In the last chapter we saw that God requires two witnesses for human legal matters; and He expects to provide at least two witnesses in Divine heavenly matters. We saw that if a man stands up in Jerusalem or Mecca or anywhere else, and claims that his words have been given by the Great Creator, we have been instructed to ask ourselves and him the question, "How do we know that you speak from the Great Creator God - the God of heaven and earth? What or who is your second witness?"
Perhaps some readers will be unhappy or uneasy that this question should be asked. It throws doubt on the person speaking the prophecy. It implies that the person asking it is thinking, "I don't believe you."
That may be true, but imagine how it makes Christians feel to be told, as I have been told hundreds of times, "You changed the Gospel." Does that not mean, "I don't believe you?"
No matter how we may feel, however, the question must be posed to both Christians and Muslims, "What are the proofs? What are the confirming witnesses that the words of the Gospel which Jesus spoke came from God? What are the confirming witnesses that the words of the Qur'an which Muhammad spoke came from God?"
When Muhammad walked into Mecca, or now walks into the mind of one who reads the Qur'an, and says that God spoke to him and told him about the day of judgement, how will the person hearing or reading know? Muhammad is only one witness - the first witness.
When I have asked whether anyone other than Muhammad heard the Angel Gabriel, every person, except one, has answered that he was the only one. That man brought a hadith which is found in Nawawi's collection of 40 Hadith.
This hadith, which was transmitted by Muslim, tells of a man coming and asking Muhammad questions with the tone of voice used by a teacher, and approving of Muhammad's answers. When he left, Muhammad told Omar and the others present that the man was Gabriel. Perhaps so, but again we are left with Muhammad as the sole witness. It was not Gabriel who identified himself; it was Muhammad who made the claim.
It is a single witness in another sense too. With all the doubt there is concerning the Hadith, to base our belief on one Hadith transmitted by one specialist, is not very satisfactory.
On the other hand, it is characteristic of most prophets that only the prophet heard the voice of God or his angel. We have no record in the Torah-Old Testament of anyone else hearing God speak to Isaiah or Jeremiah; just as there is no record in the Qur'an that anyone else heard God speak to Hud or Salih. Two important exceptions to this were Moses and Jesus.
From Mt. Sinai God spoke to Moses and all the Children of Israel. They were so terrified that they asked God not to repeat it and it was on the basis of this request by the people that God said that He would send "a prophet like (Moses) from among their brothers" (Torah-Deuteronomy 18).
During the life of Jesus there were three times that God spoke openly as a second witness. The first time was when Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist (Yay Ibn Zakary),
"When all the people were being baptized, Jesus was baptized too. And as he was praying, heaven was opened and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven. `You are my beloved Son, with you I am well pleased'." Luke 3:21-22.
Obviously, John and those being baptized at the same time heard this voice. The second time occurred in the presence of his three disciples - Peter, James and John. He took them up on a high mountain where he was transfigured. His clothes became dazzling. Moses and Elijah, who had each been dead for more than 900 years, appeared to Jesus. The account reads,
"Then a cloud appeared and enveloped them, and a voice came from the cloud, `This is my beloved Son. Listen to him!'"
"Suddenly, when they looked around, they no longer saw anyone with them except Jesus." Mark 9:7-8.
The third occasion is recorded by John and happened with a whole crowd of people present.
"(Jesus said), `Father glorify Your name!'
Then a voice came from heaven, `I have glorified it and will glorify it again.'
The crowd that was there and heard it said it had thundered; others said an angel had spoken to him.
Jesus said, `This voice was for your benefit, not mine...' "
However, most prophets are not confirmed by a voice from heaven. Therefore God must provide some other type of second witness. In the past God has usually used three types.
A. The prophet is given miracles to confirm his words.
B. Prophecies made by former prophets are fulfilled by the new prophet.
C. The new messenger prophesies concerning future events and the fulfillment of his words by God confirms his message.
We will now examine each one of these possibilities.
A. MIRACLES AS A SECOND WITNESS
Both the Torah and the Qur'an tell how God confirmed the apostleship of Moses with many miracles. The Torah-Old Testament refers to miracles given to a number of other prophets including Elijah and Elisha, and the Gospel and the Qur'an both tell of the miracles given to confirm the ministry of Jesus. Therefore it was natural that the people of Mecca would ask Muhammad to show them a miracle in order to have a second witness.
According to the Qur'an, Muhammad was instructed to answer that he was sent only as a warner. After naming the heavens, the sun and moon, the earth with mountains standing firm, rivers, fruit, gardens, palm trees as signs, we read in the Late Meccan Sura of the Thunder (Al-Ra`d) 13:4b,7,
"...Behold, verily in these things there are signs for those who understand...
"And the unbelievers say, `Why is not a sign sent down to him from his Lord?'
"But thou are truly a warner, and to every people a guide."
In verse 27 the demand is repeated,
"The unbelievers say, `Why is not a Sign sent down to him from his Lord?'"
And the answer in verse 31 is that they wouldn't believe even if there was power in the Qur'an by which "the dead were made to speak".
That there are many hard-hearted unbelievers for which that conclusion is true, cannot be doubted for one minute. After Jesus had fed 5000 people by multiplying five loaves and two fish and then claimed on the basis of this miracle that he, himself was the true bread come down from heaven, they said, "What miraculous sign then will you give that we may see it and believe you? What will you do?" (John 6:30)
But there are always two groups. Though many are hard-hearted and choose to remain in unbelief no matter what God does, there are always some who want to know God's will. They are waiting for the second witness by which they can know the right path to follow.
In answer to this need, the Qur'an mentions signs. The problem is that the Quranic signs quoted above are all signs of nature which prove only one thing. They prove that there is a powerful creator God. They do not prove that the speaker who tells about them is a prophet.
Dr. Bucaille has written two books recounting the marvels of God's creation. In the second book, he has even described marvels that are not mentioned in the Qur'an. But does that make him a prophet? Of course not, and he would be the first to deny that he is a prophet.
