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RE: [John_Lit] More on 'The Word was toward God' question

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  • Bob MacDonald
    Kevin Unfortunately, this post of yours is unreadable I suggest you put posts that are this long in a blog which can handle the length and the Unicode. And
    Message 1 of 6 , Jan 10, 2009
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      Kevin

      Unfortunately, this post of yours is unreadable

      I suggest you put posts that are this long in a blog which can handle the
      length and the Unicode. And then point us to the web instead of the long
      email.

      Bob

      Bob MacDonald
      Victoria BC
    • Kevin Snapp
      Earlier I suggested that ho logos ein pros ton theon of John 1:1 would be better translated as the Word was in God s presence or “in God s awareness,
      Message 2 of 6 , Jan 10, 2009
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        Earlier I suggested that "ho logos ein pros ton theon" of John 1:1
        would be better translated as "the Word was in God's presence" or “in
        God's awareness," rather than "the Word was with God." I suggested
        that because "pros" with accusative normally had the sense of
        "toward," that John's usage here might be a Semitism, reflecting the
        Semitic idiom in which "in front of" is metaphorically understood to
        mean in one's presence, or in one's awareness.

        It was objected that there are numerous places in the New Testament
        where pros with accusative object in conjunction with a stative verb
        means "with," and John's usage was unremarkable. I responded that
        since this usage appears limited to the New Testament, it was likely a
        Semitism, although this in itself would not necessarily mean John's
        usage in Jn. 1:1 carried a distinctive meaning. I said I would review
        the other occurrences in the NT listed in Peter Philips’ commentary on
        John’s Prologue and respond.

        I found it helpful to be pushed to defend my thinking, and have
        revised it in part. To save time, I cut-and-pasted the Greek text of
        relevant passages and NRSV translations, but used transliteration in
        my comments rather than switch back and forth. While it looks sloppy,
        references to Greek and Hebrew should be intelligible. I apologize
        for the length of this, and for whatever errors it contains.


        Translating prepositions is tricky, as a preposition in one language
        may translate only a subset of the meanings of a preposition in
        another. For English speakers, "with" seems to have the same meaning
        in "he is coming with me" and "he lives with me," but the German
        cognate mit is narrower, and German uses mit for the first but bei for
        the second. Translating a preposition with a narrower semantic range
        into a broader English preposition risks a loss of specificity or
        nuance, and “with” has an extremely broad range of meanings. Compare
        “Joe was with me on the corner” with “Joe is with a downtown law
        firm.” The fact that English “with” in its locative sense may
        properly translate different Greek prepositions -- sun, meta, para --
        does not mean that they have identical meanings.

        Here are Philips’ examples, taken from Strong’s concordance. For
        brevity, I copied only the relevant parts of verses showing the usage
        of “pros.” I omitted Jn. 1:1, which we are trying to interpret, as
        well as the two instances in 1 Jn. derived from it. I also omitted
        Lk. 9:41 and Mt. 13:56, which copy Mk. 6:3, and added 2 Cor. 5:8,
        which was not on the list but appears to fit.

        ******************

        Mk. 6:3: και ουκ εισιν αι αδελφαι αυτου ωδε προς ημας/ and are not
        his sisters here with us?"

        Mk. 9:10: και τον λογον εκρατησαν προς εαυτους/ So they kept the
        matter to themselves (Although no actual motion, εκρατησαν “they held”
        is not a stative verb.)

        Mk. 9:19: ο δε αποκριθεις αυτοις λεγει ω γενεα απιστος εως ποτε προς
        υμας εσομαι/ He answered them, "You faithless generation, how much
        longer must I be among you?

        Mk. 14:49: καθ ημεραν ημην προς υμας εν τω ιερω διδασκων/ Day after
        day I was with you in the temple teaching

        Lk. 18:11: ο φαρισαιος σταθεις προς εαυτον ταυτα προσηυχετο ο θεος
        ευχαριστω σοι οτι ουκ ειμι ωσπερ οι λοιποι των ανθρωπων/ The Pharisee,
        standing by himself, was praying thus, 'God, I thank you that I am not
        like other people”

        [I don’t understand why this shouldn’t be translated, “the Pharisee,
        having stood up, was praying to himself [lit., to himself these
        [words] was praying], ‘God, I thank you ....” The Pharisee was
        “praying to himself” i.e., audible only to himself (as the Amidah, or
        “standing prayer, is supposed to be recited), with the ironic double
        meaning that he was addressing himself rather than God. In any case,
        this cannot be an example of the idiom in question, as one cannot
        stand “with” oneself.]

