|No. 25.]||AUGUST 26, 1831.||[Price 2d.|
The subject on which I would now engage your attention, the resurrection of Lazarus, bears a solemn, serious, and affecting character: and it admits, therefore, of being treated with corresponding seriousness on our part. I have purposely chosen it, in order to supply a demonstration to the public, that my manner of treating a subject has ever been suitable to the nature of that subject; and that I have only used the arguments of burlesque and ridicule on such subjects as would not admit of a serious consideration. I pledge myself now to surrender every argument I have ever adduced against the evidences of Christianity, and to admit that all such arguments have been a tissue of sophistication, foolery, and falsehood, if any argument which I shall now adduce shall, in the judgment of any good and conscientious man, admit of a more fair, more serious, or less offensive way of being stated by any man on earth. I solemnly call on every professing Christian who would wish to persuade his fellow men that the faith of Christ is ‘worthy of all men to be received,’ to submit the things of which he would have men be persuaded, to the test of a fair and impartial examination.
Let him reject that which shall appear to be false: let him embrace that which shall appear to be true: let him ‘prove all things, and hold fast that which is good:’ let him treat his fellow man with the respect with which he would wish to be treated: and accept with kindness the kindest offer man can make to man—‘Come now and let us reason together.’
It is only in the gospel according to St. John1, in the chapter which I have now read, and in four disgregated sentences in the chapter which follows, that there is any mention of this miracle. ‘1. Lazarus was one of them which sat at the table with him. 2. Much people came that they might see Lazarus also, whom he had raised from the dead. 3. But the chief priests consulted, that they might put Lazarus also to death, because that by reason of him many of the Jews went away, and believed on Jesus. 4. The people, therefore, that was with him when he called Lazarus out of his grave, and raised him from the dead, bear record.’
The name of Lazarus occurs nowhere else but in a parable which stands as an episode in the 16th of Luke’s gospel, where it is the name of a beggar, and used as applicable to any infirm, or sick and poor person, as Cruden gives the derivative significancy of the word Lazarus, the help of God—that is, one whom God alone can relieve.
It must occur to every mind capable of dealing honestly with its own faculties, that it is at least wonderful that the other evangelists, though they have each their distinctive narratives of far less striking and consequential miracles, have not taken notice of this—while the epistles of the New Testament abound with expressions which must necessarily be false if this miracle were true. For absolute contradictions, I hope, cannot both be true. It cannot be true, as St. Paul bath said, that ‘Now is Christ, risen from the dead, and become the first fruits of them that slept:’ if that be true, which St. John hath reported, that Lazarus had risen from the dead before him.
Neither can the great inference of the Christian’s ground of faith and hope, on the score of the resurrection of Jesus, be at all tenable, if any other person, or many other persons, had. risen as well as lie.
But weighing this stupendous miracle by its own intrinsic and internal character, and independently of all apparent inferences and consequences which must follow from it:
It is either a history, or it is an allegory. If it be a history, it must be either true or false, and the moral character of the historian must stand or fall with it. If it be an allegory, it is not in the predications which admit of being either true or false. It can only be considered as a clever allegory, or a bungling one; and the intellectual character of the allegorist is all that is implicated in the issue.
If any thing which was really set forth, and intended to pass on the belief of mankind, as substantively and historically true, shall be found to bear in itself, when so considered, internal marks of inconsistency, improbability, and falsehood; no other possible conclusion can be just, than that its author must be a false man. If anything which was only intended as a poetical fiction or allegory, hath been set forth so clumsily, as to confound the proper congruities of history and fiction: the only conclusion to be drawn is, that its author is a bad poet.
Thus, Dr. Johnson’s ‘Rasselas’ is good allegory, because no real personages are, in that poem, confounded with imaginary ones, nor facts mixed up with fictions. Sir Walter Scott’s novels are bad allegories; because, persons who never existed are represented as acting with persons who did; and real occurrences are blended with imaginary ones. But nobody impeaches the moral character of either of these great men. The case would be wholly different, if the compositions of Johnson or Scott were put in challenge of our belief as histories.
That I may incur no appearance of levity, or intended offence to the conscience of any sincere believer, I adopt not only the sentiments, but confine myself to the words, of as sincere a believer, and as conscientious a Christian, as any man on earth, who ‘professes and calls himself a Christian,’ can be known or thought to be.
