Bible & the Intercession of Saints (vs. Lucas Banzoli)

Bible & the Intercession of Saints (vs. Lucas Banzoli) February 8, 2023

Lucas Banzoli is a very active Brazilian anti-Catholic polemicist, who holds to basically a Seventh-Day Adventist theology, whereby there is no such thing as a soul that consciously exists outside of a body, and no hell (soul sleep and annihilationism). This leads him to a Christology which is deficient and heterodox in terms of Christ’s human nature after His death. He has a Master’s degree in theology, a degree and postgraduate work in history, a license in letters, and is a history teacher, author of 25 self-published books, as well as blogmaster (active on and off) for six blogs. He has many videos on YouTube.

This is my 57th refutation of Banzoli’s writings. For almost half a year (5-25-22 to 11-12-22) he didn’t write one single word in reply, because my articles were deemed to be “without exception poor, superficial and weak . . . only a severely cognitively impaired person would be inclined to take” them “seriously.” Despite this childish rationalizing, he found my refutations so “entertaining” that he bravely decided to “make a point of rebutting” them “one by one”: this effort being his “new favorite sport.”

He has now replied to me 14 times (the last one dated 1-22-23), and I will (rest assured) counter-reply to any and all actual arguments (as opposed to his never-ending insults) that he makes in direct response to me. I disposed of the main themes of his slanderous insults in several Facebook posts under his name on my Anti-Catholicism page. I plan (by God’s grace) to ignore them henceforth, and heartily thank him for these innumerable blessings and extra rewards in heaven (Matthew 5:11-12).

Google Translate is utilized to render Lucas’ Portugese into English. Occasionally I slightly modify clearly inadequate translations, so that his words will read more smoothly and meaningfully in English. His words will be in blue. Words from past replies of mine to him will be in green.

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This is my reply to Lucas Banzoli’s article, “Como Dave Armstrong “encontrou” a oração aos mortos na Bíblia” [How Dave Armstrong “Found” Prayer to the Dead in the Bible] (12-18-22). This was an alleged response to my article, “Bible on Praying Straight to God” (9-21-22).

Dave . . . claims that we can pray directly to God if we want (although he strongly discourages the practice, as we will see later), . . . 

I “discouraged” nothing. I contended that the two methods of prayer are not antithetical. I stated:

We can go to God directly anytime we like. He is that sort of loving Father. Nothing in Catholicism is against that. We simply note that there are times when a person holier than us is in the area, and that when that happens, we should ask them to pray for us rather than go directly to God.  . . . 

We can find prayer directly to God throughout the Old Testament. We also find (as I did and posted above) the practice of asking holy people to pray. It’s not “either/or”; it’s “both/and.” Lucas’ carefully chosen passages don’t contradict Catholicism at all: not in the slightest. We totally affirm them as he does.

I said that (1) all PRAYERS are addressed directly to God, and that (2) we never see a PRAYER addressed to a deceased saint. . . . Dave . . . cannot find a single one where the recipient of the prayer is anyone other than God. 

This is untrue. Saul asked the dead Samuel for advice: “tell me what I shall do” (1 Sam 28:15). Samuel replied: “Why then do you ask me, since the LORD has turned from you and become your enemy?” (1 Sam 28:16). He wasn’t saying that it was utterly improper to pray to him; only that it made no sense, since God had already made it clear that Saul was His enemy. The second example is the rich man praying to the dead Abraham for his brothers (Luke 16), which I have written about many times. That historical account came right from the lips of Jesus Himself. Also, Abraham’s nephew Lot prayed to an angel, which is someone “other than God” (Gen 19:15, 18-22).

Dave’s maneuver consists precisely in manipulating what has been affirmed, citing a truckload of texts that say nothing about prayer or about deceased “saints” . Yes, he literally spends the entire article quoting almost 30 biblical texts without any of them having anything to do with my “challenge”, either because he thinks his readers are a bunch of fools who won’t notice the maneuver, or because he is taking taking his job as a comedian too seriously.

