1 Corinthians 7 In The Light Of The Jewish Greek And Aramaic Marriage And Divorce Papyri -- By: David Instone-Brewer

Journal: Tyndale Bulletin
Volume: TYNBUL 52:2 (NA 2001)
Article: 1 Corinthians 7 In The Light Of The Jewish Greek And Aramaic Marriage And Divorce Papyri
Author: David Instone-Brewer

1 Corinthians 7 In The Light Of The Jewish Greek And Aramaic Marriage And Divorce Papyri

David Instone-Brewer


The first half of this study explored 1 Corinthians 7 in the light of the Graeco-Roman Greek and Latin marriage and divorce papyri.1 These papyri showed that much of 1 Corinthians 7 has its basis in Graeco-Roman vocabulary and social structures. The believers at Corinth were facing the problem that divorce under Graeco-Roman law was legally complete when the dowry was returned and the couple separated. Comparisons with Jewish marriage and divorce papyri show that the lifestyle and morals that Paul wishes the Corinthians to adopt are based primarily on the Jewish interpretation of the Old Testament. This is illustrated from both Greek Jewish papyri, which show a Judaism thoroughly embedded in the Graeco-Roman world, and Aramaic papyri, which use concepts very closely aligned to Paul’s. Ultimately Paul wishes to take them beyond the Jewish models to the teaching of his Lord, and at significant positions Paul is found to stand in contrast to all the contemporary marriage and divorce papyri.

I. Jewish Greek Marriage And Divorce Papyri

Jews in first and second century Egypt and Palestine used both the Greek and Aramaic languages for their marriage contracts and divorce deeds. The form of words was determined by the language employed, so that the Greek versions are very similar to those found in the rest of the Graeco-Roman world. The only Greek Jewish divorce deed we have is JD-13 from Alexandria, which has almost exactly the same

wording as GD-132 but with different names, so it will not be cited here. JM128 is one of the five Jewish Greek marriage certificates which have survived. They are all from early second century Palestine and are similar to each other, being Greek in style but with some Jewish features.

Marriage Contract, ad 128, Petra (JM128 i.e. P.Yadin. 18):3

[Date, Place], WF4 gave over W, his very own daughter, a virgin, to H, for W at be a wedded wife to H for the partnership of marriage according to the laws, she bringing to him on account of bridal gift feminine adornment in silver and gold and clothing appraised by mutual agreement as they both say, to be worth 200 denarii of silver, which appraised value H acknowledged that he has received from her by hand forthwith from WF and that he owes to W tog...

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