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The Collapsing Universe in the Bible, Part 5

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September 20, 2011 Tags: Christ & New Creation
The Collapsing Universe in the Bible, Part 5

Today's entry was written by Brian Godawa. Please note the views expressed here are those of the author, not necessarily of BioLogos. You can read more about what we believe here.

In the previous post of this series, we saw that the language of a shaking heavens and earth seen in the Bible is a metaphorical means of describing a significant event. Today, in part five, Godawa explains that the “new heavens” and “new earth” described by Peter in the New Testament are likely referring to the New Covenant inaugurated by Christ’s death and resurrection.

2 Peter 3:10–13

But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the elements will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed…

Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set on fire and dissolved, and the elements will melt as they burn! But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells. (2 Peter 3:10–13)

The interpretation I have presented in this essay is no doubt earth-shattering for some eschatological paradigms about the end times. Such radical departures from the futurist’s received wisdom always beg plenty of questions about other passages and concepts taken for granted by the futurist interpretation.

One of them is the apparently clear description in 2 Peter about the day of the Lord and the passing away of the heavens and the earth replaced by a new heavens and earth. Isn’t that unambiguous language to be taken literally? Well, actually, no. As a matter of fact, orthodox believers have wide-ranging interpretations of this passage, so it is a controversial one to begin with.1

We must remember our dictum to seek to understand the text within its ancient Jewish setting steeped in Old Testament imagery and symbols. I believe when we do this, we will have to conclude that the decreation of the heavens and earth is covenantal metaphor not literal physical scientific observation. Peter writes figuratively about the final ending of the Old Covenant, with God’s judgment on Israel for rejecting Messiah, and the final establishment of his New Covenant as a New World Order, or in their case, a “new heavens and new earth.”

In the beginning of chapter 3, Peter compares the scoffers of his day and their impending judgment with the scoffers of Noah’s day before their judgment. So the judgment is near, and what’s more, these scoffers are in the “last days” which we have already seen were considered the last days of the Old Covenant that the New Testament writers were living within. Those last days would be climaxed by judgment. But what kind of judgment?

Peter references creation of the heavens and earth (red flag about covenants!) and then the destruction of that previous world by water. Scholars have indicated how the flood of Noah is described using terms similar to Genesis 1, as if God is “decreating” the earth because of sin, in order to start over with a new Noahic covenant.2 The ark floated over the chaotic “face of the waters” (Gen 7:17) like God’s spirit hovered over the chaotic face of the waters before creation (Gen 1:2). The dry land recedes from the waters (8:3) just as it was separated in creation (1:9). God makes the same command to Noah to be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth (9:1) that he gave to Adam and Eve (1:28). So the covenantal connections are loud and clear.

As already noted, the Day of the Lord is always used in the Bible for a localized judgment upon a people, which by way of reminder, Jesus had already prophesied was coming upon Jerusalem to the very generation he spoke to (Matt 23:36-24:2). But what makes some interpreters think this is the final judgment of the universe is the very bad translation of the Greek word stoicheion as “elements” in some English texts. This makes modern readers think of the periodic table of elements as being the most foundational building blocks of the universe. They conclude that the Bible must be talking about the very elements of helium, hydrogen, deuterium and others being burned up and melted!

But this is not what the Greek word means. Though some Greek thinkers believed in the existence of atoms, the common understanding was that there were four basic elements, earth, water, wind, and fire.3 Though someone may conjecture that these could still be considered physical elements that could be destroyed, a simple look at the usage of stoicheion throughout the New Testament shows that the Hebrew usage had nothing to do with Greek primitive scientific notions.

In every place that stoicheion shows up in the New Testament it means elementary principle rudiments of a worldview, sometimes a godless worldview (Col 2:8), but more often the elementary principles of the Old Covenant law described as a “cosmos” (Gal 4:3; 9; Col 2:20; Heb 5:12).4

Remember how the cosmic language of creating heavens and earth was used to describe the cosmic significance of God establishing a covenant? And remember how in the Old Testament, the destruction of covenants, nations, and peoples was described in decreation terms as the collapsing of the universe?

That is the case in these passages as well, with the term “cosmos” being used metaphorically for the “universe” of God’s covenantal order as embodied in the Old Covenant laws of Jewish separation: Circumcision, dietary restrictions and sabbaths. Paul is telling his readers that the stoicheion of the Old Covenant cosmos are no longer over them because the people of God are under new stoicheion, the elementary principles of faith (Gal 4:1-11).

Peter means the same thing. When he says that the heavens will pass away and the stoicheion will be burned up, he is claiming that when the Temple in Jerusalem is destroyed, it will be the final passing away of the old covenant cosmos, along with all the elementary principles tied to that physical sacramental structure, the laws that once separated Jew and Gentile. The new cosmos is one in which both Jew and Gentile “by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time” (1Pet 1:5).

As Gary DeMar concludes, “The New Covenant replaces the Old Covenant with new leaders, a new priesthood, new sacraments, a new sacrifice, a new tabernacle (John 1:14), and a new temple (John 2:19; 1 Cor 3:16; Eph 2:210). In essence, a new heaven and earth.”5 Eminent Greek scholar John Lightfoot agrees, “The destruction of Jerusalem and the whole Jewish state is described as if the whole frame of this world were to be dissolved.”6

The new heavens and new earth, the dwelling places of righteousness that Peter was waiting for, were the New Covenant cosmos of righteousness by faith inaugurated by Christ’s death and resurrection. The New Covenant inauguration and implementation were not merely abstract claims of contractual change; it was physically verified that the destruction of the Old Covenant emblem, the Temple, finalized the dissolution of the Old Covenant itself.

“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not! See, your house [Temple] is left to you desolate.

Truly, I say to you, all these things will come upon this generation.

