Sporadic theological and historical musings by Edgar Foster (Ph.D. in Theology and Religious Studies and one of Jehovah's Witnesses).
Thanks, Edgar, now can feel free to sell my copy of Carroll's book (I'm back to downsizing).~Kaz
Duncan: thanks for the interesting read. I used Gieschen when writing my thesis and the doctoral dissertation. it's been a while though. Kaz, I understand downsizing: it's sopmething I'm constantly trying to do. While not trying to dissuade you from parting with Carrell's work, one advantage to having the book is that it's usually a revision of an author's thesis although I have not compared his thesis and book.On the other hand, there's nothing like free scholarship. :)Best,Edgar
Hi Edgar,Carroll's thesis is a fine piece of work, but it rather patently suffers from the influences of orthodoxy, and seems to depend on assumptions that modern scholarship has already shown to be problematic. For example, in discussing Revelation, he acknowledges that Jesus is presented as an angel "functionally" (= angelomorphically), but then he seems to distinguish Jesus from the angels in part because Jesus is "divine" (a word no doubt nuanced in Carroll's mind in terms of his trinitarian presuppositions). That just doesn't work, I'm afraid. Divinity in Jewish thought wasn't like a Boolean operator(+/-), i.e. +divinity can only be God himself, -divinity is everyone but God himself. That's not how "divinity" was conceived in that time in history, and so a thesis whose conclusions seem to depend on the modern +/- Boolean approach in theology is not likely to adequately account for all the data considered in ancient documents.He also seems to overlook the clear implications of Jesus' role in Revelation. He notes that Jesus there takes on the "role" of Michael the Archangel, yet based on other data in his book he'd rush to reject any identification of Jesus with Michael. The elephant in the room that Carroll doesn't even bother to address is that by placing Jesus in the "role of Michael", John probably meant to equate Jesus with Michael. This is a situation where the shiliach principal doesn't provide the answer. This principal provides a compelling answer to situations where it is said that God will do something and it turns out to be someone other than God, namely, someone acting in God's behalf as his agent, who does that thing. However, in Revelation (just as in the rest of the NT), Jesus is God's agent, not Michael's agent. So for John to present Jesus as one fulfilling a role attributed to God is to be expected, but for John to present Jesus as one fulfilling a role attributed to Michael the Archangel would be rather odd unless John meant to suggest that Jesus was in fact Michael the Archangel.Would Carrell suggest that the OT got its portrayal of Michael wrong, and that by assigning Michael's role to Jesus, John was offering a corrective? What other answer could there be from Carroll's perspective?~Kaz
Hi Kaz,I do like Carrell's work, but it's flawed just as you describe. However, I've come to expect adherence to orthodoxy from most works that deal with the Trinity, Christology or angelology. Most just don't want to break away from the "orthodox" way of thinking.Carrell does make a distinction between Jesus and the angels: yes, he believes that Jesus is divine in the strict sense of the word. That is to say, Jesus is truly and fully God in his view. Carrell has to recognize that the adjective "divine" is not monosemic (having one meaning). It has a range of meaning or can be used in a strong or weak sense. Of course, I'm sure he would appeal to the usual verses to support Jesus' divinity in a strong sense. As scholars are wont to say, "Jesus Christ falls on the side of the Creator with respect to the Creator/creature distinction."I'm not sure how Carrell might answer your question about Michael, but I know that D. Hannah wrote a full work on Michael, as you might recall. I also wanted to add that Jean Danielou (long before Carrell) already suggested that Christ was Michael in a functional sense, but not Michael in terms of his ousia.So Christ (they say) performs the functions of an angel without being an angel per essentiam.
"I'm not sure how Carrell might answer your question about Michael, but I know that D. Hannah wrote a full work on Michael, as you might recall."Actually, I conflated Hannah's work with Carroll's in my post. I was thinking of Hannah when I said:"...yet based on other data in his book he'd rush to reject any identification of Jesus with Michael."The "his book" was Hannah's book, not Carroll's! My bad:-(As for Danielou's view, what does it even mean to be Michael "in a functional sense, but not Michael in terms of his ousia"? Here again he would need the shaliach principal to make sense of such a view, but we know that Jesus is not Michael's agent, he's God's agent. Sad that generations of students get their minds turned into scrambled eggs by such ill-conceived attempts to read what one wants into texts while disallowing inference to what's really there.~Kaz
Kaz,No worries. These angel books all start to merge after you read enough of them. :)As for the question concerning Danielou, see my post on terminology employed in angelology discussions. The argument is that Christ appears to be an angel in theophanic or angelophanic settings (for example, visions), but he really doesn't have the inherent and essential properties of a spirit creature. Rather, he is Christus Omnipotens, not a created angel.
