The Early Chronography Layer


This page is the revision that was published on 2012, September 23. It has been superseded by a new page.

In the medieval manuscripts of the Great Stemma, one's attention is attracted to a series of glosses on chronological topics, stating where synchronisms between different nations can be found. These glosses are clearly drawn from the Chronological Canons of Eusebius of Caesarea. But there are other features in the Great Stemma, not glosses but elements of the data structure itself, which just as clearly hark back to the some old chronographical system and are in conflict with Eusebius's system. How are we to explain this mixture in one document of two mutually incompatible chronological systems?

After long reflection, I can see only one coherent hypothesis to explain this, departing from the idea that two independent authors must have worked on the document many years apart from one another: the Great Stemma must have been originally drawn up in reliance on an early chronographer such as Hippolytus of Rome or Julius Africanus, but at some point must then have been revised in the light of the Eusebian system by a conservative editor.

While he deleted those older numbers that were in conflict with Eusebius and some of the periods that Eusebius had explicitly rejected (and perhaps old glosses, though we have no evidence for these), he was loath to drop all of the names and periods inherited from the earlier version.

In the article that follows, I will examine the evidence for these ancient structural remnants and suggest the mental processes that might have led to the Great Stemma taking the form we see today.

The prime example which I will examine is found in the Judges Period, which spans the era from the Exodus up to the elevation of Saul as first king of Israel.

In the Great Stemma, this period is graphically represented by two strings of 21 roundels in total, from Joshua to the second Shamgar. If one were to count in the subsequent node, which represents the priest Eli, further to the right from the group, the total would be 22. The block of text in the Liber Genealogus which corresponds to this series, from Joshua to Eli inclusive, comprises 24 phases.[*]In my Studia Patristica article, I have simplified this by treating the section as comprising 22 phases. Exegetically speaking Samuel sacerdos might also be counted in the group, but is graphically detached from the judges.

Some of these phases do not represent rule by a named person, but merely spans of time.

Although modern biblical scholars areinclined to see the Book of Judges as a kind of scrapbook in no coherent chronological order, Jewish and Christian chronographers during Antiquity attempted to extract a chronology from the scriptural narrative. Judges amounted to a difficult challenge, since it mentions various episodes of rule by foreigners. The episode at Judges 13:1 is particularly mysterious, with the manuscripts of the Septuagint differing as to whether these overlords were "allophyle", that is to say unspecified aliens, or Philistine.

In the chronography of Julius Africanus we find another term as well, an anarchy or "peace period", a time when the Jews were unruled and could do as they wished. This denomination was not only convenient to cover periods which a chronographer could not otherwise explain, but was also useful to a chronographer who sought to bulk up the overall era.[*]Wallraff, T39, p 87, quotes a Byzantine commentary (Georgius Syncellus) stating that "[Eusebius of Caesarea] criticizes [Julius Africanus] for inserting an additional 70 years— 40 years for the interregnal period and 30 years of domestic peace— making a total of 100 years." Helm 164-167 states that Hippolytus made no use of such periods and that where they do appear in chronography they derive from Julius Africanus.

In the Great Stemma we find one period of each type: a roundel marked "alienigene" (i.e, under foreigners, using a Latin translation of allophyle) and another marked "pacem habuerunt" (they had peace.) In the Liber Genealogus section 31, both supernumary phases (rows 7 and 15 in the table below) are also of the external-domination type, describing phases under the rule of a foreign king, Jabesh, and under explicitly Philistine rule.

Hippolytus's treatment of this period is difficult to reconstruct, given that his Greek text is lost and the available Latin and Armenian translations are of unreliable quality, but Rudolf Helm's reconstruction proposes that the period Joshua-Eli inclusive comprised only 20 phases, excluding both of the Samgar periods and the anarchy period. Helm argued in his 1955 edition of the Chronicle of Hippolytus that where these phases did appear in the manuscripts, they were not of Hippolytan origin, but corruptions or contaminations from Julius Africanus.[*]Helm 167-167, which argues that Hippolytus assumed a period of 480 years from the death of Joshua to the advent of David. If so, Hippolytus would have failed to fully square this with a passage at Acts 13:20 in which Paul of Tarsus was understood by readers in Antiquity to be alluding to a 450-year period of Jewish history before kings ruled Israel. Hippolytus probably allowed 40 years to Saul, meaning 440 years of non-royal leadership.

