Re: eis to onoma, etc.

From: Jonathan Robie (
Date: Thu May 01 1997 - 21:58:18 EDT

On 30 April, 1997, Trever Nicholls wrote:

>I have been looking at various phrases involving "the name" in the NT and I
>would like to know what significance, if any, attaches to the different
>prepositions found here. For example, converts were baptised "in the name",
>but the phrase varies:
>eis to onoma (Matt 28:19)
>epi tw onomati (Acts 2:38)
>en tw onomati (Acts 10:48)
>A similar variety is found with other verbs, eg teaching/preaching in the name
>of the Lord. Can someone please enlighten me as to the distinction between
>these phrases, whether subtle or otherwise? It surely isn't just a matter of

Prepositions are really scary and difficult to interpret in any language.
Have you noticed that most of these little prepositions take up pages in a
lexicon like BAGD, and nouns and verbs require much less space to define?

I thought this was a really interesting question, and have put 2 1/2 hours
into it so far. I'm a little shaky with prepositions sometimes, but I'm sure
someone will jump in and correct whatever I got wrong. I searched for all
instances of Preposition + TO ONOMA in the GNT, and came up with the following:

My reading - "for the sake of, because of"

In most cases, this has to do with persecution for the sake of Christ's
name, e.g. "You will be hated by all because of my name" (Matt 10:22, 24:9,
Mark 13:13, Luke 21:17, John 15:21, Rev 2:3); once, in 1 John 2:12, it
refers to our sins being forgiven for the sake of his name.

My reading: "by means of"

Acts 4:30 "and signs and wonders take place by means of the name of your
holy servant Jesus"
Acts 10:43 "by means of his name everyone who believes in him receives
forgiveness of sins"
1 Cor 1:10 doesn't quite fit this - "Now I exhort you, brethren, by the name
of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all agree...

My reading "into"

Most of these passages involve transitions in faith, e.g. being baptized
"into" the name of Jesus; there is a clear distinction in meaning between
this and EN+Dative. "Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations,
baptizing them 'into' the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy
Spirit." - Matt 28:19; "But as many received him, to them He gave the right
to become children of God, even to those who believe 'into' his name" - John
1:12, see also John 2:23, John 3:18, Acts 8:16, Acts 19:5, 1 Cor 1:13. There
are two verses which do not clearly fit this meaning - in one, Hebrews 6:10,
I think that EIS is being used differently - "For God is not so unjust so as
to forget your work and the love which you have shown toward his name...". 1
John 5:13 could be interpreted to mean "into", but this is by no means the
only reasonable reading: "tauta egrapsa humin hina eidhte hoti zwhn ecete
aiwnion tois pisteuousin eis to onoma tou huiou tou qeou". Does this mean
'those who come to believe in the name of the son of God'?

My reading: "after the example of", or sometimes "representing"

I'm less sure of my reading here, but this is the phrase used in Luke 1:59
when they thought John should be named after his father (EPI TOi ONOMATI TOU
PATROS AUTOU ZACARIAN), and it is also used in Mark 13:6 "many will come in
my name, saying, 'I am he!'" (c.f. Matt 24:5, Luke 21:8). In these cases, it
clearly does not mean the same thing as EN TWi ONOMATI or EIS TO ONOMATI.
There are other cases which are less distinct; in these cases, I *think* it
might mean something like representing, e.g. receiving a child in his name
(Matt 18:5, Mark 9:37, Luke 9:48) However, there are other cases that really
may mean the same as EN TWi ONOMATI or EIS TO ONOMATI - "for there is no one
who will perform a miracle in My name and be able soon afterward to speak
evil of me" - Mark 9:39 - note the use of EN TWI ONOMATI in 9:38; "and that
repentance for forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed in His name to all
the nations" - Luke 24:47; "Repent, and each of you be baptized in the mame
of Jesus Christ..." - Acts 2:38. See also Acts 4:17-18, Acts 5:28, Acts 5:40.

My reading "in the authority of his name"

This really seems to mean something like "standing in the authority of his
name". These people are already EN his name, they aren't entering into his
name (EIS). It is used for casting out demons in the name of Jesus (Mark
9:38, 16:17, Luke 10:17), etc. There are *lots* of examples of this, and
they seem to fit: John 543, John 10:25, John 14:13, John 14:26, John 15:16,
John 16:23, John 16:26, John 20:31, Acts 3:6, Acts 4:10, Acts 9:27, 1 Cor
5:4, 1 Cor 6:11, Phil 2:10, James 5:10, James 5:14, 1 Pet 4:16.

There are two cases of baptism with EN TWi ONOMATI - in context, though,
this phrase might represent the authority for baptizing the people instead
of baptizing them "into" the name: Acts 10:48, John 17:11.

My reading: "against the name"

Acts 26:9 "I had to do many things against the name of Jesus...". So you can
be for or against the name of Jesus.

My reading: "on behalf of", "for the sake of"
"Rejoicing that they had been considered worthy to suffer shame for the sake
of the name" - Acts 5:41. See also Acts 9:16, Acts 15:26, Acts 21:13, Romans

In His name,


Jonathan Robie
POET Software, 3207 Gibson Road, Durham, N.C., 27703

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