Saturday, April 21, 2018

Another review of Sanders, From Adapa to Enoch

H-JUDAIC BOOK REVIEW:
Seth L. Sanders. From Adapa to Enoch: Scribal Culture and Religious Vision in Judea and Babylon. Texts and Studies in Ancient Judaism Series. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2017. xiv + 280 pp. $194.00 (cloth), ISBN 978-3-16-154456-9.

Reviewed by Uri Gabbay (Hebrew University of Jerusalem)
Published on H-Judaic (April, 2018)
Commissioned by Katja Vehlow (University of South Carolina)

The book under review is an extraordinary example of a multidisciplinary endeavor, combining the fields of Sumerology, Assyriology, biblical studies, Qumran studies, apocalyptic literature, and religious studies. Not many books contain in their bibliography references both to Piotr Steinkeller’s studies on Sumerian literature and history of the third millennium BCE and to Gershom Scholem’s studies of Jewish mysticism, attesting to the wide range of sources handled insightfully and successfully by the author of this book.

[...]
Past reviews etc. of the book are noted here and here and links.

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Ancient Christians read the OT Pseudepigrapha

RICK BRANNAN: What Did Early Christians Read?.
P.Oxy. 63.4365 (transcription, images) is a letter from one woman to another regarding lending books to each other. This letter, albeit short, indicates that both women were Christian and familiar with reading Christian manuscripts.
The letter is one of the papyri recovered from Oxyrhynchus. It dates to the early fourth century. Specifically the two women were lending each other a copy of "the Ezra" (4 Ezra?) for a copy of "the Little Genesis" (Jubilees). How cool is that?

Cross-file under Old Testament Pseudepigrapha Watch. There are many, many past PaleoJudaica posts having to do with the Oxyrhychus papyri, some of which have to do with fragments of Old Testament Pseudepigrapha and New Testament Apocrypha, and of course also of biblical manuscripts and many documentary texts like the one above. Recent posts on the Oxyrhychus papyri are here, here, here, here, here, and here. And follow the links for earlier posts.

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Wuppertal LXX conference 2018

WILLIAM ROSS: THE 7TH INTERNATIONAL SEPTUAGINTA DEUTSCH CONFERENCE (WUPPERTAL). It takes place on 19-22 July 2018. Follow the link for details. Cross-file under Septuagint Watch.

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Proto-Theodotian and the Psalms of Solomon?

THE ETC BLOG: New Light on ‘Proto-Theodotion’ (John Meade). A post on a pre-publication by Jan Joosten which argues, inter alia, against the consensus, that the Psalms of Solomon were composed in Greek, not Hebrew.

In my book The Provenance of the Pseudepigrapha (Brill, 2005, pp. 160-161) I took an agnostic position on whether the book was composed in Hebrew or Greek. It's interesting to see someone making a case foro Greek composition.

Cross-file under Septuagint Watch and Old Testament Pseudepigrapha Watch.

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Friday, April 20, 2018

The Masada siege from the Roman perspective

BIBLE HISTORY DAILY: The Masada Siege. The Roman assault on Herod’s desert fortress (Robin, Ngo).
Archaeological investigations of the Roman siege works at Masada have been much more limited in scope than those conducted on the cliff-top fortress. According to author Gwyn Davies, we must therefore consider both the account given by Josephus and the surviving archaeological evidence in order to reconstruct what happened in the Masada siege.
As usual, the article by Professor Davies, "The Masada Siege—From the Roman Viewpoint," is behind the BAR subscription wall. But this essay will give you a taste of it.

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Menstrual impurity according to P, H, and the sages

PROF. CHARLOTTE E. FONROBERT: Niddah (Menstruation): From Torah to Rabbinic Law (TheTorah.com).
In Leviticus 15, the laws of niddah are about purity; Lev 18 and 20, however, prohibit sex during menstruation. The rabbis, who inherited both of these texts, create a new, hybrid concept: the prohibition of sex while a woman has the status of menstrual impurity.

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IOTS 2018

TARGUM WATCH: Conference Programme: Targum Studies in London, IOTS 2018 (NTCS).
The focus of this meeting will be on two related issues:

The Aramaic dialects within their Late Antique environment
The development of the Targums within their wider interpretative milieu.
The conference takes place on 9-12 July. Follow the link for further particular.

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Michael Stone honored

ARMENIAN WATCH: Professor of Armenian Studies Michael Stone awarded Matenadaran Commemorative Medal.
YEREVAN, APRIL 7, ARMENPRESS. A special event took place on April 7 in Yerevan’s Matenadaran Institute of Ancient Manuscripts on the occasion of the 80th birthday of Michael Stone – Professor Emeritus of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Honorable Doctor of the Armenian National Academy of Sciences.

