Poll

Was there an actual historical figure on which the christian Jesus is based?

Probably not or no
Probably or yes
I have no idea

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Offline Barracuda

Poll: Historicity of Jesus
« on: August 01, 2012, 11:19:43 PM »
Was there an actual historical figure on which the christian Jesus is based? This question is different from his status as a supernatural figure or one who performed any miracles.

I say probably there was. I'd like to keep my reasons to myself for now, but what do you all think, and why?

Offline Star Stuff

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Re: Poll: Historicity of Jesus
« Reply #1 on: August 01, 2012, 11:56:39 PM »
Was there an actual historical figure on which the christian Jesus is based?

No good evidence for such thing.
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Offline LoriPinkAngel

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Re: Poll: Historicity of Jesus
« Reply #2 on: August 02, 2012, 12:20:30 AM »
Anyone who I cannot link to Kevin Bacon in 6 steps or less does not exist.
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Offline wright

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Re: Poll: Historicity of Jesus
« Reply #3 on: August 02, 2012, 12:43:38 AM »
No idea if such a person existed or not. The evidence says no, but it's easy to conceive of a religious figure of that time becoming retroactively a god, especially when those in power realized the new faith's potential for controlling the masses.

Short of a time machine, I don't see how definitive evidence could be obtained. Regardless, the story itself is clearly a myth.
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Offline kcrady

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Re: Poll: Historicity of Jesus
« Reply #4 on: August 02, 2012, 01:17:22 AM »
@Lori: lol  Unless....Kevin Bacon is Jesus?[1]

I voted "Probably not or no" even though I do think it's possible there could have been a human grain of sand at the center of the shiny pearl of myth.  I think a pretty good case can be (and has been) that "Jesus" was originally revered as a purely spiritual intermediary between Yahweh and humankind in the vein of the neo-Platonic Mystery Schools that were widespread at the time.  His existence and deeds were revealed to Paul and other early Christians through esoteric reading/"decoding" of the Hebrew Scriptures and mystical experience (visions, "channeling," etc.).  The Epistles and other Christian writings (outside of the Gospels) prior to around 150 C.E. speak of Jesus as a divine, heavenly figure, and know nothing of a teaching ministry in Galilee, Mary and Joseph, a career as a miracle worker, exorcist and prophet, a crucifixion on Calvary's hill, an empty tomb outside Jerusalem, Mary Magdalene, Lazarus, disciples who followed him in life, etc..  This pervasive silence about "Jesus the man" is very strange if such a man existed, since people who adored a man enough to deify him would have strong incentives to make reference to his words and deeds.

The Gospels do present what look like human biographies for Jesus, but so many of the details of his "life" are pastiches of events in the Hebrew Scriptures (e.g. Herod's "slaughter of the innocents," a re-working of Pharaoh's slaying of the Hebrew male children in an attempt to kill Moses, being brought to Egypt by a "Joseph" just like the Israelites were, and so on) that they may very well be allegorical tales identifying Jesus the Divine Logos and spiritual Messiah with the Jewish people, with the teachings of local believing communities presented as his words.

In this model, Jesus would have become "historicized" over time, either because the original Gospel communities were destroyed/scattered in the Jewish War and their original authorial intent lost (so that people came to believe that the Gospels were intended as historical accounts), and/or the "proto-orthodox" sect saw a need to ground Jesus in history so that they could claim "Apostolic Succession."[2]  If Jesus was a man who walked the Earth in history, and the proto-orthodox could claim their tradition came from him, they would have a basis to assert that their sect was "the one, holy, catholic[3] and apostolic church," thus out-competing the many variants of mystical and Gnostic Christianity that existed at the time.

However, I do think that historicist scholars can make a good enough case for the existence of a human Jesus that neither side has an open-and-shut case.
 1. On the other hand, Bacon is not kosher, so maybe not.
 2. The doctrine that what was to become the Roman Catholic Church (and the Eastern Orthodox Church) could trace their tradition through a direct chain of succession to the disciples of Jesus on Earth, especially Peter, the first Pope.
 3. The word means "universal."
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Offline none

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Re: Poll: Historicity of Jesus
« Reply #5 on: August 02, 2012, 04:20:53 AM »
no birth, no bones.

