Galatians 1:14
And profited in the Jews' religion above many my equals in my own nation, being more exceedingly zealous of the traditions of my fathers.
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(14) Profited.—Made progress. The kind of progress would correspond to the width of the term “Judaism,” with which it is connected, and would imply, not merely proficiency in theological knowledge, but also increase in zeal and strictness of ritualistic observance.

My equals.—Strictly, my equals in age. St. Paul is thinking of his contemporaries among the young men who came up, ardent like himself, to study the Law at the feet of Gamaliel or some other eminent Rabbi. He looks back upon them much as some English political or religious leader might look back upon his contemporaries at the university, and might point to his zealous advocacy of a cause that he has long since given over.

Traditions.—The “traditions of the elders” mentioned in Matthew 15:2, Mark 7:3, by which the commandment of God “was made of none effect” (Matthew 15:6); the oral or unwritten law, which had gradually grown up by the side of the Pentateuch, and was afterwards embodied in the Mishnah.

1:10-14 In preaching the gospel, the apostle sought to bring persons to the obedience, not of men, but of God. But Paul would not attempt to alter the doctrine of Christ, either to gain their favour, or to avoid their fury. In so important a matter we must not fear the frowns of men, nor seek their favour, by using words of men's wisdom. Concerning the manner wherein he received the gospel, he had it by revelation from Heaven. He was not led to Christianity, as many are, merely by education.And profited - Made advances and attainments. Paul made advances not only in the knowledge of the Jewish religion, but he also surpassed others in his zeal in defending its interests. He had had better advantages than most of his countrymen; and by his great zeal and characteristic ardor he had been able to make higher attainments than most others had done.

Above many my equals - Margin, Equal in years. This is the true sense of the original. It means that he surpassed those of the same age with himself. Possibly there may be a reference here to those of the same age who attended with him on the instructions of Gamaliel.

Being more exceedingly zealous - More studious of; more ardently attached to them; more anxious to distinguish himself in attainments in the religion in which he was brought up. All this is fully sustained by all that we know of the character of Paul, as at all times a man of singular and eminent zeal in all that he undertook.

Of the traditions of my fathers - Or the traditions of the Jews; see the note at Matthew 15:2. A large part of the doctrines of the Pharisees depended on mere tradition; and Paul doubtless made this a special matter of study, and was particularly tenacious in regard to it. It was to be learned, from the very nature of it, only by oral teaching, since there is no evidence that it was then recorded. Subsequently, these traditions were recorded in the Mishna, and are found in the Jewish writings. But in the time of Paul they were to be learned as they were handed down from one to another; and hence, the utmost diligence was requisite to obtain a knowledge of them. Paul does not here say that he was zealous then for the practice of the new religion, nor for the study of the Bible. His object in going to Jerusalem and studying at the feet of Gamaliel was doubtless to obtain a knowledge of the traditions of the sect of the Pharisees. Had he been studying the Bible all that time, he would have kept from the fiery zeal which he evinced in persecuting the church, and would, if he had studied it right, been saved from much trouble of conscience afterward.

14. profited—Greek, "I was becoming a proficient"; "I made progress."


my equals—Greek, "Of mine own age, among my countrymen."

traditions of my fathers—namely, those of the Pharisees, Paul being "a Pharisee, and son of a Pharisee" (Ac 23:6; 26:5). "MY fathers," shows that it is not to be understood generally of the traditions of the nation.

The word here used, and translated profited, may be interpreted either of his own personal proficiency, and going on in the Jewish religion, or of his propagating of it, and making that to go on, which seemeth to be the sense of the same word, 2 Timothy 2:16. And it is observed, that active verbs in the Greek in imitation of the Heb. con. Pihil., sometimes signify to do an action oneself, sometimes to make others do it; and Paul’s wasting the Christian church had a rational tendency to uphold and propagate Judaism, the propagation of which was the end designed by it; this he saith he did above others of his countrymen, that were his equals in years. By this also he lets them know, that his persecuting the Christian church was not a passionate act, or for a gain to himself, but from an erroneous judgment, he verily thought that he ought to do what he against Jesus of Nazareth, and his disciples. He that he was

