The Discovery of The Words of Gad the Seer 



Meir Bar-Ilan

The purpose of this paper is to bring to the attention of scholars a virtually unknown Hebrew Apocryphal book. Though it was already known two centuries ago, still it is overlooked. Its discovery will be discussed and all previous scholarly discussion relating to its discovery and significance will be traced and analyzed. Since its date, together with many other problems, will be discussed exhaustively in a future publication of the whole text, my aim here is only to draw attention to the book.


I. The Words of Gad the Seer and other lost books in Cochin


Some two centuries ago, a very puzzling testimony was published in Germany; no one could tell what in it was true and what was false. One of the founders of modern Biblical scholarship, J. G. Eichhorn, published an unusual document he had received indirectly from the Jews of the remote community in Cochin, India.1 This publication struck the imagination of many people, and it was soon translated into Hebrew by one of the eminent scholars of the time, Naphtali Herz Wessely. Wessely not only translated the material, but wrote a commentary on it, trying to evaluate some of the unusual statements in that document.2 In his article in one of the first academic Hebrew journals, HaMeasef, he began by discussing the geographical discoveries that led to a new concept of the world, facts that might help to find the lost Ten Tribes. His discussion was some kind of 'foreword' to the main evidence he took from Eichhorn in order to discuss the history of the Jews in Cochin.

According to Wessely, the source of the testimony was a man by the name of Marcellus Bless, a clerk in the Dutch East India Company. This man got his information from a converted Jew, Leopold Immanuel Jacob Van Dort. In 1757 Van Dort copied extracts from a Hebrew book that belonged to the Patriarch of the Jews in Cochin. Van Dort found this so interesting that he translated it into Dutch and gave it to the above-mentioned clerk in Ceylon. Some thirty years elapsed before the evidence was brought to the attention of a man by the name of Ruetz who translated the extracts in Dutch to German and sent them to be published in Eichhorn's Bibliothek. Strange as it sounds, these people did exist and quite a bit is known about some of them.3

Thus, this chain of languages - Hebrew, Dutch, German, Hebrew (and now, English) - is unusual, and is part of the unusual evidence the testimony bears. At any event, the Jews in Cochin relate their history and wanderings in a unique story, of which only a few lines interest us. According to that 'Chronicle of the Jews in Cochin', their special history began in the exile caused by Shalmaneser, King of Assyria, who conquered Samaria in the ninth year of Hoshea the son of Elah (2 Kgs 17:1 ff.). Shalmaneser exiled 460 Jews to Yemen, and the chronicle says:

These exiled people brought with them (to Yemen) a book of Moses' Torah, book of Joshua, book of Ruth, book of Judges, first and second books of Samuel, books of: 1 Kings, Song of Songs of Solomon, Songs of Hallel - David, Assaf, Heiman and the sons of Korah, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes of Solomon, as well as his Riddles, prophecies of Gad, Nathan, Shemaiah and Ahijah, age-old Job, Jonah, and a book of Isaiah, etc.

These books were preserved under the authority of the patriarch of the Jews, 'Shimon Rabban from the tribe of Ephrime, who was the first (patriarch) in the period of Yemen captivity who attempted to preserve the books'. The Chronicle of the Jews of Cochin continues with a description of the history of those books which, according to it, were confiscated by the king, and only after a fast and prayers were the books returned to the Jews - 10 years later.4 For our purposes it should be added that some 500 years later the Jews in Yemen were exiled by King Prozom.5

Since the exiled people had known of the Jews in Poona and Gujerat in India, they preferred to go there, and they and their descendants lived there for some 600 or 700 years. Almost all of those Jews were forced to convert, and less than 72 families moved from Poona and Gujerat to Malabar. Those who moved were welcomed by the governor, Cherman Perumal, who gave them privileges to encourage them to stay there, as is written on copper plates, and there in Cochin, the copper plates have remained until this day, in the days of the patriarch of the Jews Joseph Hallegua. Bless mentioned that this Joseph was a brother-in-law of Ezekiel Rahabi (who will be mentioned later). We can determine that this 'Chronicle of the Jews of Cochin' is from the first half of the 18th century.6

Towards the end of the extracts from that chronicle it says:

Under the hand of that Joseph Hallegua were preserved, until today, two letters, of King Ahasuerus in regard to Haman and Mordechai, written in the Tamili language.