Offline Nick

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Re: Poll: Historicity of Jesus
« Reply #6 on: August 02, 2012, 06:01:17 AM »
All based on the long running god-man myths from across history.  The Jesus one was just the last one in the long running series.
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Offline Quesi

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Re: Poll: Historicity of Jesus
« Reply #7 on: August 02, 2012, 07:01:12 AM »
I know that there has been a significant body of very convincing research and record analysis in recent years, arguing that there was no historical figure named Jesus of Nazareth. 

But historical analysis always has gaps.

We know that there are no writings by his contemporaries.  However, given a nation with a strong oral tradition, I can't help but look at the different stories and feel that they represent a game of whisper down the lane.  I think that there was some preacher named Jesus who made a really big impression on his followers, and that they told stories about him, and that the stories grew and came to represent the slant of the story tellers more and more as they were retold.  There events described grew in the minds of the people who heard the stories around firelight as children, and when those children grew up, they retold the stories, and each version contained more and more magic and more and more wonder. 

Offline bertatberts

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Re: Poll: Historicity of Jesus
« Reply #8 on: August 02, 2012, 09:01:10 AM »
Exactly just like Scheherazade and her stories of Sinbad the sailor in "one thousand and one nights"  a myth around a myth around a myth. Pure fanfic.
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Offline bertatberts

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Re: Poll: Historicity of Jesus
« Reply #9 on: August 02, 2012, 09:04:56 AM »
I voted I don't know.
There could have been a Jewish rabbi called Jesus person, just as there could have been one called Fred. I could not possible say whether either did or didn't exist.
We theists have no evidence for our beliefs. So no amount of rational evidence will dissuade us from those beliefs. - JCisall

It would be pretty piss poor brainwashing, if the victims knew they were brainwashed, wouldn't it? - Screwtape. 04/12/12

Offline Barracuda

Re: Poll: Historicity of Jesus
« Reply #10 on: August 02, 2012, 10:33:04 AM »
I find it hard to believe that there is no evidence for his existence as a person, given that there is a consensus among historians that he was a real person.

Virtually all modern historians agree that Jesus existed, and the theories of his non-existence are now seen as effectively refuted.[3][4] Scholars generally agree that Jesus was a Galilean Jew who was born BC 7–2 and died AD 30–36.[5][6] Most scholars hold that Jesus lived in Galilee and Judea[7][8][9] and that he spoke Aramaic and may have also spoken Hebrew and Greek.[10][11][12][13][14] Although scholars differ on the reconstruction of the specific episodes of the life of Jesus, the two events whose historicity is subject to "almost universal assent" are that he was baptized by John the Baptist and was crucified by the order of the Roman Prefect Pontius Pilate.[15][16][17]

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Offline Barracuda

Re: Poll: Historicity of Jesus
« Reply #12 on: August 02, 2012, 10:58:49 AM »
Biased source which, as I said, runs against the consensus of historians today. We wouldn't accept a Christian throwing a link at us from some christian apologetics site to support their claims, I don't see how this is any better.

Offline Star Stuff

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Re: Poll: Historicity of Jesus
« Reply #13 on: August 02, 2012, 11:03:39 AM »
But you didn't even listen to it.  You seem to be guilty of this.
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Offline Barracuda

Re: Poll: Historicity of Jesus
« Reply #14 on: August 02, 2012, 11:08:41 AM »
I don't see why that would be productive. I have no training in historical methods or any kind of experience in the field, I am a layman, ergo I am not qualified to evaluate his claims. As such, all I can do is go by the existing consensus of trained historians, which say he is a dissenter from mainstream opinion. So I reject his point of view the same way I would reject one of the few biologists who does not believe in evolution.

Offline Star Stuff

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Re: Poll: Historicity of Jesus
« Reply #15 on: August 02, 2012, 11:13:37 AM »
And you would have rejected Darwin back in the day as well.
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Offline Barracuda

Re: Poll: Historicity of Jesus
« Reply #16 on: August 02, 2012, 11:17:20 AM »
Well I am not really sure if the same circumstances apply (ie a consensus of biologists who evaluated his claims and rejected them as opposed to remaining unsure/waiting for more evidence), but if they did, then yes I would have, and it would have been rational to do so.

