Window into the Past

Until now I have paid very little attention to a derivative version of the Great Stemma which is found in four bible manuscripts of the 12th and 13th centuries (described here). There are however some indications that this version may provide a window into the past, since it was probably adapted from the Great Stemma at quite an early date.

At first sight, the version that is found in the bibles of Parc, Floreffe, Foigny and Burgos seems very different from the 5th-century original: it is a frontal attack on the Great Stemma author's belief that the Virgin Mary had a father, Joachim, and a grandfather, Joseph, who were direct male-line descendants of King David. It asserts the early medieval orthodoxy, based on the idea that Mary's spouse Joseph had two separate male-line ancestries.

This assault on the Great Stemma imitates its structure while condemning its author's theology and Umfeld as erroneous. Rather like silver-tongued Edmund Burke using radical argumentation to attack radicalism itself, the revisor has appropriated the diagrammatic technique of his opponent to defend the mainstream represented by the thought of Isidore of Seville. He wished to:
  • erase the Joachimite explanation of the Gospel contradiction (it is replaced by part of Rufinus's translation of the Letter to Aristides); 
  • add the etymologies of Jerome of Stridon (as adopted by Isidore) to explain the biblical names, implicitly rejecting the counter-etymologies in the Liber Genealogus
  • adjust the content wherever possible to harmonize it with the Vulgate and suppress influences from the Vetus Latina biblical text. As an example, the order of the Minor Prophets is changed to that prescribed by Jerome.
Screeds of Isidore's Mysticorum expositiones sacramentorum also known as the Quaestiones in Vetus Testamentum have been overlaid on the diagram, presenting Old Testament events as allegories of the New. "The Old Testament is exclusively read in the Quaestiones according to the allegorical interpretation," explains Claudio Leonardi in his essay, Old Testament Interpretation ... from the Seventh to the Tenth Century. "Allegory is used by him to read every Old Testament passage and to discover in it the proclamation of Christ's own message.

Despite this revised document's hostility to the Great Stemma, it does offer a few indications of how the Great Stemma might have looked before our oldest extant manuscripts came into existence. Comparing its page divisions with the "purest" recension of the Great Stemma, that in the manuscript of Florence, we are struck by some uncanny similarities.

The section describing the Horrite and Edomite rulers from Genesis 36: 20-43 appears precisely as in the Epsilon recension under the heading, Hi sunt filii Esau qui in Monte Seir nati sunt. The Horrites from Lotan to Anah appear on one page, while Dishon, Ezer and Dishan are delayed to the next page. The Judaean kings from Rehoboam to Ahaz are neatly fitted into a single page with some zigzags, avoiding the strange muddle that afflicts the 13th page of the Florentine manuscript where this succession ends in a kind of graphic traffic jam.

In the Judges section there are two interesting amplifications. For the foreign-rule period we read Alienigene annis XL, and for the peace period in the Foigny Bible we read, Pacem habuerunt et sine lege fuerunt.

Later we read, David filius Iesse, magnus rex et propheta, regnavit super Israel annis XL, in Ebron sex, in Ierusalem XXXIIII, and Salomon pacificus filius David rex Israel regnavit annis XL. As in the Liber Genealogus, durations are given for most of the reigns after the kingdom is divided as a result of the Judaean secession. Of interest is the inclusion in the Foigny, but not in the Burgos text, of certain chronological data from after the Exile which is notably lacking in the other recensions of the diagram. Whether it comes from Isidore or from the early diagram is uncertain:
  • Regnum persarum et medorum a temporibus Cyri vel Darii usque ad extremum Darium qui ab Alexandro Magno victus occubuit fuerunt anni centum octoginta novem. 
  • Rex macedonum a temporum et Alexandri Magni usque ad Cleopatram regnam Egypti. Rex Antiochus ex Syrie qui Iudeos varia calamitate oppressit plurimos que ex ipsis ob defensionem legis mortes? fecit.
  • Iulius Cesar regnavit annum unum ex quo in regno romanorum imperatores et?? ceperunt. 
  • Octavianus augustus regnavit annis LX iste obtinuit monarchiam. 
  • Thyberius Augustus regnavit annis XXIII huius Tyberii imperatoris anno XVIII Christus passus est.

One also suspects a couple of the glosses in Foigny might pre-date Isidore, although there is nothing that verbally resembles them in the Liber Genealogus. The division into the Northern and Southern Kingdoms is explained with the words, Ab hinc regnum Israel in Roboam atque in Iheroboam divisum bipertitum est, effectum ex quo tribus Effraim principatum obtinuit, and the expiry of Samaria is explained: Osee iste est qui quondam fuit rex super X tribus Israel in Samaria qui temporum Salmanasar regis ab Assiriis captus ...

All of these passages need to be studied more closely, since they could potentially preserve lost text of the original Great Stemma. I am grateful to Dr Andrea Worm for sharing with me information and insights about the Foigny Bible which have led to these observations.

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