2 of the most dangerous misconceptions about the Bible

Relatively Interesting June 29, 2012 43
2 of the most dangerous misconceptions about the Bible

For some, the Bible serves as a method to discern morality and immorality; a history lesson; and, in essence, a guide to “life” that is to be taken literally. To others, the bible is nothing more than a collection of stories, written by regular people, and loosely based on historical facts.

Two misconceptions about the bible – 1) that it is historically accurate, and, 2) that is the “word of God” – have fed religious persecution and religious wars. They have fueled racism, anti-female biases, anti-Semitism and homophobia. They have held back science and the explosion of knowledge. One only has to look at the history of Christianity and Judaism - amongst other religions – to see the negative implications of these simple misconceptions.

MISCONCEPTION 1: THE BIBLE ACCURATELY REFLECTS HISTORY

Contrary to biblical scholars, many people often assume the Bible accurately reflects history, even in the face of contradictory evidence:

- Abraham, the biblically acknowledged founding father of the Jewish people, whose story formed the earliest content in the Bible, died about 900 years before the first story of Abraham was written in the Old Testament.

- Moses died about 300 years before the first story of Moses entered the Bible. This means that everything we know about Moses in the Bible had to have passed orally through about 15 generations before achieving written form. Considering that a generation is generally approximately 25 years in length, that’s a total of 375 years. Do stories of heroic figures not grow, magnify, and become shrouded in mythology as the years go on? Is it not unlike an extended game of Broken Telephone?

- Jesus lived between the years 4 B.C. and A.D. 30. Yet, the gospels were written between the years 70 to 100 A.D., or 40 to 70 years after his crucifixion. The gospels were also written in Greek, a language that neither Jesus nor any of his disciples spoke or were able to write. Are the gospels then capable of being effective guides to history?

- If we line up the gospels in the time sequence in which they were written – that is, with Mark first, followed by Matthew, then Luke, and ending with John – we can see exactly how the story evolved between the years 70 and 100. For example, miracles aren’t attached to the story until the eighth decade. The virgin birth of Jesus is added in the 9th decade; the story of Jesus ascending into heaven is a 10th-decade narrative.

- In the first gospel, Mark, the risen Christ appears physically to no one, but by the time we come to the last gospel, John, Thomas is invited to feel the nail prints in Christ’s hands and feet and the spear wound in his side.

It’s seems clear, then, that the Bible interprets life from its own particular perspective and not from a factually correct, historical perspective.

MISCONCEPTION 2: THE BIBLE IS THE WORD OF GOD

richard dawkins quote

The second major misconception comes from the claim that the Bible is in any literal sense “the word of God.” The Bible, when read literally, calls for the execution of children who are willfully disobedient to their parents, for those who worship false gods, for those who commit adultery, for homosexual persons, and for any man who has sex with his mother-in-law –  to name a few! The Bible also commands slaves to be obedient to their masters and wives to be obedient to their husbands.

Can these acts of immorality ever be called “the word of God”? Over the centuries, texts like these, taken from the Bible and interpreted literally, have been used as powerful and evil weapons to support killing prejudices and to justify the cruelest kind of inhumanity.

The list goes on. In fact, the short list consists of 238 references to violence and unnecessary cruelty.

CONCLUSION

From a historical and moral perspective, the bible is full of inconsistencies and is, at times, morally questionable.

And so, we can conclude that the Bible is not to be taken literally as the “word of God”, or as historical fact. Rather, it should be used to reflect on our culture as a species, written from the point of view of regular people throughout the ages.


43 Comments »

  1. Nancy Hunter June 29, 2012 at 12:35 pm - Reply

    Great post. I found you via the ‘religion’ board on Reddit.

  2. bob July 13, 2012 at 6:06 am - Reply

    The bible commentor needs to do some serious study and reseach – his writing lacks any scholarship

    • Relatively Interesting July 13, 2012 at 7:54 am - Reply

      Bob, can you point to specific references where the scholarship is lacking and where you would have liked to have seen more information/greater detail?

  3. Kayla August 28, 2012 at 12:17 am - Reply

    in re: bob, all one has to do to refute your comment is to point out all the changes in the bible by using the bible, just a few English translations would do it.