Are there any miracles which Muslims suggest as a possible second witness? Some mention the Mi`raj or night journey. This is found in the Sura of the Children of Israel (Bani Isra'il) 17:1 from one year before the Hejira,
"Glory to (God) who took his servant for a journey by night from the Sacred Mosque to the Farthest Mosque, whose precincts We blessed, in order that We might show him some of Our signs..."
The majority of commentators believe this to be a physical transportation, though a few, including Hamidullah consider it a vision. All consider that the "Farthest Mosque" refers to Jerusalem, except for Hamidullah who thinks that it refers to heaven. Pickthall mentions a "heavenly steed", Yusuf Ali speaks of Muhammad ascending from Jerusalem to the sublime throne in the highest heaven, while Hamidullah adds that Muhammad was there given the five official prayer times; but these beliefs all come from the Hadith literature. The above verse says nothing about these ideas, and we are again left with one witness. It is something which only Muhammad experienced and reported.
This demand of the unbelievers in Mecca is mentioned again in the Middle Meccan Sura of the Spider (Al-`Ankabut) 29:50 where they are quoted as saying,
"Why are signs not sent down to him from his Lord?"
And now another answer is given in verses 50b-51,
"Say: `The signs are with God only, and I am but a clear Warner,' Is it not enough for them that We have sent down to you the book which is rehearsed to them?"
Now we have followed the reasoning down to the final step. Miracles or signs are in the power and will of God. Muhammad is told to say that he is only a "clear warner". From that we understand that God has not chosen to give Muhammad any miracle, and then the question is asked "Is the Qur'an not more than sufficient" as the second witness?
But this is using the question as the answer. We have been told to accept the words of a prophet, in this case the Qur'an, only when there has been a second witness. Now the Qur'an wants to turn it around and say that the words of the prophet are the second witness. This is not possible. The prophet and his words are not separate. They are one, and together they represent the first witness.
Supposing that I declare to you, "The moon is made of butter."
You are going to answer in these days, "That isn't what the astronauts found. Prove it to me."
As a proof I take a piece of paper and write, "The moon is made of butter." Then I turn to you and say, "There, that piece of paper says so! Look at it."
When demonstrated in this way, it is perfectly clear that my spoken words and my written words are exactly the same words. They represent only one witness, and you will say, "No! Bring another proof outside of yourself." You will not accept my written copy as a second witness of my oral word.
Sura 29 then goes on in verse 52 to appeal to God as Muhammad's witness by saying,
"Say: `Sufficient is God as a witness between me and you. He knows whatever is in the heavens and the earth...'"
and the argument is turned back to appealing to "the heavens and the earth" - to the creation, which is a proof that there is a Creator God, but not a proof of Muhammad's prophethood. Therefore, we still have no answer to the question we are instructed by God in the Torah to ask of any prophet, "Where is your confirming sign - your second witness that you are speaking for this Creator God?"
B. PROPHECIES IN THE FORMER SCRIPTURES ABOUT MUHAMMAD
On page 65 we examined the following hadith in connection with its testimony to the validity of the Bible. Now we must reexamine it as a prophecy about Muhammad. It reads,
" 'Ata b. Yasar told that he met `Abdallah b. `Amr b. al-'As and asked him to inform him of the description of God's messenger given in the Torah. He agreed, swearing by God that he was certainly described in the Torah by part of the description of him given in the Qur'an (Al-Azb 33:45) when it says, `O prophet, We have sent you as a witness, a bearer of good tidings, and a warner, and a guard for the common people.'
(Then continuing from the Torah-Old Testament) `You are my servant and my messenger; I have called you the one who trusts, not harsh or rough, nor loud-voiced in the streets. He will not repulse evil with evil, but will pardon and forgive, and God will not take him till He uses him to straighten the crooked creed so that people may say there is no god but God, and opens thereby blind eyes, deaf ears and hardened hearts.' "
Bukhari transmitted it, and Darimi also gives something to the same effect on the authority of `Ata' who gave as his authority Ibn Salam.
The passage quoted above from the Torah-Old Testament can be found now, today, in the prophecy of Isaiah written about 750 BC. It reads,
Here is a hadith, then, that one can be sure is authentic because it has two witnesses. We have the transmission by the Muslim community, and we have the original quotation in the Book of Isaiah. This is exactly the type of confirmation which is found in dozens of prophecies in relation to Jesus the Messiah.
This same passage, in fact, is one of those quoted in the Gospel as applying to Jesus. In Matthew 12:15-18 we read,
"Jesus...withdrew from there, and many followed him and he healed them all...This was to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah,
`Behold, My servant whom I have chosen, My beloved with whom My soul is well pleased, I will put My Spirit upon him, and he shall proclaim justice to the Gentiles. ...'"
And the passage goes on in verse 22 to say that Jesus healed a blind and dumb demoniac, following which all the people said, "Can this be the Son of David?" the Messiah?
Whether Isaiah wrote his words about Muhammad or about Jesus each reader will have to decide, but because of the two witnesses we can be 99% sure that the conversation recorded in the above hadith really took place.
Why just 99%? Because there is the slight possibility that someone invented it to support a doctrine. But even if that were true, it shows that someone in the Muslim community was quoting Isaiah as the true Word of God.
The "Paraclete" as a prophecy of Muhammad (Ahmad)?
On pages 102-106 of his book comparing the Bible and the Qur'an, Dr. Bucaille has a lengthy treatment of the Biblical verses in John, Chapters 14-16, which mention that a "Paraclete" will come. Except for his discussion of Genesis Chapter 1 and the genealogies, no other verses of the Bible are dealt with in such detail.
In these four pages, after claiming to have quoted all the relevant verses, Dr. Bucaille makes six attacks or criticisms against the validity of this Biblical passage. For example, he maintains that some material was suppressed from the Gospel, that other words were added, that Greek words are wrongly used, and that most translations are in complete error.
These are very serious attacks, and Dr. Bucaille pursues them with a fine-tuned literary skill which gives the impression that there is great scholarly support for his ideas. Therefore, we are going to consider each one of these six criticisms, plus a seventh false claim.
Christians believe that this word "paraclete" (paracletos in Greek) refers to the Holy Spirit of God, and that this Holy Spirit comes to live in each Christian in order to help him fight sin (According to the Gospel, the Holy Spirit is the guiding Spirit of God and not the angel Gabriel).
