How Shall He Take Care of the Church of God?

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Parakaleo

Puritan Board Sophomore
Brethren, if a man does not know how to rule his own household (wife, children, dependents, etc.) Paul asks the question, "How shall he care for the church of God?" 1 Timothy 3:5.

This question is on the same plane as others would be for other qualifications. Would you approve setting apart a man to eldership in the church if he does not know how to rule his own spirit (i.e. not sober/grave)? What if he does not know how to communicate basic truths from Scripture to others (i.e. not apt to teach)? Sure, he may know more about these things five, ten, twenty years from now, but without demonstrating fundamental knowledge of these things, he must not be set apart.

When a man who has never been married nor had children is set apart or even placed under care as a student for the ministry, I have to wonder what is going on.

Does the presbytery think the question Paul asked, doesn't really need to be asked? Is the thought process something like, "If he had a wife and children, we would want him to demonstrate faithful leadership in his household, but since he doesn't, we can proceed past these qualifications,"?

Does the presbytery think academic knowledge of leading a wife and family can suffice? Paul's question specifically calls into consideration the man's own household. Does the presbytery think that's too restrictive?

My guess is many men reason that, if Paul could minister as an apostle in the church without currently having a wife, whatever rule he's giving here about a man's wife and family can't be all that ironclad. Yet, if this is truly the case, if Paul is really giving this particular set of qualifications along with an unspoken but safe-to-assume "if he hath a wife and children", why draw attention to the importance of this set of qualifications with his question? Why put it in such unyielding terms?
 
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MChase

Puritan Board Freshman
It is not the assumption that a 'mere academic knowledge' is sufficient. Ministers will be placed into all sorts of situations that they may not have experienced beforehand, but the presbytery can determine based off of seeing them in other circumstances that they would manage their household well.

Poole: "The apostle commanding ministers to be the husbands but of one wife, doth not oblige them to marry, if God hath given them the gift of continency, but it establisheth the lawfulness of their marrying, against the doctrine of devils in this particular, which the Church of Rome teacheth."

Were John Murray and William Young unqualified ministers? What if a man has a spouse die? What if he has one child instead of two or more? What if he had multiple children but they all died save one (John Owen)?

Scripture must be compared with Scripture, and I have an incredibly hard time believing Paul was disqualifying himself by writing what he wrote.
 

Jack K

Puritan Board Doctor
In light of the affirmation of celibate singleness as a valid Christian way to live in 1 Corinthians 7, and Scripture's accounts of many fine ministers who appear not to have been married, I cannot see how the premise that an elder must have experience in being married can hold up. There are plenty of ways for a man to demonstrate faithful leadership in the home and community without having his own wife and children (and plenty of ways he might show himself to be unqualified even if his family looks upstanding).

The main thrust of the qualifications listed in passages describing elders is spiritual. Home life gets a prominent mention because that's where a man's true colors often show up first. But the qualifications are decidedly not about external positions held or worldly achievements. Given how the church today already tends to admire "family men" and hold them up for esteem simply because of the external fact that they have a family, we should be especially careful not to create that particular external requirement for office when it isn't scriptural. Sure, sometimes the fact that a man is unmarried might be a result of internal spiritual flaws, but sessions exist to sift these things and to nominate men based on much more than such externals.
 

Jake

Puritan Board Senior
In light of the affirmation of celibate singleness as a valid Christian way to live in 1 Corinthians 7, and Scripture's accounts of many fine ministers who appear not to have been married, I cannot see how the premise that an elder must have experience in being married can hold up. There are plenty of ways for a man to demonstrate faithful leadership in the home and community without having his own wife and children (and plenty of ways he might show himself to be unqualified even if his family looks upstanding).

