The Evangelical Universalist Forum

Doesn't the lack of Universalism before Origen bother you?

Yay Sven - that’s a very interesting piece of evidence indeed :smiley: Regarding Ramelli, you can find an article by her for free on the texts that influenced Origen at … rigin.html

"]It emerges from this investigation that the conception of apokatastasis had a variegated background and certainly did not emerge with Origen all at once. It was present toward the end of the second century and at the beginning of the third in different Christian philosophical environments such as those of Alexandria (Didaskaleion) and Caesarea (school and library of Origen), and that of Edessa (Bardaisan and his school). All these connections, which shed new light on the origin of the doctrine of universal salvation, seem to me worthy of reflection and close analysis. Origen is usually seen as the initiator of this theory, and indeed he was the first Christian philosopher who expressed it in a complete and fully coherent form, making it the essence of his theoretical system. But as Clement and, even more, Bardaisan suggest, Origen’s insight did not emerge in a vacuum.I’m starting to think Schaff might’ve been right… :smiley:

I agree with Jason that the church fathers’ teachings are a distant second in importance to what scripture teaches. And I agree with Cindy that most or all of the apostles themselves were universalists.

I would like to add that Clement of Alexandria, Origen’s teacher, and renowned theologian and philosopher in his own right, was almost certainly a universalist as well:

“We can set no limits to the agency of the Redeemer to redeem, to rescue, to discipline in his work, and so will he continue to operate after this life.” --Clement of Alexandria (190 A.D.)

“All men are Christ’s, some by knowing Him, the rest not yet. He is the Savior, not of some and the rest not. For how is He Savior and Lord, if not the Savior and Lord of all?” --Clement of Alexandria (190 A.D.)

So this gets us a generation closer to the apostles.

I also recall Hanson claiming that there was a “dark” 80 year period (possibly around 100-180 A.D.), in which relatively few of the church fathers’ writings on any topic have survived. So this would go far in explaining the second century gap.

Imo that proves Clement was also an universalist. Obviously an UR teacher doesn’t become head of an ET school.

[url]This very interesting book shows UR traces back a long time.
A summary can be found here but I would suggest reading the whole book!

I think this quote from the above mentioned book clearly show the URs wern’t some fring group.

Hi Everyone -
The thing about Hanson as a source is that his ‘Prevailing Doctrine’ is a great work and well worth a read. He and Ballou were trailblazers in writing the history of universalism -and I’d broadly agree with the scope of Hanson’s narrative argument. However, his work is dated – he is not the final word on the early history of Universalism and lots of new evidence has come to light since the end of the nineteenth century. So a lot of his observations are dated, because more evidence has come to light.

From my limited knowledge I can see three assertions in the book summary that I’d question (small points perhaps, but worth pointing out):

Hanson states that Valentinius and other Gnostic sects taught universal salvation. Hanson only had the writings of the Church Fathers against the Gnostics to go on, and it’s interesting that some of the Church Fathers should have said that the Gnostics taught universal salvation. However, since the Nag Hammadi finds in the twentieth century we know a lot more about Gnosticism than Hanson did. Valentinius and other Gnostics teachers were not Universalists. Rather they taught there were three kinds of people, the spiritual, psychical, and material; and that only those of a spiritual nature (their own followers) received the gnosis (knowledge) that allowed them to return to the divine fullness, while those of a psychic nature (ordinary Christians) would attain a lesser form of salvation, and that those of a material nature (pagans and Jews – and indeed the majority of mankind) were doomed to perish.

Hanson cites Josephus as a reliable source concerning the beliefs of the Pharisees – but contemporary scholars treat Josephus assertions about the beliefs of Jewish sects with caution. For noel thing Josephus wrote predominantly for a pagan audience and often speaks in terms of inexact analogies regarding Jewish beliefs.

Regarding the missing ‘dark’ 80 years of evidence from Christian Universalism from the time of the Apostles – well it looks like Professor Ramelli is going to demonstrate that emergent universalism predates Origen and even Clement. Ramelli’s book will be a real boon for universalism because she is going to provide historical evidence and analysis of the highest qualities to update and correct the work of forerunners such as Hanson.
So yes, I think Hanson is a good read – but there is more to be said.


