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Author Topic: THE SCAPEGOAT QUESTION: RATZLAFF’S BIGGEST ANTI-SDA STRAWMAN  (Read 2967 times)

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Azenilto Brito

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THE SCAPEGOAT QUESTION: RATZLAFF’S BIGGEST ANTI-SDA STRAWMAN
« on: September 05, 2010, 05:16:08 PM »


THE SCAPEGOAT QUESTION: RATZLAFF’S BIGGEST ANTI-SDA STRAWMAN

      The big fuss about the SDA doctrine of Investigative Judgment and, within it, the “scapegoat question”, is not surprising, nor the distortions and false alegations attached to the objections regarding these teachings.
       Some objectors of our faith make a big fuss about such doctrinal details, totally irrelevant, as the attribution of the title Michael to Jesus Christ. What some dishonestly do is to compare SDA’s with Jehovah’s Witnesses, who DENY Jesus’ divinity, teaching that He is just a creature of God. These critics omit from their public the information that we do not deny Christ’s divinity and equality with the Father, within a trinitarian view. This purposeful omission is an unethical attitude.
       Also, they never comment (for ignoring the fact?) that important classic Protestant Bible commentaries, like Matthew Henry’s, Adam Clarke’s, John Gill’s, Albert Barnes’, teach the same. However, they were never considered heretics because of that. John Calvin declared that “many people believe that Michael is Christ” adding that he didn’t object to this opinion. But these critics, not knowing these opinions and interpretations, take advantage of the general lack of knowledge about that to explore that as an anti-SDA asset.
       Before discussing directly the main subject of the April-June, 2010 issue of Proclamation! magazine, let’s reproduce some comments by readers of our material in one of the forums they were posted a time ago:

       From a moderator of one of the about 10 Adventist Forums where the material is being posted in both English and Spanish:
      
       Some of Adventists worst enemies are ex-Adventists. . . . Sadly, this folks feel it their burden in life to expose something they believe to be false. Even if the Adventist church’s teachings are false, the supposedly false teachings would not cause anyone to lose out on salvation.

       * If the Ten Commandments are no longer binding, no one is going to lose out on salvation for keeping them.

       * If Sabbath observance is not required, no one will lose their salvation for keeping it.

       * If avoiding meat, specifically unclean meats, isn’t required, no one will be damned for doing so.

       * If the creation story isn’t true, those that believe in it will discover their error inside of heaven’s gates

       One will not miss out on eternity because they refused to go to the theater, dance hall or pierce their ears.
Yet many ex-Adventists act as if their work of exposing the Adventist church as being false is somehow saving souls. The opposite is true. If they do anything, they shake the faith of some of the weak brothers and sisters and instead of following a different religious belief, they drop out and follow none at all.


       My own comment at a certain point:

       Well, among the things Bro. S. listed, that are not “salvation decisive”, I would add believing in the investigative judgment, because the subject of God’s judgment has so many different interpretations in the Christian field. So, who has the final word on how exactly God will proceed judging every one of us and all the world? Nobody will lose his/her salvation for believing that the judgment will be this way or that way.
       Actually there is a false propaganda regarding SDA’s living wringing their hands in anxiety for not knowing if their names have been scrutinized in the Heavenly Sanctuary. . . Do any of you guys live under that stressing sentiment? The truth is that in over 40 years of SDA Church affiliation I never met one single brother or sister who harbors these terrible feelings. . .
       About Ellen White, yes, there are some hard things to understand in her writings, but if we examine the material of ex-Evangelical pastor Dan Barker who became an Atheist, and the way he disputes the Bible, exploring its supposed contradictions, and discrepancies, then we will understand how far we are from understanding how inspiration really works. The problems and contradictions these anti-Christian folks point in the Bible are about the same these critics of Ellen White present regarding her writings.
       Now, I think that one reason many people leave the church to enter these “new alliance” movements is because they read that text of Jesus telling those who want to follow Him that there is a cross to bear. But Jesus doesn’t specify what material this cross is made of--wood, iron, gold, silver, plumb? Then they reason: “Well, since Jesus didn’t tell what material the cross should be made of, who knows one made of Styrofoam would do? After all, if we paint it as a genuine one, who will tell the difference?” And the number of people carrying Styrofoam crosses around is legion. .
.

