History of the Authorized King James Bible Part 1

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Authored By  :
Bill Kochman

Published On :
July 29, 2002

Last Updated :
December 31, 2012

NOTE: This article or series has not been updated recently. As such, it may possibly contain some outdated information, and/or ideas and beliefs which I no longer embrace, or which have changed to some degree.

John Wycliffe, Indulgences And Filthy Lucre, Pope's Hatred, William Tyndale, Erasmus And Textus Receptus, Roman Catholic Corruption Of The Gospel, Johann Gutenberg's Printing Press, Gospel For The World, Martin Luther, Saved By Grace Alone, RCC Persecution Begins, Spiritual Famine, Jesus Is Our Only Mediator, Screen Door Net Revolving Door, Oriental Religions And Reincarnation, Pharisees And Mosaic Law, Freed Through Jesus, Tyndale Is Burned At The Stake Myles Coverdale Bible, John Rogers, Matthew's Bible, Thomas Crammer And Great Bible

Did you know that the 1611 AKJV, or Authorized King James Version, was not the very first English version of the Bible, but that there were several English translations before it? Allow me to share the story with you. I think that you will find it to be rather interesting.

According to historical documents, the honor of producing the first English Bible belongs to a man by the name of John Wycliffe -- also spelled Wycliff -- who was a noted fourteenth century theologian and world renowned philosopher from Oxford University. Some people credit Wycliffe with being the very first of the English Reformers, due to his strong opposition to the established religious order of his day; that is, the Roman Catholic Church.

Wycliffe spent many years of his life exposing the unBiblical doctrines and practices of the Roman Catholic Church; such as the lie that Salvation could only be obtained through the "Holy Mother Church", and the false belief that forgiveness could be purchased through indulgences; that is, paying the church a bribe, which is totally contrary to the Scriptures, as we see in the following verses. Please note that "lucre" refers to material gain; that is, to mammon or money:

"Not given to wine, no striker, not greedy of filthy lucre; but patient, not a brawler, not covetous . . . Likewise must the deacons be grave, not doubletongued, not given to much wine, not greedy of filthy lucre;"
1 Timothy 3:3, 8, KJV

"For a bishop must be blameless, as the steward of God; not selfwilled, not soon angry, not given to wine, no striker, not given to filthy lucre . . . Whose mouths must be stopped, who subvert whole houses, teaching things which they ought not, for filthy lucre's sake."
Titus 1:7, 11, KJV

"Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind;"
1 Peter 5:2, KJV

During the early 1380's, which were the final years of his life, John Wycliffe received his greatest revelation: The most effective way to fight against the lies of the "Holy Mother Church", was simply by placing the Holy Scriptures into the hands of the common man, so that he could read them for himself. Thus, while Wycliffe's opposition to the Roman Catholic Church cost him his prestigious position at Oxford University, and shook up the Roman Catholic world to its very foundations, he and his team of dedicated colleagues, -- who became known as the "Lollards" -- became the first ones to distribute hand-written manuscripts of the complete Bible in the English language. His translation was based upon the fourth century Latin Vulgate, which was the common language of the people of the Roman Empire. From what I have read, the Greek and Hebrew texts of the Old and New Testaments were not available to Wycliffe; thus he chose to use the Latin Vulgate as his source.

While John Wycliffe died a natural death, according to a biographical video I used to have entitled "John Wycliffe: The Morning Star", the pope was extremely enraged by Wycliffe's teachings. Thus, forty-four years after this brave pioneer's death, the pope ordered that Wycliffe's bones be unearthed, crushed, and then dispersed in a nearby stream. Such was the cold hatred of the Roman Catholic hierarchy towards anyone who dared to question their authority or corrupt doctrines. The fact that a Roman Catholic Church leader would even go so far, and stoop so low, as to desecrate a man's grave, in order to seek revenge, almost defies one's imagination. Yet sadly, this hatred would only continue to grow, and would become even more violent, in the years to come, as you shall see shortly.

