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I was reading Luke 5, and could not understand verses 36-39. What did Jesus mean?

Luke 5:36-39 (New King James Version) reads:

36 Then He spoke a parable to them: “No one puts a piece from a new garment on an old one; otherwise the new makes a tear, and also the piece that was taken out of the new does not match the old. 37 And no one puts new wine into old wineskins; or else the new wine will burst the wineskins and be spilled, and the wineskins will be ruined. 38 But new wine must be put into new wineskins, and both are preserved. 39 And no one, having drunk old wine, immediately desires new; for he says, ‘The old is better.’”

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@2pietjuh2, Was it the metaphor itself that you did not understand? Or, was it the context in which Jesus used the metaphor that puzzled you? –  Sarah Dec 16 '13 at 19:31
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@Sarah I do not understand what he means by the metaphors. I know the context, Jesus is eating with tax collectors. –  2pietjuh2 Dec 16 '13 at 19:36
    
In all three accounts, the context is that the disciples of John asked why Jesus disciples did not fast as they do. This metaphor appears to be part of Jesus' answer. –  Sarah Dec 18 '13 at 18:25
    
I was just answering someone who was questioning this Scripture. In Pentecostal circles the wine is often referred to as the Holy Spirit. I was explaining that in the context Jesus was using a parable to explain that His new teaching did not go with the old teaching or His new ways were not compatible with the old. Her follow up question then was if the new wine is the new teaching and the old wine skins is the old then what is meant by them both being preserved? Can anyone expound on that? –  Megan Jan 27 at 3:15

5 Answers 5

Summarizing Hastings Dictionary of Christ and the Gospels entry on wine bottles:

In ancient Israel, the grapes were pressed in the winepress and left in the collection vats for a few days. Fermentation starts immediately on pressing, and this allows the first "tumultuous" (gassy) phase to pass. Then the must (fermenting juice) was put in clay jars to be stored, or into wineskins if it was to be transported some distance.

The wineskins were partially tanned goat skins, sewn at the holes where the leg and tail had been. The skins were filled with must (partially fermented wine) in the opening at the neck and then tied it off.

If one puts freshly pressed must directly into the skin and close it off, the tumultuous stage of fermentation would burst the wineskins, but after this stage, the skins have enough stretchiness to handle the rest of the fermentation process. However, skins that have already been used and stretched out ("old wineskins") cannot be used again since they cannot stretch again. If they are used again for holding wine that is still in the process of fermenting ("new wine"), they will burst.

This, then, is the meaning of Jesus' parables of the patched garment and the wineskins: the gospel of the Kingdom which Jesus brings cannot be fitted into the the Pharisees' paradigm or way of living, for "by a mongrel mixture of the ascetic ritualism of the old with the spiritual freedom of the new economy, both are disfigured and destroyed" (JFB on Luke 5).

These parables came in response to the Pharisees' question about Jesus' practice of fasting compared to their own and John the Baptist's. Hence this parable also apparently applies to John the Baptist's asceticism, which Jesus seemed to view as good but passing away, since it was part of the Old Covenant which he was fulfilling and renewing (cf. Luke 7:28; 22:20). By contrast, Jesus generally viewed the Pharisees' practices as hypocritical and "majoring on minors," as it were (e.g., Matthew 23:23)

The last verse in the quoted passage about preferences for new and old wine seems to refer to a period of adjustment for followers of the old paths (e.g., John and his disciples) who will grow into the new ways. An initial confusion or negative reaction to differences between the old and the new, which on first glance offend both the Pharisees' and John's disciples, will grow less for the faithful as they acquire a taste for and better appreciate the new, as they transition into the new economy. It is a lesson "on the one hand, to those who unreasonably cling to what is getting antiquated; and, on the other, to hasty reformers who have no patience with the timidity of their weaker brethren!" (JFB again).

