Does Matthew 28:19 Really Say
“The Father, Son and Holy Spirit”?
James Scott Trimm
I was recently asked about the Shem Tob Text of Hebrew Matthew 28:19-20 which reads:
“Go and guard them to uphold all the words which I have commanded you forever.”
(Matthew 28:19-20 Shem Tob)
This differs from the DuTillet/Munster version of Hebrew Matthew which reads:
“Go you therefore, and teach all the Goyim, and immerse them in the name of the Father, and the Son and the Ruach HaKodesh, and teach them to observe all that I have commanded you, and here am I with you all the days, to the end of the world.”
(Matthew 28:19-20 DuTillet/Shem Tob)
The question is, did the Shem Tob version subtract words, or did the DuTillet/Munster version add them?”
Certainly we would like to look to the Old Syriac Aramaic version to answer our question, however neither of the two surviving manuscripts of the Old Syriac includes this page. However the Peshitta Aramaic text includes the material found in DuTillet/Munster but omitted in Shem Tob.
While there are no witnesses either way to this particular portion of Matthew amongst the Papyri fragments, the oldest Greek manuscripts of Matthew such as Codex Siniaticus do in fact contain the material. In fact I have found no manuscript witnesses, aside from the Shem Tob version, that omit these words.
Some have pointed to this quotation of these verses by Eusebius as evidence to support the Shem Tob reading:
“Go, make disciples of all nations in my name, teaching them to keep all things which I commanded you.”
This is not from a manuscript of Matthew, it is simply taken from a quotation made by Eusebius in the 4th Century. However there is no reason to conclude that Eusebius was quoting an actual version of Matthew that omitted these words. In ancient times it was common to make truncated quotations without the insertion of a “…” as we do today. For example in Matthew 21:5 the text of Zech. 9:9 is quoted, but the words “he is just, and having salvation;” are omitted from the quote. This does not mean Matthew was quoting a version of Zechariah that omitted these words, Matthew was simply abbreviating the quote. Today we would have replaced the missing words with “…”. So there is no reason to conclude that Eusebius was citing a text of Matthew that lacked the phrase in question. Moreover the Shem Tob version omits more material than the Eusebius quote does, so the Eusebius quote is not actually a witness to a text that agrees with the Shem Tob reading.
In the end there is no outside support for the Shem Tob reading here. The oldest manuscripts of Matthew 28:19 include the words omitted in Shem Tob in fact all manuscripts I am aware of contain the words unless they lack witness to this portion altogether (such as a missing page). The quote by Eusebius does not agree with Shem Tob (it includes words Shem Tob omitted) and there is no reason to conclude that the quote by Eusebius is actually a witness to an alternate reading of Matthew.
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