Evolution of the Great Stemma


After Chi, the tradition splits into two branches, identifiable by whether they preserve or omit the seven grandsons of Japheth (Asenser, Rifac, Togosma, Elisa, Tarsis, Cetin, Dodanim). This omission was accidental, since there is surely no doctrinal reason to have purged these names, and also singular, since it is highly unlikely such an omission would have occurred independently twice in the tiny number of copying events.

For the hyparchetype which lacks the seven grandsons, we adopt the siglum φ (Phi). Of Phi itself, no more can be said, since it lacks any defining characteristic apart from the seven erased roundels. From Phi, we can detect three distinct hyparchetypes splitting off.

The first of these we denote ζ (Zeta). Its sole witness is the three folios of text in the Ripoll Bible (Vat. lat. 5729 at the Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana in Rome) lacking any graphic shape. Even without our being able to see its roundels and connectors, it is plain that Zeta brought with it a deliberate and significant rewiring of the diagram's content.

This abandoned the Joachimite genealogy of Jesus and instead offered the answer to the gospel contradiction which had been propounded by Julius Africanus. That solution employs Rufinus's Latin translation of the Ecclesiastical History of Eusebius. At other places, the chart was altered to conform with the writings of Jerome of Stridon, in particular replacing the Septuagint order of the Prophets with the Vulgate order. The onomastic explanations found in the Gamma hyparchetype (below) are partly replaced by etymologies approved by Jerome.

Outside of these deliberate "adjustments" in the direction of western orthodoxy, Zeta remained broadly faithful to the Great Stemma's long-standing content, leaving in place most of the Vetus Latina names. Its editor did correct one flagrant error, the false gender attributed everywhere else in the tradition to Josaba (Iosebe), but he continued to erroneously connect her to a northern instead of a southern father.

Its most remarkable feature is its preservation of the Omega version of the Judges Period including intervals 7 and 15, which are missing in all the other recensions, although the manuscripts introduce another slight error, the transposition of the periods Ehud (interval 5) and Samgar I (interval 6) in the Judges Period. From this, it would appear that Zeta's editor had the opportunity to consult more than one earlier recension, all the while overlooking the cardinal error which had swept away the seven grandsons of Japheth.

The second of the offspring of Phi is denoted ε (Epsilon), a hyparchetype can be dated to 672 CE or earlier, since one of the two surviving witnesses provides us with a specific date. These witnesses are manuscripts of about the 11th century, both from an Italian scriptorium. They are now bound in the codices Florence plut. 20.54 and Florence Amiatinus III. Attached to the Plutei diagram is the Ordo Annorum Mundi, a cheat-sheet summing up the age of the world as calculated by the patristic author Eusebius of Caesarea. That copy includes an appendix with both a date and praise for the start of the reign of the "present" king of Visigothic Spain, Wamba. [*][Il] se révèle un témoin important de la tradition antérieure aux textes alpha et bêta; le Beatus d'Urgel et de la Bible de Madrid s'attachent, chacun par le biais d'une recension différente, à cette même tradition (Załuska, Composition).

In graphic terms, Epsilon would seem to have offered a cogent version of the original Great Stemma constrained to an approximate grid pattern. It notably preserved:

  1. A note about seven of David's children: hos septem habuit in Ebron (01, otherwise only in Zeta and the Iota group below)
  2. A Judges period: Fua iudex (02, otherwise only in Delta)

Epsilon comes with glosses which trace back two peoples who had invaded Iberia, the Moors and the Visigoths (Mauri & Gothi), with the Noachide Dispersion. It also must have lost certain graphic features from its Chi model, in particular:

  1. An arch containing a major passage of chronology beginning huius anno centesimo tricesimo quintus Adam ... to ... Robooth civitates (03)
  2. Part of an arch containing chronology, beginning Eber cum esset annorum ... (04)
  3. Loth cui voluntas .... (it is striking that the roundel meant for the Loth text has seemingly been preserved, but is instead filled with "Falech cum esset …") (05)

Examining the Plutei manuscript suggests that Epsilon may have also lost certain text elements, although these lacunae are of less probative value:

  1. hii duces Edom in terra possessionis eorum ... rex in Israel” (this appears to be an inadvertent loss, as the Liber Genealogus clearly includes hi duces Edom in terra possessiones eorum…) (06)

A long digression, taken from the Alexandrine Legend and beginning with Gog and Magog, is found in the Plutei manuscript, but probably does not derive from the Epsilon hyparchetype.

Epsilon and Zeta are remarkably similar in overall form. Their commonality is especially evident in the page division, which separates the Horrites and Edomite kings (Genesis 36: 20-43) into two halves. Zeta was almost certainly spread over 18 pages, whereas in Epsilon pages 1-2 and 16-17 were merged to yield the 16-page composition we see in the Plutei manuscript.

