Quadratus on Witnesses to Jesus

Johannes Quasten, Patrology, vol. I: The Beginnings of Patristic Literature, from the Apostle’s Creed to Irenaeus (Westminster: Christian Classics, 1983) 191.

Quasten discusses Quadratus, the oldest apologist for Christianity, whom Eusebius (third-fourth centuries C.E.) discusses in his Ecclesiastical History.

Eusebius says in EH 4:3:1-2 that Quadratus addressed his apology to Hadrian, who ruled from 117 to 138. Quasten offers 123-124 and 129 as possible dates that Quadratus made his defense. Eusebius quotes Quadratus as follows:

But the works of our Savior were always present, for they were true: those that were healed, and those that rose from the dead who were seen not only when they were healed and when they were raised but were constantly present; and not only while the Savior was living, but even after he had gone they were alive for a long time, so that some of them survived even to our own time.

A while back, Josh McManaway wrote a post about Quadratus, Quadratus and Jesus’ miracles. He said that it’s debated whether the survivors “even to our own time” are people who survived up to the time that Quadratus wrote his letter, or just up to the early years of Quadratus’ life. But Josh speculated that Jairus’ daughter (Mark 5:21ff.; Luke 8:41ff.) may have been really young when Jesus raised her from the dead, meaning she could have lived to the time of Quadratus.

I found this quote by Quadratus interesting for two reasons. First, it reminds me of Paul’s statement in I Corinthians 15:6 that there were witnesses to the risen Jesus who were still alive while he was writing his letter. Conservative Christians view this as a piece of evidence for Christ’s resurrection, whereas detractors disagree.

Second, it makes me think of Thomas Paine’s Age of Reason. Paine mocked Matthew 27:52-53′s statement that people rose from the dead during Jesus’ crucifixion. Paine said that, if this really happened, it would have left a significant mark on history, which isn’t the case. Some conservative Christians don’t see a problem here, however, for they think these resurrected people went to heaven with Jesus after they had risen from the dead and appeared to many, so society didn’t have to deal with the practical problems of dead people coming back to life (e.g., deeds, inheritance issues, etc.).

But Quadratus says that Jesus’ miracles did leave a mark on history: there were witnesses to them who’d been alive for many years. Some may consider this to be evidence for Jesus’ miracles. Others may wonder why we only see such “evidence” in Christian sources, and not in non-Christian ones. (It depends on how much of Josephus’ reference to Christ has Christian emendations!) “But would Christians make that up?,” apologists will then ask. Debates, debates!

Personally, I’ve not read all of the non-Christian references to Jesus in the first two centuries C.E., so I don’t know if they mention Jesus performing miracles. But I may do so in the future.

Published in: on September 4, 2009 at 8:58 pm  Comments (4)  


In my post, I Kings 8′s Allusion to II Samuel 7, I mentioned I Kings 8:16′s allusion to II Samuel 7:8:

II Samuel 7:8: Now therefore thus you shall say to my servant David: Thus says the LORD of hosts: I took you from the pasture, from following the sheep to be prince over my people Israel…(NRSV)

I Kings 8:16: Since the day that I brought my people Israel out of Egypt, I have not chosen a city from any of the tribes of Israel in which to build a house, that my name might be there; but I chose David to be over my people Israel.’

I Kings 8:16 omits the word that II Samuel 7:8 uses for prince: nagid.

Is this significant? I’m not sure. I read P. Kyle McCarter’s comments on nagid in his Anchor Bible commentary on I Samuel (178-179, 186-187). According to McCarter, the term often occurs in reference to God’s appointment of a king-designate, who is sanctioned by the prophet. Nagid usually refers to someone who hasn’t become king yet. McCarter sites I Samuel 9:16; 10:1; 13:14; II Samuel 5:2; I Kings 14:7; 16:2; cf. II Samuel 7:8.

I’m not entirely sure if this works. I mean, why can’t nagid simply mean “ruler”? When David told Michal that God appointed him nagid in place of her father, Saul, was he getting excited about being a king-designate, or the actual ruler (II Samuel 6:21)? Years before David became king, and Abigail stopped him from killing Nabal, telling him that he won’t want bloodguilt when God will command him to be a nagid, what did she mean by nagid? The king-designate who hadn’t yet ascended the throne? David was already that! He had been anointed by Samuel, and he wasn’t king yet. I think nagid probably means “ruler.”

