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Orality and Text

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  • Larry J. Swain
    The model you propose actually fits not only the phenomena of orality, but also the approach to the text that the ancients practiced. A much overlooked aspect
    Message 1 of 10 , Apr 24, 2001
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      The model you propose actually fits not only the phenomena of
      orality, but also the approach to the text that the ancients
      practiced. A much overlooked aspect of textuality is that an author
      who uses or cites another text, precision of a translation, or a
      quote, or citation wasn't the point or the practice, even of some
      Scriptural citations. Thus, the model seems to me to fit not
      only "oral" in contrast to "text", but dare I call it an "oral"
      approach to text.

      Another issue I've been wanting to raise is what do you think of
      Chilton's thesis some years ago now where he (Profiles of a Rabbi, if
      I remember correctly) traced sections of rabbinic tradition through
      halakha, haggadah, and showed that didactic and narrative material
      could appear in different places in the tradition and still maintain
      (he assumed these had oral origins) a similarity and sameness of
      shape and wording. I've forgotten the details now, but it seems to
      me that he was moving in this direction and suggested that his
      findings might have applications to Gospel research, but to my
      knowledge no one has built on his foundation, perhaps believing that
      anything rabbinic is anachronistic. Comments?

      Larry Swain
    • Meta Dunn
      Dear Larry Swain, Thanks for your question. It has come through in a rather muddled form (something fallen out?). But if I have the drift of it, then, Yes,
      Message 2 of 10 , Apr 27, 2001
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        Dear Larry Swain,
        Thanks for your question. It has come through in a rather muddled form
        (something fallen out?). But if I have the drift of it, then, Yes, I think
        most quoting of traditional material in an oral culture will demonstrate
        similar characteristics. From what I've done in Paul it is fairly clear
        that the full scope of his use of scripture (OT) parallels quite closely his
        use of Jesus tradition. In particular, the fact that there are many more
        allusions to scripture than explicit quotations is one of the things which
        makes me confident that there are many allusions to Jesus tradition beyond
        the obvious ones. No doubt much the same is true of rabbinic tradition, but
        I would need more explicit data before I could go into further detail.
        JDGD

        "Larry J. Swain" wrote:

        > The model you propose actually fits not only the phenomena of
        > orality, but also the approach to the text that the ancients
        > practiced. A much overlooked aspect of textuality is that an author
        > who uses or cites another text, precision of a translation, or a
        > quote, or citation wasn't the point or the practice, even of some
        > Scriptural citations. Thus, the model seems to me to fit not
        > only "oral" in contrast to "text", but dare I call it an "oral"
        > approach to text.
        >
        > Another issue I've been wanting to raise is what do you think of
        > Chilton's thesis some years ago now where he (Profiles of a Rabbi, if
        > I remember correctly) traced sections of rabbinic tradition through
        > halakha, haggadah, and showed that didactic and narrative material
        > could appear in different places in the tradition and still maintain
        > (he assumed these had oral origins) a similarity and sameness of
        > shape and wording. I've forgotten the details now, but it seems to
        > me that he was moving in this direction and suggested that his
        > findings might have applications to Gospel research, but to my
        > knowledge no one has built on his foundation, perhaps believing that
        > anything rabbinic is anachronistic. Comments?
        >
        > Larry Swain
        >
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        > J_D_G_DunnSeminar-unsubscribe@yahoogroups.com
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      • L. J. Swain
        ... No, just late night meanderings, sorry for the muddled post, and thank you very much for your response. Basically the notions that I m attempting to play
        Message 3 of 10 , Apr 29, 2001
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          Meta Dunn wrote:

          > Dear Larry Swain,
          > Thanks for your question. It has come through in a rather muddled form
          > (something fallen out?). But if I have the drift of it, then, Yes, I think
          > most quoting of traditional material in an oral culture will demonstrate
          > similar characteristics. From what I've done in Paul it is fairly clear
          > that the full scope of his use of scripture (OT) parallels quite closely his
          > use of Jesus tradition. In particular, the fact that there are many more
          > allusions to scripture than explicit quotations is one of the things which
          > makes me confident that there are many allusions to Jesus tradition beyond
          > the obvious ones. No doubt much the same is true of rabbinic tradition, but
          > I would need more explicit data before I could go into further detail.
          > JDGD