The third and last of the three hyparchetypes which have their root in Phi is one denoted γ (Gamma). The editor of Gamma consulted an unidentifiable work on name meanings which had at least some affinities with the Liber Genealogus and glossed eight patriarchal names with their alleged Hebrew meanings. [*]Seth = resurrectio; Enos = obliviscens; Cainan = lamentatio (San Juan) / natura dei (Liber Genealogus); Malelehel = plantatio; Iareth = dissensio (SJ) / descensio (LG); Enos = renovatio; Matusalam = missus; Lamec = percutiens (SJ) / bonae mentis (LG). The source is clearly not Eusebius or Jerome.

Gamma had a flavour of malcompetent experimentation to it, dissolving the orderly diagrammatic structure of the original Great Stemma and composing the roundels into great sweeps and sprays so that they would fit in only ten pages. It supplemented the text with a distinctive genealogy of Samuel that was proposed by Jerome in Against Jovinianus, including the unusual name Sub, along with a one-paragraph quote from that tract. Gamma introduced a characteristic error, Soffir Elifaz filius dux, where the two middle words have been transposed. Nothing in Gamma offers the least clue as to when, where or why it arose as a separate recension.

Only two witnesses to Gamma survive, both of them damaged. One is in the San Juan de la Peña Bible, lacking the end part, and the other is found in the Urgell Beatus, which lacks the beginning. They are not close to one another, but their common ancestry is discernible. Despite the lacunae, definite graphical affinities between the Gamma and Epsilon hyparchetypes can be convincingly inferred:

Gamma's most distinctive innovation was to shift the family of David to the bottom of the preceding page below the Judges, probably to save space, but destroying the flow of the original Great Stemma's timeline. David himself is placed at the left, and his younger children creep up the right margin. This is found at the 6th page in the San Juan de la Peña Bible and the 6th extant page (originally the 7th?) of the Urgell Beatus.

We now return to the forking in the tradition at Chi and consider the other branch which resulted. We denominate the hyparchetype which preserved the seven grandsons of Japheth as Υ (Upsilon). This hyparchetype sectioned up the Great Stemma in a novel way so that 14 pages would suffice to depict its roundels. Often the layout allocates two extra pages for an excursus with a simple geography lesson. As to Upsilon's date of origin, we can do little more than guess. When the theologian Beatus of Liébana in the Iberian kingdom of Asturias took this version in hand, in or soon after 776, to use it as a stirring frontispiece for his Commentary on the Apocalypse, the revision may have been freshly minted. Or again, it might have been a compact version dating back to Isidore's day or beyond. In either case, this recension and its descendants were to remain attached to the Commentary on the Apocalypse for centuries thereafter.

Upsilon is notable for preserving at least four graphic items from the original Great Stemma which were accidentally dropped from recensions of the Psi arm. The sons of Japheth have been mentioned. The others are:[*]See Mommsen's LG, 219 for Iesca.

Upsilon brought with it several innovations, including a heading: In nomine Christi incipit genealogia ab Adam usque ad Christum per ordines linearum, which neglects the more important role of the chart as a timeline. Another novelty was attention to the Noachide Dispersion, the supposed repeopling of the Earth after the Great Flood. Drawing directly on Isidore's Etymologies and indirectly from Genesis, the editor identifies biblical forefathers of the Gauls, Moors, Scythians and Goths, Medes, Ionian Greeks, Iberians, Cappadocians, North Africans, Philistines, the mysterious Caphthor people, Elamite Persians, Assyrians, the "People of Lud", Syrians and Chaldeans. Isidore's so-called T-O map is provided as context, along with a long quotation from Book 14 of the Etymologies on how to interpret this.

Yet another addition here is the Recapitulatio, a set of synchronisms drawn mainly from Genesis between semi-mythical ancient kings and the bible. This is laid out in a curious fashion: starting low down a right-hand column and continuing from the top of a column to its left. Several biblical notes are also entered in Upsilon:

The only witness to the Upsilon hyparchetype is the clumsily executed section 198v-206r of the Códice de Roda in Madrid, which is full of crooked lines and leaning columns and is probably of a much later date. The original Upsilon and its more faithful copies were almost certainly reasonably well aligned, since it would have been well-nigh impossible without a careful model to draw the next generation of manuscripts (Alpha, below) as neatly as they turned out.

Next: The Text Groups

Back to Table of Contents

Creative Commons License The Great Stemma: A Graphic History in the Fifth Century by Jean-Baptiste Piggin is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.