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Re: Re; refuting bad apologetics

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  • Robert Griffin
    ... Hi Mike, What I m addressing is a claim that Paul s experience was purely psychological, produced presumably by his ruminations over his potential guilt in
    Message 1 of 15 , Feb 8, 2007
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      --- In crosstalk2@yahoogroups.com, "Mike Grondin" <mwgrondin@...>
      wrote:
      >
      > --- Robert Griffin wrote:
      > > My apologies for jumping into this so late, but...
      > > Does anyone know of a similar conversion to Falun
      > > Gong by anyone involved in suppressing it? Or, while
      > > we have accounts of Gentiles converting to Judaism,
      > > do any of these converts claim supernatural occur-
      > > rences leading to repentance and conversion? Have
      > > any of the converts from the Ku Klux Klan experienced
      > > any similar supernatural occurrences leading to (or
      > > aiding) their conversion?
      >
      > Hi Bob,
      > If we're trying to determine the uniqueness of Paul's
      > experience, I think we need to ask about cases involving
      > conversions _to Christianity_ in particular. The reason
      > I say that is that the Christian founder-figure is given
      > a role somewhat unique among the larger religions, such
      > that one is encouraged in at least some quarters to have
      > "a personal relationship with Jesus". Theoretically, this
      > should bias Christian conversion experiences toward some
      > sort of "encounter with Christ", and I think we will find
      > that to be the case.
      >
      > Aside from that, your questions raise another one that
      > we'll never be able to answer for sure: had Saul heard
      > about post-resurrection appearances before he had his
      > own experience? If so, would this not have greatly
      > increased the probability that he would think of his
      > own experience as being of the same kind?
      >
      > Mike Grondin
      >
      Hi Mike,

      What I'm addressing is a claim that Paul's experience was purely
      psychological, produced presumably by his ruminations over his
      potential guilt in the persecution of the early Christians. Assuming
      this to be the case, I would expect similar occurrences (maybe only a
      few) in similar situations.

      The founder of Falun Gong appears to occupy a central position, as
      does the Buddha, but I'm not focusing so much on the content of the
      experience at this point as the fact of it. (Imagine a vision of the
      Dharmakaya to a Chinese communist persecutor of Falun Gong!) Visions
      of supernatural and departed beings are not entirely unknown in
      anthropology, whatever part those beings may play in some religious
      or mythological context. So, an equivalent, in an American setting,
      would be the Angel Moroni appearing to some violent persecuter of the
      19th century Mormons, leading him (or her) to repent and convert.
      Likewise, a vision of Krsna to a Moghul (or even a vision of Muhammad
      or the angel Gabriel).

      As I'm not aware of such accounts, I'm hesitant to classify Paul's
      experience with them. I certainly don't see Paul as having a
      _unique_ psychological breakdown. If it was such a pschological
      breakdown, it shouldn't be unique. There are too many similar
      situations (persecution of the honorable and defenseless) for such a
      breakdown to have only occurred once in human history.
      I also want to avoid a simple list of similar conversion experiences
      among converts to Christianity, since there should be no reason that
      such experiences be limited to potential Christian converts.

      Thanks for your response,
      Bob Griffin
    • Robert Griffin
      Gordon, The point I m addressing is the context of the current thread on Crosstalk, where among other things we are looking at Paul s claim (in 1 Corinthians)
      Message 2 of 15 , Feb 8, 2007
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        Gordon,