Moreover, while McCarter is correct that I-II Samuel and I-II Kings often use the term nagid in reference to a prophet designating a person king, that’s not always the case. Job uses it to refer to nobles (Job 29:10). Ezekiel calls the head of Tyre a nagid (Ezekiel 28:2).

Moreover, I read in the Theological Dictionary of the Old Testament that Psalm 76:12 uses nagid as a parallel with the Hebrew word for king, melek.

Still, it’s interesting that nagid can occur in the context of two things: (1.) military leadership (I Samuel 9:16), and (2.) prophetic sanction (the references McCarter cites).

We see (1.) in II Samuel 7:8-9, in which, after calling David a nagid, God promises to cut off his enemies before him. But I Kings 8:16-19 doesn’t mention David’s battles, but focuses rather on his desire to build the temple. Could this have something to do with its omission of the word nagid?

For (2.), I wonder if the Deuteronomist is big on prophetic sanction. That is something I’ll have to check in Weinfeld, and perhaps in the commentaries I have on Samuel and Kings. In Exodus 18, Jethro suggests to Moses that he establish a judiciary. In Deuteronomy 1, Jethro is out of the picture. Could the Deuteronomist have problems with God using intermediaries, and that’s why he omits nagid in I Kings 8:16? He prefers for God to appoint the king directly? At the same time, I know Deuteronomy 18 discusses prophets, so Deuteronomy isn’t against them. But it will still do me good to check out what Weinfeld has to say about the Deuteronomist and prophets.

I know this post is kind of a stretch, but this is a place for me to brainstorm. Actually, I’m close to writing my paper, and that’s good.

Published in: on September 4, 2009 at 7:58 pm  Leave a Comment  

Frank Schaeffer’s Crazy for God

On and off over the next several days, I’ll be blogging about my favorite passages in Frank Schaeffer’s Crazy for God: How I Grew Up as One of the Elect, Helped Found the Religious Right, and Lived to Take All (or Almost All) of It Back (Cambridge: Carroll and Graf, 2007).

This is a book that I’m sad to have finished, since I enjoyed it so much. It took me a while to read it, since I was reserving my pleasure reading for my Saturday mornings at the pool. But, eventually, I decided to do pleasure reading during the week too, and the downside of that was that I finished the book faster.

So who is Frank Schaeffer? Frank Schaeffer is the son of the late Francis Schaeffer, a renowned evangelical theologian. I’m not sure where I first heard of Francis, but I learned more about him after I first heard of Franky. It was the late 80′s or early 90′s, and I was at a Church of God (7th Day) group in Indiana, which was meeting at somebody’s home. One of the ladies there was active in the Crisis Pregnancy Center, a pro-life group that counsels and helps pregnant teens. For our church service, she brought a video of a speech given at a Crisis Pregnancy Center dinner. The speaker was Franky Schaeffer.

He was intense yet enjoyable to listen to. But, to be honest, I don’t remember much of his speech, though much of it was about the evils of abortion and secular humanism. I do remember one line, though: he said that maybe we should abolish public schools and replace them with a committee of parents. The audience thunderously applauded, and the lady who brought the video said that several people there were involved in the home school movement. Since I was anti-public school at the time (primarily because of my own alienation and hostility to authority), the line resonated with me.

A few years later, I heard that Franky had converted to Greek Orthodoxy. I don’t recall my reaction to that. I know I wasn’t happy or upset: it just struck me as unusual, since I didn’t know much about that branch of Christianity. At one point in high school, I helped out with a Crisis Pregnancy Center baby shower, and there was a table with pro-life literature. One of the pamphlets advertised Franky’s group, and I told one of the prominent ladies there that I’d heard him speak and thought he was great. She replied in a not-too-enthusiastic tone, “Yeah, I’ve heard of him.” Maybe that was when he was still in the religious right, but was beginning to fall out of favor with many evangelicals.

Over the years, I heard that he had become more liberal, and, in 2008, I learned that he was endorsing Barack Obama for President. At first, my understanding was that he was adopting a consistent pro-life stance, one that was against abortion and war. Then, I heard that he had become pro-choice. In the book, he’s in the middle of these two extremes: he doesn’t believe all abortion should be banned, but he doesn’t agree with abortion on demand, either.

