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Divorce in Papyrus Ṣeʾelim 13 Once Again: A Reply to Tal Ilan*

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  10 June 2011

Adiel Schremer
Bar-Ilan University


Tal Ilan, in her recent “Notes and Observations On a Newly Published Divorce Bill from the Judaean Desert,” attempts to turn the “old view of Jewish divorce on its head.” She suggest that, “Perhaps in ancient Jewish practice women could divorce their husbands, and it is an accident of our transmission history that this fact is not amply illustrated.” This suggestion rests on her reading of Papyrus Se'elim 13, published and identified by Jonas C. Greenfield and Ada Yardeni as a receipt for the payment of the requisite money (“kethuba money”) promised at the time of marriage to be paid in the event of divorce. Ilan argues that this document is in fact a bill of divorce, and that it was given by a woman to her husband.

Notes and Observations
Copyright © President and Fellows of Harvard College 1998

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l HTR 89 (1996)195202.Google Scholar

2 , Ilan, “Newly Published Divorce Bill,201.Google Scholar One should emphasize here that the “old view,” according to which only the man, not the woman, could initiate a bill of divorce, derives not only onthe unanimous view of the rabbinic sources, but also on Josephus's explicittestimony (Ant. 15.259-60). Were it the case that some Jews accepted the validity of divorces by wives and others rejected them, presumably the latter would view the offspring of subsequents marriages by such divorcing wives as illegitimate (mamzerin), but available sources offer no indication of such a problem. See also Katzoff, Ranon, “Legal CommentaryGoogle Scholar,” in Lewis, Naphtali, Katzoff, Ranon, and Greenfield, Jonas C., “Papyrus Yadin 18,” IEJ 37 (1987) 243–46Google Scholar.

3 , Ilan, “Newly Published Divorce Bill,” 201.Google Scholar

4 See Yardeni, Ada and Greenfield, Jonas C., “A Receipt for Ketubba,” in Gafni, Isaiah M., Oppenheimer, Aharon, and Schwartz, Daniel, eds. The Jews in the Hellenistic-Roman World:Studies in Memory of Menahem Stern (Jerusalem: The Zalman Shazar Center for Jewish History and the Historical Society of Israel, 1996) 197298 [Hebrew].Google Scholar, Yardeni included a revised version of this article in her Nahal Se'elim Documents (Jerusalem: Ben Gurion University of the Negev Press and the Israel Exploration Society, 1995) 5560 [Hebrew];Google Scholar despite the dates of these publications, the former in fact appeared before the latter. An English version (with some important modifications) is now available in Cotton, Hanna M. and Yardeni, Ada, Aramaic, Hebrew, and Greek Texts from Nahal Hever and other Sites with an Appendix Containing Alleged Qumran Texts (The Seiyal Collection, II) (DJD 27; Oxford:Clarendon 1997) 6570.Google Scholar To the best of my knowledge, the identification of the nature of the text as a receipt of kethuba () was first suggested to the late Professor Greenfield by Peretz Segal.

5 See Milik, Jozef T., “Le travail d'edition des manuscript du Désert de Juda,” VTSup 4 (1956) 21.Google Scholar See also Pierre Benoit, Milik, Jozef T., and Vaux, Roland de, Le grottes de Muraba 'at (DJD 2; Oxford: Clarendon, 1961) 108Google Scholar.

6 , Ilan, “Newly Published Divorce Bill,” 196–97.Google Scholar

8 The Hebrew original runs as follows: See , Yardeni, Nahal Se'elim Documents, 55 n. 1.Google Scholar in the parrallel version of the article (published by Greenfiled and Yardeni in the Stern Memorial Volume [“Receipt”] the text of that note runs as follows: (“is based on the restoration of the word at line 6”). The omission of these words seem to be a mere printing error, for without them the argument lacks any sense.

9 , Ilan, “Newly Published Divorce Bill,” 198.Google Scholar

12 Ibid., 199 n. 17.

13 Below I shall suggest a third possibility.

14 These two possibilities were mentioned long ago by Mordechai Friedman, A., Jewish Marriage in Palestine (2 vols.; Tel Aviv: Tel–Aviv University and the Jewish Theological Seminary, 1980) 1. 319 n. 26.Google Scholar Friedman assumed that Milik's contention that the document is a bill of divorce given by the wife to her husband rested on reading this word in the feminine, and therefore he stresses the possibility of reading it as masculine third person. I am indebted t o Hanan Eshel, who drew my attention to Friedman's note.

15 I emphasize “seems to be,” because below I shall point to a different possibility.

16 Reading the parallel in the Masada get (, Ilan, “A Newly Published Divorce Bill,” 196)Google Scholar emphasizes the fact that should have been had these words come from the wife, Shelamzion, for it reads: (“that you have been my wife”). The fact that the text does not read shows, therefore, that this sentence does not emanate from Shelamzion. See again, however, the previous note.

