Historical Evidence of Jesus Christ’s Resurrection

by Jack Wellman on March 3, 2012 · Print Print · Email Email

There are many skeptics of Jesus Christ and of His resurrection.  Can it be proven as an actual historical event?  Are we to believe only on faith?  What empirical, concrete evidence do we have today that Jesus Christ indeed was resurrected from the dead?  Can His resurrection be proven?

Historical Evidence of The Resurrection of Jesus

Christians believe in Jesus Christ and know that He lives today.

History is His-Story

Christians believe in Jesus Christ and know that He lives today.  They also believe the Bible.  They trust what is recorded in sacred Scripture.  They trust in the Savior and His atoning work for their redemption at Calvary.  But what about those who can not believe or choose not to believe that Jesus Christ was raised from the dead?  They might believe that Jesus existed – that He was a good person, a teacher, or a prophet, but they just can’t believe that He died and was raised to life.  What can you tell your non-believing friends that will persuade them that Jesus did die and was raised to life so that they can trust in Him with their life?  There is actual evidence that trusting in Christ is more than a hope-so faith but a know-so faith.

Expert Evidence

More secular or non-Christian historians have written about Jesus Christ than any other single person in human history.  It is no fluke that historians have long focused on the God-man Jesus Christ who is the single, most influential person of all time.  He had more impact on the world than did the most powerful human leaders and dictators ever dreamed of.  Many of these men have come and gone and have left little influence on the world around them.

Simon Greenleaf (1783-1853) was and still is known as the greatest expert in judicial testimony ever.  This America attorney wrote a book called, “Testimony of the Evangelists” in which he recounts the hundreds of eye-witness accounts of Jesus’ life, His ministry, His death, and His resurrection.  He views these recorded testimonies in the New Testament as lines of evidence that would hold up in a court of law even today.  This is important because there is no statue of limitations on murder.  Part of Greenleaf’s evidence included the thousands and thousands of martyrdoms, the global spread of Christianity, and a persistent-through-persecution faith that millions of believers have died for as proof that this God-man and His ministry was no fake.   As has been stated, many people would live for a lie, but few would be willing to die for one, yet millions over the years have died for a faith that they believe in to the uttermost.

Secular Historians on Jesus Christ

When Jesus was crucified, He was crucified on a hill and the way that Romans executed criminals at the time, it was widely known and those who were crucified had their crosses placed by high-traffic roads which served as a warning to anyone who dared to rebel in the Roman Empire.  Paul gave an answer to King Agrippa for his faith in Christ, stating that it was done openly and for all to see and even the king knew about it, saying “The king is familiar with these things, and I can speak freely to him. I am convinced that none of this has escaped his notice, because it was not done in a corner” (Acts 26:26).  King Agrippa had a chance to dispute this testimony but could not since he had been aware of this fact and Paul said that everyone clearly knew about it “because it was not done in a corner.”  The Bible is seen largely as a historical document that has clear support in archeology, paleontology, and history.  The book of Psalms predicted the punishment of crucifixion hundreds of years before it had actually occurred or was known of (Psalm 22, Isaiah 52:13-15, 53:1-12, etc.)

Scholar Gary Habermas has written that five historical facts about Christ have never been disputed as being true about Jesus Christ:  His earthly life as a man, His ministry on earth, His crucifixion, His death, and His resurrection by the hundreds of eye witnesses who saw Him after His resurrection (Luke 24, Mark 16, John 20, Matt 28, Act 1:3-4, 2:31-32, 9:3, 17, I Cor 15:4-8, 9:1, II Pet 1:16, etc.). Perhaps the most famous of all Jewish Historians, Flavius Josephus, who was not a believer, wrote Jewish historical annals for the Roman Empire. He also wrote about Jesus Christ, including His widely testified life after death in the Antiquities of the Jews.  Even the  19th century, world-renowned historian and professor at the distinguished Oxford University, Dr. Thomas Arnold wrote publicly that “I know of no one fact in the history of mankind which is proved by better and fuller evidence of every sort, to the understanding of a fair inquirer…” than the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Look at this list of famous historians, including Roman ones, that risked their reputations and in some cases, their very lives, on reporting the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ:

Pliny the Younger (62-114AD)
Gaius Suetonius Tranquillus (75-130AD)
Cornelius Tacitus (55-120AD)
Pontius Pilate’s wife’s written letter Recollections of the last occurrences from the Life of The Jesus Christ (she was known to believe that He was from God)
Publius Lentulus (ruler of Judea) wrote a letter to Roman emperor Tiberius (resides in a private library in England, found 1865 AD).
Pontius Pilate, Roman governor, wrote a report to Roman Caesar Tiberius in Jerusalem, 28.III 4147.year since creation)
Celsus (170 AD)
Lucian of Samoset (160 AD)
Tacitus (70 AD)
Others included Africanus, Origen, Suetonius, Pliny the Younger, and Eusebius of Caesarea, and even the Syrian philosopher, Mara Bar-Serapion.