          No, just late night meanderings, sorry for the muddled post, and thank you very
          much for your response. Basically the notions that I'm attempting to play with
          is that over the course the second, third, fourth, fifth, and sixth centuries CE
          we see a slow change in perspective from an oral culture to a written culture. A
          general observation that others have certainly made before. But as I've looked
          at the way in which written text is handled in rabbinic, Christian, and secular
          texts, I began to notice definite parallels with the way we describe orality, and
          Bailey certainly has hit it on the head, in my view. Given that, I think that
          even if we keep the lines between "fuzzy" between orality and literary methods of
          passing on the tradition, I'm beginning to wonder if there are lines at all to
          keep fuzzy. ANd the concept of a written work as an "oral performance" goes some
          distance, but I think we need to push it further and attempt to do away with a
          distinction in the ancient world between oral and written, because I'm not
          certain that they saw a difference. A New Testement example of what I'm getting
          at is Matthew's citation formula: in 1:23 AuMatthew cites Isaiah as spoken word,
          in 2:6 he cites Jeremiah as "GEGRAPTAI", written, in 2:18 he again cites Jeremiah
          as spoken word. I'm not convinced that he considers the words of the prophets to
          be different in degree, kind, or purpose when he says that one is "spoken by the
          Lord through the prophet" and when he says "as it is written through the
          prophet", and I think that there are multiple examples of this in Christian,
          Rabbinic, and secular literature; though I would welcome examples of contrary
          views.

          So if this is beginning to get into the neighborhood, then the distinction in
          early Christianity that someone asked of you regarding the change from orality to
          literary vehicles for the Christian message doesn't exist in the first century;
          certainly things are being written down, but we need to begin to explore in more
          depth what first century attitudes were regarding written sources, and why
          writing a work down was done, and certainly recent studies of reading in the
          ancient world as well as orality come into play.

          I guess this isn't really a question so much as the germ of an idea that seems to
          take your thesis farther than you have so far, and I would invite your comments
          on it. Thank you so much for your time.

          Larry J. Swain
        • Robert M. Schacht
          Professor Dunn, I have had difficulty keeping up with the great dialogues you have been having, due to my heavy schedule of travel and meetings, but I very
          Message 4 of 10 , Apr 29, 2001
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            Professor Dunn,
            I have had difficulty keeping up with the great dialogues you have been
            having, due to my heavy schedule of travel and meetings, but I very much
            appreciate the quality of the discourse.

            One issue that I do not think I have seen concerns what appears to me to be
            the most serious problem with your model of oral memory. And that is your
            thesis in section 4.3, "Not layers but performances," the theme of which is
            of course foreshadowed repeatedly in the previous sections. I very much
            appreciate your attempt to distinguish transmission in the oral mode from
            transmission in the literary mode. Your development of this thesis is most
            welcome. However, this particular point really seems impossible to me. Near
            the bottom of the page, you wrote, "In oral transmission a tradition is
            performed, not edited." This can only be true if each oral performance is
            truly independent-- but this can hardly be the case. First of all,
            independence is compromised by oral performances of related traditions the
            performer may have heard. Second, independence is compromised by previous
            performances of the same tradition the performer may have experienced.

            To take the second case first, consider oral performances in an
            off-broadway play (or, for that matter, a Shakespearean play before
            publication.) I cannot imagine a process by which the performers are
            completely unaffected by audience response. It is well known that both
            Shakespeare's plays and off-Broadway plays were "field tested" before
            publication in their "final" form. This would apply *even more* in the case
            of the Gospels, for which the overt purpose was evangelization. How could
            the evangelists avoid noticing what lines "worked," and what lines fell flat?

