Criticisms: 1 Nephi
The words “the mysteries of God” in 1 Nephi 1:1 were taken from 1 Corinthians 4:1, which, being in the New Testament, was unavailable to the Nephites, who left Jerusalem six centuries before Christ’s birth.
In the KJV Bible, the word “mystery” appears only in the New Testament. This is because different parts of that Bible were translated by different individuals and committees, and the Old Testament translators chose to use the word “secret,” while the translator(s) of 1 Corinthians chose to use the word “mystery.”
The words “Great and marvelous are thy works, O Lord God Almighty” (1 Nephi 1:14) were taken from Revelation 15:3, which, being in the New Testament, was unavailable to the Nephites, who left Jerusalem six centuries before Christ’s birth.
Revelation 15:3 says that these words derive from “the song of Moses the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb.” The Bible contains a few songs attributed to Moses (Exodus 15:1-19; Deuteronomy 31:19-22; 31:30-32:44; Psalm 90—see preface), and it is even possible that the verbiage derives from a song of Moses that did not survive in the Bible. Wording similar to that of Revelation 15:3-4, however, appears in several Old Testament passages. (Read More)
The Lord’s use of dreams need not be questioned. He said to Moses, “If there be a prophet among you, I the Lord will make myself known unto him in a vision, and will speak unto him in a dream” (Numbers 12:6; cf. Jeremiah 23:28). (Read More)
This mistaken idea continues to be repeated by some critics, despite various discoveries and ancient texts that support the Book of Mormon account. Among the ancient Greek writers who mentioned Arabian rivers flowing into the Red Sea are Herodotus (5th century BC, in his Histories 3.9), Agatharchides of Cnidus (2nd century BC, in his On the Erythraean Sea 5),[i] Strabo (born 63 BC, in his Geography 16.4.18, citing an earlier work by Artemidorus). They were all describing the region of al-Maqna, on the Red Sea coast of Saudi Arabia, where, in May 1995, George Potter and Craig Thorsted located a small perennial stream flowing down Wadi Tayyib al-Ism into the Red Sea. (Read More)
The words “hardness of their hearts” in 1 Nephi 2:18; 14:7 were borrowed from Mark 3:5; 10:5, which, being in the New Testament, was unavailable to the Nephites, who left Jerusalem six centuries before Christ’s birth. Indeed, the phrase “being grieved because of the hardness of their hearts” (1 Nephi 2:18) is nearly identical to that found in Mark 3:5.
The concept of hard-heartedness is common in the Old Testament, and the story of Pharaoh and Moses comes readily to mind. The verbiage in 1 Nephi 2:18 and Mark 3:5 evidently relies on Psalm 95:10, which refers to the Israelites Moses delivered from Egypt: “Forty years long was I grieved with this generation, and said, It is a people that do err in their heart” (also quoted in Hebrews 3:10).
The word used in the ten commandments means “murder,” not “kill.” Indeed, the law of Moses requires the execution of people for certain crimes. (Read More)
The first part of 1 Nephi 5:8 uses some of Peter’s words recorded in Acts 12:11, which, being in the New Testament, was unavailable to the Nephites, who left Jerusalem six centuries before Christ’s birth.
Though the stories are quite different, some of the same expressions are used. But these are common Old Testament idioms and should not be suspect. For example, in Genesis 15:13, one finds the words “know of a surety,” while variants are found in 1 Samuel 28:2 and Ecclesiastes 8:12 (cf. also John 17:8). The expression “deliver out of the hand(s) of” is found 77 times in the Old Testament, while in nine instances the same Hebrew expression is rendered “deliver from the hand(s) of.”
Since genealogies were very important in ancient Israel, how is it that an Lehi did not know his tribal affiliation until reading the record on the brass plates of Laban (1 Nephi 5:14)?
It was the extended family, not the tribe, that was the most important family unit in ancient Israel. More important, there is evidence from the Bible itself that people were not totally aware of their genealogy. (Read More)
In 1 Nephi 7:14, Nephi laments the fact that Jeremiah had been cast into prison. According to the Bible, Jeremiah was imprisoned in the tenth year of King Zedekiah (Jeremiah 32:1-2), yet Nephi and his family left Jerusalem in the first year of Zedekiah (1 Nephi 1:4), so they were no longer in the region at the time of Jeremiah’s imprisonment.
