Philippians 1:22
But if I live in the flesh, this is the fruit of my labor: yet what I shall choose I know not.
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(22) But if I live in the flesh . . .—The translation of this verse in the Authorised version is inaccurate, and perhaps a gloss to soften the difficulty of the original. The exact translation is, But if to live in the flesh this is to me a fruit of work, and what (or, what also) I shall choose I know not. The construction is clearly broken by emotion or absorption in thought; it can only be supplied by conjecture. If (as in 2Corinthians 2:2) the word “and,” or “also,” can be used to introduce the principal clause (“what then I shall choose,” &c.), the construction will be correct, though harsh. If otherwise, we must suppose either that the sentence is broken at the word “work,” or that the whole should run, But what if to live in the flesh is a part of work? And what I shall choose, I know not, &c. But though the construction is obscure, the sense is plain. St. Paul had said, “to die is gain.” But the thought crosses him that to live still in the flesh, this and this only is (i.e., carries with it) a fruit of apostolical labour, in souls brought to Christ or built up in Him. Accordingly what to choose he knows not. For in such a harvest there is a gain, which outweighs his own personal gain on the other side.

I am in a strait betwixt (the) two.—The word here used signifies “to be hemmed in,” or “confined,” and is generally associated with some idea of distress (as in Luke 8:45; Luke 19:43), not unfrequently with the pressure of disease (Matthew 4:24; Luke 4:38; Acts 28:8). Our Lord uses it of mental distress in Himself (Luke 12:50): “How am I straitened till it be accomplished!” Here the sense is clear. St. Paul’s mind is “hemmed in” between two opposing considerations, till it knows not which way to move, even in desire.

1:21-26 Death is a great loss to a carnal, worldly man, for he loses all his earthly comforts and all his hopes; but to a true believer it is gain, for it is the end of all his weakness and misery. It delivers him from all the evils of life, and brings him to possess the chief good. The apostle's difficulty was not between living in this world and living in heaven; between these two there is no comparison; but between serving Christ in this world and enjoying him in another. Not between two evil things, but between two good things; living to Christ and being with him. See the power of faith and of Divine grace; it can make us willing to die. In this world we are compassed with sin; but when with Christ, we shall escape sin and temptation, sorrow and death, for ever. But those who have most reason to desire to depart, should be willing to remain in the world as long as God has any work for them to do. And the more unexpected mercies are before they come, the more of God will be seen in them.But if I live in the flesh - If I continue to live; if I am not condemned and make a martyr at my approaching trial.

This is the fruit of my labour - The meaning of this passage, which has given much perplexity to commentators, it seems to me is, "If I live in the flesh, it will cost me labor; it will be attended, as it has been, with much effort and anxious care, and I know not which to prefer - whether to remain on the earth with these cares and the hope of doing good, or to go at once to a world of rest." A more literal version of the Greek will show that this is the meaning. Τοῦτό μοι καρπὸς ἔργου Touto moi karpos ergou - "this to me is (or would be) the fruit of labor." Coverdale, however, renders it: "Inasmuch as to live in the flesh is fruitful to me for the work, I wot not what I shall choose." So Luther: "But since to live in the flesh serves to produce more fruit." And so Bloomfield: "But if my life in the flesh be of use to the gospel (be it so, I say no more), verily what I shall choose I see and know not."

See also Koppe, Rosenmuller, and Calvin, who give the same sense. According to this, the meaning is, that if his life were of value to the gospel, he was willing to live; or that it was a valuable object - operae pretium - worth an effort thus to live. This sense accords well with the connection, and the thought is a valuable one, but it is somewhat doubtful whether it can be made out from the Greek. To do it, it is necessary to suppose that μοι moi - "my" - is expletive (Koppe, and that καὶ kai - "and" - is used in an unusual sense. See Erasmus. According to the interpretation first suggested, it means, that Paul felt that it would be gain to die, and that he was entirely willing; that he felt that if he continued to live it would involve toil and fatigue, and that, therefore, great as was the natural love of life, and desirous as he was to do good, he did not know which to choose - an immediate departure to the world of rest, or a prolonged life of toil and pain, attended even with the hope that he might do good. There was an intense desire to be with Christ, joined with the belief that his life here must be attended with toil and anxiety; and on the other hand an earnest wish to live in order to do good, and he knew not which to prefer.