The main thrust of the qualifications listed in passages describing elders is spiritual. Home life gets a prominent mention because that's where a man's true colors often show up first. But the qualifications are decidedly not about external positions held or worldly achievements. Given how the church today already tends to admire "family men" and hold them up for esteem simply because of the external fact that they have a family, we should be especially careful not to create that particular external requirement for office when it isn't scriptural. Sure, sometimes the fact that a man is unmarried might be a result of internal spiritual flaws, but sessions exist to sift these things and to nominate men based on much more than such externals.
You said it better than I can. Certainly much care should be given in evaluating men for the offices of the church and ordinarily most that are called are married, but I can't help but think of this particular passage in I Corinthians 7:

32But I would have you without carefulness. He that is unmarried careth for the things that belong to the Lord, how he may please the Lord: 33But he that is married careth for the things that are of the world, how he may please his wife. 34There is difference also between a wife and a virgin. The unmarried woman careth for the things of the Lord, that she may be holy both in body and in spirit: but she that is married careth for the things of the world, how she may please her husband. 35And this I speak for your own profit; not that I may cast a snare upon you, but for that which is comely, and that ye may attend upon the Lord without distraction.

I serve on the diaconate at my church where there are three of us who do not have children, one of whom is unmarried. Especially the man who is unmarried is a great servant of the church, as he has less to concern himself with that the fathers and husbands so he is more often ready and available to serve the church where others have more constraints.
 

Parakaleo

Puritan Board Sophomore
Gentlemen, deal with Paul's question/challenge to Timothy. "If he know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?"

Were John Murray and William Young unqualified ministers?

Whatever else you can say about these men and others like them, I think you would have to admit Paul's question hangs over their head. Is that any way to exercise the Gospel ministry?

In light of the affirmation of celibate singleness as a valid Christian way to live in 1 Corinthians 7...

1 Corinthians 7 is not instructing the church on the qualifications for holding church office. Those instructions are found in 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1 and they are quite clear.

...we should be especially careful not to create that particular external requirement for office when it isn't scriptural.

This is very troubling. The requirement is right there. I realize godly men have found what they see as convincing reasons from other passages in Scripture to lessen the force the requirement somewhat, even while stating it is "normative" or "preferred" for the requirement to be met as written. Yet, for you to suggest I am in danger of creating an unscriptural requirement, when it is right there, is frankly on the order of gaslighting.

I have an incredibly hard time believing Paul was disqualifying himself by writing what he wrote.

Paul was called by God in an extraordinary manner to serve in an extraordinary office during a transitional time in the church of God. He absolutely had the authority to set down rules for the ordinary governance of the church, going forward. Which is exactly what he did.
 

iainduguid

Puritan Board Junior
Gentlemen, deal with Paul's question/challenge to Timothy. "If he know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?"



Whatever else you can say about these men and others like them, I think you would have to admit Paul's question hangs over their head. Is that any way to exercise the Gospel ministry?



1 Corinthians 7 is not instructing the church on the qualifications for holding church office. Those instructions are found in 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1 and they are quite clear.



This is very troubling. The requirement is right there. I realize godly men have found what they see as convincing reasons from other passages in Scripture to lessen the force the requirement somewhat, even while stating it is "normative" or "preferred" for the requirement to be met as written. Yet, for you to suggest I am in danger of creating an unscriptural requirement, when it is right there, is frankly on the order of gaslighting.



Paul was called by God in an extraordinary manner to serve in an extraordinary office during a transitional time in the church of God. He absolutely had the authority to set down rules for the ordinary governance of the church, going forward. Which is exactly what he did.
I'm not sure I hear a question in here; you sound already convinced of your position. So can I ask a question? Do you know of any denomination or church that has historically taken the same view that you are advocating here? If the exegesis is so obvious, it would be a little surprising if you are the only one to have discovered it. Have others gone down this pathway before you? If not, why do you think that is?
 

ZackF

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
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Gentlemen, deal with Paul's question/challenge to Timothy. "If he know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?"
Could this not serve as only a disqualifier rather than a qualifier?
 