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Could you use the blockquote markup to indicate where the quote begins and ends? Thanks! –  Daи Dec 16 '13 at 19:01
    
There's no actual quote from the dictionary entry. I just summarized it from memory after re-reading it. The source is cited there, so hopefully you'll pardon me if my noodle retained any exact phrasing from the exercise. –  metal Dec 16 '13 at 19:03
    
OK @metal thanks for clarifying! –  Daи Dec 16 '13 at 19:05
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Excellent cultural and historical tidbits, which go a long way in explaining the literal aspects of the figurative analogy of the wineskins. Don –  rhetorician Dec 16 '13 at 19:05
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Thanks for the insight to the parables metal!! Are you really 94 and what is the metal symbolizing?? I can now finally read these with some meaning. –  Dutch anliker Feb 11 at 12:47

The natural antipathy between the old (Judaism) and the new (Jesus's message) is what Jesus spoke of in His wineskin/garment analogies. He thought Judaism was brittle and inflexible, like an old wineskin, or a worn-out garment not fit to wear.

In Jesus' day, unfermented grape juice was placed in wineskins instead of bottles. If the wineskin container was old, as the juice ferments, the brittle and inflexible wineskin container fails to expand as the chemical reaction is taking place inside it; consequently the skin bursts, and the juice is wasted. A similar thing happens today when a balloon is blown up past its ability to contain the air inside, and "pop," it bursts.

When you repair a holey garment, if you patch it with new fabric having strong fibers, the new patch will simply make the old garment with its weak fibers to become even more holey. Jesus saw himself and his message as the new wine and the new patch, which from his perspective caused the inflexible religion of first century Judaism to burst and tear. What was needed, he said, was a new wineskin and a new garment; the old needed to be thrown out, and the new needed to be welcomed. This did not happen, so Jesus turned to the gentiles.

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Also, this answer would be greatly strengthened by citing a reliable source for the information concerning the practice of using old and new wineskins. –  Daи Dec 16 '13 at 19:00
    
Who were the gentiles Jesus turned to? –  gideon marx Dec 18 '13 at 15:55
    
@gideonmarx: Jesus had a variety of ways of referring to the Gentiles (notice the capital G). For example, if His fellow Jews were "the lost sheep of the house of Israel (Matthew 15:23)," then the Gentiles were the "other sheep I have, which are not of this fold," as He put it in John 10:16. Jesus also referred, interestingly enough, to the Gentiles as "little dogs" (e.g., the Syro-Phoenician woman in Mt 15)--in other words, household pets or lapdogs. He also likely linked Gentiles with "street people" and "the poor, and the maimed, and the halt, and the blind" (Luke 14:21-23). –  rhetorician Dec 18 '13 at 16:40
    
@gideonmarx: Also, Mt 21:43 refers to the Gentiles as "a nation bringing forth the fruits [i.e., of repentance]." Is this what you had in mind, or do you want names of specific people? –  rhetorician Dec 18 '13 at 16:42
    
This is an interesting understanding you have. –  gideon marx Dec 19 '13 at 8:55

This parable is said directly after the question why Jesus' disciples didn't fast.
I believe Jesus is talking here about the promise. The Holy Spirit which would come (after fasting) at pentecost.
It will come after they put off the old skin and be renewed by the Spirit.

John 14:17 Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you.

When also looking at Matthew 3:11 (John the baptist speaking), Christians should ask themselves if the baptism by Christ is a promise to everyone having their skin renewed.

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Welcome to Biblical Hermeneutics Stack Exchange! Be sure to take our site tour to learn more about us. We're a little different from other sites. Using prescriptive language when referencing the audiences of ancient texts moves from describing the text itself to prescribing norms that are expressed as binding on readers and therefore imposes this application upon the reader. –  Daи Jun 16 at 15:30
    
Please keep in mind that not all of readers are Christians. –  Daи Jun 16 at 15:30
    
Hi. Thanks for the welcome. i read the reminder. I hope adding food for thought is acceptable.. –  user4326 Jun 17 at 9:06
    
no problem. You're free to express your perspectives fully using descriptive language ("I believe X", or "From a Christian perspective...", etc.). The goal is simply not to prescribe praxis to your readers here (i.e. "you should do this"). Check out What about preaching? Adding food for thought is fine, simply use descriptive language to do so and you'll be just fine :) –  Daи Jun 17 at 11:53

He told them this parable: "No one tears a patch from a new garment and sews it on an old one. If he does, he will have torn the new garment, and the patch from the new will not match the old. And no one pours new wine into old wineskins. If he does, the new wine will burst the skins, the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. No, new wine must be poured into new wineskins.And no one after drinking old wine wants the new, for he says, 'The old is better.'"