        1 Cor. 2:3. καγω εν ασθενεια και εν φοβω και εν τρομω πολλω εγενομην
        προς υμας /And I came to you in weakness and in fear and in much
        trembling. [Given Paul’s expression of humility, “before you” or “in
        your presence” might be better here]

        1 Cor. 16:7: ου θελω γαρ υμας αρτι εν παροδω ιδειν ελπιζω γαρ χρονον
        τινα επιμειναι προς υμας εαν ο κυριος επιτρεψη/ I do not want to see
        you now just in passing, for I hope to spend some time with you, if
        the Lord permits.

        1 Cor. 16:10: εαν δε ελθη τιμοθεος βλεπετε ινα αφοβως γενηται προς
        υμας/ If Timothy comes, see that he has nothing to fear among you
        [Although it could be translated “with you,” the NRSV prefers “among
        you.”]

        2. Cor. 5:8: Yes, we do have confidence, and we would rather be away
        from the body and at home with the Lord./ θαρρουμεν δε και ευδοκουμεν
        μαλλον εκδημησαι εκ του σωματος και ενδημησαι προς τον κυριον

        2 Cor. 6:14: η τις κοινωνια φωτι προς σκοτος/ Or what fellowship is
        there between light and darkness? [This is irrelevant to the
        comparison, because with is used in a different sense here. To ask
        what X has in common with Y is not to ask whether X is with Y, or to
        ask what is with Y. One could do without “with” entirely by asking
        “what relation is there between light and darkness?” or “what relation
        does light have to darkness?”

        2 Cor. 6:15. τις δε συμφωνησις χριστου προς βελιαρ/ What agreement
        does Christ have with Beliar? [See preceding.]

        2 Cor. 11:9: και παρων προς υμας και υστερηθεις ου κατεναρκησα
        ουθενος / And when I was with you and was in need, I did not burden
        anyone

        2 Cor. 12:21: μη παλιν ελθοντος μου ταπεινωση με ο θεος μου προς
        υμας/ I fear that when I come again, my God may humble me before you
        [Although it could be translated “with you,” in the context of
        “humbling” the NRSV prefers “before you.”]

        Gal. 1:18. επειτα μετα [τρια ετη] [ετη τρια ] ανηλθον εις ιεροσολυμα
        ιστορησαι κηφαν και επεμεινα προς αυτον ημερας δεκαπεντε/ Then after
        three years I did go up to Jerusalem to visit Cephas and stayed with
        him fifteen days

        Gal. 2:5: οις ουδε προς ωραν ειξαμεν τη υποταγη ινα η αληθεια του
        ευαγγελιου διαμεινη προς υμας / we did not submit to them even for a
        moment, so that the truth of the gospel might always remain with you.

        Gal. 4:18. καλον δε ζηλουσθαι εν καλω παντοτε και μη μονον εν τω
        παρειναι με προς υμας/ It is good to be made much of for a good
        purpose at all times, and not only when I am present with you.

        Gal. 4:20: ηθελον δε παρειναι προς υμας αρτι και αλλαξαι την φωνην
        μου οτι απορουμαι εν υμιν/ I wish I were present with you now and
        could change my tone, for I am perplexed about you.

        1 Thess. 3:4. και γαρ οτε προς υμας ημεν προελεγομεν υμιν οτι
        μελλομεν θλιβεσθαι καθως και εγενετο και οιδατε/ In fact, when we were
        with you, we told you beforehand that we were to suffer persecution;
        so it turned out, as you know.

        2 Thess. 2:5: ου μνημονευετε οτι ετι ων προς υμας ταυτα ελεγον υμιν/
        Do you not remember that I told you these things when I was still
        with you?