"As for the question concerning Danielou, see my post on terminology employed in angelology discussions. The argument is that Christ appears to be an angel in theophanic or angelophanic settings (for example, visions), but he really doesn't have the inherent and essential properties of a spirit creature. Rather, he is Christus Omnipotens, not a created angel."I got that, but my question for Danielou is: What would it mean to be a specific angel "functionally" but not actually be that specific angel? As you stated:"I also wanted to add that Jean Danielou (long before Carrell) already suggested that Christ was Michael in a functional sense, but not Michael in terms of his ousia."That's not quite the same as saying that, according to Danielou, Jesus was an angel in a functional sense, but not in terms of his ousia. The latter makes sense, though I think the distinction is orthodoxically self serving. What Danielou is saying, at least as you've presented him, is very different, and would be comparable to saying that "Kaz is Edgar 'functionally' but not as to his ousia". What does it mean for Kaz to be Edgar "functionally"? And why would Kaz be Edgar "functionally"? Kaz isn't Edgar's agent, so the language just doesn't seem to fit.~Kaz (not Edgar as to his ousia;-))
I guess Danielou's thinking is that Gabriel is an angel functionally and ontologically. He is a created spirit, who functions as Jehovah's messenger. On the other hand, you might say that Christ could fulfill the role of Michael the archangel without being a created spirit person. Maybe he appears as Michael in visions or he performs the functions of angels. Danielou would argue that he's still not an angel in terms of his fundamental or ontic properties.According to this way of thinking, Christ might fight the Devil and his angels in his capacity as Michael, but that doesn't make Christ a created spirit (according to Danielou). Maybe he's thinking about times when Jehovah appears to be a man in prophetic visions, but that doesn't make Jehovah a man or a creature. See Ezek 1:1-28.I see your point, but Danielou might say there's one difference here. Assume that Christ is almighty God, but that Michael is a creature. The two entities would then exist on two different levels of reality. Clearly, in terms of ousia or phusis, one could not be identical to the other. However, it would be possible for Christ (God the Son) to perform the role/functions of Michael. Let's say that Christ appears (materializes as) Michael. It would then not logically follow that he would ontologically be Michael.I hope that Danielou's position is now clear as mud. :) I believe that Calvin also espoused this view or something like it.
Hi Kaz,One other quote from my book on Tertullian:For instance, Tertullian applies the term “angel” to Christ in De Carne 14.17-20: “Certainly he is described as the angel of great counsel, ‘angel’ meaning ‘messenger’, by a term of office, not of nature: for he was to announce to the world the Father's great project, concerned with the restitution of man.” Such an explicit declaration of Christ's angelhood, however, seems to be rare in the literary corpus of Tertullian. Tertullian is extremely reluctant to identify Christ as an angel. In fact, he goes to great lengths in order to stress that the Son is not an angel in the same way that Michael and Gabriel are angels. Additionally, Tertullian explicitly states that Christ is only an angel according to function and not with respect to His substance. Even so, these concessions do not vitiate Tertullian's portrayal of the Son as an angel. There are manifest Angelomorphic elements contained in his writings whether he explicitly calls the Son “angel” or adeptly incorporates malak YHWH motifs.