Matenadaran staff presented the invaluable contribution of Michael Stone in Armenian Studies to the audience of the event.

[...]
Congratulations, and belated happy birthday, to Professor Stone. In his long career he has made great contributions to Armenian studies, ancient Jewish studies, and their areas of intersection.

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Thursday, April 19, 2018

Top finds of Israeli archaeology

HAPPY 70TH INDEPENDENCE DAY TO ISRAEL! ToI asks the experts: What are the most important finds of Israeli archaeology? From Dead Sea Scrolls to space-age tech, the dramatic history of the ever-developing field is indelibly entwined with that of the nation itself (Amanda Borschel-Dan, Times of Israel).
Sukenik retrieved the other scrolls and fragments held by a Bethlehem antiquities dealer. After careful study, he held a press conference to share his initial findings in the Jewish Agency building in the middle of war-torn Jerusalem. A lengthy 1955 New Yorker article paints a picture of daily shelling of New Jerusalem neighborhoods, “between three and five every afternoon” — exactly the time and location of the press event.

“To attend it required some nerve. An American correspondent fainted in the street on the way, and had to be carried in by his colleagues. The reporters were flabbergasted when Sukenik, who seemed quite unperturbed by the flashing and banging about him, announced the discovery of the Dead Sea scrolls,” writes journalist Edmund Wilson.

As Sukenik described his discovery, “a shell burst. The reporters had at first been rather peevish at having been asked to risk their skins for old manuscripts, but they ended by being impressed by the scholar’s overmastering enthusiasm.”
This article is not another top-ten list. It is much more nuanced and sophisticated. You should read it all.

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On Sennacherib's siege of Jerusalem

THE WORLD IS FULL OF HISTORY: How Mice May Have Saved Jerusalem 2,700 Years Ago From the Terrifying Assyrians. The entire region quailed before King Sennacherib, known for horribly torturing rebel monarchs, but he didn't kill King Hezekiah. Inquiring minds have been asking why ever since (Philippe Bohstrom, Haaretz).
At the end of the day, all accounts – the Assyrians, the Bible, and Herodotus, interpreted events. They didn't invent them.

Something unexpected happened to the Assyrian army, which the people of the ancient Near East attributed to divine meddling.

The ancient kings had to keep their subjects and gods happy and propaganda was the most effective way to distort history and cover up failure. Sennacherib's failure to conquer Jerusalem was embarrassing and was over-compensated by grand reliefs on palace walls and extravagant claims of plunder. The fact that one of the main instigators of the Assyrian rebellion, Hezekiah, remained on the throne, albeit denuded of his wealth and women, may say it all.
This is a good article and is well worth reading. It's in their premium section, but you can still read it with a free registration with Haaretz.

As for the siege of Jerusalem, something remarkable happened there. I don't know what. The best story is the one in which the Angel of the Lord struck down the Assyrian army. Do what you will with it.

Past posts on Sennacherib's siege of Jerusalem are here and here and follow the links.

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Ramos, Torah, Temple, and Transaction

ANCIENT JEW REVIEW: Dissertation Spotlight | Alex Ramos.
Ramos, Alex. Torah, Temple, and Transaction: Jewish Religious Institutions and Economic Behavior in Early Roman Galilee. Ph.D. Dissertation, University of Pennsylvania, 2017.

My dissertation examines the regional economy of Galilee in the Early Roman period. It re-evaluates models and assumptions traditionally used to assess economic transactions and socioeconomic conditions in this region and time. Drawing on insights from scholars in Religious Studies who have demonstrated the artificiality of modern distinctions between religious, political, and economic spheres, I consider the ways that political and religious institutions and frameworks could have shaped the boundaries and incentives of economic behavior among Jews in Early Roman Galilee. Most crucially, I examine the vital role that religious rules and norms—namely the Torah commandments that govern cult practice at the Jerusalem Temple, pilgrimage for the festivals, and assorted aspects of agricultural production and consumption—could play in defining the parameters of economic necessities, structuring incentives for economic behavior, and defining a “bounded” economic rationality for Galilean Jews. By highlighting the role of religion in shaping the traditionally compartmentalized sphere of economy, this study indicates the value of integrating analysis of religion and economy not only for Early Roman Galilee, but also for ancient Mediterranean history and for Religious Studies more broadly.

[...]

