Barry Newman's Blog

February 5, 2012

Baptising in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit (part VI)

Filed under: Baptism — barrynewman @ 10:13 pm

In the name – with reference to “in”

Another early task is to make some brief comments about the Greek words, translated “in”, where the reference is to “in the name”.  Our main focus however will be upon the preposition “eis” since it is the preposition occurring in the phrase “in the name” where it is found in Matthew 28: 19.

                    “In the name” with reference to “in” (eis)

Using the Thesaurus Linguae Graeca search engine I only located two instances of the precise phrase “eis to onoma” in the Greek literature apart from the New Testament up until about the beginning of the 2nd century A.D. One was in a remark by Plato in which the reference is to the construction of words[1] and the other was in II Maccabees 8: 4 where it relates to, “blasphemies against his (the Lord’s) name”. Fortunately, the phrase occurs a total of ten times in the New Testament.  Unfortunately or otherwise, perhaps complicating the picture a little, the similar phrases, “en to onomati” and “epi to onomati”, phrases often translated the same way – “in the name” also occur a number of times in the New Testament.  They are also commonly found outside of the New Testament, prior to and during New Testament times, with a number of instances being located in the Greek Septuagint.

Leaving further references to these “complications” aside for the moment, let us briefly examine the eleven instances of “eis to onoma” in the New Testament.  Five of these are associated with the word, “baptizo”: Matthew 28: 19 (“baptizontes”), Acts 8: 16 (“bebaptismenoi”); 19: 5 (“ebaptisthesan”) and 1 Corinthians 1: 13 and 15 (“ebaptisthete”). Four are associated with the word, “pisteuo” (believe): John 1: 12; 2: 23; 3: 18 and 1 John 5: 13.  And one relates to the verb “endeixo” (show): Hebrews 6: 10 and another to the verb “sunecho” (gather): Matthew 18: 20.  See Table 5. Except for the 1 Corinthian texts, which are almost identical, all instances relate to the Lord Jesus by one means or another.



pisteuo” (believe)


endeixo” (show)


sunecho” (gather)



Table 5

Frequency of the occurrence of the phrase “eis to onoma” in the New Testament and its association with three verbs

While any “hard and fast” rules governing the use of the phrase could be misleading, it appears that John always uses “eis to onoma” when he writes of, “believe in the name”, the name always being a reference to the Lord Jesus.  It is interesting that he uses “en to onomati” thirteen times in his Gospel but the verb is other than “believe” in each case, examples being, “ask” “come” “send”, “keep”, “give”.

As mentioned earlier, Liddell and Scott, state that “eis” commonly has the sense of “into” or “to” a place and that it is also found with verbs which express the idea of rest in a place where there has been an implication of movement towards that place. It may be that John sees those who “believe in the name” as a reference to those who have come to believe, they have moved from unbelief to belief and have “settled down” in that belief. Additionally, for John, the use of “eis” in conjunction with “to onoma” in this context may carry with it the idea that the belief has been “imbedded in” who Jesus is. (See later for a discussion on how “to onoma” can be understood.).  It is a belief “into” his name.

It may similarly be argued that “baptise” or “immerse” in (“eis”) the name has the sense of coming to be immersed, with that immersion understood as “imbedded in” who the person is. But again see later. There has been “movement” from not having been immersed to what has come to be the case, the person is now immersed.  And as implied earlier, given that the idea of “immersion” carries with it the notion that there is some medium into which the immersion takes place “eis” can be understood as a suitable preposition to accompany “baptizo”.

The phrase, “eis onoma” is found in the New Testament and it occurs five times. The reference is to “in the name of a prophet” twice, “in the name of a righteous man” “in the name of Cleopas” and “in the name of Agabus” once each.

There are no examples of “eis ta onomata” in the New Testament. However using the Thesaurus Linguae Graeca I came across 15 examples in the Greek literature apart from the New Testament up to about the beginning of the 2nd century.  One of these, attributed to Plato, related to the formation of words and the other 14, attributed to Euclid, related to the bisecting of a line into its component parts.

[1] Plato, Cratylus, in Plato IV, Cratylus, Parmenides, Greater Hippias, Lesser Hippias, LOEB Classical Library, (trans. Fowler, H.N.), Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA, 1977, pp. 146, 147


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