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Is There Really A Letter Missing From GJW Line 1?

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  • Mike Grondin
    Some of you may have noticed the lengthy exchange on Facebook today between myself and fellow GThomas moderator Bill Arnal. (Too bad these things can t be
    Message 1 of 11 , Oct 18, 2012
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      Some of you may have noticed the lengthy exchange on Facebook
      today between myself and fellow GThomas moderator Bill Arnal.
      (Too bad these things can't be saved or linked-in.)
      I learned something from it, and I think Bill has a point, so I pose the
      subject question despite its appearing to have already been answered.
      Bill's point may perhaps be best illustrated by his final sentence:
       
      > There are "typos" in this text only if one has already determined that it is a forgery, and therefore
      >  the "typos" cannot themselves be held as evidence of forgery, implicitly or explicitly.
       
      First, it might be best to specify what "typos" we're talking about:
      (1) An apparent missing direct-object marker ('M') on GJW line 1.
      (2) The spelling 'Mariam' (instead of 'Mariham') on line 3.
      (3) The supposed misspelling of 'VVAF-EINE' on line 6.
       
      I agree with Bill that these supposed errors of inscription cannot by
      themselves be regarded as evidence of forgery. But they aren't by
      themselves. Rather, they're in the context of a larger case. The way
      I look at it, they constitute a second stage in the development of a case
      for inauthenticity of content (which according to Bagnall is one of the
      four determinants of authenticity). The first stage is to build the basic
      case from what is actually written on the fragment. The second stage
      is to account for any evidence that doesn't seem to support the hypothesis.
      (This latter is an important stage too often ignored.) The above three
      items inherently constitute counter-evidence to the hypothesis, and must
      thus be plausibly dealt with. Once that's done, the case-builders have
      finished their work, and it's up to others to judge the likelihood that their
      explanation of the data is better than what has so far been accepted.
       
      Item #2 (the spelling 'Mariam') is fairly easily put forward as follows:
      Was the inscriber of the fragment a skilled Coptist who was aware of
      this rare spelling of the name, or was he/she a person who knew little
      Coptic, and thus made a mistake in copying 'Mariham' from CGT?
      (One explanation being that it was copied from the English 'Mariam'
      under the Coptic 'Mariham' in my interlinear.)
       
      Item #3 has been much discussed, since it's crucial to the case
      that GJW line 6 not contain the rare Coptic word for 'swell up'. If
      it did, then surely the scribe must have been a skilled Coptist, since
      that word is rarely found anywhere. On this point, paleography has
      seemed to favor the plagiarized-CGT position. Suciu, e.g., opined
      that the letter 'E' was probably written over the apparently-missing 'I'
      hypothesized by those finding 'swell-up' hard to swallow.
       
      Item #1 (supposed missing direct-object marker) is the one that's been
      in the news since Oct 11, when Andrew posted his paper, and Mark
      announced it. That is the one, in fact, that draws Bill's attention most
      directly. And he mentions something that we haven't discussed here,
      namely that King et al find that the line as written is a valid construct
      that doesn't require a direct-object marker. In her draft paper, King
      cites Layton's Grammar to indicate that there is a Coptic construction
      of the form Ti:NAx:obj, with three elements joined in a single word.
      This construction, however, is not to be found in CGT - which
      obviously poses a problem for the hypothesis that everything in the
      fragment except 'my wife' was copied from CGT. And again, what is
      actually written on the fragment, if taken at face-value, suggests a skilled
      Coptist. As opposed to that, Watson and Bernhard suppose that the
      scribe was someone who didn't know Coptic well, and thus made a
      number of mistakes. He/she might simply have inadvertently dropped
      the 'M' from the CGT parallel, but if that's one too many mistakes to
      contemplate, then he/she might have copied directly from the pdf of
      my interlinear, where the 'M' is missing (hence no mistake in copying).
       