        2 Thess. 3:10: και γαρ οτε ημεν προς υμας τουτο παρηγγελλομεν υμιν/
        For even when we were with you, we gave you this command

        Phil. 1:13. ον εγω εβουλομην προς εμαυτον κατεχειν ινα υπερ σου μοι
        διακονη εν τοις δεσμοις του ευαγγελιου I wanted to keep him with me,
        so that he might be of service to me in your place during my
        imprisonment for the gospel; (Note that the verb κατεχειν, “hold on
        to” is not technically “stative.”)

        Heb. 4:13: και ουκ εστιν κτισις αφανης ενωπιον αυτου παντα δε γυμνα
        και τετραχηλισμενα τοις οφθαλμοις αυτου προς ον ημιν ο λογος/ And
        before him no creature is hidden, but all are naked and laid bare to
        the eyes of the one to whom we must render an account. [Despite the
        absence of a verb, it is clear, as the NRSV translates, that the
        account is to be rendered to God. Indicating the direction of a
        speech-act is a conventional use of pros + accusative and irrelevant
        to our question.]

        *****************
        From these examples, it appears that the relationship signified by the
        idiomatic combination of stative verb, “pros” and accusative object
        commonly translated “with,” which I will call “with*” to avoid
        confusion, is something like the following. If A is “with*” B, A is
        together with B in B’s own “place,” such as B’s home, town or city, to
        the extent that it is “B’s.” A is “at home with B,” or in a French
        idiom lacking in English, “chez B.” B is always a person or persons,
        as is A, with the exception of Gal. 2:5, where A is the abstract
        “truth of the Gospel.” “With*,” unlike “with,” thus seems to involve
        more than proximity, but presence in the mind/heart as well.

        Because A is in B’s “place,” the relationship signified by “with*”is
        not interchangeable as in the ordinary sense of “with,” i.e., if A is
        with B, it is equally true that B is with A. With* more closely
        resembles “he lives with me,” understood to mean “he lives in my
        home,” a home that is definitely mine but that may or may not be his.
        “He lives with me” is not the same as “I live with him.” Because
        “with*” implies that A is in B’s territory, A is impliedly
        subordinated, so that “with* B” may, in an appropriate context, be
        properly translated as “before B” or “in B’s presence,” although that
        is not its usual sense.

        When B is a collective “you” or “us,” “to be with*” you or us means
        “living/staying among you/us, in your/our community.” Staying with* a
        collective B, A may receive hospitality in many ways from different
        members of the collective. However, in speaking of A and a singular
        B, it appears usual to specify that A “dwelt,” “lived,” “stayed,” or
        the like with* B, instead of saying A “was” with* B. If John’s “pros
        ton theon” follows this idiom, in saying a singular A “was with*” a
        singular B it appears to be unique, although this may be an accidental
        result of the small sample.

        I originally suggested a Semitic speaker might have seen in the
        preposition “pros” a root meaning of “in front of” or “before,”
        associated it with Semitic words with similar root meanings such as
        “kadam” and “lifnei,” and unconsciously imputed to the Greek “pros”
        the metaphorical, derived meaning of the Semitic words, i.e., “in the
        presence of,” which “pros” does not normally have in Greek. While
        this may still be relevant to John 1:1, I do not think this is the
        origin of the NT idiom, because the examples convey a sense of being
        joined with the object, rather than standing apart and in front of it.
        The “default” idiomatic meaning of “pros humas” appears to be
        something like “among your own,” rather than “in your presence.” It
        seems more likely that, in line with Burney’s suggestion, Semitic
        speakers understood the specific meaning of “pros” with accusative
        object, i.e., “toward,” in light of a connection in Semitic languages
        between direction, designation and possession. I am no linguist or
        Semiticist, but this seems plausible.

        European languages understand the archetype of the possessive relation
        as “genitive,” i.e., the thing possessed is in some way from the
        possessor, either because generated or created by the possessor, or
        because designating it “takes it from” the possessor, as we speak of
        something as being “one of [from] mine,” or in German, “eins von mir.”
        This is evident from English of, German von, and Romance de, each of
        which can indicate origin or possession.

