White Rabbit:I'm glad I'm late to this thread because it's much more interesting to see everyone's speculations. But I think the first point above is most likely the source of the name, even if it's the most boring explanation. The name Nephi appears in 2 Maccabees, which is an apocryphal book but was included in the Smith family bible if I am not mistaken. The phrase in the verse is "but many men call it Nephi." I could see that being memorable to a kid whose only text was the Bible.
I've been reading the info-packed 'Early Mormonism and the Magic World View' by D. Michael Quinn. Quinn proposes and gives evidence of how and where many ideas and names in Mormonism came from. Most are of occult origin.
As far as Nephi here are some possible sources Quinn lists these and others:
* It is a geographic name in the Apocrypha
* Part of two names in the King James Bible: Nephish, Nephishesim
* Nephilim "was a term of the offspring of intercourse between angels and humans." p. 198
*Nephiomaoth "was one of the magic names of God in early Christian Gnosticism." p. 198
*Nephes is a Cabalistic (Jewish magic) term for the third part of the soul, an image or shadow that wanders around sepulchers. p. 199.
10 months ago