Yet - The sense has been obscured by this translation. The Greek word (καὶ kai) means "and," and should have been so rendered here, in its usual sense. "To die would be gain; my life here would be one of toil, and I know not which to choose."

What I shall choose I wot not - I do not know which I should prefer, if it were left to me. On each side there were important considerations, and he knew not which overbalanced the other. Are not Christians often in this state, that if it were left to themselves they would not know which to choose, whether to live or to die?

22. Rather as Greek, "But if to live in the flesh (if), this (I say, the continuance in life which I am undervaluing) be the fruit of my labor (that is, be the condition in which the fruit of my ministerial labor is involved), then what I shall choose I know not (I cannot determine with myself, if the choice were given me, both alternatives being great goods alike)." So Alford and Ellicott. Bengel takes it as English Version, which the Greek will bear by supposing an ellipsis, "If to live in the flesh (be my portion), this (continuing to live) is the fruit of my labor," that is, this continuance in life will be the occasion of my bringing in "the fruit of labor," that is, will be the occasion of "labors" which are their own "fruit" or reward; or, this my continuing "to live" will have this "fruit," namely, "labors" for Christ. Grotius explains "the fruit of labor" as an idiom for "worthwhile"; If I live in the flesh, this is worth my while, for thus Christ's interest will be advanced, "For to me to live is Christ" (Php 1:21; compare Php 2:30; Ro 1:13). The second alternative, namely, dying, is taken up and handled, Php 2:17, "If I be offered." But if I live in the flesh, this is the fruit of my labour: some, from the various use of the Greek particles, render this first clanse interrogatively; But whether to live in the flesh were worth the while? Or more profitable? (understand, than to die). The apostle having intimated the equality and indifferency of his mind in an entire submission to the will of God, whether that glorifying of Christ by his life or that by his death were more eligible, is upon deliberation, finding the advantage to Christ and himself, upon expense of circumstances either way, in an equal balance, weighing one thing with another: living in the flesh, i.e. abiding here in this mortal body, which he thus expresseth by way of diminution, Galatians 2:20 1 Peter 4:1; in opposition to, and comparison of, dying for and in the Lord, and so being with him, Philippians 1:23.

Yet what I shall choose I wot not; he seems, loving the Philippians as himself, to be at a loss what to determine, if God should permit him his choice, whether by labouring in his ministry for rite good of their souls he should bring more fruit to Christ, or by suffering, that which would arise from the blood of a martyr, who himself should receive a crown, 2 Timothy 4:8. But if I live in the flesh,.... To be in the flesh sometimes signifies to be in a state of nature and unregeneracy, and to live in and after the flesh, to live according to the dictates of corrupt nature; but here it signifies living in the body, or the life which is in the flesh, as the Syriac version renders the phrase here, and as the apostle expresses it in Galatians 2:20, and the sense is, if I should live any longer in the body, and be continued for some time in this world:

this is the fruit of my labour; or "I have fruit in my works", as the above version renders it:

yet what I shall choose I wot not, or "know not"; whether life or death; since my life will be for the honour and glory of Christ, and though a toilsome and laborious one, yet useful and fruitful: by his "labour", he means his ministerial work and service; the ministry is a work, a good and honourable work, and a laborious one. Christ's faithful ministers are labourers; they labour in the word and doctrine, both in studying and preaching it; and such a labourer was the apostle, who by the grace of God laboured more abundantly than others; the "fruit" of which was the conversion of many sinners, the edification, comfort, and establishment of the saints, their fruitfulness in grace and works, the spread of the Gospel far and near, the enlargement of the kingdom of Christ, and the weakening of Satan's kingdom, and the glorifying of Christ in his person, offices, and great salvation; all which was a strong and swaying argument with him, to desire to live longer in the body, and made it on the one hand so difficult with him what to choose: for as a certain Jew (b) says,

"the righteous man desires to live to do the will of God while he lives;

but not with that view, he adds,

"to increase the reward of the soul in the world to come.

(b) Kimchi in Psal. vi. 5.

{7} But if I live in the {n} flesh, this is the fruit of my labour: yet what I shall choose I wot not.

(7) An example of a true shepherd, who considers more how he may profit his sheep, than he considers any benefit of his own whatsoever.

(n) To live in this mortal body.

