Apr 19, 2009

Biblical Genealogies: Definition and Types

Genealogies tend to be an area of the Bible that most people know little about. However, I have to admit that I am a bit intrigued by this material. So I will have several posts dealing with some of my research in this area. Today, I want to discuss a definition and the types of genealogies.

Genealogies may be defined as “a written or oral expression of the descent of a person from an ancestor or ancestors.” [1] Broadly speaking genealogies have either/both breadth and depth.[2] Breadth relates to how many persons a genealogy lists in a single generation. Depth relates to the chronological length of the genealogy. Genealogies that have only depth are also called linear genealogies (e.g. 5:3-31). If a genealogy contains both breath and depth it is called a segmented genealogy (Gen 10:1-32). (A family tree is a common form of segmented genealogy.) A shift from a linear genealogy to a segmented genealogy often carries literary significance. Generally speaking, segmented genealogies seek to establish familial relationships, whereas linear genealogies seek to establish a link between the first and final descendant.[3]

[1] Robert R. Wilson, Genealogy and History in the Biblical World (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1977), 9.
[2] J. W. Wright, “Genealogies,” in
Dictionary of the Old Testament Pentateuch, ed. David W. Baker (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2003), 346.
[3] Bruce K. Waltke and Cathi J. Fredricks,
Genesis: A Commentary (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2001), 106-7.

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