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Thread: Gospel Doctrine: Lesson 11, Tamar, Judah, and Joseph

  1. #1

    Default Gospel Doctrine: Lesson 11, Tamar, Judah, and Joseph

    Just a few notes about the Tamar and Judah story. Could be used if you wanted to teach the Tamar story in gospel doctrine


    Judah, Tamar, and Joseph

    Chapter 37 marks the beginning of the Joseph Narrative. Joseph is sold into slavery by his brothers and his brothers deceived his father into believing that Joseph, his favorite son, is now dead. Later in chapter 39 the narrative picks up with Joseph as a slave in the house of Potiphar. The story of Judah and Tamar, contained in Genesis 38, interrupts this story.1


    1.1 Interrupting the Joseph Story

    One obvious question is why does the author of Genesis interrupt the flow of the Joseph narrative to tell us about Judah and Tamar?

    • One possibility is there is no other place really to put it. It happens around this time and you can't really put it anywhere else.

    • Also, maybe it is there just to show passage of time between Joseph's brothers selling him and Joseph's ultimate fate in Egypt. This delay also helps build a sense of suspense.

    • While both of the preceding may be true, I think there is much more to it than that. These two stories are closely related and linked. Recognizing the intertwined nature of these stories enhances the impact of both stories.


    1.2 Similarities Between the Joseph Narrative and the Tamar Narrative

    1.2.1 What similarities and overlap to you find between the two narratives?

    1. Deception plays a prominent role in both narratives.


      • Ironically, Judah is the chief deceiver in the Joseph narrative and the deceived in the Tamar narrative.

      • It is the "father" that is primarily deceived in both narratives


    2. Clothing plays a critical role in the deception.


      • Joseph's coat is used to deceive Jacob

      • Tamar dresses as a prostitute and wears a veil to deceive Judah


    3. The death of a son features prominently in both

    4. In both, primogeniture is violated.

    5. Goats figure prominently in both and are wrapped up in the deception in both narratives.


      • Goat's blood is used to deceived Jacob

      • Judah promised payment to Tamar is a goat.


    6. Sexuality is an important part of both narratives

    7. Both narratives are about who will rule Israel: Joseph in the short run and Judah's line in the long run.

    8. The heroes in both stories are for a time helpless and lack any real recourse or options. Both are able to overcome their dire circumstances they are dealt.

    9. Recognition is critical in each story and the triumph of the heroes.


      • Joseph recognizes his brothers but they do not

      • Tamar recognizes Judah but Judah doesn't recognize her


    10. The requirement to leave something to seal the deal.

    11. Both the heroes are foreigners. Joseph is a foreigner in a strange land and Tamar was probably a Canaanite. They are likewise both mistreated by their families.

    12. Joseph and Judah both "went down."
      (1) And it came to pass at that time, that Judah went down from his brethren, and turned in to a certain Adullamite, whose name was Hirah. (Genesis 38:1)

      (1) And Joseph was brought down to Egypt; and Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh, captain of the guard, an Egyptian, bought him of the hands of the Ishmeelites, which had brought him down thither. (Genesis 39:1)



    1.2.2 Are these similarities important?

    • What do you make of these similarities?

    • Do the similarities help us understand the Joseph story better?

    • Do they point us to the important elements in both stories?

    • Do they give us insight into the overall theological point(s)? If so, what are the important shared theological points in the story?



    1.3 Contrasting Elements in Joseph Narrative and the Tamar Narrative

    • Sons of both Judah and Jacob die in the narratives. The two grieve very differently:
      (33) And he knew it, and said, It is my son's coat; an evil beast hath devoured him; Joseph is without doubt rent in pieces. (34) And Jacob rent his clothes, and put sackcloth upon his loins, and mourned for his son many days. (35) And all his sons and all his daughters rose up to comfort him; but he refused to be comforted; and he said, For I will go down into the grave unto my son mourning. Thus his father wept for him. (Genesis 37:33-35)

      (7) And Er, Judah's firstborn, was wicked in the sight of the Lord; and the Lord slew him. (8) And Judah said unto Onan, Go in unto thy brother’s wife, and marry her, and raise up seed to thy brother. (9) And Onan knew that the seed should not be his; and it came to pass, when he went in unto his brother’s wife, that he spilled it on the ground, lest that he should give seed to his brother. (10) And the thing which he did displeased the Lord: wherefore he slew him also. (11) Then said Judah to Tamar his daughter in law, Remain a widow at thy father’s house, till Shelah my son be grown: for he said, Lest peradventure he die also, as his brethren did. And Tamar went and dwelt in her father’s house. (Genesis 37:33-35)
      Are the differences between Jacob and Judah here important? Do we learn anything about each of them? Are the differences instructive for each of us? Is either reaction entirely appropriate?

