THREE DAYS & THREE NIGHTS
Most Christians believe the Lord Jesus Christ was crucified on Good Friday and rose from the dead just in time for a sunrise Easter church service. That would mean He was buried during what we’d call Friday night, all day Saturday, and Saturday night, for a blasphemous total of one day and two nights – which means they are all wrong.
My main objective in this chapter is to show you how conclusively the Scriptures establish a Wednesday crucifixion, a sunset burial, and a resurrection at sundown at the end of Saturday. But I’m also going to show you how powerful tradition is and how inept, unbelieving, deceitful, cowardly, and blindly loyal to their denominations Christians can be. This is a perfect topic to use because, ignoring the fact that the Good Friday tradition makes the word of God of none effect (which itself is a high crime), a Wednesday crucifixion doesn’t really affect any denominational doctrines and doesn’t affect anyone’s lifestyle. That means the Wednesday crucifixion is a harmless doctrine. It is easy to understand how some Christians could be reluctant and afraid to accept some of the big doctrines covered in earlier chapters, but this Good Friday business is completely benign. Why then are the denominations so afraid of it? Because it goes against tradition. Tradition means/involves a lot of people. And our natural insecurity, which is intensified when we aren’t experts on the Bible, makes us timidly assume that out of all those people – including some “big names” – there must have been at least some who were experts on the Bible, understood the Good Friday issue, and were correct about it. (Why is it that we expect other Christians to be the kind of dedicated, motivated, responsible, knowledgeable experts on Bible doctrines that we have never cared enough to become?) I hope this chapter will help destroy your faith in tradition and in “all those people” who created it, and help you realize it’s your responsibility to study and be taught by the Lord so you can be an help meet for Him and His church. And then, if you’ve been reluctant to seriously address some of the earlier chapters because they seemed too “different” and because you assumed your church probably correctly understood those issues, I hope you’ll begin to believe what the Bible says: If your church can’t even handle small doctrines like Good Friday, how can it handle big doctrines? And if you can’t handle small doctrines like Good Friday and stand up for the truth about it, what makes you think you’re a Swordbearing Christian warrior armed and prepared for war?
My intention is not to single out any specific denomination or individuals for ridicule. I want you to understand that people of all denominations, including you and me, have a tendency to earnestly contend for “our side.” And we are consciously or unconsciously willing to disregard what the Bible says and use anything and everything we can find – no matter how dubious and contradictory – to support our side. You must not trust anyone in any denomination, and that includes me. If you do you are a fool. And that’s why you must become an expert on the Bible in order to facilitate searching the Scriptures for truth. To that end, let’s examine the timing of Christ’s burial and resurrection.
The Lord Jesus Christ clearly prophesied that He would rise again after being in the ground three days and three nights (Mt 12:40).
He was indisputably nailed to the cross at about nine o’clock in the morning, died on the cross at about three o’clock in the afternoon (Mk 15:25-37), and was buried at about sunset.
And the Lord was discovered to have already risen before sunrise on Sunday, the first day of the week (Mt 28:1; Jn 20:1). That obviously means the resurrection did not happen at sunrise; it happened sometime before sunrise.
The Jews end a day and begin another right at sunset – not at midnight. For them the two halves of a day are made up of night and day – in that order – because darkness preceded light when God created the world (Ge 1:1-5). Sunset played an important part in the crucifixion because the day following the crucifixion was a sabbath (Jn 19:31). The Jews had to be careful not to violate the sabbath by still being involved with the crucifying, anointing, and burial of their three crucified brethren after sunset. Therefore, because death by crucifixion could be a slow process, the Jews needed to speed up the deaths of the three men on the crosses by breaking their legs (Jn 19:31). Then, without the support of their legs, the men would hang more on their arms and suffocate faster. The soldiers broke the legs of the two thieves, but when they went to break Christ’s legs they found He was already dead. In order to verify His death one of them shoved a spear into His side, thus fulfilling two things in Scripture (Jn 19:32-37).
