Wise Man Says
You're absolutely correct.
I was impressed by a sermon on unity offering two contrasting illustrations: a wise man who was able to tell each of the contending parties in turn, "You are absolutely correct," and a church (true story) that couldn't decide on a guest preacher, so they brought in two who preached simultaneously. I'm trying to see how a sermon on disagreements among Christians might apply to some issues I'm involved with, so I shall take up again from an earlier discourse--of January 27, 2003--which I'll quote in part and then go on from it. An earlier sermon--the subject of that letter--had been about applications of Romans 14.
The list was left open ended, but said it might impact on other matters. I know the preacher's said he has the liberty to use the NIV in the service, so I guess that would be one of them. As I understand our Bible origins, God insisted after the flood that mankind have various languages, and Noah's blessing on Shem eventually resulted in the Greek and Hebrew tongues in which our scriptures were written in the fullness of time. Our English that most closely matches the state of the Greek in which the NT was written was that developed by Wycliffe and then Tyndale which passed into the King James Version. Sort of like, "If it's good enough for the apostle Paul, it's good enough for me." The newer English versions necessarily are worse because they have to substantially change the wording in order to copyright it, even the New King James.
The introduction of modern versions would necessarily exacerbate the differences among Protestant churches, as on writer in the mid 1800's put it:
The objections against a multitude of sectarian translations are very serious. The dialect of the English Bible is also the dialect of devotion and of religious instruction wherever the English language is spoken, and all denominations substantially agree in their sacred phraseology, with whatever difference in interpretation. There are always possibilities of reconciliation, sympathies even, between men who, in matters of high concernment, habitually use the same words, and appeal to the same formulas; whereas a difference of language and of symbols creates an almost impassable gulf between man and man. When, therefore, we have, not different churches only, but different Bibles, different religious dialects, different devotional expressions, the jealousies of sectarian division will be more hopelessly embittered, and the prospect of bringing about a greater harmony of opinion and of feeling among English-speaking Protestants proportionally darkened.
A number of years ago I'd started going to a newly formed church. When I asked what kind of a church it was, they told me they'd all come from so many different church backgrounds they didn't rightly know themselves. So we went around in a circle and everyone told his church background. No two were the same. Then we went around again and everyone stated which Bible version he used. Everybody used the King James Version except for the pastor who used the Revised Standard Version. Then we went around and told when we'd come to the Lord. I was the oldest one in the Lord in that church, except for one other man who didn't come all the time.
From my background it was instilled in me to shun denominationalism, and here was my one opportunity that at least this group of people from all their different backgrounds would be "one in the Lord" if I had anything to do with it, and I might hold some responsibility simply on account of my age in the Lord. Would the use of a different version by one member, the pastor, make it more difficult? I'd soon find out. And if it caused problems in just this one group, we could not expect all of Christendom to be immune either.
I wasn't particularly intimidated by the pastor there as he, along with about everyone else, was my younger brother in Christ and I'd had enough experience not to let myself be cowed by him, which I guess is the advantage of having elders to have someone who doesn't mind bringing up issues with the minister. So, I enquired why he wasn't using the KJV like everybody else. He agreed with me it was an excellent translation, but he had various other reasons for using the other one, all of which I could pretty well refute--even before I found my current reference work181. Eventually I got to the heart of the matter when he gave as his reason, "But that would be the spirit of conformity!"
It is a curious point, this wish to keep abreast of language changes rather than retain its old forms, as:
According to Caesar Zedd, one cannot be strong until one first learns how always to be calm. Strength and power come from perfect self-control, and perfect self-control arises only from inner peace. Inner peace, Zedd teaches, is largely a matter of deep, slow, and rhythmic breathing combined with a determined focus not on the past, or even on the present, but on the future.
That is in contrast to:
From what I have said it will of course be understood that I see no sufficient present  reasons for a new translation, or even for a revision, of the authorized version of the Bible; but there are certain considerations, distinct from the question of the merits of that version, which ought to be suggested. The moral and intellectual nature of man has few more difficult practical problems to resolve than that of following the golden mean between passion for novelty and an ultra-conservative attachment to the time- honoured and the old. Both extremes are inherently, perhaps equally, mischievous, but the love of innovation is the more dangerous, because the future is more uncertain than the past, and because the irreverent and thoughtless wantonness of an hour may destroy that which only the slow and painful labour of years or of centuries can rebuild.