According to the 'Chronicle of the Jews of Cochin' these letters of Ahasuerus are held there in the heathen temples of the inhabitants; not only that but, together with the Jews, these people celebrate the Purim festival since that area was under the rule of King Ahasuerus.7 The end of the extract says 'In the year 5410 to the creation, 1650 according to the Christians, the last one of the Rabban family died, his name (was) Yoshaya, patriarch of the Jews of Malabar that dwells in Callikut (not far from Cochin)'.

From this unusual testimony several important pieces of information may be gleaned, such as the history of the Jews in Yemen, and the assumed beginning of the Jewish community in India. For the purpose at hand, we will concentrate on the special significance of the books that were taken from Yemen to India.

The order of the books - Torah, Joshua, Ruth, Judges - is not the order Jews know today, though apparently this order was known to them in the past as is attested to in the Septuagint and, hence, in the Vulgate and modern translations.8 The division of both Samuel and Kings into two books seems to have happened only in medieval Europe, but the chronicle was consistent in saying that the exiles had only 1 Kings. I do not know why the Song of Songs came after 1 Kings, though the nexus here seems to be chronological, much like Ruth and Judges. Psalms is regarded as 'Hallel' and praise, a compilation of works by David, as well as Assaf, Heiman, and the sons of Korah as attested to in Psalms itself, as well as in the rabbinic concept of the book.9

Now come three books attributed to King Solomon; two are known, but the third needs explaining. By 'Proverbs, Ecclesiastes of Solomon, and his Riddles', the chronicle mentions the two well-known books, though their order is once again similar to the 'Christian' order - though without the association with the Song of Songs. Now, in 'his riddles', the author referred, apparently, to an unknown book The Riddles of Solomon. It should be noted that the genre of riddles is rare in the Bible and rabbinic literature as well. In any event, we do know three 'Solomonic' riddles from the Targum Sheni (Pseudo Jonathan) to Esther, an Aramaic translation of Esther which incorporated some other non-rabbinic material, such as the Apocryphal 'Addition to Esther', for example. Not only that, but 19 Solomonic riddles were incorporated into the Yemenite Midrash Hahefets, a relatively late midrash, though the compiler knew ancient material from which some of his traditions were derived.10

For the sake of the ensuing discussion, we should concentrate on the statement that the Jews of Cochin have had 'prophecies of Gad, Nathan, Shemaiah and Ahijah', a statement that fascinated Wessely.11 Gad the prophet, the main subject in the paper, is no other than Gad the seer, David's prophet, whose activities are mentioned in 1 Sam. 22:5 ff. and 1 Chron. 22:9 ff. It should be recalled that in 1 Chron. 29:29 it is written:

Now the acts of King David, from first to last, are written in the Chronicles of Samuel the seer, and in the Chronicles of Nathan the prophet, and in the Chronicles of Gad the seer.

So, according to the evidence in hand, the Jews of Cochin have in their possession books that were mentioned in the Bible, 'The Prophecies of Gad the Seer' among them.12 This verse is, of course, the explanation to the other book 'The Prophecy of Nathan' in the possession of the Jews of Cochin, another prophet of David who is mentioned in 2 Sam. 7:2 ff., 1 Kgs 1:10 ff.; Ps 51:2; 1 Chron. 17:1 ff. Once again, like in Gad's case, we deal with a man who was not only a prophet but a scribe as well as is stated in 2 Chron. 9:29:

Now the rest of the acts of Solomon, from first to last, are they not written in the history of Nathan the prophet, and in the prophecy of Ahijah the Shilonite, and in the visions of Iddo the seer concerning Jeroboam the son of Nebat?