Parakaleo

Puritan Board Sophomore
I long for the day when elders, ordination councils, denominational ordination committees and presbyteries will think in a biblically balanced way so that they will not lay hands upon a man who does not have proven competence in the rule of his household any more than they would lay hands on a man who did not have a proven ability to exegete and apply the Word of God to God's people. According to the scriptures, both are disqualified, the man who is not "able to teach" as well as the man who does not "manage his own household. When I have insisted upon this necessity for domestic competence in various ministries around the world, I have actually had people say to me, "But Brother Martin, if we took that standard seriously we would empty half our pulpits and significantly reduce the number of our lay elders!" My answer to this objection has been, "If the Bible empties them, then let them be empty, and when word gets around that half the pulpits of the land are empty and someone asks why, the answer will be, 'It is because people are taking the Bible seriously'." It might be the beginning of a revival if we were determined to say, "No one is going to preach in our pulpit nor sit with our session or our board of elders who cannot come through the filter of 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1 with their dominant emphasis upon domestic competence.
- Al Martin, The Man of God, 2018

The above is not to imply any brethren here do not take the Bible seriously. Pastor Martin uses the word "proven" which is the same word I like to use in connection with this (and really every) qualification. Can a man who has never been married nor had children possibly be proven in these critical domestic areas? That's audacious. Paul's instructions demand data be considered that simply isn't present in the case of a man who has never married. That's not to say it's any sin or fault on the man's part, only that there is insufficient data to proceed in a biblical manner.

I wish I knew why so many commentators in history have set their seal of approval to ordaining men to office who have never married nor had families, but it is telling that many out there have felt the need to basically add an "escape clause" to Paul's command. That's no way to do theology. Begin with clear doctrine found in the Bible's didactic passages. If it is thought that narratives or special cases found in Scripture are out of step with doctrine, our doctrine does not then become suspect. No, we are to reexamine the conclusions we had formed based upon narratives or special cases, looking for ways to vindicate biblical doctrine.

Could this not serve as only a disqualifier rather than a qualifier?

The clear expectation running beneath Paul's instructions to Timothy and Titus is that they would be searching out married men who are fathers. This expectation is so clear that nearly every commentator out there feels the need to "help" Paul out of the knot he's gotten himself into with it. Even if you want to look at the question/challenge in v. 5 as a disqualifyer only, that would do nothing to remove the real expectation running throughout.
 
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Jack K

Puritan Board Doctor
Gentlemen, deal with Paul's question/challenge to Timothy. "If he know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?"
Blake, if I may...

Every response you've received here has addressed that passage. I for one suggested that (1) there are ways to demonstrate leadership in a home environment without having married, and (2) Paul mentions home life because that's a good first place to look to see a man's character rather than because the man absolutely must be married, and (3) the passage as a whole points to a man's character rather than to external qualifications which means "husband of one wife" ought to be read in that vein. And others have offered other thoughts that proceed from 1 Timothy 3. We've engaged in discussion of exactly the question you asked.

But instead of a thank you, I got scolded for thinking other parts of the Bible might add clarity, told my response was "very troubling," and accused of gaslighting. This does not encourage folks to chime in. It may be why we suspect your mind is already made up and you aren't really interested in hearing from us unless we echo what you want us to say. (And when the interpretation you're looking for goes against centuries of Reformed understanding, you really shouldn't be surprised if some of us don't go in that direction.)

The "husband of one wife" line does not make me think Paul is saying the man must be married. I'm not ignoring or discounting the line; I'm just reading it in context (of the passage, of what we know of Paul's life, of the culture, of the rest of the Bible). Suppose I'm holding a party at my house, which is in a congested neighborhood where parking can be scarce. I want to be kind to my neighbors, so I tell my guests, "Bring one car." I don't mean they can't show up on a bicycle. I merely mean couples should not drive separately. But I said it the way I did because in my culture I expect most people to be arriving by car, and because cars are my specific concern. If one of my guests told a cyclist he could not come to my party, I'd be quick to correct that and explain it wasn't what I meant. I suspect it's similar with 1 Timothy 3.
 

MChase

Puritan Board Freshman
Whatever else you can say about these men and others like them, I think you would have to admit Paul's question hangs over their head. Is that any way to exercise the Gospel ministry?

Paul was called by God in an extraordinary manner to serve in an extraordinary office during a transitional time in the church of God. He absolutely had the authority to set down rules for the ordinary governance of the church, going forward. Which is exactly what he did.

No, in fact the question does not hang over their head. Your bad reading of the passage may, but the apostles injunctions do not, particularly when set in the broader new testament context.

