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In the verse below, Jesus says if you call someone a fool you are in danger of hell. There are many verses in the Bible's old and new testament where where someone calls someone else a fool. I won't list any here. But Jesus is one of those who calls others fool many times after this verse.

My father, a minister with a degree in Theology, said, "It's his rule" and suggested that the rules didn't apply to Jesus. That thoroughly confused me, I'm Agnostic and open minded, but his answer didn't sit right with me. If Jesus says something can put you in hell, isn't that something a sin? And if someone tells you not to do something and then does it, how is that not contradictory and hypocritical?

Here is the verse, Matthew 5 vs. 22.:

But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘ Raca ,’ is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.

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Matthew 5:22 NIV https://matthew.bible/matthew-5-22

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  • Both the context itself, as well as traditional commentaries on that passage, seem to link it to insults exchanged in anger; however, if upon consulting a medical doctor, one would be diagnosed as suffering from one illness or another, that is another matter altogether. Similarly for prophets, reproving sinful people not out of hatred or spite, but with a stern hand, at God's behest. – Lucian Oct 23 '20 at 4:11
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The exhortations regarding 'Raca' and 'fool' are bracketed by two conditions.

Firstly, Jesus says in verse 22, 'whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause ...' This is a matter between brethren. It is not a matter of distant strangers falling out.

And it concerns some one being angry when there is no just cause for his anger.

Secondly, Jesus encourages reconciliation as soon as possible if a brother is aware that another brother has something against him.

So if I become aware that a brother (not a total stranger) has somewhat against me, I am to put that as a priority above all else and to go to that brother and to be reconciled to him. I am not to be angry. I am not to retaliate.

If every brother behaves in this way, then peace will ensue and it will be impossible for arguments to propagate.

On certain occasions, when foolish men do foolish things, then it is quite correct to call them foolish. There is nothing wrong with that.

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  • He also seems to be contrasting the court and hell. And I am trying to find out if Jesus rules apply to him. If having lustful intent is wrong for man, would it have been wrong for Jesus? Does the word 'anyone' apply to him too. If not, why? – dedpule Oct 23 '20 at 15:02
  • @dedpule Jesus is specifically the one person who could uphold the law, who was without sin. I'm not sure where you could get the impression that the laws do not apply to the Lord. What verse gave you this idea? – Johnny Oct 24 '20 at 17:18
  • @dedpule Jesus of Nazareth publicly rebuked the then religious rulers for their cruelty (devouring widows' houses) and for their hypocrisy (permitting children to disobey parents) and for their foolishness. He taught daily in the temple and crowds flocked to hear him and to be healed. What he did (as a Leader) was quite right. – Nigel J Oct 24 '20 at 17:59
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Is this verse about calling people a fool a contradiction. If not why?

Jesus is not talking about using the word itself, but more about the intent behind what is being said. In this section of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus was trying to get across to his listeners about being so angry and the hatred some may have in their hearts.

Answering the question "What three dangers was Jesus warning against at Matthew 5:22?", the Questions from Readers from the Watchtower of February 15, 2006 mentions the following:

What, then, did the expression “despicable fool” signify? The word used here sounded similar to a Hebrew term that means “rebellious,” or “mutinous.” It designates a person as morally worthless, an apostate and a rebel against God. So the person addressing his fellow as a “despicable fool” is as much as saying that his brother should receive a punishment fit for a rebel against God, everlasting destruction. From God’s standpoint, the one uttering such a condemnation against another could merit that severe sentence​—everlasting destruction—​himself.​—Deuteronomy 19:17-19.

In verses 23-26, Jesus goes further into how his followers are to cultivate peace with those around them.

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  • This is another common answer, 'fool' isn't literal. I do understand that there is much symbolic language in the bible, but I only ever hear that argument when pointing out contradiction. If this type of thing is the case, what else isn't literal? Is resurrection from death literal? Was Jesus literally tempted by the Devil in wilderness or was that symbolic? Your argument is only heard when its convenient. If it's not literal, how can you tell? – dedpule Oct 23 '20 at 2:35
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The passage from which you took your example is part of what’s known as the sermon on the mount. Jesus is talking to the Jews about righteousness - but, the righteousness that comes via the Torah (Mosaic Law).

MAT 5:20 For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven.

And the point he is making is that you can’t - In the verse you quoted, Jesus is saying that when you call someone ‘senseless/a fool’ (rhaka) you need to ensure you are doing this ‘righteously’ - else you yourself are in danger of being judged by the Law.

