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WHO WERE CHOSEN BEFORE THE OVERTHROW OF THE WORLD?

WHO WERE CHOSEN BEFORE THE OVERTHROW OF THE WORLD?

INTRODUCTION

We read in Eph. 1:3-4, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, Who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ: According as He hath chosen us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love”.

Much of this study centers on the phrase “en tois epouranious” translated in the KJV, “in heavenly places”. I disagree with that translation but I do want to make it clear that I believe that the Word of God does teach that the church which is His body is called to heavenly places. It is just that in my opinion, Eph. 1:3-4 is not a passage that tells us that truth. The paper on this web-site Is The Church Called To Heaven? gives the Scriptural evidence that the church is indeed called to heaven, but again, Eph. 1:3-4 is not, in my opinion, a proof text of that truth.

Because the KJV has “in heavenly places” most take this to mean that the blessings enumerated in this passage are to be enjoyed in heaven. Because it is believers of the dispensation of the mystery that will be in heavenly places, it is assumed that the phrase “He hath chosen us in Him before the foundation of the world” applies only to members of the church which is His body.

What is worthy of note is that this entire concept is based on a word that is not even in the manuscripts. I am referring to the word “places” in the phrase “in heavenly places“. I believe that as we consider this passage more carefully, the reader will see that the context is not about where the blessings will be enjoyed, it is about the blessings themselves, at least some of which, are to be enjoyed in our temporal lives,  not  in resurrection life.

One further note: there is some controversy as to whether the Greek word “katobole” should be translated “foundation” or “overthrow”. It is not a crucial element in this discussion, but the Appendix at the end of this paper gives my reasons for believing that the word should be translated “overthrow”. Therefore it is that word I will use in this paper.

We will consider the following subjects in our search for the truth in this matter:

A DIFFERENT TRANSLATION FROM THE COMPANION BIBLE

THE PHRASE “IN HEAVENLY PLACES”

A STUDY OF “KATHOS” TRANSLATED “EVEN AS”

SOME CONCLUSIONS ABOUT THE TRANSLATION OF “EN”

WHO WERE CHOSEN BEFORE THE OVERTHROW OF THE WORLD?

APPENDIX

A DIFFERENT TRANSLATION FROM THE COMPANION BIBLE

The notes in the Companion Bible on this passage give us the following translation, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, Who hath blessed us with every spiritual blessing in heavenly places in Christ: Even as He hath chosen us in Him before the overthrow of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love”.

But let us also consider the meaning of the Greek preposition “en” translated “in” in the phrase “blessings in heavenly places”. I will quote Appendix 104 in the Companion Bible. “….It has regard to place and space, or sphere of action”. But in the next paragraph we read, “It is also used for the efficient cause as emanating from within, and hence has sometimes the force of by, denoting the instrument“.

In other words, the phrase could mean that we are blessed in heavenly places, but could also mean that we are blessed by heavenly things, i.e. blessings. How can we determine how the Holy Spirit means for us to understand this phrase? I believe the answer will be found by carefully studying the context.

THE PHRASE “IN HEAVENLY PLACES”

The Greek phrase translated “in heavenly places” is “en tois epouranios”. Literally it means “in” or “by” “the heavenlies”. Please note that the word “places” is not found in the Greek and that is why it appears in italics in the KJV. Again, it could be “in” or it could be “by”. If we translate “en” as “in” then obviously “places” is the most logical word to insert. And if we translate it as “by” then obviously “things” is the most logical word to insert. (It could also mean “among heavenly beings“, but since heavenly beings are in heaven, that translation carries the same idea as “in heavenly places”, so in the interest of brevity, we will not consider that translation.)

By considering the context we will be able to determine if the subject of this passage is where we will be blessed, or if it is about how we will be blessed. If it is the former (where we will be blessed) then the context suggests the translation “in heavenly places”. If it is the latter (how we will be blessed) then the context suggests that it be translated “by heavenly things”. I will quote this passage from verses 3-7 so that we determine exactly what Paul’s message is in this passage.