Biblical Lineage of Jesus Christ

Much of the Bible is a historical document in itself.  The lineages of the patriarchal fathers are recorded because they eventually lead to The Seed, which is Jesus Christ, the prophesied coming Messiah.  The actual census that was ordered by the king for taxing purposes has been validated as a historical fact.  What is recorded in the Bible has been authenticated by archeological digs, paleontological finds, and historical records.  Even the Creed is a historical document of the doctrines of the Christian faith and they record the certainty of Jesus life, death, burial, and His resurrection.

The family lineage of Jesus Christ recorded in Luke chapter one is precise, historical data that the meticulous Jewish historians never argued with.  The Jews were notorious for strict, religious recordings of their history and their dealings with the peoples that their nation was involved in.  The names of all of these men and some women were historical facts as well.  The genealogies found in the Old Testament are connected with those of the New Testament (e.g., in Numbers and in Luke 1) and they point directly to the fact that Jesus was of the royal family of David of whose seed would come the promised Messiah (Isaiah 9:5-7, 2 Samuel 7, Ezek 37:22-28, Matt 22:41-45, Mark 12:35-37, 2 Chron 21:7, etc.).

The Creed

The Modern English version of the Creed states the foundational beliefs of the church that Jesus Christ founded:

I believe in Jesus Christ, God’s only Son, our Lord,
who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
born of the Virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died, and was buried;
he descended to the dead.
On the third day he rose again;
he ascended into heaven,
he is seated at the right hand of the Father,
and he will come again to judge the living and the dead.

Christians lived and died for believing in and writing the Creed that stands as a historical testimony to the faith that was once delivered.  In fact, the knowledge of Jesus’ crucifixion, burial and resurrection was so important to the early church that within the first three to eight years after His death, a Creed was created. The Creed’s purpose was intended to protect these eye witness accounts and codify their testimonies accurately, both for present and future generations. Within a few years, some churches had already been infiltrated with other doctrines like Gnosticism. The Gnostics felt it was through knowledge that salvation comes and was only for a special few. The Creed announces to everyone publicly that the only way to salvation is through Jesus Christ alone (Acts 4:12, 16:30-31, etc.). The Creed may have grown over the years, yet its basic tenets have not. The only reason that it has grown was to resist un-sound biblical doctrines and has acted as a hedge against heresy and other (false) gospels. The Creed was not written from a blind-faith perspective or suppositions, but from eye-witnesses who initially had seen these things with their own eyes.

Even agnostics and some ex-atheists have come to realize that Jesus Christ lived, died, and was raised again. C.S. Lewis came to this knowledge through experience.  He was raised in a Christian home yet left his belief to become a stated atheist but after years of intellectual struggle, this former staunch atheist became one of the greatest Christian apologists in history.  Another famous ex-atheist is a leading British philosopher, Anthony Flew.  He was a stalwart atheist for over 50 years but later came to the conclusion that God must exist.  Flew reasoned that, “The evidence for the resurrection alone is better than [that] for claimed miracles of all other religions.  Their leaders are buried and still in their graves.  Jesus tomb was found empty!”

A Definition of Faith

Hebrews 11:1 gives us a God-given definition of faith and it is not what the world believes a Christian faith is.  It says that faith is the “substance (literally “grounded confidence“) of things hoped for, the evidence (proof) of things not seen (Jesus’ and the Passion)”. Even the dictionary defines faith that seems to perfectly fit the Christian’s faith as being an “allegiance to duty or a person… loyalty”, “belief and trust in God”, and “confidence in something/someone.”  Faith actually involves an act of the will. A person chooses to believe in something based upon what they know or have come to know.  Faith is a verb (action) not a noun. Even a tight-rope walker acts on their own belief that they can make it across and chooses to walk the tight-rope. It is impossible to please God without faith but faith in Christ is so simple that even a child can follow it (Heb 11:6).  It is also a gift of God (Eph 2:8).  No one seeks after God (Rom 3:11) but it is not blind faith either.  Faith in God has proof, evidence, substance, certainty, and confidence.