Ahijah who is mentioned here is, of course, the prophet mentioned in 1 Kgs 11:29 ff., so it is evident that the books that were written in the 10-9 centuries b.c.e. were already known to the compiler of the Chronicles, and were believed to be in the possession of the Jews of Cochin in the 17-18th centuries.13

The case of the prophecy of Shemaiah is not very different from the preceding books. It is mentioned in 2 Chron. 12:15:

Now the acts of Rehoboam, from first to last, are they not written in the chronicles of Shemaiah the prophet and of Iddo the seer?

To sum this up thus far: except for the Riddles of Solomon which is not mentioned in the Bible, the Jews in Cochin knew other books - four prophecies already mentioned in the Bible, though in the course of time they came to be considered lost.14 These four books are particularly interesting since they are all attributed to scribes who we know wrote books, as we find in other cases in pseudepigraphy literature.15 Not only that, but the Jews in Cochin had an apocryphal Hebrew book (that we know from this testimony and the manuscript itself) of the Addition to Esther.16 According to the source at hand, these books were brought to India from Yemen with the Jews that had to leave Yemen some hundreds of years prior to the chronicle that was written in the 17-18th century.17


These wonderful statements, which might inflame our hearts today, excited the imagination of many people two centuries ago. Relics of the medieval were interwoven with the beginning of modern scholarship, and the search for the Lost Ten Tribes became almost part of the academic world. At any event, due to the originality of the testimony regarding the Jews of Cochin in general, and the possibility that they had in their possession books now considered lost, but mentioned in the Bible, this record left its impression not only on academic scholars but also on rabbis and layman.

The journal HaMeasef was not widely distributed, and it reached only a small fraction of the Jewish world. Probably because of that, these extracts from the Cochin chronicle were published again. Three years after its first publication in 1790, there appeared in print the 4th(!) edition of the old book: Abraham Farissol, Igeret Orhot Olam, Prague 1793 (Hebrew). Abraham Farissol (Italy 1451-1525?), wrote a book discussing contemporary discoveries of Africa, India, and even America, how to get to the east while going westward, and the exact location of the Garden of Eden. The book's popularity resulted from its contents, as is evident in the fact that it attained the status of being published a few times, apparently for the simple reason that it was the only geography book in Hebrew for a long time.

Thus, in the edition of 1793, the editors incorporated into the original Igeret Orhot Olam the whole article of Wessely, word for word, though omitting some of Wessely's foreword. Actually, the printers found the right place for all the new information, since it served the reader as an updating of a relatively old text. The book's success could be deduced from the fact that it was printed again in Prague in 1810, and its scholarly scope is evident from the fact that in some editions, the book was bound together with Seder Olam Rabbah, Seder Olam Zuta and Seder HaKabbalah by R. Abraham ibn Daud.18 Hence, at the beginning of the 19th century a Jew could read the basic notions of history and geography in one volume. For a reason which is not clear, some half a century elapsed before Wessely's account was translated into English. In The Jewish Chronicle that appeared at New York [3 (6) 1846, pp. 167-170], the whole text, that is, the extracts that Van Dort made out of the Book of Chronicles of the Jews of Cochin, was printed. No comment was added to the translation except for the fact that Eichhorn's Bibliothek was not available to the translator and consequently the text was translated from Wessely's Hebrew paper.