Hi Edgar,I think that the only way Danielou's view could even potentially work is if he were to demonstrate that while Jesus is Michael, Michael is not an angel as to his ousia. "Michael" would then be more like an "office", but that would be quite strange.It doesn't really work to say that Michael is a creature and that Jesus fulfills Michael's role, because that would make Jesus Michael's agent. But he's not Michael's agent, he's God's agent. It just doesn't make any sense to say that Michael is a creature who is attributed with fulfilling a certain role, but that it is Jesus as "Michael" (=office) who fulfills that role on Michael's behalf. That doesn't jive with the biblical presentation of Jesus as God's supreme agent. Michael would have to be greater than Jesus for that paradigm to work. ~Kaz
Kaz,I'm not saying that he's right, but I just wonder if Danielou's position is flatly contradictory. Admittedly, it's been years since I've read Danielou's discussion, but I'm fairly certain that he holds this view. He clearly believes that Jesus is the second person of the Trinity (not a creature), but Michael is a creature (a spirit being or angel). Yet he also seems to argue that what the Bible predicates of Michael in some instances (at least) also can be predicated of Jesus Christ. Like the angelomorphic folks, he could maintain that there are times when Christ appears to be angelic, in visions, but that doesn't make him actually angelic.Would fulfilling Michael's roles necessarily make Christ the agent of Michael? A husband might wear many hats, so to speak, without necessarily being his wife's agent. Again, I'm not trying to defend Danielou, but simply trying to determine whether his position is explicitly incoherent.Another example might be that although angels are greater than humans, they sometimes fulfill our roles and offices. So while Christ is greater than Michael, he still condescends to fulfill his role.
Hi Kaz,Carrell mentions Danielou on pages 8, 132-33 (among others). The last reference is most important for our purposes. I would strongly encourage you to read 132-33 of Carrell's thesis. It might answer some questions that you have.
Hi Edgar,I realize that you aren't claiming to endorse Danielou's view, and didn't mean to suggest otherwise. I must not be communicating my objections well today, so I'll give it another shot:-)The following statement makes perfect sense:A. "He was an angel functionally, but not as to his essence."However, this statement does not make perfect sense:B. "He was Michael the Archangel functionally, but not as to his essence."With sentence A, "angel" is used to describe not only a function (messenger) but also a class of beings (super-human spirit beings). So, to say that one is an angel functionally but not as to his essence, is to say that one does the things angels do, but isn't an angel as to one's ontology.With sentence B, however, "Michael the Archangel" is not a class of beings or a function, but a specific individual. Yes, there are contexts in which it makes sense to say that someone is as someone else "functionally" because he did the work of that other person. So, for example, Kings of old could be called "God" (Ps. 45:7), as they ruled on God's behalf from his throne (figuratively speaking). One could likewise say that Jesus was Jehovah "functionally" because he did Jehovah's work as his appointed agent. That is to say, Jehovah acts through his appointed agent, so that what the agent does is attributed to God. However, Jesus isn't the Archangel Michael's agent, and so it doesn't make sense to say that Jesus was Michael "functionally", just as it wouldn't make sense to say that Jehovah was Jesus "functionally" or that God the Father was God the Son "functionally" (unless you're a modalist). So, just for the sake of argument, let's grant Danielou's bizarre view. The OT says that Michael would accomplish X. The NT says that Jesus is the one who accomplished said X while acting as Michael "functionally". In what sense can it still be said that Michael really accomplished X? I can't think of one, can you?~Kaz
Hi Kaz, I primarily made that disclaimer for anyone reading this thread; however, I believe your thoughts have been conveyed lucidly. What I take Danielou and the others to be saying is that Christ could assume the form of an angel (angelomorphism) without being a spirit creature. Let's say that Christ performs an act of materialization as Michael or appears in visions qua Michael. If that happens, it would not (perforce) make him a spirit creature respecting his ontos/essence, would it? That is what I think Danielou and others are saying. Furthermore, he would not be Michael's agent, in that case, but Michael would then describe an angelophany or role of Christ: it would be an appearance or vision--some kind of temporary manifestation.Another suggestion has been that the work of Michael could be ascribed to Christ without making the Son of God, a creature. Carrell writes:"As leader of the angels Christ takes up a function of Michael so that it is conceivable that Michael has been identified with Christ.Charlesworth, however, points out that 'Identity does not follow from identical functions; and transference of traditions associated with Michael to expressions about Christ does not justify the equation of Michael and Christ'"_52He cites other suggestions for avoiding the implication that Christ functioning as Michael indicates that Christ is the agent of Michael or a creature. So if they still believe that Michael is a real angel, they take many steps to eschew the implication that Christ is a creature apart from his human nature. I think the angelomorphic/angelophanic route could mitigate the contradiction, but it makes things more complicated in other ways.In other words, one could argue that Christ takes the form of Michael, appears as Michael in visions or performs a task normally done by Michael (like supervising the angels) without being the archangel. That might save their view.Best,Edgar
Hi again, Kaz:Here's a closing thought for tonight. Vern S. Poythress wrote a review of Carrell's book. His thoughts might/might not help our discussion, but he's partly sympathetic to Carrell without agreeing with him wholeheartedly. Here's part of the review: Carrell argues that Jesus performs some functions that at other points are performed by angels. He notes that many of the glorious features in the vision in Revelation 1:13-16 belong at other points to angels (especially Dan 10:5-6). Some of these features are also associated at times with theophany. But the OT as well as extrabiblical apocalyptic furnish sufficient examples to show that Judaism could depict both angels and exalted human beings with glorious features reminiscent of theophany. It did so, however, without thereby destroying the Creator/creature distinction. Ontologically, God remained distinct from all creatures. Functionally, angels and exalted men could be accompanied by visual imagery similar to aspects of theophany.The book concludes, then, that in Revelation Christ is regarded as divine, but that the depictions of Christ may incorporate elements similar to angelic appearances. Christ is “angelomorphic,” but is not literally an angel. The most attractive source for such thinking appears to be in the depiction of the logos in angelomorphic form (pp. 90-96, 227-30).
