Trinitarian formula

Trinitarian formula


The trinitarian formula is the phrase "in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit" (original Greek εις το ονομα του Πατρος και του Υιου και του Αγίου Πνεύματος, "eis to onoma tou Patros kai tou Huiou kai tou Hagiou Pneumatos", or in Latin "in nomine Patris, et Filii, et Spiritūs Sancti"), or words to that form and effect referring to the persons of the Holy Trinity.

Biblical origin

These words are quoted from a command of the resurrected Jesus in , commonly called the Great Commission: "Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit."

Use in baptism

According to Roman Catholicism, Eastern Orthodoxy and most forms of Protestantism, a baptism is not valid if the trinitarian formula is not used in the administration of that sacrament. Consequently, they may not recognize religious communities that baptize without the trinitarian formula— "e.g." Unitarians, Branhamists, Frankists Jehovah's Witnesses, all of whom deny the Trinity—as Christian religions. Some of these other religions (Frankists and Branhamists in particular) use the formula In the name of Jesus (based on Acts 2:38) for baptism, and in their turn re-baptize converts baptized under the Trinitarian formula, sometimes claiming that previously these would not have been aware that 'Jesus is the Lord'.

Other uses

As well as baptism, the formula is used in other prayers, rites, liturgies, and sacraments. One of the most common uses of the Trinitarian invocation is when Catholics, Eastern Orthodox Christians, Anglicans, Lutherans, and others make the Sign of the Cross while reciting the formula.

Views from historical criticism

Some scholars of the historical Jesus regard this formula as an early Christian elaboration. Biblical scholars from the controversial Jesus Seminar, a group of textual critics (including figures like Robert W. Funk, John Dominic Crossan, Marcus Borg, Bruce D. Chilton, and John S. Kloppenborg), have said that the whole of chapter 28 is the result of later editorial work on the Gospels and was never uttered by Jesus or his immediate disciples. Luke Timothy Johnson, often a critic of the methods of the Jesus Seminar, says in his book "The Writings of the New Testament: An Interpretation" that his research affirms a view of Matthew 28:19 as apocryphal.

While denying that Jesus spoke the formula, these scholars acknowledge that the verse does represent Trinitarian ideas in the early Christian church. Most Christians belong to denominations that recognize church history as at least partially inspired by the Holy Spirit, so they would see the formula as valid even if not spoken by Jesus himself. The formula, however, does not amount to the specific Nicene Trinitarian doctrine that has been orthodox since the 4th century. For example, this formula does not show that 1st-century Christians believed in the mysterious unity, equality, or co-eternity of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Others have challenged the work of the Jesus Seminar, arguing that the scholars working on the project began with a conclusion and worked to justify it through their research and exegesis. [They apply the Seminar's presuppositional test, "Beware of finding a Jesus entirely congenial to you", especially to the Jesus Seminar themselves, "who "a priori" have determined the nature of the 'historical Jesus' by adopting biased presuppositions, thereby producing a 'Jesus' wholly 'congenial' to themselves" ( [ "The Jesus Crisis: The Inroads of Historical Criticism Into Evangelical ...", by Robert L. Thomas, F. David Farnell] ); cf. [ "A Look at the Jesus Seminar", by Brad Bromling] , [ "The Jesus Seminar and Radical Higher Criticism" by Glenn Giles] , etc.] ]

Fears of patriarchal influence

From the late twentieth century onwards, many in liberal Christianity have become uncomfortable with the traditional male representation of God and have sought to de-emphasise or eliminate altogether gender-specific references to God.

Some of these individuals and groups prefer the formula "in the name of the Creator, the Redeemer, and the Sanctifier"." The traditionalists respond that all persons of the Trinity are involved in creation, redemption and sanctification, and that attempting to redefine the Trinity in terms of "functions" is essentially a form of Sabellianism, or modalism.

Because of this, the Roman Catholic Church has declared that baptisms carried out under such a formula are not only illicit, but also invalid. The same position has been enunciated by several authorities in the Eastern Churches.


ee also

* Sign of the Cross

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