In 2009, after the shooting of abortion doctor George Tiller, Frank Schaeffer apologized for his contribution to the violence. He was the one who encouraged his father to champion the right-to-life cause, and his father practically made abortion an evangelical issue. Before, it was deemed a “Catholic” issue. Although Francis Schaeffer wasn’t a die-hard right-winger and actually liked the 1960′s, his access to Jerry Falwell, Ronald Reagan, and other influential leaders helped make abortion a key concern for Christian conservatives.

But Franky and Francis also contributed something else: Francis’ “Christian Manifesto” said that Christians may have to challenge their government over the abortion issue. For Franky, that helped create the fanaticism that motivated a violent anti-abortion activist to shoot George Tiller.

I think I first heard of Frank’s book, Crazy for God, from Michael Westmoreland-White, who was discussing such issues as the murder of George Tiller, Francis Schaeffer’s “Christian Manifesto,” and Franky’s apology. But the book was also mentioned on Gavin Rumney’s site, and Felix is also a fan of Frank Schaeffer.

One reason I couldn’t resist getting the book was that I wanted to read a perspective about what Francis and his wife, Edith, were like up close. As I said, I learned more about Francis after I’d first heard of Franky. I read about him at DePauw in Christianity Today. The article was glowing, even though Franky says that the publication didn’t think much of Francis when he was still alive.

At Harvard, a friend of mine had a bunch of Francis Schaeffer books. He told me about L’Abri, Francis’ Christian commune in Switzerland for seekers, which was visited by Timothy Leary and other big-time celebrities. According to my friend, Francis encouraged people who visited there to see the logical conclusion of atheism (immorality), and to embrace a Christian worldview with moral absolutes. I borrowed Francis’ book about Joshua and the Flow of Biblical History, and it was quite fundamentalist: it treated the Bible as historical, said that evolution shouldn’t thwart our faith because science changes, and tried to tie the Hebrew Bible to the substitutionary atonement of Christ.

At an Intervarsity meeting at Harvard, a speaker mentioned Edith Schaeffer, the wife of Francis, who practically ran L’Abri. I saw a book by her about L’Abri while I was shelving books in the Harvard Divinity School library. I didn’t read all of it, but it reminded me of Intervarsity conferences in the woods of New Hampshire. Edith struck me as a friendly, hospitable woman, a sort of “mother” at L’Abri.

Also at Harvard, during one of my breaks, I read William Martin’s history of the religious right, With God on My Side. He credited Francis Schaeffer with starting the religious right of the 80′s and the pro-life movement. When Jerry Falwell was reluctant to start Moral Majority because he feared there weren’t enough evangelicals to change the nation, Francis told him that God in the Bible used pagans, so Falwell shouldn’t be afraid to work with people who didn’t share his theological beliefs. Martin also said that Schaeffer was an evangelical who urged Christians to engage culture rather than reject it (as fundamentalists tended to do), so he was open to art, music, movies, etc.

When I was at Jewish Theological Seminary, I read a book by James Barr that called Francis Schaeffer a “pseudo-intellectual.” I was upset by Barr’s intellectual snobbery.

As a student of Hebrew Union College, I met someone who was watching or reading Francis Schaeffer’s How Then Shall We Live? The student was average in terms of his grades, yet he was talking like a scholar about art history, history, and philosophy. And he got all this from Francis Schaeffer’s documentary!

So I wanted to learn more about Francis and Edith, as well as the big-time celebrities whom they rubbed shoulders with: Dr. Dobson, Pat Robertson, Billy Graham, etc. But I also wanted to learn about Franky’s spiritual development: how he became disenchanted with evangelicalism, and where he is now–politically, spiritually, and personally.

The passages I’ll comment on will not be the “juicy gossip” aspects of the book. If you’re interested in that, then you should probably read it yourself. My focus will be on the parts that inspired me or made me think. And there was a lot that did that!

Stay tuned!

Published in: on September 4, 2009 at 1:39 pm  Leave a Comment  

From Your Bowels/Loins

In II Samuel 7:12 states: “When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your ancestors, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come forth from your body, and I will establish his kingdom” (NRSV).