Folks often make the point that commissioners of the Westminster Assembly would not be able to be ordained in American presbyterian churches. It is a good point. A far more serious concern would be excluding Paul and Jesus from ministry.
 

Jake

Puritan Board Senior
If you read I Timothy 3 in its entirety, you see that the wife and children of both overseers and deacons are mentioned (I Timothy 3:2-4 for overseers and I Timothy 3:12 for deacons), yet you are only speaking of the office of minister having children.

I'm not sure that I Corinthians 7 has no relevance to the officers in the church. After all, in I Corinthians 7:35 of Paul's teaching about singleness is so that "ye may attend upon [serve, NKJV] the Lord without distraction." I have trouble seeing this is as wholly separate from the offices of the church, especially with Paul using himself as an example.

I Timothy 3:5 is clearly an argument from the lesser to the greater, and certainly the norm is that the household is a good place to see the lesser exemplified when trying to examine a man's leadership skills. Additionally, it's often possible to see this even in the case of someone who is not married with children. For example, thinking of officers at my church, it is easier to examine this directly in the case of a single man who was helping raise his much younger brother when a parent died than it is with an older man who came to the church after his children had moved out of the house.
 

Parakaleo

Puritan Board Sophomore
But instead of a thank you, I got scolded for thinking other parts of the Bible might add clarity, told my response was "very troubling," and accused of gaslighting.

But brother, your initial comments went far beyond suggesting to me that other parts of the Bible might add clarity, to suggesting someone who would seek to hold others to nothing other than the black-and-white commands of the apostle in 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1 are creating requirements. Stepping into your shoes for a moment, I could see you describing me or those like me as woodenly interpreting commands or being heavy handed with instructions, but creating requirements? Why did you frame it like that?

Suppose I'm holding a party at my house, which is in a congested neighborhood where parking can be scarce. I want to be kind to my neighbors, so I tell my guests, "Bring one car." I don't mean they can't show up on a bicycle. I merely mean couples should not drive separately. But I said it the way I did because in my culture I expect most people to be arriving by car, and because cars are my specific concern. If one of my guests told a cyclist he could not come to my party, I'd be quick to correct that and explain it wasn't what I meant. I suspect it's similar with 1 Timothy 3.

Right, but I think in order to tighten up the illustration, you would have said to the guests, "It is necessary to bring one car," which really does have a more official sound, doesn't it? And then, suppose you followed that up with a question to your guests, "For if a man know not how to keep his own car in good repair, how shall the great distance of my driveway be traversed?" With things stated in that way, I think anyone could be forgiven for "misunderstanding" you to mean coming on a bicycle is inadvisable to the extreme.

Now bring all that into the realm of church government (which functions under the same regulative rule as worship, under the 2nd Commandment), and you go from "inadvisable to the extreme" to "forbidden".
 

Jack K

Puritan Board Doctor
But brother, your initial comments went far beyond suggesting to me that other parts of the Bible might add clarity, to suggesting someone who would seek to hold others to nothing other than the black-and-white commands of the apostle in 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1 are creating requirements. Stepping into your shoes for a moment, I could see you describing me or those like me as woodenly interpreting commands or being heavy handed with instructions, but creating requirements? Why did you frame it like that?
I meant to include a line commenting on why it's important we rightly interpret Scripture in this matter. I do think those who would require office holders to be married are creating a requirement Scripture does not give us when we read it correctly and in context, though I did not mean to suggest they are doing so intentionally. And I did not mean to suggest you were doing it at all, since at the time I mistakenly thought you had posed the question with honest curiosity. I should have read better between the lines of your opening post and seen that you wanted to argue instead, in which case I probably would not have commented at all. Carry on.
 

chothomas

Puritan Board Freshman
Were John Murray and William Young unqualified ministers? What if a man has a spouse die? What if he has one child instead of two or more? What if he had multiple children but they all died save one (John Owen)?
If you are using this argument, why not allow women pastors on the ground of God raising Debora as a Judge? We don't use exceptions to build doctrines.