            The first case is more difficult to deal with unless one takes the position
            that oral memory at first was homogeneous, coextensive and uniform-- that
            is, there was only *one* oral tradition. But this is extremely unlikely, on
            the face of it. It is much more likely that oral memory was pluriform. But
            if that was the case, how can one "performer" be completely oblivious to
            all other performances? In the context of your paper, this is probably
            equivalent to the idea that there was more than one "community." I will
            concede almost any point you want to make about communication among the
            geographical communities except that they were identical. Even in today's
            Internet world, that is quite impossible. If nothing else, local interests
            will favor some stories over others, and some forms of expression over
            others-- not to mention differences between predominantly Jewish
            communities and predominantly Gentile communities (both as followers of
            Jesus.) Throw into this mix the well-known idea (e.g., Perrin) that
            post-Ascension "prophets" continued to speak in the name of Jesus for at
            least a generation or two.
            Perhaps the literary model of editing won't quite work here-- but neither
            will the idea that each performance is pristinely independent, uninfluenced
            by any other.

            Bob
            Robert M. Schacht, Ph.D.
            Northern Arizona University
            Flagstaff, AZ
          • Meta Dunn
            Dear Larry, While broadly sympathetic to the line you are developing, we do need to keep at least one important difference between oral and literary in view.
            Message 5 of 10 , Apr 30, 2001
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              Dear Larry,
              While broadly sympathetic to the line you are developing, we do need to keep at
              least one important difference between oral and literary in view. That is, that an
              oral performance is not a 'text' which can be edited. The performance happens and
              is gone; it is not there to be consulted; it lives only in the memory. It is the
              difference that that insight makes to our conceptualizing of how the early tradition
              was passed on which I wish to develop.
              The other important thing, beyond the scope of my thesis, is to appreciate more
              fully how much traditioning still takes place at the oral level - a lecture given, a
              sermon preached . . .
              Jimmy Dunn

              "L. J. Swain" wrote:

              > Meta Dunn wrote:
              >
              > > Dear Larry Swain,
              > > Thanks for your question. It has come through in a rather muddled form
              > > (something fallen out?). But if I have the drift of it, then, Yes, I think
              > > most quoting of traditional material in an oral culture will demonstrate
              > > similar characteristics. From what I've done in Paul it is fairly clear
              > > that the full scope of his use of scripture (OT) parallels quite closely his
              > > use of Jesus tradition. In particular, the fact that there are many more
              > > allusions to scripture than explicit quotations is one of the things which
              > > makes me confident that there are many allusions to Jesus tradition beyond
              > > the obvious ones. No doubt much the same is true of rabbinic tradition, but
              > > I would need more explicit data before I could go into further detail.
              > > JDGD
              >
              > No, just late night meanderings, sorry for the muddled post, and thank you very
              > much for your response. Basically the notions that I'm attempting to play with
              > is that over the course the second, third, fourth, fifth, and sixth centuries CE
              > we see a slow change in perspective from an oral culture to a written culture. A
              > general observation that others have certainly made before. But as I've looked
              > at the way in which written text is handled in rabbinic, Christian, and secular
              > texts, I began to notice definite parallels with the way we describe orality, and
              > Bailey certainly has hit it on the head, in my view. Given that, I think that
              > even if we keep the lines between "fuzzy" between orality and literary methods of
              > passing on the tradition, I'm beginning to wonder if there are lines at all to
              > keep fuzzy. ANd the concept of a written work as an "oral performance" goes some
              > distance, but I think we need to push it further and attempt to do away with a
              > distinction in the ancient world between oral and written, because I'm not
              > certain that they saw a difference. A New Testement example of what I'm getting
              > at is Matthew's citation formula: in 1:23 AuMatthew cites Isaiah as spoken word,
              > in 2:6 he cites Jeremiah as "GEGRAPTAI", written, in 2:18 he again cites Jeremiah
              > as spoken word. I'm not convinced that he considers the words of the prophets to
              > be different in degree, kind, or purpose when he says that one is "spoken by the
              > Lord through the prophet" and when he says "as it is written through the
              > prophet", and I think that there are multiple examples of this in Christian,
              > Rabbinic, and secular literature; though I would welcome examples of contrary
              > views.
              >
              > So if this is beginning to get into the neighborhood, then the distinction in
              > early Christianity that someone asked of you regarding the change from orality to
              > literary vehicles for the Christian message doesn't exist in the first century;
              > certainly things are being written down, but we need to begin to explore in more
              > depth what first century attitudes were regarding written sources, and why
              > writing a work down was done, and certainly recent studies of reading in the
              > ancient world as well as orality come into play.
              >
              > I guess this isn't really a question so much as the germ of an idea that seems to
              > take your thesis farther than you have so far, and I would invite your comments
              > on it. Thank you so much for your time.
              >
              > Larry J. Swain
              >
              > To unsubscribe from this group, send an email to:
              > J_D_G_DunnSeminar-unsubscribe@yahoogroups.com
              >
              > To contact the List Owner, send an e-mail to:
              >
              > J. D_G_DunnSeminar-owner@yahoogroups.com
              >
              > Your use of Yahoo! Groups is subject to http://docs.yahoo.com/info/terms/
            • Meta Dunn
              Dear Robert, Thanks for a stimulating question. Of course oral performances interact, as most evident particularly in the continuity within the variability.
              Message 6 of 10 , Apr 30, 2001
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                Dear Robert,
                Thanks for a stimulating question.
                Of course oral performances interact, as most evident particularly in the
                continuity within the variability. My point is always to look at what was
                happening in the Synoptic tradition; that seems to me likely to be a fair
                reflection of the diversity within the traditioning process - from literary
                dependence, through interaction between different groupings of sayings, to
                one-off knowledge of a particular tradition. So my hypothesis does not
                postulate independence - not at all. It simply questions whether the model of
                literary dependence is sufficient to explain all that diversity.
                And I still want to say that an oral performance is not the same as a
                literary redaction. In the latter, the editor has a literary text, and can
                fine-tune by improving a phrase, expanding a theme, omitting a section - and do
                so in a way which reflects the character of a literary, editing process. An
                oral performer does not have a text, knows the theme and the core, from previous
                performances, and knows no doubt other performances from hearing them or even
                hearing of them. But the process of oral performance is much more spontaneously
                interactive with the live audience.
                In the end of the day the result may be similar; but the process is
                different.
                I hope this helps clarify a little.
                Jimmy Dunn

