ST. PAUL'S LETTER TO THE GALATIANS
Lesson 3: Chapters 3:23-4:31
St. Paul reminds us of the necessity of remaining loyal to the Gospel that Jesus entrusted to His Church. The danger that faced the Galatians in being seduced into accepting a false gospel is the same danger encountered by many Christians down through the centuries who have fallen prey to the teachings of false prophets. Paul warns there is no other gospel, and even if an apparition or a messenger came claiming another gospel, that apparition and that messenger was from Satan. Open our minds and hearts to understanding the fullness of Your word, Lord, as You opened the minds and hearts of the Apostles on Resurrection Sunday and St. Paul in his conversion experience. Please send Your Holy Spirit to guide us in today's lesson, as St. Paul exhorts the Galatians to return to the fullness of faith in the teachings of the Church. We pray in the name of God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
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By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to
receive as an inheritance; he went out, not knowing where he was to go. By
faith he sojourned in the Promised Land as in a foreign country, dwelling in
tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs of the same promise; for he was looking
forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and maker is God.
Now if the Law
was a custodian and we were confined under its direction, it was not opposed to
grace but cooperated with it. But if it continues to bind us after grace has
come, then it is opposed to grace.
St. John Chrysostom, Homily on Galatians 3:25-26
The Fathers of the Church wrote that since God gave the Law of the Sinai Covenant, it is not plausible that the same Law should be seen as having been given against the covenant promises God made prior to the Law (St. Victorinus, Bishop of Pettau). The old Law prepared us for faith (St. Theodoret, Bishop of Cry), was our "custodian" prior to the coming of Christ (St. John Chrysostom, Bishop of Constantinople, St. Jerome), and it convicted us of sin to make us humble (St. Augustine, Bishop of Hippo). However, it is only the grace of God that can apply the remedy to sin and lift the burden of the curse-judgment of the Law against all who failed to keep the Law perfectly (St. Fulgentius, Bishop of Ruspe).
In chapter 3 Paul made the argument that our justification "being made "right" with God " cannot be tied to the rite of circumcision under the old covenants with Abraham and Israel, since Scripture says that Abraham was declared "justified"/"made righteous" in an act of faith when God first made a covenant with him in Genesis 15:6, Abram put his faith in the LORD [YHWH], who credited it to him as an act of righteousness. His "justification by faith" in the sight of God took place prior to the command to circumcise as a sign of covenant initiation in Genesis 17:9-14, God also said to Abraham: "On your part, you and your descendants after you must keep my covenant throughout the ages. This is my covenant with you and your descendants after you that you must keep, every male among you shall be circumcised (Gen 17:9-10).
Abraham's faith in God's covenant promises was credited as an act of righteousness by expressing the right attitude of man in his relationship with God. As a result of Abraham's faith, God declared him righteous/justified by giving him title to the fulfillment of God's covenant promises. St. Paul uses the example of Abraham's justification by faith as a model for all Christians, and especially for the Gentiles who are being admitted into the New Covenant in Christ and who should not be expected to undergo circumcision as a sign of their salvation (Gal 3:6-9 and Rom 4:1-25). To insist on circumcision as a condition of salvation rejects completeness of the Holy Spirit's work of sanctification and supernatural rebirth for believers in the Sacrament of Baptism, and also the effectiveness of Jesus' work of salvation on behalf of all mankind on the altar of the Cross.
Galatians 3:23-29 ~ What Faith Has Brought Us
23 Before faith came, we were held in custody under the law, confined for the faith that was to be revealed. 24 Consequently, the law was our disciplinarian [paidagogos*] for Christ, that we might be justified by faith. 25 But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a disciplinarian [paidagogos*]. 26 For through faith you are all children of God in Christ Jesus. 27 For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free person, there is not male and female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham's descendant, heirs according to the promise. [...] =IBGE, vol. IV, page 512.
23 Before faith came, we were held in custody under the law, confined for the faith that was to be revealed. The commands and rituals of the old Law prepare us for the Gospel by which we are justified by faith:
* Biblical typology is the method scholars and students of the Bible use to understand the historical and theological relationships between people and events recorded in Sacred Scripture (see CCC 128-29).(1)
the law was our disciplinarian [paidagogos*] for Christ, that we might be
justified by faith.
