From the book: Of Faith and Reason: 80 Evidences Supporting the Prophet Joseph Smith
by Michael R. Ash
Not many years ago, while attending Duke University, Mormon scholar John Welch participated in a graduate seminar on early Christian writings, when the professor began to discuss a little-known writing entitled the Narrative of Zosimus. This narrative –written in Hebrew and dating to about the time of Christ or earlier –purports to tell a tale that could date to Lehi’s day, and shares many similarities with Lehi’s vision of the tree of life.
Outside of the possibility that both Lehi and Zosimus shared similar revelations, Mormon scholars are still attempting to determine just what relationship exists between the two narratives. Perhaps Lehi made contact with others in their Arabian Journey and shared tales of his vision, or some ancient source or tradition influenced both the Narrative of Zosimus and Lehi’s vision.
Within recent years other similar motifs have been discovered –dating from the fifth century BC to the AD third century — in Italy, Sicily, Crete, and Macedonia. These motifs depict the dead wandering through a world of darkness in search of a white cypress tree. Non-Mormon commentators agree that the cypress tree represents the tree of life and that this mythology most likely originated in Egypt.
Michael R. Ash is the author of: Of Faith and Reason: 80 Evidences Supporting The Prophet Joseph Smith. He is the owner and operator of MormonFortress.com and is on the management team for FairMormon. He has been published in Sunstone, Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, the Maxwell Institute’s FARMS Review, and is the author of Shaken Faith Syndrome: Strengthening One’s Testimony in the Face of Criticism and Doubt. He and his wife live in Ogden, Utah, and have three daughters.
Julianne Dehlin Hatton is a broadcast journalist living in Louisville, Kentucky. She has worked as a News Director at an NPR affiliate, Radio and Television Host, and Airborne Traffic Reporter. She graduated with an MSSc from the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Syracuse University in 2008. Julianne and her husband Thomas are the parents of four children.
Music for Faith and Reason is provided by Arthur Hatton.