17 It is not, in any event, third person singular (“had been”), as Ilan translates it; “had been,” in the third person would have been .

18 As indicated above, Ilan (above, n. 12) took the suffix of to indicate the definite article (“the husband”), notas a possessive suffix (“her husband”). Although morphologically this is possible, in context, however, “a husband” obviously means “her husband.”

19 See , Yardeni and , Greenfield, “Receipt for a Ketubba,” 199 n. 7.Google Scholar, Yardeni. Nahal Se'elim Documents, 56 n. 7Google Scholar

20 Incidentally, at this point this was also llan's translation, but she did not make any effort to establish it as a possibility. Herdiscussion of how the suffix of the word should be rendered (see above, n. 12) shows that she did not really think of the possibility that I am suggesting here; had she thought of that possibility, she certainly would have rendered this word in the first person (“my husband”) as I am suggestinghere, for such a reading would fit her understanding of the text much better.

21 Although this reading fits Ilan's general reading of the text, she did not raise it as a possibility.

22 The spelling as equivalent to isknown already from Job 37:6. It is attested also in the Masada get. See Naveh, Joseph, On Sherd and Papyrus —Aramaic and HebrewInscriptions from the Second Temple, Mishnaic and Talmudic Periods (Jerusalem: Magnes, 1992 ) 90 (at line 5);Google Scholar and in another document from the Judaean desert, published by Milik, Jozef T., “Deux documents inédits du Désert de Juda,” Bib 38 (1957) 249Google Scholar (at line 4). See also , Naveh, Sherd and Papyrus, 97.Google Scholar The interchange between these two spellings is very common in ancient Hebrew manuscripts. See, for example, E. S. Rosenthal, in Kutscher, Yehezkel, Lieberman, Saul, and Kadari, Menahem Tsevi, eds., Hanoch Yalon Memorial Volume (Jerusalem: Kiryat Sefer Publishing House, 1963) 289, 304Google Scholar; Schremer, Adiel, “Kinship Terminology and Endogamous Marriage in Mishnaic and Talmudic Periods,” Zion 60 (1995) 23 n. 73.Google Scholar The spelling with an alef should therefore cause no difficulty treating this word in the text under consideration as if it were written with a he .

23 One can hardly identify the first letter of the word as a dalet, and the yod is absent altogether.

24 This might indeed have been Milik's thought, when he suggested viewing this document as a bill of divorce given by the wife to her husband. llan, however, does not raise this possibility, and it is therefore hard to follow her rendering of as “this is from me to you” instead of “which you had from him.

25 A comparison of the two documents appears in , Ilan, “Newly Published Divorce Bill,” 198200Google Scholar.

26 The Masada get (according to , Ilan, “Newly Published Divorce Bill,” 198)Google Scholar 11. 3-8. It is not without importance that the Masada get entirely conforms withthe definition of a bill of divorce given by the rabbis in m.Git 9.3: “The essence of a get [=a bill of divorce] is [the words]: ‘You are thereby permitted to any man.’ Rabbi Yehuda says: ‘And this shall be to you from me a bill of divorce and a writ of release, to goand be married to any man you wish’“

27 , Ilan (“Newly Published Divorce Bill,” 200)Google Scholar dismisses this fact and says that it is no surprise because “a Jewish man can marry any woman he wishes without his wife's permission and even without a divorce.” In light of her argument, that one should not assume rabbinic halakah of divorce to be the only system in use (by Jews of that era), her selective use of rabbinic halakah here seems to me to be arbitrary. A legal system that allows both spouses to divorce each other (thus being more equal) would probably not allow a man to marry an additional woman over his wife (i.e., polygynous marriage) without divorce. Such a system would probably see this kind of act simply as adultery.

28 It is to be noted that this is the last word in that line, and as one can see in the photograph of the papyrus, space allows such a restoration. See , Yardeni and , Greenfield “Receipt for a Ketubba,” 200;Google Scholar, Yardeni, Nahal se'elim Documents, 54Google Scholar.

29 Note that this translation shares my above suggested reading in two major points: it take s the word as “from me” (not as “from him,” as was suggested by Greenfield and Yardeni), and it understands the word in the beginning of line 7 (which I propose to read ) as pronou “hee is”(not “was,” asunderstood by Greenfield and Yardeni).

30 This text thus fits the form of omolgia Greek documents, and this is the reason why the name of the person who gives the declaration (Shelamzion) appears in the text itself. On this point see: Segal, Peretz, “The Hebrew IOU Note from the Time of th e Bar Kochba Period,” Tarbiz 60 (1990) 115and n. 8Google Scholar.

31 This is due to the husband's obligation to pay his wife a certain amount of money in case he divorces her (or in case he dies before her, and she remains a widow), as was written in the kethuba (marriage contract) he gave his wife when their marital bond was established.

32 See above, n. 4.

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