In What Name Should We Baptize?
In Matthew 28:19, Jesus said that baptism should be done in the name of the Father and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Since it is to be done in the name (singular) and not names (as in plural), what is the name of the Father and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit? Some teach that the name is Jesus and that Baptism must only be done in this name.
A careful reading of Matthew 28:19 reveals that there are THREE distinct persons mentioned in that verse (the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit). But those who try to fuse these three as ONE single person seem to find solace in the grammatical construction of this verse. The argument is made that since the command is to baptize “in the NAME of…” and not “in the NAMES of…” it refers to a single name and not a plurality of names. In other words, the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit is Jesus. Shall we take a moment to examine the validity of this argument?
First, In Genesis 48:16, we find a statement made by Jacob while he was addressing the sons of Joseph. He said; “Let my name be named upon them, and the name of my fathers Abraham and Isaac; and let them grow into a multitude in the midst of the earth.” Here, we also find THREE persons mentioned (Jacob, Abraham and Isaac). But the grammatical construction is where we should direct our minds as it seems to read like that of Matthew 28:19. Here in Genesis 48:16, we find the same singular number; “…my name and the name of my fathers Abraham and Isaac.” Note that he did not say “my names and the names of my fathers…” And so we find the singular “name” used in connection with the father (Abraham), son (Isaac) and grandson (Jacob).
Going by the argument of those who advocate for a single name in Matthew 28:19 for the THREE Persons (Father, Son and the Holy Spirit), it means (and consistency demands) that the THREE persons in Genesis 48:16 (Father, Son and Grandson) ought to have a single name since the singular “name” is used in connection with the three in both instances. And now, the question is: What is the one name of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob? Since the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit is Jesus (as per Matthew 28:19), what is the name of the father, the son and the grandson in Genesis 48:16? I am not quite sure what the advocate of this doctrine would say is the one name of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob; but I can safely say that there is not a single person on this earth who would be able to show us from the scriptures the ONE or SINGLE name of the three mentioned in Genesis 48. What then is the essence of all the trouble or argument about the “name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” being Jesus? It is simply to defend the false idea that there is only one person in the godhead.
I wish to point out that the issue here is not about what the word “name” stands for in either of the passages neither are we interested at this point in people’s commentaries on what is meant by what was said in either passage (we will come to that at a different question). The point here is that the so called grammatical rule that was used to arrive at “a single name” for The Father, The Son and The Holy Spirit should also be consistently used to produce “a single name” for the trio in Genesis 48:16.
Second, I wish to call our attention to a grammatical principle known as the Granville Sharp’s Rule. Granville Sharp (1735–1813) was a Greek language scholar known for his contributions regarding the translation of New Testament Greek as it relates to the divinity of Christ. The Grandville Sharp’s rule states that;
“When the copulative KAI connects two nouns of the same case, if the article HO or any of its cases precedes the first of the said nouns or participles, and is not repeated before the second noun or participle, the latter always refer to the same person that is expressed or described by the first noun or participle; i.e., it denotes a further description of the first-named person.” (A Manual Of The Greek New Testament, Dana & Mantey, p.147 cited by Theopedia)
Basically, Gandville Sharp is saying that when you have two nouns which are not proper names (such as Peter, Paul, Timothy, etc.) which are describing a person, and the two nouns are connected by the word “and,” and the first noun has the article (“the”) while the second does not, both are referring to the same person. For example, if someone says; “We saw the President and Chief Commander in the office.” Since the definite article (the) is only used once, before the first noun (president) and not repeated before the second noun (Chief Commander). According to the Granville Sharp’s Rule, this means that the two nouns, joined by and, are clearly referring to the same individual. If the statement had read “We saw the President and the Chief Commander in the office,” since the definite article (the) is used twice before the first and second nouns, the grammatical construction leaves the question open as to whether the president and chief commander are one and the same person or two different people and one cannot argue that it refers to one single person.
Two of the New Testament verses associated with the Granville Sharp Rule are Titus 2:13 and II Peter 1:1. In Titus 2:13, we find; “Looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus” (NASB). And in II Peter 1:1 we find “…our God and Saviour Jesus Christ.” In the Greek, the words for “God” and “Saviour” are joined by kai and the definite article ho is used once, preceding “God”; according to the Grandville Sharp’s Rule, both God and Saviour must refer to the same person – Jesus Christ.
And let us come to Matthew 28:19. The statement reads; “…baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,” Notice that the definite article (the) is mentioned three times before each of the nouns (Father, Son and Holy Spirit). According to the Grandville Sharp’s Rule, one can only argue that it refers to the same person if the definite article is used before the first noun and not repeated before the second and third. And so, the argument of those who claim that the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit refer to the same person in this verse and must have one single name is moot.
Finally, even if the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit all have the same name, such would not prove that they are the same person. I have seen men who bear the same name with their father and even grandfather. A woman bears her husband’s name when she is married to him but she is still a separate individual from her husband; thus, the single name argument for the three, does not prove anything if at all it is true. Not a single New Testament passage tells us what was said at the point of baptizing an individual and it would be wrong to insist on a particular formula to be said when baptizing a person.
Answer Provided By Osamagbe Lesley Egharevba