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John Collins elected to the Academy of Arts and Sciences

KUDOS: Three Yale faculty elected members of American Academy of Arts and Sciences (Yale News). Among the three:
John J. Collins, the Holmes Professor of Old Testament Criticism and Interpretation
Collins has published many books and articles on the subjects of apocalypticism, wisdom, Hellenistic Judaism, and the Dead Sea Scrolls. His class at the Yale Divinity School “What Are Biblical Values?” is a favorite of Divinity Schools students.
Congratulations to Professor Collins and to all of this year's inductees into the Academy.

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Wednesday, April 18, 2018

The Aqedah in a new Coptic magical papyrus

COPTIC WATCH: Ancient Egyptian Incantations Tell of Biblical Human Sacrifice (Owen Jarus, Live Science).
Scientists have deciphered what they describe as a 1,500-year-old 'magical papyrus' that was discovered near the pyramid of the Pharaoh Senwosret I.

The text dates to a time when Christianity was widely practiced in Egypt.The unnamed person(s) who wrote the incantations in Coptic, an Egyptian language that uses the Greek alphabet, invoked God many times.

[...]
The text seems to have an unusual, but not unprecedented, take on the Aqedah:
Several times in the papyrus God is called "the one who presides over the Mountain of the Murderer" a phrase that likely refers to a story in the Book of Genesis in which God told Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac on Mount Moriah, wrote Michael Zellmann-Rohrer, a researcher in the department of classics at Oxford University, who described the magical papyrus in the journal Zeitschrift für Ägyptische Sprache und Altertumskunde.

The Book of Genesis says that God stopped Abraham before he actually sacrificed his son. However in this papyrus the story is described in such a way that it sounds as if the sacrifice wasn't stopped wrote Zellmann-Rohrer noting that other texts from the ancient world also claim that the sacrifice was completed. "The tradition of a literal sacrifice seems in fact to have been rather widespread," Zellmann-Rohrer wrote.
For more on the tradition that Isaac was actually sacrificed, notably covered in Shalom Spiegel's book The Last Trial, see here and here.

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Monetizing King Hezekiah's Book of Healings

OLD TESTAMENT PSEUDEPIGRAPHA WATCH: Ancient Hebrew Medicine of Judean Desert Heals Body, Soul (Maayan Hoffman, Breaking Israel News).
Ancient Hebrew medicine was practiced in the Land of Israel at least until the second century BCE, explained Amir Kitron, a Doctor of Chemistry who has learned to combine the herbs of the Judean Desert to create natural and effective skin care products.

Kitron said ancient Hebrew medicine involved combining powerful herbs into creams, oils and ointments for topical use and healing.

“In the Bible, you see many things being topically applied,” said Kitron, who company, Herbs of Kedem leverages such techniques. “The Tanakh is our inspiration.”
What, you ask, has this to do with the Old Testament Pseudepigrapha? Read on:
Jewish tradition teaches about a “Book of Remedies, which contained the accumulated healing wisdom of the Jewish People. King Hezekiah hid this book because the cures were too effective. The medieval commentator Rashi explains that when a person became sick, he would follow what was written in the book and be healed, and as a result people’s hearts were not humbled before Heaven because of illness.
According to the Mishnah (Pesahim 4:10), King Hezekiah suppressed this book. I have mentioned it before here and here. I doubt that story, but it may have served as an catchy back-narrative for an actual book of remedies circulating in the time of the Mishnah.

This is not an endorsement of the modern remedies discussed in this article. Their merit is for you to decide. You should not look for medical advice from philologists.

Cross-file under Lost Books.

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J. Harold Ellens (1932-2018)

SAD NEWS: I received word earlier this week that Dr. J. Harold Ellens passed away on 14 April. Hal had a lifelong career as a practicing psychotherapist. He also maintained an active involvement in theology and biblical studies. In 2009, he completed a PhD in Second Temple Judaism with Gabriele Boccaccini at the University of Michigan. He was a charter member of the Enoch Seminar and he contributed much to the field. He will be missed by many. His Wikipedia entry is here and his personal website is here.

Resquiescat in pace.

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Free articles from Dead Sea Discoveries (2)

FOR YOU, SPECIAL DEAL (CONT'D): Free articles from Dead Sea Discoveries
To celebrate the 25th Volume of Dead Sea Discoveries, 25 articles from the past 25 Volumes will be available for free downloading during 2018.
The following 5 articles are now freely accessible until 15 June:
This is the second round of celebratory free articles. The first round (which is no longer available) was noted here. The current listing of free articles is as follows:
• Residential Caves At Qumran, Magen Broshi and Hanan Eshel
(Volume 6, Number 3)
• Angels at Sinai: Exegesis, Theology and Interpretive Authority,
Hindy Najman (Volume 7, Number 3)
• Pliny on Essenes, Pliny on Jews, Robert A. Kraft
(Volume 8, Number 3)
• Scholars, Soldiers, Craftsmen, Elites?: Analysis of French Collection of Human Remains from Qumran, Susan Guise Sheridan (Volume 9, Number 2)
• From Literature to Scripture: Reflections on the Growth of a Text's Authoritativeness, Eugene Ulrich (Volume 10, Number 1)
Follow the first link above to access them.

