Marriage Contract
for Shelamzion and Judah

Language: Greek (with Aramaic
signatures and subscript)
Medium: papyrus
Length: 80 lines
(2 duplicate copies)
Size: 60 cm long
18.5 cm wide
Genre: marriage contract
Bride: Shelamzion
Groom: Judah Kimber
Date: 5 April, 128 C.E.
Place of discovery: "Cave of Letters"
Nahal Hever
Judean desert
Date of discovery: 1961
Present location: Israel Museum
Identification no.: P.Yadin 16
(Yadin Papyri)

(Lewis 1983:77-80)
(Readable as Greek if the
"Symbol" font is installed)
(Adapted from Lewis 1983:80-81)

epi upatwn Poupleion Meteiliou NepwnoV to b kai Markou Anniou LibwnoV nwnaiV ApriliaiV ariqmw de thV neaV eparceiaV ArabiaV etouV tritou eikostou mhnoV Xandikou pentekaidekath en Mawza peri Zoaran exedoto IoudaV Eleazarou tou kai CqousiwnoV Selamyiwnhn thn idian qugateran autou parqenon Ioudati epikaloumenw Kimberi uiw Ananiou tou Swmala amfoteroi apo kwmhV Aingadwn thV IoudaiaV enqade katamenonteV einai thn Selamyiwnhn Ioudati Kimberi gunaikan gamethn proV gamou koinwnian kata touV nomouV prosferomenhn autw eiV logon prosforaV kosmian gunaikian en argurw kai crusw kai imatismw diatetei mh menhn en allhloiV wV legousin oi amfoteroi axiocrean einai arguriou dhnariwn diakosiwn hn teimografian wmologhsen o ghmaV IoudaV o kaloumenoV Kimber apeilhfenai par authV dia ceiroV paracrhma para Ioudou patroV authV kai ofeilein auton th auth Selamyiwnh gunaiki autou ama dhnariwn allwn triakosiwn a wmologhsen dounai auth proV ta thV progegrammenhV prosforaV authV panta eiV logon proikoV authV akolouqwV airesei trofhV kai amfiasmou authV te kai twn mellontwn teknwn ellhnikw nomw epi thV tou autou Iouda KimberoV pistewV kai kidunou kai pantwn uparcontwn wn te ecei en th auth patridi autou kai enqade kai wn an epikthshtai panth pantwn kuriwV tropw w an airhtai h Selamyiwnh gunh autou h oV di authV h uper authV prasswn airhtai thn eispraxin poieisqai. allaxei de IoudaV o kaloumenoV Kimber th gunaiki autou Selamyiwnh thn sungrafhn tauthn en argurw hsfalismenw wV kaqhkei opotan auton apaithsei taiV eautou dapanaiV kata mhden antilegwn. ei de mh ge ektisei auth ta progegrammena dhnaria panta diploun kai thV praxewV geinomenhV auth apo te Ioudou KimberoV androV authV kai ek twn uparcontwn autou kuriwV tropw w an airhtai Selamyiwnh h oV di authV h uper authV prasswn thn eispraxin poieisqai. pistei ephrwthqh kai anqwmologhqh tauta outwV kalwV geinesqai.

[Aramaic signatures and subscript:]
QeenaV SimwnoV liblarioV egraya.

In the consulship of Publius Metilius Nepos for the second time and Marcus Annius Libo on the nones of April, and by the computation of the new Provinica Arabia: 23rd year on the 15th of the month Xandikos; in Maoza, Zoara district; Judah son of Eleazar, also (known as) Khthusion, gave Shelamzion, his very own daughter, a virgin, to Judah—called Kimber—son of Ananias son of Somalas, both of the village of En-gedi in Judea, living here, for Shelamzion to be married to Judah Kimber for the partnership of marriage according to the laws. She brought to him for dowry women's jewelry in silver and god, and clothing appraised by mutual agreement, as they both attest, to be worth two hundred denarii of silver. Judah, who is called Kimber, the bridegroom, acknowledges that he received this value from her by hand from Judah her father and that he owes to Shelamzion his wife three hundred denarii which he promised to give her in addition to the sum of her dowry. This is all accounted toward her dowry, pursuant to his undertaking of feeding and clothing both her and future children in accordance with Greek custom upon the said Judah Kimber's good faith and peril and the [security of] all his possessions, both those he now has in his home village, and here, and all those which he may additionally validly acquire elsewhere, in whatever manner his wife Shelamzion may choose, or whoever acts through her or for her may choose, to carry out the execution. Judah who is called Kimber shall redeem this contract for his wife Shelamzion, whenever she may demand it from him, in silver secured in due form, at his own expense, interposing no objection. But if not, he shall pay to her twice the mentioned denarii, she having the right of execution, both from Judah Kimber her husband and upon the possesions validly his, in whatever manner Shelamzion or whoever acts through her or for her may choose to carry out the execution. In good faith, the formal question was asked and it was acknowledged in reply that this is correctly performed.