Evangelist, pastor, teacher, and author Ravi Zacharias  said that the resurrection from the dead was the ultimate proof that in history — and in empirically verifiable means — the Word of God was made certain. Otherwise, the experience on the Mount of Transfiguration would have been good enough. Even the apostle Peter says that “We have the Word of the prophets made more certain … as to a light shining in a dark place” (2 Pet 1:19).  Peter certainly testified to the authority and person of Christ, and the resurrected person of Christ, being an eyewitness and he paid with his life for it.  Christ told Peter and all who would believe will be resurrected some day, for if God has said it, it is certainly a fact and God can not lie (Heb 6:18, Rom 3:4, (I. Cor. 6:14).

One of my degrees is in history.  In fact, I was a charter member of the Historical Sorority on Newman University in Wichita, Kansas, a private university that was one of the top 15 highest accredited universities in the nation at the time.  I am not bragging because I too was a skeptic at one time, but the more I studied the historicity of Jesus Christ and His resurrection, the more I became certain of its factualness.  As I said earlier, it is not a hope-so but a know-so faith.  You can believe it. And when you choose to believe it, the truth will set you free (John 8:32). My prayer is that you will also believe and in believing, you will have eternal life (John 5:24, 1 John 5:13).

Check out this article also with some interesting Bible facts of Jesus:

10 Interesting Bible Facts About Jesus

Resources:

New International Version Bible
THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide

Drawing Credit: Sara Telling



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{ 23 comments… read them below or add one }

William March 4, 2012 at 4:36 am

I was such a sinner, if I would have died I would have gone straight to hell. I ended up in prison. It was there that the Lord Jesus came to me and opened up Hell to me. I saw and heard the roaring flames, I also smelt the burning brimstone and fire. And I heard the Lord Jesus say to me, “One more step and you end up here!” I was so scared I dropped on the prison cell floor and said to Him, I don’t care what you do to me I don’t want to go to Hell.” And He saved me. Praise Jesus!
I’m am just writing this to say how much I appreciate what you have posted above. It is really encouraging for someone like me. I hope to read many more from you.
Most Sincerely
Your Brother in Christ,
William
(London England)

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Jack Wellman March 4, 2012 at 2:02 pm

Amen William to your powerful testimony my friend. This truly is the power of God that He redeems us from the pit of hell and crowns us with His love (Psalm 103). Your story seems close to what I went thru and when I came to the end of myself, there was God waiting all the time. I thank God that you wrote this William, for truly, no one is outside of the bounds of His saving grace.

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Sophia March 4, 2012 at 6:43 am

This is a very interesting and well written article! :)

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Jack Wellman March 4, 2012 at 2:03 pm

Thank you Sophia. Isn’t our God an awesome God and just as we can prove that He lived then, He still lives today to make men and women free from sin and bring us into a relationship with the Father.

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joan April 2, 2012 at 2:56 am

thanks alot for your encourangement give me for the ground of giving tenth and offerings

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Jack April 2, 2012 at 6:12 pm

I should be thanking you…in fact, I do thank you and thank God for you. I am so glad you enjoyed this. He is risen and that is an indisputable fact and because He rose, we too will rise someday.

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Robert Driskell April 2, 2012 at 9:37 pm

My friend Jack,
What a wonderful article to offer people during this Easter season. We, as Christians, have place our faith in Jesus. He is the center around which everything revolves. He is so worthy of our praise and worship. This article reminds us that our faith is grounded in history: Jesus lived and died in the flesh, on this earth, for our sins. And He was resurrected in mighty power and He lives today. I thank you Jack for encouraging believers and giving unbelievers the truth to ponder.
Yours in Christ,
Robert

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Jack Wellman April 2, 2012 at 9:43 pm

Thank you Robert. Oh that a skeptic or an atheist or an agnostic would see with the eyes of faith for it is impossible to please God without it, yet ours is not a blind faith. It is grounded in empirical, verifiable evidence. This is no hope-so faith in Christ but a know-so faith with which we can have assurance. Thank you brother and friend in Christ Jesus. Yes, He is so worthy to be worshiped, praised, glorified, and honored. May I be used to do all of these in His perfect and divine, sovereign will my friend.