Jeremiah was imprisoned at least twice during the reign of Zedekiah. The first time was just after Zedekiah was made king. The prophet was imprisoned “in the house of Jonathan the scribe” (Jeremiah 37:1, 15). This was in the same year that Lehi brought his family out of Jerusalem. (Read More)
In 1811, Joseph Smith Sr. reported a dream that is so similar to the one reported by Lehi in 1 Nephi 8 that one is tempted to suggest that Joseph Smith borrowed the idea from his father when writing the Book of Mormon.
One finds the same phenomenon throughout the scriptures. (Read More)
Parts of 1 Nephi 8:10, 13 were borrowed from Revelation 22:1-2, which, being in the New Testament, was unavailable to the Nephites, who left Jerusalem six centuries before Christ’s birth. Revelation 2:7 is the source of the words “the tree of life” in 1 Nephi 11:25.
Since the topic is the tree of life in both cases, we should not be surprised to find that both passages describe it as near a river and bearing fruit. Indeed, the Book of Mormon would be more suspect if its description of the tree differed from that of the Bible. “The tree of life,” first appears in Genesis (2:9; 3:22, 24) and is also found in other Old Testament passages (Proverbs 3:18; 11:30; 13:12; 15:4). (Read More)
The Book of Mormon has John the Baptism performing baptisms in Bethabara beyond Jordan,” which agrees with the King James version (KJV) of John 1:28. But the best Greek manuscripts place the events in Bethany rather than Bethabara.
Ironically, this criticism is usually raised by critics who believe the Bible is inerrant. Variants such as this are common in ancient Bible manuscripts. In this case, the reading Bethany (Greek Bethania) is found in more manuscripts than Bethabara, but the latter is known in a fair number of Greek manuscripts and in early versions such as the Syriac, Coptic, Armenian, and Georgian. It is also the name cited by several of the early Church Fathers. (Read More)
The words “those who diligently seek him” (1 Nephi 10:17) were borrowed from Hebrews 11:6, while the words “he that diligently seeketh shall find,” two verses later (1 Nephi 10:19), derive from Matthew 7:8, “he that seeketh findeth.”Since the New Testament was unavailable to the Nephites, who left Jerusalem six centuries before Christ’s birth, we must attribute the borrowing to Joseph Smith.
The fact that the expression is found in such diverse writings as Matthew and Hebrews should have told the critics that it is relatively common. Indeed, it is likely that the New Testament passages are based on the idea found in several Old Testament verses. (Read More)
The words “caught away in the Spirit of the Lord” (1 Nephi 11:1) were borrowed from Acts 8:39, while the words “into an exceedingly high mountain” were taken from Matthew 4:8. Since the New Testament was unavailable to the Nephites, who left Jerusalem six centuries before Christ’s birth, we must attribute the borrowing to Joseph Smith.
The Old Testament prophet Ezekiel, a contemporary of Lehi and Nephi, uses similar imagery: “The hand of the Lord was upon me, and carried me out in the spirit of the Lord, and set me down in the midst of the valley” (Ezekiel 37:1). (Read More)
It snows in Jerusalem and other nearby regions from time to time. During the more than eight years I lived in an Arab village outside Jerusalem, we saw snow once or twice a year. (Read More)
From a number of Book of Mormon passages, it is clear that the Nephites knew that Christ and his Father were separate individuals.
The wording “the multitudes of the earth” that “were gathered together to fight” (1 Nephi 11:34) was taken from in Revelation 19:19, where it is “the kings of the earth” which were “gathered together to make war.” Since the New Testament was unavailable to the Nephites, who left Jerusalem six centuries before Christ’s birth, we must attribute the borrowing to Joseph Smith.
The Hebrew word “army” (usually rendered “host” in KJV) derives from the verb meaning “assemble, gather,” and armies always “gather together to fight” (twice in the Old Testament) or “gather together to war” (three times in the Old Testament). So this is the normal Hebrew way of describing preparations for war and should not be counted as a borrowing from the New Testament.
The quaking and rending of rocks in 1 Nephi 12:4 derives from Matthew 27:51 (“the earth did quake, and the rocks rent”). The listing of “lightnings . . . thundering . . . earthquakes” in the same Book of Mormon passage was taken from Revelation 8:5. Since the New Testament was unavailable to the Nephites, who left Jerusalem six centuries before Christ’s birth, we must attribute the borrowing to Joseph Smith.
