The Book of Mormon and the “Other Sheep” in John 10:16
The Book of Mormon and the “Other Sheep” in John 10:16
In the Gospel of John, Jesus told the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem: “I have other sheep, which are not of this fold; I must bring them also, and they will hear My voice; and they will become one flock with one shepherd” (John 10:16).1 The Book of Mormon presents Jesus giving an extended comment on that statement in a speech to the Nephites. According to that speech, the Nephites were his “other sheep” (3 Nephi 15:16-24) as were still other people of “the house of Israel” living neither in the region of Jerusalem nor among the Nephites to whom Jesus was also going to reveal himself (3 Nephi 16:1-5). Mormons consider this passage an authoritative interpretation from Christ himself as to the meaning of his statement in John 10:16. In particular, the “other sheep” cannot include the Gentiles, because Jesus was never going to appear to them and speak audibly to them as he had to the Jews and the Nephites. The Gentiles would be converted only through the preaching of the gospel and the work of the Holy Ghost (3 Nephi 15:22-23).
We will consider two issues here. The first issue is whether the Book of Mormon’s interpretation of John 10:16 is credible. Might it be correct that in John 10:16 Jesus was referring to his appearing to Israelites in other lands such as the Nephites? The second issue is whether this passage in the Book of Mormon is credible as a translation of an ancient report of Jesus teaching the Nephites about his statement in John 10:16.
Turning first to the meaning of John 10:16, the interpretation of this verse given in the Book of Mormon includes the following essential elements:
- The “other sheep” will come to faith in Jesus after literally hear him speak audibly to them.
- The Jews, including Jesus’ disciples, misunderstood what he meant by “other sheep.”
- The “other sheep” are only displaced peoples from “the house of Israel,” that is, people of Israelite descent living in lands other than the land where Jerusalem is located, and not Gentiles.
- The way Jesus will “bring” the “other sheep” into the flock is by physically visiting them.
- The “other sheep” include the Nephites in particular.
We will consider each of these interpretive claims in turn.
Will the “Other Sheep” Literally Hear Jesus Speaking?
In John 10:16, Jesus says that the other sheep “shall hear my voice” (KJV). According to the Book of Mormon, this means that the “other sheep” are people who will literally hear Jesus speak to them in an audible voice:
And they understood me not, for they supposed it had been the Gentiles; for they understood not that the Gentiles should be converted through their preaching. And they understood me not that I said they shall hear my voice; and they understood me not that the Gentiles should not at any time hear my voice—that I should not manifest myself unto them save it were by the Holy Ghost. But behold, ye have both heard my voice, and seen me; and ye are my sheep, and ye are numbered among those whom the Father hath given me. (3 Nephi 15:22-23)
LDS scholar Robert Matthews offered the following comment on this passage:
In addition to stating that the Nephites were the “other sheep” (v 21), Jesus explains why the “other sheep” could not be Gentiles. He indicates that if the Jews, or anyone else, including those who write commentaries, knew the rules, they would know that the other sheep must of necessity be Israelites, for “the Gentiles should not at any time hear [his] voice” or see the resurrected Christ as a group. I take that explanation to mean that an experience such as is recorded in 3 Nephi where the resurrected Christ ministers among multitudes, and personally teaches them, will only, and can only occur among those who are Israelites.2
What does it mean to “hear” Christ’s “voice”? The literalistic interpretation that it means to hear Jesus speaking in an audible voice is simply wrong, as we can see from similar statements by Jesus and others in the Gospel of John. After Jesus told his followers that they needed to eat his flesh and drink his blood, many of them said, “This is an hard saying; who can hear it?” (John 6:60 KJV).3 The Jewish authorities asserted, “We know that God does not hear sinners; but if anyone is God-fearing and does His will, He hears him” (John 9:31). The Jews, of course, believed that God knows what everyone says and even what they think, whether “sinners” or not; what they meant was that God does not respond positively to what “sinners” say. When Jesus said, “Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me” (John 6:45 ESV), he did not mean only people who had heard an audible voice from the Father. Jesus told the Jews who opposed him, “Why do you not understand what I am saying? It is because you cannot hear My word…. He who is of God hears the words of God; for this reason you do not hear them, because you are not of God” (John 8:43, 47). Jesus’ critics heard his audible voice, but they did not “hear” his word because they were “not of God.” The problem wasn’t that they weren’t of the house of Israel but that they were unbelieving. As Jesus told Pilate, “Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice” (John 18:37).
In the immediate context of John 10, Jesus had already spoken about this matter of the “sheep” who “hear” his “voice”:
“But he who enters by the door is a shepherd of the sheep. To him the doorkeeper opens, and the sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he puts forth all his own, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice. A stranger they simply will not follow, but will flee from him, because they do not know the voice of strangers… All who came before Me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not hear them” (John 10:2-5, 8)
John tells us explicitly that Jesus was using a “figure of speech” (John 10:6). The LDS interpretation recognizes that the “shepherd” and the “sheep” as well as the “door” and the “doorkeeper” are figurative (10:2-3), but insists that the “hearing” of the shepherd’s “voice” in the same statement must be literal. Mormons do not suggest that each of the Nephites who believed in Christ heard him literally call them “by name” (10:3). Nor do they take literally Jesus’ statement that the sheep “follow” the shepherd (10:4), which would literally mean physically following him from one place to another. Nor do Mormons offer any literal identification of “the voice of strangers” (10:5), as if when strangers or “thieves and robbers” (10:8) came to speak to the Nephites they would literally not hear what they were saying. In short, essentially the only element of the passage that Mormons do take literally is the hearing of an audible voice. This basic interpretive inconsistency is absolutely fatal to their understanding of John 10:16.
We can best understand Jesus’ figure of speech by understanding its origins in the Jewish Scriptures (our Old Testament) and in that light by reading Jesus’ statement in its immediate context in the Gospel of John. His statement that “the sheep hear his voice” (John 10:3) and his later nearly identical statement, “My sheep hear My voice” (10:27), as well as his saying that “other sheep…will hear My voice” (10:16), all recall Psalm 95:
For he is our God,
and we are the people of His pasture
and the sheep of His hand.