MAT 5:22 But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire.

Note that the judgement(‘hell fire’) was not a certain/definite result, but rather could be.

So, as Jesus could only be but righteousness, he would only ever have called someone a ‘fool’ if they were, that is, if it was ‘right’. The Bible does talk about ‘anger’ being an appropriate response. And at times, the Pharisees/Sadducees, via their teaching, were blinding the Jews, so the response was justified.

You need to be cautious when interpreting the ‘sermon on the mount’. If you took it literally, churches would resemble amputation wards.

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  • Isn't something that COULD send you to hell called a 'sin' even if hell isn't guaranteed to result from it? Is the 'Kingdom of heaven' literal or symbolic language and how do you know the difference? If righteousness is the determining factor, why didn't Jesus say that himself, for clarity? How is it impossible to exceed the righteousness of the people responsible for killing Jesus? Basically, how is Jesus not guilty of sin, where 'anyone' else would be? "It isn't a sin when God does it," is a thin excuse. If killing a baby is wrong isn't it not a SIN when God kills David and Bathsheba's baby? – dedpule Oct 23 '20 at 3:50
  • @dedpule You raise several Q’s. 1st - no one will end up in ‘hell’ because of their ‘sin’. No one. They will end up there because they rejected Jesus’s offer of (His) Righteousness - because ours will never be ‘right’ enough. 2nd - David was under the Law, that same Law Jesus expounded on the mount. And in the O.T. the Israelites where ‘judged’ by that Law. 3rd - our righteousness can exceed that of the Pharisees, and even John the Baptist, because our righteousness is not ours, but a gift. – Dave Oct 23 '20 at 18:29
  • @dedpule whoops, missed one. 4th - The Kingdom of Heaven is literal, that is, a real Kingdom. The Kingdom of God, however, is ‘within you’, that is, it is not ‘physical’, they are not [quite] the same. The Kingdom of Heaven will come into ‘effect’ during the millennium. (Depending on your understanding of eschatology:-)). – Dave Oct 23 '20 at 18:34
  • Thx for your input. What I struggle with is the difference between what is literal and symbolic in the Bible. One of the few things I've found consistent in the Bible is that there are consequences for disobedience. Why did David and Bathsheba's baby deserve death when David and Bathsheba are the only ones who were guilty? Was the baby born to die? How is this different from a person getting an abortion if there is a difference? Are you saying Heaven is a non-concrete abstraction that is both everywhere and nowhere? @Dave you seem well versed in Scripture, please explain. – dedpule Oct 23 '20 at 21:33
  • @dedpule OK, this answer is going to fall outside of being able to be outlined in a comment field - but - there is an answer, and it will make sense. BUT you may need to ‘unlearn’ some ‘stuff’ first. The issue with David and Bathsheba’s firstborn needs understanding. 1 - the place and role of the Law at this time. 2- the issue of ‘the firstborn’ and the need to ‘redeem’. (The fact that the baby died before the 8th day is significant!). Suffice to say, the Lord did not kill the baby - but- neither, could He in any way prevent it. Now, this could all be (easily) explained, but needs space. – Dave Oct 23 '20 at 23:08
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Looking at your comments to other answers, I can see that your main concern is whether 1) Jesus violated His own rule about calling others "Fool", or 2) Jesus's rule doesn't apply to himself, or 3) we shouldn't take it literally (but which begs the question: what guide should we use?)

I will argue for #3: we shouldn't take it literally. But unlike your concern, there are plenty of clues for an objective interpretation guided by proper exegesis, such as:

  • taking cultural meaning into account: for example, calling someone "fool" in that time and place must have meant something much more serious than in 21st century North America; On the other hand, what's considered hate language now was perfectly fine in other periods.
  • local laws and regulations for public speech against others: for example, while defamation are criminal both in Jesus's days and today, the rules governing what kind of speech / situations are considered defamatory must have been different.
  • procedures for investigation and prosecution: which seems implied by the distinction Jesus made about the 2nd level: "Raca" -> answerable to the court.