Muslims have proposed that it is a prophecy of Muhammad. A Muslim believes that there is such a prophecy because of the following words found in the Sura of the Battle Array (Al-aff) 61:6, from 3 AH.
"And remember, Jesus, the son of Mary, said: `Oh Children of Israel! I am the apostle of God to you...giving glad tidings of an apostle to come after me, whose name shall be AHMAD. But when he came to them with clear signs, they said, `This is clearly sorcery!'"
In Arabic the names aHMaD (more praiseworthy) and muHaMmaD (praised) have the same root letters (you would find them both under H M D in the Arabic dictionary) and related meanings. Therefore Muslims believe that this is a slightly veiled prophecy by Jesus saying that Muhammad will come.
Since a quick reading of the Gospel does not reveal such a prophecy in any obvious form, a more detailed search has continued over the years; and many Muslims now claim that Jesus' promise of the Counselor or Paraclete in John 14 is that very prophecy. Professor Katkat claims this in an article on the subject in Manr Al-Islm, and Yusuf Ali expresses the same idea in the following note on Sura 61:6,
"Ahmad", or "Muhammad", the Praised one, is almost a translation of the Greek word periclytos. In the present Gospel of John, 14:16, 15:26, and 16:7, the word "Comforter" in the English version is for the Greek word "Paracletos"...Our doctors contend that Paracletos is a corrupt reading for Periclytos, and that in the original saying of Jesus there was a prophecy of our holy Prophet Ahmad by name.
The first thing to be understood is that in Greek, unlike Arabic, the vowels are written into the text. Thus to change from pErIclYtos to pArAclEtos would require the alteration of three written letters.
Secondly there is absolutely no textual evidence for such a reading. Not one copy of the Gospel of John, from the oldest Greek copy of 200 AD until now shows periclytos in place of paracletos. Photograph 7 of Papyrus p75 from 200 AD shows John 14:9-26a. The last word on the page clearly shows "PARACLETOS" from verse 26. Verse 16 has been partly destroyed, but in the middle of the line marked by the two arrows one can still see "PARACL - N" for paracleton. ("ON" signifies a direct object.) In the first case the whole word is visible and in the second, two of the three letters under discussion can be clearly seen.
John 14:9-26a from Papyrus p75 from 200 A.D.,
showing the word "PARACLETOS" in verse 16 and in verse 26,
where it is the last word on the page.
By permission of the Bodmer Library.
Thirdly, although periclytos, which means famous or renowned, was used by Homer when he wrote the Iliad and the Odyssey in the classical Greek of the 10th century B.C., there is not one instance where this word, or any of the other members of its word group, are used in the Koine Greek of the New Testament or the Septuagint translation of the Old Testament.
Thus there is neither textual or linguistic support for "periclytos".
a. Dr. Bucaille's preliminary remarks
By placing his comments about the Paraclete, or Holy Spirit, at the end of his chapter on Contradictions and Improbabilities, Dr. Bucaille pushes the reader to assume that there is a contradiction or improbability even before reading the information.
Next, claiming that only one author mentions this Paraclete who is to come, he asks how a matter of such "fundamental importance" could be mentioned in only one of the four Gospel accounts.
This then leads to two suggestive and critical questions.
1. "Was it originally in the other accounts and then suppressed?"
Suppression? Who said anything about suppression? Then without having provided even one fact of confirming evidence to prove that something was suppressed, he asks,
2. "Why was it suppressed?"
Thus, without any facts at all, he has created a contradiction and implied that Christians suppressed part of the Gospel.
He then concludes,
"No answer is possible. So the mystery remains."
Now we have a mystery - a mystery made entirely out of worthless words. Notice I did not say powerless words. These are very strong words, but they are worthless because they are not supported by any facts. It is about words like this that Jesus spoke when he warned,
"Men will have to give account in the day of judgement for every careless (idle) word they have spoken."
The first thing to be said is that Dr. Bucaille is wrong when he claims that this matter of such "fundamental importance" is reported by only one Gospel writer. Though he does not use the name Paraclete, Luke tells of Jesus' promise of the Holy Spirit and the fulfillment of the promise in Acts Chapters 1 and 2.
Secondly, behind Dr. Bucaille's questions there seems to be the assumption that IT IS IMPOSSIBLE FOR THE ALL-POWERFUL GOD TO DIRECT ONLY ONE WRITER TO REPORT AN EVENT.
If this assumption is valid it also holds for the Qur'an. The entire Qur'an came through one human author - Muhammad. In addition, many events, such as the young men who slept over 300 years in a cave, are mentioned only once in the Quranic text. Even the words placed in Jesus' mouth that "Ahmad" will come are found only once. Are we therefore to assume a contradiction and mystery?!? How many readers will accept that logic?
And if his negative assumption is valid are we allowed to infer the opposite: that something mentioned by two, three, or four of the Gospel writers IS TRUE? If so then it must be noted that Jesus' death for our sins and the empty tomb following his resurrection are mentioned by all four Gospel writers, plus Paul. This is very strong evidence.
b. The verses concerning the "Paraclete" as quoted by Dr. Bucaille
Before going further we need to look at the verses which mention the "paraclete. On page 106 Dr. Bucaille quotes them as follows:
John 14:15-16. "If you love me (Jesus), you will obey what I command, and I will ask the Father and he will give you another Paraclete."
John 14:26. "But the Paraclete, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you."
John 15:26. "He will testify about me"
John 16:7-8, 13-14. "It is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Paraclete will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. when he comes, he will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment..."
"But when he, the Spirit of Truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. He will bring glory to me..." (Boldface and italics mine)
After the above quotations, Dr. Bucaille has a special note:
"It is to be noted that the passages from Chapters 14 to 17 of the Gospel according to John which are not cited here, do not modify in any way (ne modifient aucunement) the general sense of these verses." (sic)
Is his problem, then, with Improbabilities? Yes, it is, and on the basis of the verses given above he makes the following criticisms.
3. It is "curious" and "inconceivable" that one can attribute to the Holy Spirit the powers of speaking and saying what he hears" because in Greek these words are invalid for a spirit.
