Saturday, January 23, 2016

Genealogies, Chronologies, and Calendars... Oh, My!

After finally deciding to dig a little deeper into a pesky textual problem regarding the number of descendants of Jacob in Exodus 1:5, I found myself once again being pulled into a black hole of textual data. The variants arise from a harmonization to Genesis 46:27, where the same variation in numbers occurs. The different counts of Jacob's descendants in Genesis 46, in turn, is based on harmonizations to the genealogy in Numbers 26:28-37 in conjunction with a number of other disagreements on the inclusion/exclusion of other descendants from the counts. After reaching the third level of harmonizations, I simply decided to stop. Now I remember why I hate genealogies, chronologies, and calendars! The last time I tried to sort out a few contested dates I ended up spending a year on ancient calendars!

So, a warning to the wise... If you want to have a life outside of intricate textual minutia, stay away from anything having to do with genealogies, numbers, chronologies, and calendars! :) Okay... well, maybe somebody has to do it... But be prepared to dedicate a ridiculous amount of time to learning arcane things you never would have imagined yourself studying.

On a related side note, however, the vigor with which ancient scribes threw themselves into studying these details never ceases to amaze me. My life would probably be a lot easier if they hadn't cared so much about such things, but alas, they did. Respect... serious respect...

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