Whose Record is 4th Nephi?

KC Kernbook of mormon 5 Comments

In the latter part of the Book of Mormon, we see a resurgence of the name “Nephi.” First, we have Helaman’s son, Nephi (Helaman 3:21) This Nephi has a son, also named Nephi. (3 Nephi 1:2) He is the one present at the time of the ministry of Christ.

In 4th Nephi however, we’re faced with a tricky ambiguity. We learn that the Nephi here is the father of Amos (4 Nephi 1:19), and it would appear that he is the son of Nephi, the disciple. Our only real clue into who he is comes from the heading of 4th Nephi, which says:

“The Book of Nephi, who is the son of Nephi, one of the disciples of Jesus Christ.”

I may be splitting hairs here, but it seems that this could be interpreted one of two ways:

  1. The Book of:
    • Nephi, who is the the son of:
      • Nephi, one of the disciples of Jesus Christ
  2. The Book of:
    • Nephi, who is:
      1. The Son of Nephi
      2. One of the Disciples of Jesus Christ

Interpretation 1 suggests he is the great-grandson of Helaman who we know virtually nothing of.

Interpretation 2 suggests he is the grandson of Helaman, the disciple we know of from the Book of 3rd Nephi.

In case that didn’t make sense, here are the two proposed geneologies:

  1. Helaman
    • Nephi (Lehi’s Brother)
    • Nephi (Disciple of Christ)
    • Nephi ( Of 4th Nephi)
    • Amos
  2. Helaman
    • Nephi (Lehi’s Brother)
    • Nephi (Disciple of Christ & Of 4th Nephi)
    • Amos

Looking at the references to time in 4th Nephi, and estimating Nephi the disciple’s age, the evidence seems in favor of the first interpretation, indicating that there is a Nephi between Nephi the disciple and Amos, but I find it interesting that a reworking of the same text leaves open the possibility that our reading of the Book of Mormon might have fabricated new character, and Amos is simply the son of Nephi the disciple.

Comments 5

  1. Grant Hardy, in The Book of Mormon: A Reader’s Edition (p. 701), indicates his preference for your first genealogy: Helaman (6th chief judge) has a son Nephi (7th chief judge), who in turn has a son Nephi (one of the Twelve), who then also has a son named Nephi (Book of 4 Nephi).

  2. I had a professor who shared an opinion that it was the son of the disciple but pointed out that the disciple was still young enough to keep writing and it was a bit odd that he had turned it over to his son so soon compared to everyone else.

    His speculation was that the disciple has been one of the three and was thus translated now and it was no longer his calling to write any more.

  3. Your first interpretation is correct. The only way for Nephi the disciple to have been alive at the time the plates were passed to the first Amos in v. 19 would be if he WERE one of the three (the passing to the first Amos happens over 100 years after the coming of Christ), and if he were one of the three, he could not have died.

    This does not rule out the possibility that Nephi the disciple was one of the three (and I hold it to be very likely since his death is never mentioned), but it is certainly his son who is the first author of the records from which 4 Nephi is drawn. Even the index to the BoM makes this clear. Yes, the book heading is ambiguous, but the chronology answers the question. The only reason I can think of for Nephi the Disciple’s death not to be mentioned is that he was one of the three.

    It is true that MANY people ignore the chronology and say that the first Amos is the son of Nephi the Disciple. The wikipedia article on the first Amos makes this error as well.

  4. Ok folks….lets say Nephi, One of the Twelve, was blessed to be one of the Three to live untill Christ’s Second Coming. He was also keeper of the plates at that time. Mormon, having been commanded not to write the name of the Three, how do you suppose he kept the record going until his son without showing the obvious since Nephi kept the record and not lie about being a rightous man?

    He left facts obscure for a reason…in this way he’ s not lieing to hid the obvious…..it’s really rather brillient how he managed to do this…..the only way to figure it out in favor of what I am suggesting is to do the math backwards from Amos…..which makes Nephi one of the Three being around still at 110AD…….in this Mormon still never writes the names either.

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