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Josh Hunt | Forum Activity | Posted: Mon, Feb 24 2020 7:33 AM

i read in various sources that tradition says Peter was crucified upside down. How do I find out more about the source of this tradition. I'd like something written as early as possible--in the first few centuries of the church. 

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MJ. Smith | Forum Activity | Replied: Mon, Feb 24 2020 12:14 PM

from Wikipedia:

"The origin of the symbol comes from the Catholic tradition that Peter the Apostle was crucified upside down, as told by Origen of Alexandria. The tradition first appears in the "Martyrdom of Peter", a fragmented text found in, but possibly predating, the apocryphal Acts of Peter, which was written no later than 200 A.D. "

So I would search for something like "Peter NEAR crucified" in Origen and New Testament Apocrypha.

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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Josh Hunt | Forum Activity | Replied: Tue, Feb 25 2020 2:29 PM

So, I did a search for "Acts of Peter" on and it does not appear to be a book that can be purchased. 

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Milkman | Forum Activity | Replied: Tue, Feb 25 2020 3:56 PM

You may want to do a search in your library for "quo vadis" NEAR Peter

Include the italics.

I came up with 143 results in 49 articles.



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Milkman | Forum Activity | Replied: Tue, Feb 25 2020 4:16 PM

Just doing a quick search I came up with this. You may find it of some help.

Good luck with your research.


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MJ. Smith | Forum Activity | Replied: Tue, Feb 25 2020 4:28 PM

Not much in my library but all in Logos:

"XXXIV. And a certain woman which was exceeding beautiful, the wife of Albinus, Caesar’s friend, by name Xanthippe, came, she also, unto Peter, with the rest of the matrons, and withdrew herself, she also, from Albinus. He therefore being mad, and loving Xanthippe, and marvelling that she would not sleep even upon the same bed with him, raged like a wild beast and would have dispatched Peter; for he knew that he was the cause of her separating from his bed. Many other women also, loving the word of chastity, separated themselves from their husbands, because they desired them to worship God in sobriety and cleanness. And whereas there was great trouble in Rome, Albinus made known his state unto Agrippa, saying to him: Either do thou avenge me of Peter that hath withdrawn my wife, or I will avenge myself. And Agrippa said: I have suffered the same at his hand, for he hath withdrawn my concubines. And Albinus said unto him: Why then tarriest thou, Agrippa? let us find him and put him to death for a dealer in curious arts, that we may have our wives again, and avenge them also which are not able to put him to death, whose wives also he hath parted from them.
XXXV. And as they considered these things, Xanthippe took knowledge of the counsel of her husband with Agrippa, and sent and showed Peter, that he might depart from Rome. And the rest of the brethren, together with Marcellus, besought him to depart. But Peter said unto them: Shall we be runaways, brethren? and they said to him: Nay, but that thou mayest yet be able to serve the Lord. And he obeyed the brethren’s voice and went forth alone, saying: Let none of you come forth with me, but I will go forth alone, having changed the fashion of mine apparel. And as he went forth of the city, he saw the Lord entering into Rome. And when he saw him, he said: Lord, whither goest thou thus (or here)? And the Lord said unto him: I go into Rome to be crucified. And Peter said unto him: Lord, art thou (being) crucified again? He said unto him: Yea, Peter, I am (being) crucified again. And Peter came to himself: and having beheld the Lord ascending up into heaven, he returned to Rome, rejoicing, and glorifying the Lord, for that he said: I am being crucified: the which was about to befall Peter.
XXXVI. He went up therefore again unto the brethren, and told them that which had been seen by him: and they lamented in soul, weeping and saying: We beseech thee, Peter, take thought for us that are young. And Peter said unto them: If it be the Lord’s will, it cometh to pass, even if we will it not; but for you, the Lord is able to stablish you in his faith, and will found you therein and make you spread abroad, whom he himself hath planted, that ye also may plant others through him. But I, so long as the Lord will that I be in the flesh, resist not; and again if he take me to him I rejoice and am glad.
And while Peter thus spake, and all the brethren wept, behold four soldiers took him and led him unto Agrippa. And he in his madness (disease) commanded him to be crucified on an accusation of godlessness.
The whole multitude of the brethren therefore ran together, both of rich and poor, orphans and widows, weak and strong, desiring to see and to rescue Peter, while the people shouted with one voice, and would not be silenced: What wrong hath Peter done, O Agrippa? Wherein hath he hurt thee? tell the Romans! And others said: We fear lest if this man die, his Lord destroy us all.
And Peter when he came unto the place stilled the people and said: Ye men that are soldiers of Christ! ye men that hope in Christ! remember the signs and wonders which ye have seen wrought through me, remember the compassion of God, how many cures he hath wrought for you. Wait for him that cometh and shall reward every man according to his doings. And now be ye not bitter against Agrippa; for he is the minister of his father’s working. And this cometh to pass at all events, for the Lord hath manifested unto me that which befalleth. But why delay I and draw not near unto the cross?
XXXVII. And having approached and standing by the cross he began to say: O name of the cross, thou hidden mystery! O grace ineffable that is pronounced in the name of the cross! O nature of man, that cannot be separated from God! O love (friendship) unspeakable and inseparable, that cannot be shown forth by unclean lips! I seize thee now, I that am at the end of my delivery hence (or, of my coming hither). I will declare thee, what thou art: I will not keep silence of the mystery of the cross which of old was shut and hidden from my soul. Let not the cross be unto you which hope in Christ, this which appeareth: for it is another thing, different from that which appeareth, even this passion which is according to that of Christ. And now above all, because ye that can hear are able to hear it of me, that am at the last and final hour of my life, hearken: Separate your souls from every thing that is of the senses, from every thing that appeareth, and does not exist in truth. Blind these eyes of yours, close these ears of yours, put away your doings that are seen; and ye shall perceive that which concerneth Christ, and the whole mystery of your salvation: and let thus much be said unto you that hear, as if it had not been spoken. But now it is time for thee, Peter, to deliver up thy body unto them that take it. Receive it then, ye unto whom it belongeth. I beseech you the executioners, crucify me thus, with the head downward and not otherwise: and the reason wherefore, I will tell unto them that hear.
XXXVIII. And when they had hanged him up after the manner he desired, he began again to say: Ye men unto whom it belongeth to hear, hearken to that which I shall declare unto you at this especial time as I hang here. Learn ye the mystery of all nature, and the beginning of all things, what it was. For the first man, whose race I bear in mine appearance (or, of the race of whom I bear the likeness), fell (was borne) head downwards, and showed forth a manner of birth such as was not heretofore: for it was dead, having no motion. He, then, being pulled down—who also cast his first state down upon the earth—established this whole disposition of all things, being hanged up an image of the creation (Gk. vocation) wherein he made the things of the right hand into left hand and the left hand into right hand, and changed about all the marks of their nature, so that he thought those things that were not fair to be fair, and those that were in truth evil, to be good. Concerning which the Lord saith in a mystery: Unless ye make the things of the right hand as those of the left, and those of the left as those of the right, and those that are above as those below, and those that are behind as those that are before, ye shall not have knowledge of the kingdom.
This thought, therefore, have I declared unto you; and the figure wherein ye now see me hanging is the representation of that man that first came unto birth. Ye therefore, my beloved, and ye that hear me and that shall hear, ought to cease from your former error and return back again. For it is right to mount upon the cross of Christ, who is the word stretched out, the one and only, of whom the spirit saith: For what else is Christ, but the word, the sound of God? So that the word is the upright beam whereon I am crucified. And the sound is that which crosseth it, the nature of man. And the nail which holdeth the cross-tree unto the upright in the midst thereof is the conversion and repentance of man.
XXXIX. Now whereas thou hast made known and revealed these things unto me, O word of life, called now by me wood (or, word called now by me the tree of life), I give thee thanks, not with these lips that are nailed unto the cross, nor with this tongue by which truth and falsehood issue forth, nor with this word which cometh forth by means of art whose nature is material, but with that voice do I give thee thanks, O King, which is perceived (understood) in silence, which is not heard openly, which proceedeth not forth by organs of the body, which goeth not into ears of flesh, which is not heard of corruptible substance, which existeth not in the world, neither is sent forth upon earth, nor written in books, which is owned by one and not by another: but with this, O Jesu Christ, do I give thee thanks, with the silence of a voice, wherewith the spirit that is in me loveth thee, speaketh unto thee, seeth thee, and beseecheth thee. Thou art perceived of the spirit only, thou art unto me father, thou my mother, thou my brother, thou my friend, thou my bondsman, thou my steward: thou art the All and the All is in thee: and thou Art, and there is nought else that IS save thee only.
Unto him therefore do ye also, brethren, flee, and if ye learn that in him alone ye exist, ye shall obtain those things whereof he saith unto you: ‘which neither eye hath seen nor ear heard, neither have they entered into the heart of man.’ We ask, therefore, for that which thou hast promised to give unto us, O thou undefiled Jesu. We praise thee, we give thee thanks, and confess to thee, glorifying thee, even we men that are yet without strength, for thou art God alone, and none other: to whom be glory now and unto all ages. Amen.
XL. And when the multitude that stood by pronounced the Amen with a great sound, together with the Amen Peter gave up his spirit unto the Lord.
And Marcellus not asking leave of any, for it was not possible, when he saw that Peter had given up the ghost, took him down from the cross with his own hands and washed him in milk and wine: and cut fine seven minae of mastic,1 and of myrrh and aloes and Indian leaf other fifty, and perfumed (embalmed) his body and filled a coffin of marble of great price with Attic honey and laid it in his own tomb.
But Peter by night appeared unto Marcellus and said: Marcellus, hast thou heard that the Lord saith: Let the dead be buried of their own dead? And when Marcellus said: Yea, Peter said to him: That, then, which thou hast spent on the dead, thou hast lost: for thou being alive hast like a dead man cared for the dead. And Marcellus awoke and told the brethren of the appearing of Peter: and he was with them that had been stablished in the faith of Christ by Peter, himself also being stablished yet more until the coming of Paul unto Rome.2
XLI. [This last chapter, and the last sentence of XL, are thought by Vouaux to be an addition by the author of i–iii, in other words by the compiler of the Greek original of the Vercelli Acts.]