Php 1:22. Δέ] carrying onward the discourse to the comparison between the two cases as regards their desirability. Weiss understands δέ as antithetic, namely to τὸ ἀποθανεῖν κέρδος, and Hofmann as in contrast also to the ἐμοὶ τὸ ζῆν Χριστός, but both proceed on an erroneous view of what follows; as does also Huther.

According to the τὸ ἀποθανεῖν κέρδος just expressed, the ἀποθανεῖν was put as the case more desirable for Paul personally; but because the ζῆν, in which indeed Christ is his one and all, conditioned the continuance of his official labours, he expresses this now in the hypothetical protasis and, as consequence thereof, in the apodosis, that thus he is in doubt respecting a choice between the two.

The structure of the sentence is accordingly this, that the apodosis sets in with καὶ τί αἱρήσομαι, and nothing is to be supplied: “But if the remaining in my bodily life, and just this, avails for my work, I refrain from a making known what I should choose.” We have to remark in detail: (1) that εἰ does not render problematical that which was said of the ζῆν ἐν σαρκί, but in accordance with the well-known and, especially in Paul’s writings, frequent (Romans 5:17; Romans 6:15, and often) syllogistic usage (Herbst and Kühner, ad Xen. Mem. i. 5. 1), posits the undoubted certainty (Wilke, Rhetor. p. 258), which would take place in the event of a continuance of life; (2) that Paul was the more naturally led to add here the specially defining ἐν σαρκί to τὸ ζῆν (comp. Galatians 2:20; 2 Corinthians 10:3), because, in the previously mentioned κέρδος, the idea of life apart from the body (comp. 2 Corinthians 5:8) must have been floating in his mind; (3) that τοῦτο again sums up with the emphasis of emotion (comp. Romans 7:10) the τὸ ζῆν ἐν σαρκί which had just been said, and calls attention to it (Bernhardy, p. 283; Kühner, II. 1, p. 568 f.; Fritzsche, ad Matth. p. 219), for it was the remaining in life, just this, this and nothing else (in contrast to the ἀποθανεῖν), which was necessarily to the apostle καρπὸς ἔργου; (4) that καρπός is correlative to the preceding κέρδος, and embodies the idea emolumentum (Romans 1:13; Romans 6:21, et al.; Wis 3:13), which is more precisely defined by ἔργου: work-fruit, gain of work, i.e. advantage which accrues to my apostolical work; comp. on the idea, Romans 1:13; (5) that καί, at the commencement of the apodosis, is the subjoining also, showing that if the one thing takes place, the other also sets in; see Hartung, Partikell. I. p. 130 f.; Baeumlein, Partik. p. 146; Nägelsbach, z. Ilias, p. 164, ed. 3; comp. on 2 Corinthians 2:2; (6) that τί stands in the place of the more accurate πότερον (Xen. Cyrop. i. 3. 17; Stallbaum, ad Phileb. p. 168; Jacobs, ad Del. epigr. p. 219; Winer, p. 159 [E. T. 211]), and that the future αἱρήσομαι (what I should prefer) is quite in order (see Eur. Hel. 631, and Pflugk in loc.; and Winer, p. 280 [E. T. 374]), while also the sense of the middle, to choose for himself, to prefer for himself, is not to be overlooked; comp. 2 Thessalonians 2:13; Xen. Mem. iv. 2. 29: οἱ δὲ μὴ εἰδότες ὅ τι ποιοῦσι, κακῶς δὲ αἱρούμενοι, Soph. Ant. 551: σὺ μὲν γὰρ εἵλου ζῆν; (7) that οὐ γνωρίζω is not to be taken, as it usually has been, according to the common Greek usage with the Vulgate, in the cense of ignoro, but, following the invariable usage of the N. T. (comp. also 3Ma 2:6; 3 Maccabees 3 Esr. 6:12; Aesch. Prom. 487; Athen. xii. p. 539 B; Diod. Sic. i. 6), as: I do not make it known, I do not explain myself on the point, give no information upon it.[73] Comp. van Hengel, Ewald, Huther, Schenkel, also Bengel, who, however, without any ground, adds mihi. Paul refrains from making and declaring such a choice, because (see Php 1:23 f.) his desire is so situated between the two alternatives, that it clashes with that which he is compelled to regard as the better.

