Salvation PRIOR to vs AFTER Christ's Incarnation

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Rick Ausdahl | Forum Activity | Posted: Sun, Jan 26 2020 8:02 AM

I'm looking for recommendations for resources that address God's means of salvation prior to the incarnation of Christ  as compared to after the incarnation.  More specifically, resources that address how and why those living AFTER the incarnation, who can't claim a faith in Christ because they never hear the gospel, can't be saved, while those living BEFORE the incarnation who couldn't claim a faith in Christ because they were unaware there would even be a gospel could be saved.

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MJ. Smith | Forum Activity | Replied: Sun, Jan 26 2020 11:26 AM

Sorry - you're asking for a specific theology that is other than the one for which I know resources. However, have you looked to see if the Lexham Survey of Theology suggests resources?

Orthodox Bishop Hilarion Alfeyev: "To be a theologian means to have experience of a personal encounter with God through prayer and worship."

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Rick Ausdahl | Forum Activity | Replied: Sun, Jan 26 2020 12:45 PM

MJ. Smith:

Sorry - you're asking for a specific theology that is other than the one for which I know resources. However, have you looked to see if the Lexham Survey of Theology suggests resources?

No, I hadn't.  I'll check it out.  Thanks MJ!

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Dave Hooton | Forum Activity | Replied: Sun, Jan 26 2020 3:46 PM

Rick Ausdahl:
More specifically, resources that address how and why those living AFTER the incarnation, who can't claim a faith in Christ because they never hear the gospel, can't be saved, while those living BEFORE the incarnation who couldn't claim a faith in Christ because they were unaware there would even be a gospel could be saved.

A Commentary on Rom 2 would go a long way toward this. But A Dictionary of the Bible (Hastings) has a good article on Salvation. Likewise, Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology (Elwell) and Systematic Theology (Hodge), provided you are not too dogmaticSmile about the conditions you impose BEFORE and AFTER.

Dave
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David Paul | Forum Activity | Replied: Mon, Jan 27 2020 4:20 AM

Rick Ausdahl:

I'm looking for recommendations for resources that address God's means of salvation prior to the incarnation of Christ  as compared to after the incarnation.  More specifically, resources that address how and why those living AFTER the incarnation, who can't claim a faith in Christ because they never hear the gospel, can't be saved, while those living BEFORE the incarnation who couldn't claim a faith in Christ because they were unaware there would even be a gospel could be saved.

A question that might shake the sieve for you...Does YHWH actually OWE humans a "chance" at salvation? Or can He prepare vessels for destruction if that's His will?

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Denise | Forum Activity | Replied: Mon, Jan 27 2020 5:59 AM

David Paul:
A question that might shake the sieve for you...Does YHWH actually OWE humans a "chance" at salvation? Or can He prepare vessels for destruction if that's His will?

Oh great. So, you're hinting that all those Assyrian city-states signing up for Ashur-power wasn't needed ... they could have got all that booty and captives on their own.

But more seriously, the apostle Paul's desperate mission to Spain before the End had to have geographically known there was more beyond. Which conceptually suggests saving the Diaspora, or maybe God-Fearers.

"I didn't know God made honky tonk angels."

Posts 27
Olli-Pekka Ylisuutari | Forum Activity | Replied: Mon, Jan 27 2020 7:46 AM

Hi,

A few thoughts, and an intriguing subject, Rick! As to resources that address the question “those living BEFORE the incarnation who couldn't claim a faith in Christ because they were unaware there would even be a gospel could be saved”, I recommend checking out commentaries that address the following topics and/or Bible passages:

All the New Testament interpretations that regard Old Testament saints as believing in Christ “beforehand”: Abraham’s faith, Genesis 15: 6 and St. Paul’s exegesis on it in Galatians 3 and Romans 4. And John 8: 56. Isaih’s Christ-faith according to John (John 12: 41)? The same applies to Hebrews chapter 11, where many other Old Testament patriarchs and saints and their faith are discussed?