Matt 23:36-38


1. Bauckham, Richard J. Vol. 50, Word Biblical Commentary: 2 Peter, Jude. Word Biblical Commentary. Dallas: Word, Incorporated, 2002, p. 315-319.
2. Wenham, Gordon J. Vol. 1, Word Biblical Commentary: Genesis 1-15. Word Biblical Commentary. Dallas: Word, Incorporated, 2002, p. 207.
3. Schreiner, Thomas R. Vol. 37, 1, 2 Peter, Jude. electronic ed. Logos Library System; The New American Commentary. Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2007, p. 384.
4. Leithart, Peter J. The Promise of His Appearing: An Exposition of Second Peter. Moscow, ID: Canon Press, 2004, p.101. Bauckham argues that “The heavenly bodies (sun, moon and stars) is the interpretation favored by most commentators,” for stoicheion. But then we are right back to the sun, moon, and stars as figurative language of covenantal elements. Bauckham, 2 Peter, Jude, 316. But I doubt this interpretation because the clear words for “heavenly bodies” are not stoicheion, but epouranios soma (1 Cor 15:40-41).
5. Gary DeMar, Last Days Madness, p. 192.
6. Lightfoot, John. Commentary on the New Testament from the Talmud and Hebraica: Matthew – 1 Corinthians, 4 vols. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1859, 1989, 3:454.

Brian Godawa is the screenwriter of To End All Wars and other feature films. He has written and directed documentaries on church-state relations, stem cell research and higher education politics. He is the author of Hollywood Worldviews: Watching Films with Wisdom and Discernment (InterVarsity Press) and Chronicles of the Nephilim, a series of fantasy novels about Biblical heroes within their ancient Near Eastern mythological context. He speaks around the country to churches, high schools and colleges on movies, worldviews and faith. His movie blog can be found at godawa.com/movieblog/.

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Jon Garvey - #64847

September 20th 2011


Presumably because of your thesis you’d reject the many scholars who place 2 Peter after 80AD, partly because of the number of 2nd century sources that talk about a future destruction of the world by fire?

It would be interesting, too, to hear your take on why those 2nd century Christians would have lost sight of the fact that it was referring to the destruction of the Temple and that the Day of the Lord was long past.

Personally I think that nearly all the NT canon was complete by 69AD (perhaps even Revelation) but that’s the view of a very small minority.

Norman - #64865

September 20th 2011

For an argument against the scholarly inclination of late dating I suggest Bishop A. T. Robinson’s book “Redating the New Testament”.  Here is a point to consider from his book penned 35 years ago.


“ONE of the oddest facts about the New Testament is that what on any showing would appear to be the single most datable and climactic event of the period - the fall of Jerusalem in ad 70, and with it the collapse of institutional Judaism based on the temple - is never once mentioned as a past fact.” 




It’s easy to read into a date that fits one’s expectations and various Preterist can be just as guilty as futurist in that aspiration.  Yet the internal evidence is so strong against post AD70 dating of biblical and many other early Christian pieces such as Barnabas and Didache that it’s astounding that competent scholars would continue to hold on to such ideas. However once something gets ingrained into the public perception it’s difficult to root out even when the evidence against it is overwhelming.


The foundation of the first century church is all about the looming judgment upon old covenant Judaism.  To ignore the reality that the authors would write in the manner that they do if the Temple had already been destroyed and not been duly noted is inconceivable from a logical inquiry. Especially since the focus of Christ prophecy concerning this matter is the elephant in the room throughout this literature.


Now the question may arise; why does this concern Biologos and a Genesis evaluation. Well if you haven’t started putting two and two together yet about the ancient Jewish understanding of the Heavens and Earth then perhaps you are not paying attention. Genesis is foundational to NT theology and its metaphors drive all biblical understanding especially the messianic coming of Christ. The NT authors did not hijack the Genesis definitions and change them in mid-stream to recreate the NT application. No, they were following a long understood biblical application that flies under the radar of the uninitiated regarding this jargon. In other words they understood these definitions originated in Genesis and were to be applied consistently through the scriptures. Genesis doesn’t quite mean what you think it does is the rub; and when you realize this then one realizes how much effort has been wasted in trying to concord science with Genesis literature. It’s purely a theological work in the highest sense.

amhendrick - #64852

September 20th 2011

I am enjoying this series, and have found it very insightful.  What I can’t figure out is where it leaves the Christian hope of resurrection new creation.  Is there still such a hope for those of us living after the destruction of the Temple, etc?

Enosh - #64854

September 20th 2011

Our bodily resurrection is linked to Christ’s bodily resurrection (1 Cor. 15, Rom. 8:9-11). Therefore, as Jesus is, so we shall be (1 John 3:1-3). Moreover, the redemption of creation is linked to our bodily resurrection (Romans 8:18-25). Since it is abundantly clear both that the New Testament talks of a bodily resurrection for believers and that it manifestly hasn’t happened yet, the bodily resurrection and consmmation of all things is still future. This is the standard orthodox preterist view; the key is to look for references to our bodily resurrection. Brian himself reiterated this here: http://biologos.org/blog/the-collapsing-universe-in-the-bible-literal-science-or-poetic-metaphor-3#comment-64675

micahmartin5 - #64880

September 20th 2011

@ Enosh,

Could you please explain to me how physical creation must be “redeemed”? It seems to me that if you are on this board then you probably reject the idea’s that the earth is only 6K years old and physical death, decay and disease didn’t exist before the fall. 

So how has sin affected the physical universe and why do we need a new heaven and earth or “redeemed” physical creation when it operates now exactly has it has for billions of years, even before the fall?

Here is a thought. If what Brian is getting at is true, then maybe the “creation” might not be referring to the physical universe. If it is referring to a “covenant creation” as Brian mentioned then the being in the New Covenant would mean that “creation” has been redeemed. Right? Aren’t we a “new creation” in Christ?

Enosh - #64896

September 21st 2011

Your assumption is wrong. I believe that the universe is only 6K old and physical death, decay and disease didn’t exist before the Fall. So, as the physical creation was subjected to futility because of Adam’s sin, so it will be restored to its original beauty when God’s people are bodily raised from the dead. I have no problems affirming the traditional (and correct) reading of Romans 8:18-25. I’m on here because I saw an article supporting orthodox preterism (which I also affirm), and wanted to point out that the references Brian was using are in fact YECs themselves (e.g. Gentry, Demar, Sproul), which demonstrates that YECism is not incompatible with orthodox preterism.

Therefore, while I agree with Brian that the cosmic language in prophetic/apocalyptic literature isn’t talking about the end of the space-time universe, I don’t think the same can be said of Genesis 1-11 because I believe it’s historical narrative. However, I’m not going to debate that extensively here because it’s not the right thread to do it in.

