Evidence #315 | March 1, 2022

Chiasmus in 2 Nephi 29:3–6

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The chiastic structure in 2 Nephi 29:3–6 has unique elements, strong outer and inner sections, and decent statistical backing. It provides good evidence of the Book of Mormon’s Hebrew origins and literary complexity.

In his analysis of chiasmus in Nephi’s writings, Dennis Newton identified the chiastic structure in 2 Nephi 29:3–6 as being “highly likely” to have been intentionally created.1 The full chiastic structure is given below:2

  And because my words shall hiss forth—many of the Gentiles shall say:
  BaA Bible! A Bible!
    bWe have got a Bible,
     cand there cannot be any more Bible.
     CBut thus saith the Lord God: O fools, they shall have a Bible;
      Dand it shall proceed forth from the Jews, mine ancient covenant people. And what thank they the Jews for the Bible which they receive from them?
       EaYea, what do the Gentiles mean?
         bDo they remember
          cthe travails, and the labors, and the pains of the Jews, and their diligence unto me, in bringing forth salvation unto the Gentiles?
       E*a*O ye Gentiles,
         b*have ye remembered
          c*the Jews,
      D*mine ancient covenant people? Nay; but ye have cursed them, and have hated them, and have not sought to recover them. But behold, I will return all these things upon your own heads; for I the Lord have not forgotten my people.
     C*Thou fool, that shall say:
  B*a*A Bible,
    b*we have got a Bible,
     c*and we need no more Bible.
 A*Have ye obtained a Bible save it were by the Jews?

Structural Analysis

The outermost contents of sections A and A* contrast the word “Gentiles” with “Jews”—a dichotomy that is present throughout many of Nephi’s writings.

Sections B and B* each have a 3-level alternate structure (abcabc). The first internal element (a/a*) gives an emphatic declaration of the Bible. The second element (b/b*) contains the verbatim phrase “we have got a Bible.” And the third element (c/c*) relays similar phrases about there being no additional “Bible.” These elements—showing up together and in the same sequences in parallel sections—are much harder to ascribe to chance than a single word or phrase.

Sections C and C* feature similar condemnations of the Gentiles using the same key word: “O fools” and “thou fool.” No other sections feature the word “fool.”

Sections D and D* both contain the phrase: “mine ancient covenant people.” These are the only sections where this phrase occurs. These sections also have a question and answer. In D the Lord asks the Gentiles: “what thank they the Jews for the Bible which they receive from them?” Then in section D* we get the unfortunate answer: “ye have cursed them, and have hated them, and have not sought to recover them.”

Sections E and E* contain another 3-part internal alternate structure (similar to B and B*). The first element (a/a*) addresses the “Gentiles.” The second element (b/b*) asks the questions “do they remember?” and “have ye remembered?” The third element (c/c*) makes reference to the “Jews.” Once again, the way these elements show up in sequential order in each section strengthens the case for their intentionality.

Statistical Analysis

The shared elements in this chiasm are not particularly well-suited for statistical analysis.3 Nevertheless, according to Newton’s calculations (using a slightly different version of the chiasm), it has a 96.84% chance of having been created intentionally.4 Newton’s analysis doesn’t factor in the internal structures in A/A* and D/D* which would likely increase the probability of the chiasm being intentional.


The chiastic structure in 2 Nephi 29:3–6 is impressive on several levels. While it only has five main sections, two of those (B/B* and D/D*) contain 3-part internal parallel structures. Thus, the overall pattern is actually quite complex, featuring nine parallel elements in total.

Furthermore, when the internal structures are considered, every section of the chiasm is truly unique. For instance, even though the key word “Bible” from B/B* is also found in sections C and D, it only shows up in these other sections in isolation. The complete 3-part element in B/B* isn’t found elsewhere in the chiasm. The same is true for 3-part elements in E/E*, enhancing the power of chiasm’s central message: the Gentiles need to remember the blessings that have come from the Jews, rather than cursing or hating them.

While there are statistically stronger chiasms, this one is still much more likely than not to have been intentionally created. All in all, it provides good evidence of the Book of Mormon’s Hebrew origins and literary complexity.5

Dennis Newton, “Nephi’s Use of Inverted Parallels,” Interpreter: A Journal of Latter-day Saint Faith and Scholarship 22 (2016): 79–106.

Boyd F. Edwards and W. Farrell Edwards, “When are Chiasms Admissible as Evidence?” BYU Studies 49, no. 4 (2010): 131–154.

Donald W. Parry, Poetic Parallelisms in the Book of Mormon: The Complete Text Reformatted (Provo, UT: Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship, 2007), 122–123.

Boyd F. Edwards and W. Farrell Edwards, “Does Chiasmus Appear in the Book of Mormon by Chance?” BYU Studies 43, no. 2 (2004): 103–130.

2 Nephi 29:3–6

2 Nephi 29:3–6

Literary Features
Chiasmus in 2 Nephi 29:3–6
Book of Mormon

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