4. Since it is invalid to use these words for a spirit, it could be that the text was tampered with and the words "Holy Spirit" were added to John 14:26 at a later time.
5. Why were they added later? The words could have been added "deliberately, in order to modify the original sense of a passage which, by announcing the coming of a prophet after Jesus, was in contradiction with the teaching of the early Christian Churches, which desired that Jesus would be the last of the prophets." In other words, the Christians wanted to suppress a prophecy by Christ that any other prophet would come after him.
6. The translation of the word "paraclete" is totally inaccurate.
We shall now evaluate the validity of each of these criticisms.
4. The reliability of the text
Dr. Bucaille starts his discussion of this point by saying, "Every serious study of a text starts with the search for variant readings." In other words he is looking for any evidence that the words "Holy Spirit" were added to the text at a late date. We considered this question of variants for both the Qur'an and the Bible in Chapter IIIC of Section Three and concluded that in almost all cases they could be shown to be scribal errors by comparing the various copies with each other.
So what is the result of Bucaille's investigation? Are there any variant readings for John 14:26? Only one! In a 4th or 5th century translation into the Syriac Language. It omits the adjective "Holy", but retains the noun "Spirit". The verse in question then reads, "But the Paraclete, the Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name..."
What weight of importance shall we give this one variant in a translation? John wrote his Gospel account in Greek, and when we examine the Greek Papyri from 200 to 400 AD, they all read "Holy Spirit". The Codex Sinaiticus and the Codex Vaticanus from 350 AD do not show the variant. The Codex Alexandrius from 450 AD, also reads "Holy Spirit".
This is exactly similar to finding a variant in the Persian translation of the Qur'an made by a committee in 345 AH, of which there are still copies available today. What weight would you give to such a variant in a Persian translation?
Is it valid to make a doctrinal decision on the basis of this type of single reading in either the Qur'an or the Bible?
Surely this is no more than a scribal error and the answer is NO!
Dr. Bucaille also admits the possibility of a scribal error when he asks, "Did the scribe merely miss out a word?" However, he wants to think that the omission was intentional, so he asks,
or, knowing full well that the text he was to copy claimed to make the Holy Spirit hear and speak, did he perhaps lack the audacity to write something that seemed absurd to him?
But the Bible and Qur'an are both full of verses saying that God speaks and hears, so why is it absurd to say this of God's Spirit?
3. Can one use "akouo" (hear) and "laleo" (speak) for a spiritual being?
Dr. Bucaille claims that the Greek words akouo (hear) and laleo (speak), printed in boldfaced type in John 16: 13-14 above, have a material character and could not be used for the Holy Spirit. He says, "The two Greek verbs akouo and laleo define concrete actions which can only be applied to a being with hearing and speech organs. It is consequently impossible to apply them to the Holy Spirit". From this he reasons that these passages could only be speaking about another man or prophet coming.
When we consult a Classical Greek Dictionary we see that Dr. Bucaille is correct for early Classical Greek usage. In the Dictionary of New Testament Theology, Vol 2, p-172, edited by Colin Brown it says:
"Akouo (from Homer in the 10th century BC on) means to hear and refers primarily to the perception of sounds by the sense of hearing."
That agrees 100% with Bucaille, but then the dictionary goes on to say,
"Hearing, however, covers not only sense perception but also the apprehension and acceptance by the mind of the content of what is heard. This led to differences of linguistic usage which are discussed below in connection with Heb. shama and which also occur in secular Greek."
But! and it is a big but. We are not speaking of 950 BC. We are dealing with the Koine dialect of Greek used by the man in the street and in the business world of the 1st century AD.
We saw on pages 4 and 5 that the meaning of a word is determined by its usage in the context of sentences and paragraphs at the time of writing. Therefore, we will examine the Gospel-New Testament as a source of Christian Greek usage. We will examine the Septuagint - the Greek translation of the Torah-Old Testament made by the Jews from Hebrew around 200 BC, as a source of Jewish usage. And for Islamic usage we shall also examine the Quranic words for speaking and hearing as applied to God.
a. Other New Testament verses where akouo (or its compounds) and laleo are used.
Are there other verses in the Gospel-New Testament where akouo is used with God as the one who is listening? Yes there are. Akouo or its compounds are found in John 9:31, John 11:41,42, II Cor 6:2, Luke 1:13, and Acts 10:31. Here are three of these verses printed out in full with the corresponding English word in boldfaced italics.
2. John 11:41,42. "...Then Jesus looked up and said, `Father (God), I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me.' "
3. Luke 1:13. "But the angel said to him: `Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to give him the name John.'"
It is clear from these examples that akouo can be used for a spiritual being, including God Himself. Moreover, the first two examples being from the Gospel of John demonstrate usage by the very same author who wrote the passages about the Paraclete.
Laleo is used with God in John 9:29, Acts 7:6, Hebrews 1:1 and 5:5, Mark 13:11, and Acts 28:25. Here are three examples.
1. John 9:29. "We know that God spoke to Moses..."
2. Hebrews 1:1. "In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets in many different ways."
3. Acts 28:25. "The Holy Spirit spoke the truth to your forefathers when he said through Isaiah the prophet.. ."
Thus a simple examination of the New Testament shows that akouo and laleo were used with God as the subject by five of the Gospel-New Testament writers including John.
b. God speaking and hearing in the Septuagint
The Septuagint is a Greek translation of the Hebrew Torah-Old Testament. It was made by Jewish scholars for Jewish believers about 200 BC, and was still in current use in the 1st century AD by both the Jewish and Christian communities.
When we examine it, we find that akouo and laleo are used many times with God as the subject. There are dozens of verses but we shall give only three, it being understood that akouo represents the Hebrew word shama and laleo the Hebrew dabar.
1. Exodus 6:2,3. "God also said to Moses, `I am the LORD. I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob as God Almighty..."
2. Psalm 115:4-6. "But their idols are silver and gold, made by the hands of men. They have mouths, but cannot speak...they have ears but cannot hear."
3. Psalm 94: 7,9. "They say, `The LORD does not see. The God of Jacob pays no heed.' Does He who implanted the ear not hear? Does He who formed the eye not see?"