And let us not forget (Ecclesiastes 1:9f) "The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun. Is there any thing whereof it may be said, See, this is new? it hath been already of old time, which was before us."
In the final analysis God saw to it that through Shem came the languages of both the Old and New Testaments and per Galations 4:4-5 we understand that Christ came in the fullness of time so that the Biblical languages were the ones God wanted and in the stage of development He wanted them to be to have penned his holy word.
Now I'm reading it in the king James Version English. The King James Version that I go by came out in 1611; that's four centuries ago. But when I read it, I'm reading something older:
In fact, with here and there an exception, the difference between Tyndale's New Testament and that of 1611 is scarcely greater than is found between any two manuscript copies of most modern works which have undergone frequent transcription; and Tyndale's, Cranmer's, the Bishop's, the Genevan, and the [King James] version coincide so nearly with each other, both in sense and in phraseology, that we may hear whole chapters of any of them read without noticing that they deviate from the text to which we have always been accustomed. When, then, we study our Testaments, we are in most cases perusing the identical words penned by the martyr Tyndale nearly [five] hundred years ago; and hitherto the language of English Protestant faith and doctrine may fairly be said to have undergone no change.
Okay, that makes what I'm reading half a millennium old for the most part. But it's older than that.
The difference between the version of Wycliffe and that of Tyndale was occasioned partly by the change of the language in the course of two centuries, and partly by the difference of the texts from which they translated; and from these two causes the discrepancies between the two versions are much greater than those between Tyndale's, which was completed in 1526, and the standard version which appeared only eighty-five years later. But, nevertheless, the influence of Wycliffe upon Tyndale is too palpable to be mistaken, and it cannot be disguised by grammatical differences, which are the most important points of discrepancy between them. If we reduce the orthography of both to the same standard, conform the inflections of the fourteenth to those of the sixteenth century, and make the other changes which would suggest themselves to an Englishman translating from the Greek instead of from the Vulgate, we shall find a much greater resemblance between the two versions than a similar process would produce between secular authors of the periods to which they belong. Tyndale is merely a full-grown Wycliffe, and his recension of the New Testament is just what his great predecessor would have made it, had he awaked again to see the dawn of that glorious day of which his own life and labours kindled the morning twilight. Not only does Tyndale retain the general grammatical structure of the older version, but most of its felicitous verbal combinations, and, what is more remarkable, he preserves even the rhythmic flow of its periods, which is again repeated in the recension of 1611. Wycliffe, then, must be considered as having originated the diction and phraseology which for [six+] centuries have constituted the consecrated dialect of the English speech; and Tyndale as having given to it that finish and perfection which have so admirably adapted it to the expression of religious doctrine and sentiment, and to the narration of the remarkable series of historical facts which are recorded in the Christian scriptures.
So to look at the translation of the KJV means looking also at Tyndale
In a lecture on the principles of translation I laid down the rule that a translator ought to adopt a dialect belonging to that period in the history of his own language when its vocabulary and its grammar were in the condition most nearly corresponding to those of his original. Now, when the version of Wycliffe appeared, English was in a state of growth and formation, and the same observation applies, though with less force, to the period of Tyndale. The Greek of the New Testament, on the other hand, was in a state of resolution. It had become less artificial in structure than the classical dialect, more approximated to modern syntactical construction, and the two languages, by development on the one hand, decay on the other, had been brought in the sixteenth century to a certain similarity of condition. Besides, the New Testament Greek was under the same necessity as Early English, of borrowing or inventing a considerable number of new terms and phrases to express the new ideas which Christianity had ingrafted on the Jewish theology; of creating, in fact, a special sacred phraseology; and hence there is very naturally a closer resemblance between the religious dialect of English, as framed by the Reformers, and that of the New Testament, than between the common literary style of England and the Greek of the classic ages. It will generally be found that the passages of the received version whose diction is most purely Saxon are not only most forcible in expression, but also the most faithful transcripts of the text, and that a Latinized style is seldom employed without loss of beauty of language, and at the same time of exactness in correspondence. Whatever questions may be raised respecting the accuracy with which particular passages are rendered, there seems to be no difference of opinion among scholars really learned in the English tongue as to the exceeding appropriateness of the style of the authorized version; and the attempt to bring down that style to the standard of to-day is as great an absurdity, and implies as mistaken views of the true character and office of human language, and especially of our maternal speech, as would be displayed by translating the comedies of Shakespeare into the dialect of the popular farces of the season.