The Greek word paidagogos means a "tutor," "custodian," "disciplinarian," or "guide" (Thayer's Greek Lexicon). Paul uses this word here in Galatians and again in 1 Corinthians 4:15. It refers to a person in Hellenistic society (usually a male slave) appointed by a father to take charge of his son and heir to supervise his conduct and to protect him from immoral influences.
Question: What comparison is Paul making between a
paidagogos put in charge of a son and heir and the Law of the Sinai Covenant?
Answer: The Law guided the Israelites in right conduct and was intended to separate them from the immoral and unjust practices of the pagan Gentiles. Just as a paidagogos limited the freedom of the son and heir to keep him for bad practices, the Law limited the freedom of the Israelites to protect them from sin.
25 But now
that faith has come, we are no longer under a disciplinarian. 26 For through faith you are all children
of God in Christ Jesus.
We are no longer under the discipline of the old Law, like the heir who has come of age is no longer under the guidance of his disciplinarian.
27 For all
of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there
is neither slave nor free person, there is not male and female; for you are all
one in Christ Jesus.
It is God's grace that calls us to faith in Jesus Christ, and it is faith that prompts us to submit to the Sacrament of Christian Baptism. Baptism is the rite of initiation that replaces circumcision, as Paul wrote to the Colossians: In him you were also circumcised with a circumcision not administered by hand, by stripping off the carnal body, with the circumcision of Christ. You were buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead (Col 2:11-12).
Baptism cleans us of all sin, both original sin and personal sin, and unites us to the life of Christ, which Paul refers to as being "clothed" with Christ (verse 27). Baptism regenerates us as righteous children of a holy God and heirs who are worthy to receive the inheritance God the Son has obtained for us (Acts 22:16; Tit 3:5; 1 Pt 3:21; CCC 1226-27). We become one people in the Body of Christ where there is no distinction between male and female, or between Jew and Gentile. The Mystical Body of Christ triumphs over all earthly divisions. When we respond to God's grace by faith in Christ and the Sacrament of Baptism, we all become equal candidates for salvation and the inheritors of Christ's divine son-ship in our relationship with our divine Father (Col 3:11; CCC 791-92).
29 And if
you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham's descendant, heirs according to the
Question: What is the "promise" to which Paul is referring? See Gen 12:3; 22:15-18.
Answer: We become the heirs of God's promise to Abraham of a world-wide blessing that is fulfilled in the universal call to salvation through Abraham's descendant Jesus Christ!
Galatians 4:1-11 ~ Come to Freedom in Christ as Children of God
1 I mean that as long as the heir is not of age, he is no different from a slave, although he is the owner of everything, 2 but he is under the supervision of guardians and administrators until the date set by his father. 3 In the same way we also, when we were not of age, were enslaved to the elemental powers of the world. 4 But when the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son born of a woman, born under the law, 5 to ransom those under the law, so that we might receive adoption [of sons]. 6 As proof that you are children, God sent the spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying out, "Abba, Father!" 7 So you are no longer a slave but a child, and if a child then also an heir, through God. 8 At a time when you did not know God, you became slaves to things that by nature are not gods; 9 but now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how can you turn back again to the weak and destitute elemental powers? Do you want to be slaves to them all over again? 10 You are observing days, months, seasons, and years. 11 I am afraid on your account that perhaps I have labored for you in vain. [...] = literal translation, IBGE vol. IV, page 513.
Paul makes another comparison to the Israelites under the old Law and an heir who has not come of age to receive an inheritance. The Israelites/Jews are the chosen people of God and the presumptive heirs, yet under the Sinai Covenant, they were only slaves to the Law like an heir in his minority (verse 3).
