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Religion is a Convenient Scapegoat for the Atheist (Chuck Missler)

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Religion is often blamed for the miseries of the world. An “Imagine No Religion” billboard has just gone up in St. Louis, and most people get the point even if they disagree with it. If it were not for religion, after all, there would have been no Spanish Inquisition, no Taliban, no World Trade Center bombing, no human sacrifices to various and sundry gods. Religious wars would be conspicuously absent from world history and nobody would follow cult leaders in sipping down toxic Kool-Aid. Richard Dawkins’ book The God Delusion spends the first page of the Preface going through the evils that have been done in the name of religion. Yet, while atheists love to blame zealous believers for the world’s sufferings, they have missed the true problem. Yes, much earthly evil has been done in the name of one deity or another, but religion isn’t the real problem. The real problem is …. human nature.

Religion is a convenient scapegoat for the atheist, who wants to justify himself in a world of believers. The atheist has a serious problem in blaming the evils of the world on religion, though. For every complaint against religious people, there are plenty of complaints to be made against the faithless.

Have people been slaughtered in the name of religion? Certainly. Yet, the Crusades are a drop in the bucket compared to the massive death toll caused by atheistic regimes. The leaders of the French Revolution shoved God out of their social justice crusade, and the result was a blood bath. Stalin is responsible for the deaths of at least 20 million of his own people, and Mao Zedong’s death toll runs upwards of 40-70 million. From Pol Pot in Cambodia to the Kims in North Korea, governments freed of “religion” – those utopias of atheistic communism – have murdered millions upon millions of people. People of various religions continue to fight all around the world, but, anti-God governments streamline human death. Any time people get starry-eyed about imagining “no religion too” they need a little history lesson.

The problem isn’t religion or even lack thereof. The problem is humanity. Human beings have this propensity for violence and greed, for self aggrandizement and selfish laziness. We struggle – and sometimes succeed – to overcome these things, but they are there inside us. As Paul writes in Romans 7:21-24:

“I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me. For I delight in the law of God after the inward man: But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?”

We all have that destructive sin nature inside us by birth. It’s there, and we spend our lives fighting it. If we were naturally good, it would be easy to be good and kind, generous and patient. If we were naturally good, it would be a heavy effort to be rotten. But, we find that we are just the opposite, always struggling to do what is right and constantly falling into that corruption that most people want so desperately to avoid.

Even the atheist wants to avoid the corruption, as far as his own conscience dictates. Atheists have consciences too, after all. Paul writes:

“For when the Gentiles, which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these, having not the law, are a law unto themselves: Which shew the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the mean while accusing or else excusing one another;” (Rom 2:14-15).

Atheists and humanists are quite capable of morality and moral decision making. Yet, in rejecting the True God, atheists and humanists make themselves their own gods, and because they have no greater yardstick to measure by, it often happens that they reject one evil only to turn around and embrace something far worse. The poor in France had good reason for anger against the spoiled aristocracy and opulent church in the late 18th century. But, having only man’s reasoning to depend on, and hearts full of vengeance, thousands of innocent people were murdered. The atheist has nobody but himself and the local legal system to help him do the good he wants to do, and that can lead easily into gross error. Humankind has excellent thinking ability, but we can easily use that brainpower to justify doing the evil we want to do rather than the good we should.

Yet, the atheist is not too far off when he looks at the religions of the world and feels massively unimpressed. Religion is not the salvation of the world. Religion can be useful in that it provides a framework in which to live, and gives people rules of right and wrong outside themselves. Yet, religion itself cannot change the human heart or free humans of their natural destructive tendencies. In fact, some religious sects actually promote violence and destruction.

Paul didn’t find the answer to his dilemma in religion. He found the answer in the person of Jesus Christ. He found his answer in the Spirit of God, working in human lives to cleanse and free and make new. And the Spirit of God is real, and He is powerful, and He continues to change millions of lives today. If more atheists were truly aware of the reality of God’s Spirit to heal and to transform, Richard Dawkins would sell fewer books.

“This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit” (Gal 5:16,22-25).

Life on this planet is hard, and Jesus never promised us anything different. He said we would have many troubles in this world, but he also said he had overcome the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. If we are filled with the Spirit, walking hand-in-hand with our King and Savior, His light is going to shine out of us to the lost and the dying. And if, in the midst of our own struggles and suffering, the reality of Christ is alive and well in us, anybody who is watching will see the difference between the truth and the false religions that have caused so much grief through the years. If people can see Christ in us, they won’t want to imagine a world without him.

“For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us. We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed; Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body” (2 Cor. 4:6-10).

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By Chuck Missler

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Hebrews – the Pivotal Epistle (Chuck Missler)

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The Epistle to the Hebrews is one of the two greatest theological treatises of the New Testament.1 This letter is, in a real sense, the “Leviticus” of the New Testament, detailing how the Lord Jesus Christ is both the fulfillment and the successor to all that had gone on before.