    • Judah is exposed because of his sexual impulsiveness and Joseph ultimately triumphs in part because of his sexual restraint. Seduction and failed seduction.

    • Judah's role serves as an important contrast. Is he changed by the events of Chapter 38. Is this important to understanding Judah's later behavior in the Joseph narrative?

    • There is no mention of the divine help in the Tamar narrative, but it is very prominent in the Joseph narrative. Well, the Lord is mentioned in terms of explaining the death of Judah's oldest son so the contrast is even more striking than no divine help versus divine help.

      Is this an important difference? Why?



    1.4 Additional Thoughts


    • Deceit plays an important role in many of the narratives in the Book of Genesis. Why is deceit so important and such a prominent theme?

    • Furthermore, deceit is often used to further the desires or plan of the Lord. Why?

      This is not an accidental theme, it is too prominent. What does it teach us about God? What theological concepts does it hint at? How can the prominence of deceit in these narrative teach us something about God?

    • Does it make you uncomfortable that deceit is so prominent? Why? On the other hand, what is the upside to the prominence of deceit?

    • Why does the trickster always end up getting tricked?


      • Jacob tricks his father.
      • Laban tricks Jacab.
      • Jacob tricks Laban.
      • Judah (as the leader of the sons) tricks Jacob.
      • Judah tricked by Tamar.
      • Sons of Jacob tricked (mildly) by Joseph.



      Is this trickster motif important? Is it just a coincidence? Does it tell us something about the human condition? Is it a completely non-spiritual motif?

    • Primogeniture is violated almost all the time in Genesis (it almost seems like it is a sin to be the oldest). Why did the author of Genesis emphasize these stories? What does this pattern or theme teach us about God?




    Footnotes:

    1 What follows is heavily influenced by Robert Alter's commentary on the Genesis story. For more information see the Art of the Biblical Narrative, 3-12.
    Last edited by pelagius; 03-11-2010 at 03:34 PM.

  2. #2

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    I'm glad you've started posting your notes again, pelagius. I have missed them.

  3. #3

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    Quote Originally Posted by Babs View Post
    I'm glad you've started posting your notes again, pelagius. I have missed them.
    It probably won't happen all that often. You basically get notes from me when my wife asks me for some notes (she teaches gospel doctrine every 3 weeks or so ) and I have some time to write some up for her.
    Last edited by pelagius; 03-11-2010 at 05:05 PM.

  4. #4

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    Much more complete set of notes for what it is worth:

    Code:
    
    I Judah, Tamar, and Joseph 
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    
      Chapter 37 marks the beginning of the Joseph Narrative. Joseph is
      sold into slavery by his brothers and his brothers deceived his
      father into believing that Joseph, his favorite son, is now
      dead. Later in chapter 39 the narrative picks up with Joseph as a
      slave in the house of Potiphar. The story of Judah and Tamar,
      contained in Genesis 38, interrupts this story.[1]
    
    
    A. Interrupting the Joseph Story 
    
    
       One obvious question is why does the author of Genesis interrupt
       the flow of the Joseph narrative to tell us about Judah and Tamar?
    
       - One possibility is there is no other place really to put it. It
         happens around this time and you can't really put it anywhere else.
    
       - Also, maybe it is there just to show passage of time between
         Joseph's brothers selling him and Joseph's ultimate fate in
         Egypt. This delay also helps build a sense of suspense.
    
       - While both of the preceding may be true, I think there is much
         more to it than that. Judah and Tamar story fits perfectly as
         part of the overall Joseph narrative. These two stories are
         closely related and linked. Recognizing the intertwined nature of
         these stories enhances the impact of both stories.
    