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, Who hath blessed us with every spiritual blessing (in or by) heavenly (places, or things) in Christ: Even as He hath chosen us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love: Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will. To the praise of the glory of His grace, wherein He hath made us accepted in the Beloved: In Whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace”.

Is this passage about how we are blessed, or is it about where we are blessed?  In my opinion,  this passage is primarily about the blessings with which we are blessed, i.e. how we are blessed.

A STUDY OF “KATHOS” TRANSLATED “EVEN AS”

Note that verse 4 begins in the KJV, “according to”. The note in the Companion Bible suggests that it should be “Even”, i.e. “Even as He hath chosen us….”. The Greek word translated “even” is “kathos”. The note in the Companion Bible on the word “even” in Jn. 5:23 tells us that it should read “even as”. The word is usually translated “as”, as in the first occurrence, Matt. 21:6. That verse reads, “And the disciples went and did as Jesus commanded them”. Many times it is used in the phrase, “as it is written”. There are several Greek words translated “as”, why does the Holy Spirit use this word in particular in Eph. 1:4? For the answer to that question we will consider several passages where”kathos” is translated “even” or “even as”.

We read in Jn. 5:23, “That all men should honour the Son, even as they honour the Father…..”. I believe that as we continue in our study of the word “kathos”, it will become clear that the word is used to connect two parallel phrases just as it does in English. The connection in this verse is between the phrase which immediately precedes “kathos” and that which immediately follows it. It is a very important connection because it connects the honor due Christ with the honor due the Father. Note also the parallelism between the honor due the Son and the honor due the Father.

Jn. 12:50 is another verse that tells us of the importance of seeing “kathos” as a connecting word of two parallel phrases. That verse reads, “And I know that His commandment is life everlasting: Whatsoever I speak therefore, even as the Father said unto Me, so I speak”. Again, please note that the Greek word “kathos” connects the parallelism of what Christ spoke with what the Father had told Him to speak.

We read in Jn. 15:10, “If ye keep My commandments, ye shall abide in My love; even as I have kept My Father’s commandments, and abide in His love”. Here again, there is a very good reason for the Holy Spirit choosing the word “kathos”. It connects two parallel thoughts. It connects Christ’s obedience to the obedience of His disciples and the resultant love.

Jn. 17:22, “And the glory which Thou gavest Me, I have given them; that they may be one even as we are one”. Here the connection of parallel thoughts is as important as it is obvious. The connection is between the oneness of the disciples and the oneness of Christ with the Father. The parallelism answers the question, how are Christ and the Father one? They are one in the same sense that the disciples are one. The oneness between Christ and His Father is described so beautifully in this verse, but it is missed if we fail to see the parallelism set up by the word “kathos”.

I Cor. 1:5-6 gives us a very important lesson which we miss if we do not see the connection of parallel thoughts that the word “kathos” gives us. Those verses read, “That in everything ye are enriched by Him, in all utterance and in all knowledge; even as the testimony of Christ was confirmed in you”. The connection is between “all utterance and all knowledge” and the confirmation of their testimony. Paul is saying here that their testimony was confirmed because of the utterances and knowledge. In other words, one’s testimony is not the result of a good feeling, it is confirmed by knowledge. If we do not see the connection of parallel thoughts provided by the word “kathos” (“even as”) we miss that very profound truth.

III Jn. 3, “For I rejoiced greatly when the brethren came and testified of the truth that is in thee, even as thou walkest in the truth”. The connection here gives us another very important spiritual truth. The connection is between the truth that was in them and their walk. Again, we miss this spiritual truth if we fail to understand that “kathos” (“even as”) connects two parallel thoughts.

In the interest of thoroughness, let us also consider a passage where “kathos” is translated “as”. As mentioned above, the first occurrence is found in Matt. 21:6, “And the disciples went and did as Jesus commanded them”. Here again the parallelism suggested by the word “kathos” is obvious. What the disciples did is connected by “kathos” (should be translated, “even as”) to what Jesus had commanded them. Once again, the Holy Spirit used the very best word in order to communicate the connection of parallel thoughts. The disciples did even as Jesus had commanded them.