A note on Hanson’s contention that universalism was the prevailing doctrine of the Early church. This is strongly disputed in the All Shall Be Well volume of essays edited by Robin Parry, published in 2011.

Robin Parry argues in Introduction pp. 10 -12.

Steven Harmon confirms Parry’s view in his chapter on Gregory of Nyssa (pp 61-62);

It seems to me that their arguments are judicious and appropriately non-sectarian. Hanson did go too far – but then he was banging the drum for a separate Universalist Church whereas Parry and Harmon have a more irenic/no-sectarian/ecumenical outlook.

However, it seems that Ramelli’s study will show that evidence for universalism in the early Church is perhaps rather stronger than Parry and Harmon were aware of in 2011.

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When I think on this I recall that history is written by the “winners”. The RCC being the “winners”, the part of the early church that grew the fastest and covered the most territory, would naturally preserve and promote the writings of those in whom steps they affirmed, followed, and built upon. The Messianic Church virtually disappeared due to the Roman oppression of Jews and the Jews’ propensity to continue to rebel. And the Greek church did not have the backing that the Roman church did. So to me it’s amazing that any records exist that show anyone in the early church that affirms UR considering the Roman church tended to be infernalists and anti-UR. Just thinking.

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I think you are absolutely right Sherman – the winners do write history and it’s amazing that so much has survived of early UR texts. The Second Book of the Sibylline Oracles –a very early Christian text written sometime in the second half of the second century (edit) - speaks of God responding to the prayers of the pious and eventually restoring the wicked from aeonian torment (I guess it ranks as one of the earliest texts hinting at UR):

But in some manuscripts a later addition headed, “Contradiction of the ‘To the pious will the Almighty,’” is inserted which says:

:open_mouth: :frowning:


What evidence is there that that fragment belongs to Clement of Alexandria? This researcher thinks there may have been a mix-up “as this is actually related to pseudo-Clement (of Rome!), Homily11.11”:αἰώνιος_aiōnios_in_jewish_and_christian/

The Catholic Encyclopedia considers Clement of Alexandria a universalist:

“CLEMENT OF ALEXANDRIA (150-220 A.D.) likewise has sounded these words: “The Lord, [says John in his First Epistle,] is a propitiation, ‘not for our sins only,’ that is, of the faithful, ‘but also for the whole world.’ Therefore He indeed saves all universally; but some as converted by punishments, others by voluntary submission, thus obtaining the honour and dignity, that ‘to Him every knee shall bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth,’ that is [to say,] angels, and men, and souls who departed this life before His coming into the world.” The Fate of the Lost — A Fourth View?

Compare a similar quote at this url:

: The Sacred Writings of Clement of Alexandria By Clement of Alexandria:,+indeed,+saves+all;+but+some+He+saves,+converting+them+by+punishments&source=bl&ots=RfOjZ-0MTd&sig=E_84Rp91s2HaPQYV2rZZ0gsorOM&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwjjrPnIzJvdAhVIFjQIHdIqAe8Q6AEwBnoECAQQAQ#v=onepage&q=He%2C%20indeed%2C%20saves%20all%3B%20but%20some%20He%20saves%2C%20converting%20them%20by%20punishments&f=false

More English translations allegedly quoting Clement of Alexandria:

"God does not take vengeance, which is the requital of evil for evil, but chastises for the benefit of the chastised (Stromata 7.16)

"To Him is placed in subjection all the host of angels and gods; He, the paternal Word, exhibiting a the holy administration for Him who put [all] in subjection to Him.

"Wherefore also all men are His; some through knowledge, and others not yet so; and some as friends, some as faithful servants, some as servants merely. …

"And how is He Saviour and Lord, if not the Saviour and Lord of all? But He is the Saviour of those who have believed, because of their wishing to know; and the Lord of those who have not believed, till, being enabled to confess him, they obtain the peculiar and appropriate boon which comes by Him. (Stromata 7.2)

“For all things are ordered both universally and in particular by the Lord of the universe, with a view to the salvation of the universe. But needful corrections, by the goodness of the great, overseeing judge, through the attendant angels, through various prior judgments, through the final judgment, compel even those who have become more callous to repent.”