‘This miracle of the resurrection of Lazarus, of Bethany,’ says this faithful and honest minister of Christ, ‘has many strong marks upon it of fictitious falsehood, but not one single feature of probability belonging to it. For first, Lazarus is represented as being our Lord’s particularly beloved friend; and if any one man had been so preferred by him, it seems impossible that the man himself, and, above all, his miraculous restoration to life again, should not have been repeatedly mentioned by St. Luke, in both his histories: yet St. Luke is so far from suggesting to us that Jesus had any such friend, that he informs us, that when he was told that his mother and brethren were inquiring for him, he answered, that his nearest and dearest friends and relations were his disciples, who heard the word of God and obeyed it.
’Secondly, our Lord repeatedly declared, that no man was worthy of him, who did not forsake family, friends, and all that he had, for his sake and the gospels. Yet Lazarus never forsook his family and abode at Bethany (and never took any part in the promulgation of the gospel).
‘Thirdly, he whom God raised up, saw no corruption:’ but of Lazarus, we are informed, that he had lain in the grave four days, and that his body was already putrified.
‘Now, for what purpose is this greatest of all such miracles supposed to be wrought? The Almighty is here introduced as enabling Jesus to perform the greatest miracle imaginable, for no kind of purpose whatsoever.’
Such, and still stronger expressions of unbelief, and disgust, at this miracle, have fallen from the pen of the learned Christian divine, Edward Evanson, his professed and firm faith in the divinity of the Christian revelation notwithstanding.
It is then nothing but sheer intolerance, and a wicked and cruel usurpation of a tyrannous infallibility, in any man, to refuse his fair consideration to the calm and sober principles of rational criticism, applied to this subject, as they ought to be applied to every subject proposed to the human mind.
I submit, then, to every mind that hath not renounced the
use of reason altogether, all the reasons that can possibly be,
applied to this case, which are:
1st. Reasons for considering it to be true.
2nd. Reasons for considering it to be false.
3rd. Reasons for considering it to be neither true nor false; but allegorical.
I. The reasons for considering it to be true are,
1st. All the reasons, whatever they be, and how strong or weak soever, which men have, or can pretend to have, for believing the gospel, or any part of it, to be true: there absolutely being no reason left, why any part of the gospel should be believed to be true, if this be false.
2nd. The narrative is told with such solemnity, such minuteness of circumstance, such an appearance of artlessness and simplicity, and so tender a vein of human gentleness and love, that our feelings betray our judgment, and it must cost any man an effort to break the charm thrown over his faculties, and to pronounce that to be fiction which is so agreeable to imagination and so affecting to sentiment.
3rd. No appearance of a bad or wicked design is traceable in any part of this gospel: yet, if it were false, it is hard to conceive how its author could have had any other than a bad, and wicked design.
4th. Even the statistical inaccuracies which a severe criticism
may detect in the detail of this miracle, admit of an apology
honourable to the veracity of the evangelist: since it may be
maintained that they are not more, nor other, than such as a
mind absorbed in the substantive truth of the great fact itself
might naturally fall into: and such as a mind engaged only in
giving plausibility to a fiction, would have been more likely to
have avoided, than to have committed.
II. The reasons for considering the miracle to be false are:
1st. The want of corroboration of the single testimony of this one man, by any other testimony whatever.
2nd. The appearances of collusion between all the parties concerned in it.
3rd. The appearance of theatrical exhibition.
4th. The intermixture of repeated declarations, which can by no possibility have had any other than a scenic or dramatical propriety.
5th. The outrage on all the known laws of nature, and of the character of man, involved in any attempted understanding of it, as other than a dramatic representation.
6th. The insignificancy and uselessness of the miracle to any end that could have been proposed by it.
7th. The monstrous absurdity of the supposition, that the miracle could have been real: and not have commanded the belief of the whole world.
8th. Its obvious subjectness to the unanswerable questions:
1st. Why is the whole affair got up in the private circle of Jesus’s immediate friends?
2nd. Why waits Jesus till arrangements are made for his appearance?
3rd. Why quibbles he with his disciples on so serious a subject, in such a string of riddles and conundrums, as that Lazarus was sick, but ‘not unto death,’—then, that lie was only asleep, and he was going to awake him out of sleep,—and then, that his friend Lazarus was dead, and he was glad of it?
