The compilation of genealogical records goes back .to the earliest period of mankind. Although no less an authority than the scholarly Saint Paul appears to forbid the giving heed "to fables and endless genealogies" on the ground that they are unprofitable and vain, on reading carefully and analysing the true meaning of the great Roman Teacher we find that the term "genealogies" indicated something very different from the ordinary family pedigree. The Jews were often very contentious and made many "strivings about the law," their arguments being more upon the construction to be placed upon this and that point' and as to whom they should consider the highest authority on certain matters in dispute than on any mere question of personal descent.
We find, according to the book of Chronicles, "that all Israel were reckoned by genealogies, and behold they were written in the book of the Kings of Israel and Judah."
Like the taking of the census, it was a custom, and being such a general custom there could be small room for ostentation to assert itself, if we are to treat the term "genealogies" as equivalent to pedigrees. The common Jewish name for genealogy is Sepher toledoth (Liber Generationis). The Hebrews were very careful in preserving their genealogies, and perhaps there never was a nation more circumspect in this respect than the Jews. As an old and well-known Scottish concordance-compiler has put it- "We find at this day genealogies in their sacred writings carried on for above three thousand five hundred years. They were very exact, partly from their own choice and interest that they might preserve the distinctions of several tribes and families which were necessary both to make out their claims or titles to offices and inheritances, which might come to them by death, or otherwise; and to govern themselves thereby in the matter of marriages, and some other things, wherein the practice of some laws required the knowledge of these things." It is shown in Ezra that such priests as were not able to produce an exact genealogy of their families, were not permitted to exercise their functions. Thus their exactness was likewise ordered by the special providence of God so that it might be certainly known of what tribe and family the Messiah was born.
Josephus says that they had in his nation an uninterrupted succession of priests for two thousand years. He adds also that the priests were particularly careful to preserve their genealogies; and that not only in Judea, but also in Babylon and Egypt; and wherever they went they never married below themselves, and had exact genealogical tables prepared from those authentic monuments which were kept at Jerusalem, and to which they had recourse upon occasion; that in all their wars, persecutions and public calamities they always were particularly diligent in securing those monuments, and to renew them from time to time. Notwithstanding, since the war which the