      As I understand it, Bill finds it hard to believe that even a bungler
      could have made three mistakes in 7 lines, and been lucky enough
      that in all three cases the error resulted in a spelling that was attested
      somewhere else than in CGT. I think it's really hard to judge the
      force of this objection. One person's 'hard to believe' is another's
      'not hard at all'. Furthermore it may be more likely than we realize
      that if a letter is dropped from a Coptic word of reasonable length,
      the result is also a Coptic word, or a variation therefore, attested
      somewhere. It might also be suggested that the copyist made only
      two mistakes, one of which he/she recognized and tried to correct.
       
      For myself, I'm inclined to believe that the evidence adduced in the
      basic CGT-plagiarism case is strong enough to make it more likely
      than not that its explanation of the above three items is better than
      one which entails the presence of a skilled Coptist.
       
      Mike Grondin
      p.s. 'Coptist' is a word I made up. It may or may not be a real one.
    • Loren
      ... You can actually link to the thread, but (obviously) only Bill s Fb friends (or friends of friends, depending on your settings) will be able to view it.
      Message 2 of 11 , Oct 19, 2012
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        Mike wrote:

        > Some of you may have noticed the lengthy exchange on Facebook
        > today between myself and fellow GThomas moderator Bill Arnal.
        > (Too bad these things can't be saved or linked-in.)...

        You can actually link to the thread, but (obviously) only Bill's Fb friends (or friends of friends, depending on your settings) will be able to view it. It's a helpful discussion, and I would have missed it underneath so much stuff in my feed if you hadn't called attention to it, so thanks.

        https://www.facebook.com/william.arnal/posts/10151056778515988

        Loren Rosson III
        Nashua NH
        http://lorenrosson.blogspot.com/
      • William Arnal
        Hi Mike et al: A good account, but I d like to clarify three points: 1) Mike writes: As I understand it, Bill finds it hard to believe that even a bungler
        Message 3 of 11 , Oct 19, 2012
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          Hi Mike et al:

          A good account, but I'd like to clarify three points:

          1) Mike writes: "As I understand it, Bill finds it hard to believe that even a bungler could have made three mistakes in 7 lines, and been lucky enough hat in all three cases the error resulted in a spelling that was attested somewhere else than in CGT."

          I would want to clarify that this is NOT intended to be an argument for authenticity. My only point is that the "errors" are NOT actually ERRORS OF COPTIC, but variants of the forms of Coptic we routinely find in, say, Thomas. To call them errors or "typos" is ONLY valid if we have already determined with certainty on other grounds that the text was copied from Coptic Thomas as we have it (online or in MS, whatever). Hence again: it is in my view prejudicial and factually incorrect to refer to these variants as errors -- especially the missing object-marker in the first line -- when there is nothing erroneous about them.

          2) As Bagnall says, content IS a factor in judging authenticity. If the MS were full of anachronisms, utter implausibilities ("Jesus said: I want to watch the Rocky Horror Picture Show"), or even errors of language that would not have been committed by an ancient scribe, this would form part of the evidence that would tell against it. Since however this is NOT the case here (Jesus referring to a metaphoric wife is not sufficient grounds to claim implausibility, and since there are no errors of Coptic, that's out the window too, and overlap between ancient Christian texts of language and metaphor happens all the time), the matter will have to be decided on physical grounds.

          3) I want to stress that I do not offer any of this as an argument for the authenticity of the fragment. I don't have any strong opinion on the matter. What I do want to stress is that the Coptic of the fragment is just fine, a point that is glossed in all this talk of typos.

          Thanks, Mike, for an excellent -- and fair -- summary of our back-and-forth.

          cheers,
          Bill
          ______________________
          William Arnal
          University of Regina


          To: gthomas@yahoogroups.com
          From: mwgrondin@...
          Date: Fri, 19 Oct 2012 01:17:22 -0400
          Subject: [GTh] Is There Really A Letter Missing From GJW Line 1?

           

          Some of you may have noticed the lengthy exchange on Facebook
          today between myself and fellow GThomas moderator Bill Arnal.
          (Too bad these things can't be saved or linked-in.)
          I learned something from it, and I think Bill has a point, so I pose the
          subject question despite its appearing to have already been answered.
          Bill's point may perhaps be best illustrated by his final sentence:
           
          >
          There are "typos" in this text only if one has already determined that it is a forgery, and therefore
          >
           the "typos" cannot themselves be held as evidence of forgery, implicitly or explicitly.
           