       Another participant, J., after quoting from one of my posts:

       . . . [Ellen White] makes no attempt to exegete the text (of Col. 2:14, that [Samuele Bacchiocchi] discusses giving a different interpretation from Ellen White’s). The reason is simple: . . . . she never claimed to be an exegete. She uses Bible texts homiletically to proclaim religious truths, not exegetically to explain their meaning.
       Prophets rarely get their information from exegeting Bible texts. God gives them dreams and visions. Daniel was also not an exegete and neither was Paul an exegete by modern standards. Even by following the most careful techniques of exegesis, one would never get the insights into the meaning of the texts that Paul saw by the Holy Spirit and through the visions God gave him. So we ought not to be surprised that Ellen White was not an exegete.
       How many “great scholars” come up with the wrong meaning of the a text through their exegesis? Thousands. For instance, look at the books written by scholars who believe in the doctrine of the immortality of the wicked or in the secret rapture. They often support their false interpretations on the basis of what they call exegesis. (It’s irrelevant that usually these false ideas are the result of eisegesis rather than true exegesis. The point I am making is simply that people often arrive at, or support, their false ideas by the use of exegesis.)
       While true exegesis can be helpful and is certainly needed, the most important things in studying the Bible are allowing our minds to be illuminated by the Holy Spirit and having a teachable attitude. Indeed, there is more truth to be learned by prayerfully studying the writings of one genuine prophet of God than there is in the reading of 10,000 books by uninspired exegetes.

      
       As I was reading the article by Mr. Chris Badenhorst, who left Adventism but preferred not to join any specific church, just attending a Baptist Church for worship and fellowship, as is said in a short biography at the end of his article, I noticed that he invests heavily in a few statements by Ellen G. White, in her Early Writings, while ignoring many others of her own pen. He decides for SDA’s that once EGW said something, we are supposed to have that as an inmovable final word, directly from God. Anything said that is not compatible to that initial statement then should be ignored. That is not honest nor reflect our best understanding of EGW’s prophetic ministry.
       If I decide to take some isolated Bible texts to prove a point, like, for example, that salvation is INDEED by works, I could select Matt. 19:17; Matt. 25:31-46, Rom. 2:13; Phil. 2:12, 1 Tim. 4:16, James 2:24. These texts speak about keeping commandments, practing good works, obeying the law, striving personally, even being careful about doctrine to be saved. Do that reflect the global tenor of the Bible teaching? Of course not.
       The fact is that the Fundamental Beliefs of Seventh-day Adventists is never considered in the context of these accusations regarding certain interpretations of things not very clear in the Bible. JW’s and other Unitarians also come up with all kinds of objections and false attributions against those who accept the Trinity doctrine, which is not as clearly discussed in the Bible pages as we would prefer. There is no comparison between how the doctrine of salvation by faith and the Godhead and His actions of Judgment are exposed. The first enjoys ample analyses, especially by Paul, while there are so many gaps in understanding everything related to God, His nature, His criterion to “select” the saved ones (from which so many ideas and debates on  freewill/predestination stem, even though these points are not seen as “salvational”).
       Topics 9 and 10 of the SDA Fundamental Beliefs give us every assurance that in Christ we are saved by faith, and no additional requirement is ever imposed upon the believers. Details of the future judgment don’t absolutely affect our faith in God’s provision of salvation on the cross. The details of atonement completed on the cross are never put in doubt by any well-informed Seventh-day Adventist. But there is an interesting reasoning to be taken into account:

       * Jesus died on the cross to atone for our sins, no doubt about that. But how about IF He had not come out of the tomb on the third day? The atonement would not be completed. . .

       But, how about,

       * IF He had come out of the tomb, but not ascended to heaven? Then the atonement would not be completed.

       * IF He had ascended to heaven, but not engaged in His intercessor, Advocate, role? Then the atonement would not be completed.

       * IF He had engaged Himself in this intercessory work, but will not RETURN from heaven to take His own to heaven, as His promise in John 14:1-3? Then the atonement would not be completed, and there would be no resurrection and final redemption. . .