Elisha ben Avuyah said:

"He who studies as a child, unto what can he be compared? He can be compared to ink written upon a fresh [new] sheet of paper. But he who studies as an adult, unto what can he be compared? He can be compared to ink written on a smudged [previously used and erased] sheet of paper. Rabbi Yose ben Yehudah of the city of Babylon said, "He who learns from the young, unto what can he be compared? He can be compared to one who eats unripe grapes, and drinks unfermented wine from his vat. But he who learns from the old, unto what can he be compared? He can be compared to one who eats ripe grapes, and drinks old wine. Rabbi (Meir) said: Do not pay attention to the container but pay attention to that which is in it. There is a new container full of old wine, and here is an old container which does not even contain new wine.

Like the larger Gospel context of Luke chapters five and six, the Avot passage is comparing different types of teachers, disciples and teachings. If we allow the similes of Avot 4 to inform the metaphors of Luke 5, we have surprising results.10 In Avot, the vessels for containing wine are not institutions, religious movements or teachings. The vessels containing the wine are individuals. The wine is the teaching that the individual consumes or contains.11 Applying this symbolism to Luke, we could parse out Luke 5:36-39 as follows:

Symbol Meaning New garment previously uneducated students Old garment previously educated students

Patch teaching New wineskins previously uneducated students Old wineskins previously educated students

New wine new teaching Old wine previous teaching

Singular Meaning: New teaching requires previously uneducated students in order to be received.

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In the parable of the new and old wine, and the new and old bottles, we see a parable that certainly has more meaning than just talking about wine and wine skins. Of course, we know that in Jesus' day, the juice of grapes was sometimes put into bladders of animal skins. As the juice went through the natural fermentation process, bubbles would form which caused the wine to expand. When a new wine skin was used for this purpose, the wine skin, being new, was pliable, and would stretch like a balloon. It could expand to accommodate the fermentation process. However, we also know that old wine skins are no longer pliable. They become hardened, and any attempt to expand them like a balloon only causes them to burst.

Jesus did this same thing to his apostles when he told the parable concerning the leaven of the Pharisees. It wasn't until the disciples understood that Jesus was talking about doctrine rather2 than actual bread, that they could then understand what Jesus meant. In Matthew 13, Jesus was asked by his disciples why he taught the people in parables. The reply Jesus gave was a quote from Isaiah 6:9-10. Let's read it. It says, “And he said, Go, and tell these people, Hear indeed, but understand not; and see indeed, but perceive not. 10 Make the heart of these people fat, and make their ears heavy, and shut their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and convert, and be healed.” Now, did you hear what it said? God had no intention of delivering people who’s hearts are hardened against him. He only wants to deliver those people who’s hearts are tender toward him.

Now, someone might ask the question, “Why would Jesus not want people to know the truth?” The answer to that is that Jesus does want some people to know the truth, but does not want all people to know the truth. The people that he does want to know the truth are those people who are sincere of heart. God wants these people to be set free. But the people who are not sincere of heart, he wants them to remain trapped in their sins. The Bible tells us plainly in John 8:32, that the truth shall make us free. This means free from the bondage of sin and free from Satan's lies. But God does not want to deliver the wicked from their bondage, for their hearts are hard. Now that's a nice thing to know, especially if you happen to be storing new wine. But how do you apply this knowledge to other areas of your life if you don't know what Jesus was referring to. Of course, we have an advantage over the people of those days, for we have the explanation that Jesus gave. He explained that the doctrine he was bringing to God's people was new, and that in order to preserve it, there had to be a new people to put the new word of God into. The new wine that Jesus was referring to was the New Testament of Jesus Christ, and the new bottles, or wine skins, were the people who were able to not only accept the words of Jesus Christ, but to allow this New Testimony to expand and grow within them without breaking apart.