          First, it might be best to specify what "typos" we're talking about:
          (1) An apparent missing direct-object marker ('M') on GJW line 1.
          (2) The spelling 'Mariam' (instead of 'Mariham') on line 3.
          (3) The supposed misspelling of 'VVAF-EINE' on line 6.
           
          I agree with Bill that these supposed errors of inscription cannot by
          themselves be regarded as evidence of forgery. But they aren't by
          themselves. Rather, they're in the context of a larger case. The way
          I look at it, they constitute a second stage in the development of a case
          for inauthenticity of content (which according to Bagnall is one of the
          four determinants of authenticity). The first stage is to build the basic
          case from what is actually written on the fragment. The second stage
          is to account for any evidence that doesn't seem to support the hypothesis.
          (This latter is an important stage too often ignored.) The above three
          items inherently constitute counter-evidence to the hypothesis, and must
          thus be plausibly dealt with. Once that's done, the case-builders have
          finished their work, and it's up to others to judge the likelihood that their
          explanation of the data is better than what has so far been accepted.
           
          Item #2 (the spelling 'Mariam') is fairly easily put forward as follows:
          Was the inscriber of the fragment a skilled Coptist who was aware of
          this rare spelling of the name, or was he/she a person who knew little
          Coptic, and thus made a mistake in copying 'Mariham' from CGT?
          (One explanation being that it was copied from the English 'Mariam'
          under the Coptic 'Mariham' in my interlinear.)
           
          Item #3 has been much discussed, since it's crucial to the case
          that GJW line 6 not contain the rare Coptic word for 'swell up'. If
          it did, then surely the scribe must have been a skilled Coptist, since
          that word is rarely found anywhere. On this point, paleography has
          seemed to favor the plagiarized-CGT position. Suciu, e.g., opined
          that the letter 'E' was probably written over the apparently-missing 'I'
          hypothesized by those finding 'swell-up' hard to swallow.
           
          Item #1 (supposed missing direct-object marker) is the one that's been
          in the news since Oct 11, when Andrew posted his paper, and Mark
          announced it. That is the one, in fact, that draws Bill's attention most
          directly. And he mentions something that we haven't discussed here,
          namely that King et al find that the line as written is a valid construct
          that doesn't require a direct-object marker. In her draft paper, King
          cites Layton's Grammar to indicate that there is a Coptic construction
          of the form Ti:NAx:obj, with three elements joined in a single word.
          This construction, however, is not to be found in CGT - which
          obviously poses a problem for the hypothesis that everything in the
          fragment except 'my wife' was copied from CGT. And again, what is
          actually written on the fragment, if taken at face-value, suggests a skilled
          Coptist. As opposed to that, Watson and Bernhard suppose that the
          scribe was someone who didn't know Coptic well, and thus made a
          number of mistakes. He/she might simply have inadvertently dropped
          the 'M' from the CGT parallel, but if that's one too many mistakes to
          contemplate, then he/she might have copied directly from the pdf of
          my interlinear, where the 'M' is missing (hence no mistake in copying).
           
          As I understand it, Bill finds it hard to believe that even a bungler
          could have made three mistakes in 7 lines, and been lucky enough
          that in all three cases the error resulted in a spelling that was attested
          somewhere else than in CGT. I think it's really hard to judge the
          force of this objection. One person's 'hard to believe' is another's
          'not hard at all'. Furthermore it may be more likely than we realize
          that if a letter is dropped from a Coptic word of reasonable length,
          the result is also a Coptic word, or a variation therefore, attested
          somewhere. It might also be suggested that the copyist made only
          two mistakes, one of which he/she recognized and tried to correct.
           
          For myself, I'm inclined to believe that the evidence adduced in the
          basic CGT-plagiarism case is strong enough to make it more likely
          than not that its explanation of the above three items is better than
          one which entails the presence of a skilled Coptist.
           
          Mike Grondin
          p.s. 'Coptist' is a word I made up. It may or may not be a real one.