Hi Edgar,Thanks for the continued interaction:-) I actually understand the points you're making and certain distinctions those in the angelomorphic-Christology camp make. I've read the important studies from these folks.Let me bring the focus back directly on the specific problem by repeating the following bullet points and subsequent question:*The OT says that Michael the angel-creature would accomplish X. *The NT says that Jesus is the one who accomplished that very X. *Danielou says that Jesus is not the angel-creature Michael, but that Jesus is Michael "functionally". Jesus is not Michael by identity, but purely by function.***Question***: If one adopts that view, then how can one say that the angel-creature Michael really did X? I can't think of a plausible way to resolve this, can you?We can't say that Michael did X by commissioning his agent, Jesus, to perform the role(s) in his behalf because Jesus isn't Michael's agent, he's God's agent. The problem can't be solved by the principal-agent paradigm or Shaliach principal.But if Jesus isn't Michael's agent and does what is attributed to Michael, then I don't see any way for Danielou to escape the fact that he's essentially rejecting OT teaching to preserve his post-biblical Christology. If Jesus did what is attributed to Michael, then the bottom line is that Michael simply didn't do the things attributed to him in any way, shape, or form. Many modern liberal and "progressive" Christians are happy to embrace the notion that the OT got many things wrong. I don't see how Danielou can embrace his view without joining their ranks. Then again, maybe he'd happily declare himself to be one of them (haven't followed his work).~Kaz
So, to concisely restate the logical problem:Jesus can be an angel functionally yet not be an angel as to his "essence". While I don't personally see any reason to subscribe to such a view, it's at least logically possible. However, if Jesus is not Micheal as to his identity, yet Jesus does what is attributed to Michael in the OT, then the bottom line would be that Michael simply didn't do what was attributed to him in the OT in any way, shape, or form. As far as I can discern it, one can only embrace Danielou-nian Michael-Christology if one rejects biblical inerrancy. Make sense?~Kaz
Hi Kaz,You summed up the discussion well. I'll just say that my thoughts have been Danielou as I understand him. However, checking Carrell and reading the review by Poythress helps me to see that those writers producing studies on angelomorphism, do believe that it's possible for Christ to assume the outward form (morphe) of Michael or to appear in visionary form as the archangel. One other thing about Danielou and Charlesworth (and possibly Carrell) is that they don't seem to believe that Christ doing X in the capacity (role) of Michael entails that Christ is Michael's agent. At any rate, whether it's right or wrong, I would say that angelomorphism or some type of angelophanic explanation could possibly stave off the objection that you've raised. But in that case, Christ's work as Michael would be limited to dreams, visions, although some insist that he supervises the angels qua Michael without being the archangel's agent.All the best, my friend.Edgar
"I would say that angelomorphism or some type of angelophanic explanation could possibly stave off the objection that you've raised. But in that case, Christ's work as Michael would be limited to dreams, visions, although some insist that he supervises the angels qua Michael without being the archangel's agent."How so, my friend? There are two sides to the issue, and I think you're focused on the side that I'm not focused on.The question isn't whether Jesus can take Michael's form. The question is:How can it be said that it was Michael (a different being) who did what was attributed to him in the OT if Jesus is the one who really did it?~Kaz
Thought I approved two posts of yours, but I've only seen one so far. The question you ask seems to be addressed in Carrell's thesis, even if it's done obliquely. He gives a host of suggestions on 132-33 such as:A) It's possible that beliefs about Michael were transferred to Christ or became expressions concerning him (Charlesworth).B) The name "Michael" was possibly applied to Christ in tradition and scripture (Danielou)C) Another possibility is that Jesus is Michael, but in a visionary/angelophanic sense only.Yet another possibility is that Christ is Michael, but the latter is not a created angel, like Trinitarians say about the malak YHWH (see Poythress' review of Carrell and Jim Seward also has posted a blog entry dealing with Zechariah 1:12).The malak YHWH is supposed to be distinct from YHWH (somehow) but also be YHWH. I wonder if some arent; saying the same thing about Christ. But let's take Danielou's suggestion. He might argue that the name "Michael" is given to Christ like the name "YHWH" was bequeathed to him. Of course, that brings us back to Christ's role as shaliach, and I'm not sure that Danielou addresses that question. On the other hand, I believe that the other possibilities I listed could address your question, even if they're prove to be wrong. In other words, they might not be inherently contradictory or prima facie unintelligible.