The Liber Genealogus treatment is much more expansive, comprising no fewer than 24 phases as we have said. If one assumes that its missing numbers can be provided from the Barbarus Scaligeri manuscript and others listed below, its total of timespans would add up to 495 years.[*]Caution is required here, as Theodor Mommsen employed the Liber Genealogus as a partial witness to reconstruct the Liber Generationis II, and Helm and his predecessor Bauer employed the latter as one of several sources to reconstruct the Hippolytus Chronicle (Helm 1). Any coincidences in respect of the totals should thus be carefully analysed, as there is a certain risk of circular argumentation in using them.

The corresponding conclusions about this era are quite different in the Eusebian chronology. Eusebius concluded there had been only 13 political phases and that only 355 years elapsed from Joshua to Eli inclusive.

In the tabulation that follows, based on the tabulation at page 162-163 of Bauer/Helm, the Stemma elements are shown alongside the corresponding entries from the Liber Genealogus. Those entries can be seen in section 31 of the G recension. I have included Samuel in the list (the 25th row) for the sake of a full picture.

The Liber Genealogus numbers of years (LGG) are then compared to the numbers given in four extant sources of the Chronicle of Hippolytus (the Barbarus Scaligeri (H1), the Liber Generationis I (LGI), the Liber Generationis II (LGII) and the Armenian text (Arm) of the Chronicon). Helm's reconstruction of the Hippolytus Chronicle follows along with the corresponding numbers of years stated by Eusebius. This is intended to demonstrate the substantial differences among the three schemes.[*]Chronicon: Bauer/Helm: text at 78-85, tabulated and discussed at 162; see also Mommsen's MGH Auct. Ant. 9, pp 115-119. Eusebius: Helm, pp 46a-65b.

  Stemma Liber Genealogus (G) LGG H1 LGI LGII Arm Helm Judges Period in Eusebius Yrs Notes
1 Iesus filius Nave Hiesus filius Nave 27 31 31 30 27   Joshua 27
2 Cusarsaton rex Cusarsathon 8 9 8 7 8 8 H1 precedes this with a phase of 23 years for Phinees
3 Gothonihel filius Zenez Gothonihel (filius Chenez) ? 34 31 31 40 31 Gothoniel / including strangers for 8 years 40 Liber Genealogus number is lost.
4 Eglon iudex iudicavit Eglom [18] 18 18 18 18 18 (E says this period of 18 years - rule by strangers - should be concurrent with Ehud) G recension lacks any number of years, but I have added it from the others. Bauer/Helm term this period "Moab." Not found in Eusebius.
5 Aoth iudex Aoth [80] 55 80 80 80 80 Ehud 80 G recension has 8 rather than 80: here amended.
6 Samgar iudex servierunt regi Semegar 20 25   Helm 164-167 insists Hippolytus excluded this. Merged into Aoth in LG I, LG II and the Armenian text
7 Iabis servierunt rege alienigenarum 20 20 20 20 20 20 (E says this period of foreigners holding Jews in submission for 20 years is concurrent with first half of Deborah and Barak.) Probably omitted from the Great Stemma by a revisor relying on Eusebius, or else dropped through error.
8 Deborra iudex Deborra iudicavit 40 40 40 40 40 40 Deborah with Barak 40
9 Madian iudex Matianitae optinerunt (et nomen eius erat Mazia) 7 7 7 7 7 7
10 Gedeon iudex Gedeon 40 40 40 40 40 40 Gideon / strangers drove Hebrews into subjection for 7 years 40 LGI appears to have 11, but Helm amends this
11 Abimelec iudex Abimelech 3 3 3 3 3 3 Abimelech 3 Helm proposes 3 as a reconstruction for LG1
12 Fua iudex Fua filius Charran iudicavit 20   Peculiar to the Great Stemma and Liber Genealogus.
13 Thola iudex Tole iudicavit [22] 23 20 20 23 20 Thola 22 Omitted by G recension: here amended.
14 Iair iudex Iair iudicavit 22 22 22 22 22 22 Jair 22
15 Philistinae et Amanite optinuerunt 18 18 18 18 18 18 (E notes that after Jair, the Ammonites bring Hebrews under control for 18 years, but counts this as concurrent with Jephthah, Esbon and Labdon) Probably omitted from the Great Stemma by a revisor relying on Eusebius, or else by error.
16 Iepte iudex de Galaad Iepthe 7 6 6 6 6 6 Jephthah 6
17 Esebon iudex Usbon filius Irer 7 7 7 7 7 7 Esbon 7 Helm reconstructs 7 for LGII
18 Eglon iudex Elom iudicavit 10 10 10 10 10 10 (here, E excludes 10 years of Aelon because it is not in LXX)
19 Abdon iudex Abdon 8 8 8 8 8 8 Labdon 8 Julius Africanus (T38): 20 years
20 Alienigene Alienigene obtinuerunt eos 40 40 40 40 40 40 (E says control by foreigners for 40 years is concurrent with Samson and Eli) Philistines in Hippolytus texts
21 Samson iudex Samson 20 20 20 20 20 20 Samson 20
22 Semera iudex Samera iudicavit 1   27   The order of this and the next element are transposed in our versions of the Great Stemma, but I have amended this in this tabulation to avoid confusion. The Liber Genealogus displays the same order of the data as the Armenian text, 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 succ�da � Samson, pendant 40 ans... Helm 164-167 insists Hippolytus excluded this.
23 Pacem habuerunt Pacem habuerunt 17 40 40   Helm 164-167 insists Hippolytus excluded this. Julius Africanus (T39a): 30 years
24 Eli sacerdos et iudex Eli sacerdos [20] 20 20 20 20 20 Eli (here, E follows the Hebrew 40, not the LXX 20) 40 G recension omits the number 20. Here amended. Helm reconstructs 20 for LGII.
25 Samuel sacerdos Samuhel iudicavit 20 20 70 21 22 22      
495 516 519 468 549   355 Total years

