Marriage & Divorce Papyri
of the ancient Greek, Roman and Jewish world.

A collection of papyri from 4thC BCE to 4th C CE

(C) D. Instone-Brewer 2000


I have turned down an offer to publish this site as a book, because it is much better suited to electronic publication. You are invited to make copies of individual documents for your own use, but do not copy the whole site, and do not distribute copies to your friends or publish them in paper or electronic form without my permission.  If you use my ideas or material in your own work, remember to acknowledge the source as

Picture from Tyndale House

Divorce certificate from 71 CE Masada:
"... You are free to become the wife of
any Jewish man you may wish"


Every published Greek, Roman and Jewish marriage contract and divorce deed is collected here, from the 4th C BCE to the 4th C CE. Each text is presented in its original language, with references to English translations, other online texts, and online images of the papyrus, where available. Some additional marriage contracts have been added which fall outside these boundaries, including a 2nd BCE Edomite marriage written on pottery, and a 5th C CE Jewish marriage contract written on vellum and a 6th C CE Samaritan Greek divorce deed. A few related texts have also been added which illustrate marriage laws.

These texts have never before been collected together. Most of the Greek and Latin texts were listed in Montevecchi 1936 and Montevecchi 1973 though she did not make a collection of the text. This site contains 62 not listed by Montevecchi and has collected the texts in all but a few cases. Until recently one had to search for such texts in dozens of different collections, many of which are very difficult to find even in the best libraries. Papyrus research was revolutionised by the creation of the Packard Institute CD #5 which contains the Greek and Latin texts of papyri from about 500 paper volumes. This has now been incorporated into the Perseus web site where these texts can be searched and each word is linked to lexical and gramatical aids. The texts on this site have been adapted from these electronic texts, when available, and have been typed in from printed editions when not available. The texts from Perseus and other sites retain their copyright from that site.

Demotic texts have not been included in this site. This is partly because of the difficulty of transcribing the Demotic script, but mainly because a virtually complete collection of texts has already been published in Lüddeckens 1960 and analysed exhaustively in Pestman 1961. These texts span from 879 BCE to 21 CE and share many features found in the Greek and Aramaic marriage and divorce papyri. Uri Yiftach has pointed out to me that this category has been considerably enriched by the publication of Herring's P.Trophitis in 1989, so that any previous discussion is not up to date anymore. He also points out that the P.Mich.121 records (which I have included among 1st C Greek Marriages) are eiromena, that is, a summary of demotic documents, which were prepared in the grapheion in Tebtunis.

The aim of this collection is to study the background of the New Testament teaching on divorce and remarriage. The most important texts for this task are those of the 1st C BCE to 1st C CE. The wider range of texts is necessary in order to trace developments and, in areas where there is little development, to increase the number of texts on which to base conclusions.

It is easy to get confused concerning the identity of individual papyri because the same papyrus can be referred to in a multitude of different ways. A papyrus is often named after the person who discovered or first edited it (e.g. P.Yadin.37) but this same papyrus is also named after the place where it was discovered (P.Selim.65 or P.Se.65 or P.Se.Gr.65 or P.XHev/Se.65 or P.Hever.65) and the edition in which it is collected with other similar papyri (DJD.XXVII.65) and the name of the family to which the document refers (P.Babatha.37). Even more confusion occurs when a duplicate copy of the same contract has survived. In this present collection, I have listed the most important designations of each contract and any duplicates. I have also given each contract a new number based on the type of document and its date. Although yet another designation may result in extra confusion, it is hoped that the simplicity of this system will more than compensate.

