Sunday, February 18, 2018

What did the Romans do with executed bodies?

THE BIBLE AND INTERPRETATION:
The Final Days of Jesus and the Realities of Roman Capital Punishment: What Happened to All Those Bodies?

What is the probability that the body of someone who had suffered capital punishment for offenses against the Roman state would be buried? The results of this inquiry indicate that the Gospel accounts of the execution and burial of Jesus comport well with Roman law and Roman practice in a time of relative peace.

See Also: The Final Days of Jesus: The Thrill of Defeat, The Agony of Victory: A Classical Historian Explores Jesus’s Arrest, Trial, and Execution (Lutterworth Press, 2018).

By Mark D. Smith
Professor of History
The College of Idaho
Board of Directors: Bethsaida Excavations Project
February 2018
Past PaleoJudaica posts on the crucified man skeleton are here and links.

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Høgenhaven et al. (eds.), Rewriting and Reception in and of the Bible

NEW BOOK FROM MOHR SIEBECK:
Rewriting and Reception in and of the Bible
Ed. by. Jesper Høgenhaven, Jesper Tang Nielsen, and Heike Omerzu


[Redaktion und Rezeption (in) der Bibel.]
2018. IX, 411 pages.
Wissenschaftliche Untersuchungen zum Neuen Testament 396
159,00 €
cloth
ISBN 978-3-16-155006-5

Published in English.
The contributions in this volume critically engage with Mogens Müller's work on ancient Judaism, the Septuagint, the New Testament gospels, and the reception history of the Bible, covering a variety of topics within the field of biblical rewriting and reception. Rewriting and reception are parts of a continuous process that began within biblical literature itself and have continued in the history of interpretative communities where the Bible has been received and cherished in innumerable ways until today. The present volume aims to further the scholarly debate on important topics within biblical studies. It demonstrates that the notion of reception can be addressed from very different angles and from diverse hermeneutical and methodological viewpoints, all of which offer fresh insights into ancient texts and their afterlife.

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James and Sirach (Ben Sira)

READING ACTS BLOG: James and the Wisdom of Sirach. Phil Long has an ongoing series of posts on the New Testament Epistle of James. This seems like a good opportunity to mention it.

Cross-file under Old Testament Apocrypha Watch.

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Who did Jesus look like?

REMNANT OF GIANTS: Joan Taylor knows what Jesus looks like: he is basically Bret from Flight of the Conchords (Deane Galbriath). Now you know.

For more on Joan Taylor's new book, What did Jesus Look Like?, see here and links.

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Saturday, February 17, 2018

On the Israeli Academy of the Hebrew Language

LEXICOGRAPHY: THE ISRAELI ACADEMY CONTINUING THE UNPRECEDENTED REVIVAL OF THE HEBREW LANGUAGE. In Biblical Hebrew, there were approximately 7,000 words. Modern Hebrew has approximately 33,000 words (Eytan Halon, Jerusalem Post).
Established by the Israeli government in a 1953 law, the academy is split into two divisions. The first division is a scientific undertaking termed the Historical Dictionary Project, initiated soon after the academy's birth and which seeks to produce an academic Hebrew dictionary, documenting and defining every Hebrew word from all periods and evolutions of the language.

The academy’s second division has a more practical, normative role. Its task is to coin new words and inform people how to speak and write. Since its inception, the academy has published countless dictionaries of new words in different technical fields, including psychology, banking, physics and mathematics.

According to the 1953 law, all Israeli state and governmental institutions are bound by the Hebrew language decisions adopted by the academy.

The success and breadth of the academy's historical dictionary project is clear to see by looking at one of [Dr. Gabriel] Birnbaum's many bookshelves. The project, initiated by Ben-Yehuda, counted five volumes by the time of his death in 1922. Today, there are 16 volumes taking pride of place in the researcher's office.
Some past posts on the Academy of the Hebrew Language and its Historical Dictionary Project are here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.