As usual, Banzoli completely missed the analogical nature of my argument. I don’t know how. I made it very clear, what my argument was (as I think I always do). My examples had to do with various people in the Bible asking holier persons to pray for them, rather than going directly to God in prayer themselves. That’s the principle. I proved that this happened over and over again. I wrote:

This is a great one [Gen 20:6-7, 17-18] that I just discovered in writing this reply. It’s notable in that God Himself is telling a person not to pray for himself, so that he “shall live”, but that a holier person (a “prophet”: Abraham) will do so, according to God’s own revealed will, in both special and written revelation (the Bible). Abraham was the holier person. He prayed, and good things happened as a result, because it was all according to God’s will.

Thus, Abimelech was a biblical character” and he was told by God Himself that Abraham would pray for him; therefore, he didn’t go “straight to God” in prayer, like Lucas claimed “ALL” biblical figures did. Lucas is again making a fool of himself by asserting a “universal negative”: probably the dumbest thing anyone can ever do in a debate. . . . 

The entire nation of Israel were “biblical character[s]” and they asked the prophet Samuel to pray for them [1 Sam 12:17-19, 23]; therefore, they, too didn’t go “straight to God” in prayer, like Lucas claimed “ALL” biblical figures did.

After providing many such examples that all contradicted Banzoli’s claim, I concluded:

From this massive biblical data, we conclude, then, that it’s best to “go straight to God” in prayer, unless there happens to be a person more righteous than we are in the immediate vicinity, who is willing to make the same prayer request. Then the Bible recommends that we ask them to intercede for us or any righteous cause, rather than asking God directly.

Then after establishing the repeated biblical principle of asking more righteous people to pray, I gave examples of extending this practice to dead saints, too:

Abraham was a deceased saint (even a real one without quotation marks around “saint”!) and he was prayed to and intercessory requests made of him, according to our Lord Jesus: Who told the story of actual events, whereby a rich man who died and went to Hades (Lk 16:22-23) asked Abraham to help his still living brothers: [Lk 16:27-31] . . .

King Saul also made a prayer request regarding himself, to the prophet Samuel, after the latter had died (28:3): [1 Sam 28:15-19] . . .

Or we can ask the dead Abraham or the dead Samuel and any other saint to pray for us, or an angel, as the Bible also teaches and affirms. It’s trusting God (Ps 91:2) to do what He recommends for our good.

Then I illustrated how men asked angels to pray for them as well:

How about praying to / asking the intercession of angels rather than God? Sure: the Bible directly refers to that practice, too, with not the slightest hint of condemnation or prohibition. Abraham’s nephew Lot rather casually did it: [Gen 19:15, 18-22]

Abraham prayed to God, and God answered his prayer. This is the pattern found throughout the Bible, from Genesis to Revelation: 

And Saul prayed to dead Samuel, and the rich man prayed to dead Abraham (so reported Jesus), and Lot prayed to an angel. Banzoli ignorantly denied that this ever took place. He’s dead wrong.

Dave does not read the Bible, he just “hunts” for random verses that he just discovered in some search engine. verses and quotes them as if he had discovered gunpowder. 

Right. I don’t read the Bible. I’ve only been defending it for 42 years without reading it. Makes a lot of sense, doesn’t it? The vast majority of Banzoli’s reply are laughable non sequiturs, because he never grasped the analogical nature of my argument in the first place. I will not cite all those portions, out of charity (which is why this reply is shorter than many other ones).

Banzoli attacks the Hail Mary:

First, the prayer is addressed directly to Mary and not to God, as the very beginning indicates. Mary is the subject, focus, and addressee of prayer, from beginning to end. God is mentioned only twice, both times in contexts that exalt the very person of Mary, and neither time as the recipient of prayer. 

This is sheer nonsense. First of all, technically, the first part of the Hail Mary is simply repeating Scripture and meditating upon it. Catholics didn’t come up with “Hail Mary, full of grace.” That was the angel Gabriel, who said that to her (Lk 1:28). Nor did Catholics invent “Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.” That was Mary’s cousin Elizabeth (Lk 1:42), who said it because she was “filled with the Holy Spirit” (Lk 1:41). Then we ask the Blessed Virgin Mary to pray for us. We’re not (technically) praying to her (as if she could answer in and of herself apart from God), but rather, asking her to pray or intercede for us (“Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death”).