       Thus, we see that the “complete atonement” idea is something that has some features that can’t be ignored.
       To conclude this initial analysis of this subject as discussed in the publication referred to, let’s just quote four of Ellen White’s staments in the Testimonies series that show the supremacy of the atonement on the cross as the focus of her message:

       “The gospel is the sanctifying influence in our world. Its influence upon hearts will bring harmony. The standard of truth is to be uplifted and the atonement of Christ presented as the grand, central theme for consideration”. -- 8T, 77,

      “He intercedes in behalf of those who receive Him. With His own blood He has paid their ransom. By virtue of His merits He gives them power to become members of the royal family, children of the heavenly King. And the Father demonstrates His infinite love for Christ by receiving and welcoming Christ´s friends as His friends. He is satisfied with the atonement made. He is glorified by the incarnation, the life, death, and mediation of His Son”. -- 8T, 177.

      “The corruptions of this degenerate age have stained many souls who have been professedly serving God. But even now it is not too late for wrongs to be righted and for the blood of a crucified and risen Saviour to atone in your behalf if you repent and feel your need of pardon”. -- 3T, 476.

      “They [the faithful ministers of Christ] feel that souls are in peril, and with earnest, humble faith they plead the promises of God in their behalf. The ransom paid by Christ--the atonement on the cross--is ever before them. They will have souls as seals of their ministry”. -- 5T, 190.

« Last Edit: September 05, 2010, 05:46:32 PM by Azenilto Brito »
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Azenilto Brito

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Mr. Bandenhorst’s “absentmidedness” (or worse)
« Reply #1 on: September 12, 2010, 03:02:30 PM »


Mr. Bandenhorst’s “absentmidedness” (or worse)

       What we find special in Mr. Chris Bandenhort’s article, “Who is your scapegoat?”, (Proclamation! maganize, April-June edition, p. 6-10) is an evidence of either absentmidedness on his part or, worse, pure dishonesty. He quotes from the book Question on Doctrines [QOD] in different points but makes statements  regarding certain notions “forgetting” what the book he quotes from also says about. For example, he says at a certain point:

       “Satan-as-a-scapegoat was an entirely new concept to evangelicals. . . . Jewish scholars have stated that this term (Azazel) refers to some evil power, and therefore they interpret Azazel to represent the devil. Based on this Jewish understanding (instead of the teaching of Scripture, especially the New Testament) Crosier interpreted the scapegoat to be Satan. Ever since, Adventists have used this Jewish interpretation to validate their belief that the scapegoat is Satan.”

Not only Jews

       The problem is that NOT ONLY JEWS say that, but CHRISTIAN SCHOLARS as well. These are listed in the QOD book which Mr. Bandenhorst used in his “research”, but strangely skipped the parts that mention such scholars. On page 393, for example, there is a subtitle that reads, “The Name ‘Azazel’”, followed by these words:

       “The testimony of many scholars of the past, both Jewish and Christian, as well as many of the present, is to this effect” [i.e., that ‘Azazel’ is a proper name]. In the Sunday School Times an evangelical author declares that to render ‘Azazel’ as ‘scapegoat’ is misleading:

       ‘The goat for Azazel, the Scapegoat, as it is sometimes misleadingly translated, typifies God’s challenge to Satan. (John 1:8; Eph. 3:10)’--J. Russell Howden, in Sunday School Times, Jan. 15, 1927.”


       Then there is ONE Jewish scholar quoted, followed by a quotation from The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, confirming that “it seems natural . . . to think of some personal being.”-- “Azazel”, vol. 1., p. 343.
       Following that, the QOD quotes the following CHRISTIAN authorities who accept that Azazel refers to Satan, indicating their respective church affiliations: J. Russell Howden (Church of England); Samuel M. Zwemer (Presbyterian); E W. Hengstenberg (Lutheran), J. B. Rotherham (Disciples of Christ); William Jenks (Congregationalist); Abingdon Bible Commentary (Methodist).
       Additionally there is this paragraph, with more names:

       “Mention  might be made also of William Milligan, James Hastings, and William Smith, of the Presbyterian Church; Elmer Flack and H. C. Alleman, of the Lutheran Church; Charles Beecher and F. N. Peloubter, of the Congregational Church; George A. Barton, of the Society of Friends, John M’Clintock and James Strong, of the Methodist Church; James M. Gray, of the Reformed Episcopal Church; and a host of others who have expressed themselves in the same way. Adventists, during the years, have been in full accord with the expressions of such eminent theologians and scholars on this matter.”

