5

The other day I overheard a professor briefly mention an ancient Hebraic document known as the "Narrative of Zosimus" that wasn't known to Western scholars until the late 1870's.

As his reference was tangential, I didn't gather much information beyond the fact that the story line/narrative concerned a "righteous" family that was instructed by God to leave Jerusalem before the Babylonian destruction, and that they were led to a land preserved for them. Additionally, their journey to the "blessed" land involved: a dark mist, an ocean, a great tree that bears sweet fruit, etc. (I can't remember all of it exactly, I apologize). Also, the account detailed that the family supposedly recorded their history on metal plates.

  1. Is there more information about this ancient text?
  2. Where can I find an English translation of the text so I can read for it myself?

While I realize that this is an ancient text that predates Christianity (supposedly, I don't have information on it), what struck me as particularly interesting was that it seemed to contain many, many parallels to Lehi's "Tree of Life" dream in 1 Nephi in the Book of Mormon.

  1. Is there a correlation between these two texts? Are the parallels remarkable or just coincidental?
    1. What have non-LDS scholars researched and stated about the Narrative of Zosimus?
    2. Have any LDS scholars noted the extreme similar nature of these texts and conducted research on them? Have they proposed any theories to explain why they are so similar?
4

To answer all five of your questions.

  1. Yes, there is more information.

  2. There are English translations. You can find a rendering of the text in English at newadvent.org. that appears to date to 18961. There is another English rendering here with a helpful introduction.

  3. If not a correlation, there is some similarity.

    A twenty-two page analysis of text, as compared to text in Nephi, is available on line through Brigham Young University. The author is John W. Welch, who wrote "The Narrative of Zosimus (History of the Rechabites) and the Book of Mormon" in Book of Mormon Authorship Revisited (1997). The conclusion is cited from that paper/chapter.

    Despite the many similarities set forth in this article between the Book of Mormon and the Narrative of Zosimus, it is difficult to draw any specific conclusions regarding possible direct relationships, or on the other hand, the independence of these documents with respect to each other. We simply know too little about the authorship and transmission of the Narrative of Zosimus to venture any judgment about the kind of spiritual experiences its author had as compared with the visions and revelations of Lehi. Similarly, we cannot know precisely what influence general literary or cultural backgrounds may have had upon those responsible for composing and transmitting the Narrative of Zosimus, or for that matter, upon Nephi as he recounted his own and his father's inspirations. Perhaps someday we will have greater knowledge to assess what connections if any stand between these two intriguing ancient accounts. In the meantime, however, it seems both reasonable and productive that one continue to study these two texts together. Both deserve greater attention and neither should be erroneously judged amiss against valid ancient Judeo-Christianity. Before the recognition of similarities, such as those between the book of Mormon and the Narrative of Zosimus, it was possible to reserve interest in the Book of Mormon by wondering why no other ancient near eastern books existed which closely resembled it on that score. One need wonder no longer.

  4. Other scholars have shown an interest in and done work to give greater accessibility to this narrative. From the BYU paper:

    Dr James H Charlesworth, Professor of Christian Origins at Duke University, Durham NC, has compiled the most complete, published bibliography and has made a thorough study of this long neglected narrative. He concludes that its most ancient portion was written somewhere in Judea, that it was originally written in Hebrew, and that it would be unwise to ignore the possibility that this oldest section is a Jewish work that predates the fall of Jerusalem in AD 70. How long before AD 70 this early material was actually written down is difficult to tell. The traditions underlying many sections in the narrative of Zosimus undoubtedly go back even further.

Dr Charlesworth produced a recent translation into English. (p. 312, same source)

Professor Charlesworth reports having examined in Paris, Oxford, London and Manchester manuscripts of this document written in Greek, Syriac, Ethiopic, and Karshuni. His English translation of Zosimus will appear in Doubleday's forthcoming publication of the Pseudepigraphia, and soon a new edition of the Greek Syriac and Ethiopic texts will be available in the SBL Pseudepigrapha series

  1. Jack Welch is an LDS scholar. You can evaluate his theories in that 22 page excerpt, which conclusion I cited. He found it difficult to draw conclusions. He noted that more scholarship is needed.

1 Translated by W.A. Craigie. From Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 9. Edited by Allan Menzies. (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1896.) Revised and edited for New Advent by Kevin Knight. http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/1009.htm.

  • 1
    Thank you for such thorough information and details, and citing and linking all the sources. I'm looking forward to reading the text in English! This was such an excellent response! Much appreciated! – Butterfly and Bones Oct 5 '16 at 20:17
  • I wish I was more knowledgeable on LDS teachings, as I might have been able to provide more help that way, so I am glad that this was helpful. (And thank you for asking the question, that's a neat piece of old writings ... ). – KorvinStarmast Oct 5 '16 at 20:29

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.