The Good Friday tradition started because people are lazy when it comes to Bible study. They saw that the day after the crucifixion was a sabbath (Mk 15:42) and assumed that meant Saturday the seventh day of the week because most sabbaths were Saturdays. So let’s test the Good Friday assumption by being as generous as possible in seeing how many days and nights we can come up with for Christ to be buried. If the disciples were able to bury Christ before sunset, that would allow us to count the “day part” of Friday. Then at sunset it became the “night part” of Saturday. At sunrise it became the “day part” of Saturday. At sundown it became the “night part” of Sunday. And that’s the most we can get because the women got to the tomb shortly before sunrise when it was yet dark. Adding all of that up we get a maximum number of two days and two nights. Since that would make Jesus Christ a liar we utter an embarrassed chuckle and admit that as good as our Good Friday theory seemed, it was proven Scripturally false after fifteen seconds of examination.
A “proof” that the crucifixion happened on Good Friday is Mk 15:42,43, which shows the crucifixion happened on a day of preparation. Most preparation days were Fridays because most sabbaths were Saturdays. Many scholars, therefore, (either out of ignorance or to defend the Good Friday tradition) conveniently ignore the feast-day sabbaths that fell on weekdays, and treat the preparation and Friday as synonyms. In that way they try to make Mk 15:42,43 say Christ was crucified on Friday. But preparation doesn’t mean Friday and it doesn’t mean Wednesday, it means the day before a sabbath. That kind of error is how the Good Friday theory started.
The confusion over what “sabbath” occurred the day after the Passover crucifixion, however, is cleared up by Le 23:5-7, which says the Passover was followed by the holy day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread. That means the day after the crucifixion wasn’t necessarily a Saturday sabbath – it could have been the Feast Day of Unleavened Bread, which could occur on any day of the week. There is one problem with Le 23:5-7 and Nu 28:16-18, however – they often go unnoticed because they undermine the Good Friday tradition.
Now, even though backing up one day from Good Friday (a Thursday crucifixion) would add another day and night which would make three days and three nights (if we used the same earlier generous assumptions), I’m going to save myself some typing and just tell you Thursday won’t fit the Scriptures any better than Friday, and I’ll show you that a Wednesday crucifixion and a Saturday sundown resurrection exactly fit the Scriptures.
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The first thing in the Bible that alerts us to the fact that the crucifixion was not on a Friday is Jn 19:31. Did you catch it? This verse is an excellent indicator of how very carefully we need to read the Bible and pay attention to every word in it. If the events did happen on Friday the verse would not contain the parenthetical information because it would be irrelevant whether the following Saturday was a regular sabbath or a high sabbath because both still required a day of rest. A red flag should have just popped up in your mind because you noted that the Scripture says high day but I said high sabbath. And that will help you find one of the flaws in the Good Friday theory: Its adherents often refer to that Saturday as a “high sabbath” even though they have no Scriptural support to do so – it was “an high day”.
Every Saturday was a sabbath, a day of rest. But there were also annual feasts and religious days that could fall on any day of the week that were also sabbaths. If the feast fell on a regular day of the week, that non-seventh-day sabbath was called an high day to differentiate it from a regular day. And if the feast fell on a Saturday, that seventh-day sabbath was called an high sabbath to differentiate it from a regular Saturday. Jn 19:31 tells us the sabbath day after the crucifixion was not a seventh-day sabbath (because then the Bible would have called it an high sabbath), but that it was a week day (because it is called an high day). (I sometimes say “an” rather than “a” high day because of the KJV’s wording.)
If Christ was crucified on Wednesday (the Passover), buried at sunset, and remained in the ground all of Thursday (the holy day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread), Friday, and Saturday (a regular sabbath), that means we’re dealing with three special days here; the Passover, the Feast of Unleavened Bread, and the Saturday sabbath. We shall see that that is correct, and we shall see how careful and how exact God is with His word.
If Christ was buried all of Thursday, all of Friday, and all of Saturday we would obviously have three days and three nights, but, as much as we might like to declare victory, quit our Bible study, and go watch TV, we still have something bothering us: The exactness of Mt 12:40 loses its exactness if Christ was buried slightly before sunset because that would add part of another day (Wednesday). And if He rose from the dead sometime after sunset at the end of Saturday and before sunrise Sunday, that would add at least part of another night (Sunday). That fractional day and that fractional night added to the three days and three nights in Thursday, Friday, and Saturday would be just as unscriptural on the high side (more than a literal 3.0 days and 3.0 nights) as the Good Friday theory is on the low side (less than a literal 3.0 days and 3.0 nights). And that makes us realize we don’t fully understand this topic and need more Bible study. Let’s begin with Wednesday and work our way through Sunday in order to get a better understanding of events and to see if the Scriptures fit a Wednesday crucifixion.