Today, if you would hear his voice,
do not harden your hearts… (Ps. 95:7-8)
The event immediately preceding Jesus’ discourse about the good shepherd was Jesus’ healing of a man blind from birth. The Pharisees, who thought of themselves as the shepherds of Israel, had responded by casting the man out of the synagogue—in effect, by expelling him from the flock. Despite the evidence they had that Jesus was the true shepherd, “they had repeatedly hardened their hearts and refused to hear the shepherd’s voice.”4 Thus, the point of Jesus’ figure of speech is that God’s true people are those who recognize Jesus as the good, divine “shepherd” who alone can save and protect them.5
So then, the “hearing” of Christ’s “voice” does not refer to people literally hearing Jesus speak directly to them in an audible voice. This basic misunderstanding by itself eliminates a key premise of the Mormon interpretation of John 10:16. Jesus’ statement there did not mean that there was some other group of people to whom he would need to reveal himself in an audible voice. Jesus meant that others would respond positively to the gospel message of Christ and accept him as their divine “shepherd” just as the disciples and individuals like the man healed of blindness had done.
Did Jesus’ Jewish Disciples Misunderstand What He Meant by “Other Sheep”?
According to the Book of Mormon and to various LDS teachers commenting on it, the “other sheep” to whom Jesus referred in John 10:16 were only people of Israelite ethnicity or descent, and not Gentiles. Supposedly his Jewish listeners in Jerusalem misunderstood him to refer to Gentiles because they were stiff-necked and unbelieving:
And now, because of stiffneckedness and unbelief they understood not my word; therefore I was commanded to say no more of the Father concerning this thing unto them. But, verily, I say unto you that the Father hath commanded me, and I tell it unto you, that ye were separated from among them because of their iniquity; therefore it is because of their iniquity that they know not of you. And verily, I say unto you again that the other tribes hath the Father separated from them; and it is because of their iniquity that they know not of them. And verily I say unto you, that ye are they of whom I said: Other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd. And they understood me not, for they supposed it had been the Gentiles; for they understood not that the Gentiles should be converted through their preaching. And they understood me not that I said they shall hear my voice; and they understood me not that the Gentiles should not at any time hear my voice—that I should not manifest myself unto them save it were by the Holy Ghost. (3 Nephi 15:18-23)
The Jews, and even Jesus’ own Jewish and Galilean disciples, misunderstood a great deal about him at first, as the Gospels state repeatedly. The Gospel theme of the dullness of hearing on the part of the disciples and of the Jews generally gives the statements attributed to Jesus in 3 Nephi 15:18-23 some appearance of plausibility. LDS commentators have been quick to affirm the claim that the Jews in the Old World were too unbelieving to understand what he meant:
The Jerusalemites who originally heard this teaching thought Jesus might be referring to the Gentiles, but he clarified that the Gentiles in general would not hear his voice but would receive the gospel through his disciples and through the Holy Ghost.6
In our record of his mortal ministry among the Jews we have no mention of his teaching them concerning the remnants of the house of Israel that had been dispersed throughout the nations of the earth—including the Book of Mormon peoples. He was only allowed to speak fragmentarily of “other sheep” that must be gathered to “one fold” by the “one shepherd” (see John 10:11-18). Perhaps he wanted to teach them greater things but was constrained by the Father. The reason that the Father did not command Jesus to teach more explicitly and extensively was the Jews’ “stiffneckedness and unbelief” and “because of their iniquity.” It appears from this account that even if the Lord had taught more, they would not have understood it.7
On close examination, however, this assertion about the Jews misunderstanding the identity of the “other sheep” does not hold up. First of all, in contrast to the numerous places throughout the Gospels in which people are said to have misunderstood Jesus, there is nothing said in John 10 to suggest that anyone had misunderstood what he meant by “other sheep,” let alone that such an alleged misunderstanding was the result of unbelief. This lack of any mention of such misunderstanding or unbelief doesn’t by itself prove there was none, but it does legitimately call the claim into question.
Second, although the disciples were dull of hearing in many respects, we know this dullness did not continue after Jesus’ ascension and the sending of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost (Acts 1-2). Jesus’ immediate circle of disciples, the apostles, became authoritative exponents of Jesus’ words and deeds (Acts 1:8), and it is through those apostles that we know what Jesus said in John 10 and in the rest of the Gospels. It would be absurd to claim, for example, that the apostle John misunderstood what Jesus meant in John 10:16 because John was stiff-necked and unbelieving! Thus, in attributing to Jesus’ original Jewish hearers the supposedly false interpretation that the “other sheep” were Gentiles and accusing those Jews of unbelief, the Book of Mormon implicitly deprecates the witness of Jesus’ original apostles in the New Testament.
Third, the claim that the disciples did not understand that the Gentiles would be converted through their preaching (3 Nephi 15:22) might hypothetically have been true before Jesus’ death and resurrection but if so it obviously did not continue, since the disciples in fact went out and preached the message of Jesus to the Gentiles. So whatever misunderstanding in this regard Jesus’ disciples might originally have had, it does not explain the origin of the traditional Christian understanding of John 10:16.
Fourth, as we have already shown, it is the Book of Mormon that badly misunderstands Jesus’ statement in John 10:16. Jesus was not talking about people literally hearing his audible voice but about people accepting his message, which was going to be spread to all people through the disciples’ propagation of the gospel. The premise of the claim that the Jewish disciples misunderstood Jesus is that Jesus was distinguishing between Israelites in other lands who would literally hear Jesus’ voice and non-Israelites in other lands who would not hear Jesus’ voice. But that premise is false, as we saw in examining what the Gospel of John says about “hearing” Jesus.
Are the Other Sheep All Ethnically Israelites?
Now let’s consider the evidence Mormons present that Jesus was referring exclusively to other Israelites, that is, only to people of Israelite ethnic descent.
An anonymous article on the LDS website Book of Mormon Central argues that the “other sheep” of John 10:16 were not Gentiles, but Israelites of the “lost tribes” scattered to other places and whom Jesus was going to “gather.”8 Its argument consists mainly of citing evidence of Jesus’ actions signaling a reconstitution of Israel. For example, Jesus began his preaching in Galilee (Mark 1:14), the geographical region of the lost northern tribes. Jesus called twelve apostles representing the twelve tribes of Israel (cf. Matt. 19:28) and told them that they would be “fishers of men” (Mark 1:16), alluding to an Old Testament text about bringing people of Israel back to the land from other countries (Jer. 16:15-16). Jesus even stated that he had been sent only to “the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Matt. 15:24). Ironically, the Mormon article here is heavily dependent on an entry in the evangelical reference work Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels, not only for its New Testament proof texts but for a majority of its citations from secondary sources.9
On thing this line of argumentation misses—not in the evangelical context but in the LDS context—is that Jesus’ ministry began with Israelites but was aimed at re-creating the people of God as a community that would incorporate people from all nations while excluding unbelieving Israelites. After a Roman centurion expressed confidence that Jesus could heal his boy without even coming to his house, Jesus made the following comments:
Now when Jesus heard this, He marveled and said to those who were following, “Truly I say to you, I have not found such great faith with anyone in Israel. I say to you that many will come from east and west, and recline at the tablewith Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven; but the sons of the kingdom will be cast out into the outer darkness; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matt. 8:10-12).
