In The Cavity of a Rock

In The Cavity of a Rock
Father Lehi

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Correlations Between The Book of Mormon and The Narrative of Zosimus (History of the Rechabites)

Bedouin desert dwellers
Many of you are familiar with the Book of Mormon and even more so with the story of Lehi's dream found in 1st Nephi in the Book of Mormon but very few are familiar with the Narrative of Zosimus.  According to John Welch "the first known reappearance in modern times of the Narrative of Zosimus was its translation into Russian from an Old Church Slavonic text in the 1870's, almost fifty ears after the translation of the Book of Mormon into English." This story is now found in the series called "The Ante-Nicene Fathers". The story of the Narrative of Zosimus is about a righteous man named Zosimus who dwelt in a cave in the desert and prayed to the Lord in hopes of obtaining the land of blessedness.  

In order to get to this promised land or land of blessedness Zosimus wanders in a wilderness until he is so exhausted that only through prayer and divine intervention he finally reaches his destination.  In this land he encounters a wall of darkness eerily similar to Lehi's wandering in darkness at the beginning of his dream.  Zosimus is able to transport past the cloud of darkness by the help of two trees and their branches.  He then crosses water and sits by a beautiful tree eating fruit and drinking of its life sustaining water that flows from its roots.  He is then met by an angel who asks him what he wants and then becomes his escort through this journey.  He sees a vision in which he thinks he sees the Son of God who introduces him to a group of sons of God. If any of the story so far sounds familiar (which it should) it then becomes really interesting.  Zosimus is told by this group of sons of God their history.  Their history is engraven on stone plates and they speak of being led by their father and escaping Jerusalem's destruction at the time of Jeremiah.  Through this they survived the scattering of Israel and were able to occupy as Welch puts it "this otherworldly land of paradise and abundance only because of their righteousness." Later on Zosimus gets shown a book in which he learns that although the people in Jerusalem are wicked that eventually mercy will be extended to them in which he finds great joy.  Although this is a really quick synopsis of the Narrative of Zosimus there are many parallels between this apocryphal story and the early chapters of the Book of Mormon.  Here are just a few pointed out by John Welch:

- Dwelling in the desert (1 Nephi 2:4)
- Being led by prayer and faith (1 Nephi 1:5, 11:3, and 16:29)
- Wandering through a dark and dreary waste (1 Nephi 8:7)
- Being caught away to the bank of a river (1 Nephi 8:3)
- Crossing to the other side of a river or abyss and passing through a great mist (1 Nephi 8:32)
- Coming to a tree whose fruit is most sweet above all other fruit (1 Nephi 8:11)
- Eating from the tree, which also gave forth a fountain of living waters (1 Nephi 11:25)
- Being greeted by an angelic escort (1 Nephi 11:2-3)
- Being interrogated as to desires (1 Nephi 11:2)
- Beholding a vision of the Son of God or of those like sons of God (1 Nephi 1:6, 11:29)
- Keeping records on soft plates or tablets (1 Nephi 3:24, 9:1-6)
- Recording the history of a group of people who escaped the destruction of Jerusalem at the time of  Jeremiah. (1 Nephi 1:4, 7:14)
- Being led to a land of promise and of great abundance because of righteousness (1 Nephi 18:25)
- Practicing constant prayer (Alma 34 :21-27)
- Keeping high standards of chastity and piety (Jacob 2:25-28)
- Receiving revelations concerning the wickedness of the people of Jerusalem and the Old World (1 Nephi 10:11)
- Obtaining assurances of the mercy to be extended to the inhabitants of Jerusalem and the world who repent and enter into covenants with God (1 Nephi 1:14, 10:3)

Father Lehi and the Liahona
The Narrative of Zosimus as Welch points out may reflect someones memory of Lehi and his departure from Jerusalem although the Narrative in its present form doesn't date anywhere near the time frame of Nephi and Lehi who left Jerusalem in the days of Jeremiah in 597 B.C.  I suppose it is possible that Lehi's expedition could have influenced other groups on the departure of 11 years in the desert 8 of which were traveling to modern day Oman or Yemen from Jerusalem.  Another possible common influence between these two groups is that of the Rechabites.  The Rechabites were a nomadic religious group located in the southern deserts of Israel. They date back from Jonadab ben Rechab, the founder who lived some time during the ninth century B.C. (2 Kings 10:15-17).  Although not much is known about this group we do know that Jeremiah thought highly of them inviting them into the temple in Jeremiah 35.  They were know for abstaining from wine and dwelling in dents as nomads.

Lehi knew and respected Jeremiah in the Book of Mormon and heavy emphasis is placed on Lehi when he dwelt in a tent.  Lehi was called many things including a visionary man and his family at time complained of many things but never his ability in the desert.  This may be because as Nibley suggests he was a trader who spent much time in the desert.  As such he would have surely been familiar with the Rechabites.  In the Book of Mormon the drinking of wine is looked upon in negative connotations except in sacramental circumstances. 

Bedouin tent
Since it can be seen that there are numerous parallels between these two texts and enough correlations between the visions and experiences of Zosimus and that of Nephi and Lehi that even an unfamiliar reader should admit that further studies would be promising.  I for one would be intrigued with a more in-depth study of the two texts but can also admit that the studies that have been done point towards an authentic ancient near eastern background for the Book of Mormon.

For the original article from John Welch I have posted a link to his website and highly recommend reading in and many others.



  1. This was really good! Thanks for bringing information such as this to people's attention. I love your site.


  2. Thanks! Yeah John Welch has a wealth of information that needs to be brought to light. I have a post coming soon on the 6 different prophetic styles and how Samuel the Lamanite displays all 6 in his prophetic warnings to Zarahemla that I got from Welch as well, it's good stuff I promise.

  3. I enjoy the information added to our aporeciation of The Book of Mormon.I would like to see, however, an inclusion of the more ancient migrations to the Americas. The red-haired people that still have descendants in the Americas, on Easter Island and on New Zealand where the Ngati Hotu tribe has been struggling for recognition since the 1800ds in a society dominated by the Maori tribes. They are NOT Maori, but predates them by hundreds of years.They left the Persian Highlands over 3500 years ago. Are they connected to the Jaredites?Personally, I have come to think so. If contacted, I will share information gleaned from serious researchers.