2 Timothy 3:15
And that from a child you have known the holy scriptures, which are able to make you wise to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(15) And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures.—The Greek words translated “from a child” should be rendered, from a very child, as the word denotes that Timothy’s instruction in the Holy Scriptures began at a very early and tender age.

The holy scriptures.—Literally, the sacred writings. The Scriptures of the Old Testament are here exclusively meant. The expression “writings” for the Scriptures is not found elsewhere in the New Testament; it is, however, used by Josephus.

Two powerful arguments have been here used by the Apostle to induce Timothy to remain steadfast to the great doctrines of faith, and neither to take anything from them or to add anything to them. The first presses upon him the source whence he had learned them. He, better than any one, knew who and what St. Paul was, and the position he held with his brother Apostles, as one who had been in direct communication with the Lord Himself; and the second reminded him of his own early training, under his pious mother. He appealed, as it were, to Timothy’s own deep knowledge of those Old Testament Scriptures. St. Paul’s disciple would know that the great Christian doctrines respecting the Messiah were all based strictly on these Old Testament writings. Timothy had a double reason for keeping to the old paths pointed out by the first generation of teachers. He knew the authority of the master who instructed him; and then, from his own early and thorough knowledge of the Scriptures of the Jews, he was able to test thoroughly whether or no his master’s teaching was in accordance with those sacred documents.

Which are able to make thee wise unto salvation.—The present participle rendered by “which are able” is noticeable, being here used to express the ever-present power of the Scriptures on the human heart. The Holy Scriptures had not completed their work on Timothy when, in his boyhood, he first mastered their contents. It was still going on. “Wise unto salvation” marks the glorious end and destination of the true wisdom which is gained by a study of these sacred books. Other wisdom has a different goal. In some cases it leads to power, fame, wealth; but this wisdom leads only to one goal—salvation. The last clause—“through faith which is in Christ Jesus”—points out the only way to use these Scriptures of the old covenant so as to attain through them the goal of all true wisdom—“eternal salvation.” They must be read and studied in the light of faith in Jesus Christ. “Those (Old Testament) Scriptures, he (St. Paul) granteth, were able to make him wise unto salvation;” but, he addeth, “through the faith which is in Christ” (Hooker, Ecc. Polity, i. 14, 4). Faith in Jesus must be the torch by the light of which these ancient prophecies and types must be read.

3:14-17 Those who would learn the things of God, and be assured of them, must know the Holy Scriptures, for they are the Divine revelation. The age of children is the age to learn; and those who would get true learning, must get it out of the Scriptures. They must not lie by us neglected, seldom or never looked into. The Bible is a sure guide to eternal life. The prophets and apostles did not speak from themselves, but delivered what they received of God, 2Pe 1:21. It is profitable for all purposes of the Christian life. It is of use to all, for all need to be taught, corrected, and reproved. There is something in the Scriptures suitable for every case. Oh that we may love our Bibles more, and keep closer to them! then shall we find benefit, and at last gain the happiness therein promised by faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, who is the main subject of both Testaments. We best oppose error by promoting a solid knowledge of the word of truth; and the greatest kindness we can do to children, is to make them early to know the Bible.And that from a child thou hast known the holy Scriptures - That is, the Old Testament; for the New Testament was not then written; see the notes at John 5:39. The mother of Timothy was a pious Hebrewess, and regarded it as one of the duties of her religion to train her son in the careful knowledge of the word of God. This was regarded by the Hebrews as an important duty of religion, and there is reason to believe that it was commonly faithfully performed. The Jewish writings abound with lessons on this subject. Rabbi Judah says, "The boy of five years of age ought to apply to the study of the sacred Scriptures." Rabbi Solomon, on Deuteronomy 11:19, says, "When the boy begins to talk, his father ought to converse with him in the sacred language, and to teach him the law; if he does not do that, he seems to bury him." See numerous instances referred to in Wetstein, in loc. The expression used by Paul - "from a child" (ἀπὸ βρέφους apo brephous) - does not make it certain at precisely what age Timothy was first instructed in the Scriptures, though it would denote an "early" age. The word used - βρέφος brephos - denotes:

(1) a babe unborn, Luke 1:41, Luke 1:44;

(2) an infant, babe, suckling.

