The Date of The Words of Gad the Seer

Meir Bar-Ilan

This paper aims to discuss an Apocryphal Hebrew book, almost unknown to the scholarly world, The Words of Gad the Seer. Based on its style and content, it is argued that the book is from the first centuries c.e. After giving a short description of the book there is a discussion devoted to two earlier works that dealt with the text, putting forward the opinions of S. Z. Schechter and I. Abrahams concerning the book under study.

The main paper is a close study of the date of the text. The arguments of former scholars are evaluated in an attempt to understand why they regarded the book as a medieval work. Analyzing their proofs it becomes evident that out of the four or six arguments, only two are crucial, that is: Hebrew phrases derived from Greek philosophy and considered to be medieval. It is argued that though these phrases are indeed evidence of Greek philosophy in Hebrew, the process took place in the first centuries c.e., as can be seen in the Talmud, and are not necessarily from medieval times.

Since the date of the composition is in dispute, the arguments pointing to its antiquity are shown to be more valid than those suggesting a later date. Some of the main proofs are as follows: a) The editor included in his text two chapters from Psalms, a method of 'redaction' one can observe only in the Bible itself. b) The editor interwove the parallel texts from Samuel and Chronicles, creating a 'new' version from old sources, a phenomenon that can be seen in Qumran or only in Biblical times and in the Temple scroll as well. c) The Biblical text of the editor differs slightly from the Masoretic text, and above all, the missing Nun verse in Psalms 145 appears; though unknown elsewhere, it seems to be authentic.

Despite the problems in the text itself and its peculiar origin in Cochin, the conclusion is that The Words of Gad the Seer is an apocalyptic Hebrew book from the first centuries c.e.

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last updated: February 17, 1997