But Nero, learning thereafter that Peter was departed out of this life, blamed the prefect Agrippa, because he had been put to death without his knowledge; for he desired to punish him more sorely and with greater torment, because Peter had made disciples of certain of them that served him, and had caused them to depart from him: so that he was very wrathful and for a long season spake not unto Agrippa: for he sought to destroy all them that had been made disciples by Peter. And he beheld by night one that scourged him and said unto him: Nero, thou canst not now persecute nor destroy the servants of Christ: refrain therefore thine hands from them. And so Nero, being greatly affrighted by such a vision, abstained from harming the disciples at that time when Peter also departed this life.
And thenceforth the brethren were rejoicing with one mind and exulting in the Lord, glorifying the God and Saviour (Father?) of our Lord Jesus Christ with the Holy Ghost, unto whom be glory, world without end. Amen.


Montague Rhodes James, ed., The Apocryphal New Testament: Being the Apocryphal Gospels, Acts, Epistles, and Apocalypses (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1924), 332–337.


"Literate Christians would see additional images from the Apocrypha in manuscripts. The richest and most elaborate of these ‘illuminations’, as they are called, are found in biblical manuscripts, where scenes from the lives of the apostles taken from apocryphal acts decorate the New Testament texts written in their names. For example, the life of the apostle John, drawn from the Acts of John and related texts, is the basis for an extensive cycle of scenes in a thirteenth-century manuscript of Revelation from Trinity College in Cambridge. Other biblical manuscripts include images reflecting the story of an apostle’s martyrdom, such as the beheading of Paul from the Acts of Paul, or the upsidedown crucifixion of Peter from the Acts of Peter. As for apocryphal texts, some manuscripts feature illuminations directly relating to episodes from the texts.

Tony Burke, Secret Scriptures Revealed: A New Introduction to the Christian Apocrypha (London: SPCK, 2013), 40."


