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Babatha’s Ketubah: An Early Marriage Contract

Greco-Roman Period
This is one of the earliest ketubot known to us. The purpose of the ketubah (marriage contract) is to protect the wife by providing a guaranteed financial settlement (the ketubah payment) in the event that the marriage ends by the death of the husband or divorce. The ketubah contains the following elements- date and place of its writing, names of the groom and bride, the marriage proposal, the promise to give the bride her due, the mandatory ketubah clauses or “court stipulations,” the statement that the document will be replaced, and the statement by the groom that he accepts all the above provisions.

RECTO-

On the [thi]rd of Adar in the consulship of… [that you will be] my wife [according to
the la]w of Moses and the “Judaeans” and I will [feed you] and [clothe] you and I will
bring you (into my house) by means of your ketubah and I owe you the sum of four
hundred denarii which equal one hundred tetradrachms whichever you wish “to take and
to…” from… together with the due amount of your food, and your clothes, and your
bed(?), provision fitting for a free woman… the sum of four hundred denarii which equal
one hundred tetradrachms whichever you wish “to take and to […from] …together with
the due amount of your food, and your bed(?), and your clothes, as a free woman.

And if you are taken captive, I will redeem you, from my house and from my estate, and
I will take you back as my wife, and I owe you your ketubah money… [and if I go to my
eternal home before you, male children which you will have by me will inherit your
ketubah money, beyond their share with their brothers,] female [child]ren shall dwell and
be provided for from my house and [from my estate un]til the time when they will be
[mar]ried. And if I go to my eternal h[ome] before you, you w[il]l [d]well in my house
and be provided for from my house and from my estate [until] the time that my heirs wish
to give you your ketubah money. And whenever you tell me [I will exchange this
document as is
proper]…..

[And I Yehudah son of El’azar Khthousion], I [acce]pt all that] is written
[above].

VERSO-

…for Babatha daughter of Shim’on due from
Yehudah son of El’azar

signatures

[Yehudah son of El’azar for himse]lf wrote it

Baba[ta daughter of] Shim[‘on] for herself

fragment of name witness

Toma son of Shim’on wi[tn]ess

147. Trans. Y. Yadin, J. C. Greenfield, A. Yardeni, “Babatha’s Ketubba,” Israel Exploration Journal 44
(1994), pp. 79-84. This papyrus document was discovered in 1961 by the expedition led by Yigael Yadin to
the Cave of the Letters in Nahal Hever in the Judean Desert.

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