“His Name Shall Be Jesus Christ the Son of God”

Alan C. Miner

According to Joy Osborn, in the Book of Mormon we read of angels revealing the name of Israel's Messiah as "Jesus Christ" to Nephi, to his brother Jacob, and later to King Benjamin (see Mosiah 3:5-13) hundreds of years before the birth of Christ. Nephi, a descendant of Joseph, Ephraim and Manasseh wrote of the future coming of the Messiah:

For according to the words of the prophets, the Messiah cometh in six hundred years from the time that my father left Jerusalem; and according to the words of the prophets, and also the word of the angel of God, his name shall be Jesus Christ, the Son of God. (2 Nephi 25:19)

Moreover, King Benjamin revealed that according to the angel, "he shall be called Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Father of heaven and earth, the Creator of all things from the beginning; and his mother shall be called Mary" (Mosiah 3:8). That the mother of Jesus would be called by the name of Mary would also be declared by Alma (see Alma 7:7-14), some eighty-three years before the actual event.

Could the early Book of Mormon prophets have known that the future Messiah would be named Jesus Christ, and that his mother would be named Mary? The statements made by Nephi earlier, and King Benjamin's proclamation that an angel from God had revealed to him the name of Jesus Christ, and that his mother's name would be Mary, more than a hundred years before the birth of Christ, has been cited by critics of Joseph Smith, and the Book of Mormon, as proof that the book is a forgery, and a fraud, plagiarized from the Bible, and that Joseph Smith was a false prophet.

Others have been a little more kind and scholarly in their judgments, but nonetheless dubious. Dr. James H. Charlesworth, head of the Pseudepigrapha Institute at Duke University, who edited two impressive volumes of Pseudepigrapha, published by Doubleday in 1985, is recognized as one of the worlds great authorities on the Pseudepigrapha. In an essay entitled, "Messianism in the Pseudepigrapha and the Book of Mormon," Dr. Charlesworth states: "At the outset we should recognize that, as with the Pseudepigrapha, the Book of Mormon contains lengthy sections that look very Jewish and others that look peculiarly Christian" (p. 124). Professor Charlesworth declares that in the Book of Mormon, we find what most critical scholars would call clearly Christian phrases; that is, the description is so precise that it is evident it was added after the event. . . . The specific details are the clarification that the Messiah will be called 'Jesus Christ,' that his mother will be called Mary, that salvation is through faith - indeed faith on his name - that many will say he has a devil, that he will be scourged and crucified, and finally that he will rise on the third day from the dead.

Dr. Charlesworth expresses the opinion that the sections which appear to be "Christian" additions to the Book of Mormon may have been added when Mormon abridged the records in the fourth century A.D, after the appearance of Jesus. Or, he says that Joseph Smith could have added these things to the records when he translated the Book of Mormon.

In view of this criticism one might ask, Is there any evidence in the ancient scriptures or writings to support the claim that the name of Jesus Christ, and also the name of his mother Mary was known and recorded by the ancient prophets?

Following the publication of the Book of Mormon, in 1830, many ancient manuscripts and writings have been discovered which prove the accounts given in the Book of Mormon to be a true record, and also prove that this remnant of Joseph did, indeed, have the records, plates, and writings of the ancient prophets of Israel, including the writings of Joseph. The list of ancient manuscripts, many of them recognized as ancient scripture, or canon, which show that the name of Jesus, and of his mother, Mary, was known and recognized by the ancient prophets, is long and impressive.

The Martyrdom and Ascension of Isaiah is one of the pseudepigraphal works of great importance in support of the Book of Mormon account. Scholars date these writings from between the Second Century B.C. and the Fourth Century A.D. Some believe it to be of Jewish origin and to be derived from a genuine original. Others see it as a Christian work. Charlesworth says there is good evidence that the Martyrdom was composed in Hebrew, whereas the Ascension seems to be a mixture of Jewish and Christian material.

Why have Biblical scholars decided that this vision of Isaiah is a mixture of Jewish and Christian material? Because in it Isaiah, who lived before 700 B.C., about 100 years before Nephi began the Book of Mormon record, was shown in visions and while being guided through the seven heavens the birth of the Savior - whom he says will be named Jesus Christ, and whose mother will be a virgin named Mary! Remember what Nephi wrote in the Book of Mormon about 600 B.C. concerning Isaiah?

And now I, Nephi, write more of the words of Isaiah, for my soul delighteth in his words. For I will liken his words unto my people, and I will send them forth unto all my children, for he verily saw my Redeemer, even as I have seen him. And my brother, Jacob, also has seen him as I have seen him; wherefore, I will send their words forth unto my children to prove unto them that my words are true. Wherefore, by the words of three, God hath said, I will establish my word. Nevertheless, God sendeth more witnesses, and he proveth all his words. (2 Nephi 11:2-3).

In the Bible, we have Isaiah's prophecy of the birth of Israel's promised Messiah: "Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel" (Isaiah 7:14). Immanuel in Hebrew meaning "With us is God." Matthew quotes the prophet Isaiah's statement as follows: "Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us" (Matt. 1:23).

In the Pseudepigrapha, in the Apocalypse of Baruch, Third Baruch, Greek version, an angel tells Baruch, companion and fellow prophet of Jeremiah, about 600 B.C.:

And God sent the angel Sarasael, and he said to him, Rise, Noah, plant the sprig, for the Lord says this: Its bitterness will be changed into sweetness, and its curse will become a blessing, and its fruit will become the blood of God, and just as the race of men have been condemned through it, so through Jesus Christ Emmanuel in it (they) will receive a calling and entrance into Paradise.