"In the early second century, a collection of oral folklore began to solidify into a narrative trajectory now called the Acts of Peter.5 In addition to such thrilling episodes as a duel between Peter and the heretic Simon Magus, in which Peter causes the flying Simon to crash and burn (chapters 31–32), we also find a detailed account of Peter’s martyrdom (chapters 33–41). Emperor Nero is the villain in the background of the story, which proves the second-century Christians believed Peter died during that ruler’s reign.

As the story unfolds, we see Nero’s henchmen calling for Peter’s execution because he convinced their wives and lovers to adopt sexual abstinence. At this point we discover the first outright statement that Peter was crucified on a cross—and also that it was in an upside-down posture. However, the Acts of Peter makes no mention of the pious concern that is so often quoted as the reason for Peter being turned head-downward: his sense of unworthiness to be crucified like his Master. That explanation shows up in a much later edition of the story attributed to a certain “Hegesippus” around 370,6 but the original reason for requesting an upside-down crucifixion was quite different.7 As Peter waxes eloquent while hanging on the cross, his position visually illustrates his Gnostic-themed speech about the spiritual inversion of the human race.
Neither of these explanations is credible at all. Peter may well have been crucified upside down, for the Romans were known to do this. Since the martyrdom story in the Acts of Peter was already developing in the early second century, it might have been recording an actual eyewitness remembrance. However, the victims of Roman crucifixion were not given the chance to make requests about the method of their impalement. The intent was to shame them in a grotesque way, not accomodate their wishes. Therefore, the upside-down crucifixion of Peter is historically plausible, though not for any spiritual reasons.

Bryan Litfin, After Acts: Exploring the Lives and Legends of the Apostles (Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers, 2015)."


"After a brief appearance at the Jerusalem Council (Acts 15:7-11) Peter vanishes from the NT record. It is in later sources, such as the Epistle of Clement to the Corinthians, St. Irenaeus (Adv. haer. 3.1.1), and Eusebius (Hist. eccl. 2.25.8; cf. 4.14.1), that one learns of Peter and Paul’s joint labors in building the church at Rome and their martyrdom there. The apocryphal Acts of St. Peter and St. Paul as well as Acts of St. Peter adds details about Peter’s crucifixion upside down, ca. 67, and the dates and other details accord well with Tacitus’s description of Nero’s pogrom against Roman Christians in 65-68 (Annales, 15.44). The statement in 1 Clem. 5–6 that both Peter and Paul were executed under Nero’s rule has been generally accepted by historians. The feast of St. Peter and St. Paul was kept in Rome as early as the 3rd cent. on June 29.

David L. Jeffrey, A Dictionary of Biblical Tradition in English Literature (Grand Rapids, MI: W.B. Eerdmans, 1992)."


"Acts of Peter 37–38*

The relevant portion of Acts of Peter 37–38 is cited to show that there was a tradition affirming that Peter died by crucifixion upside down. This tradition is also attested by paintings displayed at the Vatican in Rome.

37“… But it is time for you, Peter, to surrender your body to those who are taking it. Take it, then, you whose duty this is. I request you therefore, executioners, to crucify me head-downwards—in this way and no other. And the reason, I will tell to those who hear.”
38And when they had hanged him up in the way which he requested, he began to speak again, saying “Men whose duty it is to hear, pay attention to what I tell you at this moment that I am hanged up. You must know the mystery of all nature, and the beginning of all things, how it came about. For the first man, whose likeness I have in (my) appearance, in falling head-downwards showed a manner of birth that was not so before; for it was dead, having no movement. He therefore, being drawn down—he who also cast his first beginning down to the earth—established the whole of this cosmic system, being hung up as an image of the calling, in which he showed what is on the right side as on the left, and those on the left as on the right, and changed all the signs of their nature, so as to consider fair those things that were not fair, and take those that were really evil to be good. Concerning this the Lord says in a mystery, ‘Unless you make what is on the right hand as what is on the left and what is on the left hand as what is on the right and what is above as what is below and what is behind as what is before, you will not recognize the Kingdom.’ This conception, then, I have declared to you, and the form in which you see me hanging is a representation of that man who first came to birth. You then, my beloved, both those who hear (me) now and those that shall hear in time, must leave your former error and turn back again; for you should come up to the cross of Christ, who is the Word stretched out, the one and only, of whom the Spirit says, ‘For what else is Christ but the Word, the sound of God?’ So that the Word is this upright tree on which I am crucified; but the sound is the cross-piece, the nature of man; and the nail that holds the cross-piece to the upright in the middle is the conversion (or turning point) and repentance of man.”