According to P. Kyle McCarter, this originally referred to David’s seed in a collective sense, as in his entire royal dynasty, but the Deuteronomist inserted v 13 to apply it specifically to Solomon.

Here, I want to look at the phrase that the NRSV translates “from your body” (mi-memecha) to see if that is used in the context of a collective seed, the immediate offspring, or both.

Genesis 15:3-5: And Abram said, “You have given me no offspring, and so a slave born in my house is to be my heir.” But the word of the LORD came to him, “This man shall not be your heir; no one but your very own issue shall be your heir.” He brought him outside and said, “Look toward heaven and count the stars, if you are able to count them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your descendants be.”

This seems to relate to Abraham’s immediate offspring, Isaac, who is the prerequisite for other descendants. The idea is that Abraham will have a son, who will be his heir.

Genesis 25:23: And the LORD said to her, “Two nations are in your womb, and two peoples born of you shall be divided; the one shall be stronger than the other, the elder shall serve the younger.”

Esau and Jacob were in her womb, yet, in a sense, they are collective, since they are the ancestors of nations.

Numbers 5:22: now may this water that brings the curse enter your bowels and make your womb discharge, your uterus drop!” And the woman shall say, “Amen. Amen.”

The woman won’t be able to have immediate offspring because of the water she drinks.

Ruth 1:11: But Naomi said, “Turn back, my daughters, why will you go with me? Do I still have sons in my womb that they may become your husbands?

This is immediate offspring.

II Samuel 16:11: David said to Abishai and to all his servants, “My own son seeks my life; how much more now may this Benjaminite! Let him alone, and let him curse; for the LORD has bidden him.

Immediate offspring, namely, Absalom.

II Chronicles 32:21: And the LORD sent an angel who cut off all the mighty warriors and commanders and officers in the camp of the king of Assyria. So he returned in disgrace to his own land. When he came into the house of his god, some of his own sons struck him down there with the sword.

Immediate offspring.

Psalm 71:6: Upon you I have leaned from my birth; it was you who took me from my mother’s womb. My praise is continually of you.

Immediate offspring.

Isaiah 48:19: your offspring would have been like the sand, and your descendants like its grains; their name would never be cut off or destroyed from before me.

Different versions translate this in different ways. The NRSV has descendants, whereas the NAB has “those born of your stock.” Is this immediate offspring or collective seed? A little of both, perhaps, since the topic is the Israelites having lots of children for the nation.

Isaiah 49:1: Listen to me, O coastlands, pay attention, you peoples from far away! The LORD called me before I was born, while I was in my mother’s womb he named me.

Immediate offspring.

Conclusion: It mostly means immediate offspring, but it can be collective and refer to descendants, every now and then. So why’s McCarter see it as collective? Maybe on the basis of context, since II Samuel 7 promises David an everlasting dynasty. And, for there to be an everlasting dynasty, God must only chastise the descendants of David, not remove them from the throne. But here’s a thought: Maybe the Deuteronomist thought that whole chastisement business only applied to Solomon, but not Solomon’s descendants who came after him. In that case, he thought Solomon was the one with the unconditional covenant, whereas Solomon’s descendants had a conditional covenant: God would preserve their line if they obeyed.

But that may not work, for I Kings 9 says God will preserve his covenant only if Solomon and his descendants obey, so Solomon doesn’t get a free pass, while his descendants are saddled with conditions. Plus, David in I Kings 2 exhorts Solomon to keep the commandments so God can maintain his covenant.

Now I want to take a look at the parallel term used in I Kings 8:19: nevertheless you shall not build the house, but your son who shall be born to you shall build the house for my name.’ This literally says “from your loins” (me-chalatsecha).

Genesis 35:11: God said to him, “I am God Almighty: be fruitful and multiply; a nation and a company of nations shall come from you, and kings shall spring from you.

Here, it’s collective. Descendants are said to come from Abraham’s body.

Conclusion: I guess I Kings 8:19 is simply using an expression that’s interchangeable with that used in II Samuel 7:12. While immediate offspring can be said to come from a person’s body (be it man or woman), so can descendants. So a phrase about coming from a person’s body doesn’t have to mean an immediate son or daughter, but it can refer to descendants as well. II Samuel 7:12 is therefore ambiguous, but the Deuteronomist took it in a specific way, according to his agenda.