From these verses it is very clear that the idols are blamed and laughed at because they do not akouo and laleo, but the LORD, Yahweh (Jehovah), the Eternal One hears - akouo and speaks - laleo.
Dr. Bucaille has claimed that these words should be used only for a human because they require a material organ of hearing and speech. What more beautiful answer can be given then Psalm 94:7,9 quoted above:
"Does He who implanted the ear not hear (akouo)?"
c. God speaking and hearing in the Qur'an
When we examine the Qur'an we find that even though Muslims are very careful to stress that Allah is completely transcendent, the actions of speaking and hearing are often attributed to Him. Here are four examples.
1. The Believer (Al-Mu'min) 40:60, late Meccan. "And your Lord says: `Call on me; I will answer you."
2. The Heifer (Al-Baqara) 2:30. "Behold, the Lord said to the angels..."
Note: Here a spiritual being, God, is speaking to other spiritual beings - angels.
3. Ta-Ha 20:46, Middle Meccan. "He (God) said, `Fear not: for I am with you. I hear and see everything.'"
4. The Heifer (Al-Baqara) 3:38. "There did Zakarya pray to his Lord, saying: `O my Lord! Grant to me from you a pure child. For You are The Hearer of prayer!' "
The fifth verse gives the same account of Zakariya asking for Yahya (John the Baptist) as that found in the Gospel of Luke where the compound verb eisakouo is used to describe God hearing. Here are the two verses placed side by side.
|Ali Imran 3:38. "There did Zakariya pray to his Lord, saying: 'O my Lord! Grant to me from you a pure child. For You are The Hearer of prayer!"||Luke 1:13, 58 AD. "But the angel said to him: 'Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to give him the name John.' "|
Therefore, it seems correct to assume that The Hearer in Sura 3:38 would be translated using the Greek verb eisakouo found in Luke's original account of the story written 600 years earlier.
Recently I had an opportunity to confirm this assumption by examining a Greek translation of the Qur'an. When I opened it to the verse quoted above, Sura 3:38 (verse 33 in this Greek edition) it read:
"O my Lord! Grant to me from you a pure child. For you are eisakouo (The hearer) of prayer." However I hope that the reader is getting wise enough by now to realize that although it is a strong indication that our reasoning is correct, it does not offer conclusive proof concerning the use of akouo in the Gospel of John or in the Qur'an. Why? Because the translation was made in 1928. Therefore it can not be an example of either 1st century Christian usage or of 7th century Muslim usage.
In summary: 1. since akouo and laleo are used in other verses in the Gospel-New Testament for God hearing and speaking,
2. and since the Jewish translators of the Septuagint used akouo and laleo with God as the subject,
3. and since a modern Greek translation of the Qur'an uses eisakouo for God hearing,
4. and since the very same events are described in both the Bible and the Qur'an, with the Greek Qur'an using eisakouo for sami`un;
it is abundantly clear that these Greek words are used for spiritual beings and Dr. Bucaille's argument has no foundation in fact.
5. Did the Christian church teach that Jesus is the last of the prophets?
The answer to this question is a straight "NO"!
The New Testament says that there WILL BE prophets after Jesus. God revealed through Paul in the letter to the Ephesians,
"It was he (the ascended Christ) who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets..."
And when we examine the New Testament we find men mentioned who received their revelations long after Jesus ascended. Thirty-five years after seeing the risen Christ, the Apostle Peter received two revelations for all people and prophesied concerning the last days.
By revelation the Apostle John wrote his Gospel account to all people 50 or 60 years after knowing Jesus alive here on earth. In addition, the last book in the Bible, also by John, is a warning to us and a prophecy of what will happen in the days of Jesus' return and the last judgement.
Agabus prophesied that there would be a famine (Acts 11:28), and "Judas and Silas, also being prophets, exhorted the people" (Acts 15, 32). These men all came after Jesus.
And in Revelation Chapter 11:1-12, we are told about two prophets who are yet to come in the future:
"And I will give power to my two witnesses, and they will prophesy for 1,260 days...it will not rain during the time they are prophesying (like Elijah); and they have power to turn the waters into blood (like Moses)."
Clearly the early Christians believed there were apostles and prophets who came after Jesus ascended, and at least two more are still to come.
On what basis, therefore, would the early Christians wish to suppress a prophecy about Muhammad's coming?
They would not know what he was going to say nor what his doctrine would be.
In conclusion, we see that Dr. Bucaille's theory that the church wished to suppress a prophecy about Muhammad is an empty accusation without substance.
6. Mistranslation of the word paraclete
A 6th accusation made by Dr. Bucaille is that the word Paraclete has been incorrectly translated. In a footnote on page 106, we read,
Many translations of the Gospels and commentaries, especially the older ones, translate the word (paraclete) by comforter, which is totally inaccurate.
A wrong translation is always a possibility, but this accusation is not against one translator, but many. In fact it is not limited to one language either. Paraclete was translated by mu`azzi in Arabic, by comforter in English, as well as consolateur in French. Could it really be that everyone is wrong except Dr. Bucaille?
When it is realized that elsewhere he has said about the Qur'an that,
"There are still many translations and commentaries (of the Qur'an) in circulation today that can give a completely false idea of the Quranic revelation...to the scientist who reads them. ...We shall see the reasons why distinguished Arabists who lack a scientific background have made such blunders."
one can only stand in awe and amazement before this man who is able to judge that the quasi-totality of translators and commentators of both the Bible and the Qur'an are in error.
Then how has Dr. Bucaille translated paraclete? He has not! He has used a translation where the Greek word "paraclete" is left untranslated!?!
That avoids the problem, of course, but has it helped you? Probably not. Most people do not know what this Greek word means.
A paraclete is someone who can be called on for help. Therefore the meaning depends on what kind of help you need, whether defense by an "advocate - a lawyer", or comfort by a "comforter" in time of sadness. A small dictionary defines it as (1) intercessor, (2) advocate, (3) consoler or comforter and (4) exhorter. There is no single English or French or Arabic word which includes all these meanings. So we are back to context!
