Guide to the Chronography


Reading the Great Stemma requires some awareness of late antique chronography. This page offers a brief guide to the chronological material, which may seem less prominent than the exhaustive biblical genealogies, but played the more important role in the anonymous author's intention.

Christian and Jewish chronography took it as a given that the span of elapsed time from Creation to the present (or to the Incarnation) could be exactly measured by adding up the component spans— either a generation, counted as the time from a man's birth to his son's birth, or a leg of several centuries— set out in the biblical text.

From the particularities of the chronography sketched out below it will be plain that the primitive Great Stemma (and the Liber Genealogus versions written from it) did not rely on the chronologies of Hippolytus of Rome, Julius Africanus or Eusebius of Caesarea, but drew on a distinct fund of chronological calculations.[*]The claim in Bauer/Helm 1 (Adolf Bauer, and Rudolf Helm, Hippolytus Werke IV: Chronicon, GCS 46 (Berlin: Akademie-Verlag, 1956)) that the Liber Genealogus is a derivative of the Liber Generationis I is mistaken.

The individual spans for the patriarchs from Adam to the birth of Noah are set out in Genesis, visualized most probably like this in the Great Stemma:

For the period from Noah to Abraham, there does not seem to have been any graphic structure, only the abstracted Genesis text. A peculiarity in that section is the deliberate omission of the second Kenan, an ancestor inserted by most texts of the Septuagint Genesis (and consequently by the Gospel of Luke) between Arpachshad and Shelah after the Great Flood.[*]Gen 10:24, Luke 3:36. Hippolytus would seem to have followed Luke, or at least so much is indicated by later works in the Hippolytan tradition including the Liber Generationis ("... vicit Cainan ann. CXXX et genuit ..."), the Chronicon anni p. Chr. 334 ("... Cainan CXXXI genuit Sala"), the Excerpta latina Barbari ("Cainan centum treginta") and the Liber Chronicorum ("Cainan fuit annorum CXXX...") The Book of Jubilees, a Jewish scriptural work which lists the Second Kenan, plainly had no influence on the Great Stemma either.

Julius Africanus (Chronography, T16) (see Gelzer I,89 and Wallraff 29-39) had rejected Luke's text, LXX Gen 10:24 and 11:12-13. Julius apparently preferred a Hebrew tradition attested by Josephus (Antiquities, lib. I, 6.4) that omits Kenan. Eusebius in his fourth-century Chronici canones also preferred to rely on the Hebrew tradition and followed Julius Africanus. All versions of the Liber Genealogus make the jump from Arpachshad (Mommsen par. 63) to Shelah (201) without any intermediary. The LG explicitly terms Shelah the nepotes of Shem.

For the period from Abraham to Levi, we have no graphical evidence of a timeline. The Liber Genealogus G makes no mention of elapsed years for this interval, and the matching part of the Liber Genealogus L which we might consult as a second source is missing. However P uniquely preserves text showing this leg was indeed bridged: Abraam cum esset annorum C genuit Isaac et fiunt omnes anni vite sue CLV et mortuus est; Isaac cum esset annorum LX genuit Esau et Iacob; (Iacob) fueruntque anni vite illius CXLVII deficiensque mortuus est.

Graphically, the Great Stemma picks up the thread again at Levi, laying out in one bent line the leadership periods of Kohath, Amran, Aaron and his brother Moses:

Joshua (Ihs filius Nabe: dashed circle) is placed to the right of Aaron to indicate that he marks the start of the next period. Only Ac provides text here, offering the ages at death of Aaron and Moses. It is to be supposed that the Great Stemma author implicitly relies on a total calculation of this leg in the statement by Paul of Tarsus at Galatians 3:17 that the Law came into being 430 years after God's promise given in Abraham's 75th year. The 430 years are not explicitly mentioned in the Liber Genealogus G.[*]Christians regarded this as matching the span of 430 years mentioned in the Septuagint Exodus 12:40 as the first period of tenancy in Canaan and servitude in Egypt together. In the Masoretic Exodus, the 430 years only span the submission to Egypt. See also the note in Bauer/Helm, 23.

