2012-11-07

The Tamar Storyboard

I've been studying a curious little flow-chart embedded in the Great Stemma of the Morgan Beatus that describes  Tamar's lucky-on-the-third-shot pregnancy in Genesis 38.

A revisor has added to this diagram a visualization of his own creation for one of the strangest sexual scandals in the Bible story, Tamar's seduction of Judah while pretending to be a veiled prostitute.

Tamar had been married to Judah's eldest son, Er. After she was widowed, Judah's second son Onan had sex with her but employed a crude form of contraception. Tamar then used a ruse to seduce her lecherous father in law and became pregnant. Her twin sons are either the sons or the grandsons of Judah, depending on your interpretation of this soap-opera plot.

Whether Shua, the wife of Judah, accepted this unusual family constellation is not recorded in Genesis, but the revisor devised the following compact visual summary of the story which retains for Shuah the place of honour in the emotionally tangled Judah household. It appears in flow-chart fashion in the Morgan Beatus like this: 

Leah
I have left out the text and instead used letters to mark the characters. Here, J is Judah, J1 and J2 are his first and second sons Er and Onan, and T is Tamar. Her twin children are marked JG, since the text marks them as sons of Judah and ambo gemini. Having the two twins arrayed in symmetry either side of their mother is a neat trick.

Perhaps it was Maius himself, the scribe-scholar who was in charge of making M 644 at the Morgan Library in New York, who devised this little flow chart. The roundel intervening between J and J1 is Shua, Judah's wife.

This addition, thus arranged, is only found in one other manuscript of the diagram, that made 100 years later by Facundus for King Fernando and Queen Sancha of Le├│n.

The whole group in the above sketch is composed of the six sons and daughter Dinah (D) of Leah (L). Links to online views of the manuscripts can be found on my manuscripts page.

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