Eusebius and the Trinitarian Baptismal Formula

Exposing Jamal Badawi’s Desperate Tirade Against the Trinity

Sam Shamoun

In two previous articles (1, 2) we saw how Dr. Badawi used material from anti-Trinitarian cult leaders, such as the late Victor Paul Wierwille the founder of the Way International, in his debates against John Rittenhouse and Dr. William Lane Craig to refute the Biblical basis for the Deity of the Lord Jesus.

In the Rittenhouse debate (Jesus: Prophet or God?, Cal Poly Pomona, February 28, 2008) Dr. Badawi again appealed to Wierwille to attack the veracity of the Trinitarian baptismal formula found in Matthew 28:19:

"The notion of the formula of baptism, many wrote about it and they said it was developed much later. Eusebus, before 325 (the conference of Nicea), used it without in the name of God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, which show the influence of the Council of Nicea that for the first time began to shape the concept of Trinity and the politics that resulted in his later writing using that formula. The formula itself is in doubt. Thank you." (YouTube video)

Even though he didn’t mention it, this is one of the assertions made by Wierwille. According to Wierwille this Matthean formula was corrupted from its original form and cannot be used to support the doctrine of the Trinity. He stated that the prominent Church father Eusebius quoted this verse eighteen times without once mentioning the trinitarian formula prior to the Council of Nicea (325 A.D.). It is only after this Council that Eusebius started mentioning the Trinitarian formula when discussing Matthew 28:19. This led Wierwille to conclude that,

"It would not have been difficult for scribes to insert ‘in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost,’ in place of the original ‘in my name.’ This must have been what happened." (Wierwille, Jesus Christ Is Not God [American Christian Press, New Knoxville, Ohio, 2nd edition, 1981], pp. 19-20)

In the first place, both Badawi and Wierwille are merely arguing from silence since absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. Just because Eusebius didn’t quote it prior to the Council doesn’t mean that he was unaware of its existence or that the Gospel of Matthew didn’t originally contain this Trinitarian baptismal formula. The most this proves is that Eusebius had no reason to cite this before this time, and only felt it necessary to start referencing this particular text after the Council had convened and a creed had been formally ratified.

Secondly, there is plenty of evidence from the writings of the early Church Fathers, from the disciples of the Apostles and their subsequent successors, that this Trinitarian formula was being used long before Nicea and that it formed part of the Gospel of Matthew. In fact, this command was so well known that many writers alluded to it without naming the specific Gospel from which they were quoting. What this shows is that these Christians assumed that their readers were so familiar with this formula, and already knew in which of the four Gospels this instruction could be found, that they didn’t feel the need to specify the source.

We will look at just a few of examples from these early Christian writings, all of which predate the Council of Nicea.

Didache - Teaching of the Twelve Apostles

Here is some historical background regarding the Didache so that the readers can appreciate the importance of this document:

Since it was discovered in a monastery in Constantinople and published by P. Bryennios in 1883, the Didache or Teaching of the Twelve Apostles has continued to be one of the most disputed of early Christian texts. It has been depicted by scholars as anything between the original of the Apostolic Decree (c. 50 AD) and a late archaising fiction of the early third century. It bears no date itself, nor does it make reference to any datable external event, yet the picture of the Church which it presents could only be described as primitive, reaching back to the very earliest stages of the Church's order and practice in a way which largely agrees with the picture presented by the NT, while at the same time posing questions for many traditional interpretations of this first period of the Church's life. Fragments of the Didache were found at Oxyrhyncus (P. Oxy 1782) from the fourth century and in coptic translation (P. Lond. Or. 9271) from 3/4th century. Traces of the use of this text, and the high regard it enjoyed, are widespread in the literature of the second and third centuries especially in Syria and Egypt. It was used by the compilator of the Didascalia (C 2/3rd) and the Liber Graduun (C 3/4th), as well as being absorbed in toto by the Apostolic Constitutions (C c. 3/4th, abbreviated as Ca) and partially by various Egyptian and Ethiopian Church Orders, after which it ceased to circulate independently. Athanasius describes it as 'appointed by the Fathers to be read by those who newly join us, and who wish for instruction in the word of goodness' [Festal Letter 39:7]. Hence a date for the Didache in its present form later than the second century must be considered unlikely, and a date before the end of the first century probable. (Jonathan Draper, Gospel Perspectives, v. 5, p. 269)

He then states in a footnote (op. cit., p. 284), "A new consensus is emerging for a date c. 100 AD." (Source)

This document twice alludes to the Matthean Baptismal formula, serving as an independent witness that this formula was known and in use by the early Church:

Chapter 7. Concerning Baptism. And concerning baptism, baptize this way: Having first said all these things, baptize into the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, in living water. But if you have no living water, baptize into other water; and if you cannot do so in cold water, do so in warm. But if you have neither, pour out water three times upon the head into the name of Father and Son and Holy Spirit. But before the baptism let the baptizer fast, and the baptized, and whoever else can; but you shall order the baptized to fast one or two days before. (Roberts-Donaldson translation; source)