Offline Star Stuff

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Re: Poll: Historicity of Jesus
« Reply #17 on: August 02, 2012, 11:21:00 AM »
In the audio interview, Price does say that there may have been such a historical character, and goes on from there.  I suggest that you give it a listen; refusing to is indeed putting on the blinders.
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Offline pianodwarf

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Re: Poll: Historicity of Jesus
« Reply #18 on: August 02, 2012, 11:38:59 AM »
I wish we'd been able to convince PhilosoB to stay -- I'm sure he would have a lot of valuable input for this thread.  I can't blame him for leaving, though.  I know what it's like to be seriously outnumbered by the opposition in a forum.
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Offline Nam

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Re: Poll: Historicity of Jesus
« Reply #19 on: August 02, 2012, 12:04:32 PM »
The problem I have with "historical", that doesn't mean truth or untruth, it's more of a combining of the two.

-Nam
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Offline Barracuda

Re: Poll: Historicity of Jesus
« Reply #20 on: August 02, 2012, 12:15:41 PM »
In the audio interview, Price does say that there may have been such a historical character, and goes on from there.  I suggest that you give it a listen; refusing to is indeed putting on the blinders.
Well, I really did not expect him to say there was a 0% chance of Jesus being a real figure in the first place. And I don't see why you are accusing me of "putting on blinders," just because I don't want to spend time looking at what I don't consider a valid source of evidence.

Star Stuff, why do you consider Price's opinion to outweigh that of the consensus of historians as a whole?

Offline Star Stuff

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Re: Poll: Historicity of Jesus
« Reply #21 on: August 02, 2012, 03:00:15 PM »
And I don't see why you are accusing me of "putting on blinders," just because I don't want to spend time looking at what I don't consider a valid source of evidence.

Wow.  Just......wow.  Price knows more about this stuff than all of us put together, yet he's not a valid source in your mind.  Stunning.
« Last Edit: August 02, 2012, 03:19:13 PM by Star Stuff »
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Offline Garja

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Re: Poll: Historicity of Jesus
« Reply #22 on: August 02, 2012, 03:06:20 PM »
I think there was a video on youtube (couldn't find it just now), where Hitchens talks about there probably was a person on whom the Christian myth is based, if for not other reason than the gymnastics to get the Nazarene into Bethlehem.  Even when I was a Christian I struggled understanding why someone would need to "return to the city of their birth" for a census... kinda defeats the purpose of a census.
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Offline Nam

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Re: Poll: Historicity of Jesus
« Reply #23 on: August 02, 2012, 03:08:42 PM »
^Horace, right. Though Horace is a myth.

;)

-Nam
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Online Graybeard

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Re: Poll: Historicity of Jesus
« Reply #24 on: August 02, 2012, 03:35:40 PM »
In this case we have the usual list of "1st century witnesses to the life of Jesus".  Or are they?  Jesus is said to have lived around 1 AD-33 AD (give or take a few years).  Now look at the list:

Tacitus in his Annals (c.115 A.D.)  NOT contempary.  NOT first century.
Pliny the younger and the Roman Emperor Trajan (98-117 A.D.) NOT contempary.  Barely even first century.
Flavius Josephus (37-100 A.D.)  NOT contempary.  And the references to Jesus in his work are suspected to be forgery.
Clement (A.D. c. 30-100)  Unlikely to have witness the events(as a three year old?)
Epistle of Barnabas (A.D. c. 70-130) NOT contempary
Polycarp (A.D. 70-155) NOT contempary.
Ignatius (A.D. 35-110) NOT contempary.
Irenaeus (A.D. 130 -200) NOT contempary. NOT first century.
Tertullian (A.D. 160 -220) NOT contempary.  NOT first century.
Clement (A.D. 150 -215) NOT contempary.  NOT first century.


I looked at the Wiki link and it is the usual stuff about the "evidence" for Jesus outside the bible. Josephus, Tacitus, Sanhedrin 43a, etc. All the good ones.

Of course it is never mentioned, that they are either obviously forged (Josephus and maybe Tacitus) or written about the beliefs of Christians and as accounts of what others said happened. In most cases they only show that at a certain time groups of Christians existed but not that their beliefs had a foundation in reality.

Here's a little bit about those supposed non-biblical accounts mentioning Jesus.

See also: http://www.jesusneverexisted.com/james.html

Tacitus

There are two very important things about this passage in Tacitus' Annals:

1) This passage in the Annals is about the persecution of Christians by Nero. It is strange however, that this is the only passage in all of Tacitus' numerous works, where he mentions this. Nowhere else in all his writings does he write so much as a single sentence about this.

It is even stranger, that early Christians, who did have access to his works, never mention this. Clement of Alexandria or Tertullian, two of the great early apologists, simply don't know about this passage or any persecution of Christians by Nero despite having access to Tacitus' works (including the Annals).
The earliest point in history, that this passage in the Annals is mentioned is in the fifteenth century. Strangely nobody ever noticed it before...

