How Did This Happen?

The MT of 1 Chronicles 6:1 reads, בני לוי גרשׁון קהת ומררי, “Sons of Levi: Gershom, Kothath, and Merari.” The Old Greek renders its vorlage for the same passage, Υἱοὶ Λευι· Γεδσων, Κααθ καὶ Μεραρι,”Sons of Levi: Gedson, Kaath and Merari.” And Josephus, apparently channeling the same passage, reads, τρεῖς δὲ Λευὶ γεγόνασιν υἱοί, Γολγόμης Κάαθος Μαράιρος, “Levi had three sons, Golgomais, Kaathos, Merarios (Ant. Iud. 2.178).” Now I don’t know much about the Old Greek Bible and even less about Josephus but something weird is going on with this Gershom/Gedson/Golgomais fellow. The name just isn’t stable across these traditions. While it takes a couple of steps and does not speak to priory, I can sort explain the Gershom/Gedson part of this trio. Note that the Old Syriac has gršn. But Golgomais?
Just to make things abnormally interesting, Jeffrey Tigay, 252, n. 5, suggested that Josephus might be channeling both 1 Chronicles 6.1 and Gilgamesh(!). I don’t see that George even mentions this idea. But, is this possible? Claudius Aelianus provides the only certain Greek reference to Gilgamesh – Γίλγαμος (De Natura Animalium 12.21). Aelian wrote about 100 years after Josephus. We also have mention of Gilgamesh (גלגמש\ס) in the Aramaic Book of Giants from Qumran (4Q531 and 4Q530). His name was known but was Josephus really thinking of it?

George, Andrew, The Babylonian Gilgamesh Epic: introduction, critical edition and cuneiform texts (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003).
Tigay, Jeffrey, The Evolution of the Gilgamesh Epic (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1982).

2 thoughts on “How Did This Happen?”

  1. Duane,
    Thank you for this interesting information. I was not aware of Josephus’s translation on 1 Chronicles 6:1. Winston’s translation has “Gershom.”
    I checked all my commentaries on 1 Chronicles and none of them mentions Josephus. I was going to write a follow up to your post, but there is just no information on why Josephus used Golgomes instead of Gershom.
    Claude Mariottini

  2. Duane-
    Interesting problem. The first thing that jumps out at me is that in the majuscule script, the lamed and the delta were easily confused in antiquity. This is why some Septuagint manuscripts have Delilah’s name as Dedilah or some other variant. This might show Josephus’ dependence on the Old Greek, which itself has understood the Hebrew resh as a daleth. I suppose reading “GOL/GEL” could spark an association with Gilgamesh. I don’t see how the rest of the name can be derived from the Vorlage unless it was illegible to him or had some other corruption. I find another occurrence of Gilgamesh in the Greek on TLG in General Prosody, by Aelius Herodianus (which is about the same time period as Claudius), and the spelling is γιλγαμης (at least it seems to me to be “Gilgamesh”).

Comments are closed.