        Hebrew and Aramaic, on the other hand, appear to understand the object
        of possession as added or joined to the possessor. The biblical
        Hebrew prepositional prefix “l-“ signifies motion toward the prefixed
        object, but may also be employed to indicate that the object is the
        possessor, i.e., that something is “to” the object means it “belongs
        to” the object. Biblical Hebrew also indicates possession by the
        construct or smichut form, where the possessed noun is treated as
        joined with the immediately following possessing noun. The first
        (possessed) noun usually assumes an altered, often shortened form,
        forming a quasi-compound with the second (possessing) noun, which
        alone takes the definite article (which renders both nouns definite).
        For example, ha-bayit (the house) joins ha-melekh (the king) to
        become beit-ha-melekh (the king’s house).

        Similarly, “’et,” the biblical Hebrew particle designating the
        definite direct object, “joining” it to the subject’s action, is also
        used as a preposition meaning “together with.” The Aramaic cognate of
        “’et” is “yat,” and with the prepositional prefix “l-” becomes
        “lwat,” which, as Burney pointed out, can mean both “toward” and
        “together with,” and was probably the source of the NT idiomatic sense
        of “pros.”

        Returning to Jn. 1:1, the idiom I call “with*” is not the simple,
        reversible English “with.” But to attempt to give effect to it by
        saying “the Word was God’s own,” or “the Word was at home with God”
        would be unworkable, and I admit that “the Word was in God’s presence”
        would not reflect its usual sense. If John is using this idiom in Jn.
        1:1, perhaps “the Word was with God” is the best we can do.

        But why should we assume that? It is not a sufficient reason that
        John’s native language was Aramaic. Not every native Aramaic speaker
        would be expected to employ the same Semitisms. Someone who learned
        Greek as an adult, by reading and writing rather than speaking it on
        the street, would not be expected to pick up the same habits of speech
        as those who learned it informally. As I mentioned in a previous
        comment, among NT authors, John is noted for maintaining the
        distinction between “eis” + accusative in connection with movement and
        “en”+ dative denoting location, making it unlikely that he would use
        “pros” + accusative to mean “with.”

        Aside from Jn. 1:1 itself, none of the examples Philips cites come
        from John’s Gospel, and my own search of the occurrences of “pros” in
        John’s Gospel turned up none. When John’s Jesus speaks to his
        disciples of being “with you,” he employs the standard Greek “meth’
        humon.” See Jn. 7:33, 13:33, 14:9, 16:4. Unlike Paul, Jesus is not a
        guest or visitor among his disciples, but “pros” with accusative is
        not used when Jesus is a guest in Jn. 4:40: ως ουν ηλθον προς αυτον
        οι σαμαριται ηρωτων αυτον μειναι παρ αυτοις και εμεινεν εκει δυο
        ημερας / “So when the Samaritans came to him, they asked him to stay
        with them; and he stayed there two days.” If John is using “pros” in
        this special sense of “with” in Jn. 1:1, why does he use it nowhere
        else in the Gospel?

        In 1John 1:2, “pros” does have the sense of “with,” but it clearly
        derives from Jn. 1:1 and is intended to recall it: ... και
        απαγγελλομεν υμιν την ζωην την αιωνιον ητις ην προς τον πατερα και
        εφανερωθη ημιν/ “... and [we] declare to you the eternal life that was
        with the Father and was revealed to us.” The three other occurrences
        of “pros” in 1 John that could be translated by “with” are better
        translated by “before,” or “in the presence of”:

        1 John 2:1: ... και εαν τις αμαρτη παρακλητον εχομεν προς τον πατερα
        ιησουν χριστον δικαιον/ But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate
        with [before] the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous;

        1 John 3:21: αγαπητοι εαν η καρδια μη καταγινωσκη παρρησιαν εχομεν
        προς τον θεον /Beloved, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have
        boldness before God;

        1 John 5:14: και αυτη εστιν η παρρησια ην εχομεν προς αυτον οτι εαν τι
        αιτωμεθα κατα το θελημα αυτου ακουει ημων/ And this is the boldness we
        have in [before] him, that if we ask anything according to his will,
        he hears us.