Just as Wessely's Hebrew account is considered a valuable addition to the geographical report in the already known Igeret Orhot Olam, it was inserted once again in a different book. The famous Dutch Jewish Menashe ben Israel (1604-1657) wrote a book in Spanish that was later translated into Hebrew named: Miqve Israel. The book discussed the Lost Ten Tribes, and apparently, for that reason it was considered appropriate to incorporate another newer account concerning the same problem. In the book's Hebrew editions from 1847 onward (Lemberg 1847, 1870; Warsaw 1873), a few additions were made. One of these additions is the extract from the Chronicles of the Jews of Cochin, that is: the Hebrew version of Wessely. This time some explanations were added to the text so that it could be read more easily by the public. Wessely's Hebrew account, through its publication in Igeret Orhot Olam, caught the eyes of one Vilna rabbi and author of books, Pesah Hacohen Finfer.19 He wrote 'a letter to the editor' of a Hebrew journal by the name of HaMitspeh, that was published in Petersburg in 1886, in its first year, second issue p. 20, asking the editor about the authenticity of these lost books. Finfer cited the matter of the lost books from Igeret Orhot Olam, Prague 1793, and commented: 'and it is a great thing, and the scholars of the nations might investigate it truly, without the fraud of the delegates of the inciters, and there will be no end for the benefits that all the parties might gain from that... and maybe many have already investigated and found out that everything in that book (actually, Wessely's report), is vanity and founded on falsehood. Let it be grace from my lord to notify me and illuminate my eyes according to the good hand of God upon him'...

To Finfer's question came an answer from one of the editors, Abraham Elijahu Harkavi, one of the finest Jewish scholars of his time. The answer was: 'and in regard to the books of the prophets that were lost from us but were found in their possession, the guess of his distinguished Torah- scholar is true, that it is vanity and founded in falsehood'.20 What else is there to say if every bit of the above mentioned records are vanity, or pure imagination?21

To sum up this section: towards the end of the 19th century when The Words of Gad the Seer was first discussed, its name, together with the other extra biblical books from Cochin, was already printed in three languages - German, Hebrew and English. These publications were made in several editions and places: 1) Eichhorn's Bibliothek, Goettingen 1787-89; 2) HaMeasef, Berlin 1790; 3) Igeret Orhot Olam, Prague 1793; 4) Igeret Orhot Olam, Prague 1810; 5) The Jewish Chronicle, New York 1846; 6) Miqve Israel, Lemberg 1847; 7) Miqve Israel, Lemberg 1870; 8) Miqve Israel, Warsaw 1873; 9) HaMitspeh, Petersburg, 1886. It is quite plausible that after more research in older scholarly literature, even more evidence might come to the surface.

II. The first publications of The Words of Gad the Seer


In 1894, just before the discovery of the Geniza in Cairo, S. Z. Schechter made a few comments on some manuscripts in Cambridge, England.22 The common denominator of almost all these manuscripts was that they had been purchased by the Reverend Claudius Buchanan from the synagogues of the black Jews in Cochin in 1806.23 Schechter states at the beginning that except for the manuscripts containing the Hebrew translation of the New Testament, there is nothing unusual or sectarian in Buchanan's acquisitions.24 Only after making all these reservations did Schechter begin to comment on the manuscript discussed here.

Schechter dedicated a full page to The Words of Gad the Seer in which he described the text and content of the book, this is Ms. O0.1.20.25 Schechter noticed that this book is quite peculiar, and gave some technical information in regard to the manuscript (far from satisfactory). He copied some of the first page of the manuscript, which according to him had been copied in 1786. He then copied the first and the last lines of the book itself, or to be more precise, the beginning of the book but the lines of the Masorah at the end.

Schechter charecterized the book as apocryphal, and from the torn page at the beginning of the book, where Cochin is mentioned, he realized that the book was a copy of a former one in Rome, though it should be spelled out that it is not explicit (because of the torn part).26 Schechter noted that the book is polemical in nature, and he evaluated the book as medieval. Schechter's evidence for this date of the book will be analyzed elsewhere, but it should be noted that one cannot understand this book according to Schechter's description. Furthermore, only towards the end of his article did Schechter comment on Wessely's account in HaMeasef, and he did not try to connect the former evidence on The Words of Gad the Seer with the manuscript he held in his own hands.


Some 30 odd years passed before our manuscript attracted attention and was described more thoroughly. I. Abrahams, the former editor of JQR and Schechter's successor in Cambridge, wrote an article on the subject in hand that came out posthumously.27 This time, five pages were considered enough for the book, two of which were, for the first time, a publication of the Hebrew text of two chapters of the book, the first and the last ones. Abrahams corrected the former reading of the date of the manuscript: 1756 (instead of 1786), and though he regarded the text as a book written in medieval times, he said that there were some interesting things in it. He begins by mentioning the fact that in this book the NUN verse of Ps 145 appears, a verse that is not known elsewhere. He moves to a brief summary of each of the chapters, making some comments, and gives his opinion of the date of composition.