As for the future of the Christian, the New Testament and all of church history is plain that resurrection is still in our future. Why? As Christ was raised, so we too shall be raised. I affirm that we are ‘new creations’ in Christ in the covenantal sense, but that we haven’t become like Christ yet in his resurrection in a concrete sense.

Why do I acknowledge a future bodily resurrection? Go read N.T. Wright’s The Resurrection of the Son of God and you’ll see why.

Norman - #64897

September 21st 2011


I’m afraid there is no such animal as “orthodox Preterism”. Just as there is no orthodox Christianity when judged from each denomination’s particular view or perspective. LOL

By the way a consistent understanding of the Preterist hermeneutic is about the most anti YEC approach you will find when taken to its full exploration. Many eschatological Preterist have never seriously investigated Genesis or for that matter anything before Moses and the Law. The ones that I’ve encounter who adhere to YEC typically give up the Preterist ghost once they understand where the exploration eventually leads. Or they try to avoid Genesis except on a surface literal level. They prefer YEC over Preterism.

By the way N. T. Wright doesn’t buy your Genesis YEC approach but he does apparantly buy turning the earth back into a Garden of Eden. I’m really curious why he can see Genesis as metaphor but not Revelation?  

Enosh - #64902

September 21st 2011

By ‘orthodox’, it should be quite clear what I’m referring to: the Christian church everywhere has always believed in the future bodily resurrection. Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Protestant (both evangelical and mainline), and even the Monophysites and Nestorians, have always believed this (and where some haven’t, it hasn’t had anything to do with hyperpreterism until the last few decades). The simple fact is that I can affirm the major Christian Creeds as far as eschatology is concerned. As an evangelical protestant, I affirm them because they are in accordance with the testimony of the Scriptures.

There is a preteristic interpretation that sits within the bounds of orthodox Christian eschatology, and it is to this that I hold. Therefore, I will always identify myself with orthodox futurists before I’ll identify myself with hyperpreterists. Jesus’ resurrection, and ours as a logical implication of that, serves as my foundation.

As far as ‘consistency’ is concerned, it depends what you’re trying to be consistent in. If you want to be ‘consistent’ in force-fitting everything in the Bible into a AD70 interpretation, that’s your prerogative. However, since I’m steadfastly convinced that hyperpreterism is not consistent with the authorial intent of the biblical writers, I demur.

As regards N.T. Wright on Genesis, since he’s a NT scholar and not an OT scholar, I’m not all that worried about what he says on Genesis. I’ve seen various arguments for taking Genesis as non-historical, and I remain unconvinced. Since I take genre considerations on a case-by-case basis, I’m not at all concerned about taking Genesis as historical while believing that much biblical prophecy hasn’t been literalistically fulfilled. I’m not bound to a literalistic hermeneutic—-I’m bound to a hermeneutic that respects authorial intent. That means: different genres; different rules of interpretation.

As regards Genesis, I think it’s quite plainly demonstrable that the vast majority consensus of Jewish and Christian interpreters through the ages has agreed that it is historical narrative (including Genesis 1). I think it’s demonstrable that the author intended to take it that way as well. The only major pre-Enlightenment interpretive school that tended to disagree tended to emphasize allegorical interpretation, and their take on Genesis 1 is really an application of that method, which is at odds with authorial intent. That all changed right when long-age geology began to be accepted in the church, which seems to demonstrate that post-Enlightenment reinterpretations of Genesis were and are driven primarily to harmonize Moses with long-age geology, and not by textual matters. I also remain unconvinced that parallels with other ANE cosmogonies mandate that Genesis 1 be interpreted as ahistorical.

Also, I’m not about to ignore church history as regards these matters, as hyperpreterists must if they wish to establish their views. Church history may present us with wrong interpretations, but to say that the consistent witness of the entire church for over 1900 years on a foundational doctrine like the future bodily resurrection is completely wrong? WOW! Talk about chutzpah! Not to mention that this is the consensus of the best minds in the church over that entire time as to what Scripture says on the matter. N.T. Wright is just one in an enormously long list who have demonstrated this from Scripture.

Anyone who reads the Reformers will see that they never ignored church history in their Scriptural interpretation, and in fact were able to demonstrate quite successfully that many of their views had a long and respectable pedigree in church history, and that it was the Roman Catholic Church that had little historical basis for their interpretations. Sola Scriptura doesn’t abandon church history; it just identifies it as a witness to Scriptural meaning, not the judge of Scriptural meaning.

For all on this thread, I urge you to go here for some good information on preterism: http://www.preteristsite.org which, I support fully in both its conclusions and its intent. I suspect that most of the hyperpreterists on this thread will already be familiar with that site, and will therefore know what that means regarding my opinion of hyperpreterism. I’ll leave it at that.

Brian G - #64907

September 21st 2011


I think you are right about different genres requiring different hermeneutics. However, what i think I am proving with this series and my others at this blog is that there is clearly a link between the language and imagery of creation and decreation that extends to Genesis as well as Revelation. The connection seems pretty strong as I have been arguing. 

If you are truly open to reading Gen 1-11 as it was intended, then you simply cannot read it with the modern hermeneutic of “historical,” as we understand it, because the primeval sources that the author uses and emulates in his genre are clearly not historical in the way we write history.  

Walton has strongly established (Lost World Genesis One) that ANE  creation stories are a distinct genre and way of thinking that has nothing to do with our Post-enlightened material oriented cosmogony or cosmology.

Enosh - #64927

September 22nd 2011


This is where we part ways—I remain unconvinced that the issues you’ve raised regarding “language” affect a historical reading of Genesis 1. The closest links you’ve established are those of vocabulary, and only in part, but there’s a lot more to it than even that. What of character, plot, dialogue, chronology, narratival perspective? Genesis 1 possesses all of these. And the narrative is not in the form of a vision or a parable. There are grammatical constructions that make it a narrative too. It has no “and the word of the Lord came to me” or conversations with heavenly beings, which rule out prophecy and apocalyptic. And finally, the inner-biblical and ancient Jewish allusions to Genesis 1 all presume its historicity.