We now pass into the period after Moses when the Israelites obtained a law to live by and a land of their own.

In the original Great Stemma, this period was graphically represented by 23 roundels in total, from Joshua to the second Shamgar. These phases mostly represent rule by a "judge" or subjection to a foreign king, but some are merely spans of unexplained time.

Two of the phases above, numbers 7 and 15, came to be omitted throughout the extant Great Stemma manuscripts. In the data tabulation which follows, each Stemma element is matched to its corresponding number of years in the Liber Genealogus G text. The LGG entries can be consulted in section 31 of the G recension in the appendices to this edition.

Where a number of years is missing, a suggested reconstruction is shown in square brackets [], based on the Septuagint, or the Chronography of Julius Africanus or the Chronicon of Hippolytus. (The latter is generally seen as the source of the Excerpta Latina Barbari of J. J. Scaliger (BS), the Liber Generationis I (LGI), the Liber Generationis II (LGII) and the imperfect Armenian translation (Arm) of Hippolytus's Chronicon, collectively termed "the chronographies" in the table below.)[*]BH denotes the Bauer/Helm edition of the Chronicon, text at 78-85, tabulated and discussed at 162; see also Mommsen's MGH Auct. Ant. 9, pp 115-119, and Helm's Eusebius, pp 46a-65b. E indicates a number of years stated by Eusebius (E).

Hippolytus and Julius Africanus had no influence on the Great Stemma, but their data serves as a useful indication of the sorts of numbers circulating among Christian chronographers before the Chronici canones of Eusebius reached the Latin-speaking West.

