No. This is a constant claim based on unreliable sources – one of the sources strangely a Catholic Encyclopedia article from 1913 – but there is no truth in this claim.
The Greek text
The verse is found in this form in all Greek manuscripts. There is no Greek manuscript of the last page of Matthew that does not include these words. None. Bruce Metzger’s standard work A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament does not even cover this verse, as there is no case to discuss.
The verse is also found in all early translations from Greek. All Old Latin manuscripts (i.e. before the Vulgate). All Waldensian Romaunt Latin manuscripts. All Vulgate manuscripts. It is found in every Aramaic (i.e. Syriac) manuscript, including Tatian’s Diatessaron (second Century Gospel Harmony based on the Old Syriac or Vetus Syra). It is found in Curetonian and Synaitic gospels, the Peshitta, and Philoxenian and Harklean texts. The verse is found in every copy of the Boharic and Sahidic Coptic, Geez Ethiopic, Old Arabic, Armenian, Georgian, Gothic, Old Church Slavonic and Saxon versions.
Early Patristic witnesses
It is also found in the Didache (second century) , before the dogma of the Trinity developed:
“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.” (Didache 7:1-5)
So there is no evidence at all for the claim that the verse is missing other than the fairly commonplace claim that many early manuscripts of many books are missing the last page in their earliest surviving manuscripts – which is true of copies of Matthew as it is for other books.
So why is it there in Matthew and not in Acts?
This leads to a second question: why does Matthew 28 differ from the recorded baptisms in Acts which appear to not use this formula. The point is however that Luke in describing baptisms in Acts does not generally quote a particular formula being used. It’s possible many different wordings were used, but the point is that the baptism is into Christ. Although the concept of ceremonial washing (Greek BAPTISMOS) existed in Jewish Greek usage prior to John the Baptist, the new word ‘baptism’ (Greek BAPTISMA, more than just physical washing) is a word that did not exist in the Greek language before the New Testament accounts of the baptisms first of John the Baptist and then of the Apostles. So in requiring “in the name of Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” is a direction that baptism after the resurrection of Christ was now to be understood as integrating more than just baptism for repentance as John had performed. That does not mean that John’s baptism was invalid, since all 12 disciples, the two candidates to replace Judas, and of course the Lord Jesus himself, were all baptised by John. But John 7:39 makes it clear that the Holy Spirit was not yet given to the 12 disciples or any of the others who came to seek John the Baptist. Or simply “was not yet”, the word “given” is absent in the Greek text:
But this He spoke of the Spirit, whom those who believed in Him were going to receive; for the Spirit was not yet [given], because Jesus was not yet glorified. (John 7:39 Greek)
That clearly means that the Spirit was not given until the resurrection Sunday. Which is what we find Jesus acting out by breathing on the disciples in his first reappearance to them.
And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. (John 20:22, ESV)
Remembering that “in the name of” in Greek does not actually mean “name” as we usually understand it. Rather this phrase is similar to the antiquated English phrase “in the name of King and country” where admittedly the country does has a name, but the idea is nearer to “with the authority of King and country” or “for the sake of King and country”. Since the Holy Spirit does not have a name, but is a concept, what the Matthew 28:19 phrase is expressing is integrating faith in the Father, salvation in the Son, and active change into a new life after baptism in water and equally important, Spirit (see John 3).
For this reason a baptism mentioning both God, and the Spirit is usually preferably to the short “into Jesus” or “into Christ” recorded in the Acts narrative. It states clearly that the person being baptised understands clearly the roles of both the Father and the Son in his or her baptism. But also a commitment to a new life in and by the Spirit.
Two related answers:
- If you were initially baptised in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (Mat. 28:19) do you need to be re-baptised because you were not baptized in Jesus’ name (as per Acts 2:38)?
- Is baptism in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit the same as baptism in the name of Jesus?