    
    B. Structure of Genesis 37-50 
    
       The overall structure of Genesis 37-50 is nearly perfectly
       parallel. Within this parallel structure the Judah and Tamar story
       fits perfectly as part of the overall Joseph narrative. This
       bolsters the notion that the Judah and Tamar story is not an
       inconvenient interruption and is an important part of the overall
       Joseph narrative. 
    
       *The Structure of Genesis 37-50* [2]*
         a.   Trouble between Joseph and brothers (37:2-11)                      
              a' More trouble between Joseph and brothers (37:2-11)              
                                                                                 
         b.   Sexual temptation involving Judah (38:1-30)                        
              b' Sexual temptation involving Joseph (39:1-23)                    
                                                                                 
         c.   Joseph interprets two dreams of prison mates (40:1-23)             
              c' Joseph interprets two dreams of Pharaoh (41:1-57)               
                                                                                 
         d.   Brothers come to Egypt for food (42:1-38)                          
              d' Brothers again come to Egypt for food (43:1-44:3)               
                                                                                 
         e.   Joseph has some of his family brought to him (44:4-45:15)          
              e' Joseph has all of his family brought to him (45:16-47:12)       
                                                                                 
         f.   Prospering in Egypt: Joseph in ascendancy (45:16-47:12)            
              f. ' Prospering in Egypt: Blessings on Jacob's sons (47:27-49:32)  
                                                                                 
         g.   Death of patriarch: Jacob (49:33-50:14)                            
              g' Death of patriarch: Joseph (50:15-26)                           
    
    
    C. Similarities Between the Joseph Narrative and the Tamar Narrative 
    
    
    i. What similarities and overlap to you find between the two narratives? 
    
        1. Deception plays a prominent role in both narratives. 
    
           - Ironically, Judah is the chief deceiver in the Joseph narrative
             and the deceived in the Tamar narrative.
    
           - It is the "father" that is primarily deceived in both narratives
    
        2. Clothing plays a critical role in the deception.
    
           - Joseph's coat is used to deceive Jacob
    
           - Tamar dresses as a prostitute and wears a veil to deceive
             Judah 
    
        3. The death of a son features prominently in both
    
        4. In both, primogeniture is violated.
    
        5. Goats figure prominently in both and are wrapped up in the deception
           in both narratives.
    
          - Goat's blood is used to deceived Jacob
    
          - Judah promised payment to Tamar is a goat.
    
        6. Sexuality is an important part of both narratives
    
        7. Both narratives are about who will rule Israel: Joseph in the short
           run and Judah's line in the long run.
    
        8. The heroes in both stories are for a time helpless and lack any
           real recourse or options. Both are able to overcome their dire
           circumstances they are dealt.
    
        9. Recognition is critical in each story and the triumph of the
           heroes.  
    
           - Joseph recognizes his brothers but they do not 
    
           - Tamar recognizes Judah but Judah doesn't recognize her
    
        10. The requirement to leave something to seal the deal.
    
        11. Both the heroes are foreigners. Joseph is a foreigner in a
            strange land and Tamar was probably a Canaanite. They are
            likewise both mistreated by their families.
    
        12. Joseph and Judah both "went down."
    ORG-BLOCKQUOTE-START
           (1) And it came to pass at that time, that /Judah went down from
           his brethren/, and turned in to a certain Adullamite, whose name
           was Hirah. (Genesis 38:1)
     
           (1) And Joseph was brought down to Egypt; and Potiphar, an
           officer of Pharaoh, captain of the guard, an Egyptian, bought
           him of the hands of the Ishmeelites, which had brought him down
           thither.  (Genesis 39:1) 
    ORG-BLOCKQUOTE-END
    
    
    ii. Are these similarities important? 
    
        - What do you make of these similarities?
    
        - Do the similarities help us understand the Joseph story better?
    
        - Do they point us to the important elements in both stories?
    
        - Do they give us insight into the overall theological point(s)?
          If so, what are the important shared theological points in the
          stories?
    