Banzoli lies and claims that God is never “the recipient of prayer” in the Hail Mary. I’d like to ask him, then: who does he think we think Mary is praying to, when she prays for us in the hour of our death? Who does he think she is praying to? After all, we’re asking her to pray; we’re not asking her to fulfill the prayer by herself, without God. How can she pray for us without interceding to God on our behalf? This simply exposes Banzoli’s rank ignorance of Catholic prayer and theology alike.

We repeat Elizabeth’s words and say Mary is very “blessed.” Very scriptural. It’s a biblical sentiment! Who is it that fulfills Mary’s prophecy about herself: “henceforth all generations will call me blessed” (Lk 1:48)? Of course it is Catholics and Orthodox. Almost no Protestants do that. So once again; we’re the biblical ones. Protestants, when discussing the Blessed Virgin Mary, typically say they have no hostility or disrespect towards her; that they are simply following what the Bible itself says about her. Very well then: here is “the biblical Mary” (no development of doctrine or Catholic dogmas involved) saying with her own mouth that she would be called “blessed” by “all generations.” We follow the practice and they don’t.

As he is not able to point us to a single biblical prayer in the most “Hail Mary” style, where a dead person is invoked in place of God

Once again (repetition being a great teacher): Saul to Samuel, the rich man to Abraham, and (similarly) Lot to an angel . . .

Dave . . . has no text that speaks of a dead man praying for a living man

Revelation 6:9-10 . . . I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the witness they had borne; [10] they cried out with a loud voice, “O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before thou wilt judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell upon the earth?”

This is what is called an imprecatory prayer: calling for judgment against enemies. We can easily imagine that these same dead persons could and would also pray for those still on the earth who are being persecuted and may be martyred just as they were (Rev 6:11). There is no compelling reason to rule out that very likely possibility. And if that happened, they would be praying for living men, just as the Bible strongly implies that Moses and Samuel do (Jeremiah 15:1) and that angels do, since (for some odd reason) “the prayers of the saints” are in “the hand of the angel” (Rev 8:4), and they “rose . . . before God.”

What are angels doing with these prayers, pray tell? It looks to me like they are interceding for the living. So are “the twenty-four elders” (generally regarded by commentators as dead human beings), who have “golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints” (Rev 5:8). The relevant question again is: “what are they doing with ‘the prayers of the saints’?” The logical answer is that they are interceding; participating in those prayers as righteous creatures praying to God for some good purpose. In the Deuterocanon (disputed on inadequate grounds by Protestants) it state straight out that Jeremiah is doing so:

2 Maccabees 15:14 And Onias spoke, saying, “This is a man who loves the brethren and prays much for the people and the holy city, Jeremiah, the prophet of God.”

Dave . . . has no text that speaks of . . . a living man praying for a dead man,

That’s easy: Paul did so with regard to Onesiphorus, as I have written about many times:

Paul Prayed for Dead Onesiphorus (Protestant Commentaries) [7-14-09]

St. Paul Prayed for a Dead Man: Onesiphorus [8-19-15]

St. Paul Prayed for Onesiphorus, Who Was Dead [National Catholic Register, 3-19-17]

Was Onesiphorus Dead When Paul Prayed for Him?: Data from 16 Protestant Commentaries (1992-2016) [3-20-17]

Again: the people sin, ask Moses to pray for them, Moses prays to the Lord and the Lord grants Moses’ request. 

Exactly! As I explained regarding the Hail Mary: the people sin, ask Mary to pray for them (“pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death”), Mary prays to the Lord (since she is praying, and who would it be to, but God?) and the Lord grants Mary’s request.

While Moses could be said to have acted as an “intermediary” between the people and God, it is in an entirely different sense from the “saints” of Catholicism. First, because the people did not “pray” to Moses, as Catholics pray to the saints. 

We are asking saints to intercede for us, precisely as Moses was asked to do (being very holy).

Second, because Moses was alive, and after he dies we never again see any Jew asking Moses for anything or praying to him (precisely because they knew that prayers had to be addressed to God alone).