And let us also consider a passage where “kathos” is translated, “according”. II Cor. 9:7 reads, “Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give……”. The NASB has translated this verse, “Each one must do just as he has purposed in his heart….”. In my opinion, Dr. Bullinger’s suggestion that “kathos” should be translated “even as” would have made this verse even clearer. It would read, “Each one must do even as he has purposed in his heart….”. Again the parallel thoughts that are connected by the word “kathos” is obvious. The thought that a man should give is connected to the thought of his giving what is in his heart to give.

We have looked at several passages which I believe shows the fact that “kathos” connects two parallel thoughts. Let us consider Eph. 1:3-4 with that in mind. Let us try both ways, i.e. “in heavenly places” and “by heavenly things”. “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, Who hath blessed us with every spiritual blessing in heavenly places in Christ: Even as He hath chosen us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love”.

Or, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, Who hath blessed us with every spiritual blessing by heavenly things in Christ: Even as He hath chosen us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love”

What two parallel thoughts does the “even as” connect? The following verses are not about where these blessings will be enjoyed, they are about the blessings themselves. In other words, the phrase “in heavenly places” has no place in this message. The context is clearly about the blessings not where they are to be enjoyed.

SOME CONCLUSIONS ABOUT THE TRANSLATION OF “EN”

I have tried to show that we may translate “en tois epouranios” as “in heavenly places” or “by heavenly things”. Whether we insert the word “places” or “things” is entirely dependent upon how we translate “en”. That is to say, if we translate “en” as “in” then obviously “places” is the most logical word to insert. And if we translate the word “en” as “by” then obviously “things” is the most logical word to insert. And how we translate “en” is entirely dependent on the context.

I have also tried to show that the context is not about where we enjoy these blessings, it is about the blessings themselves. The connecting word “kathos” , i.e. “even as”, does not connect what follows, (the blessings) to the phrase “in heavenly places”, but it does connect what follows to the phrase “by heavenly things”.

I would like to say a word about the difficulty inherent in the passage we have discussed. Most of us have accepted and held to the translation in the KJV of “en tois epouranios” as, “in heavenly places”. I have given my reasons from the context and from logic for my conclusion that it should be translated, “by heavenly things”. Because this is such a radical departure from the norm, I would ask the reader to consider what Scriptural and logical reasons there are for translating this phrase as “in heavenly places”. In other words, can a case be made for the translation of the KJV? I have never seen one.

WHO WERE CHOSEN BEFORE THE OVERTHROW OF THE WORLD?

We are now ready to come to a conclusion about the question posed in the title of this paper, i.e. who were chosen before the overthrow of the world? We are told who in Eph. 1:4, “Even as He hath chosen us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love”. That, of course, brings up this question: who did Paul mean by “us”? Did he mean the church which is His body as an entity, or did he mean members of the church which is His body as individual persons? Or could he have meant all believers from every dispensation? Let us consider these options.

Did Paul mean by the pronoun “us” the church which is His body as an entity or individual members of the church? In other words, was it the church as a compete whole, or individuals who were chosen before the overthrow of the world?. Given that the blessings, which we have seen is the subject of this passage, are those enjoyed by individuals, I believe that Paul referred to individuals rather than the church as a whole.

Could Paul have meant believers in general, not just believers of the dispensation of the mystery? Once again, I draw the readers attention to the subject of the passage under consideration, i.e. the blessings of Eph. 1:3-7. “…..that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love: Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will. To the praise of the glory of His grace, wherein He hath made us accepted in the Beloved: In Whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace”.

All believers from every dispensation are holy and without blame.

All believers from every dispensation are adopted as God’s children.

All believers from every dispensation are accepted in the Beloved.

All believers from every dispensation are redeemed.

And all believers from every dispensation are forgiven their sins.

In short, because this passage speaks of the blessings themselves, not the place they will be enjoyed, I believe that all believers have been chosen (or as the note in the Companion Bible puts it, “chosen out”, i.e. from unbelievers) before the overthrow of the world.

