Arrangement 23: The Initial Chronology


A series of arches and circles. Liber Genealogus counterpart: section 05 (Adam-Sem), section 06 (Arfaxad), section 09 (Sala) and section 11, (Falech-Thara).

Adam cum esset series

Shown are three versions of the layout from manuscripts which are close to the ur-type, namely Roda, Plutei and the stemma in the Foigny bible.


The graphic format originally employed for this chronology remains a difficult not to say intractable issue. It will be clear from the plots above that scribal errors have brought about a major gap in the Plutei version and a small gap (the name in parentheses, Eber) in Roda.

At first sight, the plots suggest a broad tendency: that the chronology would have been laid out as several massive chunks of text, the first half of the series enclosed in arches and the second part transitioning to bordered or circular enclosures.

In the Roda manuscript, the first eight spans of the chronology are laid out one patriarch per arch (with one exception in the case of Methusaleh and Lamech), though one must note that this is only the case in this single manuscript. Where the transition was or how many arches were employed originally is not entirely clear: the variation among the manuscripts obscures any hint of a formula.

The present edition obeys this tendency, but is tidier, arranging the arches from Adam to Lamech directly under their the matching roundels. The remainder of the chronology is laid out in text chunks filling whatever vacant space can be found up to Abraham.

Two mutually opposed theses might be offered in criticism. One would hold that the primitive Great Stemma would have presented all of this material as a slab of text which was only progressively broken up and embellished during the transmission, so that the arches are not original at all.

The opposite view would be that on a very wide chart, each of the 20 patriarchs up to and including Abraham (or perhaps 22, additionally including Isaac and Jacob), could have been allocated his own arch, so that the complete series formed an arcade structure, something like a Roman aqueduct. A hint of this might be taken from the Foigny manuscript, where the final patriarch, Abraham, is allocated an arch (but not in the other Iota manuscripts).

It could be maintained that as a design approach, the Great Stemma shapes every item and eschews slab-like text. Especially because the chronology is a confusing element which seems to duplicate the content of Filum A, a graphic trick would have been needed to show that it has a non-genealogical purpose.

Where the persons from Adam to Abraham needed in any case to be named for a second time, it would have made sense to continue to the very end an enclosure style for this series duplication that could not be confused with roundels. Arcades are certainly present in other Late Antique codices, though they commonly have a mnemonic function, with every arch in an arcade given its own individual decoration to differentiate the sections of content from one another, the best example being the various Eusebian tables of gospel concordance and the psalms.[*]Wallraff, Martin. “The Canon Tables of the Psalms. An Unknown Work of Eusebius of Caesarea.” Dumbarton Oaks Papers 67 (2013): 1–14.

Here the prime purpose would not however have been to distinguish Adam from Seth, for example, but Adam's chronographic entry from his genealogical entry on the chart. An arcade would also be an apt form to suggest the passage of a vast span of time. In art and architecture, an arch is often used to frame a vista looking out towards a larger expanse of space such as a courtyard or garden. In a graphic, it could suggest a zone where a very long time period is being compressed for reasons of convenience and readability, just as a thumbnail image in modern electronic graphics invites a user to tap or click to open up the full-sized picture. An arcade would thus have underlined that the periods in the time of the patriarchs were immensely longer than the relatively short royal reigns that make up later sections of the chart's biblical chronology.

The textual tradition for the patriarchs is muddled. The source is clearly the Vetus Latina text of Genesis 5: 3-32 and 11: 10-26.

There is every indication that this Vetus Latina text was included in the Great Stemma in its entirety when it was first drawn up, and it is unlikely this listing of generational time-spans accrued later to the diagram.

From the table of elapsed years below, it will be plain that the data in the Liber Genealogus must have been amended at some point. Ultimately, the first period, ending with Noah's fatherhood of Sem, came to be settled as the figure calculated by Eusebius and Jerome. That amended total, 2,242 years, then circulated with the Great Stemma in the Ordo Annorum Mundi, and the total is likely to have been memorable enough to hold attention, even if discrepancies with the component figures in the matching graphic did not.

A more primitive chronology in the Great Stemma may have had its roots in some older Christian tally which preceded the diffusion in the west of Latin manuscripts of the "new" Eusebius/Jerome chronology.

Patriarch GS cumulative GS Interval Liber (G) Notes
Adam 230 230    
Seth 435 205    
Enos 625 190    
Cainan 795 170    
Malaleel 960 165    
Iareth 1,122 162    
Enoch 1,287 165    
Matusalam 1,474 187    
Lamech 1,662 188    
Noe 2,162 500 2,142 Here Eusebius has 2,242
Sem 2,262 100 100  
Arfaxath 2,397 135 125 other versions of LG have "165"
Sala 2,527 130 --- other versions of LG have "157"
Eber 2,661 134 --- other versions of LG have "144"
Falech 2,791 130 130  
Ragau 2,923 132 132  
Seruch 3,053 130 120  
Nachor 3,132 79 79
Thara 3,202 70 ---

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