In the New Testament, it is rendered "babe and babes," Luke 1:41, Luke 1:44; Luke 2:12, Luke 2:16; 1 Peter 2:2; "infants," Luke 8:15; and "young children," Acts 7:19. It does not elsewhere occur, and its current use would make it probable that Timothy had been taught the Scriptures as soon as he was capable of learning anything. Dr. Doddridge correctly renders it here "from infancy." It may be remarked then,

(1) that it is proper to teach the Bible to children at as early a period of life as possible.

(2) that there is reason to hope that such instruction will not be forgotten, but will have a salutary influence on their future lives. The piety of Timothy is traced by the apostle to the fact that he had been early taught to read the Scriptures, and a great proportion of those who are in the church have been early made acquainted with the Bible.

(3) it is proper to teach the "Old" Testament to children - since this was all that Timothy had, and this was made the means of his salvation.

(4) we may see the utility of Sunday schools. The great, and almost the sole object of such schools is to teach the Bible, and from the view which Paul had of the advantage to Timothy of having been early made acquainted with the Bible, there can be no doubt that if Sunday-schools had then been in existence, he would have been their hearty patron and friend.

Which are able to make thee wise unto salvation - So to instruct you in the way of salvation, that you may find the path to life. Hence, learn:

(1) that the plan of salvation may be learned from the Old Testament. It is not as clearly revealed there as it is in the New, but "it is there;" and if a man had only the Old Testament, he might find the way to be saved. The Jew, then, has no excuse if he is not saved.

(2) the Scriptures have "power." They are "able to make one wise to salvation." They are not a cold, tame, dead thing. There is no book that has so much "power" as the Bible; none that is so efficient in moving the hearts, and consciences, and intellects of mankind. There is no book that has moved so many minds; none that has produced so deep and permanent effects on the world.

(3) to find the way of salvation, is the best kind of wisdom; and none are wise who do not make that the great object of life.

Through faith which is in Christ Jesus; - see the Mark 16:16 note; Romans 1:17 note. Paul knew of no salvation, except through the Lord Jesus. He says, therefore, that the study of the Scriptures, valuable as they were, would not save the soul unless there was faith in the Redeemer; and it is implied, also, that the proper effect of a careful study of the "Old" Testament, would be to lead one to put his trust in the Messiah.

15. from a child—literally, "from an infant." The tender age of the first dawn of reason is that wherein the most lasting impressions of faith may be made.

holy scriptures—The Old Testament taught by his Jewish mother. An undesigned coincidence with 2Ti 1:5; Ac 16:1-3.

able—in themselves: though through men's own fault they often do not in fact make men savingly alive.

wise unto salvation—that is, wise unto the attainment of salvation. Contrast "folly" (2Ti 3:9). Wise also in extending it to others.

through faith—as the instrument of this wisdom. Each knows divine things only as far as his own experience in himself extends. He who has not faith, has not wisdom or salvation.

which is in—that is, rests on Christ Jesus.

And that from a child; from thy infancy, by the instruction of thy mother Eunice, and thy grandmother Lois, 2 Timothy 1:5.

Thou hast known the Holy Scriptures; thou hast had a notion of the writings of Moses and the prophets, the Holy Scriptures of the Old Testament, for at this time no others were written.

Which are able to make thee wise unto salvation; which Holy Scriptures (without the help of the writings of Plato or Pythagoras, or any other pagan philosophers) have in them a sufficiency of doctrine to make thee, or any other, wise enough to get to heaven.

Through faith which is in Christ Jesus; but not without a faith in Christ Jesus, receiving him as thy and their Saviour, besides a faith assenting and agreeing to those holy writings as the revelation of the Divine will. And that from a child thou hast known the holy Scriptures,.... And therefore must know that the doctrines he had learned were agreeable to them; and so is another reason why he should continue in them. The Jews very early learned their children the holy Scripture. Philo the Jew says (w), "from their very infancy"; a phrase pretty much the same with this here used. It is a maxim with the Jews (x), that when a child was five years of age, it was proper to teach him the Scriptures. Timothy's mother being a Jewess, trained him up early in the knowledge of these writings, with which he became very conversant, and under divine influence and assistance, arrived to a large understanding of them; and it is a practice that highly becomes Christian parents; it is one part of the nurture and admonition of the Lord they should bring up their children in: the wise man's advice in Proverbs 22:6 is very good. From hence the apostle takes occasion to enter into a commendation of the sacred writings; and here, from the nature and character of them, calls them the