        • Loren
          Hi Bill, One thing I ve been confused by in reading through your and Mike s exchanges (especially in the Fb thread) is your repeated point about already
          Message 4 of 11 , Oct 19, 2012
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            Hi Bill,

            One thing I've been confused by in reading through your and Mike's exchanges (especially in the Fb thread) is your repeated point about "already assuming forgery". Who exactly do you have in mind here? Who has been your implied interlocutor? Are there particular scholars, critics, pastors, bloggers, or whoever, who have jumped on the "typo" in isolation from what's been established or argued on other grounds? I'm just wondering because this "you're assuming forgery" business seems to be driving you here, and I don't quite get it. No doubt I'm missing something obvious, or I just don't get out enough.

            Loren Rosson III
            Nashua NH
            http://lorenrosson.blogspot.com/
          • Stephen Carlson
            What I think the push-back from Watson, Bernhard, and others does show is the level of competence in Coptic need to produce the text of the fragment. And this
            Message 5 of 11 , Oct 19, 2012
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              What I think the push-back from Watson, Bernhard, and others does show is the level of competence in Coptic need to produce the text of the fragment.  And this level does not seem particularly high.  As they argue it, to produce the text one needs Mike's interlinear, a little bit of Coptic 101, and not much else.

              If I understand the debate right, there are three features that seem to go beyond what a beginning Coptic student might know (e.g., that a direct object marker can be omitted, that Mariam can be spelled without the 2, and the rare word for swell).  Whether or not these are "errors" (Bill seems to think they are just fine),* it is important to keep in mind that a good case has been put forth that they all can be explained by fairly simple misunderstandings of the textual tools of Grondin and Layton, including a typo in an earlier version of the interlinear.  This explanation means that only a beginning knowledge of Coptic is sufficient to produce the text.  Merely asserting that the Coptic is fine is not really responsive to this point.

              Now, Bagnall does have some experience with forgeries and these are mainly papyri scribbled with nonsense designed to coax an ignorant tourist to part with his money.  Whoever composed the text of the fragment is obviously more sophisticated than that -- but, as the sleuthing work tends to indicate, the composer's competence in Coptic need not be very advanced.

              By itself, this proffered evidence for the collage theory does not "prove" anything, but, as in any reasonably complex case, one element rarely does.  One has to look at the totality of the evidence and see how the pieces together fit into the whole picture.  It would be nice if supporters of the GJW fragment authenticity could point to aspects of the case that seem out of the reach of a modern forger.

              Stephen

              *  I am a little uncomfortable with the dichotomizing of the Coptic into "errors" on the one hand and "just fine" on the other.  Language rarely is that clean.
              --
              Stephen C. Carlson, Ph.D. (Duke)
              Post-Doctoral Fellow, Theology, Uppsala

            • William Arnal
              Hi Loren: No, nothing specific here. I think I was mostly reacting to the tone of discussions on this list, where it seemed to me -- perhaps incorrectly --
              Message 6 of 11 , Oct 19, 2012
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                Hi Loren:

                No, nothing specific here. I think I was mostly reacting to the tone of discussions on this list, where it seemed to me -- perhaps incorrectly -- that people were regarding this missing letter as an actual error of Coptic and therefore as itself evidence of (clumsy) forgery. But I haven't been following the discussion closely. And my point was simply that since the "omission" of the direct object marker is NOT an error in Coptic, it cannot be cited as evidence of (clumsy) forgery. That is all. I hasten to add that Andrew Bernhard's paper on the text also made it clear (albeit in footnotes) that the omission of N/M was not a grammatical error, so I'm definitely not thinking of him. Just a "vibe" I guess.

                cheers,
                Bill
                ______________________
                William Arnal
                University of Regina


                To: gthomas@yahoogroups.com
                From: rossoiii@...
                Date: Fri, 19 Oct 2012 18:55:05 +0000
                Subject: Re: [GTh] Is There Really A Letter Missing From GJW Line 1?

                 


                Hi Bill,

                One thing I've been confused by in reading through your and Mike's exchanges (especially in the Fb thread) is your repeated point about "already assuming forgery". Who exactly do you have in mind here? Who has been your implied interlocutor? Are there particular scholars, critics, pastors, bloggers, or whoever, who have jumped on the "typo" in isolation from what's been established or argued on other grounds? I'm just wondering because this "you're assuming forgery" business seems to be driving you here, and I don't quite get it. No doubt I'm missing something obvious, or I just don't get out enough.