The conformity to words and context, and the simplicity, which characterize the whole of this explanation (so, in substance, also Chrysostom, Theodoret, Oecumenius, Theophylact, Erasmus, Luther, Calvin, and many others, including Heinrichs, Rheinwald, van Hengel, de Wette, Wiesinger, Ewald, Ellicott, Hilgenfeld),—in which, however, καρπ. ἔργου is not to be taken as operae pretium (Calvin, Grotius, and others), nor καί as superfluous (Casaubon, Heinrichs, and others), nor Οὐ ΓΝΩΡΊΖΩ as equivalent to ΟὐΚ ΟἾΔΑ (see above),—exclude decisively all other interpretations, in which ΤΟῦΤΟ and the ΚΑΊ of the apodosis have been the special stumbling blocks. Among these other explanations are (a) that of Pelagius, Estius, Bengel, Matthies, and others (comp. Lachmann, who places a stop after ἔργου), that ἘΣΤΊ is to be understood with ἘΝ ΣΑΡΚΊ, that the apodosis begins with ΤΟῦΤΟ, and that ΚΑῚ ΤΊ ΑἹΡ. Κ.Τ.Λ. is a proposition by itself: “if the living in the flesh is appointed to me, then this has no other aim for me than by continuous labour to bring forth fruit,” etc. (Huther, l.c. p. 581 f.). But how arbitrarily is the simple ἐστί, thus supplied, interpreted (mihi constitutum est)! The words τοῦτό μοι καρπὸς ἔργου, taken as an apodosis, are—immediately after the statement ἘΜΟῚ ΓᾺΡ ΤῸ ΖῆΝ ΧΡΙΣΤΌς, in which the idea of ΚΑΡΠῸς ἜΡΓΟΥ is substantially conveyed already—adapted less for a new emphatic inference than for a supposition that has been established; and the discourse loses both in flow and force. Nevertheless Hofmann has in substance followed this explanation.[74] (b) Beza’s view, that εἰ is to be taken as whether:an vero vivere in carne mihi operae pretium sit, et quid eligam ignoro.” This is linguistically incorrect (καρπὸς ἔργου), awkward (ΕἸΚΑῚ ΤΊ), and in the first member of the sentence un-Pauline (Php 1:24-26). (c) The assumption of an aposiopesis after ἔργου: if life, etc., is to me ΚΑΡΠῸς ἜΡΓΟΥ, “non repugno, non aegre fero” (so Corn. Müller), or, “je ne dois pas désirer la mort” (Rilliet). See Winer, p. 557 f. [E. T. 751]; Meineke, Menand. p. 238. This is quite arbitrary, and finds no support in the emotional character of the passage, which is in fact very calm. (d) Hoelemann’s explanation—which supplies καρπός from the sequel after ΖῆΝ, takes ΤΟῦΤΟ, which applies to the ἈΠΟΘΑΝΕῖΝ, as the beginning of the apodosis, and understands ΚΑΡΠῸς ἜΡΓΟΥ as an actual fruit: “but if life is a fruit in the flesh (an earthly fruit), this (death) is also a fruit of (in) fact (a substantial, real fruit)”—is involved, artificial, and contrary to the genius of the language (καρπ. ἔργου!). (e) The explanation of Weiss is that, after ἐν σαρκί, κέρδος is to be again supplied as a predicate, so that ΤΟῦΤΟ, which is made to apply to the entire protasis, begins the apodosis: “but if life is a gain, that is a fruit of his labour, because the successes of his apostolic ministry can alone make his life worth having to him” (Php 1:24). This supplying of ΚΈΡΔΟς, which was predicated of the antithesis of the ΖῆΝ, is as arbitrary as it is intolerably forced; and, indeed, according to Php 1:21, not ΚΈΡΔΟς merely would have to be supplied, but ἘΜΟῚ ΚΈΡΔΟς; and, since ΚΈΡΔΟς is not to be taken from ἈΠΟΘΑΝΕῖΝ, of which it is predicate, we should have to expect an also before τὸ ζῆν, so that Paul would have written: ΕἸ ΔῈ (or ἈΛΛʼ ΕἸ) ΚΑῚ ΤῸ ΖῆΝ ἘΝ ΣΑΡΚῚ ἘΜΟῚ ΚΈΡΔΟς Κ.Τ.Λ.