Another topic relevant to this: The role of the law of Moses according to St. Paul in Galatians 3: 19-25 and it’s proper relation to the Gospel (promises) of God?

The topic of sacrifices in the old Covenant, Hebrews chapter 10, and the role of sacrifices in the Old Testament vs. Christ’s sacrifice?

What does “the Lamb slain before the the creation of the world” (Rev. 13: 8) mean?

Also check 1 Peter 1: 10-12, where the topic of salvation prophesied and longed by the prophets is discussed (check different commentaries). Also Ephesians 3: 1-10. Search term in latin: “extra ecclesiam nulla salus est.”

Check out also different kind of interpretations given to 1 Peter 3: 19-20 (the passage about the descent of Christ into hell / hades and him preaching there to the “captive spirits”) and 1 Peter 4: 6 (the gospel proclaimed to the dead). Search words: “descendus ad infera”, “limbus patrum” and “purgatory”, different interpretations and commentaries regarding them (even though you won’t agree with some of the interpretations). One of the most influential ones of these interpretations is Clement of Alexandria, Strom. 6.6. Origen developed his universalistic doctrine based on this, Princ. 2.5.3.

Thomas Aquinas (whose memorial day is tomorrow, by the way), Summa Contra Gentiles, LVII. The medieval speculation about ancient Greek pagan philosophers’ salvation (Socrates, Plato etc.). Erasmus of Rotterdam.

Check out “general revelation” in relation to “salvation” or “special revelation.” Possible passages: Romans 1: 20 and Pau’s Areopagus Speech according to Luke (Acts 17). The unique role of Christ in salvation: John 14: 6 and Acts 4: 12 (and different interpretations regarding as to the meaning of these passages in different commentaries and theologies?)

To find resources that address “how and why those living AFTER the incarnation, who can't claim a faith in Christ because they never hear the gospel, can't be saved” you must find the relevant missionary passages and their exegesis: The unique role of Gospel preaching in salvation by St. Paul: Romans 10: 14-18; The Matthean Great Commission, Matthew 28 etc. with their proper commentaries and theological expositions.

Also those opposing the view, i.e. those writers that say they can be saved. As Dave Hooton pointed out earlier, Romans 2 is the passage to go to. I would add Acts 10: 2, 7, 35, which describe the gentile Cornelius as “pious” (gk. eusebees) and God-fearing. What do these characterizations mean? Also possible search words: conscience, synderesis, synteresis, etc.

I learn most by reading opposing views. Happy hunting! (Hope this lutheran pastor didn’t take an explicit theological stand or start an argument!)

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JRS | Forum Activity | Replied: Mon, Jan 27 2020 12:38 PM

So, so much could be said concerning this basic topic/inquiry.  It's a good question, to be sure, and well worth the investigation.  And, if you haven't figured it out already, realize that the question is far bigger than what you have stated and the answer(s) is very large, very involved, and may take many years before you completely come to grips with it.  Here are a few suggestions:

1) Before the start of any investigation (esp. one of this magnitude), it is paramount to start with your presupposition(s) and ask yourself if they are true or not.  Then, after you have read and pondered, ask yourself again.  Then again, and again.  Lather, rinse, repeat.  Our life upon this earth after regeneration/faith/justification is a continual process of suppressing the natural man until the moment we are removed out of this world.  It is amazing how much the natural man can cloud and confuse our thoughts and understanding of the truth - consequently, check, recheck, and then re-re-re-check your axiomatic beliefs until the day you die.  What was it that John Owen said?  "Nothing so blinds us to our depravity as does our depravity."  Same principle at work.  Your presupposition(s) are :

"... how and why those living AFTER the incarnation, who can't claim a faith in Christ because they never hear the gospel, can't be saved, while those living BEFORE the incarnation who couldn't claim a faith in Christ because they were unaware there would even be a gospel could be saved."