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Esler, God's Court and Courtiers in the Book of the Watchers

NEW BOOK FROM WIPF AND STOCK:
God's Court and Courtiers in the Book of the Watchers
Re-Interpreting Heaven in 1 Enoch 1-36


BY Philip F. Esler

Imprint: Cascade Books
Category: Biblical Studies
paperback-logo
PAPERBACK
ISBN: 9781625649089
Pages: 246
Publication Date: 11/6/2017
Retail Price: $30.00
Web Price: $24.00

About
First Enoch is an ancient Judean work that inaugurated the genre of apocalypse. Chapters 1–36 tell the story of the descent of angels called “Watchers” from heaven to earth to marry human women before the time of the flood, the chaos that ensued, and God’s response. They also relate the journeying of the righteous scribe Enoch through the cosmos, guided by angels. Heaven, including the place and those who dwell there (God, the angels, and Enoch), plays a central role in the narrative.

But how should heaven be understood? Existing scholarship, which presupposes “Judaism” as the appropriate framework, views the Enochic heaven as reflecting the temple in Jerusalem, with God’s house replicating its architecture and the angels and Enoch functioning like priests. Yet recent research shows the Judeans constituted an ethnic group, and this view encourages a fresh examination of 1 Enoch 1–36. The actual model for heaven proves to be a king in his court surrounded by his courtiers. The major textual features are explicable in this perspective, whereas the temple-and-priests model is unconvincing. The author was a member of a nontemple, scribal group in Judea that possessed distinctive astronomical knowledge, promoted Enoch as its exemplar, and was involved in the wider sociopolitical world of their time.
Professor Esler kindly gave me a copy a few weeks ago.

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Vashti's Persian insult

DR. GEOFFERY HERMAN: Ahasuerus, the Son of a Stable-Master (TheTorah.com).
Vashti insults Ahasuerus by calling him “the son of my father’s stable master” (b. Megillah 12b). Persian sources, including the story of King Ardashir I, shed light on the origin and significance of this calumny.[
A reminder that Purim is coming soon.

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The Song of Songs

BIBLE HISTORY DAILY: The Song of Songs: Love Is Strong as Death. Philip Stern’s Biblical Views column on the Song of Songs.
The poet’s aim, I would posit, is to sing of love with all the power of the Hebrew tongue.

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Friday, February 16, 2018

Review of Collins, The Invention of Judaism

ANCIENT JEW REVIEW: Book Note | The Invention of Judaism (Krista Dalton).
John J. Collins. The Invention of Judaism: Torah and Jewish Identity from Deuteronomy to Paul. University of California Press, 2017.
Last year I noted an essay on the book by Professor Collins himself here.

Visit PaleoJudaica daily for the latest news on ancient Judaism and the biblical world.

Brooke lecture on "Comparing Methods and Theories"

AT THE UNIVERSITY OF GRONINGEN, Dirk Smilde Research Seminar:
Professor George Brooke on "Comparing Methods and Theories."
This is a video of a recent lecture by Professor Brook. It is posted at Facebook page of the Groningen Faculty of Theology and Religious Studies. I noted awhile ago that his inaugural lecture at Groningen was upcoming. It happened at the beginning of this month and was livestreamed, but I can't find the video anywhere. If you find it, please send me the link.

Visit PaleoJudaica daily for the latest news on ancient Judaism and the biblical world.

Review of Graybill, Are We Not Men?

H-JUDAIC: Sweeney on Graybill, 'Are We Not Men?: Unstable Masculinity in the Hebrew Prophets'.
Author: Rhiannon Graybill
Reviewer: Marvin A. Sweeney

Rhiannon Graybill. Are We Not Men?: Unstable Masculinity in the Hebrew Prophets. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2016. 200 pp. $78.00 (cloth), ISBN 978-0-19-022736-4.