“So he saves all; but some he converts by penalties, others who follow him of their own will, and in accordance with the worthiness of his honor, that every knee may be bent to him of celestial, terrestrial and infernal things (Phil. 2:10), that is angels, men, and souls who before his advent migrated from this mortal life.”

“For there are partial corrections (padeiai) which are called chastisements (kolasis), which many of us who have been in transgression incur by falling away from the Lord’s people. But as children are chastised by their teacher, or their father, so are we by Providence. But God does not punish (timoria) for punishment (timoria) is retaliation for evil. He chastises, however, for good to those who are chastised collectively and individually.” (Strom, VII, ii; Pedag. I, 8; on I John ii, 2)

”He is in no respect whatever the ’cause of evil. For all things are arranged with a view to the salvation of the universe by the Lord of the universe, both generally and particularly. It is then the function of the righteousness of salvation to improve everything as far as practicable. For even minor matters are arranged with a view to the salvation of that which is better, and for an abode suitable for people’s character. Now everything that is virtuous changes for the better; having as the proper cause of change the free choice of knowledge, which the soul has in its own power. But necessary corrections, through the goodness of the great overseeing Judge, both by the attendant angels, and by various acts of anticipative judgment, and by the perfect judgment, compel egregious sinners to repent.” (Str. VII 12.2-5)

“To Him is placed in subjection all the host of angels and gods; He, the paternal Word, exhibiting a the holy administration for Him who put [all] in subjection to Him. Wherefore also all men are His; some through knowledge, and others not yet so; and some as friends, some as faithful servants, some as servants merely.” (Str. VII)

“either the Lord does not care for all men; and this is the case either because He is unable (which is not to be thought, for it would be a proof of weakness), or because He is unwilling, which is not the attribute of a good being. And He who for our sakes assumed flesh capable of suffering, is far from being luxuriously indolent. Or He does care for all, which is befitting for Him who has become Lord of all. For He is Saviour; not [the Saviour] of some, and of others not. But in proportion to the adaptation possessed by each, He has dispensed His beneficence both to Greeks and Barbarians, even to those of them that were predestinated, and in due time called, the faithful and elect. Nor can He who called all equally, and assigned special honours to those who have believed in a specially excellent way, ever envy any. Nor can He who is the Lord of all, and serves above all the will of the good and almighty Father, ever be hindered by another. But neither does envy touch the Lord, who without beginning was impassible; nor are the things of men such as to be envied by the Lord. But it is another, he whom passion hath touched, who envies. And it cannot be said that it is from ignorance that the Lord is not willing to save humanity, because He knows not how each one is to be cared for. For ignorance applies not to the God who, before the foundation of the world, was the counsellor of the Father. For He was the Wisdom “in which” the Sovereign God “delighted.” For the Son is the power of God, as being the Father’s most ancient Word before the production of all things, and His Wisdom. He is then properly called the Teacher of the beings formed by Him. Nor does He ever abandon care for men, by being drawn aside from pleasure, who, having assumed flesh, which by nature is susceptible of suffering, trained it to the condition of impassibility. And how is He Saviour and Lord, if not the Saviour and Lord of all?” (Str. VII)

”God’s punishments are saving and disciplinary, leading to conversion, and choosing rather the repentance than the death of a sinner” (Str. VI)

“But punishment does not avail to him who has sinned, to undo his sin, but that he may sin no more, and that no one else fall into the like. Therefore the good God corrects for these three causes: First, that he who is corrected may become better than his former self; then that those who are capable of being saved by examples may be driven back, being admonished; and thirdly, that he who is injured may not be readily despised, and be apt to receive injury. And there are two methods of correction—the instructive and the punitive, which we have called the disciplinary. It ought to be known, then, that those who fall into sin after baptism are those who are subjected to discipline; for the deeds done before are remitted, and those done after are purged.” (Str. IV)

What writers are we talking about here? Those of the Scriptures, the early church fathers, unknown authors, the Sibylline Oracles, etc?

Could Clement of Rome (d. 99/100 AD) have been a persuaded or hopeful universalist? One source alleges that he “is considered to be the first Apostolic Father of the Church…Clement’s only genuine extant writing is his letter to the church at Corinth (1 Clement)…” I’ve seen nothing in it that opposes biblical universalism.