Many non-Israelites (Gentiles) would join the covenant community with the patriarchs in the kingdom while many “sons of the kingdom” (Jews) would find themselves cast out. While Jesus and his Jewish disciples initially focused their evangelistic ministry on Jews—not seeking out Gentiles or even Samaritans (Matt. 10:5-6)—all that changed after Jesus’ resurrection. Jesus told those same Jewish disciples after his resurrection to go “and make disciples of all the nations” (Matt. 28:19; see also Luke 24:47).
An even more significant weakness of the LDS argument is that it fails to interpret John 10:16 in the context of the Gospel of John. By the time the reader has reached this part of the Gospel he has seen the mission of Jesus explained repeatedly to be worldwide in scope. John the Baptist described Jesus as “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29). The apostle tells us that God gave his Son because he “loved the world” and so “that the world might be saved through Him” (3:16, 17; cf. 12:47). Samaritans who came to faith in Jesus after his conversation with the woman at the well confessed “that this One is indeed the Savior of the world” (4:42). Jesus described himself as the living bread that came down from heaven to give life to “the world” (6:33, 51). He also called himself “the light of the world” (8:12; 9:5). Later in the Gospel of John, a group of “Greeks,” meaning Gentiles,10 approach the disciples asking to see Jesus (John 12:20-21). John tells us this immediately after quoting the Pharisees as commenting, “Look, the world has gone after Him” (John 12:19).
As in the other Gospels, Jesus’ ministry begins with the Jews but is always aimed at bringing people of all nations into a covenant relationship with God. As one commentator noted, “If salvation is ‘of the Jews’ (4:22), it must first come to the Jews, and then proceed from them to the nations.”11 Naturally, then, Jesus speaks of his redemptive work in Jewish terms as focused first of all on the people of Israel. In John 10, Jesus describes himself as the divine Shepherd come to save the flock in terms drawn heavily from prophecies in Ezekiel, especially Ezekiel 34 and 37. David Mark Ball, in a notable monograph on the Gospel of John, nicely summarizes the use of Ezekiel 34 in John 10:
The conceptual similarities between Ezekiel 34 and John 10 are immediately apparent. The false shepherds in Ezekiel (vv. 1-7) are paralleled by the hireling, thieves and robbers in Jesus’ parable, where the thief comes to steal, kill and destroy (v. 10). The hireling cares only for himself and abandons the flock to wild beasts (vv. 12, 13). Likewise the shepherds of Israel are charged with putting their own interests before the care of God’s flock and leaving the sheep to the wild beasts (vv. 2, 6). This is in contrast with the care that God will show to his flock (vv. 11-16, 25-30; cf. Isa. 40:11). These similarities between Ezekiel 34 and John 10 suggest that the concept of the false shepherd as well as that of the Good Shepherd is drawn from such a background.12
In Ezekiel 34, the “sheep” have been scattered all over the earth in other countries and nations, and since Israel’s wicked shepherds are doing nothing to care for the sheep in their midst let alone the ones that had been scattered, the Lord announces that he himself will rescue the sheep and care for them through his “servant David” (Ezek. 34:5-6, 11-16, 23-24), that is, the Davidic Messiah. This latter-day David will be Israel’s “one shepherd” (Ezek. 34:23), an expression found in John 10:16. Jesus’ discourse on his role as the Good Shepherd thus strongly alludes to Ezekiel 34 and so certainly does support the general idea that Jesus’ mission includes restoring displaced Israelites, wherever they may be in the world, to the covenant community. If there were such displaced Israelites living somewhere in the Western Hemisphere, such as the Nephites, Jesus’ role as the Good Shepherd would therefore indeed be relevant to them—but it would not be about them.
Jesus’ discourse in John 10 also alludes to Ezekiel 37:15-28, a passage that Mormons claim prophesies the modern publication of the Book of Mormon. The Lord has Ezekiel unite two sticks with the names Judah and Joseph on them (representing the southern and northern kingdoms), an action symbolizing the gathering of Israelites from other nations back into the land to become “one nation” with “one king,” God’s “servant David,” “and they shall all have one shepherd” (Ezek. 37:22, 24-25). The reference to “one shepherd” in Ezekiel 37:24 may also be echoed in John 10:16 along with Ezekiel 34:23. It is therefore quite reasonable to understand Jesus’ statement in John 10:16 to allude to these passages in Ezekiel.13 Indeed, Christian interpreters have long recognized allusions to Ezekiel in John 10. The fourth-century preacher John Chrysostom, for example, quoted Ezekiel 34:4 in his commentary on John 10, specifically on John 10:14-15, to make the point that Jesus was criticizing the Jewish authorities of his day for their failure to care for “the sheep entrusted to them” (Homilies on the Gospel of John 60.1).
Before Mormons jump to the conclusion that these allusions to Ezekiel 34 and 37 vindicate the Book of Mormon’s interpretation of John 10:16, however, one very serious problem needs to be recognized. The Book of Mormon’s narrative about Jesus going to the Nephites includes no effort whatsoever to bring them physically back to the land of Israel. If John 10:16 is understood to refer to a literal gathering of displaced Israelites, that gathering would need to be a physical relocation of those Israelites to the land of Israel. Yet that is not part of the story of the Book of Mormon. Indeed, in the immediate context of the Book of Mormon’s explanation of John 10:16, Jesus is quoted as telling the Nephites that the land in which they were living at the time was “the land of [their] inheritance” that the Father had “given” to them (3 Nephi 15:13). Moreover, according to the Book of Mormon, the Nephites were all exterminated within four centuries while still living in that land. Thus, the Book of Mormon does not offer a consistently literal interpretation of John 10:16 or of the passages in Ezekiel in which Mormons claim to find support for the Book of Mormon.
In addition to the two passages in Ezekiel, Jesus’ statement in John 10:16 echoes the Lord’s statement in Isaiah that he would bring both foreigners and Israel’s “scattered” together into his covenant community14:
“Also the foreigners who join themselves to the LORD, To minister to Him, and to love the name of the LORD, To be His servants, every one who keeps from profaning the sabbath And holds fast My covenant; Even those I will bring to My holy mountain And make them joyful in My house of prayer. Their burnt offerings and their sacrifices will be acceptable on My altar; For My house will be called a house of prayer for all the peoples.” The Lord GOD, who gathers [συνάγων] the dispersed [τοὺς διεσπαρμένους] of Israel, declares, “Yet othersI will gather [συνάξω] to them, to those alreadygathered [συναγωγήν]” (Isa. 56:6-8 NASB)
Conceptually John 10:16 is very similar to Isaiah 56:6-8, though the language is different. Moreover, Isaiah 56:8 finds a clear verbal echo in another text in the Gospel of John appearing in the very next chapter:
…and not for the nation only, but also to gather [συναγάγῃ] into one the children of God who are scattered [διεσκορπισμένα] abroad (John 11:52 ESV).
That Jesus understood Isaiah 56:6-8 as applicable to his Messianic work is confirmed by the fact that he quoted Isaiah 56:7 in his condemnation of the Jerusalem temple establishment (Matt. 21:13; Mark 11:17; Luke 19:46). Note that in Isaiah 56:6-8, there is no need to choose between the idea of a mission to the Gentiles and a mission to displaced or dissociated Israelites, since both are affirmed as part of the same work that the Lord God says he will do. He will bring in “the foreigners” as well as gather “the dispersed of Israel.” There does not seem to be any reason not to include both types of people in Jesus’ statement in John 10:16. The “other sheep” include both Israelites not integrated into the “flock” at the time (such as Samaritans or the Jews in the Diaspora) and non-Israelites of other nations.
Our conclusion, then, is that the “other sheep” to whom Jesus referred were people who at the time Jesus spoke were excluded from the “flock” by virtue of their not being members of the Jewish covenantal system. Commentators often refer to such persons loosely as “Gentiles,” and if we want a one-word answer, that’s essentially correct. However, as we have seen, it is not quite as simple as saying that the “other sheep” are people who were ethnically Gentile. For example, the “other sheep” included Samaritans (who were ethnically related to the Jews), and they would also include Israelites scattered among the nations and that would later come into Christ’s covenant community. The sheep would also come to include those who were ethnically non-Jewish but who had converted to Judaism as proselytes (which meant getting circumcised and submitting to the rest of the Torah). We should therefore define the “sheep” and the “flock” not in terms of ethnicity but rather in terms of covenant. The vast majority of the “other sheep” do turn out to be Gentiles, but strictly speaking the term “other sheep” is a reference to all those persons who would become Christ’s followers from outside the religious and covenantal system of Judaism as it existed in his day.
How Was Jesus Going to Gather the “Other Sheep”?
The Book of Mormon claims that the way in which Jesus was going to gather his “other sheep” was to visit them personally and speak to them in an audible voice. So, in particular, the Book of Mormon presents Jesus as having descended to earth to appear to the Nephites, who saw him, touched him, and listened to him on several occasions.
One searches the New Testament in vain for any statements supporting this interpretation. To the contrary, the Book of Acts teaches that after Jesus’ ascension, he would not be returning visibly to the earth until the end of the age. As the disciples watched Jesus ascending and disappearing in the sky, two angels appeared and made the following statement:
“This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in just the same way as you have watched Him go into heaven” (Acts 1:11)
Shortly after Pentecost, the apostle Peter told the Jews that Jesus was going to remain in heaven until a future period:
“…and that He may send Jesus, the Christ appointed for you, whom heaven must receive until theperiod of restoration of all things about which God spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets from ancient time” (Acts 3:20b-21).
Mormons and orthodox Christians disagree as to when that “period of restoration” begins (Mormons think it began in the 1820s), but we agree it had not begun anytime in the first century. Thus, the idea that Jesus would descend from heaven and spend several days visiting another civilization, appearing to thousands of people in bodily form and speaking to them directly, is not consistent with Peter’s statement. Of course, Jesus could reveal himself in a vision and speak to anyone at any time, as he revealed himself to Paul (Acts 9) and later to John (in the Book of Revelation), but that is different from the personal, bodily visitation described in the Book of Mormon.
If we look in the Gospel of John itself for an explanation of how Jesus was going to gather his “other sheep” into the flock, we find at least statements of direct relevance:
Now he did not say this on his own initiative, but being high priest that year, he prophesied that Jesus was going to die for the nation, and not for the nation only, but in order that He might also gather together into one the children of God who are scattered abroad (John 11:51-52).
“And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to Myself.” But He was saying this to indicate the kind of death by which He was to die (John 12:32-33).
In the above two passages, Jesus’ death on the cross is said to be the way he will bring people together. We have already explained why John’s comment in John 11:51-52 is directly relevant to John 10:16. Both passages allude to Isaiah 56:6-8 and both passages speak about Jesus gathering his people together. Jesus’ statement in John 12:32 also speaks about Jesus bringing people together, by drawing people to him. In both John 11:51-52 and 12:32-33, Jesus will gather or draw his people together through his sacrificial death on the cross.
Jesus’ death on behalf of his future people turns out to be the main theme of the passage in which his statement in John 10:16 is imbedded:
I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep. He who is a hired hand, and not a shepherd, who is not the owner of the sheep, sees the wolf coming, and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. He fleesbecause he is a hired hand and is not concerned about the sheep. I am the good shepherd, and I know My own and My own know Me, even as the Father knows Me and I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep. I have other sheep, which are not of this fold; I must bring them also, and they will hear My voice; and they will become one flock withone shepherd. For this reason the Father loves Me, because I lay down My life so that I may take it again. No one has taken it away from Me, but I lay it down on My own initiative. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again” (John 10:11-18).
Biblical scholar Jerome Neyrey has it right, then, when he concludes that Jesus’ saying in John 10:16 means that Jesus was going to bring the “other sheep” into the “fold” through his death. Jesus died to “gather” the “scattered children of God” (John 11:52), to bear much fruit (12:23-24), and to “draw all” to himself (12:32).15 The “other sheep” would be gathered together into Christ’s “one flock” by coming to faith in Jesus as the apostles spread the message about Jesus’ death throughout the world (John 17:20).16
If we let the Gospel of John give its own explanation for the statement of Jesus quoted in John 10:16, then, we find that Jesus was to bring the “other sheep” into his flock by laying down his life for them. Here, as is so often the case in the New Testament, the redemptive act of Jesus Christ that is in focus is his sacrificial death on the cross to secure eternal life for people throughout the world who would come to faith in him (John 3:16).
Are the Nephites among the “Other Sheep”?
Finally, we may address the issue of whether it might somehow be plausible to claim that the Nephites were among the “other sheep,” despite the fact that the Book of Mormon’s interpretation of John 10:16 is erroneous in other respects.
Did the Nephites even exist?
The larger issue here, of course, is the question of the existence of the Nephites. If they didn’t exist, they could not have been among the people to whom Jesus referred as his “other sheep.” From an historical point of view, the story of the Nephites is simply not credible. We know that there were Jews scattered throughout the Mediterranean world and in the Middle East following the succession of Gentile powers—Babylonian, Persian, Greek, and Rome—that dominated the land of Israel from the time of the destruction of the first temple in Jerusalem (586 BC) to the time of the destruction of the second temple (AD 70) and beyond. There is no credible historical evidence for the existence of a Nephite civilization anywhere in the world, including any region of the Western Hemisphere, during that same period or in the first four centuries AD.
Not only is there no credible evidence for the Nephites, but we have rather compelling evidence against their existence within the context of standard Mormon interpretations of the Book of Mormon. The prevailing model of the Nephite people advocated by LDS scholars and apologists is that they occupied part of the land in ancient Mesoamerica, specifically parts of Guatemala and southern Mexico. But we know a fair amount about the culture of that region throughout the period when the Nephites supposedly lived there, and it’s a complete mismatch to that evidence.
Specifically, the Book of Mormon claims that immediately following Jesus’ appearances to the Nephites in about AD 34, the entire population of the land was converted to faith in Jesus Christ and began living harmoniously in accord with Christian beliefs and values for the next two or three centuries (see the book called 4 Nephi). However, we know enough about ancient Mesoamerica to know this simply did not happen. In the first three centuries Mesoamerica was neither Jewish nor Christian, but (as it was both before and after that period as well) a thoroughly pagan, polytheistic culture practicing idolatry, bloodletting, human sacrifice, and even cannibalism.17 The problem here is not merely lack of evidence for a Christian civilization in ancient Mesoamerica, but the clear evidence for a thoroughly non-Christian civilization throughout that region and period.
Beyond this large-scale problem, the passage in the Book of Mormon expounding on the meaning of John 10:16 contains evidence against its own historical authenticity. This evidence comes in three very different forms.
Why would Jesus talk to the Nephites about John 10:16?
First, there is an internal difficulty with the passage (3 Nephi 15:16-16:3) that undermines its credibility as a report of an ancient speech by Jesus. In this passage, Jesus is presented as quoting what he had said to the Jews (as reported in John 10:16) and then explaining how the Jews supposedly misunderstood what he meant. Of course, the Nephites were not there in Jerusalem when Jesus made that statement found in John 10:16. In effect, Jesus is presented as explaining to the Nephites the meaning of a statement they had never heard him make and refuting a misunderstanding of that statement held by people with whom they would never come into contact. Why would Jesus bother discussing this matter with the Nephites? Why refute a misunderstanding they would never encounter of a statement they would not otherwise have heard? The simple and obvious answer is that the passage is not really directed to ancient Nephite hearers but to modern Christian readers. Nor is the passage really about explaining what the ancient Jews misunderstood but about rebutting a common Christian understanding of what John 10:16 means. The entire passage is most easily and naturally understood as written to persuade modern readers familiar with the New Testament that John 10:16 provides support from the words of Jesus himself for a visitation to people living in the Americas.
Indeed, the Book of Mormon itself explains that this is the real purpose of the sayings attributed to Jesus in the passage. After concluding his comments about the sheep, Jesus is quoted as telling the Nephites to write them down for the benefit of the Gentiles who will come later:
“And I command you that ye shall write these sayings after I am gone…that these sayings which ye shall write shall be kept and shall be manifested unto the Gentiles” (3 Nephi 16:4).
Putting this “explanation” into the mouth of Jesus does not make the passage any more credible or plausible. It is an indirect acknowledgment that the sayings attributed to Jesus in the passage are aimed at modern Gentile Christian readers and not meant to be meaningful to the supposed ancient Nephite hearers.
Would Jesus have talked to the Nephites about his “sheep”?
Second, there is external evidence conflicting with the account in 3 Nephi 15, which presents Jesus using imagery that would have been literally foreign to them. The entire passage assumes a direct knowledge of sheep and the activities of shepherds, as LDS scholar Brant Gardner has acknowledged and attempted to explain:
The entire section on “other sheep” relies on the New Testament context and cultural familiarity with sheepherding. Jesus is the good shepherd and brings his flock together. Because there were no sheep in the New World, Jesus must have communicated this information using culturally familiar imagery for his Nephite audience. Joseph, in his translation, reverted to language more familiar to his New Testament audience.18
Of course, Jesus had no need to explain his metaphor to the Jews.19 “Sheep were the most common grazing animal in the ancient Mediterranean world, so clothes were commonly made of wool.”20 Terms relating to sheep were commonly used in Jewish metaphorical language for God’s people as well as being very familiar from the OT (Ps. 74:1; 77:20; 78:52; 79:13; 95:7; 100:3; Isa. 53:6; Micah 2:12). Hypothetically, the Nephites might have been somewhat familiar with the imagery based on knowledge of the scriptures their ancestors had brought with them on the brass plates. Still, such imagery would at best have been archaic and disconnected from their own culture and environment, which is why Gardner concludes that Jesus would not actually have talked about sheep when speaking to the Nephites. Mesoamericans kept almost no domesticated animals (dogs and turkeys were the main exceptions). There were no flocks of sheep or groups of other animals that might be confused with sheep or called sheep because of their outward similarity to sheep, and no animals were kept for use in the production of clothing. “Mesoamericans had no knowledge of the wool of large animals until the Spanish introduced sheep in the sixteenth century, so plants were the basis for all their cloth.”21 Nor might one suppose that the Nephites had “sheep” they kept for eating. LDS scholar John Sorenson has admitted that there is very little evidence of the domestication of animals for human consumption in ancient Mesoamerica other than very small animals such as dogs and fowl, though he cited one study finding such evidence for hares and rabbits at Teotihuacán.22
Contrary to Gardner, the problem cannot be explained away as the result of Joseph accommodating his translation of Jesus’ discourse to the language of the New Testament familiar to modern readers. The Book of Mormon does not merely quote Jesus referring to “sheep”; it reports that his audience, the Nephites, themselves engaged in the the domestication of sheep and other animals. Indeed, it claims that the Jaredites, people supposedly living in the same land for over two millennia before the Nephites, also found sheep and many other kinds of livestock animals in the land and made use of them for food: “all manner of cattle, of oxen, and cows, and of sheep, and of swine, and of goats, and also many other kinds of animals which were useful for the food of man” (Ether 9:18). Similarly, when the Nephites arrived in the land they found “beasts in the forests of every kind, both the cow and the ox, and the ass and the horse, and the goat and the wild goat, and all manner of wild animals, which were for the use of men” (1 Ne. 18:25).23 The Nephites from the sixth century bc supposedly had “flocks” and “herds” of all kinds (2 Ne. 5:11; Enos 1:21; see also Mosiah 2:3; 5:14; 7:22; 8:21; 9:12, 14; 10:2, 21; 11:16-17; 21:16, 18; 22:2-11; 23:1; 24:18; Alma 1:29; 17:25-39; 18:2-9, 16; 19:20-21; Hel. 6:12; 3 Nephi 3:13, 22; 4:3-4; etc.). A first-century BC high priest named Alma is quoted as asking the Nephites, “For what shepherd is there among you having many sheep doth not watch over them, that the wolves enter not and devour his flock?” (Alma 5:59). The question is asked in the context of the metaphor of God’s people as sheep and the coming Christ as “the good shepherd” (5:37-41, 57, 60). Thus, this text presupposes that the Nephites kept sheep and were familiar with the practice of guarding against those sheep being attacked by wolves.
Mormon interpreters are in something of a bind with regard to the passage in 3 Nephi 15:16-16:3. The whole point of the passage is to present an explanation of the statement found in John 10:16 that corrects the supposed misunderstanding that it referred to Gentile converts and that reveals that Jesus in that saying was referring to such scattered Israelites as the Nephites. In order for the passage to perform this function, it must refer to sheep, since the critical element of Jesus’ saying in John 10:16 that the Book of Mormon is discussing is the expression “other sheep.” For that reason, it really makes no sense to suggest, as Gardner does, that Jesus would have used different imagery when talking to the Nephites. On the other hand, it does not seem plausible that Jesus would talk to the Nephites about sheep without some explanation of the metaphor, since the Nephites (if they were real people living in the Americas) would not have kept sheep or any similar livestock, contrary to the repeated explicit claims of the Book of Mormon. Yet in the Book of Mormon passage at hand, Jesus is presented as taking care to explain what he meant in a saying the Nephites had not heard but not as offering any explanation or comment at all about the metaphor of sheep and shepherd.
The whole passage in its Book of Mormon context is decidedly lacking in credibility as an historical account of Jesus teaching people living somewhere in the Americas in the first century. And this problem extends to several related passages throughout the Book of Mormon where the same language of John 10 is used:
And he gathereth his children from the four quarters of the earth; and he numbereth his sheep, and they know him; and there shall be one fold and one shepherd; and he shall feed his sheep, and in him they shall find pasture. (1 Ne. 22:25, attributed to Nephi)
Thou art my servant; and I covenant with thee that thou shalt have eternal life; and thou shalt serve me and go forth in my name, and shalt gather together my sheep. And he that will hear my voice shall be my sheep; and him shall ye receive into the church, and him will I also receive. (Mosiah 26:20, attributed to the Lord speaking to Alma in the second century BC)
Behold, I say unto you, that the good shepherd doth call you; yea, and in his own name he doth call you, which is the name of Christ; and if ye will not hearken unto the voice of the good shepherd, to the name by which ye are called, behold, ye are not the sheep of the good shepherd. And now if ye are not the sheep of the good shepherd, of what fold are ye? Behold, I say unto you, that the devil is your shepherd, and ye are of his fold; and now, who can deny this? Behold, I say unto you, whosoever denieth this is a liar and a child of the devil. For I say unto you that whatsoever is good cometh from God, and whatsoever is evil cometh from the devil. Therefore, if a man bringeth forth good works he hearkeneth unto the voice of the good shepherd, and he doth follow him; but whosoever bringeth forth evil works, the same becometh a child of the devil, for he hearkeneth unto his voice, and doth follow him…. And now I say unto you that the good shepherd doth call after you; and if you will hearken unto his voice he will bring you into his fold, and ye are his sheep; and he commandeth you that ye suffer no ravenous wolf to enter among you, that ye may not be destroyed. (Alma 5:38-41, 60, attributed to Alma in the early first century BC)
It is because you have hardened your hearts; yea, ye will not hearken unto the voice of the good shepherd; yea, ye have provoked him to anger against you. (Helaman 7:18, attributed to Nephi, son of Helaman, in the late first century BC)
And this is according to the prophecy, that they shall again be brought to the true knowledge, which is the knowledge of their Redeemer, and their great and true shepherd, and be numbered among his sheep. (Helaman 15:13, attributed to a Lamanite prophet named Samuel in the late first century BC)
The most striking of these allusions to John 10 elsewhere in the Book of Mormon is 1 Nephi 22:25, where the nine words “and there shall be one fold and one shepherd” are identical to nine words in John 10:16. But here the statement is attributed to Nephi in the sixth century BC, speaking fully six hundred years before Jesus would utter the statement quoted by the apostle John in his Gospel. This context raises yet another serious problem for the LDS interpretation of John 10:16. As was discussed earlier, Mormons insist that Ezekiel 34 and 37 are major Old Testament texts to which Jesus’ statements in John 10, including John 10:16, alluded. We showed that the Mormons are right in this observation even though the allusion does not support the LDS claim that John 10:16 referred only to Israelites scattered in other lands. But here is the problem: the Book of Mormon reports Nephi making a statement verbally identical to part of John 10:16 but in the sixth century BC somewhere in the Americas—at the very time that Ezekiel was prophesying in Babylon. Why would Nephi make a statement alluding to something a prophet on the other side of the world was saying and with no apparent awareness that he was doing so? There is just one answer: The statement does not come from Nephi in the sixth century BC, but from the modern author of the Book of Mormon who is drawing the statement directly from John 10:16 without any concern or awareness about that Gospel text’s allusion to Ezekiel.
Why does the Book of Mormon quote exactly from a modern and slightly inaccurate translation of John 10:16?
Finally, 3 Nephi quotes John 10:16 in obvious dependence on the King James Version (KJV) of the Bible:
That other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd. (3 Nephi 15:17; see also 15:21)
And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd. (John 10:16 KJV)
Other than the first, transitional word of each sentence, the two quotations are verbally identical. This is a 30-word string or word sequence that is identical in both texts, leaving no reasonable basis for doubt that the Book of Mormon is here dependent on the KJV.
A number of LDS scholars have acknowledged that the Book of Mormon in many places uses KJV “style” or, somewhat more frankly, KJV language and wording in its quotations from the Bible (and even in passages that are not presented as biblical quotations). Various explanations have been offered for this phenomenon: that God revealed the words of the Book of Mormon text and that he chose to reveal the text using the KJV wording; that Joseph was supernaturally able to recall the wording of the biblical text in the KJV; or that Joseph turned to the KJV and used its wording for quotations when that wording was sufficiently close to the meaning of the Book of Mormon text on the gold plates.24
These explanations all suffer from the problem of being ad hoc; that is, they try to preserve the claim that Joseph dictated an inspired translation of the Book of Mormon by qualifying it to allow for its apparent relationship to the KJV using explanations for which there is no actual evidence. All three explanations speculate that the words of the Book of Mormon are a divinely inspired translation based on the wording of the gold plates except where the verbal parallels between the Book of Mormon and the KJV Bible prove otherwise.
Such explanations, even if ad hoc, might seem to account for the evidence. However, they can account only for most of the verbal similarities between the Book of Mormon text and the KJV text. These explanations falter, however, in regards to two features of the Book of Mormon text: minor or inconsequential verbal variations from the KJV, and mistranslations in the KJV retained in the Book of Mormon text.
A good example of the first type of verbal difference comes in 3 Nephi 12:3-12, which duplicate the Beatitudes of Matthew 5:3-12 as they appear in the KJV with mostly minor verbal differences that do not significantly affect the meaning of those sayings. Thus, seven of the eight Beatitudes in the Book of Mormon version are introduced with the word and, as in the fifth Beatitude, “And blessed are the merciful” (3 Ne. 12:4-11). There seems to be no purpose to such minor variations other than to give the appearance that the text is independent of the KJV.
Such minor verbal variations are important, however. They establish that if the Book of Mormon text was an actual translation of the gold plates, then, anywhere the meaning of the text on the gold plates differed significantly in meaning from the KJV text, the English translation in the Book of Mormon should differ from the KJV. And one place we may confidently expect that the text on the gold plates would differ from the KJV is that it would not duplicate any mistranslations in the KJV. And yet in fact the Book of Mormon does incorporate some minor mistranslations of the Bible from the KJV. The text we are considering here, 3 Nephi 15:17, is a perfectly good example. Here again is John 10:16 as it reads in both the KJV and as it is quoted in 3 Nephi 15:17:
…other sheep I have which are not of this fold;
them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice;
and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd.
The word fold occurs twice in this statement: Jesus says he has sheep “not of this fold” that he will bring, so that “there shall be one fold.” In the Greek text of John 10:16, however, two different words are used. The first word is αὐλή (aulē), which meant an enclosure such as a court or courtyard or a sheepfold. The second word is ποίμνη (poimnē), which meant a flock, a group of livestock, specifically of sheep. In short, the first word means a structure or enclosure for the sheep while the second word means the sheep viewed collectively as a group.25 The meaning of Jesus’ statement at the end of John 10:16 is not that the sheep will be all in one place but that they will all be part of one flock or group. Hence, modern translations correctly use the word flock for the second word where the KJV had mistakenly used the word fold (e.g., the ASV, CSB, ESV, NAB, NASB, NIV, NJB, NKJV, NLT, and NRSV). Jesus’ meaning is not that his people will be gathered together physically into one place but that they will be united spiritually through their common faith in him. The Book of Mormon not only reproduces the minor mistranslation of the KJV at this point here in 3 Nephi 15:17, 21 (and also 16:3), it does so clearly in 1 Nephi 22:25 noted earlier and implicitly in several other places (see 1 Ne. 15:15; 2 Ne. 9:2; Mosiah 18:8; Alma 5:39, 60; 26:4). By repeating this translation mistake from the KJV, the Book of Mormon betrays its quite human dependence on the KJV.
In this study we have shown that the Book of Mormon in 3 Nephi 15-16 badly misinterprets John 10:16 in order to claim that in that verse Jesus had prophesied that he would appear to the Nephites as well as other displaced Israelites. The “other sheep” included but were not limited to people of Israelite descent living outside the land of Israel; they included all those who would become members of Christ’s new covenant people, his church, most of whom would actually be Gentiles. These “other sheep” would “hear” Christ’s “voice” not by him visiting them bodily or by them literally hearing him speak audibly to them in person but by accepting Christ’s message of salvation by his atoning sacrificial death on the cross through the proclamation of that gospel message throughout the world. There is no basis for thinking that Jesus’ original Jewish disciples, even after his resurrection and ascension, misunderstood what he meant by his “other sheep.”
We have also shown that the passage in 3 Nephi 15-16 is not an historically credible or plausible account of Jesus speaking to Nephites in the Americas in the first century. We have good reasons to deny that the Nephites even existed. The Christianized, prosperous, and peaceful civilization of the Nephites supposedly lasting over two centuries after Jesus’ appearances to them is a complete mismatch to any civilization existing in the Americas, particularly that of ancient Mesoamerica where most LDS scholars attempt to locate the Nephite culture. Jesus’ discourse to the Nephites in 3 Nephi 15-16 also lacks credibility: It is clearly aimed at modern Christian readers, not at ancient Nephites, uses the metaphor of sheep and shepherd on the assumption that the Nephites themselves kept sheep (something ancient Mesoamericans simply didn’t do), alludes to passages in Ezekiel that the Nephites could never have read, and quotes the KJV translation of John 10:16 verbatim, including the mistranslation “fold” for a Greek word that meant flock. We also found several other references to the “fold” in allusions to John 10:16 KJV scattered throughout the Book of Mormon, confirming that the entire book is a modern work produced by someone familiar with the KJV but unaware of its translation error in that verse.