Not as if Paul intended to say that “he kept it to himself,” a sense which Hofmann wrongly ascribes to this declaration. He intends to say rather that he refrains from a decision regarding what he should choose. The dilemma in which he found himself (comp. ver. 23) caused him to waive the giving of such a decision, in order not to anticipate in any way the divine purpose by his own choice.

[74] If it be life in the flesh, namely, which I have to expect instead of dying (?), then this, namely the life in the flesh, is to me produce of labour, in so far as by living I produce fruit, and thus then (καί) it is to me unknown, etc. This interpretation of Hofmann’s also is liable to the objection that, if Paul intended to say that he produced fruit by his life, logically he must have predicated of his ζῆν ἐν σαρκί, not that it was to him καρπὸς ἔργου, but rather that it was ἔργον καρποῦ, a work (a working) which produces fruit.Php 1:22. To show the diversities of interpretation to which this verse has given rise, it is enough to note that in the first clause Hpt[54] would supply ζῇν ἐστιν, while Ws[55] suggests κέρδος. Others regard the first two clauses as protasis (τοῦτο summing up the words preceding), making the apodosis begin with καί. The context suggests an explanation more simple and more natural. Paul has sought to convince them that death has no terror for him; that, on the contrary, it is pure gain. Yet he will not have them suppose that therefore life on earth (ἐν σαρκί, life with the encumbrance of sinful flesh) is a burden and a trouble. In the circumstances, as he points out immediately, it is probably best for him and them. And he will give a preliminary hint of this. Must we not supply μοί ἐστι, in thought, in the first clause? This is suggested both by ἐμοί preceding and by the μοι which follows. ἐστί has to be supplied, admittedly, in both clauses of Php 1:21. There is no greater difficulty in doing so here. “But if life in the flesh be my portion, this means (so we must also translate the ἐστί supplied in first clause of Php 1:21) for me fruit of (i.e., springing from) labour.” τὸ ζῇν is qualified by ἐν σ., because the Apostle felt that he could not regard physical death as quenching his life. Death only meant fuller life, therefore he must define when he wishes to speak of life on this earth.—καρπὸς ἔργου. For the phrase see Psalms 103. (104) 13, ἀπὸ καρποῦ τῶν ἔργων σου χορτασθήσεται ἡ γῆ; Wis 3:15, ἀγαθῶν γὰρ πόνων ὁ καρπὸς εὐκλεής. Aptly Thphyl., καὶ τὸ ζῇν ἐν σαρκὶ οὐκ ἄκαρπόν μοί ἐστιν· καρποφορῶ γὰρ διδάσκων καὶ φωτίζων πάντας.—τί αἱρής. τί has practically ousted πότερον from N.T. It is quite natural to have the fut. indicat. in a deliberative sentence.—γνωρίζω. Its invariable meaning in N.T. = “make known”. This sense suits almost every instance in LXX. So here, “I do not make known,” “I cannot tell”.

[54] Haupt.

[55] Weiss.22. But if I live in the flesh, &c.] The Greek construction here is difficult by its brevity and abruptness. R.V. renders “But if to live in this flesh—if this is the fruit of my work, then &c.”; and, in the margin, “But if to live in the flesh be my lot, this is the fruit of my work; and &c.”; a rendering practically the same as A.V. This latter we much prefer, for grammatical reasons. It requires the mental insertion of “be my lot,” or the like; but this is quite easy, in a sentence where the words “to live” are obviously echoed from the words “to live is Christ” just above. As if to say, “But if this ‘living’ is still to be a ‘living in the flesh,’ this is fruit &c.”

this is the fruit of my labour] Rather better, in view of the Greek idiom, this I shall find fruit of work. This “living in the flesh,” as it will be “Christ,” so will be “fruit,” result, of lifelong work. He means that work for Christ, the being employed by Christ, is for him the pulse of life on earth; is life for him, in a certain sense. And this he expresses with additional force by saying not merely “work” but “fruit of work.” For the work is of course fruitful: he who abides in Christ “beareth much fruit,” fruit that shall “remain” (John 15:5; John 15:16), whether or no he sees it. It is only the “works of darkness” that can be “unfruitful” (Ephesians 5:11).

yet] Lit. and better, and. The simple word suits the great rapidity of transition.

