for a Date Crop

Language: Greek (with Aramaic
signatures and subscript)
Medium: papyrus
Length: 40 lines
Size: 16.2 cm wide
28.7 cm long
Genre: contract
Owner: Babatha
Buyer: Simon
Date: 10 September, 130 C.E.
Place of discovery: "Cave of Letters"
Nahal Hever
Judean desert
Date of discovery: 1961
Present location: Israel Museum
Identification no.: P.Yadin 19
(Yadin Papyri)

(Lewis 1983:98-99)
(Readable as Greek if
the "Symbol" font is installed)
(Adapted from Lewis 1983:99-100)

etouV enatou AutokratoroV Traianou Adrianou KaisaroV Sebastou epi upatwn Markou Flauouiou Aprou kai Koeintou Fabiou Kathlinou pro triwn eidwn Septembriwn kata ton ariqmon thV neaV eparciaV ArabiaV etouV pemtou kai eikostou Gorpiaiou tetarth kai eikaV en Mawza perimetrw Zoorwn BabaqaV SimwnoV Simwni Ihsouou Ananiou amfoteroi oikounteV en Mawza cairein omologw peprakenai soi karpian foinikwnoV khpwn . . . . Ioudou CqousiwnoV androV mou apogenomenou en Mawza katecw auta anti thV proikoV mou kai ofilhV legomenai gannaq Ferwra kai gannaq NikarkoV kai h trith tou Molcaiou eiV to enestwtoV etouV sou telountoV moi eiV ton progegrammenon eniauton eiV touV autouV khpouV pathtou prwtou kai deuterou talanta tessarakonta duw stanwn soi auta en th oikia sou zugw MawzaV tw kairw twn yugmwn eti de kai surou kai naarou kobalwn auta eiV thn oikian sou korouV duo sata pente metrw MawzaV ean de mh telisoiV moi ton progegrammenon foinika pan kaqwV progegrapte dwsiV moi eni ekastw talanton dhnaria duw kai surou kai naarou melanan mian emou kaqarapoiountoV soi touV progegrammenouV khpouV apo pantoV antipoioumenou. ean de tiV soi antipoihsh tou agorazmatoV kai mh staqisa kuriopoihsw soi kaqwV progegrapte esomai soi ofilousa anti twn swn kopwn kai analwmatwn arguriou dhnaria eikosi kata mhden antilegwn. kai ei ti an perisseuqh eiV touV progegrammenouV khpouV foinika tou Ioudou mon[. . .] lhmyei eiV seauton anti twn swn kopwn kai analwmatwn. Dia epitropou authV kai upografontoV IwanhV MaccouqaV thV authV MawzaV pistewV eperwthmenhV kai anqomologhmenhV. epigrafh eti de.

[Aramaic signatures and subscript]
egrafh dia Germanou liblariou.

In the 14th year of Emperor Trajan Hadrian Caesar Augustus , in the consulship of Marcus Flavius Aper and Quintus Fabius Catullinus, three days before the ides of September, according to the computation of the new province of Arabia 25th year on the 24th of Gorpiaios, in Maoza, Zoara district ; Babatha daughter of Simon to Simon son of Jesus son of Ananias, both resident in Maoza, greeting.
I acknowledge that I have sold to you the date crop of the groves formerly belonging to Judah son of Kthousion, my late husband, in Maoza. I distrain in lieu of my dowry and debt (owed me) the said properties called Pherora grove, and Nikarkos grove, and the third Molkhaios's for the current year, you paying me for the aforesaid year for the said groves forty-two talents of first and second "splits," weighing them in my house by the scales of Maoza at drying time, and also of Syrian and Naaran (dates), delivering them to (my) house, two koroi and five sata by the measure of Maoza. If you do not pay me the aforesaid dates, the total as mentioned, you shall give me for each talent of ("splits" two denarii and of Syrian and Naaran one "black." I shall clear the right to the previously mentioned groves for you of every counterclaimant, and if anyone enters a counterclaim against you because of your purchase and I do not firmly validate (it) for you as stated, I shall be owing to you in return for your labors and expenses twenty-five denarii, interposing no objection. Whatever is (produced) over and above in the mentioned groves, those dates . . . you shall take to yourself in return for your labors and expenses. Through her guardian who has also signed below, John son of Makouthas of Maoza, the formal question having in good faith been asked and acknowledged in reply.

[Aramaic signatures and subscript:]

Babatha daughter of Shim'on: "I have sold to you, Shim'on, the produce of the palm orchards that belonged to Yehudah, my husband, son of Kthousion, which I have taken . . . according to what is written in this document, forty-two talents by the Nabatean weight 2 kors and 5 seahs as in the document which . . . your produce according to what is written above.

Yohana son of Makoutha, her guardian: "I have written by order of Babatha . . ."

[Aramaic and Greek signatures of witnesses and scribe:]

[. . . . . . .]
[. . . . . . .]
[. . . . . . .]
Yehohanan son of Menahem, witness.
Yehudah son of Shim'on, witness
Yeshu'a son of Yeshu'a, witness
It was written by Germanos, librarius.
Yohsef son of Hananiah, witness.

This was the full name and title of the Roman emperor Hadrian, who ruled 117–138 C.E.

Ides is the eighth day after the nones in the Roman calendar; in March, May, July, and October, the 15th; in the other months, the 13th.

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).

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

A talent was unit of weight and money.

"Split" refers to the division of the crop between the owner and the "sharecropper."

Kor and seah were units of dry measure.

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


    1. How is this arrangement between Babatha and Simon compare and/or contrast with modern sharecropping?

    2. What can you discern about the date groves and the economics of this type of farming from this contract?

    3. What roles did scribes play in the ancient Roman world?

    4. Why would Babatha's "guardian" be involved in this transaction?

    5. In the ancient world, why were weights a legal issue?



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

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

    Jones, Brian W. "Hadrian." In Anchor Bible Dictionary. Edited by D. N. Freedman, 3.17-18. New York: Doubleday, 1992.

    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.

    Oakman, Douglas E. "The Ancient Economy." In The Social Sciences and the New Testament. Edited by R. L. Rohrbaugh, 126-43. Peabody, Mass.: Hendrickson, 1996.

    Oakman, Douglas E. "Jesus and Agrarian Palestine: The Factor of Debt." In SBL 1985 Seminar Papers, 57-73. Atlanta: Scholars, 1985.

    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: 7 June 2004