To be translated correctly it has to be in a context. Most of the older translators chose "comforter" because one of the words in the context is orphan (John 14:18). An orphan is alone without father and mother and needs comforting. The New International Version translates paraclete as "counselor". This is a real improvement as it includes two of the four meanings - exhorting and comforting.
In 1 John 2 it says, "If we sin we have a "Paraclete" with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous". Here the context makes clear that we do not need a comforter, we need an intercessor or an advocate, so the translators have used "advocate" in English, "avocat" in French and "intercessor" (shafi`) in Arabic.
Though "paraclete" is used only 5 times in the New Testament, the related noun "paraklesis" which can mean comfort, consolation, exhortation, and entreaty, is used on 29 occasions and was translated comfort 20 times.
The verb "parakaleo" which means to beseech, call for, comfort, desire, exhort, and entreat is used 107 times and was translated 24 times by to comfort.
As one example of the use of these words we will look at II Corinthians 1:3-4.
"Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort (paraklesis), who comforts (parakaleo) us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort (parakaleo) those in any trouble with the comfort (paraklesis) with which we ourselves are comforted (parakaleo) of God."
In these two verses the two words are used 5 times and each time the context demands "comfort" or "comforter". Clearly Dr. Bucaille's claim that "comforter" is "totally inaccurate" as a translation for "Paraclete" is found to be empty.
7. Has Dr. Bucaille quoted all the verses and given the whole context concerning the word "Paraclete" as he claims?
Near the beginning of this chapter the verses on the Paraclete from the Gospel of John were given just as Dr. Bucaille quoted them. We also saw his special note which declares,
"It is to be noted that the passages from Chapters 14 to 17 of the Gospel according to John which are not cited here, do not modify in any way (ne modifient aucunement) the general sense of these verses." (sic) (sic)
Many people do not have a Gospel-New Testament in their homes or easily available, so we will now reprint the verses which Dr. Bucaille quoted in the left column. On the right the passages are repeated but they include eight other verses which also speak about the "paraclete". Let the reader, himself, judge whether they modify or limit the interpretation of the passage or not.
|Dr. Bucaille's quote||Quote in context|
|John 14:15-16. "If you love me (Jesus), you will obey what I command, and I will ask the Father and he will give you another Paraclete."||John 14:15-18. "If you love me, you will obey what I command, and I will ask the Father and he will give you another Paraclete to be with you forever, the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you."|
|John 14:26. "But the Paraclete, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you."||John 14:26. "But the Paraclete, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you".|
15:26. "He will testify about me"|
(Note: Even the word "Paraclete" was omitted by Dr. Bucaille.)
|John 15:26-27. "When the Paraclete comes, whom I will send you from the Father, the Spirit of Truth who goes out from the Father, He will testify about me; but you must testify, for you have been with me from the beginning."|
|John 16:7-8. "It is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Paraclete will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. When he comes, he will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment..."||John 16:7-8. "It is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Paraclete will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. When he comes, he will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteous and judgment: in regard to sin, because men do not believe in me; in regard to righteousness, because I am going to the Father where you can see me no longer; and in regard to judgement, because the prince of this world (Satan) now stands condemned. I have much more to say to you more than you can now bear."|
|John 16:13-14. "But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own, he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. He will bring glory to me..."||John 16:13-15. "But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. He will bring glory to me by taking from what is mine and making it known to you. All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will take from what is mine and make it known to you."|
Dr. Bucaille said that he had quoted all the important verses. "The rest," he claimed, "do not modify in any way the general sense" of the passage.
Yet it is perfectly clear to every reader that many of these eight omitted verses do "modify the general sense" of the seven verses which he quoted.
Dr. Bucaille makes a great point of the fact that one manuscript copied 300 years after the original does not include the adjective "holy" and implies that the entire phrase "holy spirit" is a late addition. On page 80 he refers to this problem saying,
"We shall see...how a single word in a passage from John concerning the Paraclete radically alters its meaning and completely changes its sense when viewed from a theological point of view."
But when we read the above omitted verses we find that this is just not true. The whole doctrine does not rest on John 14:26. The Paraclete is called spirit - the Spirit of Truth - in three other verses: in omitted verses 14:17 and 15:26, as well as 16:13, which Dr. Bucaille does include. This makes a total of four times that the Paraclete is called a "Spirit".
Dr. Bucaille quotes John 14:16 as,
"I will ask the Father and he will give you another Paraclete."
but he has stopped in the middle of the verse. The whole verse reads,
"I will ask the Father and he will give you another Paraclete to be with you forever."
Omitted verse 14:17 says that the world "neither sees him (the Paraclete) nor knows him."
In the same verse Jesus says to his disciples, "he (the Paraclete) lives with you and shall be in you".
He is saying that the Paraclete "lives with" Peter, James, John, Matthew, and the others, "and will be in" Peter, James, John, Matthew, and the others "forever".
In omitted verse 15:27, Jesus tells the disciple-apostles that, they "must testify" along with the "Paraclete" who "will testify about me."
In omitted verse 16:9 Jesus says, "He (the Paraclete) will convict the world of sin, "because men do not believe in me".
In addition, to have a complete study, Dr. Bucaille should have included the other verses in the Gospel of John which speak about the Holy Spirit, such as the following,
John 1:33 says that Jesus will baptize with the Holy Spirit.
John 7:39 speaks of the Holy Spirit "which those who believed in him (Jesus) were later to receive.
He also should have given the information recorded by Luke that Jesus told his disciples,
Do not leave Jerusalem but wait for the gift my Father promised...For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit. Acts 1:4-5.
Together these verses show that the Paraclete, the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Truth, can be in all of the 11 disciples at once. They were to wait in Jerusalem and receive this Holy Spirit while they were still alive. This Paraclete would do a convicting work in the hearts of all men and women who would hear the disciples preach - whether Thomas preaching in India, or Peter in Rome.
THE PARACLETE CAN ONLY BE A SPIRITUAL BEING
The only being that can be in the 11 disciples at the same time, the only being that can be in all the Christians alive at the same time, is a spiritual being. It cannot be true of the man Moses who came before the promise. It cannot be true of Peter who heard the promise. And it cannot be true of Muhammad.