Let us consider another of the three passages that speak of “before the overthrow of the world”. We read in I Peter 1:18-21, “Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; But with the precious blood of Christ as of a Lamb without blemish and without spot: Who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world……Who by Him do believe in God, That raised Him up from the dead, and gave Him glory; that your faith and hope might be in God”.

We learn from the passage quoted above that Christ had been “foreordained before the overthrow of the world”. We must ask what was Christ foreordained to do? Given that this context has to do with salvation, we must, in my opinion, conclude that He was foreordained, according to this particular passage, to be the Sacrificial Lamb of God.

Why is it important that Christ was foreordained as the Lamb of God before the overthrow of the world? Because it shows that God knew even before Lucifer rebelled (which was, in my opinion, the reason for the overthrow) that the sin and death that would come as an eventual result of Lucifer’s rebellion had already been planned for, and conquered.

Why would God have chosen just the members of the church which is His body before the overthrow of the world? Again, the blessings given in the passage are those to be enjoyed by all believers of every dispensation. I believe that it is much more likely that God chose all believers, not just those of the dispensation of the mystery to enjoy the blessings given in this passage.

One other thought might be helpful. Note that Christ was foreordained to be the Lamb “without blemish and without spot”. This obviously alludes to the Mosaic Law in which the lambs, which served as the type of Christ’s sacrifice, were to meet certain standards. They were to be without blemish. What is important in this study is that the Greek word translated here as “without blemish” is the same word used in Eph. 1:4 translated “without blame”. This is not accidental. The use of this Greek word in an Acts period epistle and a post-Acts period epistle points to the conclusion that all believers were chosen before the overthrow of the world.

Let us consider, in the interest of thoroughness, II Thess. 2:13 which reads, “But we are bound to give thanks alway to God for you, brethren beloved of the Lord, because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth”. Paul wrote  that they were chosen by God “from the beginning”?  We must consider the question from the beginning of what?  And, of course, we must answer it from the context.  And it cannot contradict any other passage.

We read in verse, i.e. II Thess. 2:14, “Whereunto He called you by our gospel…”.  The context will not, in my opinion, support the conclusion that Paul was referring to the beginning of time. However, I do believe that the context will support the conclusion that Paul was referring to the beginning of his ministry.

APPENDIX: KATABOLE

The first earth is the earth of Gen. 1:1, where we read that “…God created the heaven and the earth“. Verse 2 of Gen. 1 reads, “And the earth was without form and void”. In the note in the Companion Bible Dr. Bullinger suggests that the word translated “was” should read “became”. So, “the  earth became without form and void”. One of the reasons I agree with that suggestion is that we read in Is. 45:18, “For thus saith the Lord That created the heavens; God Himself that formed the earth and made it; He hath established it, He created it not in vain, He formed it to be inhabited….”. The Hebrew word translated “vain” is the same Hebrew word translated “without form” in Gen. 1:2. Because the same word is used this tells us that God did not create the earth in vain. It must have therefore, become that way.

Another reason I agree that the earth was not created without form and void but became that way, is because that is exactly what II Peter 3:5-7 tells us. We read in II Peter 3:5-7, “……by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of the water and in the water; whereby the world that then was, being overflowed with water perished“. I believe that Peter is saying that the first earth, i.e. the earth of Gen. 1:1 was destroyed by waterBut many understand this passage in II Peter three to refer to the flood of the days of Noah.  I believe a more careful look will show that it refers to the earth of Gen. 1:1 that had been destroyed by water. (That destruction then led to the earth of the six day creation, i.e. the second earth).

Let us begin with the question of whether II Peter 3 refers to the earth of  Gen. 1:1 or with the earth of Noah’s day. We read in II Peter 3:7, “But the heavens and the earth which are now ….”. The word “but” implies a contrast between the heavens and earth “which are now” of verse 7, with the “heavens of old and the earth….” of verse 5. I suggest we turn our attention to the heavens of verse 7 in our search for the truth of this passage. That is to say, Peter contrasts “the heavens which are now” with the heavens which were “of old” of verse 5. 