In other words, "If it was good enough for the apostle Paul, it's good enough for me." Our King James Version is the closest English we've got to the language and its condition that God chose to reveal his holy word in. That's because of how it came about:
In the first place, then, the dialect of this translation was not, at the time of the revision, or, indeed, at any other period, the actual current book-language nor the colloquial speech of the English people. This is a point of much importance, because the contrary opinion has been almost universally taken for granted; and hence very mistaken views have been, and still are, entertained. respecting the true relations of the diction of that version to the national tongue. It was an assemblage of the best forms of expression applicable to the communication of religious truth that then existed, or had existed in any and all the successive stages through which English had passed in its entire history.
Thus God's chosen vessels, the English translators of the Bible, the
elder ones of Wycliffe, Tyndale, and the appointees of King James,
built on each other's work and used in humility the best forms of
English for their purpose, as we are instructed: "... Likewise ye
younger, submit yourselves unto the elder. Yea, all of you be
subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: for God resisteth
the proud, and giveth grace to the humble. ..." They were not so
proud as to use their current colloquial English of the day, but submitted
themselves to the best forms of English for God's purposes of revelation.
I mean, if we are supposed to be clothed with humility, that clothing
should include covering our feet shod with the preparation of the
gospel of peace, which means we don't exalt our own way of doing things
above God's. (Jeremiah 2:25) "Withhold thy foot from being unshod,
and thy throat from thirst: but thou saidest, There is no hope: no;
for I have loved strangers, and after them will I go." We aren't
supposed to thirst after that which is not good for us either. And
if we do, we're not supposed to regard ourselves as stuck with it.
Our elders the translators whom God chose did not withhold their foot
from being unshod with humility. They translated according to wisdom
(Prov. 8:12-13) "I wisdom dwell with
prudence, and find out knowledge of witty inventions. The fear of the LORD
is to hate evil: pride, and arrogancy, and the evil way, and the froward
mouth, do I hate." And we younger are supposed to submit to these elders
clothed with humility as in: (Ecclesiasticus 51:13-28) "¶ When
I was yet young, or ever I went abroad, I desired wisdom openly in
my prayer. I prayed for her before the temple, and will seek
her out even to the end. Even from the flower till the grape
was ripe hath my heart delighted in her: my foot went the right way,
from my youth up sought I after her. I bowed down mine ear a
little, and received her, and gat much learning. I profited
therein, therefore will I ascribe the glory unto him that giveth me
wisdom. For I purposed to do after her, and earnestly I followed
that which is good; so shall I not be confounded.
Humility, Caesar Zedd teaches, is strictly for losers. For the purpose of social and financial advancement, we must pretend to be humble----shuffle our feet and duck our heads and make self-deprecating remarks----because deceit is the currency of civilization. But if ever we wallow in genuine humility, we will be no different from the mass of humanity, which Zedd calls "a sentimental sludge in love with failure and the prospect of its own doom."
We must only pretend that we are humble, for to apply humility to which Bible version we take up would "for the purpose of social and financial advancement," make us losers. Socially we'd be losers because those with modern versions would not appreciate our sticking with the King James, and we'd lose financially because those with the modern versions would have to retool, buy the authorized version. That's in contrast to:
Too often Christians, in attempting to present the gospel, weaken the message to the point of no longer declaring the truth. ... A softer message may increase church membership, but it will decrease the number of true conversions.
These soft versions come across like Junior's project:
Junior had come to believe that every well-rounded, self-improved person ought to have a craft at which he excelled, and needlepoint appealed to him more than either pottery-making or decoupage. For pottery he would require a potter's wheel and a cumbersome kiln; and decoupage was too messy, with all the glue and lacquer. By December, he began his first project: a small pillowcase featuring a geometric border surrounding a quote from Caesar Zedd, "Humility is for losers."