        Perhaps in Jn. 1:1 John went out of his way in choosing an
        uncharacteristic idiom to suggest a familiar relationship between the
        mysterious Logos and the King of Kings to prepare the reader for the
        Father-Son relationship. But perhaps not. Although the usual meaning
        of “pros” as “toward” makes no sense as between Paul and the
        Corinthians, compelling us to treat it as idiomatic, it does make
        sense to say the Logos was addressed to God. One may write a
        memorandum to oneself, a builder can draw blueprints that convey
        information to himself, and it is likely that this was the midrashic
        conceit that the author had in mind.

        For a Gentile reader ignorant of the blueprint metaphor, “ho logos ein
        pros ton theon” would have been an odd if not paradoxical expression.
        The most common usage of “pros ton theon” in the NT is in reference
        to prayer addressed to God, and it is also so used in the Septuagint.
        It requires no imagination to understand prayers as both “logoi” and
        “pros ton theon.” But how could any “logos,” any “word, account,
        proposition,” be both addressed to God and exist “in the beginning?”

        Surely John was aware of the potential paradox in declaring that the
        Logos was “pros ton theon,” and that readers would find it puzzling.
        If John had intended to say the Word was “with God” in any
        conventional sense, there were other ways he could have said it. In
        the Septuagint, when God is said to be “with” someone, the preposition
        is the ordinary “meta” + genitive. When Moses is “with the Lord”
        (Heb. “ ‘im YH-VH”) on Mt. Sinai, the Septuagint has “before the
        Lord,” “enantion Kuriou.” When God speaks of the place “with (Heb.
        ’itti ) Me” where God will place Moses to view God’s glory, Ex. 33:21,
        the preposition is “para” + dative, and the sense of “para” as
        “with/beside” is incorporated in the verb in Ex. 34:5, as God
        descended and “stood by” (“parestei”) Moses to show him God’s glory.
        If John’s Gospel had been written in Aramaic, as Burney proposed,
        “the Word” would almost certainly have been “memra,” and the problem
        would have arisen only as a consequence of translation. But if
        John’s Gospel was written in Greek, we must assume this provocative
        choice of words was intentional.

        Finally, since John 1:1 obviously alludes to Genesis 1:1, a deliberate
        Hebraism (as distinguished from an unintentional Semitism in Greek) is
        possible. As I originally suggested, “pros” might have been intended
        to suggest “in the presence of” to readers who spoke Aramaic or knew
        biblical Hebrew. Since “pros” with accusative has this sense in 1
        John as well as in some of the examples from Paul listed above, this
        seems plausible, all the more so since it is consistent with the
        literal Greek sense of “directed toward” God.

        Alternatively, John might have intended to suggest to such readers
        that they translate the ordinary sense of “pros ton” as “toward” into
        the biblical Hebrew “l-,” and read the verse as if written in Hebrew.
        In Hebrew, “ha-davar haya l’elohim” could mean “the Word was to God,”
        “the Word was God’s,” or even “the Word became God” -- which would be
        too far-fetched to mention, were not the next words, “and God was the
        Word.”

        I won’t even try to argue that is what “ho logos ein pros ton theon”
        means. But it remains strange and mysterious, as John surely intended
        it to be, and we shouldn’t take for granted that we know what it does
        mean.

        Shalom uvrakha,
        Kevin Snapp
        Chicago, IL
      • Kevin Snapp
        Bob, I m sorry the post is unreadable. Is it actually unreadable for you, or do you just mean ridiculously long ? It s readable on my screen, Greek and all,
        Message 3 of 6 , Jan 11, 2009
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          Bob,

          I'm sorry the post is unreadable. Is it actually unreadable for you,
          or do you just mean "ridiculously long"? It's readable on my screen,
          Greek and all, but I admit it is long. I included the texts because I
          wanted readers to be able to evaluate and comment without looking up
          each verse individually.

          I appreciate your suggestion, but don't have a blog. If anyone can't
          read my post and wants to, e-mail me at kalvachomer at yahoo dot com,
          and I'll reply with a Word attachment (or pdf if you like, but it's a
          much larger file).