The numbering system used in this collection is based on the type of the document and its date. The types of document are:
GM - Greek Marriage contracts
GD - Greek Divorce deeds or return of dowry
GR - Greek documents Relating to marriage (petitions, rulings and laws)
AM, AD, AR - Aramaic documents, divided as above
LM, LD, LR - Latin documents, divided as above
JM, JD, JR - Jewish Greek documents, divided as above

For example, the papyrus P.Yadin.37 whose various names are discussed above, is JM131 - ie Jewish Marriage contract dated 131 CE. Dates BCE are indicated by a hyphen, e.g. GM-10 (a Greek Marriage certificate from 10 BCE). When more than one similar document has the same date, the number is suffixed with "b", "c" etc, e.g. GM-10b, GM-10c and GM-10d. Notice that there is no GM-10a. This is a deliberate policy, so that if subsequent papyri are discovered, there is no need to change any numbering. The first document of that date retains the number without a letter.

The relevance of these papyri to NT teaching on divorce and remarriage is explored in two papers: 
  • 1 Corinthians 7 in the light of the Graeco-Roman Marriage and Divorce Papyri  (Tyndale Bulletin, 52, 2001, 101-116)
  • 1 Corinthians 7 in the light of the Jewish Greek and Aramaic Marriage and Divorce Papyri  (Tyndale Bulletin, forthcoming)

    The following texts are available on this site:

    Greek Marriage documents 4th - 3rd C BCE 19 docs
    Greek Marriage documents 2nd C BCE 13 docs
    Greek Marriage documents 1st C BCE 12 docs
    Greek Marriage documents 1st C CE 27 docs
    Greek Marriage documents 2nd C CE 59 docs
    Greek Marriage documents 3rd-4th C CE 15 docs
    Greek Divorce documents 3rd-1st C BCE 5 docs
    Greek Divorce documents 1st C CE 9 docs
    Greek Divorce documents 2nd C CE 15 docs
    Greek Divorce documents 3rd-4th C CE 8 docs
    Greek marriage-Related documents 2nd C BCE - 4th C CE 25 docs
    Latin Marriage documents 1st-2nd C CE 4 docs
    Latin marriage-Related documents 1st C BCE 1 doc
    Aramaic Marriage documents 2nd C BCE - 2nd C CE 5 docs
    Aramaic Divorce documents 1st - 2nd C CE 2 docs
    Aramaic Marriage document 5th C CE 1 doc
    Jewish Greek Marriage documents 2nd C CE 5 docs
    Jewish (and Samaritan) Greek Divorce documents 1st C BCE - 6th C CE 2 docs
    Jewish Greek marriage-Related documents 3rd C BCE 1 doc

      Links to the texts:

  •   Greek and Latin texts on this site are mainly adapted from the Perseus site, which retains copyright to these texts. They are encoded in fonts from Scholars Press which are also found in the Tyndale Font Kit.
       This relatively new site aims to provide images of all the available Oxyrynchus papyri. At present there are very few early images loaded, so most of these links will fail.
        Virtually all published Greek and Latin papyri are available here. They are searchable and each word is linked to lexical and grammatical aids. The best Greek font to use is Athenian, which is called SMK on the site.
        The large collection of Papyri held at Michigan University have been entered into the Advanced Papyrological Information System (APIS) database. This includes images, publication data, English translation and some discussion.
       Two more implementations of the APIS database. The Berkeley collection includes the important Tebtunis Papyri.


    I would like to thank Uri Yiftach who pointed out to me 48 papyri which I had missed in the original version of this site and updated the Bibliography. He is completing a PhD thesis at Tel-Aviv University under the supervision of Prof. R. Katzoff (Bar-Ilan University) and Prof. Z. Rubin (Tel-Aviv University). His work covers all the papyri relating to marriage in the ancient Greek world. As well as the papyri on this site, he has also examined many more of the papyri which relate to marriage without being marriage certificates or divorce deeds. I look forward to the publication of his work which will probably make this site redundant. I would also like to thank Dirk Jongkind here at Tyndale House, and the curators of the collections named above who allowed me to link to their sites and use some of their material.




    If you have any comments or (more importantly) if you know of papyri which are missing from this study, please email me:

    Rev Dr David Instone-Brewer, Research Fellow at Tyndale House, Cambridge

    Other work on Divorce & Remarriage by David Instone-Brewer

  • Picture from Tyndale House
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