Wednesday, July 12, 2017

The Talmud on the art (and problem) of forgery

THIS WEEK'S DAF YOMI COLUMN BY ADAM KIRSCH IN TABLET: The Art of Forgery. In this week’s ‘Daf Yomi’ Talmud study, the rabbis attempt to imagine every possible way to alter a legal document, and a coinciding method to thwart each of them.
At 176 folio pages, Tractate Bava Batra is the longest in the Babylonian Talmud; in the Daf Yomi cycle, it takes six months to complete. Over the last two weeks, Daf Yomi readers began the 10th and final chapter of the tractate, in which the rabbis take up a very practical question: How is a valid legal document prepared? Throughout Bava Batra, we have learned about many kinds of transactions that involve written documents, including promissory notes, deeds of sale, deeds of gift, and wills. In modern society, such transactions usually leave a long documentary trail, because they involve lawyers, registrars, and probate courts. In Talmudic-era society, however, the physical possession of a signed piece of paper was the standard way to prove a claim of ownership or a debt. Such documents would ordinarily be written by professional scribes, who knew the legal formulas involved. But how should a document be composed to assure its authenticity and minimize the opportunity for forgery?

There is a lot of indirect information about the material culture of ancient documents in this passage.

Earlier Daf Yomi columns are noted here and links.

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