Reviewed by Marvin A. Sweeney (Claremont School of Theology)
Published on H-Judaic (February, 2018)
Commissioned by Katja Vehlow

Printable Version: http://www.h-net.org/reviews/showpdf.php?id=51533

Rhiannon Graybill’s monograph on unstable masculinity in the prophets is based on her recent University of California Berkeley PhD dissertation supervised by Robert Alter, Daniel Boyarin, Chana Kronfeld, and Celeste Langan. I normally do not mention full committees in reviews, but this committee includes no full Bible scholars, even if some of them, for example, Alter, have extensive experience with Bible. Alter is a comparative literature scholar; Boyarin is a Talmudist; Kronfeld is a scholar of modern Hebrew and Yiddish literature; and Langan in a specialist in English literature. But Graybill’s research is frequently limited by her selection of often out-of-date scholarly literature and her failure to contextualize many of the Bible passages that she studies. Although she raises appropriate questions, her discussions often do not provide full consideration of the biblical and scholarly literature that such a project demands.

[...]

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BHD on Ein Hanya

BIBLE HISTORY DAILY: A First Temple Period Palatial Estate Near Jerusalem? Discoveries at Ein Hanniya and their Iron Age palatial context (Samuel Pfister).
By the seventh century B.C.E., Jerusalem was a bustling capital city of the Kingdom of Judah. Just outside of the city limits in the Valley of Rephaim National Park, archaeologists have discovered the location of a rural estate occupied for more than a thousand years, from the seventh century B.C.E., the First Temple period, to the early Byzantine period, around 500 C.E. After six years of excavation and restoration, Ein Hanniya Park was dedicated with a festive tree-planting ceremony last week and attended by Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat, Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) Director General Israel Hasson, and others.
Background on the recent discoveries at Ein Hanya (Ein Hanniya) is here and here.

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Thursday, February 15, 2018

The Voynich Manuscript has not been deciphered

PHILOLOGOS: No, the Mysterious Voynich Manuscript Is Not Written in Hebrew Despite the silly claims of two computer scientists (Mosaic Magazine).
At this point, it must be said, Hauer and Kondrak’s paper descends into silliness. Quite apart from the unlikelihood of even the most esoteric of manuscripts beginning in such a manner, one can only compliment Google Translate on its ingenuity. She made recommendations to the priest, man of the house, and me and people? Even after “spelling corrections,” the Hebrew words in question mean no such thing. In fact, they mean nothing at all. Translating them without Google’s finessing, one comes up with something like “And he made her the priest each man to himself to his house and on me his people the commandments.” If this was the winning entry in the trial-decipherment round of competition, one can only imagine its rivals.
This is spot on, as is the rest of Philologos's analysis. I came to the same conclusion a couple of weeks ago, after reading (well, skimming) Hauer and Kondrak’s academic paper. It didn't take any more than skimming, because the supposedly deciphered (by an AI!), so-called Hebrew is simply not credible.

Background here.

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Ancient cupids in Israel

BELATEDLY FOR VALENTINE'S DAY: When Cupid paid Israel a visit, 2,000 years ago. The mischievous imp keeps popping up throughout the Holy Land (Amanda Borschel-Dan, Times of Israel).

Visit PaleoJudaica daily for the latest news on ancient Judaism and the biblical world.

Laughter in the Bible

BIBLE HISTORY DAILY: Laughter in the Bible? Absolutely! (Robin Gallaher Branch).
As I study and teach, I find I read the Bible ever more slowly, and as I do, I smile more and more frequently. I listen for its humor. My emotions span sorrow, understanding or joy as I empathize with the characters who cross its pages. I chuckle at many passages, even while acknowledging the sadness they may contain. Consequently, I believe it’s possible to read many verses, stories and even books through the lens of humor, indeed to see portions of the Bible as intended to be very funny. An appropriate response is laughter. I’ve come to this conclusion: Humor is a fundamental sub-theme in both testaments.
Probably, although it's hard to tell. This is a good bit of laughter in the Bible, but people can laugh out of scorn, nervousness, delight, etc., and not just because they think something is funny. And humor is very difficult to detect cross-culturally. Even within the same culture, one person's joke is often not funny to someone else. Still, I would say that Dr. Gallaher Branch's first example, 2 Chronicles 21:20, is a clear example of humor in the Bible.