Our recensions of the Great Stemma are silent about the number of years for each of the above intervals, but it seems likely that the information must have been present in the proto-Stemma, since the corresponding number for each phase is set out in the G recension of the Liber Genealogus. As I argue elsewhere, this recension is an eyewitness account of and commentary on the diagram.

If it is clear that the Great Stemma displayed a total number of phases, either 22 or 24, which was greater than claimed by Hippolytus (20), and far greater than claimed by Eusebius (13), one has little choice but to see its source in the Chronographiae of Julius Africanus. Unfortunately, the corroborating evidence for this remains weak. Wallraff's recent edition of the extant fragments of Julius Africanus's chronographic material is a conservative one which provides only scant material for the Judges period (see for example rows 19 and 23 above) and does not permit a conclusive attribution.[*]Wallraff, Martin (ed). Chronographiae: The Extant Fragments. Translated by William Adler. Die Griechischen Christlichen Schriftsteller des Ersten Jahrhunderte; N.F. 15. Berlin: de Gruyter, 2007.

There are of course two other points of harmony with the Julius Africanus tradition, and these are discussed elsewhere on this website:

If there is an underlying layer that reflects the thought of Julius Africanus or of an anonymous other early chronographer, how could it have survived when the chronology was brought into conformity with the new orthodoxy set out by Eusebius of Caesarea?

I suspect the answer can be found by analysing what an editor who was operating in a kind of "information fog" might have done when confronted with material that did not harmonize with the system of Eusebius. He might well have shrunk from a major revision of the Great Stemma, choosing a more cautious mode of correction. As I envisage this, he would have accepted a reduction in the overall timespan from Joshua to Eli inclusive to 355 years, as ordained by Eusebius, but would have felt unable to completely trim the 24 component phases down to 13. So he might well have eliminated only two phases while shifting the remaining nine phases into a kind of holding pattern at the side.

We can see from the glosses left by Eusebius why the editor might have felt fully authorized to drop the phases in rows 7 and 15. But what restrained the editor from dropping the other phases?

Let us deal with rows 4, 20 and 23 first, since these are phases of foreign rule or anarchy. There is a reasonably obvious argument why row 4 (Eglon) might have been retained as potentially valid: Judges 3:12-30 describes the Moabite King Eglon's 18 years of overlordship and his assassination by Ehud in graphic detail, and Eglon is thus a real character, not an abstract phase, in the eyes of the bible reader.

In the case of rows 20 and 23 (Alienigene and pacem habuerunt), there is another reason for distrusting Eusebius, or at least for suspecting he was in error. Eusebius had been silent about the latter phase (row 23), so that a cautious editor might have felt uncertain about high-handedly scratching it. But if it were left to stand, then the 40 years of control by foreigners (row 20) would naturally overlap with this phase of anarchy. One might rightly object that simultaneous control by foreigners and anarchy would be logically impossible and such a conflict could not have been seriously intended by Eusebius. Influenced by these misgivings, the editor may have decided to let Semera iudex and pacem habuerunt both stand.