According to the historical record, another one hundred and fifty years passed before the New Testament became available in English, on a large scale, to the people of Great Britain. This was due in large part to the dedicated work of another brave pioneer: William Tyndale. Like Wycliffe before him, he too was a Catholic who abandoned his religion upon realizing the depth of its corruption. Tyndale was an extremely gifted man. He was fluent in eight languages; and was a key driving force behind our modern English language. The famed English playwright, William Shakespeare, followed in Tyndale's footsteps several decades later. Similar to Wycliffe, Tyndale's lifelong desire was to see the Scriptures made available in simple English to the common man; in this particular case, the Greek New Testament.

Tyndale was able to fulfill his dream as a result of the work of Dutch scholar and theologian Desiderius Erasmus. In 1516, with the help of printer and fellow Reformer, John Froben, Erasmus published the very first non-Latin Vulgate text of the Bible. You see, for many centuries, Latin had been the language of the educated class; while the simple people, who were obviously in the majority, remained in both scholastic ignorance and spiritual darkness. Erasmus' Latin was not the Vulgate translation which had been done by Jerome during the late third and early fourth centuries. Instead, it was the result of his own Greek New Testament, which he had compiled from six or seven partial New Testament manuscripts, which were available to him at the time. Erasmus' translation has become known as the "Textus Receptus" -- or Received Text -- and as you will see shortly, it is upon this ancient text that the AKJV is based.

As a result of Erasmus' translation from the Greek, serious flaws came to light regarding the integrity of the Roman Catholic Vulgate version. This discovery served to further convince the scholars of the time, that surely, the days of the Roman Catholic hierarchy were numbered. Sadly, almost another five hundred years have gone by since the time of that revelation, and yet, the Roman Catholic Church remains as strong as ever; and continues to shape millions of lives with its erroneous, heretical beliefs and practices, which are not based upon the words of Jesus Christ, but upon the corrupt doctrines and whims of very powerful men: the pope and his school of cardinals. I am reminded of the Apostle Peter's warning in his second Epistle. How much these verses sound just like the Roman Catholic Church, which has not only corrupted the doctrines of Christ, but has also placed a monetary price on Forgiveness and Salvation:

"But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction. And many shall follow their pernicious ways; by reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of. And through covetousness shall they with feigned words make merchandise of you: whose judgment now of a long time lingereth not, and their damnation slumbereth not."
2 Peter 2:1-3, KJV

Surely, Peter, who the Roman Catholic Church claims they succeed, would truly grieve if he could see the sad state of the Lord's Church today!

At this point in our discussion, I should mention two other important developments which occurred during the mid-15th century, and the early 16th century. The first event was the invention of the first printing press with moveable type by German inventor, Johann Gutenberg. This single event would have a tremendous effect on the spreading of the Gospel for centuries to come. I find it rather interesting that the first book to ever be printed on it was the Latin Vulgate version of the Bible; which in my view, clearly demonstrates the mentality of men during that age, and the importance which some of them apparently placed upon God's Holy Word. If we stop to think about this for a moment, we come to realize that those men could have chosen to print any book in the world, but something motivated them to choose the Bible; even if it was the corrupt RCC version. I am reminded of the following verse from David's 68th Psalm, as well as Jesus' own words regarding when the End of the World would come:

"The Lord gave the word: great was the company of those that published it."
Psalm 68:11, KJV

"And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come."
Matthew 24:14, KJV

The second important event also occurred in Germany. In 1483, a new spiritual beacon was born: Martin Luther. Similar to Wycliffe and his own contemporaries, Luther was an ex-Roman Catholic monk and theologian who had grown impatient with the erroneous doctrines and practices of the "Holy Mother Church". A visit to Rome during the years 1510-11 played a significant role in turning Luther against the church. While there, he was witness to the gross abuse which occurred when the sale of indulgences was used as a means to raise funds in order to rebuild St. Peter's Cathedral. In 1506, Pope Julius II had ordered that the original basilica be torn down, in order to prepare for the construction of the new one. Luther had his fill of Roman Catholic corruption. Thus, upon returning to Wittenberg, he began to preach Salvation by Grace alone through faith in Jesus Christ, and not by good works, as is so clearly stated in the following verses:

"For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast."
Ephesians 2:8-9, KJV

"Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost;"
Titus 3:5, KJV

"And if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then is it no more grace: otherwise work is no more work."
Romans 11:6, KJV

In 1517, Luther basically declared war on the church when he nailed his 95 Theses of Contention to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg. Among other things, he denied that the pope -- Leo X at the time -- had the authority to forgive sins. It was this act of joining his voice to those of William Tyndale and John Calvin, and daring to proclaim the doctrine of Salvation by Grace alone, and not by dependence upon the Roman Catholic Church, which raised Rome's ire the most. A Papal Bull was issued against Luther in 1520 in which the ex-monk was given sixty days to recant his "heretical" beliefs, but Luther defiantly burned the document, along with a number of other papal books and papers, in front of an audience of doctors, students and local citizens.

In the months following the Diet of Worms in 1521, which had been convened by Emperor Charles V for the express purpose of finding Luther guilty of heresy -- being as the RCC knew that Luther would never recant his newfound beliefs -- Luther was excommunicated and forced into exile. It was during that time while hiding at the fortress Wartburg, and assuming the false identity of "Junker Jörg" -- or Knight George -- that Luther translated the New Testament into German from Erasmus' Greek and Latin New Testament. He published it in September, 1522. Twelve years later, in August, 1534, Luther completed the first edition of his complete German Bible, which is known as the Wittenberg Bible. Luther died at the age of sixty-three during the early morning hours of February 18, 1546, as the result of a combination of infirmities which had plagued him for many years. He was buried under the pulpit in the Castle Church of Wittenberg. Luther's work was carried on in large part by his friend and fellow Reformer, Philip Melanchthon.

Returning to William Tyndale; with the Textus Receptus in hand, and in spite of the threats of inquisitors and bounty hunters alike, working along side of Martin Luther in the German towns of Cologne and Worms, Tyndale succeeded in printing the first English New Testament in 1525-26. One historical commentary states that Tyndale's New Testament contained some of the very same marginal notes as Luther's German New Testament, which reveals what influence Luther must have had on Tyndale. Please notice that whereas the work which had been performed by Wycliffe and his colleagues was all handwritten, and thus probably reached a smaller body of people, and at a slower pace as well, Tyndale's work was the first printed version of the New Testament; and that is why it has reached a much wider audience from that time until now.

Given the hatred and arrogance of the Roman Catholic Church leaders, it should not surprise us that the Bishop of London sought to confiscate and burn the Tyndale New Testaments which were arriving from Germany; however, in spite of his best efforts, the wonderful flow of God's Word into England could not be fully stopped; and copies of Tyndale's work continued to be smuggled into the land. I imagine that prior to the arrival of Tyndale's New Testaments, in a spiritual sense, Great Britain must have been very much like ancient Israel during the period of silence between the Old and the New Testaments; of which time the Prophet Amos is believed to have prophesied when he wrote:

"Behold, the days come, saith the Lord GOD, that I will send a famine in the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the LORD: And they shall wander from sea to sea, and from the north even to the east, they shall run to and fro to seek the word of the LORD, and shall not find it. In that day shall the fair virgins and young men faint for thirst."
Amos 8:11-13, KJV

Bishop Tunstal was infuriated! He ranted that Tyndale's translation contained thousands of errors, as they burned hundreds of New Testaments which had been confiscated by the clergy. Such was the RCC's hatred towards Tyndale and his translation, that one risked being burned at the stake if the book was found in his possession. Remember; Tyndale had been a Catholic; so he was obviously viewed as a traitor to his own faith. How much this reminds me of Roman Catholics today; who in their arrogance, still claim to possess the "one true faith". Indirectly, what they are really saying, is that faith in the "Holy Mother Church" is more important than direct faith in Jesus Christ. Let me make it perfectly clear: Salvation can only be achieved through Jesus Christ, and not through the church; any church; regardless of its false claims. If you as a reader doubt this point, then I ask you to please consider the following Scriptures, which clearly show that we have, and need, only one Mediator, not two; and that is Jesus Christ:

"Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me."
John 14:6, KJV

"Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved."
Acts 4:12, KJV

"For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus;"
1 Timothy 2:5, KJV

"But now hath he obtained a more excellent ministry, by how much also he is the mediator of a better covenant, which was established upon better promises."
Hebrews 8:6, KJV

"And for this cause he is the mediator of the new testament, that by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first testament, they which are called might receive the promise of eternal inheritance."
Hebrews 9:15, KJV

"And to Jesus the mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling, that speaketh better things than that of Abel."
Hebrews 12:24, KJV

Now, if you still do not quite understand why it is that the Roman Catholic Church had such animosity towards the work of William Tyndale, and those who had come before him, allow me to explain it in the simplest way that I can.

Sadly, in this sinful world of ours, there is a basic law of life which states that if I possess something which you want or need, then I have power over you. That is an easy concept to understand, isn't it? In this particular case, the common people were taught, and rightly so, that they were sinners, and doomed to damnation. But, where the demonic error was introduced, is in that while they were told that there was a solution to their problem; while they were told that there was a way to achieve forgiveness, and a way to avoid the fire of hell, they weren't shown the right solution; instead, they were shown the wrong one; and they were pointed to the Roman Catholic Church, with its multitude of stiff laws and special requirements which had to be observed, in order for one to obtain Salvation. In other words, through a combination of fear and deceptive doctrines, the Church of Rome absolutely gained power over the masses, because the people wanted forgiveness, and they wanted Salvation; and the RCC was more than happy to offer it to them . . . for a price!

Allow me share a rather profound revelation which just came to me as I was writing this paragraph. Thank the Lord for His faithfulness to reveal things to us when we are hungry for the truth. Jesus plainly stated the following in the Gospels:

". . . Verily, verily, I say unto you, I am the door of the sheep. All that ever came before me are thieves and robbers: but the sheep did not hear them. I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture."
John 10:7b-9, KJV

The truth cannot be more plain than that. Jesus is the Way, the Truth, the Life and the Door to Salvation, the Door to Heaven. He is the only Door; there are no others. So what did the Roman Catholic Church do? In their craftiness -- and I must admit that it has been very subtle -- they didn't just do away with the Door -- meaning Jesus -- as their sin would have been too obvious; but what they did decide to do, was to place a screen door in front of the Door. The Real Door is still there; however, in order to get to it, you have to go through the screen door first. Exactly what is the purpose of a screen door? Basically, it is meant to act as a filter. On hot days, you can open the main door in order to allow the fresh breeze blow through your home, while still keeping the bugs out by means of the screen door.

If you look closely at a screen door, you will notice that it is actually a fine woven mesh. Decades ago, before plastics became so widespread, the screen mesh was made out of metal, such as aluminum; however, now most of them are made out of nylon, or some other type of manmade durable fiber. Again, that mesh acts as a filter to keep the bugs out. In fact, we could even refer to that mesh as a net, because it catches the bugs, and prevents them from entering your home. Now, here is the gist of this matter. Consider what Jesus said:

". . . Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men."
Matthew 4:19b, KJV

"Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto a net, that was cast into the sea, and gathered of every kind: Which, when it was full, they drew to shore, and sat down, and gathered the good into vessels, but cast the bad away. So shall it be at the end of the world: the angels shall come forth, and sever the wicked from among the just, And shall cast them into the furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth."
Matthew 13:47-50, KJV

So we are clearly told by the Lord that we have been called to be fishermen, whose job it is to catch fish, or people, in the Net of God's Kingdom. The Roman Catholic Church has decided that instead of doing that, they only want to draw people into their own Earthly kingdom of power and wealth; so they set up a double-door, double-net system. They put a false door -- meaning the pope -- in front of the Real Door, -- meaning Jesus -- and they put a phony net -- their worldly system of power, wealth and glitzy cathedrals and churches -- in front of the Real Net; that is, God's Eternal Kingdom.