If the heavens of old (vs.5) are the heavens of Gen. 1:6-8 (the firmament) then they would be the same heavens in Peter’s day as in Noah’s day and there would be no contrast and the word “but” in verse 7 would be meaningless. If the heavens of old are the heavens of Gen. 1:1 then there would indeed be a contrast. Let us consider that contrast.

Peter tells us in verse 7 that these heavens which “are now” are being “kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day of judgment…….”. The heavens of Gen. 1:1, i.e. the heavens above the waters, are the dwelling place of God. God being a holy God would not dwell in the heavens wherein dwells sin to be judged. That means that the heavens “which are now” are not the heavens of Gen. 1:1, the dwelling place of God, they are the heavens of Gen. 1:6-8.

As mentioned above, there is a contrast between the heavens which are now and the heavens of old. This contrast is quite obvious. The heavens which are now have in them sin, and the heavens “of old” have no sin in them, they are the dwelling place of God, the heavens of Gen. 1:1. If the heavens of old are the heavens of Gen. 1:1 so too is the earth of old the earth of Gen. 1:1, not the earth of Noah’s day.

A look at the prepositions used in II Peter 3:5 will also prove that Peter does not refer to the flood of Noah’s day, but refers to the destruction of the first earth of Gen. 1:1. We read in verse 5, of the earth that was “standing out of the water and in the water”. The Companion Bible notes on these prepositions tell us that “out of” means “out from“. The preposition translated “in” means “through”. So then, II Peter 3:5, should read, “the earth standing out from the water and through the water”. In my opinion, this was not true of the earth of Noah’s day.  That is to say, the earth was flooded, but we cannot say that it stood out from the waters.  We can, however see that the entire planet earth could have stood out from the waters if  (and I believe this is exactly what happened) the entire planet was immersed in water. 

  But can it be said that the ground appeared out from the waters after the flood of Noah’s day? The Greek word translated “earth” in this passage is “ge” and a correct understanding of that word will answer that question.

“Ge” could mean earth , i.e., the planet, as opposed to heaven, and it could mean “ground”. The meaning of the Greek word must be taken from the context. If it means the planet earth then it obviously refers to the earth of Gen. 1:1 that was immersed because the planet did not come out from the water in Noah’s day. If it means “ground” it means that after the flood of Noah’s time the dry ground stood out of the water. But I do not believe that the context leads us understand “ge” to mean “ground” in this verse because the context is about the creation of heaven as well as earth. That is to say, I don’t think the Holy Spirit means for us to understand this verse to say in effect, “by the word of God the heavens were of old and the dry land stood out of the water”. I believe He means it to be understood as, “by the word of God the heavens were of old and the earth, (i.e. the planet earth) standing out from water”. In other words, the meaning of “ge” is taken from the context and the context is about heaven and earth as a planet , not heaven and ground. That being true, we are led to conclude that the planet earth, i.e. the earth of Gen. 1:1 was the subject of II Peter 3, not the earth that was flooded in Noah’s day.

Let us consider another passage that tells us that the earth of Gen. 1:1 was destroyed by water which is also often times taken to refer to the flood of Noah’s day.

We read in Job 38:4-8, Vs. 4) “Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth? declare if thou hast understanding. Vs. 5) Who hath laid the measures thereof, if thou knowest? or who hath stretched the line upon it? Vs. 6) Whereupon are the foundations thereof fastened? or who laid the corner stone thereof: Vs. 7) when the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy? Vs. 8) Or who shut up the sea with doors, when it brake forth, as if it had issued out of the womb?”

There can be little doubt that at the very least verses 4-7 refer to the time of creation. That is one reason for my belief that verse 8 also refers to the time of creation, and not, as one might think at first reading, to the time of the flood of Noah’s day. That is to say, there is no reason to jump nearly 2,000 years from the creation of the earth to the days of Noah between verses 4-7 and verse 8.