Published in: on September 4, 2009 at 1:40 am  Leave a Comment  

Jesus’ Conflicting Genealogies

Johannes Quasten, Patrology, vol. I: The Beginnings of Patristic Literature, from the Apostle’s Creed to Irenaeus (Westminster: Christian Classics, 1983) 119.

[The Protoevangelium of James,] most probably, was a product of the middle of the second century, and certainly was in existence at the end of this century…In it the names of Mary’s parents, Joachim and Anna, appear for the first time.

Matthew 1 and Luke 3:23-38 contain different genealogies of Jesus. The way many conservative Christians handle this is by saying that Matthew 1 is Jesus’ genealogy through Joseph, whereas Luke 1 is his genealogy through Mary. Perky Chris on Adventures in Odyssey made this claim. And a professor I had at DePauw stated that this is the traditional Christian interpretation, though he went on to say that the genealogies are more theological than factual.

What is the rationale for seeing Luke 3:23-38 as Mary’s genealogy? One book I read pointed out that Luke focuses on Mary in his story of Jesus’ birth, whereas Matthew looks more at Joseph. And, while this is true in terms of their respective narratives, both of their genealogies appear to be through Joseph. Matthew 1:16 has “Jacob the father of Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom Jesus was born, who is called the Messiah” (NRSV). And Luke 3:23 says that Jesus “was the son (as was thought) of Joseph son of Heli…”

But many conservatives have a way to get around this: they say that Heli was actually the father of Mary, but that he was reckoned as the father of Joseph. For them, maybe this is because “son” could be a fluid term in the Jewish culture of the day, meaning it could apply to a son-in-law. Conservatives point to Ezra 2:61 and Nehemiah 7:63, in which a man names himself after his father-in-law, Barzillai, the implication being (I think) that Joseph called himself the son of his father-in-law, Heli.

But, according to Quasten, the earliest Christian tradition about the name of Mary’s father calls him Joachim, not Heli. While people could have two names in ancient Israel (Solomon’s name was also Jedidiah; II Samuel 12:24-25), why would the Protoevangelium call Mary’s father “Joachim” rather than “Heli”? Wouldn’t it want to reconcile Matthew and Luke’s genealogies by calling Mary’s dad “Heli”?

Here, I’m doing what I’ve criticized others for doing: an argument from silence. “If the ancient author knew that Mary’s father was named Heli, he would have mentioned it. But he doesn’t mention it, so he must not have believed that Heli was Mary’s father.” To arguments of this sort (albeit with different topics), I’ve often responded, “Who says?” Just because an ancient writer doesn’t act according to our expectations, that doesn’t mean he was unaware of a tradition. Against what I said above, one could ask, “Why should we assume that the Protoevangelium had the agenda of reconciling Matthew and Luke’s genealogies? Maybe Joachim and Heli were the same person, and the author chose to call Mary’s father Joachim, even though he knew the guy had both names.”

Fair enough. It’s just odd to me that the earliest story about Mary’s father calls him “Joachim,” when many conservatives are so dogmatic about her father being Heli, in their attempt to reconcile two contradictory genealogies in the Bible.

How did ancient Christian thinkers address the different genealogies in Matthew and Luke? Here, I want to look at the views of Eusebius (third-fourth centuries C.E.) and Augustine (fourth-fifth centuries C.E.).

1. Eusebius seeks to harmonize the two genealogies in his Ecclesiastical History, Book I, Chapter 7. He refers to Africanus (third century C.E.), who offered a solution (see here). Africanus rejects the “solution” that one genealogy contains Jesus’ priestly lineage, whereas the other has his royal lineage, for he notes that both trace Jesus’ genealogy through King David.

Africanus’ proposal is this: Joseph had two fathers, Jacob and Heli, who were half-brothers. Jacob was his biological father, whereas Heli was his dead legal father, as I’ll explain later.

Jacob was the son of Matthan, who had him with a woman named Estha. When Matthan died, Estha married a man from another family, by the name of Melchi. Melchi and Estha bore Heli. And so we have two half brothers, Jacob and Heli, who had the same mother but different fathers, from different families.

