Alan C. Miner

The name of one of the Lord's disciples listed in 3 Nephi 19:4 -- Timothy -- seems to be Greek in origin. Is there an explanation for the appearance of a Greek name in the Book of Mormon? According to Stephen Ricks, it may be that the name Timothy, as well as other manifestations of Greek influence, were brought to the New World by the Mulekites. The people of Mulek may have made their escape to the New World on a Phoenician ship (see Ross T. Christensen, ed., Transoceanic Crossings to Ancient America, S.E.H.A.) The Phoenicians, whose port cities included Sidon, Acco, and Tyre, were the greatest seamen of the region. They had regular contacts both with Greek speaking merchants and traders and with the Israelites. (See, for example, Judg. 1:31; 2 Sam. 5:11; 1 Kgs. 5:1-12; Matt. 11:21-22; Mark 3:8).

Perhaps the strongest possibility for the appearance of Timothy in the Book of Mormon, however, is that Greek names were not unknown among the Israelites even before Lehi left Jerusalem. Contacts between the Greeks and the peoples of the eastern Mediterranean -- including the Israelites -- had already begun centuries before Lehi was born. Professor Cyrus H. Gordon, who has studied early evidence of Greek contacts in the ancient Near East, writes in his book The Common Background of Greek and Hebrew Civilization, that trade and other cultural contacts existed between the Greeks and the ancient Near East from the middle of the second millennium B.C.

Thus, it should not be surprising that names of Greek origin might be found among the peoples of the ancient Near East, including the Hebrews, since names are easily and widely borrowed among people of various cultures. Lehi's tribe, Manasseh, was quite cosmopolitan, so foreign names could well have been in Lehi's genealogy found on the plates of brass (see 1 Nephi 5:14; Alma 10:3). [Stephen D. Ricks, "I Have A Question," The Ensign, Oct. 1992, p. 53]

3 Nephi 19:4 [Nephi's] brother whom he had raised from the dead, whose name was Timothy ([Illustration]): Nephi Raises Timothy [Steven Lloyd Neal, Verse Markers, Book of Mormon, Vol. 1, p. 5]

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