The New Testament that Jesus taught is not contrary to the Old Testament, for both the Old and New Testaments are the word of God, just as New and Old wine are both wine. But the very term implies a new word of God, the New Testament, in regards to the old word of God, the Old Testament. The people who were fit to receive the New Testament were only those people who were able to be expanded by this new understanding, rather than be destroyed. Basically, Jesus was saying that when the New Testament is heard, some of the people have the capacity to expand with the new knowledge, and some people don't. Now, notice that the people who would be able to expand with the new knowledge of the New Testament were those which represented the new wine skins. They would be pliable enough to receive the New Testimony of the Word of God and expand with its knowledge. But the people who were represented by the old wine skins were the people who had become so hardened that they could not expand with the new knowledge. These people were hardened in their hearts like old wine skins that have become hard and are no longer pliable. In order to be considered a vessel that can handle the New Testament of the word of God, given by Jesus Christ, you have to be stretchable. You have to have a heart that is soft, that has not become hardened.

In Jesus' day there were many people who's hearts were hardened. As it says in Zechariah 7:12, they had set their hearts to be like an adamant stone. An adamant stone was a stone that was especially hard, and could therefore be used as an axe head, or other chiseling work. People who's hearts are hard are unable to have their hearts penetrated by the word of God. In Romans 2:5 it reads: But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed.

So, what does this all mean for us Christians today? It means that Jesus was trying to tell us, and is still trying to tell us, that the New Testament of Grace is not just like the Old Testament of the Law of Commandments. And the people who are the body of Christ are not just like the old people of Israel. For God created a new people when he gave his New Testament. Israel was the chosen people of God in the Old Testament. But in the New Testament, God's people are no longer one nation, but all people from all nations who are able to comprehend the new testimony of Jesus Christ, and are able to receive it and grow with it. Most of the actual nation of Israel had become so hardened in heart, that they could not see how the Old Testament could include Jesus Christ, for they viewed Jesus as a destruction to their lives rather than as salvation even though the Old Testament had clearly prophesied that there would be a deliverer for Israel who would save the nation. However, because most of them, and especially the priest class of people, had viewed the Law of Commandments as just a hard set of rules, they could not comprehend how Jesus Christ was actually the materializing process of God's word, bringing about a much more expanded view of God himself and of his plan for the people of earth.

The New Testament of Jesus Christ was not a different doctrine, but actually the same doctrine as the Old Testament, only in a much more clearly revealed form, with greater comprehension of God and his ways. It, like the new wine, was an expansion of the Old Testament concepts, and much more clearly revealed, much like taking a small photograph and blowing it up to life size. Now instead of a physical temple in which God dwelled, the people of God would recognize that we ourselves are the temple of God, his place of abiding. Jesus explained this clearly when he told us in John 14:23 that he and the Father would come and dwell with us. We also know that instead of just observing all the rites and rituals of the Law of Commandments, we would move past the rites and rituals and into the spiritual worship that these rites and rituals pointed to. These physical representations had been just the initial symbols of the deeper spiritual concepts which were to come. And, with the advent of God’s New Testament, we were being led into the expanded comprehension of a new and greater testimony of God’s word on the earth. Here, let me give an example of this.

Under the Law, the Israelites were to abstain from eating certain meats. This was a physical representation in the Old Testament law which pointed to a spiritual meaning and observance. In the Old Testament, Israel had been the only nation in the whole earth who were chosen as the people of God, and who were given the Law of Commandments. Because of this, the rules governing the abstention from eating certain meat symbolized the physical separation of Israel from the other nations of the world. In essence, the clean animals symbolized the nation of Israel, and the unclean animals symbolized all other nations. Therefore, the Old Testament decree of abstention from eating certain animals was only a shadow picture of that which was to be further revealed by the new testimony of Jesus Christ. With the coming of the New Testament, God revealed his purpose of including all nations of the earth as his people instead of just Israel alone, and therefore the unclean meat which was previously rejected was now accepted because all nations could now come to the Father through Jesus Christ.

looking again at the the parable of the new wine, and old wine skins, actually the old wine skins represent those people who cannot comprehend the extent of the New Testament, and can only receive it as long as they can twist it together with the Old Testament ritual and rules. They cannot comprehend the change from the symbolic physical representation of the Old Testament to the spiritual equivalent of the New Testament. These are the people who are blinded to the revelation of the New Testament, and therefore they attempt to take the New Testament and make it fit within the Old Testament boundaries. This, of course, is exactly what most of the Jews did at the time of Christ.