2)  On second thought, no more suggestions.   Lots of good suggestions in this thread already to get you started.  David displayed a huge profundity in his challenging questions but you may find that those answers come further down the road.  Sorry if I sound condescendingly arrogant and/or pontifical - it's just that I, like Nathanael, have spent 45-50 years reading, studying, and cogitating under my own fig tree on this subject.  And, fwiw, when I started so many years ago I never in my wildest dreams would have thought that it would take so long or that I would wind up where I am today (theologically speaking).  Also, btw, I can't tell you how many times I have re-examined my own presuppositions and was forced to change them to accommodate truth.  I won't say "Good luck", rather, "Good Providence."

How blessed is the one whom Thou dost choose, and bring near to Thee(Psa 65:4a)

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David Paul | Forum Activity | Replied: Mon, Jan 27 2020 2:46 PM

Gonna add another question to the ones I posed above...Why does it matter? Specifically, why do we need to bother trying to understand how the people who lived before the coming of Yeishuua` might enter the kingdom?

I could ask a number of other similar questions that try to hem in this concern, but it may be more helpful to just make a statement. Rather than trying to come to grips with other folks' responsibilities, we should focus on taking care of our own. Rick needs to take care of Rick, and David needs to take care of David. David doesn't need to take care of Adam, Abraham, Moses, or Judas.

Now, if perhaps someone is raising these questions with an eye to pastoral influence, I would say the answer is much the same--you tell people they need to take care of themselves and not worry themselves about what others' responsibilities are. That said, it's fine to want to understand how YHWH is working His work, but I think the best way to do that is just follow the trail of revelation--follow the bread crumbs--and DON'T formulate questions that have built-in assumptions baked in.

Again, I think a built-in assumption of the original question(s) is that there HAS TO BE a way of salvation for everyone everywhere. I'm not saying that's wrong, and I'm not saying that's right. I'm just saying it's vital that folks ferret out and recognize the unspoken (and often unrecognized) assumptions and be willing to rephrase their questions if need be. If you are asking the wrong questions, your answers, whatever they might be, may be of zero practical use...and they might cause significant harm. I have a feeling that the answers to a lot of bad questions have allowed tons of people to comfortably pitch their tents on YHWH's prophesied bombing range.

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MJ. Smith | Forum Activity | Replied: Tue, Jan 28 2020 2:51 PM

Rick Ausdahl:

I'm looking for recommendations for resources that address God's means of salvation prior to the incarnation of Christ  as compared to after the incarnation.  More specifically, resources that address how and why those living AFTER the incarnation, who can't claim a faith in Christ because they never hear the gospel, can't be saved, while those living BEFORE the incarnation who couldn't claim a faith in Christ because they were unaware there would even be a gospel could be saved.

After much debate, I've decided to ask a question on the form of your question. Are you asking for resources that answer why I was taught that "those living AFTER the incarnation, who can't claim a faith in Christ . . ."? OR are you asking how to research questions arising out of the division caused by the incarnation i.e. "God's means of salvation prior to the incarnation of Christ  as compared to after the incarnation"?

Orthodox Bishop Hilarion Alfeyev: "To be a theologian means to have experience of a personal encounter with God through prayer and worship."

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Rick Ausdahl | Forum Activity | Replied: Tue, Jan 28 2020 4:36 PM

I want to thank everyone who has responded, for their interest, questions, and suggestions.  However, I have not been able to really "read" through the responses as I was out of town for a bit without access to a computer, aaannnd… I then had an unexpected "eye" event that led to an unplanned visit with an ophthalmologist and expect to have difficulty with my vision (and ability to read) for a few days.  (Someone is entering this for me.)  So please accept my apology if it's a while before I'm able to respond to individual replies.

However I understand my question may have generated a little "theological" controversy, so I just want to say that was NOT my intention and it's my hope that this thread won't "go south" so to speak, in that regard.

I'll say only that the vast majority of theological resources and commentaries I've read espouse that those who live after the incarnation but never hear the gospel will still be lost, because they haven't expressly received Christ, while if those same people had lived before the incarnation, they would have had a path to salvation without having any knowledge of Christ, even though it is the work of Christ that makes salvation available regardless of when a person lived.

