Enos 1:25 etc. Longevity of Nephite Scribes

Enos 1:25 etc. Longevity of Nephite Scribes

In the Book of Mormon, Enos wrote that 179 years had passed away from the time that his grandfather, Lehi, left Jerusalem (Enos 1:25). Later, Enos’s son Jarom says 238 years had passed away (Jarom 1:13). It is unreasonable to expect that three generations (Lehi’s son Jacob, his son Enos, and his son Jarom) could have lived so long.

Enos Pray MormonIt seems ironic that this criticism usually comes from Bible readers who readily accept that Abraham fathered a son at the age of 100 (Genesis 21:5) and lived to the age of 175 (Genesis 25:7), while his son Isaac died at the age of 180 (Genesis 35:28) and his grandson Jacob lived to be 147 years old. Some of Abraham’s ancestors, from Adam to Serug are said to have lived even longer (see Genesis chapters 5 and 11).

More to the point, we must take into account that the Hebrew term ab, generally rendered “father,” can be used of any male paternal ancestor, while the term ben, generally translated “son,” means any male descendant (for example, in Matthew 1:1, Jesus is called “the son of David, the son of Abraham”). Thus, Enos, Lehi’s grandson (or, at least, descendant), wrote of “our father Lehi” (Enos 1:25). When Jacob wrote that he gave the plates to “my son Enos” (Jacob 7:27), we need not understand that Enos was his literal son (in the English sense of the term); he may have been his grandson or even his great-grandson. Similarly, when Jarom wrote of “my father, Enos,” he could have been referring to his grandfather or great-grandfather. Consequently, Jarom could have been removed from Lehi by as many as six to eight generations, which is not unreasonable for a period of 238 years.[i]

Jacob received the plates from his brother Nephi in the 55th year after Lehi’s departure from Jerusalem (Jacob 1:1). Since Jacob was born during Lehi’s eight-year sojourn in the wilderness (1 Nephi 17:4; 18:7), his minimum age at the time he received the plates would have been 47. If he lived to be 90 years of age, he would have passed the plates on to Enos in the 98th year. We do not know how old Enos was when he received the plates, but we do know that Mormon was given charge of the record at the age of ten, although he did not actually go to retrieve them until he was 24 (Mormon 1:2-3). If Enos were ten when Jacob gave him charge of the plates, he would have been 91 when he gave them to Jarom in the 179th year. Jarom retained them for another 59 years, until the 238th year. From this, it is clear that we could reduce the age at death of Jacob and Enos or increase the age of Enos when he received the plates and still be within acceptable limits, even if each passed the plates to his own son and not a grandson or great-grandson.

[i] For another list of sons who kept the record for long periods of time, see 4 Nephi 1:19-21.