          Kevin Snapp
          Chicago, IL

          --- In johannine_literature@yahoogroups.com, "Bob MacDonald"
          <bobmacdonald@...> wrote:
          >
          > Kevin
          >
          > Unfortunately, this post of yours is unreadable
          >
          > I suggest you put posts that are this long in a blog which can
          handle the
          > length and the Unicode. And then point us to the web instead of the long
          > email.
          >
          > Bob
          >
          > Bob MacDonald
          > Victoria BC
          >
        • Bob MacDonald
          Kevin I always enjoy a well reasoned paper. The problem here is that yahoo groups destroys your Unicode so the Greek is all in strange double characters
          Message 4 of 6 , Jan 11, 2009
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            Kevin

            I always enjoy a well reasoned paper. The problem here is that yahoo groups
            destroys your Unicode so the Greek is all in strange double characters

            Starting a blog is easy and free e.g. see here https://www.blogger.com/start
            - but everyone to his or her own taste in public works.


            Bob,
            Victoria BC

            http://drmacdonald.blogspot.com
            http://stenagmois.blogspot.com
          • Horace Jeffery Hodges
            Starting a blog with Blogger is indeed easy, and free, but mine has been missing from the internet since Friday, and if you try to reach it here...  
            Message 5 of 6 , Jan 11, 2009
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              Starting a blog with Blogger is indeed easy, and free, but mine has been missing from the internet since Friday, and if you try to reach it here...
               
              http://gypsyscholarship.blogspot.com/
               
              ...you'll get a message saying that it has been removed. I cannot find it, not even on my Blogger profile, so it seems to have been utterly eliminated from the internet.
               
              I'm hoping that it is still in Google's files somewhere and can be restored, but so far, I've had no reply to my requests via Blogger Help.
               
              I guess that you get what you 'pay' for, and since Blogger is free, I may have freely lost about four years of daily blogging.
               
              If anybody knows how I could contact Blogger/Google directly, I'd be grateful.
               
              Jeffery Hodges
               

              --- On Sun, 1/11/09, Bob MacDonald <bobmacdonald@...> wrote:

              From: Bob MacDonald <bobmacdonald@...>
              Subject: RE: [John_Lit] More on 'The Word was toward God' question
              To: johannine_literature@yahoogroups.com
              Date: Sunday, January 11, 2009, 3:16 PM

              Kevin

              I always enjoy a well reasoned paper. The problem here is that yahoo groups
              destroys your Unicode so the Greek is all in strange double characters

              Starting a blog is easy and free e.g. see here https://www.blogger.com/start
              - but everyone to his or her own taste in public works.


              Bob,
              Victoria BC

              http://drmacdonald.blogspot.com
              http://stenagmois.blogspot.com


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            • Kevin Snapp
              Bob, Just a quick response to your blog suggestion. After some thought, I decided not to go that route. I ll just avoid Greek here on Yahoo in the future, and
              Message 6 of 6 , Jan 21, 2009
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                Bob,

                Just a quick response to your blog suggestion. After some thought, I
                decided not to go that route. I'll just avoid Greek here on Yahoo in
                the future, and if anyone wants a Word or pdf version of my prior
                response, I'll be happy to provide it by e-mail. I suppose it is only
                a quirk of vanity, since I have no public persona to protect, but I
                feel that something on a blog (even if no one is looking) should be
                more polished than a response here. It also takes it out of the
                context of a conversation, where things offered for comment may be
                speculation or suggestion rather than conclusion. So thanks, but I'll
                just skip the Greek and transliterate when necessary.

                Kevin Snapp
                Chicago

                --- In johannine_literature@yahoogroups.com, "Bob MacDonald"
                <bobmacdonald@...> wrote:
                >
                > Kevin
                >
                > I always enjoy a well reasoned paper. The problem here is that yahoo
                groups
                > destroys your Unicode so the Greek is all in strange double characters
                >
                > Starting a blog is easy and free e.g. see here
                https://www.blogger.com/start
                > - but everyone to his or her own taste in public works.
                >
                >
                > Bob,
                > Victoria BC
                >
                > http://drmacdonald.blogspot.com
                > http://stenagmois.blogspot.com
                >
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