Was Muhammad with Peter and the others in Jerusalem? Was he around to teach Peter and the others all things? Can we say of Muhammad that the men of this world could "not see him", or that he was "with them forever" as it says of the Paraclete?
The answer is obviously NO.
This takes nothing away from Muhammad and his great success as a Warner, but it shows clearly that Dr. Bucaille has purposely omitted the context and deformed the quotations in order to support his idea.
He made six accusations as to why this biblical passage is not true, plus a false statement claiming that he had quoted all relevant verses. We have examined each one and found that his accusations are empty. One can only conclude that he has not been serious and scholarly in his investigation, and that the verses about the Paraclete cannot be a prophecy about Muhammad.
C. PROPHECIES BY MUHAMMAD
We saw above that God confirmed the prophethood of Elijah and Jeremiah by fulfilling their prophesies about future events, and in the case of Elijah by sending fire from heaven in answer to his prayer. We must now see whether Muhammad made any prophecies about future events, the fulfillment of which would be a sign of his prophethood.
1. Some commentators have suggested that verse 45 of the Early Meccan Sura of the Moon (Al-Qamar) 54, is a prophecy of the victory at the battle of Badr. It reads,
"Soon will their multitude be put to flight, and they will show their backs."
However, when we add the context found in verses 43 to 48, we find that the subject is the day of judgement.
"Are your unbelievers better than they (the Egyptians who were destroyed)? Or do you have an immunity in the sacred books?
Or do they say, `We are a host victorious'?
Soon will their multitude be put to flight, and they will show their backs.
Nay, the hour (of doom) is their appointed promise, and that hour will be most grievous and most bitter. Truly those in sin are in error and madness.
On the day they will be dragged through the fire on their faces (they will hear) `Taste the touch of hell'"
Neither Yusuf Ali nor Hamidullah claim it as a prophecy, although it is possible, of course, for a verse to have two meanings.
2. In the Sura of the Spoils of War (Al-Anfal) 8:43 from 2 AH, another dream is mentioned. The verse reads,
"Remember in your dream (Muhammad), God showed them to you as few. If He had shown them to you as many, you (Muslims) would surely have been discouraged and would have disputed in your decision. But God saved, for He is a Knower of the secrets of the hearts."
This verse, which came after the battle of Badr, refers to a dream which Muhammad had before the battle, but it leaves more problems than it solves. It does not claim that the dream showed a victory, and it depicts God as showing the 300 Muslim fighters that there will only be a few enemy soldiers instead of 1000. Thus, it shows God using deception to achieve His aims in His own community of believers.
For me personally this is a real difficulty. Is this the way the God of heaven and earth, Mighty and All-powerful, named the Truth and the Holy One, acts and carries on His affairs?
We see this same type of action in other places. In Sura 19:26 God tells Mary to say that she is fasting when in fact she is eating water and dates. (Yusuf Ali is usually very good but in his comment on this problem he suggests that it means fasting from words?!?) In Sura 34:12-14 God keeps the Jinns working by fooling them that Solomon is still alive? In Sura 4:157 Jesus didn't die, he wasn't crucified, it just looks like it.
Does this not make the reader uneasy in his spirit? How do you convince yourself that these actions which the Qur'an attributes to Allah are not lying actions?
3. In the Sura of the Victory (Al-Fat) 48:27 from 6 AH we read about another vision.
"Truly did God fulfill the vision for his Apostle. You shall enter the Sacred Mosque, if God wills (In sha' Allah), with minds secure, heads shaved, hair cut short, and without fear. For He knew what you did not know..."
Muhammad told his men that he had a vision of making the pilgrimage before they set out toward Mecca to do it. The Meccans stopped them at Hudaibiya and wouldn't let them do the pilgrimage, but a treaty was made which would allow the Muslims to do the pilgrimage in the future. According to the Hadith some of the Muslims were very upset because the dream was not fulfilled, at which point this verse was given, promising that it would be fulfilled in the future.
Each reader must assign his own value to this verse, since we do not have the details of the original dream. But the biggest problem is this phrase "if God wills" in the middle of a prophetic word from the mouth of God?
If God has "fulfilled the vision of the Apostle" and said, "You shall enter", how can He dictate to his Apostle the words, "If God wills". He is God and He knows what He wills. That is the whole point of calling something a prophecy of the future. IT WILL COME TO PASS.
4. Finally, there is one case where a prophecy was clearly fulfilled. This is found in the Middle Meccan Sura of the Roman Empire (Al-Rum) 30:1-4 which reads,
"The Romans have been defeated in a land close by; but they, after their defeat, will be victorious within a few years. With God is the command, in the former case and in the latter - and in that day believers will rejoice."
This verse was given according to the commentators in 615 or 616 AD when the Persians were threatening to take Constantinople. Eight years later in 624 AD, the tide had turned and the Romans were entering Persia. The historical experience that a losing nation turns the battle around and defeats its opponent is certainly not rare. Therefore, this prophecy could have been fulfilled by chance perhaps 1 in 4 or 1 in 5 times, but that it was fulfilled is plain for all to see.
There are other miraculous accounts in the Hadith material and oral stories which are told throughout the Muslim world, but we have examined all of those which have any basis in our understanding of the Quranic words and phrases. We must now consider a recent attempt to demonstrate a miracle by a mathematical study of the words and letters of the Qur'an.
5. A Numeric Miracle of the Number 19?
This modern attempt to find a second witness is found in the monograph by Rashad Khalifa, Ph.D entitled "Computer manifested Miracles in the Holy Qur'an". In his introduction he admits very openly to this need for two witnesses with the following words,
"Throughout the times, the Almighty God has sent a succession of messengers who guided the humankind and delivered the scripture. These messengers were invariably supported by divine miracles which proved to the believers that they were indeed sent by God. Thus, Moses (peace be upon him) went to Pharaoh supported by such miracles as turning his staff into a serpent. Jesus ... was supported by such miracles as reviving the dead and healing the hopelessly blind."