        The point I'm addressing is the context of the current thread on
        Crosstalk, where among other things we are looking at Paul's claim
        (in 1 Corinthians) to have seen the Jesus after the resurrection (and
        ascension).
        As far as I'm aware, humans have been making ethical changes since
        before the beginning of written history. This is not unusual, and
        does give some hope for our future. However, it is completely
        irrelevent to Paul's discussion in 1 Corinthians and to the
        discussion of the resurrection of Jesus (what was it? did it really
        occur? what did folks mean when they wrote about it?...)
        The claim the Paul (and the other disciples) were only referring to a
        re-evaluation of the impact of Jesus' life when they spoke or wrote
        about the resurrection seems extremely farfetched to me. They don't
        appear to be claiming what anyone could claim of Socrates, Diogenes,
        or Isaiah or Moses. I would compare and contrast the statements of
        the early Christians with the statements in the Letter of Mara bar
        Serapion to Serapion bar Mara (whether that be an actual letter or
        merely an exercise in rhetoric is not relevent).
        I have a great deal of admiration for Mar Binyamin Shim'un, which I
        believe I share with most members of the Church of the East. However
        I am not aware of anyone claiming that he rose from the dead.
        Likewise with Hrant Dink.
        In some ways, the Christian claims of Jesus' resurrection parallel
        claims that Buddha achieved Paranirvana. I don't see the Buddhists
        denying that other teachers (Mahavira for instance) were influential
        or important, or denying that they had an influence or importance
        undiminished by their death. They are claiming something more than
        that for the Buddha. So also with the early Christians. Claims the
        Jesus overcame death did not negate claims of the importance of
        Isaiah, Moses, or Plato.
        My apologies for my wordiness.

        Be Well,
        Bob Griffin


        > Robert, Leon, Mike
        >
        > If one will bracket the later story telling and just look at the
        > original testimony of Paul in the 50's... so, a decade and a half
        or
        > so after "the event"... the language in the most common parlance
        is
        > simply a change of mind language:
        >
        > Galatians 1:11-12 "For I want you to know brothers and
        sisters....
        > but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ." and 15-
        16
        > "But when God, who had set me apart before I was born and called
        me
        > through his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son to me..."(NRSV)
        > and
        > I Corinthians 15:3 ff "For I handed on to you as of first
        importance
        > what I in turn had received: that Christ died for our sins
        according
        > to scriptures, and that he was buried, and that he was raised on
        the
        > 3rd days in accordance with scriptures and that he appeared to
        > Cephas.... Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also
        to
        > me."
        >
        > Such language as "revelations" and "appearances," of course, occur
        > all over the TANAK. Just setting aside metaphysical wonderings,
        such
        > is the sort of language that just ordinarily gets used when people
        > have significant changes of mind (or poetically put, changes of
        > heart). Such is shown in modern cartoons when the proverbial
        light
        > bulb goes on over a characters head. Significant changes such as
        > these happened to such as Malcolm X after he went to Mecca, such
        as
        > Anwar Sadat, etc. etc. In Christian remembrance Slave Ship Captain
        > John Newton had such a change of mind and wrote "Amazing Grace."
        The
        > language Paul uses for this is thoroughly good Hebraic
        theological/
        > Scriptural language. One need not at all try to figure out either
        > metaphysics nor try to read a persons psychology across two
        thousand
        > years to understand the use of these rather ordinary ways of
        talking
        > about someone having a significant change of mind. Of course,
        such
        > metaphysical and psychological speculations will know no end as
        there
        > is so much fascination with such, but whatever that, the
        significant
        > thing and what is rather important and even very good news (<g>)
        is
        > that humans can make significant ethical changes. Malcolm X's
        and
        > Sadat's are just two noteworthy examples. One would hope for a
        > little more of this these days, eh!
        >
        > Anyway, I simply want to point out to the valuation change and
        > however one wants to attribute it... God, human psychological
        nature,
        > "events," whatever.... the core of the matter is thankfully a down
        to
        > earth event.
        >
        > Gordon Raynal
        > Inman, SC
        >
      • león
        ... I think it is relevant to the discussion in the sense that, since Saul s description of his conversion and his discourse in 1Cor. is the only
        Message 3 of 15 , Feb 9, 2007
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          --- In crosstalk2@yahoogroups.com, "Robert Griffin"
          <muggleorsquib@...> wrote:
          >
          > As far as I'm aware, humans have been making ethical changes since
          > before the beginning of written history. This is not unusual, and
          > does give some hope for our future. However, it is completely
          > irrelevent to Paul's discussion in 1 Corinthians and to the
          > discussion of the resurrection of Jesus (what was it? did it really
          > occur? what did folks mean when they wrote about it?...)
          > The claim the Paul (and the other disciples) were only referring to a
          > re-evaluation of the impact of Jesus' life when they spoke or wrote
          > about the resurrection seems extremely farfetched to me. They don't
          > appear to be claiming what anyone could claim of Socrates, Diogenes,
          > or Isaiah or Moses. . . .
          >


