Arrangement 4: Joktan


A succession of 13 roundels consisting of a father and 12 offspring in a pendant chain. Dimensions: 5 wide by 9 tall. Liber Genealogus counterpart: section 09. This chain attaches to Eber, Joktan's father and one of the ancestors of Jesus in Filum A.

Family of Joktan, compared in the manuscripts

From left: the Cardena Beatus, the Foigny and San Juan bibles, Plutei (blue) and Roda (orange). Green highlights the left/right elbow.

Family of Joktan Reconstruction


The stemma of the sons of Joktan is one of the longest sibling groups that must be accommodated in the central area of the Great Stemma. It generally bends away to the left, following the page edges, so that the items will fit, as in the plot in the Roda depiction (in orange, 15 roundels). The leftwards retroflection is notable, since it is against the classical reading direction.

It is possible that medieval editors were surprised at the over-long lines swerving to the left in this way. A later Alpha version (here from the Cardena Beatus, at left) instead swings it to the right. The Foigny manuscript (second from left) suggests yet another attempt at a solution: compacting the line by squeezing it into a concertina shape.

When one attempts to reconstruct the Great Stemma, it is plain that an ideal layout would allow a width of only four items for this group, because otherwise there is a large, papyrus-wasting gap alongside Shelah with most of a column left blank. However it is notable that the manuscripts consistently arrange the structure within a width of five roundels, which is taken here as a basic.. If we assume a nine-row height as the other fixed constraint for this group, as necessitated by the Great Stemma design (row 0 is unavailable as it is taken by Eber), there will in fact only be room for 13 roundels (the father and 12 sons).

The attribution of 13 or even 14 sons to Joktan is therefore unlikely to have been original, and 12 surely must be the adopted number. The G recension of the Liber Genealogus assigns just 12 sons to him, and is quite explicit about this, since it counts them out, apparently in dependence on a particular Septuagtint and Vetus Latina tradition which omitted Gabel, eighth in the canonical order.

In the extant Great Stemma recensions we find the following names, beginning in each case with the LGG entry:

There are three issues here. The first is whether "Gabel" would have appeared in the very first recension of the diagram. It is most likely that the name did not, given the evidence from the LGG and the constraints set out above of the five-by nine layout, and that it was inserted later, during the transmission history.

One assumes as well that the elbow with a leftwards swerve is original, since there is no room to accommodate it towards the right. The edited layout above is the result.

A second issue is where Iodore might come from. This insertion may be (1) a phantom Iobab, or (2) an early bid to restore Ebal, or (3) a midway attempt to restore Sabeh/Soba, or (4) a duplication of Odorrem, or (5) a misunderstanding of a gloss that could have used the word "error". The addition of Iodore, which is characteristic of all the Great Stemma manuscripts, accounts for the fact that the chain may contain as many as 15 roundels in some manuscripts.

A third puzzling issue is the blank roundel in Plutei, where the analysis above indicates the missing name must be Soba/Sabeh. It is not clear if Soba was deleted by accident or by design. The scribes seem to have shifted the position of the blank to the right, rather than placing it to the left of Abimelech. Plutei also omits the roundel for Iarec (= Jerah). The Plutei line is additionally peculiar in that it not only bends left, but also spirals inwards to accommodate the unusual length and preserve the five-wide layout. Note too that the Cardena manuscript, at left in the plot, has its Gabel roundel erased, perhaps as a result of fact-checking with the Liber Genealogus, or with an older archetype of the diagram.

Next: The Clan of Terah

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