Though Abrahams' description of the book is better than Schechter's, it still omits much of the content and the character of the manuscript.28 Unfortunately, despite Abrahams' effort, he did not leave behind an overall understanding of this text.


To the best of my knowledge, Abrahams' paper has been mentioned only twice since its first appearance. In a review of Poznanski's Festschrift in Kiryat-Sefer, 5 (1928-29), pp. 45-49 (Hebrew), 'M. S.', declares: 'I. Abrahams published an interesting extract from an apocryphal book named The Words of Gad the Seer'.29 The reader of this review can easily see that these extracts from the book given by Abrahams, made no impression on the reviewer. Not much later, in an article 'Gad', by M. Soloweitschik and Emanuel bin Gorion, in Encyclopaedia Judaica, 7, Berlin 1931, p. 34, the book under discussion was mentioned. However, after that, in the following six decades The Words of Gad the Seer has not been mentioned anywhere by medievalists, or by scholars of the Apocrypha, and is practically ignored by historians of the Jews of Cochin.30


This intriguing story of the lost books at Cochin is near its end. It is hardly credible that books that were mentioned in three languages, and especially in so many Hebrew editions were later overlooked. The only possible reason for that, I assume, is that the fascinating stories emerging from Cochin were considered to be legendary in character, such as any modern scholar should ignore. When one of this 'legends' became true, its source was already forgotten and the whole issue was misunderstood and misjudged. However, in future studies I hope to demonstrate the significance of The Words of Gad the Seer, its date, its geographical source, and much more.31

While Wessely commented on the above mentioned testimony, he wrote as follows:

The obligation of each wise man will be increased when he pays attention to this matter from love of searching truth, depending on his ability, in advice and in deed, to get the book, Chronicles of our brethren in Cochin, and especially to get an exact copy of whole the books under their possession, I have never heard such a great thing.

Now, two centuries later I would like to answer Wessely and to publish one of the books he desired so much to see.32 The book might not give him the right answers in regard to Biblical times as he thought it would, but the book in hand might be a contribution to the study of pseudepigrapha literature that flourished among the Jews in the Land of Israel before the Temple was destroyed, and even many years later.


* I wish to thank Professor I. Twersky and the Center for Jewish Studies at Harvard University for their hospitality under which this paper was written. Further thanks are due to Professors F. M. Cross, S. Z. Leiman, M. E. Stone and J. Strugnell for their valuable comments on a former draft of this paper.

1 Johann Gottfried Eichhorn, Allgemeina Bibliothek der Biblischen Literatur, Leipzig 1787-1789, I, pp. 925-934; II, pp. 567-583.

2 N. H. Wessely, 'Magid Hadashot', HaMeasef, 6 (1790), pp. 129-160 (Hebrew). See also: M. Steinschneider, Catalogus Librorum Hebraeorum in Bibliotheca Bodeliana (reprint), Berlin 1931, colms. 2721-2724.

3 For the historical background, as well as for other details, see: Walter J. Fischel, 'The Exploration of the Jewish Antiquities of Cochin on the Malabar Coast', JAOS, 87 (1967), pp. 230-248 (It should be noted that Fischel did not mention the books that are disscused here).

4 In 1505 a similar, though historically verified, case happened to the Jews of Cochin, not in Yemen. According to historical evidence, scrolls of Torah that had been brought from Portugal, were sold to the Jews of Cochin, and later were confiscated. It was mentioned to the King of Portugal who later rebuked his viceroy in Cochin, and probably, because of that, the books were returned. For this story, see: Walter J. Fischel, HaYehudim BeHodu, Jerusalem 1960, p. 29 (Hebrew). See also: David G. Mandelbaum, 'A Case History of Judaism: The Jews of Cochin in India and in Israel', Mishael M. Caspi (ed.), Jewish Tradition in the Diaspora: Studies in Memory of Professor Walter J. Fischel, Berkeley California, 1981, pp. 211-230.