Another very early writing (70-135 AD) is The Epistle of Barnabas. Could the author(s) of this work have been a persuaded universalist? Lightfoot’s translation has it saying: “…when iniquity is no more and all things have been made new by the Lord…” (15:7). Similarly, Lake’s translation is “when there is no more sin”. OTOH, Roberts’ translation has “wickedness” instead of “iniquity” or “sin”: “wickedness no longer existing” (15:7). And God “giving rest to all things” (15:8) in the context of the Sabbath rest. The version in the “Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume 1” has “wickedness” & notes that “Cod. Sin.” renders it “iniquity” (p.128, ed. Philip Schaff, etc). It doesn’t say sinners or the wicked will cease to exist, but sin or wickedness will cease to be.

"McC’s statement, “there are no unambiguous cases of universalist teaching prior to Origen” (p. 823), should also be at least nuanced, in light of Bardaisan, Clement, the Apocalypse of Peter’s Rainer Fragment, parts of the Sibylline Oracles, and arguably of the NT, especially Paul’s letters.

Ilaria Ramelli, The Christian Doctrine of Apokatastasis: A Critical Assessment from the New Testament to Eriugena (Brill, 2013. 890 pp.)

Scholars directory, with list of publications:

The OP’s premise is flawed not only by overlooking the universalism in the Gospels, Paul, Peter, and the Book of Revelation, but also by its failure to take into account the implicit universalism in the next 2 apocalypses after Revelation–the Apocalypse of Peter 14 (125 AD) and Sibylline Oracles II:333ff. (c; 150 AD).

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The Apocalypse of Peter - and other early writings - is discussed in this post & thread:

“Understanding the role of the “Harrowing of Hell” has been expanded by recent archeological findings and modern Biblical scholarship. Among the discoveries over the past 100 years is the Apocalypse of Peter, written about 135 C.E. (not to be confused with the Gnostic Apocalypse of Peter discovered at Nag Hammadi in 1947). For a time, it was considered for inclusion into the New Testament instead of the Revelation to John. It is referred to in the Muratorian Canon of the early Church, as well as in the writings of St. Clement of Alexandria. (It should be noted that the Universalist passage from the Apocalypse of Peter is found in the Ethiopian text but is not part of the fragment text found at Akhmim, Egypt.) In the Ethiopic copy, Peter asks Jesus to have pity on the people in Hell, and Jesus says they will eventually all be saved. Later, Peter (who is writing to Clement) says to keep that knowledge a secret so that foolish men may not see it. This same theme is repeated in the Second Book of the Sibyline Oracles in which the saved behold the sinners in Hell and ask that mercy be shown them. Here, the sinners are saved by the prayers of the righteous.”

“Another 2nd Century work, The Epistle to the Apostles, also states that our prayers for the dead can affect their forgiveness by God. The 2nd Century Odes of Solomon, which was discovered in the early 20th Century, was for a time considered to be Jewish, then Gnostic, and more recently, early Christian. Its theme is that Jesus saves the dead when they come to him in Hell and cry out, “Son of God, have pity on us!” In the 4th/6th Century Syriac Book of the Cave of Treasures, Jesus “preached the resurrection to those who were lying in the dust” and “pardoned those who had sinned against the Law.” In the Gospel of Nicodemus (a.k.a. Acts of Pilate), a 4th /5th Century apocryphal gospel, Jesus saves everyone in the Greek version but rescues only the righteous pre-Christians in the Latin translation. In What is Gnosticism?, Karen King identifies the Nag Hammadi Gospel of Truth as teaching Universal Salvation; she states that The Apocryphon of John (a.k.a. The Secret Book of John) declares all will be saved except apostates. In the Coptic Book of the Resurrection, all but Satan and his ministers are pardoned.”

Well… the apostle Peter was certainly before Origen!

I consider the following to be the best text in the Bible concerning the correction of the unrighteous after they are judged!