Another important guide for #3 demanded by proper exegesis is to consider the context and the speaker. In Matt 23 where Jesus called the Pharisees "Blind Fool" Jesus is speaking as a prophet. Therefore, the perceived inconsistency / contradiction can be resolved by distinguishing at least 4 of Jesus's roles:

  1. Jesus as a perfect 100% human being who is our role model in his incarnation
  2. Jesus as a prophet (a spokesman for God)
  3. Jesus as the Son of God
  4. Jesus as a judge when He comes again

Please note that besides Jesus we see several more persons in the Bible, both in the OT and the NT, who called others "fool", but they were not condemned to hell because the words represent judgment or teaching coming from God:

  1. Jesus calling the Pharisees "Fool" in Matt 23:17 within the 3rd of the 7 woes of the Pharisees.
  2. John the Baptist as well as Jesus call the Pharisees "brood of vipers" (see here)
  3. David wrote in Psalm 14:1:

    Only fools say in their hearts, “There is no God.” They are corrupt, and their actions are evil; not one of them does good!

  4. Paul addressed the Galatians as "foolish": Gal 3:1

Source: Did Jesus Contradict Himself by Calling People Fools?

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  • Thx for both your answer and taking the time to understand the question. And your question 'What guide should we use?', is the question underneath my question. So... What guide should we use? – dedpule Oct 23 '20 at 21:48
  • @dedpule Welcome to the site. Your question as currently phrased is specific enough to be answered sufficiently, but as to "what guide should we use", that's too broad. I'm afraid a general answer requires a textbook on New Testament exegesis. For this site, a case by case question would be better. Plus different Christian traditions can have different interpretations on Jesus's saying too. At least I have covered the main concern: no contradiction, no hypocrisy, and bringing into scope Jesus's role as prophet. – GratefulDisciple Oct 23 '20 at 23:55
  • I appreciate your response. The only response I get from local clergy is ' Once you 'get the holy spirit', your understanding will open." When that became the default answer to all my questions, I became Agnostic. The answers to questions here on bh seem more thought out. Again thank you. – dedpule Oct 24 '20 at 0:16
  • Btw I take reading recommendations if you have any. Thank you. – dedpule Oct 24 '20 at 0:17
  • @dedpule If you want your thinking ‘challenged’ with a biblical but non traditional perspective, but one that provides answers and a foundation to [difficult] questions, check this book on Amazon. “A God of Grace and Mercy - Stoned to Death for Picking up Sticks”. – Dave Oct 24 '20 at 21:15
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The Ivri (עִבְרִי) / Hebrew (ἑβραιου) word for "wicked" or "condemn" = ’rasha’ (רשע). Family members will be condemned for rash decisions that verbally demean their siblings.

Divorce can occur after years of verbal abuse. Disrespectful verbal disputes regarding interpretations of the Torah had divided nations (Ivrim, Karaites, Pharisees, Sadducees, Essenes) & continue to divide nations (Catholics & Protestants).

If you criticize a relative, you potentially could lose your family. If you criticized the Sanhedrin, you could become trampled (Raqa, רָקַע). If you criticized the Church, you could be excommunicated.


To restore unity to the Kingdom of Heaven, Yeshua of Nazareth offered an observation about Israel in [Matthew 5:22] to acknowledge the outcome of his fellow Karaites & Essenes for criticizing the Sanhedrin.

Matthew 5:22 [KJV]

"But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with [his brother] without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to [his brother], Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire."

[https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Matthew%205:22&version=KJV ]

  • Meaning : Be careful not to condemn because your family may condemn you. Then you will have no family.

In regards to the original question: Are Jesus' words about calling someone a fool a contradiction?, The words in [Matthew 5:22] applied to His Brother within the kingdom of heaven. - Yeshua confirms He is not related to the pharisees in [Matthew 5:20] and [Matthew 7:21-23]. This is why [Luke 11:40] is not a contradiction to [Matthew 5:22].

Yeshua denounced pharisees as not being His Brothers in the kingdom of heaven since they served Herod Agrippa I who acknowledged the diefied Caesar. Israel is warned in [Mark 8:15] : "Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, and of the leaven of Herod." - because Herod like Caesar believed men could be diefied, making Himself equal to G-d.


As a Commentary on humanity, Yeshua later references Adam saying:

"On the day when you were one, you became two. But when you have become two, what will you do?"