The early church often connected Isaiah 65:2 with Christ’s crucifixion, as the following texts indicate.

Darrell L. Bock and Gregory J. Herrick, Jesus in Context: Background Readings for Gospel Study (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2005), 248–249."


From Baldwin, Matthew C. Whose Acts of Peter?: Text and Historical Context of the Actus Vercellenses. Edited by Jörg Frey. Vol. 196. Wissenschaftliche Untersuchungen Zum Neuen Testament. Tübingen, Germany: Mohr Siebeck, 2005.

"Hist. eccl. III:1 Page 70

In the early fourth-century work History of the Church, by Eusebius, we find a reference to the upside-down crucifixion of Peter, a fabula-element found in all extant Petrine acta which narrate his martyrdom.23 This reference is usually thought to be a quotation from Origen’s Commentaries on Genesis, and is therefore cited as evidence of a written Acts of Peter known to Origen in the early third century C. E.24

Hist. eccl. III:1 Pages 72–73
It must be remarked that, especially if it is from Origen, but even if it is from Eusebius, as evidence for the history of Petrine traditions, the expression ἀνεσκολοπίσθη κατὰ κεφαλῆς is the earliest datable occurrence of the fabula about Peter’s martyrdom by upside-down crucifixion. Problematically for those who want to argue for its value for the literary history of Petrine acta, this expression is not a quotation or a paraphrase from any of the extant Petrine acta texts.30 Rather, all we can say is that, perhaps Origen knew a story about Peter’s crucifixion; in that case, this would have been the case prior to 231 C.E. But perhaps he only knew that Peter had been crucified head downwards in the time of Nero. These words seem more likely to reflect a short oral formula than a written narrative or full oral version of the story.

Commentaries on John XX:12 Pages 73–74
The saying “I am going to be crucified again,” just happens to appear also in the Petrine acta, namely, ps.-Linus, ps.-Marcellus, ps.-Abdias, the Martyrium Petri, and the later liturgical writings,33 in a scene frequently labeled “the famous Quo Vadis? scene.”34 Peter, having met the Lord going towards Rome while he himself flees for his life, asks him, “where are you going?” The phrase, “I am going to be crucified again” is the Lord’s reply to Peter, which brings him to his senses and puts him back on his way to Rome where his own crucifixion awaits.

Origen and the Acts of Peter Page 76
This investigation of the external evidence for the Acts of Peter in Origen has turned up empty handed, yielding at most a bare reference to the fabula of Peter’s upside-down crucifixion. The reference to the ps.-Clementine Περίοδοι from the Philocalia turned out to be a later interpolation from the Clementines themselves, with a brief label applied from the compiler(s) (or interpolator); therefore it came from no earlier than the mid-fourth century. The alleged reference to the Acts of Peter in Origen’s Comm. Gen. book III is problematic because: (a) the text is extant only as quoted in the fourth century by Eusebius, (b) there are some grounds to doubt that the quotation from the Comm. Gen. included all the material commonly associated with it and (c) the only written source indicated in Eusebius’ text is from Origen. Finally, the reference to the Acts of Paul in the Comm. Jo. XX:12 is not now and never was a reference to the Acts of Peter, although early scholarship believed it might have been. The Hamburg Papyrus demonstrates that, whether or not the saying is “at home” in the Acts of Paul, it can be found there. Origen can not be cited as a testimonium for the ancient Acts of Peter prior to 231 C.E.