    
    D. Contrasting Elements in Joseph Narrative and the Tamar Narrative 
    
       - Sons of both Judah and Jacob die in the narratives. The two
         grieve very differently: 
    ORG-BLOCKQUOTE-START
         (33) And he knew it, and said, It is my son's coat; an evil beast
         hath devoured him; Joseph is without doubt rent in pieces.  (34)
         And Jacob rent his clothes, and put sackcloth upon his loins, and
         mourned for his son many days.  (35) And all his sons and all his
         daughters rose up to comfort him; but he refused to be comforted;
         and he said, For I will go down into the grave unto my son
         mourning. Thus his father wept for him. (Genesis 37:33-35)
    
         (7) And Er, Judah's firstborn, was wicked in the sight of the
         Lord; and the Lord slew him.  (8) And Judah said unto Onan, Go in
         unto thy brother s wife, and marry her, and raise up seed to thy
         brother.  (9) And Onan knew that the seed should not be his; and
         it came to pass, when he went in unto his brother s wife, that he
         spilled it on the ground, lest that he should give seed to his
         brother.  (10) And the thing which he did displeased the Lord:
         wherefore he slew him also.  (11) Then said Judah to Tamar his
         daughter in law, Remain a widow at thy father s house, till
         Shelah my son be grown: for he said, Lest peradventure he die
         also, as his brethren did. And Tamar went and dwelt in her
         father s house. (Genesis 37:33-35)
    ORG-BLOCKQUOTE-END
    
         Are the differences between Jacob and Judah here important? Do we
         learn anything about each of them? Are the differences
         instructive for each of us? Is either reaction entirely
         appropriate? 
    
       - Judah is exposed because of his sexual impulsiveness and Joseph
         ultimately triumphs in part because of his sexual
         restraint. Seduction and failed seduction.
    
       - Judah's role serves as an important contrast. Is he changed by the
         events of Chapter 38? Is this important to understanding Judah's
         later behavior in the Joseph narrative?
    
       - There is no mention of the divine help in the Tamar narrative,
         but it is very prominent in the Joseph narrative. Well, the Lord
         is mentioned in terms of explaining the death of Judah's oldest son
         so the contrast is even more striking than no divine help versus
         divine help. 
    
         Is this an important difference? Why?  
    
    
    E. Additional Thoughts 
    
       - Deceit plays an important role in many of the narratives in the Book
         of Genesis. Why is deceit so important and such a prominent theme?
    
       - Furthermore, deceit is often used to further the desires or
         plan of the Lord. Why? 
    
         This is not an accidental theme, it is too prominent. What does
         it teach us about God? What theological concepts does it hint at?
         How can the prominence of deceit in these narrative teach us
         something about God? 
    
       - Does it make you uncomfortable that deceit is so prominent? Why?
         On the other hand, what is the upside to the prominence of
         deceit?
    
       - Why does the trickster always end up getting tricked? 
         - Jacob tricks his father. 
         - Laban tricks Jacob.
         - Jacob tricks Laban.
         - Judah (as the leader of the sons) tricks Jacob.
         - Judah tricked by Tamar.
         - Sons of Jacob tricked (mildly) by Joseph.
    
         Is this trickster motif important? Is it just a coincidence? Does
         it tell us something about the human condition? Is it a
         completely non-spiritual motif? 
    
       - Primogeniture is violated almost all the time in Genesis (it
         almost seems like it is a sin to be the oldest). Why did
         the author of Genesis emphasize these stories? What does this
         pattern or theme teach us about God?
    
    
    II. Tamar and Genealogy of Jesus 
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    
      - One of the interesting thing about Tamar is that she is mentioned or
        listed in the genealogy of Jesus in the first chapter of Matthew
        along with three other women besides Mary.
    
        1. Tamar (Thamar)
        2. Rahab (Rachab)
        3. Ruth 
        4. Bathsheba the wife of Uriah
    
    
      - Matthew could have written the genealogy without mentioning these
        women so their inclusion strikes me as important. Why mention
        these women?
    
      - What do these women  have in common? Is Mary being compared these
        women? Is Mary like them over some dimension? Does the inclusion of
        these women tell us something important about Jesus?
    
      - Potential commonality of the women
        1. Sinners.
        2. Gentile or Foreigner.
        3. Weird marriages
        4. Sacrifice
        5. Initiative
        6. Each with a connection to Jesus or Mary
    
    
    A. Sinners 
    
       Brown[3] mentions that this is the first
       known proposal or explanation for the inclusion and commonality (it
       goes all the why back to Jerome).
    