          I think it is relevant to the discussion in the sense that, since
          Saul's description of his conversion and his discourse in 1Cor. is the
          only near-contemporary attestation that we have (wouldn't it be great
          if we had letters of Barnabbas or of Apollos to compare and contrast
          Paul's developing christology to? - lacking these, what "other
          disciples" were saying this?), then saying that people were
          claiming Jesus had risen bodily at that time is a projection back into
          Paul's day of a position which didn't really surface in any texts
          until the author of Mark and the subsequent gospels spoke of such a
          thing (very probably a couple of decades later).

          That is, if Paul was *not* talking about a physical re-animation of
          Jesus' body (a tenable position, and one which I admit to leaning
          toward), then placing such claims to his physical rising so early is
          really "just-so" anachronistic speculation, unsupported by historical
          evidence.

          I've been up late working on a website and I need to sleep, but I
          wanted to say a few words on this.

          peace

          Ã"

          r. leon santiago
          heathen at large
          Tempe, AZ
        • Gordon Raynal
          Hi Robert, ... And that is what I addressed in terms of the language used... in Galatians a revelation from God and in I Corinthians the affirmation that
          Message 4 of 15 , Feb 9, 2007
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            Hi Robert,
            On Feb 8, 2007, at 3:31 PM, Robert Griffin wrote:

            > Gordon,
            >
            > The point I'm addressing is the context of the current thread on
            > Crosstalk, where among other things we are looking at Paul's claim
            > (in 1 Corinthians) to have seen the Jesus after the resurrection (and
            > ascension).

            And that is what I addressed in terms of the language used... in
            Galatians "a revelation from God" and in I Corinthians the
            affirmation that Jesus "was raised... according to scripture... and
            ***appeared*** to Peter, the 12, James, 500... Paul." Revelation?
            Appearance? What is such language indicating? The answers that have
            been given are:
            1. these words point to what is told in the later written story
            telling of the gospels as being historical remembrances where in
            Jesus shows up for conversations, dining, disappearing, rising up
            into the sky as "seen with the eyes/ heard with the ears" encounters
            akin to seeing a friend and having a chat. (Mind you the very same
            story language also talks about Jesus "descending into the lower
            parts of the earth" Eph. 4:9 and "sat down at the right hand of the
            Majesty on high" Heb. 1:3) About the former "encounters" people of
            this interpretive stance suggest the stories (or some of them) are
            biographical/ historical remembrances and make some extended
            arguments about "eyewitness testimony" and the faithful carrying of
            that in oral tradition until the decades later when the Gospels were
            written down. I've never seen such about the descent into the earth
            or the sitting on the big throne in heaven, although these are very
            much at the heart of the matter as to the significance of Jesus'
            resurrection.
            2. This language refers to "visionary experience" and those of a
            mystical theology/ philosophical bent define this in terms of
            metaphysical "encounter," while those of a purely psychological
            understanding focus upon this as something entirely mundane... either
            as suggesting some kind of illusory/ delusional brain activity or as
            normal emotional operations.
            3. This language is metaphorical/ poetical theological language.
            This sort of language, as I noted, can be understood in quite
            ordinary ways wherein one does not have to either venture into
            metaphysical or psychological examinations. And in light of this one
            can understand the theological usage of such language as "seeings/
            appearances" and "revelations" in terms of that ordinary use in
            discourse.
            >
            > As far as I'm aware, humans have been making ethical changes since
            > before the beginning of written history. This is not unusual, and
            > does give some hope for our future. However, it is completely
            > irrelevent to Paul's discussion in 1 Corinthians and to the
            > discussion of the resurrection of Jesus (what was it? did it really
            > occur? what did folks mean when they wrote about it?...)