As I point out in the series "Gargoyles: Satan Loves Church Buildings!", during the era of the Byzantine Empire, when Emperor Constantine and his successors ruled from the city of Constantinople, the "Holy Mother Church" was not only convinced, but in fact taught, that the Christian world was already enjoying the Millennial Rule of Christ on Earth, via the church, which had its many beautiful and richly decorated cathedrals and churches spread across the empire. This was a commonly accepted view at the time, which you can research for yourself on the web. Whether or not they have forsaken such a heretical view I honestly do not know.

To continue then, as we have seen, God has called us to be fishers of men, right? As the Lord's fishermen, we use the Word as a lure to draw people into the Net of God's Kingdom. On the other hand, the Roman Catholic Church uses its false doctrines, laws and traditions, and outward beauty to draw people into its Earthly, false, self-enriching kingdom.

Let us return to the screen door analogy for a moment. There is an interesting thing about screen doors. As you approach a screen door, depending on how clean or dirty it is, you may be able to see the real door on the inside, but, you must still pass through the screen door, in order to get to the real door. In a similar fashion, when people become members of the Roman Catholic Church, they may be allowed to catch glimpses of the Real Door, and the Kingdom within, but they aren't allowed to get past the screen door.

Why does this happen? Quite simply, it is because they don't realize that the false door they have entered is actually a trap door; in fact, it is a revolving door. They just keep going around and around, caught up in the Church of Rome's false doctrines, laws and traditions, sacraments and special requirements, so that some of them, and perhaps even most of them, never make it to their final destination; they never make it through the Real Door and into God's Kingdom!

When you get caught in a real revolving door, such as at a huge department store, isn't that what sometimes happens? You know where the store entrance is, and you can observe the interior of the store each time that the revolving door spins around, but as long as someone behind you is pushing the revolving door, you can't get out. You are caught in a vicious cycle. Other false religions operate in exactly the same manner, such as some of the oriental religions which promote the big lie of reincarnation. Those poor people are caught in the very same kind of vicious cycle. They want to make it to Nirvana, but they simply aren't good enough yet. So whether it is Roman Catholicism, or eastern religions, or some other deceptive false cult, they all basically operate in the same way. They thrive by preying upon people's hope and belief that someday, perhaps after they've been through enough reincarnations, or perhaps after they have paid the church enough indulgences, or perhaps after they have done enough good works, or perhaps after they have said enough rosaries, or perhaps after they have made enough trips to the cathedral on bloodied knees, they will finally make it into their chosen paradise.

What often amazes me, is how the Lord always confirms these little revelations to me by His Word, in order to encourage my faith, so that I have the confidence to share them with you. Consider the following words of the Lord, which hit me like a ton of bricks, right after I got the picture in my mind of the revolving door. They are so right on the mark; they are so fitting to this revelation:

"But woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye shut up the kingdom of heaven against men: for ye neither go in yourselves, neither suffer ye them that are entering to go in."
Matthew 23:13, KJV

So they are caught in a revolving door!

Isn't that really amazing?! Isn't that just powerful?! Now can you understand why sometimes I just sit here and go "Wow, Lord, that is really heavy!" I know that this is not me; it is only Him. I couldn't possibly make these Biblical connections on my own. Sometimes I even have to get up out of my chair and walk around my room a bit, because I am just so excited by these things. God's Spirit is just that heavy!

What is so interesting about everything I have just shared with you, is that it directly links to the distant past. You see, the Scribes and the Pharisees did the very same thing! As I point out in other articles, their screen door, their false net, was the Mosaic Law and all of the interpretations and traditions which they attached to it; which they used, as Jesus said in the previous verses, to prevent the common people from entering the Kingdom of God; just like the Roman Catholic Church with its sacraments, and strict rules, and indulgences, and all of the other nonsense which they have created during the past sixteen hundred years or so.