Moreover, I’m not as convinced by Walton’s argument as you are. Walton is presenting an interpretation unheard of in the entire history of exegesis of Genesis 1. That alone provides reason to be skeptical, though it’s not reason to dismiss it completely—we’re Protestants, not Catholics, after all. But it means he has to provide very solid evidence for his position to overturn the traditional interpretation (which is that Genesis 1 is historical). But I’m not convinced that he’s met that burden. He may do so in the future, though I think it unlikely. He certainly presents some food for thought, but I’m not convinced he’s sufficiently considered the inner-biblical evidence.

First, I think that there exists a closer interpretive context for Genesis 1 than the ANE cosmogonies: Exodus 20:8-11 and 31:17-18. The logic runs thus: the history of God’s creative acts provides the context for the sign of the covenant he made with the Israelites: as God made everything in six days and rested on the seventh, as God’s people, the Israelites were to follow His example in work and rest. Exodus thus presupposes the historicity of Genesis 1 for the Sinai covenant’s central symbol—the Sabbath.

Second, I’m not convinced of Walton’s reading of bara. From what I can see, bara is essentially a specialized form of asah, it seems to speak of divine origination of something new or unique. The emphasis seems to be on the agency of origin, and the newness/uniqueness of what has been originated, not the manner/type of origin (whether material or functional). It doesn’t necessarily mean creation ex nihilo, but that can be implied depending on the object of bara.

For instance, consider the creation of the first man and woman in Genesis 1 and 2. Genesis 1 doesn’t speak of what the man and the woman were made from, or of any process of material creation. However, Genesis 2:7 and 2:21-22 do—they explicitly give processes by which both the first man and the first woman were materially created. What does that say about the usage of bara in Genesis 1:27? It tells you that God materially created the first two humans for a purpose. So, to say that bara cannot have any connotations of material ontology seems rather clearly proven wrong by the account of the creation of the first humans. Note that bara in Genesis 1:27, given the contextual evidence of Genesis 2, does not imply ex nihilo creation with reference to humans. However, neither is it merely a case of functional origins.

Finally, a historical reading is not a “modern hermeneutic”. It’s quite plain that most commentators before the Enlightenment took Genesis 1-11 as giving a summary narrative of things that really did happen. This includes John Calvin, Martin Luther, Basil of Caesarea, Irenaeus, Jerome, Ephrem the Syrian, Ambrose of Milan, and Theophilus of Antioch, to name a few. Those that are clear on their figurative interpretation can trace their hermeneutic back to one man: Philo of Alexandria. And I think his was a shoddy interpretive method; one the Reformers intentionally tried to leave behind for good reason. However, even those who followed Philo on Genesis 1 still believed in a young cosmos (e.g. Origen, Augustine) because of the chronology presented in Genesis. The historical reading of Genesis 1 is the oldest attested interpretation.

I’m not saying that Genesis is history in the way we would write history. I’m saying that even the ancients understood the difference between events in the past that happened and those that didn’t. For the majority of ancient Israelites, early Jews, Church Fathers and Reformers, Genesis (all of it) recorded events that they believed really happened. I side with them.

Brian G - #64941

September 23rd 2011


While there is certainly tremendous value in dissecting word usage and meaning in the original text, there is an exegetical fallacy that occurs when one prioritizes word study over genre. That is what I think is happening with your argument. Word study alone is an atomistic enterprise doomed to failure if it is not subordinated to the wider big picture study of language usage such as genre.

The nature and purpose of ANE creation stories takes precedence in an examination of the ANE literature of Genesis. 

Even if one takes Moses as its author, unless you believe in a theory of auto-dictation (like Muhammed), Moses wrote in a 2nd millennium context and used 2nd millennium sources, which tended to write creation stories to justify their gods’ claims to authority. It is more likely that the sign of the covenant God made with the Israelites at Sinai provides the context for the writing of the creation story to back up that claim. It is not that the creation story was a lie to justify power, but rather a theological expression of  covenant in terms of creation. A theological way of organizing knowledge or truth. Proving BARAH can mean material creation or that the days of Gen 1 are literal 24 hours is irrelevent if the entire purpose of the genre is something other than the historical origins of matter. 

Let me give an analogy to show that Genre can use “factual reality” as a means to an end without being deceitful. If 1000 years from now, someone unearths the movie The Blair Witch Project, they might think that the whole thing really happened. Why, they had websites, interviews, it was a documentary, even the ads promoted this. Of course, we here and now know it is a “found footage horror” film genre which uses “historicity” not as a lie, but as a convention to communicating truth in a more impactful way. But those who may have never learned about this genre may completely miss the point and think that it went out of its way to be “factual” or “historical” or what have you. Genre is far more important than the atomistic dissection of details. 

Unfortunately for all your church fathers and exegetes up until the 19th century, they simply did not have the extensive knowledge of ANE genre that we now have, because they did not have all the texts we now have (Babylonian, some Egyptian, Akkadian, Sumerian Ugaritic, Hittite, etc.). We have a distinct advantage over our predecessors in understanding the unique requirements and application of genre to the Hebrew text in its ANE context.  This interpretation does not “go back to one man, Philo,” but rather it goes back to the original ANE cultural context missed by our forebears.

Admittedly, there is much we do not know, and we can be wrong about our interpretations as well. But my point is that we really do have a lot of knowledge that our forefathers did not have, and a significant part of that knowledge includes cosmogonies and creation stories. We truly are in a position to know more about genre than they did. This is not an arrogant claim, but very much in spirit with the Reformers who claimed to go back to the original meaning of the texts AGAINST the Roman tradition. 

Jon Garvey - #64946

September 23rd 2011

“Unfortunately for all your church fathers and exegetes up until the 19th century, they simply did not have the extensive knowledge of ANE genre that we now have, because they did not have all the texts we now have (Babylonian, some Egyptian, Akkadian, Sumerian Ugaritic, Hittite, etc.).”

By the same token, of course, the New Testament writers did not have access to that ANE tradition, either.

But whatever it was they taught, they were commissioned personally by Christ to pass it on to the Church - which is the tradition the Church Fathers received both from their founding apostles and from the New Testament. In some cases (Clement, Polycarp etc) they were taught personally by apostles.