The Great Stemma editor has also chosen to override Eusebius in respect of two other periods of foreign rule, each of which has a certain arguable validity because of clear biblical text: the eight years of Cusarsaton (Cushan-rishathaim) (row 2) are attested at Judges 3:8; the seven years of Midian (row 9) are attested at Judges 6:1.

Finally, there are four other phases (rows 6, 12, 18 and 22) that have been allowed to remain. These seem to involved old and probably undocumented manuscript errors and therefore would have posed utterly intractable text-critical questions for an editor with only limited exegetical competence.

A first issue here is that of the two Shamgars, included not once but twice, at row 6 and row 22. This erroneous duplication of Shamgar is a distinctive feature of the Stemma/Liber Genealogus tradition. I have discussed this issue in more detail elsewhere. Given that Eusebius is entirely silent about Shamgar in either context, the editor may have felt scarcely empowered to eliminate one or the other, and therefore retained both.

Eusebius is also silent about Fua (Puah) in row 12 for the obvious reason that this is a mistake from very early in the Great Stemma's writing history. Once again, without any lucid explanation or criticism available, an editor would not have known how to escape from the fog of misinformation.

In the case of the 10 years of Elon of Zebulun (Ailom the Zaboulonite in the NETS translation), Eusebius inexplicably states (Helm 96b) there is no such person in the Septuagint, although our editor would have readily found the name at Judges 12:11 in his own Vetus Latina or Septuagint text. Once again he would have been in a dilemma: was he to rely on scripture or on Eusebius?

In all four cases, a conservative strategy would have been to let the names stand while suppressing the stated numbers of years attached to them. The result would indeed be a document retaining some of the chronology of Hippolytus in its structure while explicitly using the chronology of Eusebius in its commentary.

The subsequent entry, Samuel, considered contemporary to Saul by Eusebius, would also have been allowed to stand during this revision because of Samuel's importance in the biblical story.

At the end of the Book of Genesis, all Christian chronographers ran into a serious problem: they could not find a detailed, year-by-year account to continue their timeline onwards from the Twelve Patriarchs and connect with the Judges period. Most relied here on the statement of 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. This was regarded as conforming to the span of 430 years mentioned in the Septuagint Exodus 12:40 as the period of tenancy in Canaan and servitude in Egypt together. (In the Masoretic Exodus, the 430 years span the submission to Egypt only.)[*]See the note in Bauer/Helm, 23

However the historical books of the Bible are short of the detailed numbers that the chronographer needed: no ages are given for the line from Judah to Jesse; the lifespan of Joseph the Dreamer (110 years) does not connect to the other data and there is no indication of how many years intervened between the death of Joseph the Dreamer and the births of the brothers Aaron and Moses.

The dominant computation for this period has been transmitted by Hippolytus. The chronographer, following a route via Levi and his descendants Aaron and Moses to Joshua, the first ruler in the Promised Land, claimed knowledge of the exact vital data for Aaron's ancestry so as to precisely apportion the 430 years from Abraham's journey to Canaan until the Exodus from Egypt. Hippolytus's dates have been reconstructed as follows in the critical edition of the Hippolytus Chronicon by Bauer and Helm referred to above:[*]Bauer/Helm, 152

This computation, yielding 505 years (75 + 430) from the birth of Abraham to the Exodus, is probably not the work of Hippolytus but was received knowledge. It was evidently accepted by Julius Africanus too, though this acceptance can only be deduced from his stated dates for the years before and after.[*]Gelzer, I, 56 It was also largely adopted by Eusebius in his Chronological Canons, although we will see below that Eusebius used different reasoning.

Although the years are lacking in the Great Stemma, it is evident from the arrangement of the roundels from Levi to Joshua, arrayed horizontally and left-to-right, that it is precisely this timeline which the Great Stemma author has in mind and is expounding. In Roda, for example, the phases are arranged thus:

Oddly, the copyist has not directly connected Aaron to his father Amran, nor Amran to Kohath (Gaat), but the intention is clear. Joshua (Ihs filius Nabe) is placed to the right of Aaron to indicate that he marks the next period.[*]Zaluska notes a peculiarity of the Sigma recension suggesting its editor may have seen a very old model: he places Moses at the start of the line of judges and makes Saul the final judge, the end of that line, but the Sigma editor then unaccountably breaks the sequence by moving the periods of foreign domination outside it. See Zaluska, Stemmata.