                "Robert M. Schacht" wrote:

                > Professor Dunn,
                > I have had difficulty keeping up with the great dialogues you have been
                > having, due to my heavy schedule of travel and meetings, but I very much
                > appreciate the quality of the discourse.
                >
                > One issue that I do not think I have seen concerns what appears to me to be
                > the most serious problem with your model of oral memory. And that is your
                > thesis in section 4.3, "Not layers but performances," the theme of which is
                > of course foreshadowed repeatedly in the previous sections. I very much
                > appreciate your attempt to distinguish transmission in the oral mode from
                > transmission in the literary mode. Your development of this thesis is most
                > welcome. However, this particular point really seems impossible to me. Near
                > the bottom of the page, you wrote, "In oral transmission a tradition is
                > performed, not edited." This can only be true if each oral performance is
                > truly independent-- but this can hardly be the case. First of all,
                > independence is compromised by oral performances of related traditions the
                > performer may have heard. Second, independence is compromised by previous
                > performances of the same tradition the performer may have experienced.
                >
                > To take the second case first, consider oral performances in an
                > off-broadway play (or, for that matter, a Shakespearean play before
                > publication.) I cannot imagine a process by which the performers are
                > completely unaffected by audience response. It is well known that both
                > Shakespeare's plays and off-Broadway plays were "field tested" before
                > publication in their "final" form. This would apply *even more* in the case
                > of the Gospels, for which the overt purpose was evangelization. How could
                > the evangelists avoid noticing what lines "worked," and what lines fell flat?
                >
                > The first case is more difficult to deal with unless one takes the position
                > that oral memory at first was homogeneous, coextensive and uniform-- that
                > is, there was only *one* oral tradition. But this is extremely unlikely, on
                > the face of it. It is much more likely that oral memory was pluriform. But
                > if that was the case, how can one "performer" be completely oblivious to
                > all other performances? In the context of your paper, this is probably
                > equivalent to the idea that there was more than one "community." I will
                > concede almost any point you want to make about communication among the
                > geographical communities except that they were identical. Even in today's
                > Internet world, that is quite impossible. If nothing else, local interests
                > will favor some stories over others, and some forms of expression over
                > others-- not to mention differences between predominantly Jewish
                > communities and predominantly Gentile communities (both as followers of
                > Jesus.) Throw into this mix the well-known idea (e.g., Perrin) that
                > post-Ascension "prophets" continued to speak in the name of Jesus for at
                > least a generation or two.
                > Perhaps the literary model of editing won't quite work here-- but neither
                > will the idea that each performance is pristinely independent, uninfluenced
                > by any other.
                >
                > Bob
                > Robert M. Schacht, Ph.D.
                > Northern Arizona University
                > Flagstaff, AZ
                >
                > To unsubscribe from this group, send an email to:
                > J_D_G_DunnSeminar-unsubscribe@yahoogroups.com
                >
                > To contact the List Owner, send an e-mail to:
                >
                > J. D_G_DunnSeminar-owner@yahoogroups.com
                >
                > Your use of Yahoo! Groups is subject to http://docs.yahoo.com/info/terms/
              • Stephen C. Carlson
                Dear Prof. Dunn: I had read recently that before the Scholastic period in the Middle Ages, authors generally did not use self-composition but dictated their
                Message 7 of 10 , Apr 30, 2001
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                  Dear Prof. Dunn:

                  I had read recently that before the Scholastic period in
                  the Middle Ages, authors generally did not use self-composition
                  but dictated their works to be taken down and written up.

                  In your opinion, is is true, and, if so, would this process
                  introduce an element of orality into the composition of the
                  synoptic gospels?

                  Stephen Carlson
                  --
                  Stephen C. Carlson mailto:scarlson@...
                  Synoptic Problem Home Page http://www.mindspring.com/~scarlson/synopt/
                  "Poetry speaks of aspirations, and songs chant the words." Shujing 2.35
                • larry.swain@wmich.edu
                  I m certain that Dr. Dunn knows about this far more than I, but a few instances do come to mind that are worth mentioning. There is of course Cicero and his
                  Message 8 of 10 , May 1, 2001
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                    I'm certain that Dr. Dunn knows about this far more than I, but a few
                    instances do come to mind that are worth mentioning. There is of course
                    Cicero and his secretary Tiro, Origen, and so on. There are also examples
                    of texts being copied as the lector read in the Scriptorium, although this
                    certainly wasn't a universal practice. Bede is also often depicted in art
                    as dictating his works. Finally I will mention the icongraphy of the
                    Gospel writers in early medieval manuscripts usually has them looking
                    upward, with some sort of divine sign in the heavens (the three fingers
                    upraised on a right hand extending from a cloud, a gleaming dove, etc.,
                    although see the Ebbo Gospels), where the gospel writers seem not to be
                    just inspired from above, but as secretary's writing down the divine
                    words.

                    Larry

                    On Mon, 30 Apr 2001, Stephen C. Carlson wrote:

                    >
                    > Dear Prof. Dunn:
                    >
                    > I had read recently that before the Scholastic period in
                    > the Middle Ages, authors generally did not use self-composition
                    > but dictated their works to be taken down and written up.
                    >
                    > In your opinion, is is true, and, if so, would this process
                    > introduce an element of orality into the composition of the
                    > synoptic gospels?
                    >
                    > Stephen Carlson
                    > --
                    > Stephen C. Carlson mailto:scarlson@...
                    > Synoptic Problem Home Page http://www.mindspring.com/~scarlson/synopt/
                    > "Poetry speaks of aspirations, and songs chant the words." Shujing 2.35
                    >
                    >
                    > To unsubscribe from this group, send an email to:
                    > J_D_G_DunnSeminar-unsubscribe@yahoogroups.com
                    >
                    > To contact the List Owner, send an e-mail to:
                    >
                    > J. D_G_DunnSeminar-owner@yahoogroups.com
                    >
                    > Your use of Yahoo! Groups is subject to http://docs.yahoo.com/info/terms/
                    >
                    >
                    >
                  • Meta Dunn
                    ear Stephen Carlston, Apologies for the delay in replying - I had server problems for 48 hours - but all seems OK now. Thanks for the question. I m sure much
                    Message 9 of 10 , May 2, 2001
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                      ear Stephen Carlston,
                      Apologies for the delay in replying - I had server problems for 48 hours
                      - but all seems OK now.
                      Thanks for the question. I'm sure much if not most writing in the
                      earliest days of the churches was by dictation - as we see most obviously
                      (and explicitly) in Paul's letters.
                      Yes, that would bring in some degree of variability - most obvious when
                      the letter dictationer (can't say dictator) quoted something from memory -
                      again illustrated by quotations from/allusions to the OT in the NT. All the
                      more so when the scribe was left some freedom in 'writing up' what had been
                      dictated (was dictation word for word, or substance as to a good PA?). But
                      is all that best described as/included within the concept of orality?
                      JDGD