I don't advocate for the OP's application on the qualification of elders as absolute since Paul had the gift of singleness. However, there is no doubt that the qualification identified in the scripture should be followed in 99% of cases whereas that 1% can be left up to each church without violating other scriptural restrictions (homosexual or pedophilic attractions) or unforeseeable circumstances (infertility, death of a spouse, etc)
 

Parakaleo

Puritan Board Sophomore
When a man who has never been married nor had children is set apart or even placed under care as a student for the ministry, I have to wonder what is going on.

I quote myself here because some have asked what I am doing with this post. Here it is. I continue to wonder "what is going on"? Brethren, listen to your own responses. Why are you seeking to extricate Paul from what you know him to be commanding? This is so unneeded. The church, the work of the ministry, the spread of the Gospel, the honor of Christ, none of it would be harmed by obeying the word Paul gives the churches by Timothy and Titus. It would only be to the advantage of all these things. This is why I persist.

Dei plus the infinitive means "it is necessary that". This word is at the head of all the requirements found in 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1. The same construction is found in John 3:7 when Christ says, "Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must (dei) be born again." When Christ says dei, whatever follows is of absolute necessity. The same goes for Paul when giving his apostolic commands for the ordering of the church. As certain as it is that men must be born again to enter in to the kingdom of heaven, this is how certain it is that a man must (among other qualifications) rule his own house well in order to be considered for office in the church.

Many of you will stop me here and say you fully concur with the indispensable nature of Paul's requirement in 1 Timothy 3:4 ("ruleth well his own house"). Then, you will say it is of absolute necessity that a man... show strong indicators he would do well ruling his own household, if he were to have one! Brethren, that is not equal to Paul's stated expectation. Why will you not admit this? And then, as though anticipating the tendency of men to try and squirm out of this requirement, Paul adds his question/challenge in v. 5.

Will no one here admit to the slightest amount of discomfort with being on the side that takes Paul's straight words on this qualification and seeks to hypotheticalize them?
 
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Mr. Great-Heart

Puritan Board Freshman
I quote myself here because some have asked what I am doing with this post. Here it is. I continue to wonder "what is going on"? Brethren, listen to your own responses. Why are you seeking to extricate Paul from what you know him to be commanding? This is so unneeded. The church, the work of the ministry, the spread of the Gospel, the honor of Christ, none of it would be harmed by obeying the word Paul gives the churches by Timothy and Titus. It would only be to the advantage of all these things. This is why I persist.
I don't have much to add to what has already been said in reply to your assertion.

I would, however, caution you against thinking that the excerpt you provided from Al Martin's writings is an open and shut case in your favor. It could just as well mean that half the pulpits, etc. would be emptied because of domestic incompetence by the men who occupied them. I didn't see anything in that quote that said a man must be married and have children. Just another perspective for you to consider.
 
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Parakaleo

Puritan Board Sophomore
Why does “house” mean “married with children”?
Hey Taylor, before I answer, would you even affirm that whatever the meaning of "house" is, this is something a man must show he "ruleth well" in order to be considered qualified for office in the church?
 

John Yap

Puritan Board Sophomore
Hey Taylor, before I answer, would you even affirm that whatever the meaning of "house" is, this is something a man must show he "ruleth well" in order to be considered qualified for office in the church?
I don’t know if you did answer but what about the scenario of the wife being unable to bear?
 

Taylor

Puritan Board Graduate
Hey Taylor, before I answer, would you even affirm that whatever the meaning of "house" is, this is something a man must show he "ruleth well" in order to be considered qualified for office in the church?
Yes, because that’s what the text says. But there’s also something else you must demonstrate—namely, that the command to rule one’s house well necessarily includes within it the command to have a house, whatever that may be. I think that’s where your argument logically is falling flat.
 

Parakaleo

Puritan Board Sophomore
Taylor, Jacob,

Excellent. I am comfortable with saying that Paul's expectation in these passages is met when a man shows he governs his dependents in a blameless manner. The Greek is tekna, which could easily include natural-born children, adopted children, servants, or his dependents whom he would guide in life and faith. Show me a man who has demonstrated faithful care for a wife and his dependents in his household and I will show you a man who has met this particular qualification. Show me a man who has never been married and/or never cared for dependents (plural), and I will show you a man who cannot proceed at the current time with pursuit of ordained office due to insufficient data.
 