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Tuesday, April 17, 2018

The Talmud on social hierarchy

THIS WEEK'S DAF YOMI COLUMN BY ADAM KIRSCH IN TABLET: When a King Sins. In this week’s ‘Daf Yomi’ Talmud study, the surprising origins of power’s responsibility to the governed. Plus: How the Kingdom of Judea became the Religion of Judaism.
The Talmud was the product of a Jewish society strongly concerned with hierarchy and deference. That has been clear in many ways throughout the Daf Yomi cycle, but never more so than last week, when we finished the brief Tractate Horayot. Horayot means “decisions,” and the tractate begins by discussing how a court can atone for making an incorrect ruling. In its last pages, however, the tractate turns to the subject of protocol: in Jewish society, who outranks whom? And what happens when Sages, who are notoriously proud and touchy, get into a contest over who is the most learned? At the same time, as often happens, the end of the tractate serves as a kind of grab-bag of moral sayings and aggadah on various subjects.

[...]
Earlier Daf Yomi columns are noted here and links.

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Probation, not jail, for Golb

THE RAPHAEL GOLB CASE: Case of Dead Sea Scrolls, online aliases ends with probation (AP). In the end, Mr. Golb was sentenced to three years of probation (already served) rather than two months in jail.

Background on this long, strange, sad case is here with many links.

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Excavating the United Monarchy by naked mole rat?

ARCHAEOLOGY: Did King David's United Monarchy Exist? Naked Mole Rats Uncover Monumental Evidence Surveying by mole rat burrowing in studying Tel ‘Eton in the Hebron hills, sways the debate toward the existence of a major United Monarchy in the Davidic and Solomonic eras, archaeologist claims (Nir Hasson, Haaretz).
Did King David even exist, let alone his fabled son, the wise King Solomon? And if they existed, did they rule over a powerful, united Jewish kingdom with its capital in Jerusalem? The truth is that to this day, no categorical proof of either the kings or the great kingdom has ever been found, leaving aside one suggestive engraving that some believe says "House of David". Also, the interpretation of archaeological findings from their purported era, the 10th century B.C.E. has been controversial, to put it politely.

Now the discovery of a second monumental building confidently dated to the Davidic period has been announced, in a Canaanite town that apparently had allied with a powerful Judahite kingdom. The discovery was made with the help of naked mole rats, little burrowing rodents endemic to the region.

Skeptics claim that no fortifications, public works or signs of statehood have been found in the region of Judah from the Davidic era. Now, claim Bar-Ilan University archaeologists excavating a monumental structure at Tel ‘Eton, near the Hebron hills in the central Israeli lowlands – they have.

They believe that structures dated to later times, may have actually originated earlier. The Bar-Ilan team argues that they found evidence of that very thing, with the help of a system they developed – mapping by mole rat.

[...]
The naked mole rats dig their deep burrows and archaeologists sift the resulting dirt mounds.

Faunal-assisted archaeology seems to be a thing nowadays. We have also recently seen excavation by porcupine and important archaeological inferences from gerbil bones and pigeon poop.

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Finds on the Sanhedrin Trail

ARCHAEOLOGY: New Interactive ‘Sanhedrin Trail’ Yields Ancient Oil Lamp Adorned with Menorah (JNi.Media).
Students who participated in preparing a new archaeological hiking trail discovered a 1,400-year-old oil lamp bearing the symbol of a menorah. The discovery was just one of many side-benefits of the unique interactive trail that thousands of young people have been preparing and excavating.

The Sanhedrin Trail—offered by the Israel Antiquities Authority on the occasion of Israel’s 70th Independence Day—will be accompanied by a unique web application that will serve as a readily accessible “independent guide” in the spectacular landscapes of the Galilee, and will offer a different sort of hiking experience.

[...]
The finds also include a gold coin of Suleiman the Magnificent.

Background on the Sanhedrin Trail is here.

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Monday, April 16, 2018

Was Pharaoh's heart hardened?

PHILOLOGOS: Has the English Translation of "Pharaoh's Heart Was Hardened" Been Wrong All Along? Figuring out the right way to characterize Pharaoh’s heart (Mosaic Magazine). Philologos explores an interesting suggestion that I don't recall seeing before. Published during Passover, but I only just found it.