                      "Stephen C. Carlson" wrote:

                      > Dear Prof. Dunn:
                      >
                      > I had read recently that before the Scholastic period in
                      > the Middle Ages, authors generally did not use self-composition
                      > but dictated their works to be taken down and written up.
                      >
                      > In your opinion, is is true, and, if so, would this process
                      > introduce an element of orality into the composition of the
                      > synoptic gospels?
                      >
                      > Stephen Carlson
                      > --
                      > Stephen C. Carlson mailto:scarlson@...
                      > Synoptic Problem Home Page http://www.mindspring.com/~scarlson/synopt/
                      > "Poetry speaks of aspirations, and songs chant the words." Shujing 2.35
                      >
                      > To unsubscribe from this group, send an email to:
                      > J_D_G_DunnSeminar-unsubscribe@yahoogroups.com
                      >
                      > To contact the List Owner, send an e-mail to:
                      >
                      > J. D_G_DunnSeminar-owner@yahoogroups.com
                      >
                      > Your use of Yahoo! Groups is subject to http://docs.yahoo.com/info/terms/
                    • Meta Dunn
                      Dear Larry, I m sure the sort of data you mention is an important part of the larger picture, but I m less confident that it contributes very much to the issue
                      Message 10 of 10 , May 3, 2001
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                        Dear Larry,
                        I'm sure the sort of data you mention is an important part of the larger
                        picture, but I'm less confident that it contributes very much to the issue of
                        oral tradition/transmission. More important in that context is the concept of
                        second orality - literary texts never read but only heard.
                        But thanks for the reminder of this dimension.
                        Jimmy Dunn

                        larry.swain@... wrote:

                        > I'm certain that Dr. Dunn knows about this far more than I, but a few
                        > instances do come to mind that are worth mentioning. There is of course
                        > Cicero and his secretary Tiro, Origen, and so on. There are also examples
                        > of texts being copied as the lector read in the Scriptorium, although this
                        > certainly wasn't a universal practice. Bede is also often depicted in art
                        > as dictating his works. Finally I will mention the icongraphy of the
                        > Gospel writers in early medieval manuscripts usually has them looking
                        > upward, with some sort of divine sign in the heavens (the three fingers
                        > upraised on a right hand extending from a cloud, a gleaming dove, etc.,
                        > although see the Ebbo Gospels), where the gospel writers seem not to be
                        > just inspired from above, but as secretary's writing down the divine
                        > words.
                        >
                        > Larry
                        >
                        > On Mon, 30 Apr 2001, Stephen C. Carlson wrote:
                        >
                        > >
                        > > Dear Prof. Dunn:
                        > >
                        > > I had read recently that before the Scholastic period in
                        > > the Middle Ages, authors generally did not use self-composition
                        > > but dictated their works to be taken down and written up.
                        > >
                        > > In your opinion, is is true, and, if so, would this process
                        > > introduce an element of orality into the composition of the
                        > > synoptic gospels?
                        > >
                        > > Stephen Carlson
                        > > --
                        > > Stephen C. Carlson mailto:scarlson@...
                        > > Synoptic Problem Home Page http://www.mindspring.com/~scarlson/synopt/
                        > > "Poetry speaks of aspirations, and songs chant the words." Shujing 2.35
                        > >
                        > >
                        > > To unsubscribe from this group, send an email to:
                        > > J_D_G_DunnSeminar-unsubscribe@yahoogroups.com
                        > >
                        > > To contact the List Owner, send an e-mail to:
                        > >
                        > > J. D_G_DunnSeminar-owner@yahoogroups.com
                        > >
                        > > Your use of Yahoo! Groups is subject to http://docs.yahoo.com/info/terms/
                        > >
                        > >
                        > >
                        >
                        > To unsubscribe from this group, send an email to:
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                        >
                        > To contact the List Owner, send an e-mail to:
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