Whereas Isaiah prophesies that the Messiah will be called Emmanuel, meaning "with us is God," about one hundred years later an angel of the Lord tells Baruch that his name will be called Jesus Christ Emmanuel. Was the name Jesus Christ Emmanuel, as given by Baruch, changed to simply Emmanuel in Isaiah's prophecy? If so, who changed it and when was it changed? Was it changed by Manasseh, the wicked king of Judah, who had the prophet Isaiah killed, and the "name of God removed from the Torah"?

According to the words of Nephi in the Book of Mormon, they had with them the writings of the ancient prophets, and he states that, according to the words of these ancient prophets, the future Messiah would be called Jesus Christ. There is much evidence to prove both of these statements to be true. The most important recorded evidence comes from the great Christian historian Eusebius. Eusebius, Bishop of Caesarea, c. 313-339, is recognized as one of the greatest of the early Church Fathers and Historians. Born at Caesarea, about 260 A.D., Eusebius wrote two great histories of the Church, covering it from the time of Christ to the days of Constantine.

In his History of the Church, Eusebius writes:

Both Jesus and Christ were names honoured even by God's beloved prophets of old, as I must now make clear. The extreme sanctity and glory of the name Christ was first proclaimed by Moses himself, . . . For in describing God's high priest, the most powerful of men, he called him Christ, and on this high-priestly office, which in his eyes surpassed all preeminence among men, he bestows as a mark of honour and glory the name of Christ. It is clear then that he understood the divine import of the name of Christ. Moses again was enabled by the Holy Spirit to foresee quite plainly the title Jesus: it, too, he felt to be worthy of special privilege . . . With equal clarity the prophets who came later named Christ in their prophecies, witnessing beforehand alike to the intrigue destined to be leveled against Him by the Jewish people, and to the calling of the Gentiles through Him. (Book 1, pp. 9- 10)

Now we can better understand Jesus' words to the Jews when he told them if they had believed the words of Moses they would have believed him - for Moses had testified of him. And we see now, from the writings of Eusebius, that Moses wrote a great deal more about Jesus than is found in our Bible. This also supports the Book of Mormon declaration that "many plain and precious parts" had been removed from the Scriptures. For Eusebius also states that the prophet Jeremiah and the psalmist David also knew and quoted the name of Christ.

It is most interesting, after reading these statements of Eusebius, to note the many statements made in the Pseudepigrapha and the apocryphal writings of the early prophets - which so many scholars have classed as "Christian interpolations," because they named Jesus, and in some cases, Mary, even as they are named in the Book of Mormon.

We have the statements of Isaiah, in the Vision of Isaiah, that he was shown the coming of the Lord Christ, who is to be called Jesus, and whose mother would be named Mary. In the Testament of Isaac, who, in speaking to his son, Jacob, declared: "And after this there shall come forth twelve giants. Then will come Jesus the Messiah from your descendants out of a virgin named Mary" (Pseud. V. 1, p. 907).

In the Testament of Adam, Adam tells his son, Seth - "You have heard, my son, that God is going to come into the world after a long time, (he will be) conceived of a virgin and put on a body, be born like a human being, and grow up as a child." And Adam tells Seth that while he was in Paradise, the Lord told him that he would be born of the Virgin Mary. And Adam speaks of the "majesty of our Lord Jesus the Messiah."

Then, in the MSS, known as the Life of Adam and Eve, we find an example of Christian doctrine much like that which Dr. Charlesworth had questioned being in the Book of Mormon. It states:

Then the most beloved Christ, Son of God, shall come upon the earth to revive the body of Adam and with him the bodies of the dead. And when he, the Son of God, comes, he himself will be baptized in the river Jordan, and when he has come out of the water of the Jordan, then he will anoint from the oil of mercy all who believe in him. And the oil of mercy shall be life. Then the most beloved Son of God, Christ, shall descend to the earth, and lead your father Adam to Paradise to the tree of mercy. (Vol. 11, p. 274)

In First Enoch, it states that in the beginning, before the creation of the earth, the Son of Man existed and was with the Father. He was given a name, and became the Chosen One of the Father. In the recently discovered Gospel of Philip, is this statement: "The name Jesus does not exist in any other tongue (than Hebrew), but he is always called Jesus. But Christ is Messiah in Syriac, while in Greek it is Christ." Dr. Nibley declares: "The Gospel of Philip says the Lord had one name, Jesus, which was the same for all people and all languages, while his Greek name of Christ was not used by the Syrians, who said "Messiah" instead; the name of Nazarene was a secret one whose real meaning was known only to his immediate followers." (Nibley, Enoch, p. 34)

Again we see where the things which seemed so far out and ridiculous in Joseph Smith's day, are the very things which now prove him a true prophet of God. And in the writings of Eusebius we can find many of the "plain and precious parts" which have been removed from the Holy Scriptures. We find verification for Nephi's statement. [Joy M. Osborn, The Book of Mormon -- The Stick of Joseph, pp. 255-264] [See the commentary on Mosiah 3:8] See Vol. 6, Appendix C]

Step by Step Through the Book of Mormon: A Cultural Commentary