In the Plutei version, the roundels are actually connected by left-to-right lines, and Moses, who lived longer than his brother Aaron (Numbers 20:22-29 and Deuteronomy 10:6) is inserted into the sequence, although of course he is Aaron's brother, not his son:

Given the Great Stemma's attention to synchronisms, it appears likely that this line to the brothers Aaron and Moses is being presented in the document as a chronological scale. The parallel line of descent from Judah, placed along the top of the page, was probably in step-by-step alignment with this descent from Levi. Importantly, care has been taken to exactly align Nahshon with his sister Elisheba, the wife of Aaron. The author was thus able to present both a primary chronological baseline and a secondary genealogical line with which it could be compared.

It is plausible as well that the author wished to demonstrate a similar synchronicity with the family of Job, though this can be no more than a hypothesis.

It also seems likely that in 427 CE when it was comparatively new, the Great Stemma contained a much more compact account of the Levites than the full page we see today. If the G recension of the Liber Genealogus is a reliable witness, and I have presented evidence that it is, then the only names along this baseline are likely to have been Levi, Kohath, Amram, Aaron, Moses and Miriam, with a mini-stemma possibly added to show four priestly sons of Aaron: Nadab, Abihu, Eleazar and Ithamar, followed by the grandson, Phineas.

It seems likely that it was only the subsequent editions of the chart which expanded the Levite offspring into a full stemma of their own. This more complex stemma is discussed in more detail on the page dealing with traverses.

It should be noted that this traditional Christian division of the 430-year timespan was deprecated in the Chronological Canons of Eusebius, which adopted the same overall interval up to the rule of Joshua but with different reasoning. Eusebius does not explicitly divide up the period by individual lives: whether Levi was born in the 168th year of the Promise, as calculated above by Hippolytus, or in the 170th year, as our manuscripts of Jerome's translation suggest, is unclear, and Aaron's ancestry is only mentioned once in Eusebius's note: "Amram fathered Moses when he was 70 years old."

Instead Eusebius divides up the 505-year period working with a calculation of the duration of Joseph's rule in Egypt. Beginning from the birth of Jacob, the Eusebius division proceeds:

Moses was thus born in the 64th year of the servitude, making him 80 in the last year of the servitude, by Eusebius's reckoning.[*]Finegan, 264 sets this out compactly.

The roundel describing the short reign of the two Magi brothers has already been discussed. Its text offers circumstantial evidence of a link to Hippolytus or to Julius Africanus. The Plutei manuscript says, "Two twins ruled for eight years," but other manuscripts say, "... for eight months," and it is likely that the author did indeed write "months", and that "years" is a copyist's mistake. The number eight, common to all the manuscripts, is also wrong.

As we know from Herodotus, Smerdis is supposed to have ruled for seven months, not eight, and Eusebius appears to reproduce this correctly: "3rd of the Persians, two magi brothers, for 7 months, after whom, 4th, Darius, for 36 years."

The author probably picked up this detail from Hippolytus. The number had already gone askew in some of the manuscripts of the Hippolytan tradition, since we find the usually reliable Liber Generationis II recension giving us the number seven, but the later Liber Generationis I recension corrupting the number to eight. It is likely that this is a simple transmission error, where a copyist mistakes a shadow or a play of the light on his model manuscript for an additional stroke, and as a result copies the number as VIII, thus increasing it to eight.[*]Helm's 1955 edition of Hippolytus sets out the data from the various manuscripts in a tabulation opposite page 178.

It is at least conceivable that the number had already been corrupted when the Great Stemma timeline was constructed, but more study will be needed to explore the significance of this.

Two more time-spans in the Great Stemma that stretch across the the history of Rome (the duration of the monarchy and the duration of the republic) are difficult to link to Hippolytus. The Roman section is not described at all in the G recension of the Liber Genealogus and one suspects the section was added later than 427. But where does the material come from? The numbers of years offered by the extant manuscripts of the Great Stemma either represent an autonomous Late Antique historical tradition or have been seriously corrupted during their transmission into the early medieval period. The numbers and possible ways to interpret them are discussed on a separate page.[*]It remains a matter of debate whether the Stemma originally agreed or not with the Canons on the age of the world up to the time of the birth of Abraham. Eusebius regarded all history prior to Abraham as uncertain and merely stated the pre-Abraham span in global fashion as a period of 2,242 years: this is the number given in the Ordo Annorum Mundi (separately discussed). The author (or an editor?) of the Great Stemma has modified the Methusaleh time span given by the Septuagint and would seem to arrive at a new total of 2,262 years from Adam to the birth of Abraham, a plus of 20 years.

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