But, when we look in 2 Corinthians, chapter 3, we see several interesting things. Paul refers to the Law of Commandments as the letter written in stone. And we see that in verse six it tells us that we are to be ministers of the New Testament, and not of the letter, because the letter kills. As it says in verse seven, the letter, engraved in tables of stone, is a ministration of death. We also see in verse seven that the Law of Commandments, that which was engraved in stone, was glorious, but then in the following verses explains that this Law could not compare to the glory which arises with the New Testament of Jesus Christ.

Now think about this. Romans 8:14 tells us that those who are the children of God are led by the Spirit. However, this was not how Israel was led in the Old Testament. They followed a set of laws and ordinances. The church of today, the body of Christ, has not been called to follow a set Commandments which were written in tables of stone, but have been called to follow the directives of the Holy Spirit. And, the laws we now follow are not the old physical symbols, but are now the laws of God which are written in the fleshy tables of our hearts. This is clearly stated in 2 Corinthians 3:3.

what is most important is that the New Testament is not really a different gospel, but rather the emergence of a much greater revelation of God’s word. During the time of the Law, the people of God were prevented from seeing the divine revelations of God’s Holy Spirit. In the Old Testament Law, God only revealed himself to a select few. But this was done in order to bring man to a greater understanding of heavenly things, and to a greater understanding of what sin is. What Christians need to recognize is that Jesus Christ was represented each and every day by those rites and rituals of the Old Testament Law. Therefore, salvation is not by returning to the Law of Commandments, but by the receiving of God’s divine influence on the fleshy tables of our hearts, thereby knowing the will of God in our hearts rather than by a set of written rules.

Just because the Holy Spirit writes his laws on the tables of our hearts does not mean that the Holy Spirit just tells us to do the same things in the same way that the Israelites did. Of course, if you're a Christian, you recognize that we no longer have to have a physical temple, and we no longer have to have physical sacrifices. And, as Paul tells us in the book of Galatians, we should not allow anyone to pull us back into the bondage of the Law, for if we attempt righteousness by observing any part of the Law, we are then obligated to do the whole law. Our righteousness is no longer attempted by our works, but is accomplished strictly by the blood of Jesus Christ because we believe in him.

It must be understood by Christians that to be under the Law is an opportunity for Satan to bring about our condemnation because of sin. But when we are not under the Law of Commandments, Satan cannot accuse us of breaking the law. Revelation 12:7-11 refers to Satan as the accuser of the brethren who has been cast down from heaven. When the Law of Commandments were in force, Satan had been able to accuse God's people of sin by the breaking of the Law. But when Jesus died for us, and we then accept him as our deliverer from our debt of sin, Satan can no longer come before God and accuse us of sin. For as Paul said in Romans 4:15, “Where there is no law, there is no transgression.”

It is specifically this point that took such a great amount of power away from Satan. And it is specifically because of this inability of Satan to accuse us when there is no law, that he so wants us to come back under the law. Therefore, he has tempted man in many instances to create new religious systems whereby Christians would only partly come under the Law of Commandments, or similar laws. The religious movements which encourage a return to parts of the Israelite Law of Commandments have eroded the gospel of salvation by faith in Jesus, and of being led by the Holy Spirit. Today, there is very little encouragement to follow the Holy Spirit, but there is a great deal of encouragement to tell you to follow what other men have termed to be right and wrong. This causes people to replace the leading of the Holy Spirit with a set of rules and regulations. This is exactly what Satan is attempting to do, to pull people back under a law and therefore they will once again be subject to his accusation. This is displayed in various religious movements which have developed doctrines which require adherence to various physical rites and/or observances which bring Christians back under the bondage of law.

