ABSTRACT: Words of Gad the Seer

Israel: Shorashim 2015  Meir Bar-Ilan


Printed for the first time from Cambridge MS O0.1.20. Copied at Cochin, India in the 18th century

This book is the outcome of a prolonged study of a manuscript that was found serendipitously 34 years ago. Actually, this was a re-discovery of a text that for some reason had escaped the eyes of many. It is a story of the survival of Jews remote in place and time, and of their books, visions, angels and divine voices, combined with their belief in God and his covenant with King David and Israel. There is no other book that resembles this one.

A book by the name Words of Gad the Seer is mentioned at the end of I Chronicles, presumably one of the sources of the history of King David. Ever since the book was considered lost and it is mentioned nowhere. In the 18th century Jews from Cochin said that their ancestors have had several apocryphal books, including Words of Gad the Seer, and this statement was published first by Johann Gottfried Eichhorn (1789) and translated by Naphtali H. Wesseley who publicized these fantastic claims (1790). Since none saw the book, it was probably considered to be an oriental legend. So when Solomon Schechter, in 1894 (just before he became occupied with the Genizah), checked manuscripts at the Cambridge library, bought at Cochin around 1806, not only he described the specific manuscript improperly but he also failed to make the right connection to earlier knowledge of that book and thus he under evaluated the text. In 1927 Israel Abrahams published a paper on this manuscript, but his analysis, once again, had several improper descriptions, and hence the text of Words of Gad the Seer went into oblivion.

This book presents the text of Words of Gad the Seer for the first time. First comes an introduction where the history of the manuscript is discussed. Later the characters of the text described and analyzed one feature after the other. The text is found to be having many similarities with the Book of Revelation and several pseudo-apocryphal and apocalyptic books such as 2 Baruch, 4 Ezra and others.

Then comes a diplomatic edition of the manuscript where each and every letter (by special fonts) is presented similarly to the manuscript. Later the book is divided to 14 chapters, each is a literary unit by itself, and each has its own introduction and a commentary. Each and every verse is explained in a “multi-focal” commentary in a manner similar to publishing a Biblical book: literary criticism, lexicography, philology and alike. A special treatment is given to the scribal practices that are reflected in the text: the only non-canonical book with a Massorah, Qeri and Ketib, total number of verses and more.

The book is 5227 words in length written in a pseudo-Biblical Hebrew intended to be a book written by the Seer of King David in the 10th century B.C.E. The text is an anthology and varies in style and character: 3 chapters are apocalyptic in nature, 2 chapters are a “mere” copy of Ps 145 and 144 (with different superscriptions and all sorts of different readings, some of them highly important); one chapter is a harmonization of 1 Sam 24 with 1 Chr 21 (that resembles ancient harmonizations of texts as found in the Samaritan Pentateuch and Qumran alike). One chapter is a kind of addendum to 2 Sam 13 (a "feminine story"), one chapter is a sermon, one chapter is a folk story, and there are more blessings, liturgies and other issues. Literary genre, scribalism and scribes' technique are described and analyzed. The book comes with an index and a vast bibliography. The appearance of the text will add a great deal to our understanding of Jewish History and religion.

Date: The text assumed to be written either in the Land of Israel at the end of the first century or in the Middle Ages Europe.

Enclosed also an English translation of Words of Gad the Seer based on the English translation of the Bible authorized by the Jewish publication society.

Key words: Apocalypse, Bible, Cochin, Gad the Seer, King David, Mysticism, Pseudepigrapha, Rewritten the Bible.