3 Nephi 19:4 — LeGrand Baker — Greek names among Nephite Twelve Disciples


3 Nephi 19:4

4 And it came to pass that on the morrow, when the multitude was gathered together, behold, Nephi and his brother whom he had raised from the dead, whose name was Timothy, and also his son, w hose name was Jonas, and also Mathoni, and Mathonihah, his brother, and Kumen, and Kumenonhi, and Jeremiah, and Shemnon, and Jonas, and Zedekiah, and Isaiah—now these were the names of the disciples whom Jesus had chosen.

This list of names shows an unexpected Greek influence among the Nephites.

Apart from the Bible, the Book of Mormon, and the pseudepigrapha, there are almost no written Israelite records that predate the Babylonian captivity. However, it is becoming increasing apparent to scholars that the ancient cultures of the eastern Mediterranean were not isolated from each other. Recent archaeological evidence suggests a Greek influence in ancient Israel that goes back at least 3,500 years.{1}

Among the twelve disciples whom Jesus chose, there may be five with Hebrew names (Nephi, Jeremiah, Zedekiah, and Isaiah, and probably Shemnon), three with Greek names (Timothy, Jonas, Jonas), and the remaining four probably have Jaredite origins. They are all easy to account for except the three Greek names. For those, there seem to be two possible explanations: (1) There were Greeks who came to America and settled among the Nephites after Lehi’s family arrived. (2) There was a strong Greek influence in Lehi’s family, either found on the brass plates or in their education. The latter seems to be the more likely because Lehi’s reasoning in 2 Nephi 2:5-16 is carefully structured like a Greek logical argument.

It is interesting, and probably relevant to note that two of the men with Greek names were in Nephi’s own immediate family. Timothy was Nephi’s brother and Jonas was that brother’s son. The fact that Jonas, the Greek form of Jonah, was common enough that there were two who shared that name may suggest a stronger Greek influence than we might otherwise have thought.

There is another bit of information about these Twelve that could open up a whole new understanding about our very eternal nature.

Six hundred years before, when Nephi saw them in vision, he described them as “they are righteous forever.” What he tells us has some fascinating implications about the eternal consistency of our use of agency, our personalities and our integrity. “Forever” in both directions is a very long time. Nephi wrote:

7 And I also saw and bear record that the Holy Ghost fell upon twelve others; and they were ordained of God, and chosen.
8 And the angel spake unto me, saying: Behold the twelve disciples of the Lamb, who are chosen to minister unto thy seed.
9 And he said unto me: Thou rememberest the twelve apostles of the Lamb? Behold they are they who shall judge the twelve tribes of Israel; wherefore, the twelve ministers of thy seed shall be judged of them; for ye are of the house of Israel.
10 And these twelve ministers whom thou beholdest shall judge thy seed. And, behold, they are righteous forever; for because of their faith in the Lamb of God their garments are made white in his blood (1 Nephi 12:7-10).

When one ponders these verses in conjunction with what Paul says about foreordination in Ephesians 1, and with the discussion of priesthood in Alma 13 (highlight the word “order” throughout that chapter), then what Nephi wrote takes on wonderful possibilities.
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FOOTNOTE

{1}See Eric H Cline and Assaf Yasur-Landau, “Aegeans in Israel, Minoan Frescoes at Tel Kabri,” Biblical Archaeology Review, July/August 2013, Vol 39, No 4, 37-44.

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