That would be news to Jesus, who informed us that a Jew (the “rich man”) prayed to Abraham (who was also known as a great intercessor on the earth). He didn’t “know” that his prayers had to be directed to God only, and Abraham never corrected him (as he certainly should have done if this were true). So Banzoli is wrong again. He doesn’t believe that Jesus told the truth; I do. It’s got to be difficult to keep being wrong again and again and again.

This is how Dave tries to justify the fact that Catholics never go directly to God

Another lie, and obviously so. Anyone with an IQ higher than a mushroom knows this isn’t true. It’s yet another one of Banzoli’s mindless, brainless, idiotic “universal negatives.” Sorry for the harsh language, but there is no other way to react to such inanities. I can disprove it in ten seconds: every Catholic at every Mass prays the Lord’s Prayer or Our Father as we call it. It’s a prayer to God. Jesus Himself taught all Christians to pray it. It’s His words. Therefore, it’s untrue that “Catholics never go directly to God.” Every Mass and every Catholic at every Mass proves it’s a lie. The question here is: “how can Banzoli possibly be this abysmally ignorant of Catholic practices?” And of course, in private prayer, Catholics go directly to God all the time. It insults my intelligence and that of all reading to even have to note this self-evident truth.

Once again, as I plainly stated in my article that Banzoli was replying to:We can go to God directly anytime we like. . . . Nothing in Catholicism is against that. . . . We can find prayer directly to God throughout the Old Testament.” I’ve said the same thing for over thirty years in many articles (that could be found on my blog, and no; I will not waste my time searching for them now; these statements exist, if anyone wants further proof). 

Yet we never see a single NT biblical character praying to an OT “saint” . . . On the contrary, prayers are always, only and exclusively addressed to God , regardless of how much more “holy” these dead would be. [bolding his own]

Another universal negative; will Banzoli ever learn and cease asserting them? The “rich man” prays to Abraham (Luke 16). Disagree? Take it up with Our Lord and Savior Jesus: God the Son, since it’s from Him that we know this.

Of all the examples Dave hunted down in the Bible, you haven’t seen one where a righteous person refuses to pray for himself, only to let someone else pray for him. 

And within a minute, here comes another universal negative! Banzoli simply doesn’t know how to effectively debate. No one prevails in a debate by making a fool of himself every minute. The refutation of this false charge is in my article that he was replying to: God said to Abimelech: “I know that you have done this in the integrity of your heart” (Gen 20:6) and “Now then restore the man’s wife; for he [Abraham] is a prophet, and he will pray for you, and you shall live” (Gen 20:6).

Banzoli “responds” to Lazarus and the rich man (Luke 16):

the great proof he has that praying to the dead is legitimate is a parable . . . the vast majority of immortalist theologians themselves recognize that the account is merely parabolic and that it has nothing to do with “real events” . . . if Dave were honest enough to recognize that Luke 16:19-31 is a parable and not a true story, he would lose the only text it can cite in its favor.

It’s not a parable, as I and many argue, but even if it were, Jesus couldn’t tell an untruth or false bit of theology in it. He couldn’t tell a parable, for example, in which there were four Persons in the Trinity or sixteen gods who have existed for all eternity, or a God that is not eternal. That can’t happen because 1) He’s Jesus, Who is God and knows all things, and 2) the Bible in which these parables are found is itself without error. So this “argument” proves nothing whatsoever. If we can never pray to anyone but God (i.e., ask them to intercede to God for us), then Jesus simply couldn’t and wouldn’t teach it in His story, whether it is a parable or not. But He did, so there we have it. I have argued this probably twenty times through the years and it is no less self-evident now than it ever was.

I imagine how beautiful Dave’s heaven must be,

This isn’t heaven; it’s Hades (Sheol), as Jesus expressly stated (Lk 16:23). So why does Banzoli blatantly represent the inspired words of God Himself (in God’s revelation)?

walking and singing and following the song, until he looks across and sees his kin and children burning before him and he can chat with them and he can do nothing to assuage their grief. suffering (although he would probably be the one “on the other side”, to make the analogy more accurate).

Again, since this is Hades and not heaven (nor hell), it’s irrelevant to pretend that it’s referring to heaven. That would make Jesus a liar. Obviously, Banzoli denies the existence of hell, but Jesus does not, and that’s the point. He talked more about hell than about heaven (in what we have in Scripture).