2)Assuming the passage is genuine and written by Tacitus himself, his sources are likely of christian origin instead of any official records, because there are a number of flaws in the passage in question:
a)Pilate was a prefect and not a procurator. (and if he had been a procurator then Tacitus would have written his title as “procurator of XYZ” and not just called him “procurator”)
b) Tacitus does not use Jesus' name but writes “a man called Christ was executed.” “Christ” is a title, not a name. Why should the Roman records say that “the Messiah” was executed?

Josephus

The whole passage mentioning Jesus in the "Antiquities of the Jews" is nothing  other than a forgery. There are A LOT of things wrong and dubious with this passage. I will name a few for good measure.

a) The passage does not fit in with the surrounding text.
b) The whole passage is extremely pro-Christian in writing. That should make you wonder, as Josephus was a pharisaic Jew, who did not hide his dislike for the new Christian cult in his other works. It even makes Josephus seem Christian, given how highly he speaks of Jesus, even going so far to wonder if he can actually be called a man.
c) In this passage Josephus calls Jesus “Messiah”, yet according to the church father Origen Josephus did not recognize Jesus as a messiah nor did he believe in any other Christian claim of miracles of Jesus.
d) Josephus writes about this period of time in some of his other works too, but this passage or any passage mentioning this is nowhere to be found in those.
e) None of the early apologists picked this up and you have to keep in mind that they had access to the Antiquities and were actively searching for passages and quotes like that. The earliest point in time, where this passage is mentioned is in 324 AD.
f) As late as 891 AD this passage still does not appear in most works concerning the “Antiquities of the Jews.”
g) Even several centuries later there are versions of the "Antiquities of the Jews" that are reported to be missing this particular passage.

Thallus

The original text of Thallus is lost, so there's no way to say, what he originally said. All we have of Thallus about Jesus is an account of Julius Africanus, who quotes Thallus as he mentions a darkness following the Crucifixion of Jesus.

BUT it should be telling, that there was not one other writer, historian or astronomer of that time who noted anything about a darkness several hours long accompanied by earthquakes.  It's hard to believe, that neither historians nor astronomers found such an event noteworthy, given the impact it should have had on the people and given that there was no total eclipse scheduled in that region and time period. All we have is one single account quoting someone who said it happened.

Pliny the Younger and Roman Caesars Hadrian and Trajan

These are actually completely irrelevant, because in their letters they only say that Christian cults exist and what the Christians believe in. But obviously this is no evidence that those beliefs are actually true.

Lucian of Samosata

Lucian of Samosata was a second century Greek satirist.
The important part is “second century Greek.” Lucian is only giving evidence, that Christians existed in the second century (a fact which no-one denies) but can contribute nothing, when it comes to providing evidence for a historical Jesus.

A Syrian named Mara Bar-Serapion

Is not considered a reliable source by the majority of all scholars and is also not an eyewitness. The letter in which Jesus is mentioned was composed sometime between 73 AD and the 3rd century and thus only describes what Christians of that time believed, not if it is true.

The Talmud (Sanhedrin 43a)

The Babylonian Talmud is assumed to have been written some time between the 3rd and the 6th century AD. It does not even refer to the Jesus of the bible, but to two different men; Yeshu the sorcerer (stoned and hanged around 100 BC (!) at Jerusalem along with his 5 disciples Matai, Nekai, Netzer, Buni, and Toda) and Yeshu ben Stada (stoned and hanged at Lydda at the eve of passover but in the second century AD).

Several gnostic writings

The copies of the gnostic gospels, which have been found are dated to around 350 - 400 AD and consensus among scholars is, that the originals have been written around 140 AD (when the gospel of Mark had already been around for 70 years, if we assume it has actually been written at 70 AD, the earliest estimate).

It's also worth noting, that the Gnostic gospels differ in key aspects from the biblical gospels (Gospel of Judas just being the prime example here).

As such the existence of the Gnostic gospels will not help to support the claim of a historical Jesus.
« Last Edit: August 02, 2012, 03:47:45 PM by Graybeard »
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Offline Barracuda

Re: Poll: Historicity of Jesus
« Reply #25 on: August 02, 2012, 07:38:17 PM »
And I don't see why you are accusing me of "putting on blinders," just because I don't want to spend time looking at what I don't consider a valid source of evidence.

