Abstract

Some scholars of Jewish history of Late Antiquity claim that in the second century C.E. rabbis and rabbinic tradition had no substantial influence on the lives of Jews outside of the rabbis' own small coteries. An argument used to support this claim is the apparent absence of any reference to rabbinic law in the legal documents found in the Judaean Desert. Though several scholars have pointed to the continuities between the documents and rabbinic juristic literature, it has been possible to counter that these continuities should not be seen as influence of rabbinic law on Jewish practice but rather as evidence that rabbis adopted popular practice into their law. P.Yadin 21/22, document a transaction dated 130 C.E., in which a Jewish woman, Babatha, sells the crop of her late husband's orchards. The price is stated as part of that self-same crop. This odd transaction, not paralleled in Greek papyri, is perplexing. It is here proposed that P.Yadin 21 is designed as a simulated transaction, a dodge, allowing a widow to apply self-help in exercising her rights vis-a-vis her late husband's estate as would have been recognized in tannaitic law at the time of the transaction, particularly in the halakhah stated by Rabbi Akiva and Rabbi Yehudah, whose views are reflected in other documents of the same find. It is significant that the dodge would make sense in neither Roman nor Greek law. This, then, is a case in which rabbinic jurisprudence affected Jewish practice, not the reverse.

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Additional Information

ISSN
1553-0604
Print ISSN
0021-6682
Pages
pp. 545-575
Launched on MUSE
2007-12-04
Open Access
No
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