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Qumran anniversary

TODAY IN HISTORY: Feb. 15 (Robert Joseph Baker, Manning Live).
1949 – Gerald Lankester Harding and Roland de Vaux begin excavations at Cave 1 of the Qumran Caves, where they will eventually discover the first seven Dead Sea Scrolls.
Bonus anniversary:
590 – Khosrau II is crowned king of Persia.

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Wednesday, February 14, 2018

February 14th

OLD CHURCH SLAVONIC WATCH: Today is the Feast Day of Saints Cyril and Methodius as celebrated by the Catholic Church and the Anglican Communion: Feast of Sts. Cyril and Methodius, Feb. 14 (Catholic News Service). They lived in the ninth century and were the creators of the Cyrillic alphabet. Their work is of interest to PaleoJudaica because many Old Testament pseudepigrapha survive in Old Church Slavonic or Church Slavonic. This is just the first round of celebration. Their day is also celebrated on 24 May in Bulgaria, Macedonia, and Russia, and on 5 July in Slovakia and the Czech Republic.

Background on Cyril and Methodius, their alphabet, and Slavonic pseudepigrapha, is here and links.

Oh, and if you must have something for that other celebration today, see this post from a couple of years ago: Solomonic Valentine's Day cards.

Visit PaleoJudaica daily for the latest news on ancient Judaism and the biblical world.

Monerie, L’économie de la Babylonie à l’époque hellénistique

NEW BOOK FROM DE GRUYTER:
Monerie, Julien
L’économie de la Babylonie à l’époque hellénistique (IVème – IIème siècle avant J.C.)


Series:Studies in Ancient Near Eastern Records (SANER) 14

Aims and Scope
Despite the interest that has been shown by classicists and assyriologists in the economy of Lower Mesopotamia during the two centuries of Macedonian rule over the region (331-129 B.C.), no synoptic study has previously been published, even though abundant sources are available: several thousand cuneiform tablets survive from this period, as well as more than 25,000 Greek seals, not to mention the testimony of classical sources and rich numismatic and archaeological materials. This book aims to present an accessible synthesis of the topic, in the form of a regional study that takes into account all available sources as well as the weight of Mesopotamia’s heritage. The reader will find not only clear overviews of complex questions (including the impact of Alexander’s reign, the nature of Seleucid policy, the evolution of prices, and the development of banking) but also new research on issues such as the 'Diadochi crisis', the introduction of coinage, the evolution of the prebendary system, and the disappearance of local temples, shedding new light on the economy of one of the most richly documented parts of the Hellenistic World.
Some past PaleoJudaica posts on why knowledge of late ancient Babylon is important for understanding ancient Judaism are here, here, here, and links.

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De-mining Qasr al-Yahud

PILGRIMAGE MINEFIELD: Israel will soon clear 4,000 landmines at Qasr al-Yahud baptism site. (MELANIE LIDMAN, Times of Israel).
Christians believe that Qasr al-Yahud, located about 10 kilometers east of Jericho, is the spot on the Jordan River where Jesus was baptized. But there are an estimated 4,000 landmines in the area, which contains seven churches along with chapels and monasteries, each belonging to a different denomination of Christianity. For decades, these bullet-pocked churches have remained abandoned, as some are booby-trapped.

[...]

The Qasr al-Yahud site is also holy to some Jews. Qasr al-Yahud translates as “The Castle of the Jews,” and some believe was the spot where the Jewish people crossed into Israel for the first time after leaving Egypt. It is also believed to be the site of Elijah’s ascent into heaven in a “chariot of fire” and the place where Elisha performed miracles.
This is one possible site for Jesus' baptism. As the article notes, and as PaleoJudaica noted here, the plans to de-mine the area go back to 2016. Other past posts on Qasr al-Yahud are here, here, and here.