The Lord knows how to deliver the devout out of trial but to reserve the unrighteous for a day of judgment, to be corrected. (2 Peter 2:9)

Here is an interlinear for your consideration:

οιδεν—κυριος— ευσεβεις εκ πειρασμου ρυεσθαι— αδικους

knows the Lord- devout—out of trial—— to deliver-unrighteous

δε -εις —ημεραν κρισεως—— κολαζομενους τηρειν

but into a day—- of judgment to be corrected to keep (2 Peter 2:9)

The whole strength of this argument lies in the translation of the lexical form of κολαζομενους, that is, “κολαζω” as “to correct”. I realize that some may object to this translation, but the Online Bible Greek Lexicon gives the primary meanings of “κολαζω”as:

  1. to lop or prune, to chastise, correct, punish

Abbott-Smith’s A Manual Greek Lexicon of the New Testament gives the meanings:

  1. to curtail, dock, prune to check, restrain to chastise, correct, punish

Originally, the word was used to reference to the pruning of trees, shrubs, or vines with a view to correcting their growth by shaping them. Later it was used figuratively with reference to the correction of people, e.g. Children. To translate the word as “punish” is correct as long as it is understood to be reformative rather than retributive. In English, “punish” may have either connotation, although it is more often taken in the latter sense, or in the sense of administering a penalty.

In Greek, the word “τιμωρεω” has the meaning “to punish” in the penal sense and the retributive sense. Indeed, every lexicon I have checked gives the primary meaning as “to adminster a penalty” or “to avenge”. Strongs indicates that the word was derived from the two words “τιμη” (honour) and “οὐρος”(guard). Put them together, and you have the concept of a person guarding his honour through penalty or vengeance. In recording Paul’s own words concerning his treatment of disciples of Christ prior to Paul’s becoming a disciple himself, Luke wrote:

Acts 22:5 "as also the high priest bears me witness, and all the council of the elders, from whom I also received letters to the brethren, and went to Damascus to bring in chains even those who were there to Jerusalem to be punished (τιμωρεω) .

Acts 26:11 "and I punished (τιμωρεω) them often in every synagogue and compelled them to blaspheme; and being exceedingly enraged against them, I persecuted them even to foreign cities.

One of the best ways to get a sense of how a Greek word is used is to note how it is used in literature. The word is used in 4 Macabees 2:12 to indicate correction of children. No good parent punishes his children out of vengeance, but corrects them out of love.

4 Macabees is thought to have been written sometime between 100 B.C. to 100 A.D., that is, in the period in which the New Testament was written. It seems the author had been strongly moved by his reading of the deeds of Antiochus Ephiphanes against the Jews in 1 and 2 Macabees. So much of his “philosophical” thought and “devout reason” centers around the history he read there. In the following sentence he uses both “τιμωρεω” and “ κολαζω“ in a single sentence!

The tyrant Antiochus was both punished (τιμωρεω) on earth and is being corrected (κολαζω) after his death. (4 Maccabees 18:5)

The Judaistic belief at the time was that people’s souls survive death. So the sentence seems to say that while Antochus’s enemies got their revenge on him and his armies here on earth, God began to correct his soul after death. The author apparently held that post-mortem punishment was remedial. Otherwise he would not have chosen the word “κολαζω” but would have maintained the word “τιμωρεω” for his punishment after death, too.

Here is an example from the Septuagint translation of Ezekiel 43:10-11:

And you, son of man, show to the household of Israel, the house, and show its appearance and its arrangement,that they may cease from their sins. And they shall receive their κολασις concerning all their doings, and you shall describe the house, and its entrances and its foundation, and all its systems, and you shall make known to them all it regulations and describe them in their presence, and they shall guard all my righteous ordinances and all my commands and do them. (Ezekiel 43:10-11)

In this passage, God states His purpose in asking Ezekiel to show the house to Israel, namely that they may cease from their sins. He immediately follows this with “And they shall receive their κολασις concerning all their doings.” If God wants them to cease from their sins, and then gives them κολασις, is He penalizing them or punishing them retributively, or is He correcting them? The answer seems plain. Furthermore the conclusion of the matter is that the Israelites “will guard all my righteous ordinances and all my commands and do them.”

Surely this is reformation, and not mere penalty or revenge for their wrongdoing in the past.

Here is the Concordant translation of the verse in question:

The Lord is acquainted with the rescue of the devout out of trial, yet is keeping the unjust for chastening in the day of judging.