more exceedingly zealous of the traditions of the fathers; by which he understands not only the rites of the ceremonial law, but the whole body of their constitutions, which the rulers of that church had made, under the notion of sepimenta legis, hedges or fences to the laws of God, to keep men at a distance from the violation of them; and other constitutions also, of which they had innumerable. Paul was a Pharisee, (the son of a Pharisee, Acts 23:6), bred up at the feet of Gamaliel (one of the doctors of their law); this was the strictest sect (for ceremonies) of their religion: and this his zeal for traditions, is that which he calleth a progress, or profiting in the Jewish religion, and was a cause of the propagation of that religion. And profited in the Jews' religion,.... Or "in Judaism"; and the more he did so, or was versed in, and wedded to their principles, the more violent a persecutor he was. He was under a very considerable master, Gamaliel, a Rabbi of great note among the Jews; and he himself a youth of uncommon natural abilities, so that his proficiency in Jewish learning was very great; even, as he says,

above many my equals in mine own nation: not proselytes in other nations, but such as were natives of his own country: or were "in his own kindred", his near relations, who were his contemporaries, of the same age with him; and very modestly he says "many", not "all":

being more exceedingly zealous of the traditions of my fathers: he had a zeal, but, not according to knowledge; and a greater degree of it than the rest of his countrymen; and that not so much for the written law delivered to his fathers, as for the oral law, the traditions and customs of his ancestors; which had been handed down, as they pretended, from one to another, and were now swelled to an almost infinite bulk; and mean the traditions of the elders, condemned by Christ, as making void the commandments of God: now his close attachment to, and eager zeal for these traditions, put him upon using more violent measures in persecuting the saints, and further off from the Gospel of Christ: and now from this account of himself it is a clear point, that during this period of his life he could never have received the Gospel from men, which is his view in giving it.

And profited in the Jews' religion above many my equals in mine own nation, being more exceedingly zealous of the {k} traditions of my fathers.

(k) He calls them the traditions of his fathers, because he was not only a Pharisee himself, but also had a Pharisee for his father.

Galatians 1:14. Still dependent on ὅτι.

καί] the προκόπτειν ἐν τῷ Ἰουδαϊσμῷ had then been combined in Paul with his hostile action against Christianity, had kept pace with it.

Ἰουδαϊσμός, not Jewish theology (Grotius, Rückert), but just as in Galatians 1:13. Judaism was the sphere in which he advanced further and improved more than those of his age by growth in Jewish culture, in Jewish zeal for the law, in Jewish energy of works, etc. On προκόπτειν as intransitive (Luke 2:52; 2 Timothy 2:16; 2 Timothy 3:9; 2 Timothy 3:13), very frequent in Polyb., Lucian, etc., comp. Jacobs, ad Anthol. X. p. 35; on ἐν τ. Ἰουδ., comp. Lucian, Herm. 63, ἐν τοῖς μαθήμασι, Paras. 13, ἐν ταῖς τέχναις.

συνηλικιώτης] one of the same age, occurring only here in the N.T., a word belonging to the later Greek (Diod. Sic. i. 53? Alciphr. i. 12). See Wetstein. The ancient authors use ἡλικιώτης (Plat. Apol. p. 33 C, and frequently).

ἐν τῷ γένει μου] a more precise definition of συνηλικ.; γένει is therefore, in conformity with the context (comp. ἐν τῷ Ἰουδ.), to be understood in a national sense,[27] and not of the sect of the Pharisees (Paulus). Comp. Php 3:5; 2 Corinthians 11:26; Romans 9:3; Acts 7:19.

περισσοτέρως ζηλωτὴς ὑπάρχων κ.τ.λ.] a more detailed statement, specifying in what way the προέκοπτονγένει μου found active expression; “so that I” etc.

περισσοτέρως] than those ΠΟΛΛΟΊ. They, too, were zealous for the traditions of their fathers (whether like Paul they were Pharisees, or not); but Paul was so in a more superabundant measure for his.

