Q — Matthew 28 reports that Jesus said “Go, therefore, make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.” Matthew evidently copied much of his Gospel from Mark. Mark 16 has a similar passage, but no mention of a Trinity. Early church historian Eusebius, Bishop of Caesarea, quotes an early copy of Matthew in his “Proof of the Gospel (Demonstratio).” But his Matthew 28:19,doesn’t mention a Trinity. There are five descriptions of the administration of baptism in the New Testament all in the name of Jesus alone; none in the name of the Trinity. Could the Matthew 28:19 be an addition added by a copyist at a much later date?

A — The bottom line is that we do not know exactly how baptism was celebrated in the first century, nor do we know the exact words that were used in the celebration. Prior to the Apostolic Tradition, composed probably by Hippolytus of Rome about 215, we have nothing like a full description of the celebration of the sacrament.

We do not find a fully worked out and systematic doctrine of the Trinity in Holy Scripture. It would take centuries before the Christian church would develop and clarify its understanding of God as Triune. This development and clarification occurred principally in the periods leading up to the Council of Nicaea (325) and later the first Council of Constantinople (381). What we find in Scripture are elements of future, explicit Trinitarian doctrine. The late Dominican Father William Hill professor at the Catholic University of America, accurately described the biblical witness as “elemental Trinitarianism,” that is to say, the biblical witness is Trinitarian but not in the philosophically expressed language of the later tradition.

There are Trinitarian formulations in the letters of St. Paul, most especially 2 Corinthians 13:13. However, the most striking formulation occurs in Matthew 28:19. It is very likely that this formulation reflects the baptismal practice of the church for which St. Matthew was writing, perhaps the church of Antioch. The formula stands in contrast to an earlier tradition of baptizing “in the name of Jesus Christ” (Acts 2:38). The Greek manuscript evidence for Matthew 28:19 does not support the hypothesis that the Trinitarian formula reflects the hand of a later copyist. If indeed Eusebius of Caesarea omits the Trinitarian formula in his citation of Matthew 28:19, one would need to turn to an expert on the theology of Eusebius to look for a suitable and satisfactory explanation of the omission. I do not have that expertise.