holy Scriptures; to distinguish them from profane writings; and that because the author of them is the Holy Spirit of God; and even the amanuenses of him, and the penmen of them, were holy men of God; the matter of them is holy, both law and Gospel; and the end of writing them is to promote holiness; the precepts, promises, and doctrines contained in them are calculated for that purpose; and even the account they give of the sins and failings of others, are for the admonition of men: and next these Scriptures are commended from the efficacy of them:

which are able to make thee wise unto salvation. Men are not wise of themselves; they are naturally without an understanding of spiritual things; and the things of the Spirit of God cannot be known by natural men, because they are spiritually discerned; particularly they are not wise in the business of salvation, of which either they are insensible themselves, and negligent; or foolishly build their hopes of it upon their civility, morality, legal righteousness, or an outward profession of religion: but the Scriptures are able to make men wise and knowing in this respect; for the Gospel is one part of the Scriptures, which is the Gospel of salvation, and shows unto men the way of salvation. The Scriptures testify largely of Christ, the Saviour; and give an ample account both of him, who is the able, willing, suitable, complete, and only Saviour, and of the salvation which is wrought by him; and describe the persons who do, and shall enjoy it: not that the bare reading of the Scriptures, or the hearing of them expounded, are able to make men wise in this way; but these, when accompanied with the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Christ, are; when he who endited the Scriptures removes the veil from their eyes, opens their understandings, and gives them light and knowledge in them: and then may persons be said to be wise unto salvation, when they not only have a scheme of it in their heads, but are in their hearts sensible of their need of it, and know that there is salvation in no other but in Christ; and when they look to him for it, to his righteousness for justification, to his blood for peace, pardon, and cleansing, to his sacrifice for atonement, and to his fulness of grace for a continual supply, and to him for eternal life and glory; when they rejoice in him and his salvation, and give him all the glory of it: the apostle adds,

through faith which is in Christ Jesus: wisdom to salvation lies not in the knowledge of the law the Jew boasted of; nor in the works of it, at least not in a trust and confidence in them for salvation; for by them there is no justification before God, nor acceptance with him, nor salvation: but true wisdom to salvation lies in faith, which is a spiritual knowledge of Christ, and a holy confidence in him; and that salvation which the Scriptures make men wise unto, is received and enjoyed through that faith, which has Christ for its author and object; which comes from him, and centres in him, and is a looking to him for eternal life.

(w) De Legat. ad Caium, p. 1022. (x) Pirke Abot, c. 5. sect. 21.

And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
2 Timothy 3:15. Καὶ ὅτι] Most expositors, including Wiesinger, Plitt, and Hofmann (Schriftbew. I. pp. 675 f., and so also in his commentary), assume that εἰδώς and ὅτιοἶδας are co-ordinate sentences giving the reason why. In justification of this irregular construction, Bengel directs us to John 2:24-25; Acts 22:29; but wrongly.[54]

Beza, on the other hand, gives the right construction by making καὶ ὅτι on dependent on εἰδώς: sciens a quo didiceris, teque a puero sacras literas novisse. This, too, de Wette (van Oosterzee agreeing with him) adopts, correctly remarking that εἰδώς usually denotes not only knowledge, but also reflection.

ἀπὸ βρέφους τὰ ἱερὰ γράμματα οἶδας] ἀπὸ βρέφονς, Mark 9:21 : παιδιόθεν. Chrysostom: ἐκ πεώτης ἡλικίας; comp. Antip. Th. 32: ἐκ βρέθεος. Ἀπὸ βρέφους stands first because it is emphatic; it points back to παρὰ τίων ἔμαθες. In order that he may continue in what he has learned, Timothy is to remember his teacher, and also that he has known the holy Scriptures from childhood.

τὰ ἱερὰ γράμματα] This name for the O. T. only occurs here; in John 7:15 without ἱερά; the more usual name is at αἱ γραφαί, with and without ἅγιαι. De Wette’s conjecture is quite arbitrary, that the author of the epistle was also thinking here of some writings of the N. T.