                Loren Rosson III
                Nashua NH
                http://lorenrosson.blogspot.com/


              • Andrew Bernhard
                Message 7 of 11 , Oct 20, 2012
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                  < Item #1 (supposed missing direct-object marker) is the one that's been

                  in the news since Oct 11, when Andrew posted his paper, and Mark

                  announced it. That is the one, in fact, that draws Bill's attention most

                  directly. And he mentions something that we haven't discussed here,

                  namely that King et al find that the line as written is a valid construct

                  that doesn't require a direct-object marker. In her draft paper, King

                  cites Layton's Grammar to indicate that there is a Coptic construction

                  of the form Ti:NAx:obj, with three elements joined in a single word. >

                   

                  Whether or not this has been discussed here, I would like to point out footnote 13 of my article:

                   

                  13 On this point, King calls attention to: Bentley Layton, A Coptic Grammar, 2nd ed. (Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz Verlag, 2004), 135. The “more usual phrase” would indeed be ϯ ⲛ -/ⲙ ⲙⲟ⸗ ⲛ -/ⲛⲁ⸗, which includes the verb plus a marker for both the direct and indirect objects. However, the direct object is not always marked with the double object infinitive ϯⲛⲁ⸗ (cf. Luke 11:29). See: King, “Jesus Said To Them, ‘My Wife.’”

                   

                  Sorry, the Coptic text didn’t paste in well, but hopefully the footnote’s still clear enough to indicate that I did not call the omission of the “mu” a mistake.  On the basis of Layton’s grammar, I take it that the mu “would ordinarily be expected” before the direct object (even if its omission is allowable). Layton only cites one instance in which it occurs.

                   

                  Cheers,

                  Andrew

                • Andrew Bernhard
                  Ah, thank you for the link, Loren. Looking over the Facebook three, I hadn t realized that Bill acknowledged me acknowledging King acknowledging Layton . . .
                  Message 8 of 11 , Oct 20, 2012
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                    Ah, thank you for the link, Loren.

                     

                    Looking over the Facebook three, I hadn’t realized that Bill acknowledged me acknowledging King acknowledging Layton . . . Thank you, Bill. :-)

                     

                    From: gthomas@yahoogroups.com [mailto:gthomas@yahoogroups.com] On Behalf Of Loren
                    Sent: Friday, October 19, 2012 4:30 AM
                    To: gthomas@yahoogroups.com
                    Subject: [GTh] Re: Is There Really A Letter Missing From GJW Line 1?

                     

                     



                    Mike wrote:

                    > Some of you may have noticed the lengthy exchange on Facebook
                    > today between myself and fellow GThomas moderator Bill Arnal.
                    > (Too bad these things can't be saved or linked-in.)...

                    You can actually link to the thread, but (obviously) only Bill's Fb friends (or friends of friends, depending on your settings) will be able to view it. It's a helpful discussion, and I would have missed it underneath so much stuff in my feed if you hadn't called attention to it, so thanks.

                    https://www.facebook.com/william.arnal/posts/10151056778515988

                    Loren Rosson III
                    Nashua NH
                    http://lorenrosson.blogspot.com/

                  • Mark Goodacre
                    Interesting conversation. And of course Bill would have difficulty seeing a direct link between two strikingly similar texts! I think that I am largely to
                    Message 9 of 11 , Oct 20, 2012
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                      Interesting conversation.  And of course Bill would have difficulty seeing a direct link between two strikingly similar texts!

                      I think that I am largely to blame for making a big deal of the typo in MIke's interlinear alongside its parallel in the Jesus Wife Fragment.  I do find it really striking.  Of course on its own it would not tell one much.  But as part of a cluster of remarkable parallels with Coptic Thomas from NHII, I think it's telling.  

                      On the grammatical issue of the missing mu, the best study I've seen on it is in Leo Depuydt's report sent to HTR. He argues that it is a real blunder. Unfortunately, his study won't see the light of day until Karen King's article is published, which now may be some way away.  If he is right, then of course the parallel between the fragment and Mike's interlinear becomes all the more striking.