WEDNESDAY: THE CRUCIFIXION. Wednesday was the Passover, the 14th day of the month (Le 23:5), which began in the evening at sundown (Dt 16:6). It was a busy day for the Lord because the Jews wanted to kill Him before the big holy day, the Feast of Unleavened Bread (Mk 14:1,2): He sat down “when even was come” to eat the Passover meal (Mt 26:20; Mk 14:17,18). Then He went to Gethsemane; was arrested and “tried” by the Jews; delivered to Pontius Pilate in the morning (Mt 27:1,2) – which was still Wednesday; was crucified (as the real Passover Lamb) at about nine in the morning; and died at three in the afternoon. Because sundown was approaching so rapidly that the disciples weren’t sure they could get Christ in the ground in time to avoid violating the approaching sabbath (the 15th day, the holy Feast Day of Unleavened Bread – Le 23:6,7), they all decided to accept Joseph of Arimathaea’s time-saving offer to use his tomb because it was close to the crucifixion site (Mt 27:57-60; Jn 19:42).
In addition to getting permission to take the body and bury it, and finding a nearby tomb, the men hurriedly bought linen and spices and used them to quickly anoint and wrap the body (Mk 15:46; Jn 19:39,40). All of this was done Wednesday afternoon when the linen and spice stores were still open; all the stores would close by sundown because of the sabbath and because of darkness.
The women watched all of these events. They witnessed the crucifixion (Jn 19:25), the death (Mt 27:55,56; Mk 15:40,41; Lk 23:49), and the burial (Mt 27:61; Mk 15:47; Lk 23:55). They saw how hastily the men anointed the body with one eye on the corpse and another on the sun – which was just about to touch the horizon. The men wanted to anoint the body to fulfill the Jews’ burial custom because neither they nor the women realized God had already anointed Christ for burial (Mt 26:7-13; Mk 14:3-9). If they had known the anointing in the house of Simon the leper was sufficient in God’s eyes, they certainly would have realized the hasty anointing done by the men was sufficient. But they didn’t, so the women agreed to get together on Friday, the day after the sabbath (the Thursday Unleavened Bread high day), go shopping for more ointment, and then properly (they thought) and lovingly anoint the body.
THURSDAY: THE FIRST DAY. This day was fairly quiet; it was a sabbath because it was an high day because it was the Feast Day of Unleavened Bread. All the stores were closed. But behind the scenes the Jewish preachers were busy with politics arranging with Pilate to have Roman soldiers guard the tomb (Mt 27:62-66). Notice they only wanted the tomb guarded three days, not four or five days. That’s because if Christ were to be in the ground more than three days, His three days and three nights prophecy would be false, thereby making Him neither a prophet (Dt 18:22) nor the Christ. They understood the importance of exactness when it comes to Scriptures and prophecy.
FRIDAY: THE SECOND DAY. The women got together after the Thursday sabbath as they’d planned and bought spices and ointments so they could anoint the body properly (Mk 16:1). This verse doesn’t fit with the Good Friday theory because it says the women bought the stuff after the sabbath, which would mean the stores would have had to open for business sometime Sunday night after the Saturday-sabbath sundown. While that is possible, it is unlikely because before electricity produced streetlights and car headlights, very few people did business and traveled at night.
Having bought their supplies, the women, not knowing a military guard had been posted at the tomb the day before, went to anoint the body. When they arrived at the tomb the soldiers stopped them. The women showed their spices and ointments and said all they wanted to do was anoint the body. The soldiers said they were sorry but orders were orders and nobody could go near the body until Sunday – the fourth day. The women then realized that created a problem: After that much time the body would begin stinking (Jn 11:39). Therefore they agreed to get up before dawn Sunday, get to the tomb “dark and early”, and anoint the body as soon as there was enough light before it began stinking too much. With that in mind read Lk 23:55,56. Remembering that v.55 happened on Wednesday, v.56 can be read this way: “[The women rested during the Thursday Unleavened Bread high day] And they returned [on Friday to the tomb to anoint the body. But because of the guards they agreed to meet again before dawn Sunday] and prepared spices and ointments [to speed up their work on Sunday, and then went home] and rested [Saturday] the sabbath day according to the commandment.”