  4. Kayla August 28, 2012 at 12:22 am - Reply

    Another thing; I know the sort of person bob is. They put the onus of research on the scholars just to waste the scholars time. They’ve already made their conclusions, and no amount of evidence will sway them. Fact based evidence never wins against unalterable belief, so what must be done is make the “true believer” look like the fool he is.

  5. JS September 13, 2012 at 9:39 pm - Reply

    Well, for starters, the author is totally ignorant of the relationship between the Old and New testaments.

    She then immediately creates a strawman, bashes that, layers on some unsupported assertion, and walks away without actually ever once giving a reasoned argument.

    In point of fact, Christianity has advanced the arts, philosophy and specifically natural philosophy. Western Philosophy is, to a great extent, a creation of Holy Mother Church.

    She tops it all off by mis-representing the moral truths taught in the Bible and then has the hubris to stand in judgement of God.

  6. Real Hinduman September 15, 2012 at 1:32 am - Reply

    Sad truth is that the birth of the semitic hate-filled and terror preaching semtiic cults over the past 2000 years has made world a hell and full of violence and killings! Does that mean that the world did not exists before 2000 years since these semitic cults were not there??? What an uttler stupidity and non-sense too,right,folks???How many indians and hindus have read in detail qqbook and bbook manuals of muzzies and chrristians??? Do they know that they are not love all human being manuals, but loving ONLY their cult followers mnauals and have barbarian punishmments for others or kafffirs and inffidels??? why no one is highlighting this naked truh even in secular hindustan and secular euorpe and america???It is time that whole world unites to Ban hate-preaching and terror promoting desert cults, islam and christianity and their manuals forever to have permanent peace and harmony in the world, Read indian and world history of past 2000 years and all can see that these cults have done genocide of millions and millions of kafirs or infidels with false promise of heaven after death with virrrgins and wine as gifts,etc and can any one tell me where is this heaven and how these cult followees reach there when they are buried under the earth in boxes and coffins???As the great hindu philosopher and saint Shankaracharya said, life is just an illusion only!Now wife of al-queda leader zuwahir wants jehad for the children for women too, what a shame!Is her husband ayman zuwhairi enjoying 72 virrgies and wine in heaven under the earth inside the coffin like osma bin laden on the ocran floor with bullet holes in the head???what is the incentive for women??? they can be virgies again and enjoy the fun in heaven???semitic hate-filled desert cults like islam and chrrrristianity with concept of jehaad for killing kaffirs and heaven for semtic christian cults with ppromise of heaven for converting or mass killing of infffidels and their trrrror preeaching manuals must be Banned for permanent peace and harmony in this world

  7. Traci September 15, 2012 at 1:53 am - Reply

    I love how you took so many things out of context….An just flat out lied……That was the most inaccurate stupid article I have ever read..

  8. bob September 20, 2012 at 1:21 am - Reply

    Oh my! Where to start.
    Thousands of years of scholarship thrown under the bus in only two paragraphs.
    That says a lot. That it gets printed, says much more.

  9. Cyn September 20, 2012 at 7:32 am - Reply

    Why is it ok to question something testable like evolution, but not ok to question something like the bible?

    The people who are so angry at the author don’t actually rebut any of the comments – they just say stuff like ” you lied”, and “stupid article”. If you really think the bible is historically accurate AND the word of God, the PROVE it! The burden of proof is on YOU.

    • ImCallingIt October 18, 2012 at 5:58 pm - Reply

      still waiting for that infallible proof that evolution from one distinct kind of creature can result in a completely different species…… guess i should wait a….. few….. billion…. more…… years……..

      • Kontrakid October 18, 2012 at 8:54 pm - Reply

        How does this list of about 200 transitional fossils do?

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_transitional_fossils

        Sure, there’s gaps in the fossil record. But over time, scientists are discovering more and more of the fossils that fill these gaps.

        For a deeper discussion on the subject of macroevolution and abiogenesis, you can also read http://www.relativelyinteresting.com/science-vs-faith-debating-evolution-creationism-and-intelligent-design/ (also on this site… thought it is a very long article)

        • John January 25, 2013 at 11:46 am - Reply

          Wow1 That’s a great list!
          Of course, not a single item on it proves that evolution is a fact. The comment was “still waiting for that infallible proof that evolution from one distinct kind of creature can result in a completely different species”, not “still waiting for a list of fossils”. The problem with evolution is that it remains a theory; it has never – never – been proven as a fact. Science has proven how creatures have adapted to their environment over years, but there is not one shred of proof that any creature has evolved into another creature.