I see your other point, and to answer your question, it's possible that Danielou did not hold to strict inerrantism. Nevertheless, he might say that the application of the name "Michael" to Christ was a gradual development that occurred over centuries. He's primarily writing as a church historian rather than an exegete, and could be looking at the matter through the prism of tradition.
Hi Edgar,Ok, that's fine, but I was addressing the notion that began this dialogue, i.e. that, according to Danielou, Michael is a creature (a different being from Christ), and that Jesus did what is attributed to Michael by acting as Michael "functionally". That is what I've been trying to show is problematic. Yes, if Michael is just another name for the being we know as Jesus, then there's no problem, whether Jesus is the Son of God or God the Son. Some people call me Sean, some call me Kaz, but it's me they're talking to regardless which name they use. That solution works whether one is a of the Trinitarian camp or of the Unitarian camp. However, IF Jesus and Michael are two different individuals, AND Jesus does what is attributed to Michael, then the bottom line would be that there is no sense in which it could be said that Michael did what is attributed to him. OT prophecy would be rendered false by that view.~Kaz
Hi Kaz,I'm at a disadvantage because I don't have the work by Danielous handy, and I don't remember him justifying the view he espoused, but it was a compressed statement from what I recall. I could be misrepresenting him (unintentionally), but I did not see his view that logically problematic at the time although I don't agree with it.Carrell suggests that Michael and Jesus Christ could be two distinct beings, yet it could be possible for the name of Michael to be transferred to Christ, without diminishing his status as Creator. One analogue that could illustrate this point is that Metatron (3 Enoch) or Jahoel receive the name "YHWH," but are not identical with the Creator per essentiam. The name could be ascribed to each angel functionally. Or to use another example, what if someone performs an action, but gives you credit instead? Could not Christ protect Israel through the Read Sea, but then give Michael credit for being Israel's guardian? One does the action while the other gets the credit? Again, I'm only posing scenarios to illustrate why the idea doesn't have to be contradictory.Best,Edgar
You might say that agency explains Metatron and Jahoel, but I don't think that's the only reason they bear the divine name. :)They're also exalted figures in Second Temple Juudaism.Edgar
Hi Edgar,I think you correctly observe a range of possibilities for functional actions in another person's name in a general sense. However, from my understanding, that wouldn't work for the Christ/Michael situation, because I view the functions with greater specificity.Imagine that an ancient prophecy said that Kaz would score a touchdown in a game called "football" on Sunday, January 24th, 2016. There's no doubt that I'm the Kaz in view, because other writings trace my lineage. Today is here, and don't go anywhere near a football field. However, my buddy Edgar does attend the game en morphe Kaz, and scores a touchdown.Is it true or false to say that I, Kaz, scored a touchdown today? It's just false, right? There really isn't any meaningful sense in which I scored a touchdown. Maybe I'm mistaken to understand the functions of Michael that Jesus fulfills with that degree of specificity, but (back to the problem): IF the actions should be understood with that degree of specificity, then the problem I've noted would seem to be very real, wouldn't it?~Kaz
Hi Kaz,I see your point, and one problem might be that Charlesworth, Danielou, Carrell or Poythress are working with different assumptions regarding identity or what it means for a word to function as a referring term. In the philosophy of language, there's no unanimous consensus about what it means for a term to reference X. And one problem is that Danielou particularly does not spell out his view in great detail from what I remember. If the situation you present is the way that one should read these accounts, if that degree of specificity applies, then I would agree that what Danielou says is problematic. But I just don't think that the assumptions are the same.Best regards,Edgar