  GS text LGG text yrs Notes
1 Iesus filius Nave Hiesus filius Nave 27 No biblical term. Here the Liber Genealogus number matches Arm and E, but not Julius Africanus (Bauer/Helm 160) or the other sources.
2 Cusarsaton rex Cusarsathon 8 Eight in Jdg 3:8. The span of years survives in Ma, Ac, V and the Iota bibles, with clear signs that this comes from the Vetus Latina and is not an interpolation (see below). BS precedes this with a phase of 23 years for Phinees, perhaps based on Africanus's 30 years of the elders who came after Joshua.
3 Gothonihel filius Zenez Gothonihel (filius Chenez) [40] Forty in LXX-A, fifty in LXX-B (Jdg 3:11). Liber Genealogus number is lost. LGI and LGII give 31.
4 Eglon iudex iudicavit Eglom 18 Eighteen in Jdg 3:14. V: Post Gothoniel autem servierunt Eglon regi Moab annis X et VIII. LGG recension lacks any number of years. Other chronica united for 18. BH terms this period "Moab." Not found in Eusebius, who says the period is concurrent with Ehud.
5 Aoth iudex Aoth [80] Eighty in Jdg 3:30. LGG recension has 8 rather than 80: here emended.
6 Samgar iudex servierunt regi Semegar 20 No biblical term. 25 in BS. BH 164-167 insists Hippolytus excluded this, merging it into Aoth in LGI, LGII and the Armenian text.
7 Solely in V and an Iota text panel: Post Samgar vero servierunt filii Israel Iabin regi Chanaan annis XXa servierunt rege alienigenarum; hic rex Chanaan ... in Astaroth 20 Twenty in Jdg 4:3. Perhaps omitted from the other recensions by a revisor relying on Eusebius (who held it to be concurrent with the first 20 years of Deborah), or else dropped through error.
8 Deborra iudex Deborra iudicavit 40 Forty in Jdg 5:31, a number accepted in the other chronographies.
9 Madian iudex Matianitae optinerunt (et nomen eius erat Mazia) 7 Seven in Jdg 6:1, in which the other chronographies agree. V: At vero post Barach servierunt Madianitis annis VII. Eusebius does not recognize the span.
10 Gedeon iudex Gedeon 40 Forty in Jdg 8:28, a number accepted in the other chronographies and Eusebius.
11 Abimelec iudex Abimelech 3 Three in Jdg 9:22, a number accepted in the chronographies.
12 Fua iudex Fua filius Charran iudicavit 20 An interval peculiar to the Great Stemma and Liber Genealogus. See below.
13 Thola iudex Tole iudicavit [23] Twenty-three in Jdg 10:2. Omitted by LGG. LGL has: Deinde Tole iudicavit eos annis XX duobus, but it seems prudent to emend this to 23. Some of the chronographies have 20.
14 Iair iudex Iair iudicavit 22 Twenty-two in Jdg 10:3. Commonly 22 in the chronographies.
15 V and in Iota text panel: Post Isair vero qui fuit iudex (ex: Parc) Israel servierunt Philistim et filius Ammon per annos X (et) VIII Philistinae et Amanite optinuerunt 18 Eighteen in Jdg 10:8. Possibly omitted from the other recensions by a revisor relying on Eusebius, who asserted that after Jair, the Ammonites bring the Hebrews under control for 18 years, but counts this as concurrent with Jephthah, Esbon and Labdon.
16 Iepte iudex de Galaad Iepthe 7 Six in Jdg 12:7 and the chronographies and Eusebius, but clearly seven in the LGG. At Jdg 11:26, Jephthah speaks of 300 years since the settlement by Israel.
17 Esebon iudex Usbon filius Irer 7 Seven in Jdg 12:9, the chronographies and Eusebius.
18 Eglon iudex Elom iudicavit 10 Ten in Jdg 12:11. Eusebius excludes these 10 years of Ailom.
19 Abdon iudex Abdon 8 Eight in Jdg 12:14. Julius Africanus (T38): 20 years.
20 Alienigene Alienigene obtinuerunt eos 40 Forty in Jdg 13:1. "Allophyles" in LXX-A, "Philistines" in LXX-B and Hippolytus texts.
21 Samson iudex Samson 20 Twenty in Jdg 15:20, the chronographies and Eusebius.
22 Pacem habuerunt Pacem habuerunt 17 No duration given at Jdg 17:6. V omits the duration. Two of the chronographies offer 40 but Bauer/Helm 164-167 insists Hippolytus excluded this. Julius Africanus (T39a): 30 years. Eusebius excludes the span.
23 Semera iudex Samera iudicavit 1 Uncanonical. The graphic order of this and the preceding element are transposed in our versions of the Great Stemma, but I have kept to the LGG order in this tabulation to avoid confusion. The Liber Genealogus displays the same order of the data as the Armenian text of Hippolytus, implying that the transposition in the Great Stemma had not yet occurred in 427. See also the note to Julius Africanus (T39b) quoting Michael the Syrian: Jean dit que Samgar succéda à Samson, pendant 40 ans... BH 164-167 insists Hippolytus excluded this.
      496 Total years

Why later editors of the Great Stemma should have expunged the time-span numbers is never communicated. The only remnant is the attribution of eight years to Cusarsathon (row 2 above), which has survived in Ma, Ac, V and the Iota bibles. This is self-evidently not an interpolation from the Vulgate but the original Omega text drawn from a Vetus Latina version of Judges, since the gloss includes the words regi Mesopotamie, a minority reading which is only found in a few manuscripts of the Septuagint. Most Septuagint texts make him the king of Syria of Rivers, and the Hebrew and Vulgate say Edom.[*]Brooke/Maclean 4, apparatus for Judges 3:8.

The likeliest reason for the expunging is the attempt during the medieval reception to re-align the Great Stemma with the chronographic theories of Eusebius, attaching the Ordo Annorum Mundi to the Stemma as a handlist of "corrected" time-spans. Eusebius was of the view there had been only 13 political phases in the Judges period and that only 355 years elapsed from Joshua to Eli inclusive, well short of the total of 496 shown above.[*]The OAM text in Ma for this period reads: ab introitu terre repromissionis usque ad Saul primum regem Israel fuere iudices per annos CCC L V.

