In The Cavity of a Rock

In The Cavity of a Rock
Father Lehi

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Zeno's Allegory of the Olive Tree serves as added evidence and insight!

Olive tree and vineyard
This post is focused on my recent reading of Jacob 5, Zenos's allegory of the olive tree.  This is the longest chapter in the Book of Mormon.  In this chapter an ancient Isrealite prophet named Zenos likens the history of  Israel to an olive tree and vineyard.  Zenos's allegory goes into great detail regarding the grafting, dunging, digging about and pruning process  involved in the olive tree culture thus proving that whoever Zenos was he had a great understanding of horticulture and botanical knowledge especially involving the olive tree and vineyard.

  Many of the ancient practices are still used today and wouldn't have been common knowledge in Joseph Smith's day especially in the upstate New York, Pennsylvania and Vermont area.  As pointed out by Jeff Lindsay in his blog there is an amazing comparison in Brant Gardners Multidimensional Commentary for Jacob 5 and Romans 11 which is commonly referred to when compared by those who do not accept the Book of Mormon but anyone who has taken the time to read them both will not only realize that Paul's comparison is the inferior of the two but  should also realize that Paul may actually be getting his information from the same source as Jacob...the one and only Zenos.

 Jeff also quotes from John Gee and Daniel C. Peterson,'s "Graft and Corruption: On Olives and Olive Culture in the Pre-Modern Mediterranean," in The Allegory of the Olive Tree. Peterson and Gee state that it is almost inconceivable to state that Joseph Smith would have had access to the information needed to put together Jacob 5.  The knowledge of olive horticulture was basically un-had in upstate New York.  They point out that in order for Smith to have obtained that knowledge in 1829 he would have needed to have had access to the writings of four classical authors and would have need to have read all four works because individually they do not cover all the knowledge needed to have composed such a work.  These authors and there works were

1.Cato, De Agri Cultura 2. Varro, Rerum Rusticarum 3. heophrastus, Historia Plantarum 4. Columella, Rei Rusticae.  This is what Peterson and Gee stated about the likely hood of Joseph having access to these writings:

Josesph Smith jr.
"Yet Joseph Smith probably did not have access to these works. And even if he had, he could not read Latin and Greek in 1829. Theophrastus's Historia Plantarum first published in English in 1916, [Theophrastus, Enquiry into Plants, trans. Arthur Hort (London: Heinemann, 1916)] and no part of his De Causis Plantarum was available in English until 1927 [Robert E. Dengler, ... Ph.D. Dissertation, University of Pennsylvania, 1927]. While English translations of Cato, Varro, and Columella were available to the British in 1803, 1800, and 1745 respectively [Thomas Owen, M. Porcius Cato concerning Agriculture (London: White, 1803), ...], it is hardly likely that they were widely circulated in rural New York and Pennsylvania. Joseph Smith could have known nothing about olives from personal experience, as they do not grow in Vermont and New York. Can it reasonably be supposed that Joseph simply guessed right on so many details? And even if he somehow managed to get the details from classical authors, how did he know to put it into the proper Hebrew narrative form?"

Gee and Peterson then go on to point out the proper Hebrew narrative which I highly recommend reading.  In my eyes the wonderful readings of Jacob chapter 5 stand as one of the most powerful testimonies for the future of Israel and "gentile" nations as well but also as some of the most compelling evidence for the authenticity of the Book of Mormon and for the prophet Joseph Smith.


  1. I LOVE the Book of Jacob--and Jacob 5 has become so much more than the "gardening chapter." Great stuff, Jody! Hmm...I craving olives all of a sudden!

  2. Here's my take of Zenos: