Second Nephi as a Legal Document


Second Nephi as a Legal Document

Publication Type

Journal Article

Year of Publication







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Bibliographic Citation

Evans, Martin Oman. "Second Nephi as a Legal Document", Vol. 60. 2024:253–312.


Considering conventions of the ancient Near East, 2 Nephi can be understood as a legal document or legal archive. Factors supporting this view include 1) Nephi’s allusions to sealing the record and to a bar of judgment, 2) discussion of the law of witnesses and reference to Isaiah and Jacob as witnesses, 3) components and formatting consistent with Neo-Babylonian depositions and plaintiff statements, 4) uncharacteristically formal and conservative (high-fidelity) citations of Isaiah, and 5) rhetoric and vocabulary consistent with the Judean legal genre. Nephi’s inclusion of Jacob’s and Isaiah’s words as a witness and his references to judicial procedure can be readily understood. Further, the structure of 2 Nephi, consistent with legal conventions of the time, can be viewed as collated texts that contain a covenant framing the Nephite’s situation (2 Nephi 1–4), a reaction (2 Nephi 4–5), three supporting witness statements (2 Nephi 6–10, 12–24, 25–28), and finally a plaintiff statement (2 Nephi 33). Recognizing the legal implications of 2 Nephi can help us appreciate Nephi’s agenda as author and editor of his text, as well as the meaning of his document in our day.

2 Nephi
Jacob (Son of Lehi)
Nephi (Son of Lehi)
Isaiah (Prophet)

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