It is Paul's argument that the period in salvation history from the Law of Moses until the coming of the Christ was a time of minority for the children of God who lived under limited freedom like a slave/child in his minority. During that period we were enslaved to the elemental powers of the world (verse 3; also see verse 9). The Greek word is "elements," and in Scripture the same word was used to refer to:
In this passage Paul is probably referring to the Galatians former pagan practices when they worshipped a storm god or goddess of the moon (see verse 9). But the "we" in verse 3 also probably means Paul is referring to life under Mosaic Law (also see verse 10). The old Law taught the rudimentary principles of religion and was based on a lunar liturgical calendar for observances of annual festivals and periodical feasts that constituted a state of slavery under cosmic forces from which Christ has freed them. Using the same reference to "elements" in Paul's letter to the Christians at Colossus, he will later write:
So long as they live under the old Law they are only "of the world" and under its powers; they have not "come of age" to inherit what is not of the physical world.
4 But when the
fullness of time had come, God sent his Son born of a woman, born under the law,
5 to ransom those under the law, so
that we might receive adoption [as sons].
That the former time has ended and we are now under the Law of Christ in the New and eternal Covenant. God the Father has declared us "of age" to receive the promise of our inheritance as adopted sons and daughters.
6 As proof that
you are children, God sent the spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying out,
"Abba, Father!" 7 So you are no
longer a slave but a child, and if a child then also an heir, through God.
It is our spiritual rebirth through water and the Spirit that is proof we are the children of God with the right to call Him "Abba" (Daddy in Aramaic) just as Jesus called God "Abba" (Mk 14:36).(2) It is a term a young child called his or her father and which Jews never used in their covenant relationship with God. The term suggests the child is completely dependent upon the parent for everything that sustains his life, and is therefore a fitting expression of affection for the relationship between the Christian and God the Father.
Question: What is the inheritance we receive as
sons and daughters who are the heirs of God our Father?
Answer: To continue to live in the immortal state of eternal salvation.
8 At a time when
you did not know God, you became slaves to things that by nature are not gods; 9 but now that you have come to know God, or
rather to be known by God, how can you turn back again to the weak and
destitute elemental powers? Do you want to be slaves to them all over again?
Question: What is Paul referring to in verse 8?
Answer: When Paul refers to "things that by nature are not gods", he means pagan gods that by nature do not exist.
Question: Drawing on the arguments he made in
verses 3:1 and 4:7, Paul now asks the Galatians what question?
Answer: He asks how they can turn back to those same things that made them slaves all over again. Paganism made them slaves and the old Law will do the same.
He poses the question in relation to their bondage to the "elemental powers" because the Galatians had been pagans but were converted from paganism to Christianity and not from Judaism.
10 You are
observing days, months, seasons, and years.
This is a reference to the Galatians being encouraged by the Judaizers to celebrate the festivals of the Sinai Covenant that was governed by a lunar liturgical calendar. Under the old Covenant the people were command to observe days, months, seasons and years:
Question: What did Paul write about the
observances of these old Covenant feasts in Colossians 2:16, 20? What did he
Answer: He wrote: Let no one, then, pass judgment on you in matters of food and drink or with regard to a festival or new moon or Sabbath. These are shadows of things to come; the reality belongs to Christ (Col 1:16). He also wrote, If you died with Christ to the elemental powers of the world, why do you submit to regulations as if you were still living in the world? (Col 2:20) Paul's point to the Colossians was not to let anyone criticize them for not observing the dietary requirements and feasts of the Old Covenant Church. All the old dietary prohibitions and liturgical calendar feasts only pointed to the coming of Christ and were fulfilled in Him. To submit to the old requirements denies the work of Christ and condemns them to "still living in the world" instead of being divinely transform in Christ to be made ready for eternity in Heaven.
11 I am afraid on
your account that perhaps I have labored for you in vain.
Question: Why does Paul say that the observance of these feasts from the Sinai Covenant may show he has labored in vain on their behalf to bring them the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Why are those feasts no longer important?
Answer: The observance of the old Covenant feasts was an indication of how completely the Judaizers had influenced the Galatians. Those observances were important in the past age, but they have no relevance in the Messianic Era where new feasts in the life of the Church have replaced them. To continue to celebrate them is to refuse to let go of the past. It is also a failure to fully embrace the new Messianic Age and the new remembrance feasts that celebrate the life of the Messiah and the birth of His Kingdom-Church.