            How one chooses to understand that language has everything to do with
            the questions you raise. And it is also entirely relevant to Paul's
            understanding of resurrection no matter which of the above options
            (or permutations thereof) one chooses. Paul's whole point of the
            significance of Jesus Christ's resurrection is about ethical
            transformation (read again I Cor. 15:56-58) The TANAK testifies that
            both Enoch (Gen. 1:24) and Elijah ( II Kings 2:1ff) were taken by God
            into God's presence. Matthew tells the story (contra Paul's way of
            talking about it) that "many bodies of the saints who had fallen
            asleep (aka died) were raised" (Matthew 27:52) at Jesus' death and
            they showed up out of those tombs after Jesus was later raised "on
            the 3rd day." (Most interesting to try to visualize this as a
            historical remembrance, to say the least:)! Let's just say that that
            Abraham and Sarah were among those that were resurrected after some
            1800 to 2000 years and per the story have to hang out in those tombs
            from Friday afternoon til Sunday morning. That would surely be an
            interesting experience;)!). Jesus' birth, life, ministry, suffering,
            death, resurrection, descent, ascent, enthronement, rule and coming,
            again in any understanding, is about ethical proclamation to the
            core. Put plainly, others get to heaven, Jesus is "King of Kings and
            Lord of Lords" there and in that he accomplished and is accomplishing
            a complete ethical makeover of the whole creation.

            And as for "did it really occur?" All three of the above options
            allow for a yes answer. Spelling out those yeses obviously points to
            some fundamental disagreements, but then should the conversation turn
            to theology/ ethics (not the purpose of this list), then it is quite
            possible to find lots of agreements no matter the above choice chosen.

            > The claim the Paul (and the other disciples) were only referring to a
            > re-evaluation of the impact of Jesus' life when they spoke or wrote
            > about the resurrection seems extremely farfetched to me.

            I, of course, accept that this is your evaluation. I quite
            disagree. I would argue that the whole of the TANAK heritage
            capitalizes in the use of creative theological writing to give
            expression to theo-ethical convictions. Moses, for example, wanted
            to see God, and so there's that marvelous of him having to hide
            behind the rock, God passes quickly by and only allowing for Moses to
            see his hind parts:)! That's an "appearance" story and one filled
            with "revelation:)!" If one will, for arguments sake, think through
            the 3rd option above, then one will find it none to surprising that a
            crowd of Hebraic/ Jewish folk utilized this metaphorically rich,
            theological/ ethical story telling tradition and framed their
            understanding of Jesus in terms of precisely this kind of creative
            theological communication. And my point is, this can be understood
            as intellectual work... very careful and thoughtful intellectual
            work, whether one is religiously drawn to it or not.

            Back to Paul. The language of Galatians is revelation language about
            what God did. In I Corinthians the 15th chapter explicitly begins
            with Jesus' death and resurrection as being "in accord with
            scriptures." This is theological writing that utilizes a theological
            heritage of communication. It "appears" to me, that it is most
            "revealing" to think through the 3rd option as central and essential
            to understanding what resurrection means even if one wants to make a
            case for either metaphysical or emotional understandings:)!

            Gordon Raynal
            Inman, SC
          • Bob MacDonald
            ... What was it about this sect of Jews that circa 32-36 C.E. made Saul so violently opposed to it? Saul/Paul objected to denial of Torah by the sect and the
            Message 5 of 15 , Feb 9, 2007
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              --- In crosstalk2@yahoogroups.com, león <taino_leon@...> wrote:
              What was it about this sect of Jews that circa 32-36 C.E. made Saul so
              violently opposed to it?

              Saul/Paul objected to denial of Torah by the sect and the acceptance
              of Gentiles into Israel without circumcision - the very thing he
              defended with such force later.

              The problem with the negative approach to a psychological 'crisis'
              which is where this conversation seems to have been over the past day
              or so, is that it fails to take in the positive aspects of the
              covenant dialogue, the issue of Paul's experience of his relationship
              with his God, the God of Israel, through love of Torah and in its
              fuller revelation for Paul, love of God through his Lord, Jesus Christ.

              His writing about his experience of love resulted in the disputes and
              evolution of 'Christian' sectarian theology through how we read Paul's
              letters. Explanation of theology or psychology should not be mistaken
              for the reality of the love or his original intent.