The Book of Mormon’s misunderstanding of John 10:16, its fallible dependence on the KJV, and its implausible setting all demonstrate that the Book of Mormon is a modern fiction, not an inspired translation of ancient scriptures.
1. Except as noted, biblical quotations are taken from the New American Standard Bible (NASB).
2. Robert J. Matthews, “Jesus the Savior in 3 Nephi,” in The Book of Mormon: Third Nephi 9-30: “This Is My Gospel”, edited by Monte S. Nyman and Charles D. Tate Jr., Book of Mormon Symposium Series 8 (Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, 1993; reprint, Salt Lake City: Greg Kofford Books, 2008), 33-34. See also Robert J. Matthews, “Christ’s Authority, His Other Sheep, and the Redemption of Israel (3 Nephi 15–16),” in Alma 30 to Moroni, Studies in Scripture 8, edited by Kent P. Jackson (Salt Lake City: Deseret, 1988), 164.
3. All of the occurrences of the English word “hear” in these quotations translate the same Greek word ἀκούω.
4. Paul S. Coxon, Exploring the New Exodus in John: A Biblical Theological Investigation of John Chapters 5-10, foreword by Stephen S. Smalley (Eugene, OR: Resource Publications, 2014), 307.
5. So also Craig S. Keener, The Gospel of John: A Commentary (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2003), 807.
6. D. Kelly Ogden and Andrew C. Skinner, Verse by Verse: The Four Gospels (Salt Lake City: Deseret, 2006), 427.
7. Joseph Fielding McConkie, Robert Millet, and Brent L. Top, Doctrinal Commentary on the Book of Mormon, Volume IV—Third Nephi through Moroni (Salt Lake City: Deseret, 1992), 102-103.
9. James M. Scott, “Exile and Restoration,” Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels, edited by Joel B. Green, Jeannine K. Brown, and Nicolas Perrin, 2nd ed. (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2013), 251–258. The Book of Mormon Central article cites Scott’s entry (nn. 3, 4) but also is dependent on that entry for its citations of Richard Bauckham (nn. 5, 6), Sean Freyne (n. 7), E. P. Sanders (n. 8), and William Horbury (n. 9).
10. It is sometimes claimed that John’s three uses of the word “Greeks” refers to Greek-speaking Jews. However, this usage has no precedence in other biblical writings. The word for “Greeks,” Ἕλλην, occurs six times in the OT prophetic books, seven times in the four books called Maccabees, nine times in Acts, and thirteen times in Paul, and in all of those occurrences it must refer to Gentiles. Since this meaning can fit both John 7:35 and 12:20, we should accept that meaning in those texts.
11. George R. Beasley-Murray, John, Word Biblical Commentary 36 (Waco, TX: Word Books, 1987), 171.
12. David Mark Ball, “I Am” in John’s Gospel: Literary Function, Background and Theological Implications, JSNTSup 124 (Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1996), 225.
13. See also the LDS appeal to a possible correlation between John 10:16 and Ezekiel 37 in the Jewish liturgical calendar in John L. Fowles, “The Jewish Lectionary and Book of Mormon Prophecy,” Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 3/2 (1994): 118–22, based on Aileen Guilding, The Fourth Gospel and Jewish Worship: A Study of the Relation of St. John’s Gospel to the Ancient Jewish Lectionary System (Oxford: Clarendon, 1960). Fowles gives the title incorrectly as Jewish Worship and the Fourth Gospel.
14. Coxon, Exploring the New Exodus in John, 329. Various other biblical scholars have seen Isaiah 56:6-8 as an important or even the primary OT passage to which John 10:16 alludes. See John A. Dennis, Jesus’ Death and the Gathering of True Israel: The Johannine Appropriation of Restoration Theology in the Light of John 11:47-52, WUNT 2/217 (Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2006), 25-26.
15. Jerome H. Neyrey, The Gospel of John in Cultural and Historical Perspective (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2009), 303–304.
16. See also Andreas J. Köstenberger, John, BECNT (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2004), 307.
17. See, for example, the entries on “Autosacrifice and Bloodletting” and “Cannibalism” in The Oxford Encyclopedia of Mesoamerican Cultures: The Civilizations of Mexico and Central America, Davíd Carrasco, editor-in-chief (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001), 1:64–66, 137–39.
18. Brant A. Gardner, Second Witness: Analytical and Contextual Commentary on the Book of Mormon (Salt Lake City: Greg Kofford Books, 2007), 5:476.
19. Some of the material in this section comes from Robert M. Bowman Jr., “The Sermon at the Temple in the Book of Mormon: A Critical Examination of Its Authenticity through a Comparison with the Sermon on the Mount in the Gospel of Matthew,” Ph.D. diss. (South African Theological Seminary, 2014), 635–36.
20. Craig S. Keener, The Gospel of Matthew: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2009), 235.
21. Patricia Rieff Anawalt, “Weaving,” in Oxford Encyclopedia of Mesoamerican Cultures, ed. Carrasco, 3:324 (324–28).
22. John L. Sorenson, Mormon’s Codex: An Ancient American Book (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book; Provo, UT: BYU, Maxwell Institute Press, 2013), 310–11. See also Peter W. Stahl, “Animal Domestication in South America,” in The Handbook of South American Archaeology, edited by Helaine Silverman and William H. Isbell (New York: Springer, 2008), 121–30, which comments on the issue of domestication of animals throughout the Western Hemisphere.
23. This text does not specifically mention “sheep,” so that one could argue that the Nephite “flocks” mentioned throughout the Book of Mormon were flocks of other animals. However, Ether 9:18 clearly claims that sheep existed in the land and were domesticated even before the Nephites, and such passages as Alma 5:37-60 presuppose that the Nephite “flocks” included sheep.
24. See, for example, John W. Welch, Illuminating the Sermon at the Temple & Sermon on the Mount: An Approach to 3 Nephi 11-18 and Matthew 5-7 (Provo, UT: FARMS, 1999), 184–88; Brant Gardner, The Gift and Power: Translating the Book of Mormon (Salt Lake City: Greg Kofford Books, 2011), 192-94; Sidney B. Sperry, The Problems of the Book of Mormon (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1964), 112, 121.
25. These definitions of the Greek words and the distinction between them can be confirmed from any of the standard Greek lexicons (BDAG, Liddell-Scott-Jones, Louw-Nida) or from most modern exegetical commentaries.