4th. How comes Martha, the sister of Lazarus, to run out to meet Jesus in public, at a particular place?
5th. How comes she to anticipate that Jesus was going to raise her brother from the dead?
6th. How comes she to be so perfectly acquainted with the doctrine of the resurrection at the last day, before Jesus had taught any such doctrine, or any Jew or Jewess upon earth had ever dreamed of such a doctrine?
7th. How came Jesus to say that he was ‘the resurrection and the life,’ as a way for saying, that he was the author of the resurrection, and the giver of life: and then to propose such a monstrous conundrum as—that a man might be a believer, though he was dead; and though he was dead, might yet be alive; and though he was alive, might never die: and then, to ask a poor young woman, who was already half out of her mind with grief, whether she believed it? And so she said, ‘Yes, my Lord.’
She believed everything; and had no doubt that he was the most extraordinary personage that ever lived, the Christ, the Son of God, which should come into the world. Whereupon she gets off with a falsehood in her mouth, to run and fetch her sister to come and see the performance.
Her sister, upon arrival at the place of exhibition, repeats the speech of Martha, only giving it more effect, by falling down at Jesus’s feet. An act, for which no propriety but that of dramatic effect can be imagined.
‘When Jesus therefore saw her weeping, and the Jews also weeping,’—why ! he wept too! he groaned in spirit [John 11:33], — ενεβριμησατο τω πνευματι — that is, he made a noise with his breath: and was troubled, και εταραξεν εαυτον and shook himself. But wherefore? In the name of God, I ask wherefore? And,
‘He said, where have ye laid him?’ How came he not to know? And where else could he think that they had laid him, but in the churchyard?
‘Jesus wept:’ then said the Jews (who, it is to be observed, were weeping also), ‘Behold, how he loved him!’ Now what is this, but the language of the chorus of a tragedy, calling upon the spectators to observe the process of the scene?
Why, after all this weeping and groaning, must the scene be changed to the church-yard, as if Jesus could not have raised him so well without going near enough, and ordering the tombstone to be taken away, and calling with ‘a loud voice,’ that the dead man might be the more likely to hear him?
How comes Martha, who, in the 22d verse, had discovered that she was aware of the intended miracle, upon the taking away of the stone, for the convenience of the dead man’s hearing, when Jesus called him, to endeavour to magnify the miracle, by remonstrating, ‘Lord, by this time he stinketh, for he hath been dead four days?’
Why did Jesus make a speech to God, and tell God that it was only because of the people that stood by that he spoke it?
Why did he ‘lift up his eyes to God,’ who is invisible?
Why did he call with a loud voice to Lazarus, when a whisper in his ear would have done as well?
How came Lazarus to come forth, when he was ‘bound hand and foot with grave-clothes?’
How came his face to be bound with a napkin [John 11:44], σουδαριω — a sundary, a pocket handkerchief? when the use of such an article was not known, and had never been heard of till many hundreds of years after this gospel should have been written?
How came Jesus to say, ‘loose him and let him go?’ Where did he go to?
How came some of the Jews, who saw this miracle, to have gone and represented it to the chief priests and pharisees as an imposture?
How is it, that Lazarus himself never attempted to vindicate the reality of the miracle, and that we have no account of what became of him afterwards?
These, and many other similar queries, which every rational mind must suggest, and no rational mind ever did or can attempt to answer, lie a dead weight in the scale of reasons, why this miracle should be pronounced a falsehood.
But, in bar of such a judgment stands the alternative of the
possibility of its being neither true nor false, but allegorical.
III. Reasons for considering this miracle to be allegorical are:
1st. The relief which the admission of an allegorical sense affords to the moral character of the evangelist, who will not appear to have been so bad a man, and does not, from any part of his writings, appear to have been so bad a man, as, beyond all doubt, he must have been, had he intended to have palmed off this story as an historical truth.
2nd. There is nothing more certainly known of ancient times than that the first priests were players; that the first mode of instructing mankind was by shows and pantomimes; and the earliest types of the religions of all nations were pictures of the operations of nature.
When the people began to apply themselves to agriculture, the formation of a rural calendar requiring a continued series of astronomical observations, it became necessary to appoint certain individuals charged with the functions of watching the appearance and disappearance of certain stars, to foretell the return of the inundation, of certain winds, of the rainy season, and the proper time to sow every kind of grain. These men, on account of their services, were exempt from common labour, and the society provided for their maintenance.