τῶν πατρικῶν μου παραδόσεων] endeavouring with zealous interest to obey, uphold, and assert them. On the genitive of the object, comp. 2Ma 4:2; Acts 21:20; Acts 22:3; 1 Corinthians 14:12; Titus 2:14; Plat. Prot. p. 343 A. The πατρικαί μου παραδόσεις, that is, the religious definitions handed down to me from my fathers (in respect to doctrine, ritual, asceticism, interpretation of Scripture, conduct of life, and the like), are the Pharisaic traditions (comp. Matthew 5:21; Matthew 15:2; Mark 7:3); for Paul was Φαρισαῖος (Php 3:5; Acts 26:5), ΥἹῸς ΦΑΡΙΣΑΊΩΝ (Acts 23:6). So also Erasmus (Annot.), Beza, Calovius, de Wette, Hofmann, and others. If Paul had intended to refer to the Mosaic law, either alone (Erasmus, Paraphr., Luther, Calvin, and others) or together with the Pharisaic traditions (Estius, Grotius, Calixtus, Morus, Koppe, Flatt, Winer, Usteri, Rückert, Schott, Olshausen, Hilgenfeld, Wieseler, “the law according to the strict rule of Pharisaism,” comp. Möller), he would have named the law either by itself or along with the traditions (Acts 21:20; Acts 22:3; 2Ma 4:2); but by μου he limits the ΠΑΤΡΙΚᾺς ΠΑΡΑΔΌΣΕΙς to the special elements resulting from his descent, which did not apply to those who were in different circumstances as to descent; whereas the law applied to all Jews. Comp., as parallel, Acts 26:5. That Paul had been zealous for the law in general, followed as a matter of course from προέκοπτ. ἐν τ. Ἰουδαϊσμῷ; but here he is stating the specific way in which his own peculiar προκόπτειν ἐν Ἰουδαϊσμῷ had displayed itself—his Pharisaic zealotry. It would have been surprising if in this connection he had omitted to mention the latter.

πατρικός, not found elsewhere in the N.T., means paternal. Comp. LXX. Genesis 50:8; Leviticus 22:13; Sir 42:10; 3 Esd. 1:5, 29; 4Ma 18:7; Plat. Lach. p. 180 E, Soph. p. 242 A; Isocr. Evag. p. 218, 35; Diod. Sic. i. 88; Polyb. i. 78. 1; Athen. xv. p. 667 F. In this case the context alone decides whether the idea a patribus acceptus (πατροπαράδοτος, 1 Peter 1:18) is conveyed by it, as in this passage by ΜΟΥ, or not (as, for instance, Polyb. xxi. 5, 7). The former is very frequently the case. As to the much discussed varying distinction between ΠΆΤΡΙΟς, ΠΑΤΡΙΚΌς, and ΠΑΤΡῷΟς, comp. on Acts 22:3.

[27] For with Hellenist associates, of whom likewise in Jerusalem there could be no lack, he does not desire to compare himself.Galatians 1:14. συνηλικιώτας. Saul had been educated at Jerusalem, and this word points to his contemporaries in the schools of the Pharisees.—γένει. This term sometimes denotes family, but here race and nation, as in Acts 18:2; Acts 18:24. So also συγγενής in Romans 9:3; Romans 16:7; Romans 16:21.—ζηλωτὴς. This is not here the proper name of a sect, being coupled with a genitive, as in Acts 21:20. Saul had no sympathy with the anarchical sect of Zealots who preached the sacred duty of revolt from Rome, though he had the persecuting zeal of an orthodox Pharisee.—πατρικῶν. This differs in sense from πατρῷος. The latter denotes the national law and customs of Israel (Acts 22:3; Acts 28:17), the former the hereditary traditions of the family, as the addition of μου further signifies. In Acts 23:6 Paul describes himself as a son of Pharisees.14. St Paul was always in earnest. In the acquisition of Rabbinic lore he outstripped most of those of his own age, not merely his fellow-disciples at Tarsus, and in the school of Gamaliel at Jerusalem (Acts 22:3), but in his own nation generally.

zealous] Lit. a zealot (Acts 21:20). St Paul by birth and by early education was associated with the extreme party of the Pharisees, who were marked by their bigoted adherence to the traditional interpretations of the Old Testament, as distinct from the written text.

traditions of my fathers] By ‘traditions’ we must understand religious teaching and precept handed down orally from father to son, whether ultimately committed to writing or not. The word occurs twelve times in the N. T. and is always used in the Gospels in a disparaging sense. Compare for example Matthew 15:6; Matthew 15:9; Mark 7:9; so Colossians 2:8.

