Greek Names in the Book of Mormon

Greek Names in the Book of Mormon

Since the Book of Mormon is said to have been written by people who fled ancient Israel, why does it contain such Greek names as Timothy (3 Nephi 19:4, known from the New Testament), Lachoneus (3 Nephi 1:1 etc.), Antipas (Alma 47:7-10, known from Revelation 2:13), and Pachus (Alma 62:6-9)?

Book of Mormon KoreanProf. Cyrus Gordon demonstrated that there were contacts between the Greeks and peoples of the ancient Near East as early as the second millennium BC.[i] As a result of this contact, a Greek (Ionian) name, Nikomed, shows up as that of a 13th-century BC king of the ancient Syrian town of Ugarit, where a language closely related to Hebrew was spoken and written.

South of Ugarit is the region of Lebanon, home to the people called Phoenicians by the Greeks and Canaanites by others. These were the great seafarers of Bible times and they had close contacts with the Greeks, who were also involved in sea trading. Indeed, the Greeks borrowed their alphabet from the Phoenicians. Some Latter-day Saint scholars have suggested that the party that accompanied Mulek to the New World came aboard Phoenician vessels. This could explain how Greek names came to be found in Nephite society after the Nephites and Mulekites merged.

As for Pachus, it is more likely that it is an Egyptian name, Pa-cush (sometimes Pa-chus in ancient texts), “the Cushite,” a name known from ancient Egyptian texts and from seals from Lehi’s time found in Israel. Jeremiah, a Judean contemporary of Lehi, wrote of one “Ebedmelech the Ethiopian,” where the Hebrew term behind “Ethiopian” is Cushi, “Cushite.”[ii]

[i] Cyrus H. Gordon, The Common Background of Greek and Hebrew Civilization (New York: Norton, 1965).

[ii] The land of Cush is frequently mentioned in Egyptian and other ancient texts; it was located along the Nile River in what is now Sudan, south of Egypt.