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Looted ancient millstones

APPREHENDED: Police find antiquities worth NIS 200,000 in Palestinian man’s home. Raid on house in northern West Bank turns up ancient millstones (Stuart Winer, Times of Israel). The one in the photo has Greek letters inscribed on it.

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Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Maltese coin exhibition

AT THE NATIONAL MUSEUM OF ARCHAEOLOGY IN MALTA: Counting on 16,000 coins for a historic exhibition. Coins from every era have gone on permanent display (Times of Malta).
The National Numismatic Collection consists of over 16,000 coins and medals, the earliest of them dating back to the Punic period in the fifth century BC.

Other sections of the display include the Romans, the Medieval Millennium, the Order of St John and the French and the British, as well as parts of the exhibition featuring medals, dies, proofs and an audio-visual explanation of the minting process.
The article has a nice photo of some coins of Marcus Aurelius. Cross-file under Numismatics and Punic Watch.

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The Talmud on pagan gentiles

THIS WEEK'S DAF YOMI COLUMN BY ADAM KIRSCH IN TABLET: Immoral, Weak, Abusive, Untrustworthy, and Murderous. What Talmudic sages thought of the pagan gentiles of their day is disturbingly paranoid and hostile.
Should Jews be afraid of non-Jews? To the rabbis of the Talmud, the answer was obvious: They should be very afraid, since every pagan could be expected to seize any opportunity to harm a Jew. For instance, in Avoda Zara 25b, the Gemara says that, if a Jew encounters a gentile on the road, he should make sure to walk on the gentile’s left side. This way, the Jew’s right hand is closer to the gentile, so he can more easily draw a weapon to defend himself if necessary. In addition, the Jew should never “bend down before him,” because this would give the gentile the chance to “break his skull.”

[...]
Earlier Daf Yomi columns are noted here and links.

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Variant Readings

ASSIMILATED TO THE BLOGOSPHERE: Dr. Brent Nongbri, whose work on paleography I have noted here and links, has a new blog, Variant Readings. It has been running since July of 2017. Here are some interesting posts in it:

Provenance and The Oxyrhynchus Papyri. This in response to a post by David Meadows at the Rogue Classicism blog, which I noted here.

The Yale Genesis
Among the ancient Greek manuscripts in the Beinecke Library at Yale University is a fragment of a leaf of a papyrus codex containing the book of Genesis. It constitutes another interesting case of palaeographic analysis, both for the variety of opinions among experts and the changing of opinions by individual palaeographers. Yale purchased the piece (P.CtYBR inv. 419, LDAB 3081) as part of a lot of a few hundred papyri in February of 1931 from the Cairo dealer Maurice Nahman, but it was not published until the 1960s.

[...]
Codices Made from Reused Documents
In the case of the Chester Beatty tax codex, the reuse of the codex was of a documentary nature. There are, however, some examples of Christian literary works that were preserved in this type of codex composed of reused documentary materials. I will discuss them in future posts.
Periodically I hear people say that blogging is an outdated medium that is on its way out. I don't believe it. In any case, PaleoJudaica's fifteenth anniversary is coming soon. More on that in due course.

Visit PaleoJudaica daily for the latest news on ancient Judaism and the biblical world.

Syriac exhibition at Vanderbilt

SYRIAC WATCH: Role of Syriac culture in religious history focus of exhibit (Ann Marie Deer Owens, Research News @Vanderbilt).
Syriac: Preserving an Endangered World Culture' on display through March 2 at Cohen Hall
Family collection of priest of first Indian Orthodox parish in Tennessee part of Syriac exhibit


The rich Syriac culture, which has faced continued threats of extinction due to ongoing strife in countries such as Syria and Iraq, is featured in an exhibit at Vanderbilt’s Cohen Memorial Hall.

“Syriac: Preserving an Endangered World Culture,” which is free and open to the public through March 2, showcases the presence of Syriac culture around the globe.