In 1 Corinthians 11:2 (where it is rendered ‘ordinances’) and in 2 Thessalonians 2:15; 2 Thessalonians 3:6, it refers to oral directions given by St Paul, of which some (as that contained in 1 Corinthians 16:1-2) were temporary and special, others subsequently embodied in writing.

Here St Paul is referring to the traditions which were held and transmitted by the ‘most straitest sect’ of the Jewish religion (Acts 26:5). Similarly St Peter, addressing the Jews of the dispersion, who had embraced Christianity, reminds them that they had been redeemed from their vain manner of life, handed down by tradition from their fathers (1 Peter 1:18).Galatians 1:14. Προέκοπτον, I was becoming a proficient [I profited]) in my very acts.—συνηλικιώτας, my equals in years) who were at that time in their full vigour.—πατρικῶν μου, of my fathers [of my hereditary and national traditions]) which were very dear to me, as if they depended on me as their sole patron. A mimesis.[4]

[4] See App. Here he imitates the language which himself formerly, and which the Jewish legalists used in speaking of the traditions.—ED.Verse 14. - And profited in the Jews' religion (καὶ προέκοπτον ἐν τῷ Ἰουδαι'σμῷ); and was going forward in Judaism; that is, was going on further and further in Judaism. The Greek verb (προκόπτειν) "to make way," "advance," is found also Luke 2:52; Romans 13:12; 2 Timothy 2:16; 2 Timothy 3:9, 13. "In Judaism," i.e. in the sentiments and practices of Judaism. The particular kind of Judaism which he has in view was the Pharisean form of Mosaism. A "Pharisee and son of a Pharisee," a high-caste "Hebrew sprung of Hebrews" (Acts 23:6; Philippians 3:5), Saul had thrown himself upon the study and observance, not only of all the rites and ceremonies prescribed in the written Law, but also of the doctrines, rites, and ceremonies which rabbinical teaching and tradition added thereto; outvying in strictness those who were the strictest; never satisfied without adopting whatever fresh observances the authority of a Pharisean rabbin might commend to his regard. Above many my equals in mine own nation (ὑπὲρ πολλοὺς συνηλικιώτας ἐν τῷ γένει μου)"Above," beyond; the same Greek preposition as in Acts 26:13; Philemon 1:16, 21; Hebrews 4:12. Συνηλικιώτης, synonymous with συνῆλιξ, used in the Septuagint of Daniel 1:10, is equivalent to ἡλικιώτης or ῆλιξ, the σύν being prefixed merely to make the notion of parity more emphatic. Saul was then "a young man" (Acts 7:58); and the reference which he here makes to "coevals" of his, as sharing in his Judaistic enthusiasm, but outstripped by him therein, seems to point to the rising up at that time of a party, "a young Jewry," as we might nowadays style it. especially espoused by the more youthful "Hebrews," which devoted itself to the revival and consolidation of Pharisean Judaism in its most advanced form. We may cone,lye of them as actuated by antagonism, alike to the Gentilizing spirit of the Herodians; to the rigid bare form of Mosaism cherished by the Sadducees which rejected that development of spiritual doctrine which for many generations had been going on in many pious and thoughtful minds; and finally, and perhaps most specially of all, to the new but rapidly spreading sect of the "Nazarenes." "In my nation." The apostle says "my," as conscious of the presence of the Gentiles to whom he is writing. For the like reason uses the singular possessive pronoun, "my people (τὸ ἔθνος μου) in his address to Felix and in his defense before Agrippa, this king sitting only as an assesor by compliment at the side of the heathen governor. (Acts 24:17; Acts 26:4). Elsewhere also St. Paul uses the word γένος "nation" to denote the Jewish people, whence also he employs the phrase "my kinsmen" συγγένης μου when addressing Gentiles to denote a fellow-Jew in contrast to Gentiles (Romans 9:3, 16:7, 21). In the present passage, "among my countrymen" presupposes is founded on relation to country, whereas γένος denotes a blood connection, comprising Jews of whatever country. Being more exceedingly zealous of the traditions of my fathers (περισσοτέρως ζηλωτὴς ὑάρχω τῶν πατρικῶν μου παραδόσεων) The strong adverb here used, "more excessively" περισσοτέρως which frequently occurs in St. Paul's ardent style, always retains its proper comparative sense; as e.g. 2 Corinthians 7:15; 2 Corinthians 11:23, 12:15. It means, therefore, more excessively than they." The word ζηλωτής rendered "zealous," followed by the genetive "of the traditions," has much the same meaning as in the phrases, "zealous of spirits [or, spiritual gifts];" "zealous of good works;" "zealous of the Law" (1 Corinthians 14:12; Titus 2:14; Acts 21:20); in all which passages it is rendered in the Authorized Version as here. Its meaning is illustrated by use of the verb from which it