The rock argument is weakened by the fact that, in the Book of Mormon passage, the word “quaking” appears long after the rending of the rocks, while in Matthew they are together. The idea is not unique to Matthew, however, and is found in 1 Kings 19:11. (Read More)
The idea of the Holy Ghost falling upon people (1 Nephi 12:7) comes from Acts 11:15, while the words “ordained of God, and chosen” are merely a variant of the words found in John 15:16. Since the New Testament was unavailable to the Nephites, who left Jerusalem six centuries before Christ’s birth, we must attribute the borrowing to Joseph Smith.
The prophet Ezekiel, a contemporary of Lehi, wrote, “the Spirit of the Lord fell upon me” (Ezekiel 11:5). In two Old Testament passages (Psalm 51:11; Isaiah 63:10-11), we read of the “holy spirit.” The verbs “ordained” and “chosen” are used together in 1 Chronicles 9:22. It is true that this Old Testament book was composed after Lehi left Jerusalem, but it is based on older records, including, it appears, court records from the time of King David.
Revelation 2:24 (“the depths of Satan”) is the source for the words “the depths of hell” in 1 Nephi 12:16. The book of Revelation, being in the New Testament, was unavailable to the Nephites, who left Jerusalem six centuries before Christ’s birth.
The words “depths of hell” are found in Proverbs 9:18. It is much more likely that, if the Book of Mormon is copying biblical idioms, it took this one from the Old Testament book—which, of course, may have been available to the Nephites. By the same token, one could argue that John borrowed the same Old Testament expression for the book of Revelation.
The Book of Mormon says that Nephi had a bow of “fine steel” (1 Nephi 16:18) in 600 B.C., but such weapons were unknown at that time. Steel is an alloy that was not known to the ancients. The steel blade of Laban’s sword (1 Nephi 4:9) is thus also an impossibility. Similarly, one cannot simply “molten out of the hill, and [make] swords out of steel” (Ether 7:9), since steel is an alloy, not a naturally-occurring metal.
It is ironic that those who level this criticism at the Book of Mormon fail to take the King James Version of the Bible to task for its use of the term “bow of steel” (2 Samuel 22:35; Job 20:24; Psalm 18:34) and the use of the term “steel” in Jeremiah 15:12. The Hebrew word behind these passages is actually the term used for copper and its alloys, notably bronze. (Read More)
According to 1 Nephi 18:12, 21, 2 Nephi 5:12, and Alma 37:38, Lehi used a compass called Liahona to guide him in his travels to the New World. But the compass was discovered in the late middle ages in China and was unknown in the ancient Near East from which Lehi sailed.
In modern English, the word “compass” usually denotes a device with a magnetized needle that points to magnetic north. The fact that the Lord had to prepare the device for Lehi implies that it was an instruction not known in Lehi’s day. However, the word “compass” really denotes something round, which fits the description of the Liahona as “a round ball” (1 Nephi 16:10). We have, for example, the “compass” used by draftsmen to draw circles. The magnetic compass derives its name from the fact that it helps us orient ourselves to the 360 degrees into which the ancients divided the horizon, which has the appearance of a circle with the observer at the center. The term “compass” in the King James version of the Bible derives from the Hebrew verb meaning “surround” (e.g., Joshua 6:3) or “go around” (e.g., Numbers 21:4). (Read More)
A passage in 1 Nephi 22:24 mentions “calves of the stall,” an expression found in the Bible only in Malachi 4:2. Because Malachi lived two centuries after Nephi, this is an obvious anachronism that resulted from the fact that Joseph Smith wrote the Book of Mormon.
The Hebrew term rendered “calves of the stall” in the Malachi passage is ceglēy marbēq. It is also found in other Bible passages, such as Jeremiah 46:21 and 1 Samuel 28:24, where the same Hebrew words are rendered “fatted bullocks” and “fat calf” (singular form cēgel marbēq), respectively, in the King James version (KJV) of the Bible.. But the word marbēq refers to an animal stall and does not mean “fat” or “fatted.” The Samuel passage predates Nephi by a few centuries, while the Jeremiah passage is contemporary with him. (Read More)