His Own


So I’m reading the assignment for GD lesson 37 this Sunday, and at 3 Nephi 9:16a I read this:

I came unto my own, and my own received me not.

Those words rang a bell, and I quickly found their parallel in John 1:11, which reads as follows:

He came unto his own, and his own received him not.

Often when we read the BoM, we just read it straight through like a novel and do not stop to compare carefully material that is based on the biblical text. So as a little exercise I would like to suggest some color to this passage that comes from these words in their NT context:

  • Note that the two texts are identical, except that John’s version is written in the third person about Jesus, and Nephi’s version is written in the first person, with the words put on Jesus’s own lips.
  • The main insight I want to share is this: the words “his own” are repeated twice in this passage. But since we can read the Johannine version in its original Greek text, there is an important nuance here that is lost in the English of the BoM version. The first instance of “his own” in Greek is ta idia, in which the ta is the definite article “the” and the idia (from idios) means “that which pertains to oneself” or “one’s own.”[1] This is a plural neuter and literally means “his own things,” meaning that which he created. But the second occurrence of “his own” is not neuter but masculine; there it does not refer to his own creations but “his own people.” So he came to his own things (that which he had created), but his own people received him not. There’s a pathos there that gets lost in the English translation.[2]
  • The two clauses are joined in Greek by kai, which is usually translated “and,” but here the force is adversative: “He came to his own things, but his own people received him not.”
  • The verb “receive” (parelabon) means much more than mere recognition; it means acceptance. To not accept Jesus is to affirmatively reject him.

When we take this full understanding and put it on Jesus’s own lips as the BoM does, we get a powerful and touching complaint. To paraphrase: “I came to this world, a world that I indeed created. But my own people, who should have been the first to accept me, did just the opposite, they not only failed to receive me, they rejected me outright.”

We don’t have the Reformed Egyptian text underlying the BoM English, but reading the Greek underlying John’s Gospel for me really brings out the pathos in the Savior’s complaint to his people.


[1] This Greek word is the source of such English words as idiom, a usage that is particular to oneself or one’s region.

[2] In John this verse is basically a restatement of the preceding verse, John 1:10: “He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not” (where the first “world” means the physical earth and the second “world” means the people that dwell on it).


  1. Does the Greek reference creations or is that your interpretation? It sounds to me like the Greek is saying, he came down to his possessions and his own people rejected him.

    Which has a bit of Masters son in the vineyard about it.

    But the BoM in this case is more personal than thinking of the Lord coming to his things.

  2. Kevin Barney says:

    Creation is explicit in John, but not in the BoM. One could read the BoM in light of the Johannine precedent, or one could read it strictly on its own. So you’re right, creation is not an essential background to the saying in its BoM context.

  3. Egil Hovland set this text to music and it’s lovely. “The Glory of the Father.”

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