Here is another translation of this same passage:

7:1 But concerning baptism, thus shall ye baptize.
7:2 Having first recited all these things, baptize {in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit} in living (running) water.
7:3 But if thou hast not living water, then baptize in other water;
7:4 and if thou art not able in cold, then in warm.
7:5 But if thou hast neither, then pour water on the head thrice in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.
7:6 But before the baptism let him that baptizeth and him that is baptized fast, and any others also who are able;
7:7 and thou shalt order him that is baptized to fast a day or two before. (J.B. Lightfoot’s translation; source)

Ignatius of Antioch (ca. AD. 107-112)

Chapter IX.-The Old Testament is Good: the New Testament is Better.

… The priests indeed, and the ministers of the word, are good; but the High Priest is better, to whom the holy of holies has been committed, and who alone has been entrusted with the secrets of God. The ministering powers of God are good. The Comforter is holy, and the Word is holy, the Son of the Father, by whom He made all things, and exercises a providence over them all. This is the Way which leads to the Father, the Rock, the Defence, the Key, the Shepherd, the Sacrifice, the Door of knowledge, through which have entered Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, Moses and all the company of the prophets, and these pillars of the world, the apostles, and the spouse of Christ, on whose account He poured out His own blood, as her marriage portion, that He might redeem her. All these things tend towards the unity of the one and only true God. But the Gospel possesses something transcendent [above the former dispensation], viz. the appearing of our Saviour Jesus Christ, His passion, and the resurrection itself. For those things which the prophets announced, saying, "Until He come for whom it is reserved, and He shall be the expectation of the Gentiles," have been fulfilled in the Gospel, [our Lord saying,] "Go ye and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost." All then are good together, the law, the prophets, the apostles, the whole company [of others] that have believed through them: only if we love one another. (Epistle of Ignatius to the Philadelphians; source)

Chapter II.-Unity of the Three Divine Persons.

There is then one God and Father, and not two or three; One who is; and there is no other besides Him, the only true [God]. For "the Lord thy God," saith [the Scripture], "is one Lord." And again, "Hath not one God created us? Have we not all one Father? And there is also one Son, God the Word. For "the only-begotten Son," saith [the Scripture], "who is in the bosom of the Father." And again, "One Lord Jesus Christ." And in another place, "What is His name, or what His Son's name, that we may know? " And there is also one Paraclete. For "there is also," saith [the Scripture], "one Spirit," since "we have been called in one hope of our calling." And again, "We have drunk of one Spirit," with what follows. And it is manifest that all these gifts [possessed by believers] "worketh one and the self-same Spirit." There are not then either three Fathers, or three Sons, or three Paracletes, but one Father, and one Son, and one Paraclete. Wherefore also the Lord, when He sent forth the apostles to make disciples of all nations, commanded them to "baptize in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost," not unto one [person] having three names, nor into three [persons] who became incarnate, but into three possessed of equal honour. (Epistle of Ignatius to the Philippians; source)

Irenaeus (ca. 130-200)

Chapter XVII.-The Apostles Teach that It Was Neither Christ Nor the Saviour, But the Holy Spirit, Who Did Descend Upon Jesus. The Reason for This Descent.

It certainly was in the power of the apostles to declare that Christ descended upon Jesus, or that the so-called superior Saviour [came down] upon the dispensational one, or he who is from the invisible places upon him from the Demiurge; but they neither knew nor said anything of the kind: for, had they known it, they would have also certainly stated it. But what really was the case, that did they record, [namely,] that the Spirit of God as a dove descended upon Him; this Spirit, of whom it was declared by Isaiah, "And the Spirit of God shall rest upon Him," as I have already said. And again: "The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He hath anointed Me." That is the Spirit of whom the Lord declares, "For it is not ye that speak, but the Spirit of your Father which speaketh in you." And again, giving to the disciples the power of regeneration into God, He said to them, "Go and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost." For [God] promised, that in the last times He would pour Him [the Spirit] upon [His] servants and handmaids, that they might prophesy; wherefore He did also descend upon the Son of God, made the Son of man, becoming accustomed in fellowship with Him to dwell in the human race, to rest with human beings, and to dwell in the workmanship of God, working the will of the Father in them, and renewing them from their old habits into the newness of Christ. (Irenaeus Against Heresies Book III; source)

Tertullian (ca. 160-220)

Chapter XX.-Christ First Delivered the Faith. The Apostles Spread It; They Founded Churches as the Depositories Thereof. That Faith, Therefore, is Apostolic, Which Descended from the Apostles, Through Apostolic Churches.

… Accordingly, after one of these had been struck off, He commanded the eleven others, on His departure to the Father, to "go and teach all nations, who were to be baptized into the Father, and into the Son, and into the Holy Ghost." Immediately, therefore, so did the apostles, whom this designation indicates as "the sent." … (Tertullian The Prescription Against Heretics; source)

Chapter VI.-The Angel the Forerunner of the Holy Spirit. Meaning Contained in the Baptismal Formula.