is derived in 1 Corinthians 14:1, "Desire earnestly to prophesy;" denoting, as it should seem, "admire and long to possess" "aspire after" (see below, the notes on Galatians 4:17, 18). The clause may be paraphrased, "With more excessive fervency than they, affecting [or, being devoted to] the traditions of my fathers." The only remaining passage in the New Testament in which the Greek word occurs as an adjective in Acts 22:3 (ζηλωτὴς τοῦ Θεοῦ), "zealous towards God" (Authorized Version), "zealous for God" (Revised Version); where the sense is probably still that of fervent devotion, but implying also a palliating reference to the intense zeal which the Jews were then showing in vindicating the honour of God against a supposed insult. "Zeal towards" an object implies also a "zeal for it;" in other words, fervent attachment and devotion has also an outward-looking aspect of resentment and resistance against any who are regarded as disposed to assail what we love. And this latter element of thought, the vindicatory, is frequently the more prominent of the two, in the use of the word "zeal" and its derivatives, in the Hellenistical Greek of both the LXX. and the New Testament; while in some cases it is not clear which for the moment is the most in the speaker's mind The latter, no doubt, forms the principal notion of the name "Zealot" as applied in the closing decades of the Jewish commonwealth to a fanatical party, who felt they had a special vocation to vindicate the honour of God and his service by deeds of rancourous violence; to which party probably at one time belonged the Simon who in Luke 6:15 is styled "Zelotes," a word no doubt, synonymous with the Chaldeian word "Cananaean" found in Matthew 10:4 and Mark 3:18. In the phrase, "the traditions of my fathers," the apostle has been supposed by some critics to allude to the circumstance that he was "the son of a Pharisee:" thus making it equivalent to "the traditions of my family. But the context shows that he is thinking of traditions observed likewise by those "coevals" of his to whom he refers; the "fathers," therefore, are the forefathers of the nation, equivalent to the "elders," in the phrase current among the Jews, "the tradition of the elders" (Matthew 15:2)., Comp. 1 Peter 1:18, "Your vain manner of life πατροπαραδότου handed down from your fathers." In the possessive pronoun "my" the apostle still speaks of himself as a born Jew, in contradiction to Gentiles such as he was addressing. If he had been addressing Jews, he would probably have written "our," or omitted the pronoun altogether, as in Acts 22:3; Acts 24:14; Acts 28:17. There seems to be a tone of mimesis in the phrase: q.d. "The traditions which I proudly and fondly cherished as those of my fathers." The adjective rendered "of the fathers" marks them as those who had transmitted παρέδοσαν those traditions παραδόσεις, not merely those who had possessed them. It has been questioned whether this phrase "paternal traditions" includes those transmitted religious maxims and observances which the Mosaic Law itself prescribed. Probably it does. The "customs which [the Jews said] Moses delivered παρέδωκεν to us" (Acts 6:14). as they appertained to "the fathers." at the same time, the apostle would hardly have written as he here has done, if he had had these alone in his view; he would rather have introduced the venerable name of "the Law." The expression appears chosen as comprehending, together with the prescriptions of the original Law, those transmitted maxims and usages also which are described in the Gospels (cf. Matthew 5; Matthew 15; Matthew 23; Mark 7.) as things said "by" or "to" them of old time, or as "the traditions of the elders;" the particular instances of such which are specified in the Gospels being only samples taken out of a a very large class (Mark 7:4). Our Lord himself, it is true, made a distinction between these two classes of religions doctrines or observances, rebuking specifically many of the latter class, and discountenancing the whole class in general when enforced on men's consciences as a religious obligation; in contrast with "the Word of God," these, he insisted, were "commandments" or "traditions of men" (Mark 7:7-13). But a Judaist would hardly have been disposed to make the same distinction, Rather, it would be the habit of his mind to blend and confound the two together as forming one entire system of formal religion; regarding those of the latter class simply as explanatory of the former, or as a fitting suppletion required to give to the former due coherency and entireness. He would be disposed to consider that portion of the whole tradition which in reality was of purely human device as invested with the like obligatoriness as that other portion which could truly plead the sanction of