It harks back to a previous day: "The colossal massif of the Tower, which the Jew of the Old Testament considered to be the epitome of human arrogance."192 Uniting their society with their own language instead of maintaining separate languages including the ones to eventually produce the original Bible was an arrogance associated with the tower of Babel project, and today we find a similar arrogance in wanting just one dialect to convey both everyday affairs and our Bible reading. It has something to do with Progress.
He was a future-focused, focused man. The past is for losers. No, wait, humility is for losers. "The past is the teat that feeds those too weak to face the future." Yes, that was the line from Zedd that Junior had stitched on a needlepoint pillow.
It seems that those too weak to move on to the newer versions are
stuck with the KJV. We need to be strong to move with the flow.
Zedd teaches that the present is just an instant between past and future, which really leaves us with only two choices--to live either in the past or the future; the past, being over and done with, has no consequences unless we insist on empowering it by not living entirely in the future. Junior strove always to live in the future, and he believed that he was successful in this striving, but obviously he hadn't yet learned to apply Zedd's wisdom to fullest effect, because the past kept getting at him.
If we accept a need to make new versions on a whim, we are always going to be making new versions, whence the future, otherwise we are stuck in the past, KJV etc. We are going for the future, but obviously we haven't mastered it yet because the past keeps getting at us.
We should be so reminded, for a part of our thinking and feeling derives from Babylon. More accurately: from Babylonia, as a geographic entity, though not necessarily from the Babylonians as such.
I think there's a misconception about what we're attempting to exchange for what. The NIV and its ilk want to update our English from 1611 until now, and they put forth an effort to do so, but the KJV dialect is older than that and more valuable for having been incorporated into the hearts & minds of the English-speaking people for six and a half centuries.
But wait, isn't the whole idea of coming out with the NIV to make an easier-to-understand English? That's nonsense. I was a member of Shiloh Youth Revival Centers, the largest Christian communal organization in the history of America, and we were not for the most part scholars. We were an organization of disenfranchised youth with our share of high school dropouts. All we used was the King James Version, no problem. One fellow didn't even know how to read so he taught himself to read from that Book. I remember our Bible studies going through Acts in the KJV with about 130 young people whose English was way behind that at my current church and we didn't need any NIV.
Then I went to a Chinese church for a few years where they had a bilingual service, and they'd give the Bible readings in both Chinese and NIV English. When the Chinese version was being read, I'd read the KJV and then compare it with the NIV. The NIV never seemed easier to me, Sunday after Sunday, month after month, year in, year out.
At the intersection of Bible Boulevard, Madi$on Avenue and Wall $treet, there are many crooked turns of the truth. Advertising campaigns create a cloud of confusion, calling the KJV "obscure, confusing and sometimes incomprehensible," while they crown the NIV's "clarity and ease of reading" and the NASB's "contemporary English." Christians are coerced by full color ads written to color the plain facts by advertising, not English majors.
KJV NIV NASB TEV NKJV Grade Grade Grade Grade Grade Level Level Level Level Level Gen. 1 4.4 5.1 4.7 5.1 5.2 Mal. 1 4.6 4.8 5.1 5.4 4.6 Matt. 1 6.7 16.4 6.8 11.8 10.3 Rev. 1 7.5 7.1 7.7 6.4 7.7 Grade Level 5.8 8.4 6.1 7.2 6.9 Average
To extend the inquiry, one each of the three book-types (Gospel, Pauline epistle, General epistle) were surveyed. The resulting data confirms the readability of the KJV.
Good KJV NIV NASB News NKJV (TEV) John 3.6 3.6 4.2 5.9 3.9 1:1-21 Galations 8.6 9.8 10.4 6.7 8.9 1:1-21 James 5.7 6.5 7.0 6.0 6.4 1:1-21
Why is the KJV easier to read? The KJV uses one or two syllable words while new versions substitute complex multi-syllable words and phrases.
The perceived difficulty has to do with adjustment to the Bible dialect. Remember (per Marsh) that a sacred dialect had been developed for our English Bible. Others also confirm that it is a separate Bible dialect, as opposed to, say, a 1611 dialect.