Parakaleo

Puritan Board Sophomore
Knowing what Paul says to both Titus and Timothy, and hearing all the arguments presented above for why it would be perfectly acceptable to set apart a man with no wife or who has not guided a household of dependents, I wonder if anyone would actually put their foot down and say it would have been perfectly acceptable for Timothy or Titus themselves to have received Paul's words, then to turn around and ordain a never-married man to office in the churches in which they ministered?
 

NaphtaliPress

Administrator
Staff member
Taylor, Jacob,

Excellent. I am comfortable with saying that Paul's expectation in these passages is met when a man shows he governs his dependents in a blameless manner. The Greek is tekna, which could easily include natural-born children, adopted children, servants, or his dependents whom he would guide in life and faith. Show me a man who has demonstrated faithful care for a wife and his dependents in his household and I will show you a man who has met this particular qualification. Show me a man who has never been married and/or never cared for dependents (plural), and I will show you a man who cannot proceed at the current time with pursuit of ordained office due to insufficient data.
Blake, Dr. Duguid asked this but I missed the answer if you gave it. What Presbyterian churches historically or current have absolutized this to preclude not yet married candidates for the ministry? I know the Scottish church didn't; and the American church at least the PCUSA didn't; witness George Gillespie, who seems to have married after ordination and settlement in his first call, and Samuel Miller who married about ten years or so after ordination and taking the call to the collegiate Presbyterian church in NYC. Gillespie was bursar of his presbytery which means they underwrote his studies at St. Andrews, when 16-17; taking MA at 17 when he would have studied theology. Miller addresses the issue of marriage of ministers in his clerical letters.
 

Reformed Covenanter

Cancelled Commissioner
The Geneva Bible notes on 1 Timothy 3 make the following observation: "The office of bishop, or the ministry of the word is not an idle dignity, but a work, and that an excellent work: and therefore a bishop must be furnished with many virtues both at home and abroad. Therefore it is necessary before he is chosen to examine well his learning, his gifts, his abilities, and his life." (Emphasis added.) The bold section should remind us that the chapter is not to be read in a woodenly literalistic manner. Instead, the apostle reminds us that an elder ought to be a man who exhibits godly virtue in his life. One of the most apparent ways of exhibiting such virtue is the manner in which he governs his own house if he has a wife and children. Hence, we should take "rule his own house" as a synecdoche for someone who exhibits order, self-restraint, and good sense in his daily affairs.
 

Phil D.

Puritan Board Junior
A few thoughts...

It's at least notable that among patristic writers, the first (and only one I've heard of) to ascribe a strict "must be married" interpretation to 1 Tim. 3:5 appears to have been an honorable presbyter in Barcelona, named Vigilantes (early 5th Century). He was definitely a reformer in many good ways.

Most (including some early councils) took it as prohibiting remarriage if a cleric had a wife who later happened to die. But given many church fathers' well-documented fondness for a quite un-Pauline asceticism, including clerical celibacy, this viewpoint may have been prejudiced.

Some, like Chrysostom, saw it as a simple prohibition against polygamy, although he admitted, without attribution, that the "must be married" view existed. So too Calvin.

Interestingly, while no early Greek-speaking writers indicate a view that the passage requires marriage, the post-Great Schism Greek churches have used it to support their position that priests must be married, contra the RCC. (More EO inconsistency in how they canonize their forebears...)

I haven't found any major Protestant commentators that take a "must be married" stand on the passage. The Cambridge Bible Commentary makes one of the more interesting exegetical points I've seen in this regard:

We may pass by the view ‘husband of a wife,’ i.e. ‘a married man,’ as ungrammatical; because the definite numeral has not lost its force ‘one’ in the N.T.; in all the 36 or 37 passages where it might be thought to approach the sense of the indefinite article there is something in the context which draws attention to the singleness, the individuality of the person or thing named in a way which is lost by simply rendering ‘an’ or ‘a.’​
It also notes that Mormons take the expression to its grammatical extreme and insist it really means "the husband of one wife if not more"!
 
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