So that is why the Roman Catholic hierarchy hated Wycliffe, William Tyndale, Martin Luther, and all of the rest of the sixteenth century Reformers; and that is why they purposely kept the people in gross spiritual darkness and ignorance. The clergy of Rome realized that having God's Word available to the people in common English, would mean disaster for the Roman Catholic Church; as more people would become aware of the truth of the Scriptures. In other words, they would come to understand that Salvation was a free Gift of God's Grace, which was easily obtainable through faith in Jesus Christ alone; and thus they would be freed from the heavy bondage of the so-called "Holy Mother Church" with all of its burdensome doctrines, rules and requirements. As Jesus said:

". . . If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free . . . If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed."
John 8:31b-32, 36, KJV

"The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised,"
Luke 4:18, KJV

Sadly, as I noted a moment ago, despite the fact that the true Gospel of Jesus Christ has been preached for literally hundreds of years now, the worldwide Roman Catholic Empire continues to have a smothering grip on millions of people to this very day. Given the dangerous spirit of compromise and ecumenism which has infected many of the Protestant churches, I sense that things may get even worse, as the RCC gradually achieves its goal of bringing all of the "stray" churches back into its smothering embrace!

The campaign of hatred against Tyndale was very effective. Only two complete copies of the first printing of his New Testament are known to have survived the wrath of the Roman Catholic hierarchy. Pre-1570 editions are both rare, and valuable; particularly pre-1540 editions and fragments. As a result of the persecution he suffered at the hands of the Roman inquisitors, William Tyndale was unable to finish his translation of the Old Testament, which would have enabled him to publish a complete English Bible. After eleven years of being hunted by his enemies, Tyndale was finally caught; betrayed by an Englishman whom he had befriended. He was forced to endure five hundred days of incarceration, before he was publicly strangled, and burned at the stake, in 1536. According to historical records, his last words were, "Lord, open the eyes of the King of England".

Between the release of William Tyndale's New Testament, and the appearance of the 1611 Authorized King James Version of the Bible, a number of inspiring, and yet sad things, were happening in Great Britain. Prior to, as well as following Tyndale's martyrdom, religious freedom in England continued to wax and wane. During this time, Myles Coverdale, a loyal assistant to Tyndale during the last six years of his life, and fellow Reformer, John Rogers, carried forward the work which had been initiated by Tyndale. Coverdale completed translating the Old Testament, and on October 4, 1535, he printed the first complete Bible in the English language. He made use of Luther's German text, and the Latin text, as sources. This Bible is referred to as the Coverdale Bible.

Following the publication of the Coverdale Bible, John Rogers went on to print the second complete English Bible two years later in 1537. Rogers printed this second edition under the pseudonym of Thomas Matthew, being as a large part of his work embraced the outlawed 1534-35 edition of William Tyndale's Pentateuch -- the five books of Moses -- as well as Tyndale's New Testament, plus Coverdale's Bible, as well as a small amount of Roger's own translation of the text. For this reason, this version of the Bible is commonly known as the Matthew's Bible.

This was not the end of these two men's contributions to our English Bible. In 1539, under the orders of King Henry VIII, Thomas Crammer, who was then the Archbishop of Canterbury, hired Myles Coverdale to publish yet another Bible. This new edition was referred to as the Great Bible, due to the fact that it was over fourteen inches high. Unlike Coverdale's original version, the Great Bible became the first official English Bible authorized for public use. By King Henry's decree, it was distributed to every church, and chained to the pulpit; and a reader was provided so that the poor and illiterate could hear the Word of God in their own tongue; in effect fulfilling the very dream of William Tyndale, who had been martyred three years earlier. Seven editions of the Great Bible were printed between April of 1539 and December of 1541.

As we continue this article in part two, you will discover that the tide would soon turn against the brave Reformers of the early sixteenth century. Yet in spite of the evil which was to come, you will also see how God's Spirit was moving in a great way all across the European continent. I trust that you will join me.

Please go to part two for the conclusion of this article.

⇒ Go To The Next Part . . .

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