The name of Bishops, retained to this day,—the Episcopacy, the Diocese, the See, are all derived from that function of seeing, or looking out, to observe the phenomena of the visible heavens, which was their appointed duty.
The natural stupidity and dulness of the people, the difficulty of oral communication, and the importance of impressing the mind as much as possible, led these astrologers to convey their instructions by pantomimic and hieroglyphical actions. They personated the elements, the winds, the seasons, the sun, the moon, the stars, the months, the days, and so forth; and dressed themselves in emblematical devices, stoles, rochets; tonsures, black gowns and white, and performed tragedies,—such as this of ‘the resurrection of Lazarus’ appears to be.
The names of the priests themselves, who had been peculiarly successful in these exhibitions, would often come to supersede the proper dramatical names,—what had been shown upon a stage, would come to be spoken of as having really happened. The very excellence of the performance would but strengthen the delusion: and as it has been played off on the mind from infancy, when the deepest impressions are most easily made, not one mind in a hundred thousand would be likely to acquire sufficient vigour afterwards, as to care, or to endure to be informed of, the original significancy.
Yet the literal text itself of this miracle, most literally adhered
to, discovers that it was an allegorical tragedy: and an
absolute violence must be done to the text, and words inserted
that are no part of it, and words omitted which are a part of
it, to make it appear anything else than such a tragedy.
The tragedy really is, the tragedy of Bethany, that is, of the House of Affliction.
Its meaning is, the Death and Resurrection of The Year. The Dramatis Personæ are, the year,
represented by Lazarus;—and,
The two winter months, December and January, represented by Martha and Mary, the two sister attendants on the dying and reviving Lazarus;
The Sun, represented by the Lord, or manager himself;
The Chorus, the attendant Jews, endeavouring to comfort the two winter months, concerning the death of their brother, the year.
The Clue To The Allegorical Sense is,—the Sun withdraws himself, and the year, which he loves, is sick.
The two winter months, the youngest and oldest sisters of the year, to which the Sun is equally attached, send to the Sun, to inform him of the declining state of their brother, the year.
Upon which, the manager, or chief performer in the tragedy, kindly informs the audience, that ‘this sickness is not unto death,’—that is (than which no sense ever conveyed by words could be plainer), that there was no real death, and consequently no real resurrection, and no reality of any sort intended; but ‘for the glory of God,’—that is, literally, under the brightness of God, ‘that the Son of God might be glorified thereby’— that is, the whole matter was intended as an hieroglyphical exhibition of the power of the sun on vegetative nature.
If it were not for a false collocation of the words, the very first words of this chapter would at once discover its theatrical character. For it is not in the Greek text, as in our deceitful translation, ‘Now a certain man was sick, named Lazarus:’—but, Now Lazarus was any sick—that is, not that there was any man in the case, for that word is expressly excluded: but Lazarus represented the character of the sick,—the sick anything,—the sick and debile year: and the probability is, that this part was acted by a doll, or puppet, let down, and pulled up, by a string,—as there was no speech, or action of any sort, for Lazarus to perform. The term, The Lord, in the second sentence, ‘It was that Mary, which anointed the Lord with ointment, and wiped his feet with her hair,’ is of a purely astrological significancy. It could not have been applied, to any real personage: it could not have been used by an historian of real events: it could not have been devised, till after the established prevalence of all the notions which it involves.
The Kurios, or person who was to represent the Sun, in this famous tragedy, having spoken the prologue in explanation of its allegorical meaning, falls at once into the corps de ballet, and speaks and acts in his character of The Sun throughout; and churlishly answers the remonstrances of the days, who want to be longer than he finds it convenient to wait for them, ‘Don't I give you twelve hours apiece? what would you have? And as for our friend the year,—Tis [Greek "τις"],—if he has any day at all to walk in, he is right enough: because he has all the light that my arrangements can afford him.’
Recovering his temper, however, he adds, ‘Our friend Tis [Greek "τις"]— that is, the year, sleepeth, but I shall go and wake him out of sleep.’ ‘If he sleepeth he shall do well,’ say the days, ’for he has been in a declining condition a long while.’