The tabloid story is this: Christ and his apostles entirely fail to educate the entire New Covenant community about the main point of Christ’s mission. Accordingly they miss his return and spread a false message across the world. Fortunately 2000 years later a few people get it right, and so can attach the headline “World Ended in 70AD”. Not many people buy the paper.

John Walton certainly doesn’t.

Norman - #64953

September 24th 2011


It appears to me that you are over simplifying what Brian is presenting. Historical fathers essentially ended with the Apostles in regard to understanding the robustness of the messianic coming of Christ and the OT and Second Temple literature that pointed to and illuminated its occurrence. The vast majority of first century Jews failed to heed its timely calling when messiah did come. Paul even states in 1 Cor 13 that the miraculous gifts were ending and with it apparently specific knowledge that helped establishes the Kingdom of Christ.

1Co 13:8 Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away

. [and he is not talking about the end of the physical universe here]

Paul’s understanding about knowledge passing away illustrates that what has been and was being established through the Apostles and to be consummated soon does not require the same insight that was revealed to himself and the Apostles. The purpose of the gospel was to remove the Old Covenant dispensation of works of the Law and reorder it with the Grace of God through Christ sacrifice instead. That is ultimately what 1 Cor 13 is all about. That message has not been lost and has been passed down through the ages by many different groups besides the western church as well. However wide discrepancies regarding the non-essentials have been propagated off and on for this nearly 2000 year period, there can be no doubt. These non-essentials that are peripheral to the Good news of the gospel would not be considered legitimate even though they may have been promulgated by what are calling the early church Fathers.

I believe we overstate the facts when we attribute apostolic insight collectively to what we call the church fathers capabilities. I would challenge the idea that they historically have any more insight biblically than you or I do and as Brian proposes they very likely often worked with much less information available to them than we do and were bound to make wrong assumptions [they did not work under the insight of prophetic influence]. Many of the first century writings that were considered as scripture such as Enoch, Jubilees and Barnabas were dropped around the third century by a more Greek influenced church body. Along with the discovery of the “Dead Sea Scrolls” and the sheer volume of research that is now bearing scrutiny upon many matters, we can see with certainty that so called church fathers were indeed fallible men simply without the collective power of knowledge that can now be brought to bear. I believe it’s naïve to not examine the humanity and evolutionary causes of the historical church and its obvious mistakes that are strewn throughout church history.

A systematic evaluation of the original mindset of the church found in the first century illustrates how it progressively changed and reverted back to a legalistic Jewish reading Phariseeism that was predominate when Christ encountered His people. Good scholarship and not emotionalism is required to unravel this story of the church origins and its evolutionary dynamics over time. If we want to really get back to the origins then we need to study the predominate second Temple and first century writings and then determine where the later day church fathers changed things as they went along keeping in mind that the later day “church fathers” do not carry the same weight as the Apostles and their contemporaries.

A good book that illustrates the deficiencies of the church fathers progressively over time but only touches upon a limited area is Young & Stearley’s book “The Bible, Rocks and Time” in which they trace how things go astray in the church in regards to YEC. It’s a pattern that has many off shoots and I will simply state is what keeps many scholars excited and busy today revisiting how things were worked out and what their implications for the modern church are.

Jon you made an uncharacteristic emotional argument today contrary to your usually good analytical approach. That would be expected from an evangelical perspective to many of our current biblical issues when the wagons need to be circled. Start giving these issues some deeper thought than a simple adherence to “church fathers”.

Norman - #64954

September 24th 2011

By the way we can see that the first century church understood the Judgment upon Old Covenant Judaism was going to be the consummating event of their times. The later church interprets this as future to us because we read ourselves into the story line as we read other peoples mail. The first century Barnabas letter is one of the most obvious commentaries of its day [and yes it was written before AD70 contrary to those who guess otherwise]. The apostles wrote nothing after AD70 because most were Dead and as Paul said Love was firmly established and signs and knowledge about these events would pass. The rediscovery of this first century mindset is an extremely exhilarating scholarly study and we can see where Augustine gets pretty close to it but he too decides to write himself into the messianic consummating times as does about every generation since the first century in some manner or another.

Take a look at how Augustine takes a metaphorical view of Genesis one just as chapter 15 of the Barnabas letter does but he moves it down the line about 300 years just as many have it 2000 years with a date set of 2012. You can do that when you read yourself into the story of others.


6. But observe what Himself says, … from the beginning of the world: “In the beginning God made the heaven and the earth.” Genesis 1:1 Thence down to the time in which we are now living are six ages, this being the sixth, as you have often heard and know. The first age is reckoned from Adam to Noah; the second, from Noah to Abraham; and, as Matthew the evangelist duly follows and distinguishes, the third, from Abraham to David; the fourth, from David to the carrying away into Babylon; the fifth, from the carrying away into Babylon to John the Baptist; Matthew 1:17 the sixth, from John the Baptist to the end of the world. Moreover, God made man after His own image on the sixth day, because in this sixth age is manifested the renewing of our mind through the gospel, after the image of Him who created us; Colossians 3:10 and the water is turned into wine, that we may taste of Christ, now manifested in the law and the prophets.


Norman - #64955

September 24th 2011

The Barnabas Epistle was still out there in the early church at Augustine’s time and its influence is easy to see with Augustine [again Young and Searley document the influence of Barnabas]. However Barnabas was concerned with the coming judgment upon Judaism of the first century and Augustine didn’t grasp that point fully and like us moved the point of consummation to his era.

Barnabas 6

12 For it is concerning us that the scripture says that he says to the Son, “Let us make man after our image and likeness, and let them rule the beasts of the earth, and the birds of heaven, and the fishes of the sea.” And the Lord said, when he saw our fair creation, “Increase and multiply and fill the earth”; these things were spoken to the Son.

13 Again I will show you how he speaks to us. In the last days he made a second creation; and the Lord says, “See, I make the last things as the first.” To this then the Prophet referred when he proclaimed, “Enter into a land flowing with milk and honey, and rule over it.”

14 See then, we have been created afresh, as he says again in another Prophet, “See,” saith the Lord, “I will take out from them” (that is those whom the Spirit of the Lord foresaw) “the hearts of stone and I will put in hearts of flesh.” Because he himself was going to be manifest in the flesh and to dwell among us.

Barnabas is explaining the idea of being created in the Image of God was to those in his day prior to the destruction of the Jews who are the object of this commentary. This was true for his readers but its past history now to those such as Augustine and us.