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Since “punishment” has two different connotations in modern English, the meaning of the word is broaden enough to cover all possible interpretations of a Biblical passage.

  1. (a) revenge (b) penalty
  2. (a) correction (b) amelioration

Clement of Rome (d. 99 AD)

1 Clem 7:4 Let us fix our eyes on the blood of Christ and understand how precious it is unto His Father, because being shed for our salvation it won for the whole world the grace of repentance.

1 Clem 19:2b and let us look steadfastly unto the Father and Maker of the whole world, and cleave unto His splendid and excellent gifts of peace and benefits.

1 Clem 19:3 Let us behold Him in our mind, and let us look with the eyes of our soul unto His long-suffering will. Let us note how free from anger He is towards all His creatures.

1 Clem 27:2 He that commanded not to lie, much more shall He Himself not lie: for nothing is impossible with God save to lie.

1 Clem 29:3 And in another place He saith, Behold, the Lord taketh for Himself a nation out of the midst of the nations, as a man taketh the first fruits of his threshing floor; and the holy of holies shall come forth from that nation.

1 Clem 36:4 but of His Son the Master said thus, Thou art My Son, I this day have begotten thee. Ask of Me, and I will give Thee the Gentiles for Thine inheritance, and the ends of the earth for Thy possession.

1 Clem 52:1 The Master, brethren, hath need of nothing at all. He desireth not anything of any man, save to confess unto Him.

1 Clem 53:4 And Moses said; Nay, not so, Lord Forgive this people their sin, or blot me also out of the book of the living.

1 Clem 53:5 O mighty love! O unsurpassable perfection! The servant is bold with his Master; he asketh forgiveness for the multitude, or he demandeth that himself also be blotted out with them.

1 Clem 54:1 Who therefore is noble among you? Who is compassionate? Who is fulfilled with love?

1 Clem 56:1 Therefore let us also make intercession for them that are in any transgression, that forbearance and humility may be given them, to the end that they may yield not unto us, but unto the will of God. For so shall the compassionate remembrance of them with God and the saints be fruitful unto them, and perfect.

1 Clem 59:4 We beseech Thee, Lord and Master, to be our help and succor. Save those among us who are in tribulation; have mercy on the lowly; lift up the fallen; show Thyself unto the needy; heal the ungodly; convert the wanderers of Thy people; feed the hungry; release our prisoners; raise up the weak; comfort the fainthearted. Let all the Gentiles know that Thou art the God alone, and Jesus Christ is Thy Son, and we are Thy people and the sheep of Thy pasture.

Bardaisan of Edessa (154–222 AD)

“But whenever God likes, everything can be, with no obstacle at all. In fact, there is nothing that can impede that great and holy will. For, even those who are convinced to resist God, do not resist by their force, but they are in evil and error, and this can be only for a short time, because God is kind and gentle, and allows all natures to remain in the state in which they are, and to govern themselves by their own will, but at the same time they are conditioned by the things that are done and the plans that have been conceived [sc. by God] in order to help them. For this order and this government that have been given [sc. by God], and the association of one with another, damps the natures’ force, so that they cannot be either completely harmful or completely harmed, as they were harmful and harmed before the creation of the world. And there will come a time when even this capacity for harm that remains in them will be brought to an end by the instruction that will obtain in a different arrangement of things: and, once that new world will be constituted, all evil movements will cease, all rebellions will come to an end, and the fools will be persuaded, and the lacks will be filled, and there will be safety and peace, as a gift of the Lord of all natures.” (Laws of Countries, 608–611 Nau)

No one said they are. Though i did remark earlier in this thread:

Allin opines “…not a line can be quoted from him in favour of the traditional creed. This, though important, is negative evidence only, but there is a passage in Rufinus (Apol. c. Hier., book 1, prop. fin.) from which we may, i think, infer, that Clement, with other Fathers, was a believer in the larger hope” ( “Christ Triumphant…” by Thomas Allin, Annotated Edition, 2015, ed. Robin Parry, p.108).

Ideas move. either by conviction or by force. There wasnt much e.t. (from what i know) before augustine using violence to enforce it as orthodoxy. Im personally not much for the traditions of men. I look into scripture, inspired by the spirit and approved by God to stand the test of time (minus a few terrible translations).

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