       Does this work? Do all the woman have this in common? Do any of the
       woman have this in common? 
    
       I actually don't think this one works well. While it is certainly
       possible to describe each of the woman as sinners, it is never the
       point or the focus of their narratives in the Old Testament. It is
       certainly not the focus of the Tamer narrative. Judah even admits
       her relative righteousness towards the end of the narrative
       (Genesis 38:26):
    ORG-BLOCKQUOTE-START
       (26) And Judah acknowledged them, and said, She hath been more
       righteous than I; because that I gave her not to Shelah my son. And
       he knew her again no more.
    ORG-BLOCKQUOTE-END
    
       - Suppose that was Matthew's understanding of the commonality. Why
         would Matthew explicitly mention a group of woman sinners in the
         genealogy?
    
         It could certainly point to the atonement of Jesus Christ. It is
         kind of a cool image: Jesus was sent to redeem is very family. Or
         in other words, the family of Jesus is a family of sinners both
         in a narrow genealogical sense and in the broader sense of all of
         us.
    
    
    B. Gentile of Foreigner 
    
       Brown[4] indicates that this idea was made
       popular by Martin Luther. 
    
       - Does this work? Do all the women have this in common?
    
         Rahab was a Canaanite and Ruth is Moabite. I think most scholars
         believe Tamar was a Canaanite. Bathsheba is not a foreigner, but
         Uriah is at least associated with foreigners by the Hittite label
         even though his name is a good Israelite name: "The Lord is my
         Light."  Problems: how does this relate to Mary? She is not a
         foreigner. Also, all of these woman might be better thought of as
         converts rather than foreigners.
    
    
       - Suppose that was Matthew's understanding of the commonality. Why
         would Matthew include a group of woman gentiles in the genealogy?
         What if they are all converts and that is the commonality?
    
         A foreshadowing of Jesus' universal mission.
    
    
    C. Weird Marriages 
    
       - Does this work? Do all the women have this in common?
    
         Tamar's marriage with Judah could easily be described as weird or
         unusual. Rahab was a prostitute so any union involving her would
         be unusual. Even if you don't read it scandalously, Ruth marriage
         certainly has something irregular about it (Ruth used her
         initiative, etc, etc). Bathseba, I can definitely see the weird
         angle.
    
       - Suppose that was Matthew's understanding of the commonality. Why
         would Matthew include such women? 
    
    
    D Initiative 
    
       - Does this work? Do all the women have this in common?
    
         Tamar, lots of initiative. Ruth, ditto, Rahab, ditto. Bathsheba,
         her initiative ensure that Solomon gets the throne. Their stories
         are all remarkable.
    
       - Suppose that was Matthew's understanding of the commonality. Why
         would Matthew include such women?
    
    
    E. Sacrifice 
    
       The women all had to sacrifice greatly.
    
       - Does this work? Do all the women have this in common?
    
       - Suppose that was Matthew's understanding of the commonality. Why
         would Matthew include such women?
    
    
    F. Each With A Connection to Jesus or Mary 
    
       They each apply to Jesus or Mary in a uncommon but important way
    
       - Suppose that was Matthew's understanding of the commonality. Why
         would Matthew include such women?
    
    
    
    Footnotes
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    
    [1] What follows is
      heavily influenced by Robert Alter's commentary on the Genesis
      story. For more information see the /The Art of Biblical Narrative/,
      3-12. 
    
    [2] Cotter, David W., 2003,
       /Genesis/ (Berit Olam Series), The Liturgical Press , 267. 
    
    [3] /Birth of the Messiah/
    
    [4] /Birth of the Messiah/

  5. #5
    Drunkard of Ephraim Solon's Avatar
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    Thank you for sharing these notes, pelagius.

    I'm curious as to how you, or anyone else, would react to a Sunday-School teaching of the Joseph story as essentially a set of Egyptian and Canaanite myths.

    The story of Joseph resisting Potiphar's wife has strong connections to Ancient Near East and Egyptian myth. In the Epic of Gilgamesh, the hero resists the advances of Ishtar - which brings him hardships. In the New Kingdom, Egypt's Tale of Two Brothers is even closer to the Joseph story. There are plenty of examples in the (later) Greek myths as well (e.g. Bellerophon).

