With the early disciples generally baptism was “in the name of Jesus Christ.” There is no mention of baptism in the name of the Trinity in the New Testament, except in the command attributed to Christ in Matt. 2819. That text IS early, however. It underlies the Apostles’ Creed, and the practice recorded in the Teaching, and by Justin… (Williston Walker, A History of the Christian Church (New York: Scribner’s Sons, 1918), p. 95.) (Bold Emphasis and Capitals are mine)
The source cited decidedly does not say that Matthew 28:19 is “not original”; neither does it say that the Trinitarian statement was “interpolated” into the Didache.
A final example from most of these articles is the following:
Catholic Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger:
He makes this confession as to the origin of the chief Trinity text of Matthew 28:19. "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 AD 33. It was rather as the evidence proves a later invention of Roman Catholicism completely fabricated. Very few know about these historical facts. (Emphasis original)
Once again the person responsible for this collection of quotes has added in remarks that are not found in the original source, and these added words shamefully alter Ratzinger’s intended meaning. It is hardly surprising that no bibliographical information is provided to facilitate checking into this quotation. In spite of this authors’ best effort, I have located the source of the quotation. Once this quote is read in context it becomes apparent that Ratzinger is not saying that the text of Matthew 28:19 formed or took shape or originated in the second and third centuries in Rome. Rather, he was saying that the Apostle’s Creed took shape in connection with the way baptism was administered in the ancient Church. Here is what Ratzinger wrote:
Chapter 2
The Ecclesiastical Form of Faith
1. Introductory Remarks on the History and Structure of the Apostles’ Creed.
All that we have said so far has done no more than attempt to answer the formal question of what belief as such is and where in the world of modern thought it can find a starting point and a function to perform. The more far-reaching problems relating to its content thus necessarily remained open—with the whole subject perhaps looking only too pale and ill-defined. The answers can only be found by looking at the concrete shape of Christian belief, and this we now mean to consider, using the so-called APOSTLE’S CREED as a guiding thread. 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.” In accordance with this injunction, three questions are put to the person to be baptized: “Do you believe in God the Father Almighty? Do you believe in Jesus Christ, the Son of God…? Do you believe in the Holy Spirit…?” The person being baptized replies to each of these three questions with the word “Credo”—I believe—and is then each time immersed in the water. Thus the oldest form of THE CONFESSION OF FAITH takes the shape of a tripartite dialogue, of question and answer, and is, moreover, embedded in the ceremony of baptism. (Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, Introduction to Christianity (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, [1990], 2004), pp. 82-83.) (Uppercase mine)

I can’t help but relish the irony. Many of those who argue that Matthew 28:19 is a forgery that was interpolated into the text of Matthew’s gospel are often found to be guilty of interpolating their own misleading remarks into the works of scholars in order to make their case. Also, even though they have a demonstrable penchant for misinterpreting the works of some scholars, these writers laughably think that Trinitarians ought to come to them to learn how to not misinterpret Matthew 28:19. Given their exegetical track record, I am going to have to pass.


Anonymous said...

It's astounding how quotes are completely ripped out of context all in the name of apologetics.

They have demonstrated interpolations indeed. They just happens to be their own.

Great work brother. Much grace.

Unknown said...


Wow..! Great article. Glory to Jesus!

Btw, shouldn't they'd been more carefully when quoting cardinal Ratzinger? I mean, this former Pope is a very intelligent writer, with all his amazing writings... It's very shameful to take someone's writing, which is very critical, out of context..?! So sad...

Dk said...

Muslim's like Ibn Anwar cannot accurately handle their own sources, let alone non-Muslim sources.

I will never expect these kind of Muslims to accurately represent someone elses belief or sources. It's kind of similar, we would be deluding ourselves for example if we expected PW to accurately define his so-called former Christian beliefs.

The interpolations are utterly condemning.