Here below is where Augustine gets the metaphorical six days of creation application but again he moves it down the line again not realizing that Barnabas sets the eternal 8th Day as about to be established which is called the beginning of a new world. This resonates typographically with the Jewish feast of weeks that also culminates on the 8th Day messianic promise of the priestly bringing of rain upon the land.

Barn 15:4 Notice, children, what is the meaning of “He made an end in six days”? He means this: that the Lord will make an end of everything in six thousand years, for a day with him means a thousand years. And he himself is my witness when he says, “Lo, the day of the Lord shall be as a thousand years.” So then, children, in six days, that is in six thousand years, everything will be completed.

5 “And he rested on the seventh day.” This means, when his Son comes he will destroy the time of the wicked one, and will judge the godless, and will change the sun and the moon and the stars, and then he will truly rest on the seventh day. [this verse resonates with Rev 21:23-24 in that the sun and moon which are needed for Old Covenant Judaism worship will pass, as Christ is the light]

8 Furthermore he says to them, “Your new moons and the sabbaths I cannot away with.” Do you see whathe means? The present sabbaths are not acceptable to me, but that which I have made, in which I will give rest to all things and make the beginning of an eighth day, that is the beginning of another world.

9 Wherefore we also celebrate with gladness the eighth day in which Jesus also rose from the dead, and was made manifest, and ascended into Heaven.

The theology of the consummated last days are in place but when time passes and then people lose track of their original audience intent, then we end up with nearly 2000 years of thinking a physical end is just around the corner. The YEC and Dispensationalist do this to the extreme yet the church at large also falls in where tradition has taken over from the original context. One is not going to unravel these issues by going back to the corrupt interpretations; no one needs to go to the earliest times and by pass the error filled views and determine what the original intent was purporting.

Again the church essentially got the big picture of grace and love replacing the Law correct except for off shots of the church that revert back to legalist law keeping to earn their salvation. The legalist would say they are right because they follow the Jewish model not fully comprehending that legalism is what Jesus taught against.


micahmartin5 - #64970

September 24th 2011


Your writing, study and insight always amaze me. I would only add to the fact that all through church history we see all kind of people seeing certain Scriptures as fulfilled. Between all of them you can easily piece together full-preterism. 

I would also point out the fact that there was a great falling away before the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70 (per Jesus’ prophecy). So much so that Jesus could ask the rhetorical question “When the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth”?

If there was only a remnant that fled to deserted places and everything was fulfilled exactly how they had been told (and they understood all the signs) why is it a surprise that they didn’t see the need to write about the fulfillment. I mean, the smoking Jerusalem would have been the biggest evidence they could have presented for fulfillment and a Consummated New Creation. 

The influence of the Greek thought is also overlooked. Romans is a great example. It didn’t take long (a decade) for the Greeks to go astray regarding Israel and God’s promises to them after the Jews were banished from Rome. 

All we have to do is look at the scholarship regarding the doctrine of “hell” and the “immortality of the soul” to see another example. Even the Catholic church attributes that doctrine to Plato. Are we just going to stick with the church fathers on that one even though it is more and more apparent that that doctrine is no where in the Old Testament or Jewish literature?

It’s time we start enjoying the view we have on the church fathers’ shoulders and realize that God has seen fit to allow us to see further than them. The more progress we make the higher the next generation will be and will be able to continue to improve on our theology. 

The same things hold’s true with science right? Do we clamor to uphold the fathers of science as inspired, or do we constantly look to see where we can improve and make adjustments because we have more information?

Norman - #64911

September 22nd 2011


Again “orthodox” is essentially a non-practical term especially when applied in an ad hominem insinuation. The same goes for the usage of “hyperpreterist” by those whom hold to an inconsistent biblical hermeneutic to draw attention away from such inconsistencies.

Framing resurrection as totally biological in nature goes against even the Preterist scholarly recognition of those like James Jordan, Gentry and DeMar.

Here is how Jordan frames resurrection from Dan 12:2 in one of his articles I linked below.

“The Argument for National Resurrection”

“The solution to our difficulty is found in Ezekiel 37. There the prophet is told to prophesy to the dead bones of the idolaters scattered all over the mountains of Israel (see Ezekiel 6:5). Ezekiel prophesies and the bones come to life again. This is explained in Ezekiel 37:11 as the national resurrection of Israel after the captivity. The language used by God is very “literal sounding,” to wit: “I will open your graves and cause you to come up out of your graves” (vv. 12 & 13). Yet, this graphic language refers to the spiritual resurrection of the nation



Would you agree with Jordan Here who like you is a preterist but staunch YEC.

Enosh - #64929

September 22nd 2011

My bad. The website is http://www.preteristsite.com/

Norman - #64931

September 23rd 2011

Biblically there were two seeds, One of Eve and one of Satan. Abel represented the good seed and Cain represented the jealous murderous seed. This analogy is drawn upon by the first century writers and Christ in describing the heretic hunters of their day calling them the son of the devil and a brood of vipers instructing them not to be like Cain. Unfortunately this destructive seed lived on following the church throughout history and especially reared its ugly head from both Protestant and Catholic ranks. The inquisition especially comes to mind. 

If you want to view a modern day manifestation of this continuing evil spirit that changes shapes and forms throughout history then this website will introduce you to one of those modern day manifestations.  If you want to search for the truth then beware of the witch hunters that are still out there.  I realize this seems harsh but Christ and the Apostles framed these types in the likeness of Cain and it’s only fitting to continue to mark the modern day heretic hunters with such a biblical description.

Norman - #64868

September 20th 2011

I’m a full Preterist that believes the resurrection of the faithful occurred through Christ resurrection and fulfillment of His prophecies about the impending doom of the Old Covenant. This is posited in Dan12 centuries earlier.


 Dan 12:1-2  “At that time shall arise Michael, the great prince who has charge of your people. And there shall be a time of trouble, such as never has been since there was a nation till that time. But at that time your people shall be delivered, everyone whose name shall be found written in the book.  (2)  And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt. … and that when the shattering of the power of the holy people comes to an end all these things U>would be finished.