... he had previously obtained a sight of, and was soon convinced that the whole book was the work of some skeptic in England, in imitation of the language of scripture.
That sounds about the norm for dialects.
Within the territory of a language, wide deviations of dialect may be found ... Such deviations disturb communications, they do not completely disrupt it. And they are, in all known languages, past and present, a constant feature, like archaisms (e.g. in religious or legal terminology)...
Generally we understand the KJV well enough even though at times we may encounter difficulties. An occasional archaic word, say, but not more prevalent than in much of our modern literature including modern Bible translations. Communication is disturbed, not disrupted, so we don't need to retranslate it as if it were a different language we couldn't understand. We go back to the passage: (I Peter 5:1-11) "... Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time: Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you. ..." After we've humbled ourselves in not exalting our own current dialect above the Bible dialect developed by our elders of old, we cast our care on the Lord who helps us master it, through study and prayer, through helps, and also through our ministers who know it better and preach from it. "Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour: Whom resist steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world. But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you. To him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen."
The Bible is a mechanism for us younger to be subject to our elders-of-old who brought it to us, and each to one another in adhering to the same Book. It is only in that each is subject to each other that the elder can go along with a younger if that's a legit enough way to go, and such liberty as all liberty is subject to the criteria, (I Cor. 10:23) "All things are lawful for me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but all things edify not."
Besides leaning something about a preacher's exemption from conformity when I attended that church where I was about the oldest in the Lord, and everybody used the KJV except the pastor, there were several other beneficial learning experiences. As we went along at our Bible studies at that church where every member was from a different denomination, we eventually got to a spot where a woman there told us her belief related to a passage, where only her particular kind of background church believed that particular way, nobody else. I explained to her why believing that way wouldn't hold water, giving her something to think about, planning to return to the subject again. People don't change their beliefs all at once; it's sometimes a process, and anyway, the pastor later thanked me for making the attempt. But he wasn't content merely to have told it right and then go on, but he took that woman to task right there in front of the class. Of course, she never returned.
My only point here is that patience comes with maturity, not necessarily with being pastor. People are not always going to be changing their cherished false beliefs just because some preacher man lays the right way on them. Oh, he should be preaching it right in the first place, but getting straight a lot of times is more a process of maturity than of convincing arguments, and if we are looking to benefits from the maturing process, then we want to be quoting important matters from the mature version.
So, coming back to Romans 14, the newer versions are going to introduce added disagreement in the church which we note:
... not in strife and envying
The question gets asked, if Romans 13:13 prevents us from using Romans 14 as an excuse to fornicate, how can we not let it also prevent us from using Romans 14 as an excuse for divisiveness? Introducing more English versions necessarily introduces more difficulty surmounting church division.
I am thinking that my trying to put up with the NIV used in sermons at churches where I was going while at the same time trying to follow them in the KJV has been like listening to my favorite preacher (KJV) while somebody else's favorite preacher ( NIV) is preaching simultaneously. Mad! The preacher's reference to the dispute in the church in [was it] Scotland [?] where two preachers were going at it simultaneously put me in mind of that. From his sermon material it got really bad when the congregation attempted to sing two sets of hymns at the same time. Yes, and in my case, going to the men's TLC group reading a book published by Zondervan--the publisher of the NIV--and reading them quote a Disney song without giving credit and then putting down Disney with it was the final straw. During the hymns in Scotland it got so bad one man called the police. Yes, and after giving fair warning, I sent Zondervan's material to Disney's legal department. There was no copyright on the Pauline epistles to allow us to sue a publisher for their perversion, but Disney is another matter.
The police told the congregants to go home, and my church disbanded the men's TLC group. Churches aren't made for fighting. We're supposed to be studying the Bible, not suing the Bible.
Now I'm trying to think in terms of Sunday's sermon. Two different preachers, each of them according to the wise man "absolutely correct." Okay, let's take the first preacher. Here is his profile:
Say we want him to come preach at our church one Sunday. The Son of Consolation, which name includes "exhortation, comfort, and persuasive discourse." We ask the wise man if he's the right preacher to bring and he tells us, "You're absolutely correct."
