Do the “records of Samuel, Nathan, and Gad” still exist?

Q. I was reading in Chronicles today and it references “the records of Samuel the seer,” “the records of Nathan the prophet,” and “the records of Gad the seer.”  Are these books in evidence in the historical record anywhere? And what is a “seer,” from a biblical perspective?

There are no surviving copies of the actual books listed there in Chronicles.  Nor do we have copies of other books mentioned as sources in the Bible, for example, “the book of Jashar” that is referenced in Joshua and Samuel-Kings.  It’s clear, however, that these books once were available to the believing community and that they were among the sources that went into writing the long history of the monarchy in Samuel-Kings as well as the parallel history you’re reading now in Chronicles-Ezra-Nehemiah.

While we don’t have these books, the references to them within the Bible do show that the biblical authors used available written sources as they composed their own works.  (To give another example, Luke explains in the dedication to his gospel that he has examined the “accounts” that others have undertaken to “draw up” about the life of Jesus and the early growth of the community of his followers.)

In other words, the biblical books didn’t just drop fully formed out of heaven.  They are in many cases the product of the same kind of research that goes into scholarly historical works today.  The statement you’re asking about, in fact, is the ancient equivalent of a footnote, acknowledging the sources that were used for a certain part of the history and referring readers to them for further information.

As for the meaning of the term “seer,” it is an older term that, as the narrative in Samuel-Kings explains, means the same thing as “prophet”: “Formerly in Israel, if someone went to inquire of God, they would say, ‘Come, let us go to the seer,’ because the prophet of today used to be called a seer.”  So the titles in Chronicles actually mean, for example, ”the records of Samuel the prophet,” etc. The use of the archaic term “seer,” which has to be explained to later readers, suggests that the source books themselves are significantly older than the final products–more evidence that biblical books like these are the result of careful historical research.  Here we see the human side of the Bible’s composition.

Author: Christopher R Smith

The Rev. Dr. Christopher R. Smith is a writer and biblical scholar who is also an ordained minister. He was active in parish and student ministry for twenty-five years. He was a consulting editor to the International Bible Society (now Biblica) for The Books of the Bible, an edition of the Scriptures that presents the biblical books according to their natural literary outlines, without chapters and verses. His Understanding the Books of the Bible study guide series is keyed to this format. He has an A.B. from Harvard in English and American Literature and Language, a Master of Arts in Theological Studies from Gordon-Conwell, and a Ph.D. in the History of Christian Life and Thought, with a minor concentration in Bible, from Boston College, in the joint program with Andover Newton Theological School.

7 thoughts on “Do the “records of Samuel, Nathan, and Gad” still exist?”

    1. Thank you for this excellent explanation I too was reading this account in Chronicals and had this very same question. I love being able to Google and then receive accurate information.

  1. Please verify the source or provide some literature about the lost book ‘Jasher’ versus the one available now on the web.
    D, Simpson

    1. I’ll send you to Wikipedia for this one: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Book_of_Jasher_(biblical_references). Basically there is an ancient book of Jasher, now lost, known only through two quotations in the Bible; a less ancient Hebrew midrash (commentary on the Bible) named after the lost book, filling in some gaps from Jewish legends; and a forgery created in the 1700s that claims to be a translation of the lost book, known as Pseudo-Jasher. A translation of the Hebrew midrash can be found here, and the text of the much later forgery seems to be available here.

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