Not that in the waters we obtain the Holy Spirit; but in the water, under (the witness of) the angel, we are cleansed, and prepared for the Holy Spirit. In this case also a type has preceded; for thus was John beforehand the Lord's forerunner, "preparing His ways." Thus, too, does the angel, the witness of baptism, "make the paths straight" for the Holy Spirit, who is about to come upon us, by the washing away of sins, which faith, sealed in (the name of) the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, obtains. For if "in the mouth of three witnesses every word shall stand:" -while, through the benediction, we have the same (three) as witnesses of our faith whom we have as sureties of our salvation too-how much more does the number of the divine names suffice for the assurance of our hope likewise! Moreover, after the pledging both of the attestation of faith and the promise of salvation under "three witnesses," there is added, of necessity, mention of the Church; inasmuch as, wherever there are three, (that is, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit,) there is the Church, which is a body of three. (Tertullian On Baptism; source)

Chapter XIII.-Another Objection: Abraham Pleased God Without Being Baptized. Answer Thereto. Old Things Must Give Place to New, and Baptism is Now a Law.

Here, then, those miscreants provoke questions. And so they say, "Baptism is not necessary for them to whom faith is sufficient; for withal, Abraham pleased God by a sacrament of no water, but of faith." But in all cases it is the later things which have a conclusive force, and the subsequent which prevail over the antecedent. Grant that, in days gone by, there was salvation by means of bare faith, before the passion and resurrection of the Lord. But now that faith has been enlarged, and is become a faith which believes in His nativity, passion, and resurrection, there has been an amplification added w the sacrament, viz., the sealing act of baptism; the clothing, in some sense, of the faith which before was bare, and which cannot exist now without its proper law. For the law of baptizing has been imposed, and the formula prescribed: "Go," He saith, "teach the nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit." The comparison with this law of that definition, "Unless a man have been reborn of water and Spirit, he shall not enter into the kingdom of the heavens," has tied faith to the necessity of baptism. Accordingly, all thereafter who became believers used to be baptized. Then it was, too, that Paul, when he believed, was baptized; and this is the meaning of the precept which the Lord had given him when smitten with the plague of loss of sight, saying, "Arise, and enter Damascus; there shall be demonstrated to thee what thou oughtest to do," to wit-be baptized, which was the only thing lacking to him. That point excepted, he bad sufficiently learnt and believed "the Nazarene" to be "the Lord, the Son of God." (Ibid.; source)

Victorinus (ca. 270-303)

15. "And His voice as it were the voice of many waters."] The many waters are understood to be many peoples, or the gift of baptism that He sent forth by the apostles, saying: "Go ye, teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost." (Victorinus Commentary on the Apocalypse of the Blessed John; source)

The above historical sources should forever silence the lies of Wierwille and Badawi and finally put to rest the issue of whether the Trinitarian baptismal formula was originally part of Matthew’s Gospel and in use long before Nicea.

For more info concerning this topic we suggest reading this article.

Refuting Badawi’s Gross Distortions of the Doctrine of the Trinity

The final point we want to address for now is Badawi’s complete disregard for and perversion of what Christians actually believe about the holy and blessed Trinity. Here is how Badawi responded to Rittenhouse’s appeal to John 10:30 where Jesus said that he and the Father are one:

"Number 4. There was a reference, as well, to – just trying to catch up cause, uhm … ok – a reference was made to the statement that "I and the Father are one" in 10. However, contrary to what Mr., uhm, ahh Rittenhouse actually said, I read also sources that say the opposite. It actually, it says that the Greek word heis, h-e-i-s, is the one that means one in Person. And the writers say that actually the Greek term is hen, h-e-n, which means one in purpose. And there is additional evidence I have of a [sic] statements in the Bible that use the same term to refer actually to oneness in purpose that used, Jesus used in dealing with his disciple." (Emphasis ours)

We have already addressed the meaning of John 10:30 in the following articles: 1, 2, 3

So we won’t bother exegeting the text here. What we want to highlight at this point is the assertion made by Badawi that the Greek word heis is the term that would have demonstrated that Jesus and the Father are one, which implies that Rittenhouse believes Jesus is the same exact Person as God the Father. Since this is not what Rittenhouse or Trinitarians actually believe the use of heis would have therefore disproven the position held by orthodox Christians. The Biblical doctrine of the Trinity affirms that the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit are distinct Persons from one another who eternally exist as the one God.

This means that Badawi is either blatantly ignorant in regard to the beliefs held by traditional Christians, or is willfully lying and using cheap debate tricks in order to score points and deceive people into thinking that orthodox, conservative Christians actually believe that the Father and the Son are the same Person.

Either position leads to the same conclusion. Dr. Badawi has no business debating with Christians since he is ignorant of Christian theology and needs to study it more thoroughly in order to understand it. Or he is a liar who cannot be trusted to speak honestly and should be shunned by any honest seeker of truth.

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