I am NOT arguing for or against any theological position regarding salvation and it is my hope that this thread will NOT turn into such a debate.  I merely want to identify resources that might explain/address the above theological position.  Of course, in the process, I would also want to be aware of resources that disagree with this theological position.

So thanks again to everyone who has responded.  I hope to be back in action late this week or early next week.

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MJ. Smith | Forum Activity | Replied: Tue, Jan 28 2020 6:41 PM

Rick Ausdahl:
Of course, in the process, I would also want to be aware of resources that disagree with this theological position.

Ah, if you had said this earlier and in light of

Rick Ausdahl:
I'll say only that the vast majority of theological resources and commentaries I've read espouse that those who live after the incarnation but never hear the gospel will still be lost, because they haven't expressly received Christ, while if those same people had lived before the incarnation, they would have had a path to salvation without having any knowledge of Christ, even though it is the work of Christ that makes salvation available regardless of when a person lived.

Despite reading quite widely (from my perspective), the vast majority of theological resources and commentaries I've read reject that view ... and I've had plenty of years to read. See Extra Ecclesiam nulla salus ("outside the Church there is no salvation") for a different broadly held view and which provides a basic history and some suggested readings.

Orthodox Bishop Hilarion Alfeyev: "To be a theologian means to have experience of a personal encounter with God through prayer and worship."

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David Thomas | Forum Activity | Replied: Wed, Jan 29 2020 9:18 AM

So you are contemplating the intersection between Bibliology [a hermeneutic of progressive revelation] and Soteriology [the means of regeneration]? And then when one considers those "incapable" of volitional belief (e.g. miscarriage, infancy & other cognitive "disabilities") one's view of Theology Proper weighs on the conclusions. These are tough pastoral considerations.

A quick search of the question "What about those who never heard" yields 5 results in my library.

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Francis | Forum Activity | Replied: Wed, Jan 29 2020 12:00 PM

Hi Rick. I think your question is warranted because it caters to understanding better how God relates to humanity. This certainly includes the history of God's relationship to humanity and it is relevant to whatever might be claimed with regard to a theology based on the NT alone without consideration for this broader context. For instance, one may ask "what does it mean that God does not want anyone to perish but all to come to salvation?". How does that apply to all the people who lived prior to Christ and/or from nations without access to direct revelation? 

I agree with the approach suggested earlier to look at passages in the NT that seem to address precisely this question like 1 Peter 3:18-20 or Hebrews 11:40. I would start with a cross-reference tool to try to find other passages that might be most relevant to this question in the NT. Then you have a couple options to find relevant materials:

  1. Good commentaries should raise these issues in these passages. 
  2. Strong commentaries will include a bibliography that can lead you to articles and monographs that target this issue.
  3. Search your library for several of the relevant passages, for instance, 1 Peter 3:18-20 WITHIN 50 WORDS Hebrews 11:40 (tweak search parameters to better your odds or add precision). This is helpful to turn up relevant discussions from resources in your library you would not think about.

Imo, it is important to study also what I would call ancient Jewish historical theology. Jewish theology was not a static product that fell out of heaven at punctual times of history. Much like God can use current trends to cause His people to investigate issues they did not before, so also ancient Israelites responded to their times by exploring some questions more deeply. Certainly one can witness in this regard a much greater interest in the afterlife and in eschatological salvation in the intertestamental period. This is an important background to understand what is mentioned in the NT. For instance, 2 Peter's statement about spirits in prison is not a NT revelatory innovation but an interpretative development in the intertestamental period. The literature of this period is often the bridge over the gap one often finds between OT and NT theology. 

I hope this helps some.

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David Paul | Forum Activity | Replied: Thu, Jan 30 2020 4:41 AM

Francis:
For instance, one may ask "what does it mean that God does not want anyone to perish but all to come to salvation?". How does that apply to all the people who lived prior to Christ and/or from nations without access to direct revelation? 