Wow.  Just......wow.  Price knows more about this stuff than all of us put together, yet he's not a valid source in your mind.  Stunning.
Maybe I should have worded that differently; I don't consider it to be a productive activity for the purpose of forming an evidence-based view on the subject. This is because I have no means to evaluate his claims. I have no background in the field. Someone with a lot of information and background in the field can easily manipulate information to make an argument that seems good to a layman.

Now, just in case you didn't notice my question before, can you respond to it now?
Star Stuff, why do you consider Price's opinion to outweigh that of the consensus of historians as a whole?


Offline Star Stuff

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Re: Poll: Historicity of Jesus
« Reply #26 on: August 02, 2012, 07:52:17 PM »
Why do you consider Price's opinion to outweigh that of the consensus of historians as a whole?

I don't think that your assertion is correct.  I think those that really dig deep into the Jesus issue come up empty handed.  You fail to appreciate that many historians are likely specialists in other areas, and, being human, are as subject to the same errors that the masses are in assuming that there was this Jesus character as we have evolved to know him simply because he's just so dang popular.

Sure, there may have been such a guy, from what I understand there were lots of "saviour figures" and wandering nut-jobs in that part of the world at that particular time, but I really don't care.  As god is imaginary, Jesus - if he existed - was just another human being.  And given that there was not one word of his recorded in any way during the time of his alleged life, I don't give a tinker's cuss what some illiterate desert people placed on his lips decades later.
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Offline Barracuda

Re: Poll: Historicity of Jesus
« Reply #27 on: August 03, 2012, 11:54:24 AM »
Why do you consider Price's opinion to outweigh that of the consensus of historians as a whole?

I don't think that your assertion is correct.
You mean the assertion that the consensus of historians agree with me? I can link to the wiki page again if so...

Quote
I think those that really dig deep into the Jesus issue come up empty handed.  You fail to appreciate that many historians are likely specialists in other areas, and, being human, are as subject to the same errors that the masses are in assuming that there was this Jesus character as we have evolved to know him simply because he's just so dang popular.
So, you explain the fact that experts disagree with you with the assertion that they are biased... What (non-circular) evidence do you have for this? Imagine yourself sitting in a room with one of these experts and having a debate about the topic; can you realistically envision yourself coming out as the victor there?

That is the claim made by a small but growing cadre of (published ) writers, bloggers and Internet junkies who call themselves mythicists. This unusually vociferous group of nay-sayers maintains that Jesus is a myth invented for nefarious (or altruistic) purposes by the early Christians who modeled their savior along the lines of pagan divine men who, it is alleged, were also born of a virgin on Dec. 25, who also did miracles, who also died as an atonement for sin and were then raised from the dead.

Few of these mythicists are actually scholars trained in ancient history, religion, biblical studies or any cognate field, let alone in the ancient languages generally thought to matter for those who want to say something with any degree of authority about a Jewish teacher who (allegedly) lived in first-century Palestine. There are a couple of exceptions: of the hundreds -- thousands? -- of mythicists, two (to my knowledge) actually have Ph.D. credentials in relevant fields of study. But even taking these into account, there is not a single mythicist who teaches New Testament or Early Christianity or even Classics at any accredited institution of higher learning in the Western world. And it is no wonder why. These views are so extreme and so unconvincing to 99.99 percent of the real experts that anyone holding them is as likely to get a teaching job in an established department of religion as a six-day creationist is likely to land on in a bona fide department of biology.


Quote
Sure, there may have been such a guy, from what I understand there were lots of "saviour figures" and wandering nut-jobs in that part of the world at that particular time, but I really don't care.  As god is imaginary, Jesus - if he existed - was just another human being.
No disagreements here.

Offline Star Stuff

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Re: Poll: Historicity of Jesus
« Reply #28 on: August 03, 2012, 12:03:46 PM »
What I am saying is, you may indeed find a truck-load of "historians" who would say there was a historical JC, but they don't really have any evidence.  If you really want there to be a case for a historical JC, you can scratch & claw some tid-bits together to support that position, but it isn't good enough.  Take, for example, Tom Harpur, who was an ordained priest; he assumed that there was such a character, but when he did the research, the only conclusion that he could come to was that there is no "good evidence" for such a position.

Again, I would never say that "there definitely was no JC", but if this is the creator of the univers' way of communicating to all of human kind, it's not good enough.
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