5 The dates in the chronicle are assumed to be based on Exodus, though it was already recognized as unreliable (See Wessely's remarks, and in Eichhorn's Bibliothek, vol. III, 1790, p. 182-185; vol. V, 1793, pp. 399- 419). In any event, the dates in this chronicle are as follows: 894, 907, 1416, 2000, 2100 (beginning probably at 311 b.c.e.). It is more likely that the later dates should be taken as true, that is to say, thay reflect the 18th century. From that, it follows that the Jews migrated from Yemen to India with their books in the beginning of the 12th century.

6 The date of the well-known copper plates of the Cochin Jews were under dispute for more than two centuries. Today they are believed to be from around the year 1000. It seems that whatever historicity the text had, the author confused the facts and the dates.

7 This testimony is not difficult to support. First, these letters are nothing other than 'The Addition to Esther', and though it is said here that they were written in the Tamili language, the Jews in Cochin had that book in Hebrew (of unknown translation). See: Thomas Yeates, Collation of an Indian copy of the Hebrew Pentateuch, Cambridge 1812. It seems that in the 'heathen temples' the editor of the chronicle had in mind the St. Thomas Christians, probably no less ancient in that vicinity than the Jews, who had the book as part of their Bible.

8 L. B. Wolfenson, 'Implications of the Place of the Book of Ruth in Editions, Manuscripts, and Canon of the Old Testament', HUCA, 1 (1924), pp. 151-178.

9 See: b. B. Bat. 14b-15a.

10 See: S. Z. Schechter, 'The Riddles of Solomon in Rabbinic Literature', Folk-Lore, 1 (1890), pp. 348-358; L. Ginzberg, The Legends of the Jews, Philadelphia 1913-1928, IV, pp. 142 ff.; VI, p. 290; S. Brock, 'The Queen of Sheba's Questions to Solomon: A Syriac version', le Museon, 92 (1979), pp. 331-345; M. E. Stone, 'Jewish Apocryphal Literature in the Armenian Church', le Museon, 95 (1982), pp. 285-309 (esp. p. 294). It should be mentioned that books were ascribed to King Solomon (not only in biblical times but), in the post-biblical period. See: D. C. Duling, 'Testament of Solomon', James H. Charlesworth (ed.), The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, I, New York 1983, pp. 935 ff.

11 Not only the Bible was close to Wessely's heart, but the Pseudepigrapha as well. Wessely translated The Wisdom of Solomon into Hebrew (Prague 1853).

12 According to the tradition in b. B. Bat. 15a, it was Gad the seer who finished the book of Samuel (together with Nathan the prophet).

13 It should be noted that we do know of other interesting evidence concerning the existence of the Book of Ahijah in Morocco, from alost the same time we have it from Cochin (or even a century earlier). Rabbi Jacob Attija (ca. the beginning of the 18th century or a century earlier), saw in Fes the Book of Ahijah, and he even cited a verse from it. In that book it was written (in biblical Hebrew): 'And Solomon said to the whole people: Judge each his own brother in justice, none of you under pressure would not teach'. Now, the end of this verse is cited in b. Erubin 65a, and Rashi makes the following comment: 'I was tracing this verse, though it is not in any of the scripture, and it may be from the book of Ben Sira'. See: A. Rosenthal, 'The Riddle of the Publication of Sefer HaYashar', Sinai, 79 (1976), pp. 275-288, esp. p. 288 (Hebrew). On the existence of other apocryphal ('outer') books in medieval Jewish circles, see: Martha Himmelfarb, 'R. Moses the Preacher and the Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs', AJS Review, 9 (1984), pp. 55-78.