τὰ δυνάμενά σε σοφίσαι εἰς σωτηρίαν] τὰ δυνάμενα is present and not preterite (“quae poterant,” Bengel); it tells us of a permanent characteristic of the O. T. (de Wette, Wiesinger). Σοφίζειν is equivalent to sapientem reddere; to explain the word as synonymous with διδάσκειν is inaccurate. When joined with εἰς σωτηρίαν it is usually taken in the sense: “teach the way to holiness;” but, as Paul adds διὰ πίστεως κ.τ.λ., which cannot be joined immediately with σωτηρίαν (= τὴν διὰ σωτηρ.), but belongs to σοφίσαι, that interpretation is here unsuitable; he who has faith is already on the way to σωτηρία, or rather is in possession of the σωτηρία. We must therefore adhere to the full signification of σωφίζειν; so that he is speaking here not of the first instruction in salvation, but of the ever deepening knowledge of it, how that furthers the σωτηρία (so, too, Wiesinger, van Oosterzee, Plitt).

διὰ πίστεως τῆς ἐν Χρ. Ἰησοῦ] comp. 1 Timothy 3:13. Wiesinger rightly remarks that these words are not to be taken as giving the means immanent in the Scriptures, but “contain the necessary condition attached to the use of the O. T.” (de Wette). Hofmann asserts that σοφ. εἰς σωτηρίαν only denotes an instruction, “giving complete acquaintance with salvation;” for “in order that Timothy might remain in what he had learnt, it was only necessary for the Scripture to teach what he knew.” But what any one already knows does not require still to be taught to him; and instruction leading on to knowledge ever more complete, does not hinder him from abiding in what he has already learnt. According to Hofmann, διὰ πίστεως is to be joined with σωτηρίαν, because—as he strangely enough asserts—“instruction by means of faith is a chimera” (!).

[54] Hofmann, in regarding the appeal to Acts 22:29 as appropriate, overlooks the difference of construction in the two passages. In Acts 22:29, two sentences beginning with ὅτι are dependent on ἐπιγνούς, whereas here the first independent sentence would be expressed by a participle (εἰδώς instead of ὅτι οἶδας), to which a sentence beginning with ὅτι is made co-ordinate. This irregularity of construction is manifestly not removed by Hofmann’s remark, that the first sentence gives an additional fact, the second furnishes a reason.2 Timothy 3:15. καὶ ὅτι: dependent on εἰδώς. For the change of construction, von Soden compares Romans 9:22-23; 1 Corinthians 14:5. Timothy’s knowledge of things divine was derived not merely from persons, but from sacred writings; and, perhaps, as Theophylact notes, the two points are emphasised: (a) that the persons were of no ordinary merit, and (b) that his knowledge of Scripture was conterminous with the whole of his conscious existence. He could not recall a period when he had not known sacred writings. This is the force of the hyperbolic ἀπὸ βρέφους.

ἱερὰ γράμματα: sacras litteras, sacred writings (R.V.). For this use of γράμματα see John 7:15, and Moulton and Milligan, Expositor, vii., vi. 383. The force of this peculiar phrase is that Timothy’s A B C lessons had been of a sacred nature. The usual N.T. equivalent for the Holy Scriptures (A.V.) is αἱ γραφαί or ἡ γραφή (once γραφαὶ ἅγιαι, Romans 1:2); but St. Paul here deliberately uses an ambiguous term in order to express vigorously the notion that Timothy’s first lessons were in Holy Scripture. τὰ ἱερὰ γράμματα is found in Josephus, Antiq. Prooem 3 and x. 10, 4, and elsewhere. Cf. παραναγνοὺς τὴν ἱερὰν βίβλον (2Ma 8:23). There may be also an allusion to γράμματα of the false teachers which were not ἱερά. See on next verse.

σοφίσαι; instruere, cf. Psalms 18 (19):8, ἡ μαρτυρία Κυρίου πιστή, σοφίζουσα νήπια. Also Psalms 104 (105):22, 118 (119):98. The word is chosen for its O.T. reference, and also because of its strictly educational association.

εἰς σωτηρίαν: a constant Pauline phrase. See reff.