[http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/thomas/gospelthomas11.html ]

  • Meaning : When we are united, we survive by respecting eachother. If we are divisive, we will be cast out and suffer alone.
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  • So it isn't a rule that applies to Jesus? If not that is fine, but I am requesting a plain explanation of why this is the case. – dedpule Oct 23 '20 at 16:04
  • In regards to the original question: Are Jesus' words about calling someone a fool a contradiction?, The words in [Matthew 5:22] applied to His Brother within the kingdom of heaven. - Yeshua confirms He is not related to the pharisees in [Matthew 5:20] and [Matthew 7:21-23]. This is why [Luke 11:40] is not a contradiction to [Matthew 5:22]. – חִידָה Oct 23 '20 at 18:31
  • Yeshua denounced pharisees as not being His Brothers in the kingdom of heaven since they served Herod Agrippa I who acknowledged the diefied Caesar. Israel is warned in [Mark 8:15] : "Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, and of the leaven of Herod." - because Herod like Caesar believed men could be diefied, making Himself equal to G-d. – חִידָה Oct 23 '20 at 18:31
  • The for your input. Are you saying it is just a sin if done between brethren? The language of the verse suggests you are possibly correct in that regard. Would it be a sin if I did it to someone who I don't consider a brother or sister? Why? Again thx for both the time and patience. – dedpule Oct 23 '20 at 21:41
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anything that comes out of the Scriptures needs to be in context, especially when it is Hebrew or Aramaic. and always remember that the word you see in English in 2 different places doesn't always have the same root Hebrew word.

The context here is progressive:

I am angry,

you are an idiot (can infer slanderous words - Raca is actually translated often as 'fool'),

you have no worth as a human (you could be dead and I would not care).

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    Hi Joseph Takiwatanga McLaughlin, welcome. Even though likely that Jesus spoke Aramaic, the Gospel According to Matthew was composed in Greek. – Tiago Martins Peres 李大仁 Feb 18 at 6:30
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I suppose you are referring to Jesus rebuking the Pharisees in Matthew 23:17:

You blind fools! Which is greater: the gold, or the temple that makes the gold sacred?

Jesus is righteous, blameless and omniscient. Therefore it could be argued that he has the sole authority out of anyone else to call someone a fool. He knows good from bad and wise from foolish, and acts accordingly. Us mere mortals on the other hand are imperfect, sinful, are of limited knowledge and therefore often partake in foolish decisions. The moment we insult someone and call them foolish we are also guilty of foolishness -- if not in the same matter then in other matters. Therefore we are manifesting hypocrisy.

Jesus famously said

7 “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. 2 For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.

3 “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? 4 How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? 5 You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye. Matthew 7

Conveniently, going back to Jesus rebuking the Pharisees, if we look back at the rest of the verses in this chapter, we see:

13 "'Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites!..."
16 "'Woe to you, blind guides!..."
19 "'You blind men!'..."
33 “'You snakes! You brood of vipers!'..."

After each of these, Jesus rebukes the Pharisees, in defiance of "Do not judge", so is Jesus hypocritical? No, Jesus is God, he cannot be hypocritical. When God takes your life does he defy the commandment of "Do not murder"?

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    To me, your answer is basically, "The rules don't apply to him because he's Jesus.," When he is addressing the Pharisees he uses the word 'you'. Giving him the benefit of any doubt, it can be argued he is referring to others. In the verse I provide, he uses the word "anyone". Does the word anyone exclude Jesus? There are many other excerpts where he calls or refers to someone as 'fools'. If Jesus calls something wrong and then does it, how is he not at least a hypocrite and possibly a sinner if he he says ,'anyone'? – dedpule Oct 23 '20 at 2:22
  • @dedpule Even when Jesus says "Do not judge", he is not referring to a specific person, it is a universal ruling, he is referring to everyone, so is Jesus defying this commandment when he is rebuking the Pharisees? As I said, this does not apply to Jesus. When a parent tells a child not to drink, smoke, or have sex, is the parent a hypocrite? Jesus is not man giving orders to men, he is God giving orders to men. – RandomUser Oct 23 '20 at 9:36
  • But do the rules of God, apply only to man. If there was a law the only applies to LatinX people and person of another race breaks that law, is that person rightfully innocent? If the rules of sin don't apply to Jesus, how do we know he is truly sinless? – dedpule Oct 23 '20 at 14:36
  • Your analogy is incomparable to mine. A parent is in a place of authority towards his child, and so is God to humanity. Such as that if a father tells his child not to drink alcoholic beverages, he himself is not guilty if he drinks alcoholic beverages. If Jesus is God, then by definition he cannot sin, because he is perfectly good, and sinning would be an act of imperfection. – RandomUser Oct 23 '20 at 14:48
  • Or in plain words, the rules don't apply to Jesus, and THAT, is why he is without sin. The same way the rules don't apply to someone of age to drink. Example, 'Thou shalt not kill' is a commandment, however, if god instructed you to kill, it is a sin not to.kill, correct? In this case it seems the only way to sin is to be disobedient to God's word. Since Jesus is the manifestation of God's he can't disobey himself. Or said plainly, the rules don't apply to Jesus and THAT is why he is without sin. – dedpule Oct 23 '20 at 16:28
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The context is Jesus contrasting calling a brother a fool with the action of murder.