wot] An old English present indicative, of which the infinitive is to wit. It was probably a past tense originally. See Skeat’s Etymological Dictionary.—Wyclif has “knowe”.—The Greek here is, precisely, “I recognize not”; “I do not see clearly” (Ellicott).Php 1:22. Εἰ δὲ, but if) Here he begins to discuss the first member of the period: the second at ch. Php 2:17, yea, and if I am offered. Moreover, he uses δὲ, but, because, from the disjunction [two alternatives] laid down in the preceding verse, he now assumes the one; and on this assumption, presently, as if repenting, he begins to doubt, in such a way, however, as not to avoid assuming it in the meantime.—τὸ ζῇν, viz. ἐστί μοι) if living is to me: if I am to live.—ἐν σαρκί) This is a limitation; for even they who die, live.—καρπὸς ἔργου, the fruit of my labour) I derive this fruit from it [from living], that I may thereby do the more work; a noble work, ch. Php 2:30; desirable fruit, Romans 1:13. Another seeks fruit from [by means of] his labour; Paul regards the labour itself as the fruit. This living is the fruit of my labour. The expression, καρπὸς ἔργου, the fruit of labour [= the labour (is) my fruit]; as, the river of the Rhine, the virtue of liberality [for the river Rhine; the virtue, liberality]. The price of the labour is its immediate result.[11] Cicero says, “I propose to myself as the fruit of friendship, friendship itself, than which nothing is more abundant.”—αἱρήσομαι, I shall choose) He supposes the condition, viz. if the power of choosing were given to him. This is the reason of [the ground on which he uses] the Future. [The lot of the Christian is truly an excellent one. It is only of things that are good that the choice can be made, so as to perplex or put his mind in a strait with hesitation. He never can be disappointed.—V. g.]—οὐ γνωρίζω) I do not explain, viz. to myself; i.e. I do not determine.

[11] The reward which the labour itself affords is an immediate result, independent of its future rewards.—ED.Verse 22. - But if I live in the flesh, this is the fruit of my labor: yet what I shall choose I wot not; or perhaps, as Meyer, "I make not known." St. Paul wavers between his own personal longing for rest in Paradise with Christ, and the thought that the continuance of his life on earth might conduce to the spreading of the gospel. The grammar of the Greek sentence aptly represents the apostle's hesitation. The construction is almost hopelessly confused. Perhaps the interpretation of the R.V. is the simplest: "But if to live in the flesh, - if this is the fruit of my work, then what shall choose I wot not." Thus καρπός is parallel with κέρδος (Ver. 21); τὸ ζῇν ἐν σαρκι is also a gain, a fruit; the genitive is one of apposition; the work itself is the fruit. St. Paul, says Bengel, regards his work as fruit, others seek fruit from their work. Bishop Lightfoot proposes another rendering, "But what if my living in the flesh will bear fruit, etc.? In fact what to choose I know not." Surely, says Bengel, the Christian's lot is excellent; he can hesitate only in the choice of blessings; disappointed he cannot be. If I live (εἰ τὸ ζῆν)

Rev., better, if to live: the living, as Philippians 1:21.

This is the fruit of my labor

According to the A.V. these words form the offset of the conditional clause, and conclude the sentence: if I live - this is the fruit. It is better to make the two clauses parallel, thus: if living after the flesh, (if) this is fruit of labor. The conditional suspended clause will then be closed by what I shall choose I do not declare. Fruit of labor, advantage accruing from apostolic work. Compare Romans 1:13.

Yet what I shall choose I wot not (καὶ τί αἱρήσομαι οὐ γνωρίζω).

Καὶ rendered yet has the force of then. If living in the flesh be, etc., then what I shall choose, etc. Wot is obsolete for know. In classical Greek γνωρίζω means: 1, to make known point out; 2, to become acquainted with or discover; 3, to have acquaintance with. In the Septuagint the predominant meaning seems to be to make known. See Proverbs 22:19; Ezekiel 44:23; Daniel 2:6, Daniel 2:10; Daniel 5:7. The sense here is to declare or make known, as everywhere in the New Testament. Compare Luke 2:15; John 17:26; Acts 2:28; Colossians 4:7; 2 Peter 1:16, etc. If I am assured that my continuing to live is most fruitful for the Church, then I say nothing as to my personal preference. I do not declare my choice. It is not for me to express a choice.

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