       Wow, that is more than I ever imagined. . . But I did my own research, and see what I came across with:

Undeniable significance of the proper name Azazel

       “The best modern scholars agree that [Azazel] designates the personal being to whom the goat was sent, probably Satan. This goat was called the scapegoat.” -- Smith’s Bible Dictionary (Atonement Day).

       “Azazel is the pre-Mosaic name of an evil personal being placed in opposition to Yahweh.”  -- Albert Barnes Bible Commentary.

       “The words, one lot for Jehovah and one for Azazel, require unconditionally that Azazel should be regarded as a personal being, in opposition to Jehovah. . . The Septuagint rendering is correct, . . . ‘averruncus, a fiend, or demon whom one drives away’ (Ewald). We have not to think, however, of any demon whatever, who seduces men to wickedness in the form of an evil spirit, as the fallen angel Azazel is represented as doing in the Jewish writings (Book of Enoch 8:1; 10:10; 13:1ff.), like the terrible . . . Shibe, whom the Arabs of the peninsula of Sinai so much dread (Seetzen, i. pp. 273-4), but of the devil himself, the head of the fallen angels, who was afterwards called Satan; for no subordinate evil spirit could have been placed in antithesis to Jehovah as ‘Azazel’ is here, but only the ruler or head of the kingdom of demons. The desert and desolate places are mentioned elsewhere as the abode of evil spirits (Isa_13:21; Isa_34:14; Mat_12:43; Luk_11:24; Rev_18:2). The desert, regarded as an image of death and desolation, corresponds to the nature of evil spirits, who fell away from the primary source of life, and in their hostility to God devastated the world, which was created good, and brought death and destruction in their train.” -- Keil & Delitzsch Commentary on the Old Testament.


       In English versions, the R.V and A. R. V. have the word rendered as “Azazel”, a transliteration of the Hebrew proper name. Of others among the most important Bible translations that have Azazel as a proper name, rather than translated for ‘scapegoat’, we could quote the Spanish Reina Valera, the French Louis Segond, the Italian Nuova Riveduta and the translation into English from the American Jewish Publication Society for Lev. 16:8.

An answer and some questions

       The opponents of our position point out that both goats had to be “perfect”, which would prove that they both represented Christ. But everything related to the Sanctuary service had to be perfect, no matter what their objective was. The people of Israel would not bring a totally defective, handicapped animal to these solemn services only because in the end it would symbolize Satan. That was contrary to the general mindset of everything pertinent to the Sanctuary services.
       But now, we have our own questions: The Talmud established that the goats should be the most similar to each other possible (Talmud - Yoma 62a), and so that there was no error of which was the goat “for the Lord” and the one “for Azazel” they put a red string on the horn of the one for Azazel, and another around the neck of the goat “for the Lord.” What reason was there for this careful markings, since they had the same final symbolism--Christ’s atoning work?! Why to “cast lots” if both covered the same basic symbolism, representing the same Person--Jesus Christ? Doesn’t this attitude by itself show that they were put in antithesis, with different symbolic purposes?

For the Lord in contrast with for Azazel

       The QOD book also brings a note that in the Review and Herald magazine, dated July 7, 1868, Irineo (c. 185 A.D.) is quoted characterizing Azazel as “that fallen and powerful angel“ (Against Heresies  1. 15).
       A friend of mine, Pastor Théo Mário Rios, who is a Brazilian SDA pastor working in London and who went to Israel for a time to study Hebrew, gives this interesting explanation:

       In the Hebrew text the same expression is used both as a reference to the goat for the Lord (laYehowah) and to the goat for Azazel (la’aza‘zel). The inseparable preposition la (“for, to”) has a directional function or one of belonging. In modern Hebrew this type of structure still remains in reference to something being addressed to someone. If you write a document, as you send it you identify the addressee with the preposition la. For example, if I have two objects to send to the same person, it wouldn’t make sense to say, “this is for John and this is for John.” But, if the addressees are different, I would say, “this is for John and this is for Joseph.”