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Jay Osborne July 1, 2012 at 1:37 pm

Hey Jack,
When are you going to quit lying and admit the truth,that there is no,ZERO reliable proof or evidence that the miracle worker,crucified and resurrected from the dead Jesus ever walked on this earth.There is no history of Jesus the miracle worker so why do you keep claiming there is?Not a single contemporary historian or philosopher(and plenty were living and writing)knows one thing about a miracle worker,crucified,and resurrected Jesus.The secular writers christianity and you like to claim are proofs of Jesus in no way prove a historical Jesus,it is simply a lie to claim that.Two early church fathers even say Jesus was not crucified that he died of old age,i doubt you can even name those two?
You can call Simon Greenleaf a smart person if you want however i would not even want him to represent me as an attorney,his only supposed proofs come from circular reasoning,allowing the N.T.to prove itself,of course that is a worthless theory.You are completely wrong that the 2 geneaologies in Matt.chap.one and Luke chap.three lead to the seed(bloodline) of David or Soloman,those 2 geneaologies could never show Jesus from the bloodline of David or Solomon as the O.T.claims the Messiah would come from.
Neither do the claimed prophecies from the O.T.Jesus supposedly fulfilled hoold any merit at all.If you read them carefully in the O.T.they are pulled out of context with surrounding verses and made to seem propheciies fulfilled they were never prophecies of a Messiah to begin with.I thought you studied at a prestigeous college on history,you certainly are not showing it taught you much.The apostle Peter did not write second Peter therefore the writer whoever he was can only be repeating heresay.As far as your faith the definition of faith is:Faith is a belief despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary.I suggest you start re-studying history with an open mind because your history above is lousy.
Sincerely without malice,just real truth,
Jay Osborne

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Jack Wellman July 1, 2012 at 4:08 pm

Thank you Jay for your comment. Peter did not write Second Peter? What is your evidence to prove such a point? You would take the word of “two early church fathers” who claimed Jesus did not die over thousands of eye witnesses of the early church itself?

You wrote that you thought I studied at a prestigious (I corrected your spelling on that word) college. Do you even know which it is?

Let’s say that in a hundred or a thousand years someone writes about you and someone denies that you even existed. You have exponentially less evidence for ever having existed than Jesus Christ and all I can say to you is I am sorry you do not believe in God. If what you are saying is true, you are calling God (which is what the Word of God is – God’s Word) a liar. If you do not believe in Jesus Christ then way are you so upset with this my friend?

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Mary Paula Grimes October 5, 2012 at 12:56 pm

“Doubting Thomas”s. . . . . .my Mother & Father were both such devout Christians. My Father was President of the Christian Men’s Association in the State in which I live. Each morning, when I arise, I thank God for another beautiful day; and renounce Satan. He is multiplying at a rapid capacity. . . .we must wipe him out of the United States of America. “Roe vs. Wade”: humongous error in human judgement. God Bless You, Paula

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Pebry Brahmana April 3, 2013 at 12:27 am

I am always curious whether people who do not know Jesus or not trust in him really rejected in heaven. Is our God that unfair?

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Jack Wellman April 3, 2013 at 7:23 pm

Thank you Mrs. Brahmana for your comment and question. The amazing thing is that not only some are saved but that anyone is saved! If God were fair, then none of us deserve forgiveness. As for whether people who don’t know about Jesus should be judged or condemned or not, please check out this article that answers your question about “What Happens to People That Have Not Heard the Gospel of Jesus” at:

http://www.whatchristianswanttoknow.com/what-happens-to-people-that-have-not-heard-the-gospel-of-jesus/

I think it will give you more on what you are concerned about. Ultimately, God is not only fair, He is more than fair for as Peter wrote in 2:Pet 3:9 “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.”

God never sends anyone to hell against their will. They have free will to choose or reject Jesus. For those who want nothing to do with God, He will not force anyone into heaven when they don’t want anything to do with God.

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Danny May 26, 2013 at 5:11 pm

Hello Jack, this is such a wonderful & assuring article proving Jesus Christ died & physically rose again; thank you for posting!

If an atheist or skeptic asked me: “What proof or evidence do you have to suggest that Christianity is true? What can you show me?” My answer would be Christ’s death & resurrection (& the Greatest Act of Love) because the evidence, in my opinion, is simply overwhelming.

The Old Testament even prophecised Christ’s resurrection in Psalm 16:10 & Psalm 30:3.
Medical evidence suggests that Jesus died on the cross having suffered from Hypovolemic shock.
He was buried with a stone weighing two tons guarding the tomb, with a guard & a special seal placed on the stone (Matt 27:66). Anybody who tampered with or broke the seal would suffer serious consequences & even death by crucifixion. Now who would want to try & take Jesus’ body? I sure wouldn’t!!!
Some might say the witnesses were just hallucinating over Jesus’ resurrection or it could have even been a spiritual resurrection…yet 500 people hallucinating over the same thing doesn’t add up medically & remember: Jesus’ physical body was not in the tomb 3 days later. What happened to the body & why wasn’t it produced?
Some might say that Jesus’ body was stolen but more problems with this: if that was the case, then why didn’t the body takers, while the disciples were preaching the gospel, come forward with Jesus’ body to disprove the whole thing saying: “No, we’ve got the physical body – Jesus didn’t rise from the dead!” As far as I personally know, I don’t know any cases of this.
Finally as you also said Jack, countless historians Jewish, Christian & secular all agree with Christ’s death & resurrection.