  10. FELIX Jr. October 16, 2012 at 1:18 am - Reply

    16-OCT-2K12

    The BIBLE is indeed the testament of history of the material world and man from days of creation to the present day as it was faithfully and divinely collected and written by notable Prophets and servants of GOD for all people to learn and know about the past history of people called by GOD to be HIS chosen as faithfull people to tell about GOD’s wonderous creation beginning from day one to the 6th day of the creation which ended on ADAM and EVE and who in fact was the first couple created by GOD and from them on came Abraham and the rest of his people and other nations. That the BIBLE contents are in fact history written from generations to generations which recorded many transgressions and cruelties and disobediences and of good tidings and scarifices of the people of GOD which GOD allowed to be written and recorded so that man will learn from history as HE is the author of it and follow his words and prophesies till the coming of CHRIST JESUS and up until today, history repeats itself just as real as between the sun and the planetary systems revolving around each other and the rest of the universe so that at each revolution over the passage of time history is made over and over again whether of good and or bad realities such that in the end of time all these things that happened will be revealed and scrutinized at the judgment call by GOD in order to render judgement to all his people to be with HIM those who have done HIS will or separated from HIM the rest of them who denied HIM for all time ad infinitum.

  11. ImCallingIt October 18, 2012 at 5:54 pm - Reply

    A writer should have at least a rudimentary understanding of the subject matter at hand, as well as an understanding of the history surrounding the topic of choice.

    Time would not permit me to point out the blatant fallacies or predisposed assumptions of the subject by the author, yet I would like to address one glaring flaw in the article.

    Koine Greek was the language of the modern day, and was the business language of the working citizen in the Roman Empire much like English is used worldwide today. As Rome embraced much of the Greek philosophy, medicine, religion, and teaching, it preserved it’s common language as the language of choice for the daily business of the Roman Empire.

    Yes, obviously, most Romans knew and used Latin, as most countries under Roman authority used their native tongues at home. Examples of this occur in the book of Acts.

    Another interesting note is that the Koine, or “common” Greek was the everyday man’s Greek, as opposed to Classical Greek which was used only by the elite. The language of the New Testament was the language of the known world at that time, available to the everyday, common man.

    This lack of the article writer’s basic understanding of even the time frame in which the New Testament was authored should be reason enough to question the article’s validity.

    Furthermore the writer, at the very least, has made a paltry attempt at comprehension of the reading material of which he is claiming to have some expertise, and shows the great deal of ignorance towards the subject in general, as would most anyone who would dare to comment on any writing without having read it from cover to cover.

  12. George November 7, 2012 at 2:33 am - Reply

    while i understand the sentiment of the article,one must understand that most holy books,not just those of christianity are often taken out of context and misquoted and misinterpreted.
    if you read it you would understand that a lot of the things are meant to be understood.
    im not sure regarding the executions but i would like to point out that this is all in the old testament of the bible,the testament that we respect but we only fall back to when the new testament is not clear.
    the coming of jesus changed everything.
    no slavery,no executions.
    he himself pardoned an adulterer asking her not to repeat the act.
    no religion praises or advocates violence..
    but every religion is only as strong as the people who follow it.
    a chain is as strong as its weakest link they say.
    its a lot like that.
    theres a reason that every religion in the world has so many splinter factions.
    because people like to interpret things in their own way.
    while i understand that historically speaking ,im sure there may be discreprencies but one must understand that even this history is not perfect.
    that its written by humans and is also subject to error.
    also,if taken out of context a lot of things can be argued,but if taken together,the wisdom that these books teach us,the message is the one that must be truly understood and followed.
    dont follow people.
    follow god.
    and dont let anyone else dictate who or what god is and what his message is,that is for you to discover by yourself.
    im sure one would think that all religions do is create squabbles ,and unneccessary drama,but these are created by those hypocrites who claim they follow religion and are blindly followed by others who trust in them.
    isnt that why there are so many religious extremists in the world today?
    im no preacher ,but common sense tells me that at the end of the day,everything is between you and god.
    best wishes.