Two curiosities in the table above demand attention. The first is the supposed judgeship of Puah, the father of Judge Tola (Judges 10:1-2). This doubled interval is described by the Liber Genealogus G as follows:[*]The Codex Lugdunensis Vetus Latina text has: Et surrexit post illum qui salvum faceret Istrahel Tholam, filius Ful, filius Charreon, fratris patris eius, vir Isachar, et hic habitabat in Samaria in monte Efrem (Ulysse Robert, <>Heptateuchi Partis Posterioris Versio Latina Antiquissima e Codice Lugdunensi (Lyon: Rey, 1900) 132). A fragmentary Vetus Latina text without Charreon can be recovered from Augustine (Quaestionum in heptateuchum libri septem, Iudicum, 47): Et surrexit post Abimelech, qui salvum faceret Israel, Thola filius Phua, filius patris fratris ejus, vir Issachar .... (Sabatier, Bibliorum Sacrorum Latinae Versiones Antiquae).

Deinde Fua filius Charram iudicavit eos annis XX. Hic habitabat in monte Efrem, sub cuius tempus pax abundavit et non fuit bellum in Israel (Then Phua son of Karran judged them for 20 years. He lived in Mount Ephraim. During his time peace reigned and there was no war in Israel). Deinde Tole iudicavit eos annis XX duobus (Then Tola judged them for 22 years).

The elevation of Puah to the role of a judge would seem to be a mistake during note-taking and compiling of data for the Great Stemma, evident from the fact that Tola's ancestry has gone missing. The opportunity for error would have been great here, because the Vetus Latina text declared not only Tola's father Puah, but also Tola's grandfather Karran/ Charran/ Charreon.[*]The likely source for the uncanonical name Karran/ Charran/ Charreon can be detected in several so-called miniscule manuscripts of the Septuagint which insert the name Karie into the Greek sequence, stating that Puah was the son of Karie. The miniscule manscripts date from the 9th century onwards, but in some cases they retain very ancient readings which have been lost from all the older manuscripts at our disposal. Lagrange (Juges, 186) quotes the passage thus: χαι ανεστζσεν ο εος... τον Θωλα υιον Φουα υιον Καριε πατραδελφου αυτου. Lagrange says this reading is characteristic of a group denoted as M by Moore, who describes it (Commentary on Judges, xliv-xlv) as a group whose most constant members are four Greek codices.

The other oddity in the sequence of Judges is the second Shamgar (row 23 above), an interval which originates in old distortions of the Septuagint which lingered into a fraction of the Vetus Latina texts. The first Shamgar is presented as follows at Judges 3:31:[*]This passage remains in its normal position, 3:31, in our best source of the Vetus Latina text, the Codex Lugdunensis: Et post illum surrexit Semigar, filius Anath, et percussit ex alienigenis ad sescentos viros extra vetulos, et salvos fecit et ipse filios Istralel (Robert). Fragmentarily in Augustine, who quotes it (Quaestionum in heptateuchum libri septem, Iudicum, 25): Et post eum surrexit Samegar filius Aneath, et percussit alienigenas in sexcentos viros, praeter vitulos boum: et salvavit Israel (Sabatier, Bibliorum Sacrorum Latinae Versiones Antiquae.

And after him arose Samegar son of Dinach and he struck down the allophyles, fully six hundred men, with a bull's ploughshare. And indeed he too delivered Israel (New English Translation of the Vaticanus or B text).