[Aramaic signatures and subscript:]

Yehudah son of Elazar Khthousion: "I have given my daughter Shelamzion, a virgin, in marriage to Yehudah Kimber son of Hananiah son of Somala, according to what is written above. Yehudah wrote it."

Yehudah Kimber son of Hananiah son of Somala: "I acknowledge the debt of five hundred silver denarii, the dowry of Shelamzion my wife, according to what they wrote above. Yehudah wrote it.

Theenas son of Simon, librarius: "I wrote this."

[Aramaic signatures on the back:]

Yehudah son of Elazar wrote it.
Yehudah son of Hananiah wrote it.
[. . . . .] son of [. . . .].
Shim'on son of [. . . .], witness.
Eliezer son of Hilqiah, witness.
Yosef son of Hananiah, witness.
Wanah son of [. . . .], for himself.

Nones is the fifth or seventh day of each month in the Roman calendar; in April it was the fifth.

Maoza was a village in the Zoara district; Zoara was a town at the southern end of the Dead Sea. This district was in the Roman province known, after 106 C.E., as Provincia Arabia, which was the land of the Nabateans; see Bowersock (1983).

En-gedi was a village on the west bank of the Dead Sea.

denarius (plural: denarii) was the basic unit of coinage used throughout the Roman Empire.

Librarius is the Greek transliteration of the Latin term for a scribe and archivist/scribe.



    1. What functions did such a marriage contract serve?

    2. What are: dowry, indirect dowry, and bridewealth? How do they differ? See Hanson and Oakman (1998:37-43); Hanson (1990:10-15).

    3. What is the reason for Judah, the groom, pledging, but not actually paying, the 300 denarii? Compare the Mishnah Qiddushin 1.1.

    4. Why would such a transaction require witnesses?

    5. Why would the document mention "Greek custom" (ellhnikw nomw)?

    6. Why would such a document have been written in both Greek and Aramaic?



    Bowersock, Glen W. Roman Arabia. Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1983.

    Goody, Jack. The Oriental, the Ancient and the Primitive: Systems of Marriage and the Family in the Pre-Industrial Societies of Eurasia. Studies in Literacy, Family, Culture and the State. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990.

    Hanson, K. C. "The Herodians and Mediterranean Kinship. II: Marriage and Divorce." Biblical Theology Bulletin 19 (1989) 142-51.

    Hanson, K. C. "The Herodians and Mediterranean Kinship. III: Economics." Biblical Theology Bulletin 20 (1990) 10-21.

    Hanson, K. C. and Douglas E. Oakman. Palestine in the Time of Jesus: Social Structures and Social Conflicts. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1998.

    Lewis, Naphtali, editor. Documents from the Bar Kokhba Period in the Cave of Letters. Vol. 1: Greek Papyri. Judean Desert Studies. Jerusalem: Israel Exploration Society, 1989.

    Yadin, Yigael. Bar Kokhba. New York: Random House, 1971.

    Yadin, Yigael. "Expedition D—The Cave of Letters." Israel Exploration Journal 12 (1962) 227-57.

    Yadin, Yigael. The Finds from the Bar-Kokhba Period in the Cave of the Letters. Judean Desert Studies, 1. Jerusalem: Israel Exploration Society, 1963.


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Last Modified: 17 June 2008