  13. Theos Rex November 8, 2012 at 5:44 am - Reply

    Not so fast Mr./Miss Article writer!

    Your bias (or ignorance – or both!) is showing in some dramatic ways A couple of examples will suffice:

    1. You assert as a fact that, “In the first gospel, Mark, the risen Christ appears physically to no one”

    Please read Mark 1.:14 and then respond to my question to follow.

    “Later Jesus appeared to the Eleven as they were eating; he rebuked them for their lack of faith and their stubborn refusal to believe those who had seen him after he had risen.”

    My questions: What part of “Jesus appeared to the Eleven” or “those who had seen him after he had risen” permits you to make your bold assertion that “in Mark the risen Christ appeared to no one”?

    2. You say that the gospel of Mark was written in 70 AD ( 7th decade,) but “miracles aren’t attached to the story until the eighth decade.” Furthermore, you assert that “the story of Jesus ascending into heaven is a 10th-decade narrative.”

    Your words, not mine.

    Please read Mark 5:21-43 and also Mark 16:19 and then respond to this question:

    On what basis, besides the aforementioned bias and/ or ignorance, do you make the assertions that I listed in my second point?

    Is it not so that, your attack on the Bible more accurately applies to you?

    In fact if I take your own assessment of the Bible (now shown to be ignorant and biased) and I substitute your own person in its’ place, it is actually quite accurate.

    “It’s seems clear, then, that the [writer of this blog] interprets life from [his/her] own particular perspective and not from a factually correct, historical perspective.

    For a truly scholastic review of the dating and relaibility of the New Testament, readers may consult on the web :

    “The New Testament Documents: Are they Reliable?” By F. F. BRUCE, M.A., D.D., F.B.A.

  14. Carlo64ish November 8, 2012 at 6:24 am - Reply

    The Bible

    – “And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.
    And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness.
    And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day.”

    Well this shows a good understanding of the earth’s rotation of and its relationship with the sun doesn’t it? (All this before the sun was ‘created’ too).
    Let’s not get into the talking snake.

    Brainless superstitious nonsense

  15. Theos Rex November 8, 2012 at 7:14 am - Reply

    “Let’s not get into the talking snake” Why not? At least he knew his stuff. But what about the ‘talking Carlo’? Can the same be said for you? Are you so quick to pass yourself off as an expert in Hebrew poetry so as not to recognize anthropomorphic language when you read it? How about the many literary genres found in the Bible? Did you take them into consideration before you ‘proved’ the Bible to be “brainless superstitious nonsense.”? I doubt it. Now before you dismiss me as one who is making up categories of language to hide my own supposed ignorance of ‘the facts’, ask your self this question: Are you engaging in “brainless superstitious nonsense.” whenever you use the terms ‘sunrise’ and ‘sunset’? Why not? The last time I read my science book it told me that the sun doesn’t really come up or go down, but we just appears that way and so we talk that way. This is anthrpomorphic language and the big difference between you and the talking snake is that he understood this.

  16. JennaJ November 8, 2012 at 3:12 pm - Reply

    Things just don’t add up for me when it comes to religion, and in particular, the accuracy of the Bible. If you believe the Bible is accurate history, and you believe it’s the word of God, then you must also believe that everyone else’s “books” are wrong. How can you be so sure that your book is right? How can you be so arrogant to think that your religion is THE religion. The author (of this blog?) also poses similar questions here http://www.relativelyinteresting.com/questions-for-theists-god-and-religion/ and I’d be curious to see your responses to those questions. And if you’re up for it, join this debate too http://www.relativelyinteresting.com/science-vs-faith-debating-evolution-creationism-and-intelligent-design/

  17. Servaas November 29, 2012 at 8:36 am - Reply

    Is this piece comedy or for real? I can refute any bit of history like this.

  18. Larry K December 18, 2012 at 10:20 pm - Reply

    Hey BOB
    Have you ever studied the bible in Hebrew or just in English which is a translation of greek which is a translation of latin or some other medievil (evil) language ???

  19. sandi December 19, 2012 at 9:09 am - Reply

    The writer of this blog offers no evidence to back up his/her statements.
    Where is the evidence that Abraham died 900 years before the first story was written about him? Or evidence (with references) to back up any of his/her other statements. I have no problem with someone having their own views, as long as they post them as such, rather than stating them to be the truth!