Petrine Fabulae in Eusebius Page 94
In addition to his direct reference to a book entitled Acts of Peter, Eusebius provides us with some relatively early—at least datable—external evidence for several important fabulae about Peter. We have already discussed Hist. eccl. III, 1, which provides the first datable literary mention of Peter’s death by upside-down crucifixion.109 This formula may have come from Origen, although this claim is difficult to establish beyond a doubt. If Eusebius had indeed read, seen, or become familiar with some version of a written Acts of Peter, then he could have derived that expression from a written source other than Origen. However, besides Hist. eccl. III, 1, there are other indications that Eusebius had encountered some version of the story of Peter’s life and death—whether written or oral is unclear—in that he also relates information about the contest of Peter and Simon Magus at Rome in his Hist. eccl. II:13–15. He relates the story in this way:

D. Conclusions Pages 131–132
The Petrine fabulae which are found in these authors of the first three centuries after Christ usually relate very little detail, but concern Peter’s family life (Clement), a prodigious talking dog and infant (Commodian), and his contest with Simon Magus at Rome (Hippolytus, the Didascalia, Arnobius, and Eusebius). There is also a very brief mention of Peter’s upside—down crucifixion (Origen, via Eusebius). The Muratorian Canon mentions Peter’s passion and Paul’s journey to Spain. With the exception of the stories related by Clement, these fabulae are all later found given full textual expression in the Actus Vercellenses in various forms; but the various patristic testimonia show that, in this period, Petrine fabulae were unstable and diverged from one another in various contexts of telling and retelling. Stories of the conflict between Simon Magus and Peter were used by Christians in polemical discourse, directed against both other Christians (Hippolytus, the Didascalia, Eusebius) and against pagans (Arnobius, Eusebius). Other fabulae involving Peter could be used for theological instruction or the like, but the external evidence from the early period gives us no reason to believe that there was yet any single, fixed, stable work containing these tales. Patristic testimonies provide us with no external reason, to suspect that the book many call the Acts of Peter (i.e. the Actus Vercellenses) was in existence during this period.

The Indescribable Power of Martyrs Pages 312–313
Further details worthy of comparison are to be found. Most significantly, I think, for the study of the Actus Vercellenses, are the instances where Eusebius reports that martyrs were hung upside down (8.12 and 8.9). This certainly recalls the execution of Peter in the Actus Vercellenses.26 But even more pertinently, Eusebius’ History contains a report that some martyrs were actually crucified upside down (8.8). This more than recalls the execution of Peter. It suggests to me that the very image of an upside-down crucifixion may have emerged only during the Diocletian persecution. We have to be clear here: this singular and odd report occurs in the very same text as the one in which we find the first datable reference to the upside-down crucifixion of Peter.27 In any case, here is a crucial point—Eusebius’ report does more than guarantee the verisimilitude of the Petrine fabula—it links Peter’s mode of death firmly to the discourse about the radical otherworldliness of the divine martyrs, which is precisely what Peter’s words about and from his cross also do in the Actus Vercellenses. Like the martyrs eulogized by Eusebius, Peter, when suffering though his own crucifixion, passively endures it, even delivering a homily on the “darkly veiled mystery” of the Cross: the “love incapable of retiring which cannot be named by unclean lips.” Peter commands “do not <see> these things which you see with human eyes. Blind your eyes and ears to these sufferings which you see openly, but may the whole mystery of eternal life be able to remain in your awareness.”28 That whole, darkly veiled mystery would precisely seem to be the triumph which is represented by martyrdom.

The Indescribable Power of Martyrs Page 314
I suggest that in Eusebius we may have found a clue to the occasion of the rhetoric of at least part of the Actus Vercellenses: in the latter utterance, the story of the upside-down crucifixion of Peter dignifies the suffering of the immediate past, reinforces the “rhetoric of empire” which relies upon the trope of victory in defeat as the ultimate argument that Christian power is divine and unstoppable, and may at the same time serve as a present comfort in light of inner-church conflicts which surely affected our North African or Spanish scriptor. In the light of this material, this particular manifestation of the story of Peter’s crucifixion reads as a reminiscence of martyrdom which serves the present power of (or struggle for power among) the Christians, whose worldly strength is masked as the ineffable and indescribable light of the godhead

Matthew C. Baldwin, Whose Acts of Peter?: Text and Historical Context of the Actus Vercellenses, ed. Jörg Frey, vol. 196, Wissenschaftliche Untersuchungen Zum Neuen Testament (Tübingen, Germany: Mohr Siebeck, 2005), 70–314."

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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