There is no mention of Shamgar / Samegar actually ruling, let alone for how long, but by a Jewish tradition of learning which is mentioned by Moore, Shamgar was counted as a judge.[*]George Foot Moore, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on Judges (Edinburgh: Clark, 1895), 104 note. One midrash ruled that Shamgar died in the first year of his "office", but earned no predicate of years. This conception was to continue for centuries. Even a much later work, the Chronicon Alexandrinorum, dated to about 630, reproduces a judgeship of Shamgar (Semega iudicum, Mommsen, MGH AA, 9, p 117, line 236). See also: Albrecht, Stefan. "Chronicon Paschale" in Encyclopaedia of the Medieval Chronicle, ed. Dunphy, Graeme. Leiden: Brill, 2010, 387-388).

By the second century, this peculiar tradition undergoes two further changes: firstly, Shamgar is allowed a full year of his own in the chronographic calculations, and secondly, the Shamgar passage migrates to a new place in the sequence. The latter transformation is evident in some of the Septuagint manuscripts of Judges: the sentence normally found at Jdg 3:31 shifts to a position after Jdg 16:31, with the name Shamgar altered to Samera.[*]The whole Shamgar issue is summarized in a note by Nestle, Eberhard. "Samgar". Zeitschrift für die alttestamentliche Wissenschaft, 32 (1912) 152. Nestle quotes the Liber Genealogus (calling it the vandalische Chronik and the Origo Humani Generis), and states that the position shift is characteristic of the Lucian family of Septuagint manuscripts, referring specifically to the Codex Zuqninensis rescriptus.

The Great Stemma then adds yet another layer of oddity to this tradition by counting both Shamgar, the early (canonical) warrior, and Samera, his later (non-canonical) alter ego, as separate judges, each with his own place in the timeline. The first of the periods is inflated to 20 years (par. 505 of Mommsen's LGG text) while the second remains stable at one year (521).[*]Though later chronographers tended to realize that the second Year of Samera was a mistake, like many errors it developed a life of its own. Gelzer's study of Julius Africanus mentions other works where this variant rears its head again centuries later, and of course, in the form of the Great Stemma, it was still being faithfully copied into new manuscripts in Spain in the high medieval period.

For the period from Eli to Solomon, there is no explicit calculation of elapsed time. Graphically, it is clear that a timeline is to be understood as running through row 1 of the grid.

The Books of Kings offer copious numbers for the period of national division after Solomon into the northern and southern kingdoms. The Liber Genealogus L indicates that there was an abstract of these calculations in the center of the graphic, among the Northern or Samarian kings (section 37). However section 29 would indicate the top filum was kept clear of chronography and similar numbers were not placed among the Judaean kings.

For the next leg, from the Babylonian Exile to the Incarnation, the primitive Great Stemma ceased reliance on the biblical claims and instead depended on secular dates. The reason it does so has to do with three intermeshing time systems and statements of historical fact capable of bridging them:

The schematic drawing above shows how the connnections could be debated: it is not found in this form in our manuscripts of the Great Stemma, nor is it claimed to be a reconstruction of anything which really did exist. But it shows how the parallel-chains format would allow a lecturer to demonstrate to students that once one knows that governor Zerubbabel was a contemporary of Darius, approximate secular dates for the invents could be inferred.

Between Cambyses and Darius, evidently for the sake of a complete timeline, the Great Stemma lays out the curious reign "two twins for eight months". This alludes to brief rule by a usurper, named Smerdis by Herodotus, and either his doppelganger, a royal prince, or Smerdis's brother, who organized the power seizure.[*]Zaluska considers the Latin term gemini or twins to refer to the two Magi usurpers, since they were brothers. However other Late Antique chronicles actually do use the words Fratres Magi, and it is more likely that the Great Stemma author intended gemini to denote the real prince Smerdis and the pseudo-Smerdis (the usurper Bardiya) being alike in appearance. Cf. Gelzer, Heinrich. Sextus Julius Africanus und die Byzantinische Chronographie, II.13 (1885).

The marker figures for the final Roman period are the emperors Augustus and Tiberius (referred to in Luke 2:1 and 3:1-2 as points of synchrony), preceded by Julius Caesar whose mention in this context seems decorative but not necessary.

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