              Is there evidence that what people see as unique to Paul (Gentiles not
              requiring circumcision etc), precedes his conversion? The 'evidence'
              is provided by Acts in the Peter-Cornelius episode. Post hoc reasoning
              would say that Paul would never have been commissioned to go to the
              Gentiles with this message if such a radical break with the covenant
              sign had only occurred to him.

              Bob MacDonald
              Victoria BC
              http://drmacdonald.blogspot.com
            • Robert Griffin
              Hi Gordon, From what I ve read, I believe most such metaphorical usages are intended to be read as straightforward narrative. Some examples from the far
              Message 6 of 15 , Feb 9, 2007
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                Hi Gordon,
                From what I've read, I believe most such 'metaphorical' usages are
                intended to be read as straightforward narrative. Some examples from
                the far fringes:
                My favorite: When Yogananda claims that his parents saw the man who
                was to become his guru several hundred miles away from where that man
                actually was, Yogananda appears contextually to be claiming that
                something extremely unusual happened.

                When the Ahmadiyya (Qadiyani) Muslims claim that Jesus survived the
                crucifixion, fled through Galilee, Nisibis, and Afghanistan to settle
                and die in Kashmir, they go to a lot of trouble to treat this as non-
                metaphorical history.

                The various claims that Jesus visited India, Kashmir, or Ladakh (or
                Tibet) are handled by their propagators as non-metaphoric fact.

                All of the above can be neatly and nicely treated as metaphor, but
                the literary context makes it clear that this is not the authors'
                intent. I understand you probably disagree with me on this. I'd be
                interested in a demonstration with regards to any of the above.

                A somewhat similar modern American phenomenon is UFO material. We
                can get a lot of inspiration from treating it all as metaphorical,
                but is that an appropriate approach to the literature?

                Be Well,
                Bob Griffin


                > > The claim the Paul (and the other disciples) were only referring
                to a
                > > re-evaluation of the impact of Jesus' life when they spoke or
                wrote
                > > about the resurrection seems extremely farfetched to me.
                >
                > I, of course, accept that this is your evaluation. I quite
                > disagree. I would argue that the whole of the TANAK heritage
                > capitalizes in the use of creative theological writing to give
                > expression to theo-ethical convictions. Moses, for example,
                wanted
                > to see God, and so there's that marvelous of him having to hide
                > behind the rock, God passes quickly by and only allowing for Moses
                to
                > see his hind parts:)! That's an "appearance" story and one filled
                > with "revelation:)!" If one will, for arguments sake, think
                through
                > the 3rd option above, then one will find it none to surprising that
                a
                > crowd of Hebraic/ Jewish folk utilized this metaphorically rich,
                > theological/ ethical story telling tradition and framed their
                > understanding of Jesus in terms of precisely this kind of creative
                > theological communication. And my point is, this can be
                understood
                > as intellectual work... very careful and thoughtful intellectual
                > work, whether one is religiously drawn to it or not.
                >
                > Back to Paul. The language of Galatians is revelation language
                about
                > what God did. In I Corinthians the 15th chapter explicitly begins
                > with Jesus' death and resurrection as being "in accord with
                > scriptures." This is theological writing that utilizes a
                theological
                > heritage of communication. It "appears" to me, that it is most
                > "revealing" to think through the 3rd option as central and
                essential
                > to understanding what resurrection means even if one wants to make
                a
                > case for either metaphysical or emotional understandings:)!
                >
                > Gordon Raynal
                > Inman, SC
                >
              • Gordon Raynal
                Hi Bob, ... I m not exactly sure what you mean by this statement, but, of course, most all stories, save surreal ones, are told with narrative realism. Said
                Message 7 of 15 , Feb 9, 2007
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                  Hi Bob,

                  On Feb 9, 2007, at 3:36 PM, Robert Griffin wrote:

                  > Hi Gordon,
                  > From what I've read, I believe most such 'metaphorical' usages are
                  > intended to be read as straightforward narrative.

                  I'm not exactly sure what you mean by this statement, but, of course,
                  most all stories, save surreal ones, are told with narrative
                  realism. Said realism gives us absolutely no indication that said
                  story is a historical or biographical account.