“You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’” ‭‭Matthew‬ ‭5:21‬

Murder, the physical ending of life is contrasted with anger, insults and denigration (“you fool”).

“But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire.” ‭‭Matthew‬ ‭5:22‬

Jesus doesn’t/didn’t have murderous anger in His heart towards those He called fools/foolish. He was making a statement of fact. As was Paul

“O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified.” ‭‭Galatians‬ ‭3:1‬

Paul wasn’t denigrating the Galatians, belittling them, criticizing in a derogatory manner, he was pointing out to the Galatians that they have been fooled and/or were acting foolish because they ought to know better.

The intent in Matthew5:22 with regards to the statement “you fool” wasn’t that you fool should never be used but that if used in a derogatory, denigrating, disparaging manner that person, whoever they may be, anyone including Jesus if He were to say you fool in that way would be liable to hell fire. Whereas Jesus doesn’t use the phrase in that way.

“The Pharisee was astonished to see that he did not first wash before dinner. And the Lord said to him, “Now you Pharisees cleanse the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside you are full of greed and wickedness. You fools! Did not he who made the outside make the inside also?” ‭‭Luke‬ ‭11:38-40‬

He is calling them out on their inconsistencies, short-sightedness and calling them fools for not thinking it through before asking their trick question.

But it was not said derogatorily. He is just pointing out their inconsistencies. But no one can accuse Jesus as being murderous and angry in His statement. He is just picking apart their argument and letting them know they are fools for asking a foolish/stupid question assuming no one could see what was in their hearts.

They thought themselves righteous because outwardly they looked the part but Jesus is telling them they didn’t fool anyone but themselves because God see both the I side and the outside

Now you Pharisees cleanse the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside you are full of greed and wickedness

And He explains that the Creator (Jesus) can see not only the outside but the inside. They looked like fools for trying to hide what God could clearly see was on the inside

Did not he who made the outside make the inside also?

This was an accurate description of their foolishness, trying to trick God by putting on a facade which God could see right through, making them proper fools, not as an insult but as a matter of fact.

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  • Okay. I understand the need for context. But you are basically saying that they would need to call them fool with murderous anger. Wow. Isn't murderous anger by itself a sin? I am calling out the inconsistencies in Jesus's action and words. I am pointing out short-sightedness in god communications. Does the need for murderous intent apply to the person that insults his brother? How would the council deal with a murderous insult? Both of the wrongs are given consequences by Jesus so why is the previous verse relevant? – dedpule Oct 23 '20 at 4:35
  • I am sorry but this answer is in fact foolish. But I don't mean that in a denigrating or murderous way. – dedpule Oct 23 '20 at 4:36
  • @dedpule you’re assumption is these councils are held by men, and you’re wrong to assume as much. ”But I will warn you whom to fear: fear him who, after he has killed, has authority to cast into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him!” ‭‭Luke‬12:5‬ hence Jesus having the authority of casting into hell, also has the authority and ability to know the hearts of men, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it? “I the Lord search the heart and test the mind, to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his deeds.”” ‭‭Jer17:9-10‬ – Nihil Sine Deo Oct 23 '20 at 11:38
  • “Isn't murderous anger by itself a sin?” isn’t He contrasting anger with murder? Insults with murder? Calling someone a fool with murder? The context is murder. Take the next example “But I say to you that everyone who LOOKS at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” ‭‭Matt5:28‬ it’s about intent of the heart and not about never looking at women or never thinking about a woman, it’s about not having sexual intents. Same with calling someone a fool, hating them and wishing they were dead but not killing them due to consequences of the law. – Nihil Sine Deo Oct 23 '20 at 11:58
  • I understand Jesus position of power. But does that position give him immunity? If Jesus had killed a baby, would it be considered wrong or righteous? I the rules don't apply to Jesus, just say that. – dedpule Oct 23 '20 at 14:46

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