Category:Book of Mormon/Elements/Jesus Christ/Forty-day literature

Forty-day Literature and the Book of Mormon

Parent page: Book of Mormon/Elements

Forty-day literature and the Book of Mormon

The Book of Mormon text is supported by striking similarities to other ancient religious manuscripts that were unknown in 1830, when the Book of Mormon was published. Hugh Nibley has suggested that the texts of the "forty-day" literature, which are among the oldest Christian documents and purport to contain the postresurrectional teachings of Christ to his Old World apostles, have intriguing parallels in content to 3 Nephi, which records the visit and instruction of the resurrected Lord to his New World disciples.25 A comparison between these relatively recently discovered texts, according to Nibley, allows {{s|3|Nephi|to take "its place in the bona fide apocalyptic library so easily and naturally that with the title removed, any scholar would be hard put to it to detect its irregular origin."26 Elements in common include Christ's prophecy about the eventual apostasy of the church, after two generations in the Old World and four among the Nephites; references to the secrecy of certain teachings; statements about the visits of Christ to other peoples; a discussion of the history of the world in terms of dispensations; and the fact that Jesus physically ate food to show his status as a resurrected being. Additionally, Nibley notes that both accounts emphasize that the purpose of Christ's visit was to prepare his disciples for their missions to establish the church and that both stress the splendor and the intimacy of Christ's visits.

Nibley also engages in an extended comparison of {{s|3|Nephi|and the Coptic manuscript of the Gospel of the Twelve Apostles, discovered in 1904, seventy-four years after the Book of Mormon was published. Again, the parallels between the two texts in regard to general motifs and specific actions are consistent enough to suggest that they share a common origin in the teachings of the resurrected Christ. Among these similarities are the descriptions of Christ's condescension, his partaking of food with his disciples, a doctrinal emphasis on unity, the administering and withholding of the sacrament, the sacramental prayers, and three prayers by Christ. Additionally, both texts describe a private conversation between the Lord and either the Twelve Apostles or the twelve Nephite disciples. In both cases Christ encourages his disciples, who are at first abashed, to ask him what they are thinking; they eventually respond and inquire about the "type of the human who is dead but not dead, raised from the dead but still not resurrected,"27 with Lazarus in the Old World and the Three Nephites in the New World representing this unique case. In both instances Jesus reassures them of the universality of the resurrection. The strong connections between the texts of the forty-day literature and {{s|3|Nephi|demonstrate the strong consistency of the latter with a genre of early Christian literature that was not known to early-nineteenth-century Americans and something that Joseph Smith could scarcely have imagined.[1]


  1. Noel B. Reynolds, "By Objective Measures: Old Wine in New Bottles," in Echoes and Evidences of the Book of Mormon, edited by Donald W. Parry, Daniel C. Peterson, and John W. Welch (Provo, Utah: FARMS, 2002), Chapter 6, references silently removed—consult original for citations.

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