                  > Some examples from
                  > the far fringes:
                  > My favorite: When Yogananda claims that his parents saw the man who
                  > was to become his guru several hundred miles away from where that man
                  > actually was, Yogananda appears contextually to be claiming that
                  > something extremely unusual happened.
                  >
                  > When the Ahmadiyya (Qadiyani) Muslims claim that Jesus survived the
                  > crucifixion, fled through Galilee, Nisibis, and Afghanistan to settle
                  > and die in Kashmir, they go to a lot of trouble to treat this as non-
                  > metaphorical history.
                  >
                  > The various claims that Jesus visited India, Kashmir, or Ladakh (or
                  > Tibet) are handled by their propagators as non-metaphoric fact.

                  Many traditional stories, once generations removed, are regarded by
                  those later as factual remembrance or essentially factual. But the
                  ancients just like the moderns knew how to spin myths, legends,
                  parables. And the creators and hearers/ readers knew what they were
                  doing in such literary creations. That later readers/ generations
                  historicize such stories, of course, doesn't turn creative fictions
                  into facts.
                  >
                  > All of the above can be neatly and nicely treated as metaphor, but
                  > the literary context makes it clear that this is not the authors'
                  > intent. I understand you probably disagree with me on this. I'd be
                  > interested in a demonstration with regards to any of the above.

                  Yes, we quite disagree. I'm not quite sure what would count as "a
                  demonstration" for you. If you want a list of Bible stories that I
                  think are creative theological fiction, well... let's start at
                  Genesis 1, proceed on to the 2nd chapter... and go right on down to
                  through the Gospels. This is not to say that I believe there are no
                  instances of historical reference... remembrance of some actual
                  persons, some deeds, some words ... some underlying accounts of
                  events that did occur. But I don't at all think the vast majority of
                  the Bible stories are historical/ biographical materials, but rather
                  as a whole are better understood in terms of the poetics and creative
                  narratives of explicitly theo-ethical communication. It has only
                  been in very modern times that the questions of scientific
                  historiography have been asked of these and such stories as you
                  sight. And to this day most all people in all cultures don't study
                  much history and for the most part could care less about it. To say
                  the least the theological/ ethical and communal value for all
                  societies is not based in "the historicity" of narratives. I don't
                  for a minute think, for example, that the powerful story of Jonah has
                  any thing to do with the accounting of some guy named Jonah who was
                  swallowed by a big old fish and later vomited out. Neither do I
                  think the author of said story thought he was crafting a story to
                  remember such a set of events. But that in no way at all suggests
                  any diminished value to the story. Quite the opposite, actually. To
                  understand a story in terms of genre is absolutely important in terms
                  of understanding the very nature of the communication. And so with
                  that judgment about Jonah, it remains theologically and ethically
                  one of the most profound stories. That the majority of church folks
                  in SC think it is a remembrance doesn't exactly work to push me to
                  think they're on to something;)! But at the same time it is not hard
                  at all to engage such persons in conversations about the theological,
                  ethical... and human meanings is such story telling. To do so one
                  precisely points to the matters of thought and poetry in such a story.

                  Should you want to entertain this alternative to your position, I'd
                  suggest you read Thomas Thompson's, "The Mythic Past." Thomas, has
                  now and again, actually written a few notes on this list. And then
                  again, if you have not, read such as Crossan, Mack and the Five
                  Gospels by the Jesus Seminar, they will provide other resources for
                  thinking about this alternative.
                  >
                  > A somewhat similar modern American phenomenon is UFO material. We
                  > can get a lot of inspiration from treating it all as metaphorical,
                  > but is that an appropriate approach to the literature?

                  Pardon, but I don't at all get your point about this. I don't at all
                  think the production of cultural/ communal theological and ethical
                  craftsmanship... speech and writings that connect persons across
                  generations in terms of theology, ethics, communal and personal
                  praxis... is at all on par with UFO stories. And who is going to get
                  what sort of inspiration??? Unless you are meaning this as a joke
                  that I'm just missing, what is the relevance of this to the crafting
                  of the the TANAK, the Christian Scriptures, the Koran, the Gita,
                  etc? So, you'll have to clarify the point here.

                  Gordon Raynal
                  Inman, SC
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