Then saith Jesus, that is, the Sun, in a parrhesia,—that is,
in the figure of rhetoric called a parrhesia, a poetical license in
the confidence of its figurative character being understood,—Lazarus
is dead—poor Lazarus. In a figure of speech, Lazarus
is dead—that is, by a parrhesia, Lazarus is dead,—this word,
parrhesia, positively asserting the figurative sense, and binding
on us an obligation to understand what is said, in none other
than a figurative sense, escapes the discovery of the mere
English reader, by standing in that most wickedly false translation,
‘Then saith Jesus unto them plainly, Lazarus is dead.’
Why then! says Thomas,—that is, the 21st of December,—always
given to gloom and despair,
‘'Tis done, dread winter spreads his latest gloom,
And reigns tremendous o'er the conquered year.
How dead the vegetable kingdom lies:
How dumb the tuneful ! Horror wide extends
His desolate domain.’2
‘If the year be dead, let us, the days, die with him,’ saith Thomas, which is called Didymus—that is, a Twin, which cannot but remind us of the sign of the Zodiac, Gemini, the Twins—to his fellow disciples [John 11:16],, τοις συμμαθηταις, to his fellow-pupils. It is truly astonishing that the sense of this word should never have startled the slumber of Christian credulity into a sufficient discovery of the allegorical character of the whole system. A μαθηταις [Strong's Greek #3101] literally signifies a learner of the mathematics, a pupil, a scholar to some mystic art; which cannot be supposed for a moment to apply to the followers of a man who certainly was no professor of any art: but strikingly suits a company of amateur comedians, under the management of an old stager, learning the art of acting.
The Sun—that is, the manager personating the Sun—finds his friend, the year, to have been in the sepulchre four days—that is, during the 21st, 22nd, 23rd, and 24th of December. The Jews, who are the chorus, as was usual in all ancient tragedies, are introduced as comforting Martha and Mary—that is, December and January, concerning the death of their brother, the year. Here again, the word for conforting literally asserts, that the whole affair was a mythology, or fable; and that this chorus of Jews were to mythologyze with the mythological Martha and Mary.
Martha, in her mythological character, tells the Sun, that if he had been present, her brother (the year) had not died: which astronomical truism is repeated by her sister month.
The Sun assures her, that it will soon be new year's day,—her brother shall rise again.
‘Yes,’ she replies in character, ‘in a month or two,—next spring,—in the last day, when you cannot for shame refuse to shine upon us, the year will rise again.’
‘I am the spring,—my presence recalls the year,—whatever depends on my exhilarating beam, though it seem to die in winter, yet shall live: and nothing that exists, however it may change its form and circumstance, shall ever be annihilated.’
Now Jesus was not yet come into the town, but was in that place where Martha met him.’ v.30.
Here is another stage direction, an evident instruction to the scene-shifters, as to the order in which the scenes were to succeed each other; and to the performers, as to the positions they were to take fronting the audience.
Scene, a distant view of the town of Bethany; Jesus standing on the right; enter, from the left, Mary, who falls down at Jesus's feet; Jesus, deeply affected, groans in spirit. Scene changes to the church-yard ; the tomb of Lazarus. ‘It was a cave, and a stone lay upon it’—v.38—that is, precisely the same scene as the tomb of Jesus, used in the tragedy of the Resurrection of the Sun, which was also ‘a cave, and a stone lay upon it.’
In this tragedy of the resurrection of the year, the allegorical personages, Mary and Martha, or, as it is too carelessly directed, ‘they took away the stone from the place where the dead was laid.’ v.41. But in the tragedy of the Resurrection of the Sun, which was a great improvement upon this, the machinery was much improved; and the same allegorical personages, Mary Magdalen, and the other Mary, are represented as asking, ‘Who shall roll us away the stone from the door of the sepulchre?’ Mark, 16. ‘And when they looked, they saw that the stone was rolled away: for it was very great’—17—that is, it rolled itself away, for it was very great. It was a very particular stone indeed. It became animated,—it came to life: and when coming to life was the order of the day, you know, it was quite as likely that a stone should come to life, as a corpse: for if the corpse had not been quite as dead as the stone, there could have been no miracle at all in the case.
Nay, far greater authority is there, both of the Old and New Testament, to lead us to believe that it was the tombstone that came to life, and not the corpse. For we are nowhere told that the corpse was in anything different from other corpses; but we are most expressly told that the stone was a very great stone.