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Final (?) appeal on the Golb-DSS impersonation case

THE RAPHAEL GOLB CASE: Strange case of online impersonation in Dead Sea Scrolls feud set to end. Ten years ago, Raphael Golb created fake online accounts to go after the detractors of his scholar father; courts have spent the years since trying to figure out what he did wrong (AP). The court is supposed to decide the latest on this case today. That's supposed to end it. We'll see.

Background on this strange, sad case is here and many links.

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Research positions on Coptic magic at Würzburg

NETWORK FOR THE STUDY OF ESOTERICISM IN ANTIQUITY: TWO POSITIONS IN COPTIC MAGIC AT WÜRZBURG.
These positions will be part of a new in-depth project studying “magical” texts from Late Antique and early Islamic Egypt written in Coptic, and will involve the creation of a database of published and unpublished texts, the edition and re-edition of original manuscripts, and the production of research situating them within their historical, social and intellectual context. The appointed applicants will work with the team co-ordinator (Dr. Korshi Dosoo).
Follow the link for details and application information. The deadline is 31 May 2018. Cross-file under Coptic Watch.

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Materializing Ancient Judaism

BELATEDLY: UM Frankel Center Event: Materializing Ancient Judaism Symposium. This conference took place on 9-10 April at the University of Michigan. You can see the program of papers here.

I thought I posted a notice of it some time ago, but it appears that I did not. So you have it now. I trust it went well and that we can look forward to a publication in due course.

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Sunday, April 15, 2018

Schiffman on Shusan

PROFESSOR LAWRENCE H. SCHIFFMAN: SEEKING SHUSHAN. This post has a reprint of his recent article in Ami Magazine. The Persian city of Shushan (Susa) is the scene of a number of events in Second Temple Jewish biblical literature.

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Dever on the Biblical minimalism-maximalism debate

BIBLE HISTORY DAILY: Biblical Minimalism and Maximalism in Scholarship. The legacy of BAR’s founding editor, Hershel Shanks.
In his latest BAR article, [archaeologist William] Dever took on the task of summarizing the Biblical minimalism-maximalism debate, which originated in Europe in the early 1990s. One more time, Dever introduces the general public to the crucial arguments about what Biblical scholars or archaeologists would consider a fact or a construct; what may have been an early historical reality or later myth; how the so-called low chronology (now mostly abandoned) moved all the archaeological evidence from the tenth to the ninth century B.C.E. stripping thus the figures of Saul, David, and Solomon of any historicity. Dever even hints that archaeological digs at Khirbet Qeiyafa and Tel Rehov have since provided a solid evidence for advanced culture and centralized government as early as the tenth century, the time of the Biblical King David.
As usual, the full article, "For King and Country: Chronology and Minimalism," is behind the subscription wall. But this essay gives you a taste of it and some related links.

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Luke-Acts and the Great Isaiah Scroll

THE BIBLE PLACES BLOG: Luke & Acts (9): Book of Isaiah (Michael J. Caba). The connection is tenuous, but this post includes some good links on 1QIsaa.

Past PaleoJudaica posts involving the Great Isaiah Scroll are here, here, and here and links.

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More from Hicks-Keaton on Joseph and Aseneth

NEW ARTICLE IN THE JOURNAL FOR THE STUDY OF JUDAISM: Jill Hicks-Keaton, Aseneth between Judaism and Christianity: Reframing the Debate. (JSJ 49 [2018]: 1-34).
Abstract
The question of whether Joseph and Aseneth is “Jewish or Christian?” is the central frame in which the provenance of this tale has traditionally been sought. Yet, such a formulation assumes that “Judaism” and “Christianity” were distinct entities without overlap, when it is now widely acknowledged that they were not easily separable in antiquity for quite some time. I suggest that the question of whether Joseph and Aseneth is Jewish or gentile is more profitable for contextualizing Aseneth’s tale. This article offers fresh evidence for historicizing its origins in Judaism of Greco-Roman Egypt. Placing the narrative’s concerns for boundary-regulation alongside the discursive projects of other ancient writers (both Jewish and gentile Christian) who engaged the story of Joseph suggests that the author of Joseph and Aseneth was likely a participant in a Hellenistic Jewish interpretive tradition in Egypt that used Joseph’s tale as a platform for marking and maintaining boundaries.
This article is an adaptation of the first chapter of her new monograph, Arguing with Aseneth, which I noted here. The article is probably behind a subscription wall. I have access to it through my institution.

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