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Notice in Lk 23:56 God adds “according to the commandment.” If the Good Friday theory were true that addition would be unnecessary because there would be but one sabbath under consideration. And that sabbath would be a high sabbath because it would be two sabbaths in one, Saturday and the Feast of Unleavened Bread, and it wouldn’t matter whether you rested “according to the commandment” because it was Saturday or if you rested because it was Unleavened Bread – you still had to rest. Therefore, this verse, by clearing up any confusion as to which type of sabbath it is referring to, proves another sabbath is involved with these events. Earlier we saw how the “that sabbath was an high day” in Jn 19:31 proves one of the sabbaths was a weekday, and now in Lk 23:56 the “the sabbath day according to the commandment” shows this other sabbath was a Saturday in accordance with the commandment in Ex 20:8-11.
Before we move on let me quote a noted Bible scholar who loudly proclaims the belief in a Wednesday crucifixion is “heresy”: “If the crucifixion took place on Wednesday, how can we explain why the women waited until Sunday to come to the sepulcher? Why didn’t they come Thursday or Friday to anoint His body?” I find that kind of ignorance of basic information in the Bible to be shocking and appalling. This theologian does not know the day after the crucifixion was the Feast Day of Unleavened Bread, a sabbath, when the women couldn’t travel and couldn’t do work. And he doesn’t know the soldiers guarding the tomb would prevent the women from touching the body. (Actually, I think he does know those things because I don’t think he is as ignorant of the Scriptures as his writings suggest. I think he’s being deceitful. I think he knows the average Christian is appallingly ignorant of the Scriptures and he’s just trying to come up with arguments – no matter how specious – against a Wednesday crucifixion that would sound plausible to the ignorant apostates in his denomination. His main objective is not the truth; it is to defend his denomination. And by doing so he is making people twofold more the children of hell than he is himself.)
SATURDAY: THE THIRD DAY. This was the seventh-day sabbath. It was the sabbath according to the Fourth Commandment. It was not a high day, and it was not a high sabbath; it was a regular sabbath.
SUNDAY: THE FOURTH DAY. The women went to the tomb before sunrise on Sunday “when it was yet dark” (Mt 28:1; Mk 16:1,2; Lk 24:1; Jn 20:1). (That doesn’t necessarily mean they got there before there was any predawn light from the about-to-rise sun; it is probably a reference to the fact that until the sun appeared it was still Sunday night – the “dark part” of Sunday.) An angel caused a great earthquake and rolled back the stone from the entrance to the tomb and casually sat on it (Mt 28:2). The soldiers guarding the tomb fainted from fright (Mt 28:4). The angel showed the women the empty tomb and said, “He is not here: for he is risen, as he said” (Mt 28:6). In other words, Christ rose in accordance with what He said about His resurrection. That means He did not rise after only 1.6 days as the blasphemous Good Friday theory maintains. If Good Friday were correct, either the angel would have said, “He is risen, but not as He said”, or Mt 12:40 would have said, “in the ground 1.1 days and 2.0 nights.”
Now that we have familiarized ourselves with the events and seen that the Scriptures fit a Wednesday crucifixion, let’s see how exactly the amazing word of God establishes the time of the burial and the resurrection, and how exact the Lord was when He said He’d be “in the ground 3.00 days and 3.00 nights.” Sit up and take notice, brother: When God says something in His Book, it’s exact!
We already know the burial happened pretty close to sunset Wednesday. All we can say at this point is it could have been a little before or it could have been a little after sunset. If it was a little before sunset “when it was yet light”, that would mean the burial was during the “day part” of Wednesday. If it was a little after sunset “when it was just dark”, that would mean the burial was during the “night part” of Thursday. We doubt an after sunset/Thursday burial, however, because Thursday was a high day because it was Unleavened Bread, and God was so careful about Christ keeping the law. Although, because the Old Testament and its laws had been replaced by the New Testament about three hours before Christ’s burial when the Testator died on the cross, the after sundown burial remains a valid possibility – until the Scriptures reveal to us God’s incredible exactness.