Divine authorization. It is plain that this was the case with those Judaists with whom, in the Gospels, our Lord is seen contending. And in all the references which St. Paul makes to Judaism, whether as part of his own former life, or as confronted by him in his apostolic agency, nowhere, either, is he found making any distinction between the two certainly distinguishable elements which composed it. There were, however, different schools of thought in Judaistic traditionalism, some stricter, some more lax. We must, therefore, further define our view of the particular branch of "paternal traditions" which the apostle here refers to by remembering that, as he said in his speech from the stairs (Acts 22:3), he had been "instructed according to the strict manner of the Law of their fathers;" trained, that is, to construe the requirements of the Law as these were interpreted by the strictest of all the schools; as he said before Agrippa, "After the straitest sect of our religion I lived a Pharisee" (Acts 26:5). Here the inquiry presents itself - In what way does the substance of these two verses (13, 14) help to bear out the apostle's statement in ver. 12, that the gospel which he preached was altogether derived from God's own immediate revelation to himself? The whole complexion of the passage shows that the point which the apostle is here concerned to indicate relates to the posture of his own spirit at the time of his first receiving the gospel. The Saul of those days, he says, was animated by the sentiment of bitter hostility to the faith; by a stern resolve - the dictate, as he thought, of conscience - if possible to extirpate the Church. Was it supposable that a mind possessed with such an abhorrence of the Nazarenes was nevertheless accessible to voices and teachings coming to him out of their society? Again, an earnestly religious man according to his lights, Saul's spirit was absorbed by devotion to Judaism - to the eager carrying out in practice, and to the vindication, of those modes of religious life which the revered and fondly cherished traditions of his people recommended to him. Was it credible that he could for a moment have given a favourable hearing to statements, whether of matters of fact or of religious belief, which proceeded from a sect of latitudinarians such as these, whose teacher had notoriously been foremost both in trampling down the fences of Pharisaism in his own practice and in loudly denouncing alike its principles and its representatives? Why, anything which those men could have said would to his view be at once self-condemned because simply of the quarter from which it issued. It may be objected that words which he had heard, we may confidently believe, from the martyr Stephen, who, in the controversy between Judaism and Christianity, may be regarded as in a certain degree Paul's own forerunner, and very supposably from many another confessor of the faith of less enlightenment than St. Stephen, though at the time repelled from his acceptance through his all-absorbing Pharisaism, may nevertheless have deposited in his mind pregnant seeds of thought and instruction afterwards to be fully developed. To this objection it appears a sufficient reply that the gospel of the grace of God to all mankind, untrammelled by any Judaical restriction whatever, which was the gospel entrusted to St. Paul, and which at this present hour of conflict in Galatia he was more specifically concerned to maintain, had at the time of his conversion been as yet most imperfectly disclosed even to the most advanced disciples of the faith. This more perfectly developed form of the gospel it was not possible that he should have heretofore heard from any Christian martyr or from any Christian teacher; for at float time it was still a mystery, not patent as yet to the eyes of even apostles themselves (see Ephesians 3:1-7). Profited (προέκοπτον)

Better, advanced. See on is far spent, Romans 13:12. Paul means that he outstripped his Jewish contemporaries in distinctively Jewish culture, zeal, and activity. Comp. Philippians 3:4-6.

Equals (συνηλικιώτας)

N.T.o. The A.V. is indefinite. The meaning is equals in age. So Rev., of mine own age.

Nation (γένει)

Race. Not sect of the Pharisees. Comp. Philippians 3:5; 2 Corinthians 11:26; Romans 9:3.

Zealous (ζηλωτὴς)

Lit. a zealot. The extreme party of the Pharisees called themselves "zealots of the law"; "zealots of God." See on Simon the Canaanite, Mark 3:18. Paul describes himself under this name in his speech on the stairs, Acts 22:3. Comp. Philippians 3:5, Philippians 3:6.

Traditions (παραδόσεων)

The Pharisaic traditions which had been engrafted on the law. See Matthew 15:2, Matthew 15:6; Mark 7:3, Mark 7:13, and on 2 Thessalonians 2:15.

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