διὰ πίστεως: to be joined closely with σοφίσαι. Cf. de Imitatione Christi, iii. 2, “Let not Moses nor any prophet speak to me; but speak thou rather, O Lord God, who art the inspirer and enlightener of all the prophets; for thou alone without them canst perfectly instruct me, but they without thee will avail nothing. They may indeed sound forth words, but they do not add to them the Spirit.… They shew the way, but thou givest strength to walk in it,” etc.15. from a child] Lit. from a babe; the word occurs four times in St Luke’s ‘Gospel of the Infancy,’ ch. 1 and 2, and again Luke 18:15; Acts 7:19.

thou hast known] Lit. ‘thou knowest,’ the perfect having this present force, and the Greek idiom in a phrase like this using the present where we use the perfect definite. The meaning is that there has been a continued knowledge present always ‘from a babe’ and present now. So in John 15:27, ‘ye are, i.e. have been, with me from the beginning,’ cf. Winer, iii. § 40.

the holy scriptures] Lit. ‘the sacred writings’ of the Old Testament. It was a requirement of the Rabbis that a child should begin to learn the Law by heart when five years old. ‘Raf said to Samuel, the son of Schilath, a teacher, “Do not take the boy to be taught before he is six years old, but from that year receive him, and train him as you do the ox, which, day by day, bears a heavier load.” Philo, a contemporary of our Lord, says, “They are taught, so to speak, from their very swaddling clothes by their parents, masters and teachers, in the holy laws, and in the unwritten customs, and to believe in God, the one Father and Creator of the world,” (Legal. ad Caium, § 16). At the age of thirteen he became a “son of the Law,” and was bound to practise all its moral and ritual requirements.’ Geikie, Life of Christ, i. 173.

The original word for ‘scriptures’ is used of Moses’ writings John 5:47, where Westcott well points out that it ‘appears to mark the specific form rather than the general scope of the record’ which is denoted by the word used in 2 Timothy 3:16.

which are able] Present participle, in harmony with the present sense of ‘thou hast known,’ and marking the abiding continuous power of the Holy Scripture.

to make thee wise] The verb occurs here only in N.T.; its participle in 2 Peter 1:16, ‘cunningly devised’; the tense is aorist according to the proper use of the aorist, to give the idea of the verb in its most general form, ‘the scriptures have this capacity of making wise.’

through faith which is in Christ Jesus] See note on 1 Timothy 3:13; the clause belongs to the verb ‘make wise,’ not to the noun ‘salvation.’ The doctrine and scheme of Christianity is required to illuminate the precept and history of the Old Testament. ‘In vetere Testamento latet novum, in novo vetus patet.’ Ellicott quotes Hooker, Eccl. Pol. i. 14. ‘The Old did make wise by teaching Salvation through Christ that should come, the New by teaching that Christ the Saviour is come.’ Cf. also Art. vii. in the English Prayer Book, ‘The Old Testament is not contrary to the New; for both in the Old and New Testament everlasting life is offered to mankind by Christ.’2 Timothy 3:15. Καὶ, and) Even after the death of Paul, Timothy is the more bound to the Scripture. Paul does not bind Timothy to himself alone, but enjoins him who, however grown up, was his son in the faith, to use the Scriptures. They ought to consider this, who are so devoted to their teachers, under whose training they have been once for all brought up, that they admit nothing beyond their circle which is afterwards presented to them from Scripture. Sometimes slothful over-fulness of the mind and αὐθάδεια, self-complacency, creep over men under the name of stedfastness (steadiness) and sobriety.—ἀπὸ βρέφους, from childhood [a child]) Tender age is best adapted for πιστοῦσθαι, being made faithful (assured), so that faith may be impressed upon it, diffusing firmness throughout the whole life.—τὰ ἱερὰ γράμματα, the sacred Scriptures) the books of Moses and the prophets. For these existed when Timothy was a child.—οἶδας, thou hast known) by the instructions of thy mother, ch. 2 Timothy 1:5.—τὰ δυνάμενα, which were able) The force of a preterite redounds from thou hast known, to the participle. This ability (of Scripture) expresses (its) sufficiency and perfection.—σὲ, thee) in such a way as if they were written for thee alone.—σοφίσαι, to make wise) A grand expression. The antithesis is ἄνοια, folly, 2 Timothy 3:9.—εἰς σωτηρίαν, to salvation) thy own and that of others.—διὰ πίστεως, through faith) He who does not believe, does not receive wisdom and salvation. Through is construed with salvation.Verse 15. - Babe for child, A.V.; sacred writings for Holy Scriptures, A.V. And that from a babe, etc. Another consideration urged as a reason for standing fast. He was no novice in the Scriptures. His mother and grandmother had been careful to imbue him with that sacred literature which should make him wise unto salvation through faith in Jesus Christ, from his very earliest years. Surely he would not throw away such a precious advantage. The sacred writings (τὰ ἱερὰ γράμματα); literally, the holy letters, or learning. An ordinarily educated child learns γράμματα (John 7:15), in contradistinction to the uneducated, who are ἀγράμματοι (Acts 4:13). But Timothy had learnt τὰ ἱερὰ γράμματα, whose excellence is described in the next verse. From a child (ἀπὸ βρέφους)