We are now going to look at the Scriptures that address the resurrection. Some of these are used by ignorant, unbelieving Christians to “prove” the Bible contradicts itself and therefore all we have is fallible, human translations – not the word of God. We’ll see in passing why they are wrong as we zero in on the fact that all of these descriptions of the time of the resurrection have in common a single, exact point in time. And they reveal that Christ’s resurrection happened at exactly sunset at the end of Saturday/the beginning of Sunday. Remember, we already know the burial was at approximately sunset at the end of Wednesday/the beginning of Thursday. Adding three days and three nights to that would take us to approximately sunset at the end of Saturday/the beginning of Sunday. Watch as the Scriptures take the approximately out of the timing of the resurrection:
1) Jn 2:19 “in three days”: This definition taken alone can be very broad. However broad it may be, the very end of “in three days” would still be sunset at the end of the third day – Saturday.
2) Mt 27:63; Mk 8:31 “after three days”: While this could mean four or more days, it can also mean sunset at the end of the third day – Saturday. And if you think that doesn’t quite qualify as after three days because sunset at the end of Saturday is still during the third day, then we’ll simply use the fact that sunset is not only the end of Saturday the third day, it is also simultaneously the beginning of Sunday the fourth day. That definitely qualifies as after three days and still puts the resurrection at exactly sunset Saturday/Sunday.
3) Lk 24:7 “the third day”: This definition is a little narrower than the first two. But again we find that sunset at the end of Saturday meets this literal, Scriptural definition and also those of the other literal, Scriptural definitions. (We also note these Scriptures most certainly do not contradict each other as some claim. For example, a prominent preacher, radio personality, and author for a major denomination has, in a booklet defending Good Friday, written, “Now we ask the question: Can all of these expressions be taken in a strictly literal sense and still harmonize with each other? Absolutely not!” And he goes on to call these verses “terribly confusing.”)
4) Mk 16:9 “early the first day of the week”: This is another of those “contradictions” that people who don’t believe the word of God exists use to “prove” God did not preserve His word as He said He’d do. The first day of the week is Sunday. That is the fourth day, and unbelievers claim the fourth day is not the third day. Are the Scriptures wrong? Do they contradict? Not at sunset they don’t! That’s right, only sunset Saturday/Sunday – not a second before and not a second after – can properly be called both the third day and the fourth day. Sunset Saturday/Sunday is the only time that fulfills all of the Scriptures. I don’t know about you, brother, but that makes me feel wonder toward my God; it makes me feel humbly thankful that He opened my eyes about His word; and it makes me feel like shouting and dancing in the streets like David (2 Sa 6:14-16).
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5) Mt 12:40 “three days and three nights in the heart of the earth”: This verse is despised by the Good Friday crowd because if Good Friday were true this verse means the women would have discovered the resurrection at dawn Tuesday. But, obviously, three days and three nights fits very nicely – indeed, exactly – with the sunset Saturday/Sunday resurrection revealed by the above Scriptures. But the fact that the above verses pinpointed the time of the resurrection didn’t help us with the time of the burial, which so far we’ve said was at “approximately” sunset. The above exactness, however, means we can safely use this latest verse to pinpoint the burial time. Knowing the resurrection was at exactly sunset Saturday/Sunday, and now knowing how exact God is, we can confidently say “three days and three nights” means exactly what it says. So if we backtrack exactly seventy-two hours from exactly sunset Saturday/Sunday when Christ rose from the dead, we find that He was buried at exactly sunset Wednesday/Thursday.