Thanks again for posting the article Jack; God Bless you my friend :)
Greetings from London UK,

Danny

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Jack Wellman May 26, 2013 at 5:39 pm

Danny, thank you so much for your kinds words sir. Greetings to you in the UK my friend. Speaking of historians Jesus’ existence as a historical fact is the most verified, widely written about, most historical evidenced figure in all of human history to have existed. In fact, this is concrete, objective evidence in this link you might also be interested in that shows even secular historians acknowledged that Jesus Christ did exist as a real Person. This is indisputable, irrefutable evidence that can not be contradicted. Please check out this link below.

http://www.whatchristianswanttoknow.com/what-historical-evidence-is-there-to-support-the-existence-of-jesus-christ/

By the way, atheists argue that these historical records, just like the Bible, where written by man and therefore can not be certain. Ask them how then can they believe anything at all since all they have known has been learned from men who wrote down things (like in their schooling). How about this….if a thousand years from now how can we be sure that this person, the atheist, ever existed either!

For more on how we know that the Bible is God speaking, check this out:

http://www.whatchristianswanttoknow.com/how-do-we-know-the-bible-is-true-is-it-really-the-word-of-god/

And the mountains of historical evidence verifies the Bible at:

http://www.whatchristianswanttoknow.com/does-archeology-support-the-bible-a-look-at-the-evidence/

Hope these help. Happy studying sir and thank my friend.

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William, Hackney, London. UK. May 26, 2013 at 7:15 pm

Hello Danny, If you ever visit Dalston Market in Ridley Road Hackney on a Friday or Saturday (11-3), and you see a fat old man in a red jacket distributing Gospel Tracts, stop and say ‘Hello’ – it’s me.
I like your contribution.
I also like this:
Some time ago I read a local advice column that featured a reader’s question about the Resurrection. The reader asked, “Dear Uticus, Our preacher said that Jesus swooned on the cross and then His disciples nursed Him to health. What do you think? Signed, Bewildered.” Uticus responded, “Dear Bewildered, Beat your preacher with a cat-o’-nine-tails thirty-nine times. Nail him to a cross. Hang him in the sun for six hours. Run a spear through his side, embalm him, and put him in an airless tomb for thirty-six hours and see what happens. Sincerely, Uticus.”
Uticus’ response points to the ridiculousness of the swoon theory. Amazingly enough, people still subscribe to this theory. Not because it’s plausible. Not because it’s logical, but because it’s something to hang their doubt on. The truth of the matter is that Jesus Christ has risen!
Kind regards,
William
and to you Jack

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Jack Wellman May 26, 2013 at 7:40 pm

Well done sir. I don’t believe I would like to take a crack at the “swoon theory” at all for I would not be able to be recovered I do believe. You make an excellent point sir.

As for that “preacher,” why, he would be better off selling used cars with the credibility he now has. Thank you William. What a pleasure my good friend. Delightful comment.

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anthony July 23, 2014 at 1:25 am

so you saying it will have you stumble in your belief. i heard of a swoon theory I’m trying to to refute the swoon theory then again is doesn’t matter because God cannot lie Jesus really did died and rose from the dead

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Jack Wellman July 23, 2014 at 7:53 am

Anthony, thank you sir for your question. I think that we all stumble at times and we have times of doubt, but the swoon theory is still a “theory” because it has no historical evidence nor does it have any biblical evidence…yes, it doesn’t matter anyway, because as you rightfully said, “God cannot lie and Jesus really was raised from the dead.” Amen. Thank you.

Laura July 18, 2013 at 6:06 pm

What a well written article.I have been a christian just about my whole life,I have all the proof I need, every time I read my bible.Godly written and inspired!!

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Jack Wellman July 18, 2013 at 6:32 pm

Thank you Laura. I appreciate your comments. Yes, we have the witness of the Holy Spirit is true real and He is alive and died for us and this is a fact of history…which I call His-story.

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Vincenzo January 23, 2014 at 6:13 am

Jack, brother, just a quick one: what’s your source for stating that Dr. Arnold was an atheist? I didn’t know about him before, but a quick search would seem to reveal he was somewhat an Anglican?

Blessings in Christ,

Vincenzo

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Jack Wellman January 23, 2014 at 7:26 am

I corrected the mistake Vincenzo. I am not sure how that got by me but no excuse. I corrected it and with thanks to you for this Vincenzo. This proves that the Word of God is without error…humans, not so much. LOL

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