I also wonder how the rich man and Lazarus ended up in Hades with bodies and all, when in fact they should have been incorporeal spirits (little ghosts, as in the immortalist fable that Dave loves). 

It’s anthropomorphic language, that God often uses regarding Himself, too.

This is the problem when you are committed to false doctrine: you are bound to cling tooth and nail to the most outlandish arguments, since that is all you have.

Couldn’t have said it better myself!

And the worst is that not even if the parable of the rich man and Lazarus were a true story, this text could be correctly used in his favor, because neither the rich man is answered nor does he say a prayer.

He doesn’t have to have his prayer fulfilled for it to be a prayer or for it to be proper to pray to Abraham. Abraham refused the request, and gave the reason why. God refuses prayer requests too. But if it were fundamentally improper or wrong, Abraham would have had to correct the rich man, and say, “Pray only to God! Why are you praying to me?!” He never did (nor did he say it was impossible for him to fulfill — by whatever means — any request); therefore, Jesus taught that it was proper and permissible to pray to someone other than God; a dead man. The doctrine was already present in Genesis (Lot praying to an angel).

It’s certainly a prayer. The rich man makes a petitionary request and two intercessory ones:

“Father Abraham, have mercy upon me, and send Laz’arus to dip the end of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am in anguish in this flame.” (Lk 16:24)

“Then I beg you, father, to send him to my father’s house, for I have five brothers, so that he may warn them, lest they also come into this place of torment.” (Lk 16:27-28)

“No, father Abraham; but if some one goes to them from the dead, they will repent.” (Lk 16:30)

Those are clearly prayers; the second and third also involve a supernatural occurrence: someone coming back from the dead to warn his brothers. Abraham didn’t say that he couldn’t cause that to happen, but that it wouldn’t make any difference, because if they were to repent, thy would have already done so as a result of reading Moses and the prophets (Lk 16:31). In the case of the first request, Abraham noted that it was not permitted (implied: by God) to cross from one region of Hades to the other.

In the Bible, prayer is establishing a connection between this world and the next.

If that’s the case (apart from the fact that the Bible never states this criterion, that I am aware of), then the incidents with Saul and Samuel, and Lot and the angel qualify.

Most of my 6th grade Religious Education students know that Saul was a godless and apostate king, tormented by evil spirits (1 Sam 16:23), who pursued David out of envy all his life, and who cold-bloodedly murdered the Gibeonites for protecting David.

Good for them. This has absolutely nothing to do with the question of whether a person (Saul being a person) can pray to someone other than God. There’s no rule that says that a lousy sinner isn’t permitted to pray any longer. So this is one of the innumerable non sequiturs that Banzoli haplessly, witlessly descends to in his reply. Samuel would have been duty-bound to say — as a holy prophet – in any event that he is not to be prayed to because he was 1) dead, and 2) not God, if in fact this were the biblical teaching. Since it’s not the biblical teaching, Samuel (like Abraham and the angel Lot prayed to) doesn’t say either thing.

a king punished with death precisely for practicing what Dave uses to base prayer for the dead! 

No Catholic advocates consulting mediums or necromancy. See my paper, Invocation of the Saints = Necromancy? [10-18-08]. No orthodox Catholic defends Saul’s effort to consult a medium. It’s beside the point, which is that the actual Samuel appeared, whatever Saul and the medium did or sought to do.

the very Bible that Dave never opened calls this practice an abomination and punishes its practitioners with death (as happened to Saul himself):

We agree that consulting a medium is an abomination. But as a point of fact, Saul was not killed for that (or at the very least, not primarily for it). As the risen Samuel noted, God had already turned against Saul. That happened when Saul offered sacrifices that only priests could offer (1 Samuel 13:9-14) and again when Saul didn’t utterly destroy the Amalekites (1 Sam 15:10-29). Somehow I knew this (never having opened a Bible), while Banzoli — in his infinite wisdom and knowledge — doesn’t (presumably having opened and read a Bible now and then). Samuel mentions the second reason right during his final encounter with Saul: “the LORD has turned from you and become your enemy . . . Because you did not obey the voice of the LORD, and did not carry out his fierce wrath against Am’alek, therefore the LORD has done this thing to you this day” (1 Sam 28:16, 18).

as if the necromancer’s invocation of Samuel justified the Catholic practice of communicating with the dead.