14 For the (Jewish) search for the lost biblical books, see: Tsvi Nissan Galamb, 'Hakira uDerisha al Devar haSefarim sheAvdu etc.', HaMeasef, 1 (Petersburg, 1902), pp. 109-118 (Hebrew); Shemuel Sheraga Feigenzon, Elbona Shel Torah, Berlin 1929, pp. 23 ff. (Hebrew). It is interesting to mention that Galamb imagined that in the book of Gad the Seer 'were not only chronicles but prophecies and visions'.

15 For example, some books in the pseudepigraphic literature are related to: Jeremia, Ezra, Baruch, Zephania and others, whose literary activities are well known. On the other hand, these books are similar to 'The Prayer of Manasseh', since apparently the author based his book on 2 Chron. 33:18: 'Now the rest of the acts of Manasseh, and his prayer to his God, and the words of the seers who spoke to him... they are in the Chronicles of the Kings of Israel' (and there is another version of the verse there). It should also be noted that the writer (editor or compiler) of The Book of Yashar deliberately chose a name for his late book from the Bible, while writing in pseudo-biblical Hebrew.

16 In more recent times we know that the Jews of Cochin knew another apocryphal book, and presumably it had been known to them for hundreds of years, especially because it reflected a custom no longer observed in rabbinic circles. According to a late testimony, the Jews of Cochin read the Scroll of Antiochus in their synagogue on the Shabbat before Hanukkah, with a blessing preceding it. See: Kitzur Dinei Chanukah uMegilat Antiochus, Yefeh Nof, Parur 1929 (Thanks are due to Mr. T. Preschel for providing me this bibliography). This ritual is known in another remote community in the Sahara desert, see: N. Fried, 'Unknown customs in Prayer', Tagim, 2 (1971), pp. 109-122 (Hebrew). This Scroll of Antiochus is some kind of 'rabbinic' tradition similar to the first book of the Maccabees, though it is different (and should be dealt with elsewhere). These various views seem, apparently, to go together with other features of the Cochin community as being non-rabbinic in one way or another. R. David ben Ibn Zimra described them as follows: '...their forefathers did not know of the oral Torah, but only of the written Torah, as we have heard (in the 16th century), since (books of the oral Torah) were not known to them until only recently, some 20 years ago, when the Portuguese conquered India. I recall that letters came from there to send them books because they did not have in their possession either Mishnah or Talmud and no (later) code books'. See: A. Marx, 'Contribution a l'histoire des Juifs de Cochin', REJ, 89 (1930), pp. 291-304 (text in p. 299, Hebrew).

17 Wessely commented on these books: 'How come that until today we have not got them, could it be that Maimonides did not want to read the Riddles of Solomon, and the prophecies of Gad, Nathan, Shemajah and Ahijah? and how come that while they (the Jews in Yemen) were sending letters of friendship, they did not notify the best man in their generation that they had in their possession this divine treasure, or would send it to him', etc. Anyhow, it is obvious that no conclusion can be drawn from such an argument.

18 Abraham Farissol, Igeret Orhot Olam, Prague 1810, 9b-17a (Hebrew).

19 Finfer was the author of: Shivhei Erets Hahayim, Wilno 1877; Masoret Hatorah vehaNeviim, Wilno 1906 (Hebrew). In that book, p. 83, he mentioned his former interest in the lost books of Cochin.

20 The page on which the question and the answer occur was reprinted quite recently in: A. E. Harkavi, Hadashim Gam Yeshanim, Karmiel Publishing, Jerusalem 1970, p. 32 (Hebrew). It worth noting that, as a matter of fact, Harkavi himself found another lost apocryphal book, though he was sure that he was dealing with some peculiar medieval document. See: D. Flusser and S. Safrai, '"Shirei David" HaHitsonyim', Teuda, 2 (1982), pp. 83-109 (Hebrew).

21 It is worth quoting Wessely on the very same subject: 'At the end of these words I would not hide the judgement of my heart, what is my opinion of the extracts of the chronicle, and the adventures that are mentioned in it. So, I say that I have not found anything in it that might cause me to say that it is vanity or falsehood... In the end, I cannot believe that such a magnificent letter could have been the product of the hands of a villain that speaks false to deceive people, nor do I see any reason for such a man to do this'.