Why people think that they have no everlasting life because the faithful were “raised” through Christ sacrifice and resurrection is a mystery to me. How does the ending of the old covenant regime hinder one iota our promise through Christ of eternal life when we enter our “sleep”.  On the contrary it is a much better idea to realize that because we are in Christ that we share with Him eternal life instead of having to endure something like soul sleep or residing in Hades that describes those faithful in the Old Covenant (Heb 11). Resurrection is not a physical rising of literal bodies out of the grave at the end of history that seems so pleasing to some; no resurrection is the reality that we have life with God eternally now and will rightfully join with Christ who was the first of many brothers.


Christ reappearance of Himself to the faithful does not mean we all have to reappear here on physical earth as He did to provide the sign to the believers of the reality of a resurrected life. What purpose would flying bodies out of the grave prove to anyone since we would be on the upward way? Well I guess that depends upon your particular brand of a literal interpretation of eschatology wouldn’t it.


I hope some here start to see the value of delving into eschatological issues to understand the total biblical picture.

micahmartin5 - #64879

September 20th 2011


Let’s take a closer look at what you are asking. Would you be asking the same type of question after things are fulfilled within the “nature of fulfillment” that you are expecting? When you get to heaven or a new physical heaven and earth are you going to say “what now”?

I think Brian is doing a great service. It is time to re-examine our pre-assumptions about the nature of certain Biblical idea’s. 

We know from Acts 26:23 that Christ was the first to “rise from the dead” (the death of Adam). I don’t have to tell you that he was NOT the first to rise from biological death. We know that Adam did not die physically the moment he ate of the fruit (but he certainly died when he ate). We can safely guess, through observational science, that Adam was probably not the first human (although he was certainly the first “covenant man”). We also know that the way the world works right now is the way it was originally designed and created by God, physical death, disease, danger, etc included. 

All of this points to the fact that biology had absolutely nothing to do with the death of Adam. If that is the case we should be willing to re-examine what “resurrection” from “the death” is, Biblically.

Paul preached nothing but the hope of Israel and nothing but what was found in the Law & Prophets, i.e. Old Testament. Therefore, unless we can find biological resurrection of individual bodies at the end of time in the Old Testament, we won’t find it in the New. 

In Paul’s discourse on the Resurrection in 1 Corinthians 15 he firmly grounds his entire discourse in Hosea and Isaiah. None of the passages that he cites or uses as inclusio’s have anything to do with biological resurrections at the end of time but rather corporate body language of Israel. (Hosea 13) Read 1 Cor. 15 carefully, you will see Paul is talking corporately there also. “How are the dead ones (plural) raised and with what body (singular) do they come?”

Add to this Norm’s observation that Daniel clearly prophesied the Resurrection would happen when the Temple would be destroyed (AD 70) and we have a lot of evidence that points to bad assumptions that should be openly re-examined. 

Christ was clear that his biological resurrection was a “sign” to an unbelieving generation. The same generation that Christ said would not die out before he returned. 

A sign never signifies itself, it always points to something greater. 

Just as the Roman armies destroying Jerusalem served as a sign that Christ was “coming on the clouds” in “the glory of his Father” and that his “parousia” or “presence” was eternally with his bride it also served as a sign that the dead, incorruptible “body of Adam” had been resurrected as the alive forevermore, incorruptible “body of Christ”! Christ was the firstfruits and the harvest was at his coming. From then on Christ and his Bride have been having kids like crazy, thus finally fulfilling the Gen. mandate to “be fruitful and multiply”. 

We have complete salvation! We don’t need to wait for God to change the way he designed the physical universe to operate for billions and billions of years. We have been restored back to an even better Garden (relationship with God)! We now walk with God in the cool of the day and drink and eat freely from the tree of life that grows next to the river of life! 

We aren’t waiting for a yet future hope. God has already been faithful to his promise. It is up to us to either “get busy living or get busy dying.” 


Mike Beidler - #64888

September 21st 2011

Micah makes an excellent point:  If, as evolutionary creationists or old-earth creationists, we believe the cosmos operated as God *intended* it to operate for billions of years ... then what aspect of the physical universe (or our bodies, for that matter) requires redemption?

amhendrick - #64890

September 21st 2011

Would you be asking the same type of question after things are fulfilled within the “nature of fulfillment” that you are expecting? When you get to heaven or a new physical heaven and earth are you going to say “what now”

font class=“Apple-style-span” color=”#090807”>Of course not.  What I am asking is whether the analysis in this series articles should compel me to change my expectations.   Every Sunday in church I say that I believe in the “resurrection of the body and the life everlasting.”  What you are suggesting is a big departure from what has been Christian doctrine for a long time.  
Norman - #64898

September 21st 2011

You know God can provide us an eternal home wherever He desires. If there is some place in His realm that Jesus and all those that have fallen asleep then I want to be there for those blessings when I too enter the eternal reward. I would expect though the biblical language is not describing the Heavenly abode as much as it is symbolizing through typology consummating Kingdom events that have already occurred.

NT Wrights idea of animals lying down together is nothing more than a glorified YEC literal application to eschatology. It could be correct and I would be good with that but I highly doubt that a good biblical case could really be made for the somewhat postmillennial view he espouses. He’s pretty good on most other theological points though.

Christian - #64881

September 21st 2011

@amhendrick: Regarding your questions, I can’t recommend too strongly a book I’m currently reading: Surprised by Hope by N. T. Wright.

amhendrick - #64889

September 21st 2011


micahmartin5 - #64935

September 23rd 2011


First of all let me commend you for interacting on this thread. I know many YEC people that see biologos.org as a sinister threat to Christianity itself. I appreciate your interaction and civil attitude as well as your succinctly stated arguments. And I apologize for my mistaken assumption. 

I myself, while definitely an “old earther,” am not totally convinced on the common decent question. I am enjoying studying about it and I do see it’s strengths and weaknesses. 

I would invite you to interface over at http://www.deathisdeafeted.ning.com if you are interested in learning more about Covenant Creation from a full preterist perspective. I also will be happy to offer you a copy of “Beyond Creation Science” if you are interested in reading a basic treatise on the subject. (.(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address))

I would like to point out just a few things for you to think about.