       And he continues with a very profitable analysis of the question:

       In I Kings 3:25 we find something interesting. The story of the two women who came to Solomon debating about whose child a certain baby really was, each  claiming to be the real mother, is well known. In the face of that tremendous problem, Solomon, resolving the issue of who would be the true mother, expresses the following decision: he asks that a sword be brought in (v. 24), which was promptly done. Then he says that, in order to solve the question, he would divide the child in two, and half of it would be to one woman, and the other half to the other lady (v. 25). Thus, the pending matter would be resolved. In the face of that, the true mother pleads to him that he do not do that, rather deliver the baby to the other woman, but let the child to live. At this point, Solomon realized that the pleading woman was the true baby’s mother. Translated literally that sentence, as is the language at the last part of v. 25, we would have it as: “. . . and give a half to the one and a half to the one.” Obviously, even being the same word (”one”) we can see that “half to the one” and “half to the one” are in antithesis, i.e., “the one” of the first part is not the same “the one” of the second part. It would not make sense that Solomon asked to divide the child to deliver both halves to the same woman. If the two halves were for the same “the one”, the sentence would make no sense. Thus, it was duly translated, “and give half to the one and half to the other.
       Let’s suppose that we had a sentence in the Bible that stated literally that it would be “a part for elohim” and “a part for elohim.” Even under such circumstance we would know, by the clear antithesis, that the elohim of the first part is not the same of the second. They would mean two different elohims.  In Lev. 16:8 there is a clear difference of whom the goats are supposed to be a representative of--one for the Lord, another for Azazel.”


Regarding Ellen White’s quotations

       Mr. Badenhorst invests the most he can in a few quotes from Early Writings, not taking into consideration other clear statements that give a clearer picture of what she meant, which NEVER was to deny the completetion of expiation on the cross. And he implies that the authors of the QOD don’t quote Ellen White in their discussion of the subject, when they refer to a whole section of the book containing Ellen White’s statements regarding it. How could Mr. Badenhorst have missed it? It is at the end of the book, Appendix C.
       On page 354 the Adventist understanding of the atonement question is explained in a nutshell like this:

       “When, therefore, one hears an Adventist say, or reads in Adventist literature--even in the writings of Ellen G. White--that Christ is making atonement now, it should be understood that we mean simply that Christ is now making application of the benefits of the sacrificial atonement He made on the cross; that He is making it efficacious for us individually, according to our needs and requests. Mrs. White herself, as far back as 1857, clearly explained what she means when she writes of Christ’s making atonement for us in His ministry:

       “‘The great Sacrifice had been offered and had been accepted, and the Holy Spirit which descended on the day of Pentecost carried the minds of the disciples from the earthly sanctuary to the heavenly, where Jesus had entered by His own blood, to shed upon His disciples the benefits of His atonement’. -- Early Writings, p. 260 (Italics supplies).”


       The QOD book also gives details of what was in the minds of the SDA pioneers in greater detail on p. 347, 348:

       “Some of our earlier Seventh-day Adventist writers, believing that the word ‘atonement’ had a wider meaning than many of their fellow Christians attached to it, expressed themselves as indicating that the atonement was not made on the cross of Calvary, but was made rather by Christ after He entered upon His priestly ministry in heaven. They believed fully in the efficacy of the sacrifice of Christ for the salvation of men, and they believed most assuredly that this sacrifice was made once for all and forever, but they preferred not to use the word ‘atonement’ as relatring only to the sacrifical work of Christ at Calvary. We repeat, they believed as fully as we do that the sacrificial work of our blessed Lord on Golgotha’s hill was full and complete, never again to be offered, and that it was done once and for all. Their concept was that the sacrifice of Jesus provided the means of the atonement, and that the atonement itself was made only when the priests ministered the sacrificial offering on behalf of the sinner. Viewed in this light, it will be seen that the question after all is a matter of definition of terms. Today, not meeting the same issues that our earlier writers had to meet, we believe that the sacrificial atonement was made on the cross and was provided for all men, but that in the heavenly priestly ministry of Christ our Lord, this sacrificial atonement is applied to the seeking soul.
       “Stressing this wider concept, however, in no way detracts from the full efficacy of the death of the Son of God, once for all for the sins of men. It is unfortunate that a lack of definition of terms so often leads to misunderstanding on the greates theme of the Christian message.”