Galatians 4:12-20 ~ A Personal Appeal to Follow Paul's Example
12 I implore you, brothers, be as I am, because I have also become as you are. You did me no wrong; 13 you know that it was because of a physical illness that I originally preached the Gospel to you, 14 and you did not show distain or contempt because of the trial caused you by my physical condition, but rather you received me as an angel of God, as Christ Jesus. 15 Where now is that blessedness of yours? Indeed, I can testify to you that, if it had been possible, you would have torn out your eyes and given them to me. 16 So now have I become your enemy by taking you the truth? 17 They show interest in you, but not in a good way; they want to isolate you, so that you may show interest in them. 18 Now it is good to be shown interest for good reason at all times, and not only when I am with you. 19 My children, for whom I am again in labor until Christ be formed in you! 20 I would like to be with you now and to change my tone, for I am perplexed because of you.
After using several theological arguments to urge the Galatians to return to the Gospel he taught them and to reject circumcision, Paul now changes course and makes an emotional and personal appeal to the Galatians to remember his past close relationship with them:
He urges them to be as I am, because I have also become as you are. His meaning is that they should be like him by living by faith and not by the dictates of the Law by which he was raised as a Jew. He is now like them because he does not live by the Mosaic Law and together they live as brothers/sisters in Christ.
You did me no wrong...
The Galatians did not treat Paul unjustly as an outsider when he visited them but received him and his Gospel openly. However, now that they are subscribing to circumcision, they are implying that his Gospel was deficient or incomplete.
13 you know that
it was because of a physical illness that I originally preached the Gospel to
you, 14 and you did not show
distain or contempt because of the trial caused you by my physical condition,
but rather you received me as an angel of God, as Christ Jesus. 15 Where now is that blessedness of yours?
Indeed, I can testify to you that, if it had been possible, you would have torn
out your eyes and given them to me.
Paul reminds them of the kindness they showed him when he was ill. In the ancient world, it was common to view illness as an affliction caused by evil spirits. This fear often resulted in the ill person being ostracized from a community. The Galatians, however, welcome Paul despite his illness and did not ridicule him (verse 14). It is an illness that is unspecified, but because Paul mentions "eyes" in verse 15 some commentators suggest he suffered from an eye infection. However, Paul may simply be emphasizing the esteem with which the Galatians once held him, since the eye was considered to be one of the most prized members of the body. His ailment may be related to the "thorn in the flesh" he mentions in 2 Corinthians 12:7. Whatever the affliction, it was necessary for him to stay with the Galatians for an extended period of time.
15 Where now is that blessedness of yours? Paul uses the Greek word markarios [literally ho makarismos hymon = "that blessedness of yours"]. It is the same word Jesus used in His discourse on the Beatitudes, beginning each of the 7 (or 8 as one counts them) beatitudes with the same word. They have forfeited that blessedness promised by Jesus in the new law that brings an internal and intensified blessing for the old Law that only brought judgment for sin.
but rather you received me as an angel of God, as Christ Jesus.
The Greek word "angelos" can mean a human messenger or a divine messenger who is an angel (as in Gal 1:8). The point is in when Paul preached to the Galatians, they received him as a messenger of God as they would have received Jesus Christ Himself.
Question: What Paul writes in this verse reminds us of what Jesus said in Matthew 10:40. What was Jesus' message to His disciples in that verse?
Answer: Jesus told His disciples, "Whoever receives you receives me, and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me," referring to God the Father.
16 So now have I
become your enemy by taking you the truth? 17
They show interest in you, but not in a good way; they want to isolate
you, so that you may show interest in them.
The Judaizers, who have misled the community, have attempted to destroy Paul's reputation and to make him an "enemy" of the Galatian community. Paul defends himself as having pure motives in only having told them the truth of the Gospel. He warns them that the motives of the Judaizers were not pure.
Question: What were their motives?
Answer: They wanted to isolate the Galatians from the truth and blessings of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, from the unity of the Church, and from Paul.
18 Now it is good
to be shown interest for good reason at all times, and not only when I am with
you. 19 My children, for whom I am
again in labor until Christ be formed in you! 20 I would like to be with you now and to change my tone, for I
am perplexed because of you.
