Grauw’s blog

Genesis genealogical tree

January 21st, 2009

Someone made a genealogy display application for Freebase, and I must say it looks real nice. Now where did I stow away that family tree that I once made for a high school project? ^_^ Anyway, I spent the most part of today digging through (translations of) the books of Genesis and Jubilees (part of the Dead See scrolls)!

Not that all of a sudden I have become religious :), but one of the examples involved Abraham, and the amount of detail surprised me. After following some links and correcting some simple things (missing gender, mainly), I found that most of the data was taken from the book of Genesis, and that Genesis mostly describes the most important male descendants. However, there is also the book of Jubilees, which contains much more elaborate descriptions of the family relations.

So I started going through the chapters of Jubilees and adding the missing people to Freebase, and what results is a pretty intriguing overview. I only went through the line from Adam and Eve up to Abraham, but it’s already a pretty significant set of data. It’s really interesting how meticulously the relations were described.

One of the things I found while doing this is a contradiction between Genesis and Jubilees in one point. Genesis says that Shelah is the son of Arpachchad, Jubilees (and some other sources) say that he is his grandson and that Arpachchad’s son is Cainan. Now I read an article on that which basically says ‘it could be one way or the other, but most likely it is a scribal error’. That reasoning seems to fall apart however when considering the relatively extensive details on Canain in Jubilees, which go far beyond the simple error described there. The first explanation the article gives seems more likely. It surprised me that the article did not consider Jubilees at all.

If you ask me, I think that probably Canain was removed from the scriptures for some political reason. Perhaps he had done something that made him fall out of grace, or maybe Shelan (who is a minor character in the bible) wanted to increase his importance by portraying himself as a direct son of the great patriarch Abraham. If you look at Egyptian history, these kind of intrigues happened all the time.

I can see how people are intrigued by these books and want to spend a lot of time researching them. But you do have to view them from an archaeological and historical point of view, as as annals of a dynasty, like the faraos, and not from a religious perspective. The faraos wanted their people to consider them as gods, these rulers from around the same time wanted the people to consider them as descendants from gods.

Anyway, click around a bit on the page linked below.

» Adam and Eve genealogy
» Adam and Eve genealogy (expanded)



Re: Genesis genealogical tree by Grauw at 2009-03-01 13:53

Basically, there can be two things that happened: either Cainan was left out of Genesis (be it on purpose or in error), or Cainan was put into Jubilees.

If you consider the bible to be a true account of events, a scribal error or (political) omission seem likely explanations of why Cainan does not appear in Genesis. On the other hand, if writing the bible was a ‘creative process’, it seems more likely that such an ‘addition’-type mistake has slipped in, where Cainan was put into Jubilees together with a slew of other people and the inconsistency error was accidentally not caught by the editor of the work.

Personally, I think these books are a kind of a mix of both fact and fiction. So for me it could go either way, although I like to think that this part mostly relates of real people. That is, of course not including Adam and Eve and their close descendants, which were meant to serve as a clarification for the direct line of descendence from god of the dynasty. But I digress.

Here’s the catch: the people who consider Genesis truth, and Jubilees ‘non-canonical’, they are left with the problem to explain how Cainan ended up in Jubilees. If they go for the explanation that then most likely explains Cainan not being mentioned in Genesis, they would have to admit that at least one important work in the biblical literature is fiction, and this involuntarily puts the other biblical literature under suspicion as well. I guess that is what saying it is ‘non-canonical’ indeed does. If they go for the other explanation, then they would have to admit that Genesis can be wrong, which opens a different can of worms.

Abraham and Sons by Emily at 2015-11-03 10:14

Abraham had 8 sons that we know about.
Ishmael, Isaac, Zimran, Jokshan, Medan, Midian, Ishbak, Shuah.
Shelan wanted to increase his importance by portraying himself as a direct son of the great patriarch Abraham.