                      Mark
                      --
                      Mark Goodacre           
                      Duke University
                      Department of Religion
                      Gray Building / Box 90964
                      Durham, NC 27708-0964    USA
                      Phone: 919-660-3503        Fax: 919-660-3530

                      http://www.markgoodacre.org


                    • Stephen Carlson
                      ... The way I like to think about the typo is: It is not so much that there s a typo in the GJW fragment itself (as some seem to talk about) but the fact that
                      Message 10 of 11 , Oct 21, 2012
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                        On Sun, Oct 21, 2012 at 7:02 AM, Mark Goodacre <Goodacre@...> wrote:
                        I think that I am largely to blame for making a big deal of the typo in MIke's interlinear alongside its parallel in the Jesus Wife Fragment.  I do find it really striking.  Of course on its own it would not tell one much.  But as part of a cluster of remarkable parallels with Coptic Thomas from NHII, I think it's telling.  

                        The way I like to think about the typo is:  It is not so much that there's a typo in the GJW fragment itself (as some seem to talk about) but the fact that there is a type on Mike's interlinear right where have one of the few places that the GJW does not parallel Thomas in such a way that the typo can explain an apparently rare construction otherwise outside of the ken of an ordinary forger.
                        --
                        Stephen C. Carlson, Ph.D. (Duke)
                        Post-Doctoral Fellow, Theology, Uppsala

                      • William Arnal
                        ... And of course Mark would have no difficulty seeing source dependence where there isn t any! I thinking I m noticing an odd pattern here. Seriously, though,
                        Message 11 of 11 , Oct 21, 2012
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                          Mark G writes:

                          >And of course Bill would have difficulty seeing a direct link between two strikingly similar texts!

                          And of course Mark would have no difficulty seeing source dependence where there isn't any! I thinking I'm noticing an odd pattern here.

                          Seriously, though, as to this point: I am NOT taking a position on either the authenticity of the fragment (MS is too strong a word) or on its source relationship to other texts. I'm NOT a defender of its authenticity. I just think people are jumping the gun here, and that at this stage it is a mistake to say that the absence (I won't say it's "missing") of N/M object-marker before PW--- is a grammatical error.

                          >On the grammatical issue of the missing mu, the best study I've
                          seen on it is in Leo Depuydt's report sent to HTR. He argues that it is a real blunder. Unfortunately, his study won't see the light of >day until Karen King's article is published, which now may be some way away.  If he is right, then of course the parallel between the fragment and Mike's interlinear becomes all the more striking.

                          Now that's interesting -- I assume that Depuydt's comments are not generally available. But I take it that he DOES address/contest Layton's placement of "tina-" among double-object verbs? A point both King and Bernhard take as given? It would be kind of amazing -- I say this with awe at the world's weirdness, and not argumentatively -- if a point of Coptic grammar were to be clarified or REVISED as a result of a debate over whether a scrap of papyrus was forged or not. Best potential headline: "Jesus' Wife forces revision of Layton's Coptic Grammar."

                          cheers,
                          Bill
                          ______________________
                          William Arnal
                          University of Regina


                          To: gthomas@yahoogroups.com
                          From: Goodacre@...
                          Date: Sun, 21 Oct 2012 01:02:14 -0400
                          Subject: Re: [GTh] Is There Really A Letter Missing From GJW Line 1?

                           
                          Interesting conversation.  And of course Bill would have difficulty seeing a direct link between two strikingly similar texts!

                          I think that I am largely to blame for making a big deal of the typo in MIke's interlinear alongside its parallel in the Jesus Wife Fragment.  I do find it really striking.  Of course on its own it would not tell one much.  But as part of a cluster of remarkable parallels with Coptic Thomas from NHII, I think it's telling.  


                          Mark
                          --
                          Mark Goodacre           
                          Duke University
                          Department of Religion
                          Gray Building / Box 90964
                          Durham, NC 27708-0964    USA
                          Phone: 919-660-3503        Fax: 919-660-3530

                          http://www.markgoodacre.org



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