Paul tells them that he is still interested in their welfare and wants to continue to work with them until they are transformed by the Gospel of Christ. Notice that he not only expresses the desire to "change my tone" with them but actually does change his tone by calling them "my children" instead of "stupid Galatians." He is still, however, amazed that they could so easily abandon the Gospel of Christ that he taught them.
19 My children [tekna], for whom I am again in labor [odinein] until Christ be formed in you!
Paul sees the Galatians as his tekna (children) because he is the founder of their community (see 1 Cor 4:14-15; 1 Thes 2:7; Phlm 10). Except for Galatians 4:27 and Revelation 12:2, this is the only use of the Greek word odinein, which means "suffering in birth pains." Biblical scholar B. Gaventa writes that this Greek word "never refers to the mere fact of a birth, but always to the accompanying anguish." Gaventa writes that Paul anguish is not simply a personal matter concerning the defection of the Galatians, but also "reflects the anguish of the whole created order as it awaits the fulfillment of God's action in Jesus Christ" (Gaventa, The Maternity of Paul, pages 192-94; quoted in Sacra Pagina: Galatians, page 161.) Paul not only suffered these birth pains when he founded the community, but he continues to endure the pains because of their defection until "Christ be formed" in the community again.
20 I would like to be with you now...
This is the point in many of Paul's other letters that he usually announces a future visit (see Rom 15:14-33; 1 Cor 4:14-21; 2 Cor 12:14-13:13; Phil 2:19-24; 1 Thes 2:17-3:13; Phlm 21-22). Considering the problems he is having with the Galatians, it is odd that he is not planning a visit. Perhaps there is a more serious crisis that requires his attention. The crisis requiring his immediate attention could be his mission to go to the Council of Jerusalem with Barnabas and other members of the faith community at Antioch to settle the issue of what is to be required for Gentile converts (see Acts 15:1-3). The record of the meeting of the council and the decision is found in Acts 15:6-35. It is unlikely the visit to Jerusalem Paul writes about in Galatians 2:1-10 is about the Council of Jerusalem since Paul does not mention the proceedings of the Council that included the arguments of the Judaizers, his testimony, the addresses to the Council by Sts. Peter and James, and the definitive decision of the entire Council. The decision of the Council was that Gentiles should not be required to be circumcised or observe other articles of the old Law, but they should observe some requirements that affirmed their break with paganism. The decision of the universal Church was written down in letters and sent with emissaries to Antioch and other faith communities, ending the dispute. If Paul was writing after the Council of Jerusalem, it seems reasonable that he would have told the Galatians that they also would be receiving a letter that carried the authority of the Church.
Galatians 4:21-31 ~ An Allegory on Christian Freedom
21 Tell me, you who want to be under the law, do you not listen to the law? 22 For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by the slave woman and the other by the freeborn woman. 23 The son of the slave woman was born naturally, the son of the freeborn through a promise. 24 Now this is an allegory. These women represent two covenants. One was from Mount Sinai, bearing children for slavery; this is Hagar. 25 Hagar represents Sinai, a mountain in Arabia; it corresponds to the present Jerusalem, for she is in slavery along with her children. 26 But the Jerusalem above is freeborn, and she is our mother. 27 For it is written: "Rejoice, you barren one who bore no children; break froth and shout, you who were not in labor; for more numerous are the children of the deserted one than of her who has a husband." 28 Now you, brothers, like Isaac, are children of the promise. 29 But just as then the child of the flesh persecuted the child of the spirit, it is the same now. 30 But what does the Scripture say? "Drive out the slave woman and her son! For the son of the slave woman shall not share the inheritance with the son" of the freeborn. 31 Therefore, brothers, we are children not of the slave woman but of the freeborn woman.
St. Paul continues to support of his Gospel by using Scripture to further his argument as he did in Galatians 3:6-18. This time he tells an allegory using the relationship of Abraham with his wife, Sarah, who was a freeborn woman, and Hagar, the Egyptian slave woman. The focus of the allegory is the contrast between the sons of Abraham born to each of the women: Isaac who was the son of Abraham's legal wife, Sarah, and Ishmael the son of the slave woman, Hagar.