Mostly in Luke. oP. Only here in Pastorals. See on 1 Peter 2:2. Comp. Mark 9:21, ἐκ παιδιόθεν from a child.

The holy Scriptures (ἱερὰ γράμματα)

Note particularly the absence of the article. Γράμματα is used in N.T. in several senses. Of characters of the alphabet (2 Corinthians 3:7; Galatians 6:11): of a document (Luke 16:6, take thy bill): of epistles (Acts 28:21): of the writings of an author collectively (John 5:47): of learning (Acts 26:24, πολλά γράμματρα much learning). In lxx, ἐπιστάμενος γράμματα knowing how to read (Isaiah 29:11, Isaiah 29:12). The Holy Scriptures are nowhere called ἱερὰ γράμματα in N.T. In lxx, γράμματα is never used of sacred writings of any kind. Both Josephus and Philo use τὰ ἱερὰ γράμματα for the O.T. Scriptures. The words here should be rendered sacred learning. The books in the writer's mind were no doubt the Old Testament. Scriptures, in which Timothy, like every Jewish boy, had been instructed; but he does not mean to designate those books as ἱερὰ γράμματα. He means the learning acquired from Scripture by the rabbinic methods, according to which the Old Testament books were carefully searched for meanings hidden in each word and letter, and especially for messianic intimations. Specimens of such learning may be seen here and there in the writings of Paul as 1 Corinthians 9:9 f.; 1 Corinthians 10:1 f.; Galatians 3:16.; Galatians 4:21 f. In Acts 4:13, the council, having heard Peter's speech, in which he interpreted Psalm 118:22 and Isaiah 28:16 of Christ, at once perceived that Peter and John were ἀγράμματοι, not versed in the methods of the schools. Before Agrippa, Paul drew the doctrine of the Resurrection from the Old Testament, whereupon Festus exclaimed, "much learning (πολλὰ γράμματα, thy acquaintance with the exegesis of the schools) hath made thee mad" (Acts 26:24). To Agrippa, who was "expert in all customs and questions which are among the Jews" (Acts 26:3), the address of Paul, a pupil of Hillel, was not surprising, although he declared that Paul's reasoning did not appeal to him. In John 7:15, when Jesus taught in the temple, the Jews wondered and said: "How knoweth this man letters?" That a Jew should know the Scriptures was not strange. The wonder lay in the exegetical skill of one who had not been trained by the literary methods of the time.

To make thee wise (σε σοφίσαι)

Only hero and 2 Peter 1:16. See note there on cunningly devised. To give thee understanding of that which lies behind the letter; to enable thee to detect in the Old Testaments. books various hidden allusions to Christ; to draw from the Old Testaments the mystery of messianic salvation, and to interpret the Old Testaments with Christ as the key. This gives significance to the following words through faith which is in Christ Jesus. Jesus Christ was the key of Scripture, and through faith in him Scripture became a power unto salvation. The false teachers also had their learning but used it in expounding Jewish fables, genealogies, etc. Hence, their expositions, instead of making wise unto salvation, were vain babblings; profane and old wives' fables (1 Timothy 4:7; 2 Timothy 2:16). Const. through faith, etc., with make wise, not with salvation.

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