Ephraim Kleiman
The Hebrew University of Jerusalem

Although its authors did not indulge in economic theorizing as such, the Talmudic (2nd to 5th Century C.E.) discussion of compensation for physical assault provides some insight into their implicit economic reasoning. The decomposition of an injury into five different, conceptually separable elements - permanent damage, involuntary idleness, medical expenses, pain and insult - lead to the formulation of rules for their separate assessment. Unlike in the original Mosaic Code, or the earlier Laws of Hammurabi, all these compensations were to be pecuniary, suggestive of a highly monetized economy. It will be shown that, wherever possible, the Talmudic doctors relied on market valuations of time and labour, and displayed a keen awareness of the role of alternative costs in determining them. One of the distinctions they drew parallels very closely the difference between what modern theory calls the equivalent and the compensating income valuation of economic welfare changes. Their discussion of it shows that they clearly realized that under certain conditions these two magnitudes would differ from each other. The degree of economic sophistication evident in these deliberations contradicts the view that the ancient world was incapable of economic reasoning.