Paul quotes from two passages from Old Testament Scripture:
Question: In Paul's allegory what do the two sons
and their mothers represent? See Gen 17:15-21; 18:11-14.
Answer: Hagar represents the city of Jerusalem and Temple worship in Paul's day that taught the commands and prohibitions of the Sinai covenant and bound the children of Israel in a kind of slavery to the Law. In contrast Sarah and her son Isaac, the "son of promise", represent the promised freedom of the New Covenant in Jesus Christ and the new Jerusalem "above", "our mother" from which children are born into the New Covenant Church "born supernaturally like Isaac "from above" or "again" through water and the Spirit in Christian Baptism (Jn 3:3-5). Ishmael was a threat to Isaac and his inheritance, just as the Jews have become a threat to Christians (verse 29) who are the heirs of the promise like Isaac.
Old Covenant worship/earthly Jerusalem
New Covenant worship/heavenly Jerusalem
|Hagar was a slave/the Old Covenant worship was a form of slavery to the Law.||Sarah was freeborn/the New Covenant offers freedom in Christ Jesus.|
|Hagar's son was born naturally ("of the flesh") as the son of a slave.||Sarah's son was born from God (supernaturally) as the freeborn son and heir of the covenant promises made to Abraham.|
|Circumcision under the Old Covenant only yields "children" bound by an earthly covenant under the old Law.||The Sacrament of Baptism yields "children" who are born supernaturally as heirs of the covenant promises made to Abraham*.|
*the covenant promises made to Abraham were a nation, many children, and a world-wide blessing, all of which was fulfilled in Christ and His Kingdom of the Church (Gen 12:1-3).
Notice that in verse 25 that Paul, who spent several years in Arabia, says that Mt. Sinai, where the covenant between God and the children of Israel was ratified, was in Arabia.(3)
In our final lesson, Paul will offer a conclusion to the allegory in 4:21-31, and he will conclude his letter with an exhortation to the Galatians on the importance of living in the spirit of Christian liberty.
Questions for reflection or group discussion:
According to St. Paul, what is the process that results in divine adoption for the Christian? When were you adopted into the family of God, and what did Paul mean in Galatians 4:6 when he wrote "As proof that you are children, God sent the spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying out, "Abba, Father!"
1. Paul will use Sarah and Hagar and their sons as Biblical "types" in Gal 4:21-31.
2. The Aramaic word "Abba" is only found in Scripture in Mk 14:36; Rom 8:15; and Gal 4:1.
3. What Paul writes concerning Mt. Sinai being in Arabia is consistent with what we know of the national division of land in the time of Moses. The Sinai Peninsula is the tradition site of Mt. Sinai, but it has been identified and named "Sinai" only since the 4th century AD. What we call the Sinai Peninsula belonged to the Egyptians in Moses time as it does today. It was in the land of Midian where Moses served his father-in-law Jethro, kept his sheep, where Moses had his burning bush experience, and where he returned to the same site to ratify the covenant. It was not in the Egyptian territory now called the Sinai Peninsula but in the land of Midian in Arabia. There is a mountain in modern Saudi Arabia that has been called Jebel Musa ("Mountain of Moses") by local tribesmen for over a thousand years, and which a number of modern scholars believe is the true site of Mt. Sinai. Another candidate for Mt. Sinai in Saudi Arabia is Jebel-al-Lawz ("Mountain of the Law"). The word "Sinai" is believed to be from the Hebrew word sene (pronounced say-nay) which is translated "bush" in Exodus 3:2, 3, and 4.
Michal Hunt, Copyright © 2016 Agape Bible Study. Permissions All Rights Reserved.
|Gal 3:23||CCC 1963-64|
|Gal 3:24||CCC 582*, 708, 1963*|
|Gal 3:27-28||CCC 791|
|Gal 4:4||CCC 484, 488, 527*, 531*, 580*, 702|
|Gal 4:5-7||CCC 1265*|
|Gal 4:6||CCC 683, 689, 693, 742, 1695, 2766|
|Gal 4:19||CCC 526, 562*, 793|
|Gal 4:21-31||CCC 1972*|
|Gal 4:26-28||CCC 723*|
|Gal 4:26||CCC 757|