There is no prophecy in the Old Testament of the resurrection, either of Jesus or of Lazarus; but there are the clearest predictions of the resurrection of a stone. ‘Thus saith the Lord God, Behold I lay in Zion for a foundation stone, a precious corner stone, a sure foundation.’ Isaiah, 28. ‘The same stone which the builders rejected,’ saith the Psalmist, ‘has become the head of the corner; this is the Lord's doing, and it is marvellous in our eyes.’
Now what stone could be more marvellous in our eyes, than a stone that came to life, and was also a very great stone?
But the New Testament is still more explicit in laying it down, that it was the tombstone, and not the corpse, that was raised.
St. Peter, who was the first of all the disciples, in eagerness to visit the sepulchre, and to ascertain everything that had taken place, is expressly said to have seen the stone that was rolled away from the door of the sepulchre. And he saw and believed, but he saw nothing of the corpse: and, consequently, in his first epistles, it is not in the living corpse which he requires us to believe, but in the living stone (1 Peter 2—4). A living corpse, we know, is no corpse at all, and, therefore, could have nothing marvellous in it. But a living stone would, indeed, be something for a man to believe in, and supply some sort of a foundation for our faith.
It is altogether monstrous and inconceivable that dead men should come to life again. But we have the positive assurance of Christ himself, that it would be nothing out of the course of nature for the stones to become animated, and that if the children that cried after him as he rode through the streets upon a Jerusalem pony should have held their peace, the stones would immediately have cried out. Luke, xix. 40.
God, we know, is able of the stones to raise up children unto Abraham.
The term laity, by which the clergy designate the common people, is derived from λαος, a stone, which signifies, that the laity, in the judgment of the clergy, are little better than stones made to be trod on, made to lie in the dirt, or to be chiselled into blocks and pedestals to support the church,—a compliment which we see paid to true believers (and than which they deserve not better) by the apostle himself. ‘Ye also, as lively stones,’ says he, ‘are built up a spiritual house’ (a house for the priesthood)—as much as to say, ye blocks, ye stones, ye fools,—alive indeed, but with no more wit than blocks and stones,—nothing can be too gross for you:—a sarcasm, which, if it had not been deserved, would not have escaped detection, since we find him laying it on again, in the same connection. ‘As new born babes desire the sincere milk of the world,’ the pap, the lollipop, the tapioca of the gospel,—suck it in, ye squalling babes of grace; you shall see the show, and it shall all be right earnest; and you shall see Lazarus come out of his grave, and you shall see Jesus come out of his.
Such, I am sure, is the significancy, and none other than such, of the passages I have read.
I am not more sure of my own existence, than I am of the fact, that not a single individual who can read the original text, not one on earth, of whom every sensible man would not, the moment he saw him, say, that man is labouring under mental insanity, who would, in any company whatever, seriously maintain that he believed in the resurrection of Lazarus.
Is it not, then, my brethren, a cruel wrong,—is it not an outrageous
tyranny,—is it not a grievous oppression,—that our
understandings are to be insulted, and our moral feeling
trampled in the dust, for the keeping up this system of hypocrisy;
and that we must pay the respect, due alone to wisdom
and virtue, to a system that there is not a rational man on earth
that believes, nor one on earth who would dare to say that he
believed, anywhere but where he might be neither questioned
|δε||||but, moreover, and, etc. (conjunction)|
|τις||||a certain, a certain one, some, some time, a while [Taylor argues this is allegorically the Year in Autumn, when it is old and feeble, and the days become short and cold]|
|ασθενων||||weak, infirm, feeble (adjective)|
|λαζαρος||||"whom God helps" (n pr m) λαζαρος=lazarus — λ=l α=a ζ=z α=a ρ=r ο=u ς=s|
|απο||||of origin, of the place whence anything is, comes, befalls, is taken|
|βηθανιας||||"house of dates" or "house of misery" (n pr loc, of Aramaic origin)|
|εκ||||out of, from, by, away from (preposition)|
|κωμης||||the common sleeping place to which labourers in the field return|
|μαριας||||"their rebellion" (Mary)|
|και||||and, also, even, indeed, but (conjunction)|
|μαρθας||||"she was rebellious" (Martha)|
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