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Zenos and Others

The Gutenberg Bible in the New York Public Library; purchased by James Lenox in 1847, it was the first Gutenberg Bible to be acquired by a United States citizen; Wikimedia Commons.

Where Science Meets the Book of Mormon: Come Follow Me Lesson: April 8-14; Jacob 5-7

We read in Jacob 5:1, Behold, my brethren, do ye not remember to have read the words of the prophet Zenos, which he spake unto the house of Israel…”

We are told the following about Zenos in the Guide to the Scriptures:


A prophet of Israel in Old Testament times whose prophecies of Christ’s mission are found only in the Book of Mormon.

·        Prophesied of Christ’s burial and three days of darkness, 1 Ne. 19:10, 12.

·        Predicted the gathering of Israel, 1 Ne. 19:16.

·        Jacob quoted Zenos’s parable of the tame and the wild olive trees, Jacob 5.

·        Jacob expounded Zenos’s allegory, Jacob 6:1–10.

·        Taught concerning prayer and worship, Alma 33:3–11.

·        Taught that redemption comes through the Son, Alma 34:7.

·        Was slain for his bold testimony, Hel. 8:19.

·        Spoke of the restoration of the Lamanites, Hel. 15:11.

·        Testified of the destruction at Christ’s death, 3 Ne. 10:15–16.1

The canonical Old Testament consists of 39 (Protestant), 46 (Catholic), or more (Orthodox and other) books, divided, very broadly, into the Pentateuch (Torah), the historical books, the “wisdom” books and the prophets. There are sixteen books in the latter category, classified by length: four major prophets: Jeremiah, Isaiah, Daniel, and Ezekiel; and twelve minor prophets: Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi.


It is not known when the twelve “minor prophets” were collected or who decided which of the prophetic writings available at the time made the canon. In the Hebrew Bible, those twelve “minor prophets” were written as a single scroll. The first evidence for their existing as a single collection is in the work of Yeshua ben Sirach, in about 190 BC.2 It is thought that initially the first six “books” were collected, and the second six were added later. They seem to have been grouped thematically, with Hosea through Micah raising the question of iniquity, and Nahum through Malachi proposing a resolution to the question.3 It is quite possible that any books not fitting this two-part theme were excluded from the final twelve. It is clear from statements in the New Testament that there were additional prophetic, messianic writings from the Old Testament era, considered to be authentic by the New Testament authors, but that did not make the final Old Testament cannon.


For example, John 7:37-42 gives this account of the Savior, “In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink. He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water. (But this spake he of the Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive: for the Holy Ghost was not yet given; because that Jesus was not yet glorified.) Many of the people therefore, when they heard this saying, said, Of a truth this is the Prophet. Others said, This is the Christ. But some said, Shall Christ come out of Galilee? Hath not the scripture said, That Christ cometh of the seed of David, and out of the town of Bethlehem, where David was?”


In verse 38, Jesus stated, “He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water.” We have no extant scripture that makes that statement. Then, in verse 42, people asked, “Hath not the scripture said, That Christ cometh of the seed of David, and out of the town of Bethlehem, where David was?” We are told in Micah 5:2, “But thou, Beth-lehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting.” However, no Old Testament prophecy states that Jesus would be a descendant of David, in spite of how Jeremiah 33:17, “For thus saith the Lord; David shall never want a man to sit upon the throne of the house of Israel;" is interpreted by some people.


We read the story of the Wise Men in Matthew 2:1-6, “Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judæa in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem, Saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him. When Herod the king had heard these things, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he demanded of them where Christ should be born. And they said unto him, In Bethlehem of Judæa: for thus it is written by the prophet, And thou Bethlehem, in the land of Juda, art not the least among the princes of Juda: for out of thee shall come a Governor, that shall rule my people Israel.” Herod’s chief priests and scribes were quoting an “Old Testament” prophecy that was similar to, but far from identical to that in Micah 5:2.


We are further told in Matthew 23:23, “And he came and dwelt in a city called Nazareth: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets, He shall be called a Nazarene.” Then in Acts 24:5, an orator named Tertullus, accused Paul of being, “…a pestilent fellow, and a mover of sedition among all the Jews throughout the world, and a ringleader of the sect of the Nazarenes…” This prophecy that was “fulfilled” according to Matthew’s gospel, is not found in any extant prophecies of the Old Testament and must, therefore, be attributed to some other messianic book available to Matthew but not to us. Furthermore, the prophecy of a star signaling Christ’s birth, or at least the birth of some great Jewish ruler, “…we have seen his star in the east…” (Matthew 2:2), does not exist in our extant Old Testament. 


Nephi stated (1 Nephi 13: 28) that, “Wherefore, thou seest that after the book hath gone forth through the hands of the great and abominable church, that there are many plain and precious things taken away from the book, which is the book of the Lamb of God.” I have always read this scripture as saying that the great and abominable church would take away plain and precious things from the book, but as I read it this time, I read that after the book has gone forth, we will see (discover) that many plain and precious things have been removed. Many of these things may have been removed before the book came forth, but were not known about until after it came forth. Perhaps this statement is referring to the more plain and precious prophesies of Christ’s life and ministry, which are given plainly in the Book of Mormon, but which were left out of the Old Testament because those responsible for establishing its cannon did not like such plain prophesies.



Trent Dee Stephens, PhD




2.     Ben Zvi, Ehud, Introduction to The Twelve Minor Prophets, In, Berlin, Adele; Brettler, Mark Zvi (eds.), The Jewish Study Bible, Oxford University Press, 2004

3.     Redditt, Paul L, The Formation of the Book of the Twelve, In, Redditt, Paul L; Schart, Aaron (eds.), Thematic threads in the Book of the Twelve, Beihefte zur Zeitschrift für die Alttestamentliche Wissenschaft, Walter de Gruyter, 2003




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