  20. Dave December 20, 2012 at 9:37 am - Reply

    Probably one of the worst blogs ever written about the bible ever. Maybe the author can explain how if the bible is so evil that state mandated atheism (communist governments) slaughtered 150,000,000 civilians in the 20th century, this is not counting soldiers in battle. No other movement, Islam included, has racked up a body count like that.

  21. A January 3, 2013 at 3:15 pm - Reply

    Bible has never been proven wrong. It may have been interpreted wrong, but that`s man`s fault.
    How many of you have actually tried to live by it, and it`s writings alone?

  22. Dude January 16, 2013 at 4:27 pm - Reply

    A: Given that there are so many different versions of the bible, all but one of them HAS to be wrong. And that one is mostly likely wrong as well. IF there is one that is right, it is impossible to know which one that would be, especially since they were all written hundreds of years after the stories took place.

  23. Dude January 16, 2013 at 4:29 pm - Reply

    Dave: According to the bible, god allegedly killed EVERYONE, save for a handful.

    Atheism doesn’t even come close.

  24. Kapisi January 16, 2013 at 4:38 pm - Reply

    If you don’t know what you will write about, then please do yourself a favor; “Don’t write about something you don’t know.” You’ll be label with the wise if you shut up. Its better to just keep silent, then opening your mouth and let people know about your idiocy. I’ll be more than happy to help you understand your assumptions. God Bless

  25. Paul January 25, 2013 at 10:56 am - Reply

    The thing is that each side is bashing the other. Not all of the Bible is inaccurate as you claim. Much of it is provable right now. The parts about faith is where it comes to you. You either believe it, or you don’t. Why bash? I agree with the Hinduman that mankind has used religion to do horrible things. The crusades are a perfect example. That doesn’t mean that the Bible is wrong? Science has made some pretty severe assumptions to come to the answers they have given. Science is a religion to some and some use science in the same way religion was used to do horrible things. There is not much difference. Abortion is one thing that is lauded by science, as science lies about an unborn baby not being a living person. I could go on.

  26. GrampaDave March 7, 2013 at 10:55 am - Reply

    If we believe your contention that Abraham and others died long before they were written about in the Bible, that proves the Bible is the inspired word of God. How else could such facts be known so far into the future?

    And does the author honestly believe the facts in the Bible were written based on what was simply told to the authors Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John as if it were simply hearsay and gossip? C’mon man!!!

    • Jenz March 7, 2013 at 12:12 pm - Reply

      Come on, GrampaDave, really?

      “If we believe your contention that Abraham and others died long before they were written about in the Bible, that proves the Bible is the inspired word of God. How else could such facts be known so far into the future?”

      — The idea that the bible was inspired by the word of God is fine – but the point in contention is that you say “how else could such facts be known so far into the future”… all this means is that the pen was put to paper after the events in question took place, and that they weren’t “documented” in near real time.

      “And does the author honestly believe the facts in the Bible were written based on what was simply told to the authors Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John as if it were simply hearsay and gossip? C’mon man!!!”

      — I don’t think the author does believe that. First of all, they are “facts in the bible”, they’re “stories” loosely based on SOME historical events. Second of all, have you ever heard of broken telephone? Since the stories were written well after they supposedly took place, don’t you think that the documentation would suffer from a serious case of broken telephone? Stories passed through generations almost always deviate from the original. It’s pretty safe to assume the same thing would happen with bible stories.

      Sorry, but nothing of what you have said is an effective argument against the author.

  27. Adrianna April 5, 2013 at 12:46 am - Reply

    Psalm 14:1-3 The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.” They are corrupt, they do abominable deeds, there is none that does good. The LORD looks down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there are any that act wisely, that seek after God. They have all gone astray, they are all alike corrupt; there is none that does good, no, not one.

    • TerryDarc May 3, 2014 at 12:39 pm - Reply

      Seems to many of us non-believers that doing abominable deeds falls equally on the religious and the non-religious as well.

      Pol Pot was a monster and a non-believer and GW Bush is a monster and a supposed believer – ask relatives of the 100k Iraqi war dead if you think he was a nice guy. Or Oliver Cromwell in England, full of religious passion.

