Question: What is known about the name Greek name "Timothy" in the Book of Mormon?

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Question: What is known about the name Greek name "Timothy" in the Book of Mormon?

In Lehi's day Palestine was swarming with Greeks

Critics have argued that "Timothy" is an unlikely Nephite name, since it is of Greek origin.

Hugh Nibley pointed out:

[R]emember...that in Lehi's day Palestine was swarming with Greeks, important Greeks. Remember, it was Egyptian territory [prior to being seized by Babylon] at that time and Egyptian culture. The Egyptian army, Necho's army, was almost entirely Greek mercenaries. We have inscriptions from that very time up the Nile at Aswan-inscriptions from the mercenaries of the Egyptian army, and they're all in Greek. So Greek was very common, and especially the name Timotheus.[1]

Elsewhere, he noted:

The occurrence of the names Timothy and Lachoneus in the Book of Mormon is strictly in order, however odd it may seem at first glance. Since the fourteenth century B.C. at latest, Syria and Palestine had been in constant contact with the Aegean world; and since the middle of the seventh century, Greek mercenaries and merchants closely bound to Egyptian interest (the best Egyptian mercenaries were Greeks) swarmed throughout the Near East.23 Lehi's people, even apart from their mercantile activities, could not have avoided considerable contact with these people in Egypt and especially in Sidon, which Greek poets even in that day were celebrating as the great world center of trade. It is interesting to note in passing that Timothy is an Ionian name, since the Greeks in Palestine were Ionians (hence the Hebrew name for Greeks: "Sons of Javanim"), and—since "Lachoneus" means "a Laconian"—that the oldest Greek traders were Laconians, who had colonies in Cyprus (Book of Mormon Akish) and of course traded with Palestine.24[2]

Compare: Lachoneus

It would thus not be at all surprising for Lehites or Mulekites to be familiar with the name "Timothy" (or a derivative), or even for a "Timothy" to have accompanied Mulek's party of immigrants.

Stephen D. Ricks, associate professor of Hebrew and Semitic languages at BYU, has also argued for an authentic Greek origin for the name Timothy, as well as for it being an English translation of a comparable Nephite word:

Another possibility, in the case of the name Timothy at least, is that we have a Greek doublet—a name in one language that has the same or nearly the same meaning as a name in another language. For example, in the New Testament, the Greek name Petros (Peter) is a doublet of the Aramaic Cephas, both of which mean a “rock.” Likewise, the Greek Didymus is a doublet of the Aramaic Thomas, meaning “twin.” The name Timothy means “God-fearer” and might be a doublet for a similar-meaning Nephite name. Alternatively, Timothy may simply be a rendering of a like-sounding Nephite name that is otherwise completely unrelated to the Greek.[3]


Notes

  1. Hugh W. Nibley, "Lecture 27: Omni; Words of Mormon; Mosiah 1: The End of the Small Plates and The Coronation of Mosiah," in Teachings of the Book of Mormon: Transcripts of lectures presented to an Honors Book of Mormon Class at Brigham Young University 1988-1990, Vol. 1, (Provo, Utah: Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies, 1993), 430. ISBN 1591565715.
  2. Hugh W. Nibley, An Approach to the Book of Mormon, 3rd edition, (Vol. 6 of the Collected Works of Hugh Nibley), edited by John W. Welch, (Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book Company; Provo, Utah: Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies, 1988), Chapter 22, references silently removed—consult original for citations.
  3. Stephen D. Ricks, "I Have a Question: 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?," Ensign, October 1992. off-site