When we look again at the parable of the new wine and the old wine skins, what we see is that in today's church there is still a great resistance to the concept of being led by the Spirit. Just as there were many in Christ's day who could not comprehend being led by the Spirit instead of being led by engravings in stone, there are many in the church today who also cannot conceive of being led by the Holy Spirit. This is because of Satan’s attempt to bring Christians back under the Law. His twisted doctrine encourages us to depend on our own works, our own might and power, to bring about our righteousness. But, in Zechariah 4:6, it tells us that it is not by our own might and power that God wants us to overcome, but by his Holy Spirit.

Romans 4:15 tells us that where there is no law, there is no transgression. Satan cannot accuse us of transgression if there is no law to transgress. In the days of Christ's earthly ministry, there were many who could not comprehend the concept of Jesus Christ being the fulfillment of the Law of Commandments. As a consequence, neither could they receive the Law of Faith. The final end for these people was to trust in their own ability to keep the law and therefore earn their righteousness. They would, of course, fail in this endeavor, because no man, other than Jesus Christ, was able to keep the whole law.

The bottom line is that following various religious rules and rituals rather than following the still small voice of the Holy Spirit will just ensure that Satan will be able to accuse you before God. And if Satan can successfully accuse you, then you will be condemned. But we should remember the exhortation of the Apostle Paul in Colossians 2:20-21, which says, “Wherefore if you are dead with Christ from the rudiments of the world, why, as though living in the world, are you subject to ordinances, 21 Such as, Touch not; taste not; handle not;?” And, Galatians 4:9-11, says, “But now, after you have known God, or rather are known of God, how can you turn again to the weak and beggarly elements, to which you desire again to be in bondage? 10 You observe days, and months, and times, and years. 11 I am afraid of you, lest I have bestowed labor upon you in vain.” And lastly, we read in Galatians 5:1, “Stand fast therefore in the liberty in which Christ has made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.” You see, Satan would certainly like to have you back under the Law of Commandments because he could then accuse you before God, but if you trust in the perfect law of liberty, and in righteousness by faith in Jesus Christ, you will never come under Satan’s accusation again.

http://preparationministries.net/sbtsfiles/msg40.pdf

http://preparationministries.net/sbtsfiles/msg40.mp3

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You've obviously put a lot of effort into this answer, but I think it's really too long for this Q&A format. In general a few hundred words max is best. I think the main issue is that you shift from doing straight exegesis to bringing in a bunch of other passages you think are related. A simple guideline: don't spend more time talking about other passages than the passage the question is asking about. –  curiousdannii Jul 21 at 1:39
    
@Kepler, very beautiful piece. I just need more clarification on this "...but does not want all people to know the truth. The people that he does want to know the truth are those people who are sincere of heart. God wants these people to be set free. But the people who are not sincere of heart, he wants them to remain trapped in their sins. The Bible tells us plainly in John 8:32, that the truth shall make us free. This means free from the bondage of sin and free from Satan's lies. But God does not want to deliver the wicked from their bondage, for their hearts are hard." Why does God no –  Leonard Jul 23 at 0:30
    
Welcome to Biblical Hermeneutics Stack Exchange! Be sure to take our site tour to learn more about us. We're a little different from other sites. Please don't "preach" at readers. Instead, describe your perspective without prescribing it. We're looking for lectures rather than sermons. Please keep in mind that not all of your readers here are Christians. –  Daи Jul 23 at 1:54
    
Please note that length is not an issue here, but preaching is. –  Daи Jul 23 at 1:55
    
@Leonard, Satan took pride in himself, thinking that he himself was responsible for his exalted status, rather than giving God the glory for creating him so beautifully (Ezekiel 28:10-19). Satan convinced one third of the angels on a rebellion against God (Revelation 12:4), but they were not strong enough, resulted in God casting Satan and his angels out from heaven to the earth (Revelation 12:7-9). –  Kepler yesterday

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