      Point is: religion is no barrier to evil.

      We won’t go into how the Bible specifies but does not prohibit slavery, that most evil of human institutions.

  28. Ron April 30, 2013 at 2:09 pm - Reply

    No person who regards Jesus Christ as his or her Lord and Master, should have any doubts about the authenticity of the Old Testament.

    Jesus regularly read, spoke from, taught from and referred to the Old Testament during his three and a half years ministry. From the manner in which he spoke about the many references in the OT it is clear he recognised it as the word of God as well as its accuracy. He did not have any issues with it and accepted it verbatim.

  29. Tina October 2, 2013 at 9:01 am - Reply

    @Adrianna

    “The LORD looks down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there are any that act wisely, that seek after God. They have all gone astray, they are all alike corrupt; there is none that does good, no, not one.”

    Wow from this verse there’s no escape for anyone including you, everyone’s going to get roasted. Now that’s what I call fair!

  30. Tina October 2, 2013 at 10:18 am - Reply

    @Ron

    ” From the manner in which he spoke about the many references in the OT it is clear he recognised it as the word of God as well as its accuracy”
    Why didn’t Jesus know and teach the solar system if he knew all that God knew, why didn’t he mention the universe and our planet’s insignificance in it, did Jesus know of the Chinese civilization, did he mention the Indonesians at all, or the Mayans, or even the Vikings, the red Indians perhaps, or, that places on earth like the Galapagos or Australia existed?
    Did Jesus know how to speak Urdu or any other African language, did he in fact know any language other than Hebrew?
    Did he do missionary work amongst the African Tribes? Why didn’t all the world know instantly about Jesus if he knew the mind of God?
    Did Jesus secretly know the world was spherical and not flat as indicated in the OT. Why didn’t Jesus, if he knew all that God knew, explain disease and viruses, why didn’t he tell people how to avoid the plague?
    Indeed why didn’t he tell us why Almighty God allowed any of these terrible afflictions? If only he had addressed all these problems and explained all knowledge of the universe in the NT life might have been easier to bear for humans, and everyone might have been better able to really trust his teachings.
    So many questions were left unanswered by JC, and so the suffering masses of the world have had to claw their way through so much misery, war and pestilence in a slow and dreary fashion, hampered and impeded at every turn by the teachings of the “good book” as channelled through the bigoted minds of avaricious clergy men.
    Perhaps most thinking people today doubt the veracity of anything written in the bible because none of it has proved to be very helpful to any one at all, most especially those who could not have had the remotest chance of being able to call Jesus Christ Lord.

  31. Space Disc Jockey January 5, 2014 at 11:06 am - Reply

    People get all pissy when you point out how obviously made-up religion is.

    • Eric C. August 8, 2014 at 9:39 pm - Reply

      Just like evolutionists and/or non believers get angry when you prove the math used in carbon dating is flawed. The fact is if you read the bible thoroughly your mind might be changed. Such as with the old testament and the new testament; the was a new covenant established and the creator is the judge. The other I will let you find it, making you do work and the reading. It is there so this story is trying to vitiate the bible but, clearly this writer did not do his bible reading.

  32. James June 9, 2014 at 5:16 am - Reply

    How is it immoral for a wife to obey her husband?

    • JIMJFOX November 3, 2014 at 12:02 am - Reply

      Or, a husband obeying his wife??

  33. John June 13, 2014 at 11:10 am - Reply

    I don’t forsee the Walls of Faith and History crumbling after reading this argument…I’ll engage in theological debate somewhere other than a D list website with an article written by a self-impressed sh*tbrow hipster on his iPad.

  34. Dan June 23, 2014 at 3:15 am - Reply

    FLORA & FAUNA

    The most dangerous claim from the Bible is the idea that God gave humans the power to rule over the earth and subdue all other living things. This led us to destroy the world and today we are all facing a Malthusian catastrophe.

  35. JIMJFOX November 3, 2014 at 12:00 am - Reply

    “Just like evolutionists and/or non believers get angry when you prove the math used in carbon dating is flawed.”

    And what “proof” would that be?
    I shouldn’t bother, you religiots have no clue about reason, evidence and facts; go on enjoying your ridiculous delusions.

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