This statement will obviously need to be dealt with in responding to this topic, but it is precisely here that my above caveat likewise comes into play. Many have ASSUMED that ':Elohhiym's "not wanting" something automatically means it will certainly come to pass. But when other comments made in Scripture are considered AND GIVEN EQUAL WEIGHT, that assumption quickly can be seen to be inaccurate. Just because ':Elohhiym wants one thing doesn't mean He doesn't also want something else concurrently, and it is possible that the second desire may not be fully compatible with the first desire. Aside from "wanting" all people to not perish, He also wants obedient children, and there are numerous examples of individuals who have shown and declared that they have no intention of complying with YHWH's will, ever. Taking these two facts together is more than sufficient reason to acknowledge that YHWH's wanting people to do what is required for "life beyond death" doesn't mean that everyone will comply with His will by meeting the expressed requirement.

Of course, there are plenty of people who insist that the bolded statement above PROVES universal salvation. I've encountered many of them. And in pretty much every case they clearly give that statement the benefit of critical mass, and as a result anything added to the other side of the balance can never budge the scale. Like I said, it is important not to presume and assume, and making proper judgment calls is always necessary.

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Randall Cue | Forum Activity | Replied: Thu, Jan 30 2020 12:16 PM

David Paul:

Francis:
For instance, one may ask "what does it mean that God does not want anyone to perish but all to come to salvation?". How does that apply to all the people who lived prior to Christ and/or from nations without access to direct revelation? 

This statement will obviously need to be dealt with in responding to this topic, but it is precisely here that my above caveat likewise comes into play. Many have ASSUMED that ':Elohhiym's "not wanting" something automatically means it will certainly come to pass. But when other comments made in Scripture are considered AND GIVEN EQUAL WEIGHT, that assumption quickly can be seen to be inaccurate. Just because ':Elohhiym wants one thing doesn't mean He doesn't also want something else concurrently, and it is possible that the second desire may not be fully compatible with the first desire. Aside from "wanting" all people to not perish, He also wants obedient children, and there are numerous examples of individuals who have shown and declared that they have no intention of complying with YHWH's will, ever. Taking these two facts together is more than sufficient reason to acknowledge that YHWH's wanting people to do what is required for "life beyond death" doesn't mean that everyone will comply with His will by meeting the expressed requirement.

Of course, there are plenty of people who insist that the bolded statement above PROVES universal salvation. I've encountered many of them. And in pretty much every case they clearly give that statement the benefit of critical mass, and as a result anything added to the other side of the balance can never budge the scale. Like I said, it is important not to presume and assume, and making proper judgment calls is always necessary.

It is very helpful to read the context of the line in bold above.

Soli Deo Gloria

Randy

Posts 8
scooter | Forum Activity | Replied: Thu, Jan 30 2020 12:20 PM

Randall, I am unclear what you are trying to say.  I am very interested in this mini-discussion, and so I ask you, please, to amplify your comments.  Thank you.

Randall Cue:

David Paul:

Francis:
For instance, one may ask "what does it mean that God does not want anyone to perish but all to come to salvation?". How does that apply to all the people who lived prior to Christ and/or from nations without access to direct revelation? 

This statement will obviously need to be dealt with in responding to this topic, but it is precisely here that my above caveat likewise comes into play. Many have ASSUMED that ':Elohhiym's "not wanting" something automatically means it will certainly come to pass. But when other comments made in Scripture are considered AND GIVEN EQUAL WEIGHT, that assumption quickly can be seen to be inaccurate. Just because ':Elohhiym wants one thing doesn't mean He doesn't also want something else concurrently, and it is possible that the second desire may not be fully compatible with the first desire. Aside from "wanting" all people to not perish, He also wants obedient children, and there are numerous examples of individuals who have shown and declared that they have no intention of complying with YHWH's will, ever. Taking these two facts together is more than sufficient reason to acknowledge that YHWH's wanting people to do what is required for "life beyond death" doesn't mean that everyone will comply with His will by meeting the expressed requirement.

Of course, there are plenty of people who insist that the bolded statement above PROVES universal salvation. I've encountered many of them. And in pretty much every case they clearly give that statement the benefit of critical mass, and as a result anything added to the other side of the balance can never budge the scale. Like I said, it is important not to presume and assume, and making proper judgment calls is always necessary.