Heli married a woman and died childless. According to Deuteronomy 25:5-10, when a man dies childless, his brother is supposed to marry the man’s widow and raise up seed for him. This is called Levirate marriage. And this is what Heli’s half-brother Jacob did: he married Heli’s widow and had a son by her, named Joseph. Legally, Joseph was the son of Heli, since Jacob and Heli’s widow had Joseph to perpetuate Heli’s line. Biologically, however, Joseph was the son of Jacob.

According to the wikipedia article on “The Genealogy of Jesus,” however, Mishnah Yebamoth 1.1 says that Levirate marriage doesn’t apply to two half-brothers who share the same mother, but not the same father. Right now, I don’t understand what the Mishnah passage is getting that, and I already racked my brain trying to comprehend Eusebius and Africanus, so (for now) I’ll leave this question to anyone who wants to tackle it.

2. In On Eighty-Three Varied Questions 61, Augustine states the following about the two genealogies (the translation is from the Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture):

But just as Matthew, presenting Christ the king as if descending for the assumption of our sins, thus descends from David through Solomon, because Solomon was born of her with whom David sinned, so Luke, presenting Christ the priest as if ascending after the destroying of sins, ascends through Nathan to David, because Nathan the prophet had been sent, and by his reproof the penitent David obtained the annulling of his sin.

The genealogies in Matthew and Luke start to diverge with the son of David. Matthew says Jesus was the descendant of David’s son, Solomon, whereas Luke traces Jesus’ lineage back to David’s son, Nathan. The Hebrew Bible mentions a son of David by the name of Nathan (II Samuel 5:14; I Chronicles 3:5), and I Chronicles 3:5 even states that Nathan (like Solomon) was David’s son by Bath-sheba.

But Augustine here doesn’t appear to think that the Nathan in Luke’s genealogy was the son of David, but rather the prophet Nathan (unless he holds that Nathan the prophet was David’s son). For Augustine, Luke’s genealogy mentions Nathan the prophet to make a theological point: Luke presents Jesus as a priest who takes away sin, and so his genealogy has Nathan the prophet, who influenced David to repent and receive forgiveness, which resulted in God’s removal of David’s sin. Augustine seems to explain the genealogies as my professor at DePauw did: in reference to theology rather than lineage.

What’s my view on this? I think the Levirate marriage description makes some sense. In this scenario, Luke presents Jesus’ legal line, which is sensible. Matthew, however, has a clear reason for using Jesus’ (or, actually, Joseph’s) biological line: it has Solomon, who is the son of David through whom the royal line flows (II Samuel 7). But, here, we run into a problem. Jesus is not technically descended from Solomon because of the virgin birth, and many conservative Christians respond that Jesus was legally descended from Solomon through Joseph, through Joseph’s adoption of him. But Matthew 1 isn’t Joseph’s legal line, but rather his biological line. So how can Jesus legally be descended from Solomon, if Solomon isn’t a part of his father’s legal line? Or could the biological line have some legal status?

I can sympathize with Augustine’s agenda. While I like the message about forgiveness that he derives from the genealogies, however, I ultimately disagree with him, since the Nathan in Luke’s genealogy was the son of David, not the prophet. I doubt that Nathan the prophet was David’s son by Bath-sheba, as Nathan the son of David was, for Nathan the prophet was an adult right when David first met and slept with Bath-sheba.

But the genealogies are making theological points. Matthew 1 mentions women in Jesus’ genealogy who had sordid reputations, yet their acts led to the Son of God. This could have justified Christianity’s outreach to sinners, while also defending the virgin birth. Against those who claimed that Jesus was born through fornication (John 8:41), Matthew makes two arguments: (1.) Jesus was born of a virgin, not through fornication, and (2.) God doesn’t always use conventional means to accomplish his work, for, in the Hebrew Bible, he used women who had bad reputations.

Luke’s genealogy culminates in Adam being the Son of God, which may serve to emphasize that Jesus is Son of God. So perhaps we can go with the genealogies’ theological points, even if they’re contradictory and lack a solid historical ground. Yet, I can understand why people would disagree with this point, since Jesus’ Messianic status rests on him being the son of David. But was he the son of David, if he were born of the virgin Mary, whose genealogy we don’t have (as far as I know)? And what about the biblical passages in which Jesus appears to deny being the son of David (Mark 12:35-37)?

Published in: on September 4, 2009 at 12:33 am  Leave a Comment  

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