No Catholic apologist or theologian that I’m aware of, has ever claimed that. For the umpteenth time, it’s a non sequitur in this debate. All agree that occultic practices were and are wrong and forbidden.

But then why didn’t Samuel rebuke Saul for consulting him, as Dave argues? The answer is simple: because it wasn’t really Samuel, but a demon impersonating him.

The Bible never remotely states such a thing (and I contend that it certainly would, if it were true). It’s “Banzology” (which, frankly, I don’t put much stock in). He’s simply called Samuel, just as he was when he was alive. And he repeats what we know the real Samuel said while alive on the earth: such as the failure to destroy the Amalekites as the reason for Saul’s demise. Demons don’t tell the truth. They lie and deceive. Samuel (risen out of Sheol) told the truth, as confirmed by Saul’s predicted death, the very next day (1 Sam 28:19). Classic Protestant commentaries note the absurdity of the “demon” hypothesis:

Benson Commentary: He expressly says the woman saw Samuel, and if we believe that she did not see Samuel, but only an evil spirit personating him, we must call in question either the ability or integrity of the sacred writer: we must conceive either that he did not know what he wrote about, or that he designed to deceive his readers. Supposing then that both the woman and Saul might be deceived by an impostor in Samuel’s guise; yet we ask, Was this author deceived? Or did he mean to deceive us, when he gives us to understand, that the woman saw Samuel, and was frighted at the sight!

Barnes’ Notes on the Bible: It is manifest both that the apparition of Samuel was real, and also that the woman was utterly unprepared for it.
*
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary: [M]any eminent writers (considering that the apparition came before her arts were put in practice; that she herself was surprised and alarmed; that the prediction of Saul’s own death and the defeat of his forces was confidently made), are of opinion that Samuel really appeared.
*
Clarke’s Commentary: That Samuel did appear on this occasion, is most evident from the text; nor can this be denied from any legitimate mode of interpretation: and it is as evident that he was neither raised by the power of the devil nor the incantations of the witch, for the appearances which took place at this time were such as she was wholly unacquainted with. Her familiar did not appear; and from the confused description she gives, it is fully evident that she was both surprised and alarmed at what she saw, being so widely different from what she expected to see.
*
Lange’s Commentary: Of the three schemes of explanation of this difficult passage now held—namely, that which regards the affair as a mere deception, that which supposes a sort of mesmeric clairvoyance in the woman, and that which sees here a real appearance of Samuel by divine power, the last has found most favor among English orthodox expositors. . . . it is not easy to see how we can avoid finding in the narration a distinct declaration that Samuel actually appeared and spoke.

Somebody call a doctor, a psychiatrist, a vet maybe, but they can’t let a man like that write the things he writes. . . . 

It doesn’t matter what the Bible actually says; what matters is how this can be nominally manipulated to convey the opposite meaning. As is clear from my first rebuttal, all these years of apologetics have only made Dave a master of the art of deceit and dissimulation, a professional scarecrow striker, someone who compulsorily needs to deflect the heart of the argument, mutilate the opposing argument, distort everything said and then bombard with as many randomly quoted texts as possible, betting that no one will have the holy patience to analyze them one by one to embarrass themselves.

Just for the record . . . and I turn the other cheek, as promised in the introduction above. Please pray for my patience and my longtime inability to suffer fools gladly. I willingly suffer through these fifty billion insults for the sake of those whom I’m trying to reach with this article and others like it. I “offer it up” for them. If even just one person is prevented from leaving Catholicism due in part to the grace-enabled writings of this poor sinner, it will all be well worth it, and I salute the person to whom that happens, and praise the God Who made it possible.

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Photo credit: The Rich Man in Hell and the Poor Lazarus in Abraham’s Lap (1517), by Hans Schäufelein (1480-1540) and Adam Petri (1454-1527) [public domain / Wikimedia Commons]

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Summary: I defend the practice of invocation and intercession of saints, with biblical examples: all of which are able to stand up against the usual Protestant criticism.

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