The Good Friday crowd often uses a statement Cleopas made on the road to Emmaus on Sunday the first day of the week (Lk 24:1,13) to “prove” there really are three days between a Friday crucifixion and a Sunday resurrection. Cleopas said, “today is the third day since these things were done” (Lk 24:21). Yeah, I know: In a normal conversation if you had gotten married on Friday and today was Sunday you’d say, “I got married two days ago”, or “It’s been two days since I got married.” How then can the Good Friday-ites possibly get three days out of Cleopas’ Sunday statement by starting with Friday? They do it with what they call “inclusive reckoning.” Inclusive reckoning includes the day on which an event happened when determining how many days have gone by since that event. But that’s not all they do to get three days: Because the burial was so obviously very close to sunset – the very end of their Good Friday – it makes it harder to convince even uncaring pewsters that Friday should count as one of the three days. So they completely disregard the Scripture they hate the most which says Christ would be “in the ground” for three days and three nights (Mt 12:40), and claim the three day period must include both the time Christ was in the ground and the time He was dead up on the cross! And even though the death happened so close to the end of Friday, they claim all of Friday can be included in their inclusive reckoning count. In that way they take the few hours during the “day part” of Friday that Christ was dead above ground, add to it all of Saturday, and then add the brief time before dawn during the “night part” of Sunday to come up with “three” days. That’s why they hate the “three days and three nights” Scripture – because its exactness contradicts their use of “inclusive reckoning.”
Anyway, they also apply “inclusive reckoning” to Cleopas’ statement on Sunday to show that Sunday was the third day since Friday’s happenings even though everyone else would say it was the second day. Here’s what they say using inclusive reckoning: If you had gotten married on Friday and today was Sunday, you’d say, “It’s been three days since I got married” because the day on which the event happened is to be included in the time since that event. So if you had gotten married on Friday and today was Saturday, they teach that you’d say, “It’s been two days since I got married.” And if you got married on Friday at noon and today was that same Friday at two in the afternoon, you’d say, “It’s been one day since I got married.” (It’s amazing what lunacy grown men will come up with in an attempt to get you to ignore the Bible and accept their tradition.) But Good Friday-ites delight in Cleopas’ statement not merely because it gives them more practice using their beloved “inclusive reckoning”, but also because they think it disproves the Wednesday crucifixion and burial – no matter how you count. For example, if you had gotten married on Wednesday (the day of the crucifixion) and today was Sunday (the day Cleopas spoke) you’d say, “I got married four days ago”, or “It’s been four days since I got married”, or (if you used inclusive reckoning) “It’s been five days since I got married.” What all of that shows, they claim, is that Cleopas knew the death and burial happened on Good Friday, not Wednesday.
One of the nice things about Bible study is the more you learn the more things start to fall into place: We don’t need to resort to mathematical gymnastics like inclusive reckoning in order to find a way to make Cleopas’ statement make Scriptural sense. Cleopas was a Jew. For him sunset was not just the end of one day, it was also the beginning of another. Remember the expression “when it was yet dark” in Jn 20:1? The predawn light just before sunrise is not what you and I would call “dark.” But to the Jews it was “dark” because it was night all the way up until sunrise. And that method of looking at time was also true regarding sunset; the instant the sun set it was dark, it was night, it was the next day.
Therefore, since Christ was buried at exactly sunset guess what happened one second later? It became night. It became Thursday. That means when the disciples gathered up the anointing materials, said some prayers over the body, stood and took a final look at their Lord lying there, bent over and lovingly tucked in a loose corner of His linen wrapping, stepped out of the tomb, had a discussion about the possibility that they might be the next to be arrested, tried, and crucified (Jn 20:19), spoke with the women about returning to the tomb on Friday to do a better job of anointing the body, and then walked home, all of those things happened on Thursday – the Feast Day of Unleavened Bread. It is therefore possible that when Cleopas counted the days since “these things were done” he was counting since Thursday. That would make it an accurate statement for him to say Sunday was the third day since Thursday. I mean, if God can accurately say Christ rose on the third day and on the fourth day because of the double meaning of sunset, which of you will cast a stone at Cleopas for doing the same thing?
Some people reject the Wednesday crucifixion and the literal exactness of “in the ground three days and three nights” because that means Christ rose from the dead at sunset Saturday/Sunday – about twelve hours before the angels rolled back the stone and let Him out! But the resurrected Christ didn’t need people to open doors for Him (Jn 20:19,26). And the angels didn’t open the tomb to let Christ out; they opened it to let the women in.
The first thing Almighty God did on day one of the creation week was to create days and nights so we could count days and measure the passage of time. We are zealous about the literal exactness of the seven days in the creation week, and we recognize that it is apostates who try to get us to treat those days as figurative approximations. Let us recognize that it is also apostasy that causes so many Christians to believe the Creator was only being figurative when He said “in the ground”, when He said “in three days”, and when He said “in three nights.” His word is truth.
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