       For Seventh-day Adventists, the source of salvation is solely Christ Jesus, as topics 9 and 10 of our “Fundamental Beliefs” confessional document states and our opposers NEVER refer to. There is no way to circumvent our conviction that man’s salvation was secured on Calvary through Jesus’ shed blood.
       Now, we read in Hebrews 9:22 that “without shedding of blood [there] is no remission”. Let’s always have in mind that no blood from the goat for Azazel was shed, even though it was one of the actors in the symbolic drama on the Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement).
       The Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary explains that only placing these factors in due order we can understand that the “goat for Azazel” had no part in the atonement itself. Only when the redeemed ones are guaranteed in heaven, the reprobates are cut out and Satan doesn’t exist anymore, then it could be said that the entire universe is in perfect harmony and unity as it was originally before sin entered it. At that moment we can certainly say in absolute terms that the Plan of Redemption was concluded.

Differences between two goats

       The SDABC shows the immense difference in treatment and meaning between both goats:

       1) The goat for Jehovah was killed (v. 15); the one for Azazel was not (v. 10).

       2) The blood of the first was taken within the Sanctuary and made part of the atonement ritual (vv. 15 e 16); the blood of Azazel was not shed at all, since it was left alive.

       3) After the service in the Sanctuary the fat of the sacrificed animal was burnt on the altar (v. 25); evidently the same didn’t happen to the second goat.

       4) The blood of the one who belonged to the Lord was capable of cleansing (vv. 15 e 16); whoever carried away Azazel was contaminated (v. 26).

       5) Atonement occurred with the first animal; only after that the second was introduced in the scenario (v. 20).

       6) It was only the first “whose blood was brought in to make atonement in the holy place” (v. 27); the second, for Azazel, wouldn’t even enter there.

       The goat who through lot casting was attributed “for Azazel” was left to die in the desert. There is no parallel in the Redemption History with Jesus’ experience of atoning for our sins. He was not left in a desolate place until dying after His sacrifice on the cross. This was already typified in the first goat that was sacrificed by the high priest. Obviously it would be inadmissible to think of a second death to Christ Jesus!
       The two goats involved in the Day of Atonement show responsibility vis-à-vis sin. First, the sinner’s responsibility as the agent; secondly, Satan’s responsibility and instigator and tempter, he who harbored sin in his own heart and won by tempting our first parents, causing them to receive severe punishment (Gen. 3:16-19). Such punishment would not result only in decadence of human nature, but also would bring with it consequences upon the entire world, both of living and non-living elements of this planet.
       This concept of God’s final restauration not only for the human being, created by Him, as well as to nature itself is expressed in the words of Paul, “we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now” (Rom. 8:22).
       Thus, the Plan of Redemption aims also at restoring everything that was destroyed by sin. Paul, who believed firmly that “there is no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 8:1) also stressed that he was “. . . waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our bodies” (Rom. 8:23). And he adds “. . . we are saved by hope . . .” (Rom. 8:24) and that “. . . with patience [we] wait for it” (Rom. 8:25). That is the hope he details in 1 Corinthians 15, the “blessed hope” of Jesus’ second coming (Titus 2:13; I Tess. 4:13-18).
       We can say that Christ’s entire work doesn’t end at the cross, but from it depends its complete realization!
       As we can see, Mr. Badenhorst is another voluntary builder of big strawmen in the Ratzlaff’s team.

« Last Edit: September 15, 2010, 05:10:19 AM by Johann »
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Johann

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Re: THE SCAPEGOAT QUESTION: RATZLAFF’S BIGGEST ANTI-SDA STRAWMAN
« Reply #2 on: September 12, 2010, 03:16:16 PM »

I find your analysis quite helpful.
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