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¶ 1 Leave a comment on paragraph 1 0 Jevons’ initial criticism of the inconvenience of barter might also be read somewhat differently: “I require some goods now, but I will only have the means to satisfy the needs of their current holder in the future.” In these cases, money will not do as an intermediate token. The corresponding transaction sounds suspiciously like a loan, which may be secured by a movable (pawn) or unmovable (mortgage) object. But why would anybody loan his money to somebody else? After all, while the money is loaned out, the owner is deprived of its use and even risks losing it. Yet, the Torah obliges the just to lend his money to the poor members of his people and prohibits the taking of interest, although collecting interest from strangers is permitted.14 Both the New Testament and the Koran scorn interest based loans altogether.15 Money lending represents not only a moral but also a practical issue. Without a positive incentive for money lending, a society’s economic activity will be severely curtailed. All Abrahamic religions have seriously struggled with this thorny problem over the centuries. And all have ultimately found solutions, sophistic in their justification and pragmatic in their application.
¶ 2 Leave a comment on paragraph 2 0 Instead of real money, a certificate issued a by trustworthy person or body guaranteeing its exchange value would fit the bill. One of the first-known such instruments was a draft issued by “The Guarantor at Elephantine-Syene.”16 It is among the so-called Elephantine papyri, a collection of ancient Jewish manuscripts dating from the fifth century BC found during excavations on Elephantine Island in the Nile on the border between Egypt and Nubia. By shifting the guarantee of the letter from its bearer to a known and respected independent entity, the receiver is more likely to trust and honour its value. But it all rests (i) on the trustworthiness of the issuer and (ii) on the authenticity of the instrument.
¶ 3 Leave a comment on paragraph 3 0 Such drafts gradually evolved into what are now called “Negotiable Promissory Notes.” The literature places their early appearance in twelfth-century Genoa.17 A variant, namely the “Negotiable Promissory Note Payable to the Bearer on Demand” (also known by its Hebrew acronym MaMRaMe) turned into the favourite financial instrument of Jewish merchants by the sixteenth century.18 Simply put, the issuer of the certificate promises its bearer a sum of money to be repaid at the bearer’s request. The great feature of the MaMRaMe was its validity both in external gentile and in internal Jewish business transactions. Thus, the certificates could be issued, held, sold, or bought independent of one’s dogmatic frame. They turned into a money substitute when the real thing was not available.
14Cf. Exod. 22:24; Lev. 25:35–7; Deut. 23:20–1.
15Cf. Luke 6:34–5; Al-Baqarah 2:275
16Porten and Greenfield, “The Guarantor at Elephantine-Syene.”
17Rabinowitz, “The Origin of the Negotiable Promissory Note.”
18Katz, “Tradition and Crisis,” 58.