22 S. Z. Schechter, 'Notes on Hebrew MSS in the University Library at Cambridge', JQR, (os) 6 (1894), pp. 136-145.

23 See his description: Claudius Buchanan, Christian Reserches in Asia, Second Boston Edition, Boston 1811, pp. 164 ff. Special attention should be paid to other manuscripts he bought there, such as the Hebrew translation of the New Testament (probably, the earliest).

24 Schechter continues, inter alia, by telling about one of the manuscripts, Megilat Ahashverosh, that means Addition to Esther, as if it was an ordinary rabbinic book (though it was, relatively to other pseudepigrapha) known to them. See above note 7.

25 The microfilm in the Institute of Microfilms of Hebrew Manuscripts in the National Library in Jerusalem is 16265. On this occasion I wish to thank Professor I. Ta-Shema, the head of this institute, who followed my first steps in this research in 1981. From him I learnt a great deal, and some of my comments are derived from him.

26 Schechter did mention the name Ezekiel on that page, though he did not make comment on it. At the end of the book it is written in 'magical letters' (='hand writing of angels'), that the book belonged to Ezekiel Rahabi (1694-1771), the well-known leader of Cochin's Jews in the 17th century. On this figure, his books, and his connections with the whole world of that time, see: Walter J. Fischel, HaYehudim beHodu, pp. 97 ff; idem, 'Cochin in Jewish History', PAAJR, 30 (1962), pp. 37-59.

It is worthwhile mentioning that Rahabi was asked about any of 'antique manuscripts' in the custody of Cochin Jewry, but he did not make any comment on his own book (probably because it had been copied in his time, and even in his honor). See: N. H. Wessely, 'Tosefet Devarim al Maamar Magid Hadashot', HaMeasef, 6 (1790), pp. 257-276 (Hebrew).

27 I. Abrahams, 'The Words of Gad the Seer', Livre d'Hommage a la memoir du Dr Samuel Poznanski, edit par le comite de la grande synagogue a Varsovie, Varsovie 1927 (=Sefer Zikaron liKhevod ha Dr. Shemuel Avraham Poznanski, Warsaw 1927; rep. Jerusalem 1969), pp. 8-12.

28 In his article Abrahams published two chapters from the book; more than 30 errata have been found in these chapters, only some of which could be regarded as due to the negligence of the printer. Abrahams realized that some of the misreadings in the manuscript might be derived from the copyists, and were not originally written this way, so one might forgive Abrahams' errata as well. Furthermore, on the story in chapter IV Abrahams said that it is a 'well known story', though I do not know it from any other source. The story will be discussed in the full publication of the manuscript.

29 According to the index of contributors in the preface, p. III, one could not identify who M. S. was, though it was Simcha Assaf.

30 See: Shem-Tov Gaguin, Hayei HaYehudim beCochin, (Place of publication not mentioned, Brighton?), 1953, p. 22 (bound together with the new edition of Keter Shem-Tov, vol 6, place and date not mentioned, [Israel]), Hebrew; Walter J. Fischel, 'The Literary Creativity of the Jews of Cochin on the Malabar Coast', Jewish Book Annual, 28 (1970-71), pp. 25-31 [Hebrew version with slightly more bibliography: Eretz-Israel, 10 (1971), pp. 221-225].

31 See: M. Bar-Ilan, 'The Geographical Source of The Words of Gad the Seer', Proceedings of the Tenth World Congress of Jewish Studies, Jerusalem 1990, A, pp. 119-126 (Hebrew); idem., 'The Date of The Words of Gad the Seer', JBL, 109/3 (1990), pp. 477-493.

32 My sincere thanks are due to the syndics of Cambridge University Library, and to Dr. Stefan C. Reif, for their kind permission to publish manuscript O0.1.20.

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last updated: September 11, 1997   and 22 January 2001