The Syriac language is a dialect of Aramaic used extensively by Christians in the Middle East.

[...]

Visit PaleoJudaica daily for the latest news on ancient Judaism and the biblical world.

Monday, February 12, 2018

Review of Knapp, The Dawn of Christianity

BRYN MAYR CLASSICAL REVIEW: Robert Knapp, The Dawn of Christianity. People and Gods in a Time of Magic and Miracles. Cambridge Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 2017. Pp. xvi, 303; 16 p. plates. ISBN 9780674976467. $29.95 (hb). Reviewed by Giovanni Alberto Cecconi, Università degli Studi Firenze (giovannialberto.cecconi@unifi.it).
Already the author of a volume on the lives of ordinary people and those in the lowest social ranks during the Empire from Augustus to Constantine (Invisible Romans, Cambridge MA), Robert Knapp continues to examine ordinary people, refocusing his attention on a completely different historical topic. Here he sketches a broad outline of religious life and attitudes toward the divine in Jewish, Christian, and polytheist individuals and communities (Knapp opts for the systematic use of the word “polytheists”, cf. especially chap. 5 "Polytheists in their World", 59-87; 59: “Polytheists… had a panoply of attitudes and approaches to the supernatural which the term ‘polytheism’ encapsulates”). The book considers the preexisting conditions for the formation and spread of Christianity from the Late Hellenistic period to the 1st century C.E. The author highlights common ground and points of divergence between the various contexts and traditions mentioned above, laying the basis for a more suitable knowledge and a clearer interpretation of the first “dawn of Christianity” and equally of historical-religious processes that are chronologically later, and which in this book are left undertreated or not treated at all, e.g., Christianization after Constantine (defined as “top down”).

[...]

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Nabatean seafaring

THE ANCIENT NEAR EAST TODAY: Echoes of Nabataean Seafaring (Ralph Pedersen).
When one thinks of the Nabataeans, the desert comes to mind, with wind-blown sands, the red rock-cut architecture of their capital of Petra, and trade routes carrying incense from Arabia to the Mediterranean. There is, however, another aspect of the Nabataeans, one that is only now coming into focus: Seafaring.

[...]
I didn't know that seafaring was so important for the Nabateans. In fact, it seems they were also pirates:
Examining the literary sources, we find that the Greek geographer Strabo (XVI.4, 18) states that the Nabataeans used crude rafts in their initial maritime activities. But the Greek historian and geographer Agatharchides (5.90), writing in the mid-second century BCE, stated that Nabataeans were known for attacking passing ships. Clearly, their piratical ventures quickly earned the Nabataeans a sordid and dangerous reputation.
Does that mean they spoke pirate Aramaic?

Cross file under Nabatean (Nabataean) Watch. The Nabateans actually spoke Arabic but wrote in a dialect of Aramaic. For many past posts on the Nabateans and their language, start here and follow the links or search the PaleoJudaica archive.

Visit PaleoJudaica daily for the latest news on ancient Judaism and the biblical world.

No Ten Commandments on the tablets of stone?

DR. RABBI DAVID FRANKEL: What Did God Write on the Tablets of Stone? (TheTorah.com).
“YHWH said to Moses: ‘Come up to me on the mountain and stay there so that I might give you the tablets of stone and the teaching and the commandment that I have written to teach them.’”—Exodus 24:12

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"The multiplicity of voices in our sources"

ANCIENT JEW REVIEW: Voices, Fragments and Selves: Preserving Ancient and Contemporary Multi-vocality in Our Classrooms (Sarit Kattan Gribetz).
The underlying lessons of this opening exercise – about the fragmentary nature of our sources, about the voices that are present and absent, about the methods we can use to answer important questions about the past, about the impact of our own perspectives and biases on our interpretation of this material – then guide our subsequent study for the remainder of the semester, as my students learn to analyze ancient sources both for what they reveal and what they conceal about the past, and as they learn to listen to the voices from the past as well as the voices of their classmates.
Cross-file under Pedagogy.

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