    In the same vein, the basic outline of the Joseph story follows Ancient Near East fertility cult stories, where a god-like figure is especially loved, dies, is resurrected, and provides food and grain to earth. The “grain-god” of Shechem (where Joseph was buried) mirrors closely the Ancient Near East mythic figure of Tammuz. When Joseph is lost and presumed dead, the earth goes into famine (winter), but when he is found (resurrected), it’s a symbol of spring and regeneration and fertility. We know that Tammuz was popular in Israel as well as throughout the ANE (see Ezekiel 8.14). Joseph is also similar to the figures of Adonis and Osiris, fertility gods who die and are reborn. Fertility gods were often associated with bulls, and Deuteronomy 33.17 describes the glory of Joseph’s tribe as a young bull.

    This isn’t to comment on the “truth” of the Joseph story, but to situate it in context. ANE myth was often didactic, and there are certainly lessons to gain here. In many ways, the “dying god” is a version of Christ (or Christ is a version of the dying god, depending on your point-of-view). These stories weren’t written to preserve “history” as we know it today, but to preserve important cultural traditions. Undoubtedly these traditions contained elements of legend and folklore. In addition, the vehicle used to convey the information was often as important as the information itself. That is, the question becomes, "Why did the recorders choose this mythic outline to teach the story of Joseph?"

    Regardless of modern notions of literalism and historicity, these stories were extremely important to the Hebrews. And that doesn’t mean we can’t take modern-day lessons from them.

    It’s just my opinion, but I think this would be a better lesson than “Joseph resisted sexual temptation; Judah did not. (Bad Judah! Bad Jews, Good Ephraim!), which is how I read the LDS manual’s suggested development. Besides, a close reading betrays the ancient perception that women are sexually voracious and unable to control their impulses. Not the best image for Sunday School.

    I share this because I was asked to teach this lesson today, but had to decline because of other obligations. This is what would have went down in my congregation and I wonder how it would have been received.
    Last edited by Solon; 03-14-2010 at 09:08 AM.
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  6. #6
    Semper infra dignitatem PaloAltoCougar's Avatar
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    Pelagius, thanks a lot for this. I borrowed heavily from your notes to present today's lesson and it went very well. Several expressed gratitude for focusing more on this aspect of the reading, rather than the Joseph parts as is more commonly done. We had a lively discussion.

    Keep 'em coming.

  7. #7
    The Dude Jeff Lebowski's Avatar
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    Dang it. How did I miss this thread?

    A few days ago our gospel doctrine instructor asked me to take a few minutes and summarize Gen 38 (Judah and Tamar) and discuss it. I enjoyed researching the story and the discussion went well. I focused on some Jewish commentary and found some good stuff. A sampling:

    1) For some reason I never realized the primary reason why Onan was so reluctant to impregnate Tamar. As the second son, he stood in line to inherit everything if his brother had no seed. Conflict of interest.

    2) When Tamar was sent to live with her father as a widow, her future was as bleak as could be. With no husband and no children, she had no worth and no standing in their tribal system. Interestingly, there is a prominent Jewish tradition (midrashic) that Tamar was given the gift of prophecy and understood that she was destined to be the mother of the tribe of Judah. Thus, desperate times called for desperate measures and she took matters into her own hands. It reminded me a bit of the story of Nephi and Laban.

    3) Judah offered a kid goat in exchange for sex. This was many times the typical price at the time (a loaf of bread). There is some parallelism since Judah and brothers used a goat to deceive Jacob in the previous chapter.

    4) During the Victorian era, people used the story of Onan as a warning against masturbation. "God will strike you down!" They even called it "Onanism".
    So that's what you call me. You know, that or, uh, His Dudeness, or uh, Duder, or El Duderino if you're not into the whole brevity thing.

  8. #8

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    I really wish we had a GD teacher like you, our lesson was nothing but a bunch of people talking about how society has gotten worse and not to watch TV or Movies.
    "I don't mind giving the church 10% of my earnings, but 50% of my weekend mornings? Not as long as DirecTV NFL Sunday Ticket is around." - Daniel Tosh

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