1) The modern YEC movement is very different than what you are claiming is the “traditional” understanding of Genesis. Even the modern leaders (Morris and Whitcomb) admit this. Also, a very strong case can be made that the modern YEC movement is just a branch of modern Dispensationalism. This is why people like Gary de Mar are basically powerless to infiltrate large groups of dispensationalist. If you start with Morris’ hermeneutic in Genesis (and end with the same hermeneutic in Revelation 21) you will never get people to leave that hermeneutic elsewhere, say Matthew 24, or Isaiah 65. Please take the time to study the roots of modern day YEC and the intimate connections to dispensationalism. You might be surprised. (“Beyond Creation Science” has a very well researched and documented section on this.)

2) You also need to admit that most Partial Preterist are outside the realm of orthodoxy as you define it. Many, if not all say we are living in “the age to come”. This is contrary to the Nicene Creed. Amillennialist such as Engelmsa do a great job of showing this. You simply can’t use the “orthodox” card in this debate unless you are willing to call those partial preterist who disregard certain creeds heterodox also. 

If you insist on using this argument please first make out a list of passages that must be believed to be orthodox and compare it to the partial preterist world (and church history). You might find more heretics than you realize. You can even do a short survey of the WCF and it’s original proof texts and see how much Gary and others have as fulfilled that the authors of the WCF use to proof text their errant eschatology. 

You don’t even have to go back that far. In earlier writings, people like Gentry said that anyone that had Daniel 12:2 fulfilled was unorthodox. Guess who has Dan. 12:2 fulfilled now? Yes, Gentry himself along with most of the PP world.

It has gotten to the point where some, like James Jordan basically agree that all is fulfilled but then they say that Israel as a whole was a type of the world so the story replays through history on a larger scale. You will certainly not find that interpretation in church history, yet these guys are featured speakers at PP conference. (Mike Bull emphatically states that the New Covenant comes to and end!) I rather enjoy Jordan’s material but as Norman pointed out, Jordan is YEC and holds to a biological view of the curse, therefore he is forced to come up with some other “end” so that Christ’s work can finally be “finished” because it clearly is not done.



micahmartin5 - #64936

September 23rd 2011

Continued for Enosh

span style=“letter-spacing: 0.0px”>I have extended a public challenge to anyone that follows Gary de Mar to produce anything that Gary has written where he explains the final coming of Christ from Scripture! I will extend that challenge to you too. Try to find it. It’s not there and there is a good reason why. If you properly start exegeting the New Testament you quickly find that it all is connected to the Old and as Gary points out, the old is totally fulfilled in Christ. 

span style=“letter-spacing: 0.0px”>

span style=“letter-spacing: 0.0px”>Quote from Gary: 


span style=“letter-spacing: 0.0px”>The New Testament describes Jesus as the fulfillment of every element of the Old Covenant shadows, feasts included (Passover, Unleavened Bread, Firstfruits, Pentecost):

span style=“letter-spacing: 0.0px”>

span style=“letter-spacing: 0.0px color: #000000”>source: http://americanvision.org/5146/defending-dispensationalism-at-all-costs/

span style=“letter-spacing: 0.0px”>

span style=“letter-spacing: 0.0px”>If you still think it’s “in there somewhere” take a listen to this series (and I would highly recommend the 1 Cor. series as well.)

span style=“text-decoration: underline ; letter-spacing: 0.0px”>http://podcast.newcovenanteyes.com/categories/It’s In There Somewhere.aspx

span style=“letter-spacing: 0.0px”>

span style=“letter-spacing: 0.0px”>This is the elephant in the room of the partial preterist world. They start with Morris’ understanding of Genesis and are trapped by their unfounded fear of “evolution.” Evolution is just a process. It is our own pride that says our interpretation of God’s word trumps his revealed truth in nature, whatever it may be. We had this debate 500 years ago with Galileo and Copernicus, we should know better. 

span style=“letter-spacing: 0.0px”>

span style=“letter-spacing: 0.0px”>The modern geological consensus of an old earth came about by God fearing people learning about God’s creation. The modern YEC movement came about through a prophetess named Ellen G. White, supposedly receiving direct revelation from God. 

span style=“letter-spacing: 0.0px”>

span style=“letter-spacing: 0.0px”>Old earth geology proves itself by finding oil where the hypothesis says oil should be. YEC/Flood geology is absolutely incapable of doing this. God has given us the evidence, it is time we stop playing god by demanding that He write “History” as we want him too. 

span style=“letter-spacing: 0.0px”>

span style=“letter-spacing: 0.0px”>I hope you continue to ask questions and study this subject. If you are interested in a copy of BCS, please let me know and I will drop one in the mail to you.

span style=“letter-spacing: 0.0px”>

span style=“letter-spacing: 0.0px”>Blessings and thanks again for your interaction,

span style=“letter-spacing: 0.0px”>Micah

micahmartin5 - #64937

September 23rd 2011

Whoa, sorry for the really bad formatting. I have no idea how that happened. I guess next time I won’t import it from Pages.

micahmartin5 - #64971

September 24th 2011

I would like to point out to the readers that Brian has not presented anything “unorthodox” in this series. There are some full-preterist like myself that are enjoying seeing him lay the foundation for a non-concordance view of Revelation to match up with a non-concordance view of Genesis. However, I want to make sure that Brian doesn’t get tarred and feathered for something he is not presenting. 

It is apparent to me though, that a covenant-eschatalogy counterpart to covenant creation (or non-concordance view of Genesis / Revelation) is obvious to many reading this series. 

Just the very fact that people are seeing how easily the two fit together (whether they agree or not with the implications) should be enough evidence for people reading this blog to take a step back and re-evalute certain doctrines with an open mind and heart. This is especially true for those who hold to an old earth and believe the biological death existed before the fall or those on the flip side that hold to a partial preterist view.  I hope this series is well received by other scholars on http://www.biologos.org and a fresh discussion can ensue.

Brian G - #64980

September 25th 2011


Thank you for your comments. You have nailed it. I am working my own way through a foundation, and I am only in process trying to be honest with what I can see in the Scriptures, regardless of the implications on my theology down the road.  I have not gone as far as full preterism in my views, but I am taking one step at a time in my pursuit and understanding and trying to introduce this audience to that foundational start as well.
jrinad70 - #65051

September 26th 2011


Excellent!  Just excellent!

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