It is very helpful to read the context of the line in bold above.

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David Paul | Forum Activity | Replied: Thu, Jan 30 2020 1:49 PM

I suppose I could be wrong, but I'm guessing that Randall is referring to the context of the phrase (found in 2 Pet. 3:9 NASB) "not wishing for any to perish". If one looks at 2 Pet. 3:7 NASB and 2 Pet. 3:8 NASB, in verse 7, Peter is clearly describing those who are disobedient being destroyed (so much for universal salvation), and in verse 8, he changes who is being addressed to the "beloved", and it is to this group that he speaks of YHWH desiring that "all come to repentance" and thus "not perish". So, one can pretty safely conclude, "all" in verse 9 refers not to "ALL humans", but rather to "all" of the REPENTANT.

This perspective, necessarily, requires us to take into account the translation that Francis quoted. I'm not sure where "salvation" crept in, but the word metanoia means "repentance", not salvation.

In another recent thread, the idea of avoiding hidden assumptions has cropped up, and that holds for this (and most every) topic as well. Many assume that they are saved (they jump straight for the chocolate cake), without ever bothering to engage in the process of repentance. Repentance is just assumed to fall into place once one's fork scoops that first chunk of cake into one's mouth. YUM YUM...SALVATION!! However, it ain't so. Some assumptions are swaddled in misinformation, some in ignorance, and some in apathy.

Posts 8
scooter | Forum Activity | Replied: Thu, Jan 30 2020 3:36 PM

Thanks, David.

David Paul:

I suppose I could be wrong, but I'm guessing that Randall is referring to the context of the phrase (found in 2 Pet. 3:9 NASB) "not wishing for any to perish". If one looks at 2 Pet. 3:7 NASB and 2 Pet. 3:8 NASB, in verse 7, Peter is clearly describing those who are disobedient being destroyed (so much for universal salvation), and in verse 8, he changes who is being addressed to the "beloved", and it is to this group that he speaks of YHWH desiring that "all come to repentance" and thus "not perish". So, one can pretty safely conclude, "all" in verse 9 refers not to "ALL humans", but rather to "all" of the REPENTANT.

This perspective, necessarily, requires us to take into account the translation that Francis quoted. I'm not sure where "salvation" crept in, but the word metanoia means "repentance", not salvation.

In another recent thread, the idea of avoiding hidden assumptions has cropped up, and that holds for this (and most every) topic as well. Many assume that they are saved (they jump straight for the chocolate cake), without ever bothering to engage in the process of repentance. Repentance is just assumed to fall into place once one's fork scoops that first chunk of cake into one's mouth. YUM YUM...SALVATION!! However, it ain't so. Some assumptions are swaddled in misinformation, some in ignorance, and some in apathy.

Posts 1442
Rick Ausdahl | Forum Activity | Replied: Sun, Feb 2 2020 4:04 PM

Dave Hooton:

Rick Ausdahl:
More specifically, resources that address how and why those living AFTER the incarnation, who can't claim a faith in Christ because they never hear the gospel, can't be saved, while those living BEFORE the incarnation who couldn't claim a faith in Christ because they were unaware there would even be a gospel could be saved.

A Commentary on Rom 2 would go a long way toward this. But A Dictionary of the Bible (Hastings) has a good article on Salvation. Likewise, Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology (Elwell) and Systematic Theology (Hodge), provided you are not too dogmaticSmile about the conditions you impose BEFORE and AFTER.

Thank you, Dave!  Of the specific resources you mentioned, I have all but A Dictionary of the Bible (Hastings), so I'll check out those I have.

Regarding commentaries on Romans 2, while many/most may touch on the subject and present as fact that this divide between the "befores" and the "afters" as I'll call them based on when they lived (and died), they haven't done anything near what I would call "justice" to the "Why?" question.  That's one of the reasons I'm looking for other types of resources, so thanks again for sharing your resource suggestions.  Smile

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