Hi Edgar.I think what he's trying to say, (to put it simply), Michael effectively becomes redundant. Michael, did nothing effectively, if it was Christ "functioning" as Michael. So where does the REAL Michael fit in at all? What was the REAL Michael doing?So to say Christ "is not" Michael, but effectively PRETENDS to be (i.e. "functions as" = and not "is") is a kind of literary "side step - duck and weave" way of avoiding the obvious conclusion.IMO, I think it is simply better to prima face interpret Michael, as another descriptive, but real (ontological) "name/title", for the real (ontological) Christ, doing real (ontological) Christological actions.If I may throw another complication into the discussion, are not the "Beneh Ha-Elohim" "Sons of the God" (Jesus being a/the "Son of the God" too) a category/class (membership of the guild) of: "divinity"?Another side point. Seeing Tertullian interpreted Christ as a created person, "ut secundam personam conditam: Primo, Dominus creavit me initium viarum in opera sua" (cf. Adv. Prax. 6.1) anyway, why do you think he was so averse to the title "Angel"? If both Angels and Christ were "created" and "made" (cf. Adv. Prax. 7) in his theology (or theological scheme/system)?The early Christians (the earliest reference to Jesus as "Michael" in Shepherd of Hermas) spoke of Christ both as an "Angel" (and though admittedly less often and specifically) as "Michael" and did in fact teach that Christ was "created" and "made" and one of the "creatures", can be seen in Justins Martyr's works, Tatian, Shepherd of Hermas, Hippolytus etc. So (IMO) the avoidance of any connection between "created" things is irrelevant, and misleading.
Hi Matt13weedhacker,I understand what Kaz is saying, and my personal belief is that Christ and Michael are personally and ontologically identical. However, I'm not convinced that Danielou or Carrell necessarily contradict themselves if they claim that Christ is not ontologically identical to Michael, but functions as the archangel. Does the claim set forth by these scholars cause Michael to become redundant? Right now, I don't see things that way.Now what complicates the matter is that there's no one explanation for the Christ and Michael connection. See Carrell, 132-33 (his thesis) for a list of suggestions. One suggestion has been that Michael is an/the angelomorphic version of Christr (iu.e., the Son of God assumes the form of Michael to interact with humans). That is one way to avoid making the archangel redundant, even if the idea is wrong. Do we not have the malak YHWH functioning as Jehovah (YHWH) in the Tanakh? Yet that does not seem to make Jehovah's activity redundant despite the fact that he apparently works through the angel. Of course, the response might be that the malak YHWH is Jehovah's agent whereas Christ is not the agent of Michael. Maybe that response is a defeater of Danielou/Carrell's position, but they would need to offer a reply to the objection.It's hard to defend a position that is not yours. :)You mentioned the angels belonging to a class of divinity, and I concur. But Tuggy is likely correct that "divinity" can be used in a strong or weak sense. Trinitarians would maintain that their tripersonal deity is divine in a strong sense, but the angels only in a weak sense.Tertullian did not like using "angel" to describe the Son. He explicitly write that Christ is an angel "ex officio" but he's apparently not an angel with respect to his nature. While I agree with your comments about the church fathers in general, there is some debate about whether Tertullian places Christ on the created side of the Creator/creature divide. Here is what I wrote in my book on Tertullian:[Martin] Werner notes that although Tertullian opposed "Angel-Christology" he did not generally dispute the reputed Christological tradition that had obtained two centuries earlier. He contends that Tertullian referred to the creation of the Son in Prov 8:22-25: “Tertullian could even maintain, quite impartially, that there was no essential difference between ‘natum’ and ‘factum’. Thus the creation of Logos-Christ found expression in a twofold manner.” Nicea later rejected such language for the generatio filii and even Tertullian does not explicitly say the Son came forth ex nihilo since he thought of Christ as an extension of divine spiritus.
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