Another reason I believe that “katabole” means “overthrow” rather than “foundation” is based on how the Greek word is used.  The word is used eleven times and is always translated “foundation” except in the case of Heb. 11, which will be discussed below.  One  might be tempted to conclude that because it was translated “foundation” ten of the eleven times it was used that “foundation” is the correct definition. But there is nothing in the contexts of any of those ten occurrences that support that translation or the translation of “overthrow”.  And that is why, the one scripture which is not translated “foundation” takes on such importance, i.e. the context does indeed reveals the definition.

We read in Heb. 11:11, “Through faith also Sarah herself received strength to conceive seed, and was delivered of a child when she was past age….”.   The Greek word translated “conceive” is “katabole”, the definition of which is defined in this verse. I am indebted to an article on the inter-net from which I will quote one paragraph.

“So, what exactly does the Greek term katabole (the English scientific use=catabolic) mean? In simple terms, it refers to a process of breaking something down and making something new as result. In order for a woman to conceive, her body must be able to breakdown the male’s sperm in order to incorporate his DNA information (in the sperm’s nucleolus) with her DNA (in the egg’s cytoplasm) in order to conceive a child which has the DNA characteristics of both the father and mother. This is accomplished through a biochemical process called catabolism. If the female’s body no longer produces the necessary hormonal chemistry to initiate this catabolic process, she cannot conceive. That is why Sarah, who was way past child bearing years, was able to conceive because God strengthened her body to do it. That is why the English Bible uses the word “conceive” as a translation of the Greek word katabole, because the English word perfectly describes the end result of a foundational biological process, even though the exact dynamics of that biological process was unknown to man at the time Hebrews 11:11 was penned. This is yet another Biblical example of “Progressive Revelation” of the Scriptures; it was an established scientific truth documented in the Scriptures by the Holy Spirit many hundreds of years before mankind would be able to comprehend the full meaning of what had been written”.

In other words, because “katabole” is defined as “catabolic” we may conclude that the word has the sense of “overthrow” rather than “foundation”. Further, because this is the only occurrence where the context helps to define the word, I believe the correct translation of the other ten occurrences  is “overthrow”

Yet another reason I believe “katabole” means “overthrow”  is perhaps not the strongest reason, and I would not suggest it if not for the weight of the reasons suggested above. But because of those reasons I feel fairly confident offering this  reason.

Let us consider the fact that of the eleven times the word is used it is used three times  in the phrase, “before the katabole of the world, i.e. Jn. 17:24 (“He loved Me before the katabole of the world”),Eph. 1:4 (“chosen us in Him before the katabole of the world”) and I Peter 1:20 (“foreordained before the katabole of the world”).

Let us go back to Gen. 1:1 where we read, “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth”. The question I would like to pose is: in the beginning of what did God create the heaven and the earth?  I believe the answer to that question is that it is the beginning of time that God created.  That is to say, God is eternal and  existed before time began, but time did begin when He created the heaven and earth.  And here is my point. I do not believe that it was co-incidental that time began at creation. I believe that in order for something to happen it must happen in time. I am not a scientist and will not attempt to prove that statement from science. But if we are to draw our conclusions from the Word of God, I believe we are led to the conclusion that the beginning of time coincided with creation because nothing can happen outside of time. If that is true, and I believe it is, then the three events that took place before the katabole of the earth, must have happened after the creation of the earth.  If they happened after the creation they must have happened  before the overthrow of the earth.  In other words, the order of events was: 1) the creation of the heaven and the earth at the beginning of time, 2) the three events described in Jn. 17, Eph. 2 and I Peter 1 occurred before the overthrow  and 3) the overthrow of the earth.

Logic therefore, suggests that because something took place before the katabole of the earth, it must have taken place after time began. That is to say, first, time began with the creation of the heaven and earth.  Then the events of Jn.17:24, Eph. 1:4 and I Peter 1:20 occurred (“before the katabole of the earth”).  Then the earth became katabole, i.e. ”overthrown”.

This paper was written by Joyce Pollard. If you would like to respond please e-mail me at: janjoyce@aol.com

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