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Book of Mormon/Jesus Christ
Descriptions of Jesus Christ in the Book of Mormon
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- Question: Why is the name of Christ mentioned in the Book of Mormon before Christ's birth when it isn't mentioned in the Bible until the New Testament?
Question: Why is the name of Christ mentioned in the Book of Mormon before Christ's birth when it isn't mentioned in the Bible until the New Testament?
Three possibilities arise for resolving this criticism
Joseph translates a Hebrew Equivalent of this name into English
Some have criticized 2 Nephi 25:19 for referring to Jesus Christ as a name and that, prior to the New Testament era. First of all, it is apparent that inspired Book of Mormon writers knew that the titles Christ and Messiah were synonyms as John 1:41 tells us. Book of Mormon authors repeatedly referred to the Lord as "Jesus the Christ" (2 Nephi 26:12; Mormon 5:14; Moroni 7:44) or as "the Messiah" (1 Nephi 15:13; 2 Nephi 1:10; 2:6; 2:26). Secondly, the inspired writers of the New Testament repeatedly refer to the "name of Jesus Christ" as in Acts 2:38; 3:6; 4:10; 8:12; 1 Corinthians 1:2, 10; 2 Thessalonians 3:6. Also note that the name Jesus was actually the Greek form of the name Joshua or Yeshua meaning Jehovah is salvation (Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, Universal Subject Guide - Jeshua; LDS Bible Dictionary, p. 713). Arthur E. Glass, a Jewish-Christian scholar, has observed that Isaiah 62:11 and several other Old Testament verses translated as "my salvation" or "thy salvation" should properly be translated as the name Yeshua, which is the shortened form of the name Yehoshua. (from Yeshua in the Tenach – Brochure; see also Gen. 49:18; Ex. 15:2; 1 Sam. 2:1; Ps. 9:14; 91:16; Isa. 12:2, 49:6, Luke 2:29-32; etc.). According to Messianic Jewish scholar Dr. Michael Brown, “The original Hebrew-Aramaic name of Jesus is yeshuˈa, which is short for yehōshuˈa (Joshua), just as Mike is short for Michael. The name yeshuˈa occurs 27 times in the Hebrew Scriptures, primarily referring to the high priest after the Babylonian exile, called both yehōshuˈa (see, e.g., Zechariah 3:3) and, more frequently, yeshuˈa (see, e.g., Ezra 3:2). So, Yeshua’s name was not unusual; in fact, as many as five different men had that name in the Old Testament. And this is how that name came to be ‘Jesus’ in English” (Brown, Michael L. “What Is the Original Hebrew Name for Jesus? And Is It True That the Name Jesus Is Really a Pagan Corruption of the Name Zeus?” Ask Dr. Brown. Jan 3, 2013. Web. Dec 27, 2016). (https://www.gotquestions.org/Yeshua-Hamashiach.html)
This would lead to the conclusion that Nephi and other prophets could have known the Lord’s name in their own language. In Hebrew Jesus the Messiah would have been called Yeshua Hamashiyach but Joseph Smith translated the Nephite name for him as Jesus Christ, the Anglicized Greek equivalent we use today. See also September 1984 Ensign, pp. 24-25.
With regard to Alpha and Omega, The Encyclopedia of Mormonism explains:
Equivalent to the Old Testament term "the first and the last" (e.g., Isaiah 44:6), alpha and omega are the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet. Just as no letters stand before alpha or after omega, so there are no other gods in this creation other than that represented in Jesus Christ. He encompasses all, from beginning to end; he extends beyond all extremities and categories.
This is all assuming that the Hebrew equivalent remained unchanged on the plate text and that Joseph simply rendered it into something familiar to him. The second assumes that it was changed prior to translation.
Mormon changes all mentions of the Hebrew Equivalent of Christ's name
It should be noted that by the time Mormon wrote his synopsis of Nephite history, he knew quite well how Jesus fulfilled the prophecies that had been made about him before his birth. He could have done a lot to straighten out differences in terminology that might otherwise have been confusing to us. It was common for writers to change details of prophecies after they had been completed to match the details of completion.
This only works for the name-title Christ since it is unlikely that Christ would use the expression this week with non-Greek speaking peoples.
The Greek name-title Christ (Cristos) was actually on the plates
The last option is the least likely and that is that the name-title Christ may have actually been on the plates. Although a surprise to some, Greeks held a heavy presence in the Levant during the time of Lehi. Hugh Nibley elaborated on this here. This is a stretch especially for the time of the Nephites at Bountiful. But if the Mulekites or Lehites held onto any Greek from their sojourns in the Levant and their voyages to the New World, a plausible (although very unlikely) case can be made that the name-title was retained superfluously in the culture until the coming of the Savior. If so, this would explain both the name of the Savior and his comfortability with using expressions such as Alpha and Omega with the Nephites.