Encouragement201 In Acts 4:36 Luke translates Barnabas to mean "son of encouragement" or "son of consolation." The original Greek word rendered "encouragement," paraklesis, means encouragement, consolation, comfort, exhortation and entreaty. It may be that the apostles who gave Joseph the name Barnabas, saw all of these qualities in his character.
Somebody else has a different preacher in mind.
Passage To Study:202 Acts 4:32-37
We ask the wise man if this is the right preacher to bring and he tells us, "You're absolutely correct."
The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia
Of course, the wise man would agree with either selection; that's why he's a wise man. Wise man says either okay, so you've been reading "son of exhortation" from the modern versions. My problem is I don't like him.
"Did you know him?" he asked her. It took her a moment to understand that he meant the absconded Hylan.
If lecturers are like Bibles, then having a crush on one's lecturer is like "worshipping the book." I don't get inspired by the NIV (or other modern versions), I think it's a boob and only tolerate it out of politeness. It's like the difference between Churchill and Clinton. Churchill inspires us with his speech, "Never give up!" I read my Bible (1 Cor. 7:17) "But as God hath distributed to every man, as the Lord hath called every one, so let him walk. And so ordain I in all churches." and I see it telling the new sister in Christ not to give up on her fiancé of nine years but to stick with him in hope that he too will get saved. I am inspired by the King James Bible.
Clinton on the other hand, I remember more for his saying, "That depends on what the meaning of is is." Right! The NIV has changed an adverbial phrase, (I Cor. 7:39) "The wife is bound by the law as long as her husband liveth; but if her husband be dead, she is at liberty to be married to whom she will; only in the Lord." which tells the widow only to marry in a manner fitting to her Christian faith--avoiding (I Tim. 5:11-12) "But the younger widows refuse: for when they have begun to wax wanton against Christ, they will marry; having damnation, because they have cast off their first faith."--to an adjectival phrase telling her to marry only to another Christian. However good an exhortation Clinton gives, I'm like the woman that wants him to stay away from me.
Therefore when Clinton's speaking, I'm listening to Churchill. When the NIV is being read, I'm looking up the passages in the KJV. So at these services the way they stand it's like having two competing lecturers, the son of consolation and the son of exhortation.
Now, if I've understood this sermon, the preacher's saying that for the sake of peace, they should divide out their territory. Divide to multiply, was it? Well, fine, we've got two services, a traditional and a contemporary. He referred to the KJV as the "old King James Version" in an earlier sermon, meaning, I take it, that this is the traditional version. Quoting from my letter of Nov. 8, 2003, The King James Version says, (Acts 4:36-37) "And Joses, who by the apostles was surnamed Barnabas, (which is, being interpreted, The son of consolation,) a Levite, and of the country of Cyprus, having land, sold it, and brought the money, and laid it at the apostles' feet," and the older (1526) Tyndale version put it, "And Joses which was also called of the apostles Barnabas (that is to saye the sonnne of consolacion, beynge a levite, and off the countre off Cipers) had londe, and solde itt, and layde the pryce doune at the apostles fete." The (2nd) Wycliffite version (mid 1300's) has it, "Forsothe Joseph, that was named Barsabas of apostlis, that is to seie, the sone of coumfort, of the lynage of Leuy, a man of Cipre, whanne he hadde a feeld, seelde it, and brou3te the prijs, and leide it bifor the feet of apostlis." Of the two sides of the Greek paraklesis, the "consolation" side in English goes back some 650 years that I can document, so it's the traditional one. The "exhortation" side is the contemporary one. I don't see any reason why the preacher couldn't read the KJV in the traditional service and a newer version in the contemporary. At least that's what I see that sermon indicating.
Okay, the wife of the wise man points out that both sides can't be right. She is absolutely correct. What happens when the whole church meets for just one service as in the park? It can't be both son of consolation and son of exhortation for every verse the preacher quotes. That's why we have submission to the elder (version) as I've developed above.
Disturbance of formulas.205
In summary I believe that the sermon I heard suggests we should split the traditional and contemporary versions between the two services, and use the KJV when we combine them.
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Copyright © 2002, Earl S. Gosnell III
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