Dr. Khalifa goes on to point out that these miracles were limited by time and place in the sense that only those present could see them. He believes that he has found a different type of confirming miracle for the Qur'an. It is a miracle revealing itself today by numerology which can be demonstrated only now in our time by the computer. He writes,
"The key to Muhammad's perpetual miracle is found in the very first verse of the Qur'an, `IN THE NAME OF GOD, MOST GRACIOUS, MOST MERCIFUL = BiSM ALLaH, AL-RaHMaN, AL-RaHIM'...
"When we count the (capital) letters that make up the first Quranic verse, we find them 19. This is of course a physical fact. And, it was discovered that each word in this verse is mentioned throughout the Qur'an a number of times which is consistently a multiple of 19. The first word `ISM' is found...19 times; the second word, `ALLaH is mentioned 2,698 times, a multiple of 19 (19 X 142); the third word, `AL-RaHMaN ' is found in the Qur'an 57 times, (19 X 3); and the last word, `AL-RaHIM' is mentioned in the whole Qur'an 114 times, 6 multiples of 19."
Dr. Khalifa then claims, "This computerized study of God's final message deals with strictly physical facts; no guesswork, human interpretation, or conjecture is involved"; in other words, no basic assumptions along the way. He has many other numerical examples in his work, but we shall take time to look at only this one in detail.
In spite of Dr. Khalifa's claim that no human conjecture is involved, there is a basic assumption in the very first statement claiming that this phrase from the Qur'an has 19 letters. When we rewrite the English transcription of the Arabic, eliminating the vowels which aren't written, but only understood, the phrase looks like this: "BSM ALLH ALRHMN ALRHIM", which counts out to 19 letters. However, there is a little mark in Arabic grammar called a "shadda" which means that the letter underneath the mark is doubled. "ALLaH" or "ALLH" has a "shadda" on the second "L", and could (should?) be written "ALLLH" which would then make 20 letters.
In his presentation Dr. Khalifa has not explained how he made his decision to exclude the doubling of the letter; nor, for that matter, how he decided to omit the unwritten vowels.
The next problem concerns the word "BISM". This is a word which is really two words contracted together - the preposition "Bi" which in this case is translated as "in"; and the word "ISM" or "name".
When we look up the word "ISM" in the Arabic Concordance which Dr. Khalifa has recommended, called Index to the words of the Glorious Qur'an, by Abdul-Baqi, what a surprise to find the following information:
"BiSM" the word which is written in the first verse of the Qur'an, and which we are supposed to be studying, occurs only three times in Suras 1:1, 11:41, and 27:30.
"ISM" the unconnected noun does occur "nineteen times".
But, there is also a third listing. "ISMuHu" meaning "his name", and written as one word in Arabic, occurs five times.
Clearly 3 + 19 + 5 = 27 and does not divide by 19.
We have then, further basic assumptions in front of us for which Dr. Khalifa has given no reason. On what basis did he ignore the three times where the word BiSM is mentioned, the very word about which he is writing? On what basis did he count only the separated form "ISM" standing by itself, and eliminate the noun connected to its following pronoun as in "ISMuHu"?
Is there a reason to be found in the meaning of the words? Perhaps Dr. Khalifa decided to count only those verses which speak of God for example But when we look at the following two verses we find that this is not the case. The Sura of the Table (Al-Ma'ida) 5:5 reads,
"...but pronounce God's name (ISM ALLaH) over it..."
and the Sura of the Heifer (Al-Baqara) 2:114 reads,
"And who is more unjust than he who forbids in places for the worship of God, that His name (ISMuHu) should be pronounced?"
In the English translation, as in the Arabic, there is no difference between these words except that "God's name" is used as a direct object and "His name" as the subject. The maker of the concordance arbitrarily listed them separately on the basis of their written expression.
Furthermore, on what basis should the 12 occurrences of the plural of the noun be excluded? - especially in the following usage from the Sura of the Heights (Al-A`raf) 7:180 which reads,
"The most beautiful names belong to God..."
The only apparent reason is that if all the usages - singular and plural - had been counted, the total would be 39 and not divisible by 19.
Examination of the way ALLAH is used again reveals a contraction. When the preposition "Li" meaning "to" is used in the phrase "to God", it is contracted with the following noun and they are written together as "LiLaH", or "LiLLah" with the "shadda". (See Sura 2:22 as an example.) Grammatically, this corresponds exactly to "BiSM" as discussed above. However, this time the contracted form "LiLaH" has been included in the 2698 usages which is a multiple of 19, a procedure which seems absolutely logical.
The contradiction is that "BiSM" and "LiLaH" have not been treated the same. If "LiLaH" is to be included so that the total will divide by 19, then "BiSM" must be included and in that case the total won't divide by 19.
In the case of AL-RaHMaN there are no complications. It occurs only 57 times or (19 X 3) as the author has stated.
Finally we come to the word AL-RaHIM. Dr. Khalifa says that it occurs (6 X 19) or 114 times, but according to Abdul-Baqi's concordance it occurs only 34 times in the exact form with the definite article. It occurs another 81 times without the definite article for a total of 115 times, plus one time in the plural which would make 116. Obviously neither 115 or 116 are divisible by 19.
Dr. Khalifa's findings are quoted with approval by many people. Dr. Bèchir Torki devoted more than four pages to a summary of this study. Yet the following four basic assumptions have been made without any explanation.
Dr. Khalifa has made a decision to ignore both the doubling of the "L" in "ALLaH" and the unwritten vowels.
He has decided to omit "BiSM" from his study of "ISM" although "LiLaH" is included in the count of the word "ALLaH".
He has decided to omit "ISMuHu" from his count even though grammatically it is exactly equal to "ISM".
He has decided to omit the plural usage of "ISM" and "AL-RaHIM".
In addition his count for "AL-RaHIM" seems to be in error.
If his findings are to be a second witness, an attesting miracle to the Qur'an, then Dr. Khalifa's reasoning must be clear to all. Perhaps in the future, he will show how he arrived at these decisions, but until that is done Dr. Khalifa has not proved his case.
We have examined all the evidence which we could find in the Qur'an concerning miracles and prophecy. Now each reader will have to make his own evaluation and decide whether the second witness is there and satisfactory.
In the next chapter we shall examine some of the Torah-Old Testament prophecies concerning Jesus the Messiah, and see whether God has provided a second witness for his ministry by fulfilling them.
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