The extreme dilemma of the Jewish Christians — especially while the Temple was still standing — was their extreme predicament.

They had been drawn from a divinely appointed religion, with divinely appointed priests officiating in a divinely appointed Temple, accomplishing a divinely ordered service, all of which had been ennobled throughout their entire history.

How could believing priests and Pharisees remain “zealous of the Law”? It was, after all, the Jewish world that had crucified Christ and was repudiating Him.

This letter was clearly aimed at the people who were now Christians but had come out of Judaism. It focuses on the background that they came from, and tries to demonstrate how Jesus was a fulfillment of those things; in fact, he superseded those things. Jesus is the very fulfillment of the Old Testament.

Authorship

Who wrote the book of Hebrews? Hebrews is an unsigned book and there are many theories, but the available evidence, we feel, seems to justify a Pauline ascription.

Apollos? Some suggest that Apollos wrote this epistle, although there is not much evidence to support the theory. Furthermore, Apollos was from Alexandria, and yet even in Alexandria in the earliest times the book was associated with Paul. So, if Apollos was the author, somehow he didn’t even convince his own hometown.

Barnabas? Others ascribe the book to Barnabas, but here again there is no evidence to support this theory. There are some spurious writings (that are not regarded as authentic) that were attributed to Barnabas, but their style is so different from the epistle to the Hebrews that if one can conclude that the writings attributed to Barnabas were at all indicative of Barnabas’ style, he clearly didn’t write the Epistle to the Hebrews.

Paul? There are many stylistic reasons that point to its Pauline authorship.

Paul’s Special Mark

If one recognizes that there were apparently forgeries of Thessalonian letters being circulated, then several passages become clearer.2 Thus at the end of that letter, Paul includes a sort of special mark, a token:

The salutation of Paul with mine own hand, which is the token in every epistle: so I write.
2 Thessalonians 3:17

Note how Paul is emphasizing that he has signed the letter with his own hand (most were probably drafted by an amanuensis or secretary). He would include a sign at the end so they would know that the letter was really from him.

So what is this signature or style item that is included in every letter?3

The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen.
2 Thessalonians 3:18

And how does Hebrews end?

Grace be with you all. Amen.
Hebrews 13:25

Why is this so impressive of Paul’s style? Because the word “Grace” does not even appear in the other epistles!4

The Trilogy on Habakkuk 2:4

The key verse in Habakkuk is:

The Just shall live by faith.
Habakkuk 2:4

This verse became the primary banner that inflamed the Reformation. It would seem that Paul penned a deliberate trilogy on this very verse.

Who are “the Just”? The Book of Romans answers the question (Cf. Rom 1:17).

How then “Shall [they] Live”? Gal-atians shows how we are to live — called out of religious externalism (Cf. Gal 3:11).

“By faith…” What is the epistle on “faith”? This Epistle to the Hebrews (Cf. Heb 10:38)!

As a former systems engineer and technologist in the information sciences, I tend to favor evidences that reveal an architecture and integrity of design, and it is this unique characteristic of the entire Bible that has been the foundation of our ministry.

Thus, it is the apparent trilogy of Romans, Galatians and Hebrews, dealing specifically on Habakkuk 2:4, that causes us to lean strongly on the inference that Hebrews was authored by Paul.

(If it should turn out that it was by another, then this very design becomes an even more impressive “fingerprint” of the Holy Spirit!)

Other Stylistic Evidences

In Romans 8:35-39, Paul lists a number of things that can separate you from the love of Christ. He lists seven things, and then 10 more, for a total of 17.

In Hebrews 12:18-24 we find a similar list: Again there are seven things, and then 10 more, for a total of 17. And in Galatians 5:19-21 there is also a list of 17 things.

(Again, it is Romans, Galatians, and Hebrews that evidence a similarity of style.)

Paul also favored the Greek word, huios, “sons,” rather than a similar Greek word, teknon, which other writers use, which means “children.”

The “witness of the Holy Spirit,” discussed in Romans 8:16 and Hebrews 10:15 also hints at a common authorship.

In Hebrews 13:18, the writer says, “Pray for us.” There is only one epistle writer that makes that specific request: none other than Paul.

The Role of Timothy

In Chapter 13 of Hebrews, there is a reference that notes that the writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews was accompanied by Timothy.5 We know from a number of epistles that Timothy accompanied Paul.6 We do not have any record of him accompanying anyone else. While that does not mean that Timothy exclusively accompanied Paul, we do not have any evidence of him accompanying any other writer.

Why Anonymous?

So if Paul did write the book, why would he keep it anonymous? From Acts 9:15 we know that Paul was the apostle to the Gentiles. While the Gentiles were his primary mission field, he also had an intense burden for his own brethren. Looking at Paul’s life, it is clear that Paul would sooner or later write an epistle to the Hebrews.

So why would he write one and keep it anonymous? Because every time he tried to address them there were riots. They were prejudiced against his ministry; he was distrusted by the Jews because he had converted to Christianity.

He never recovered the confidence of the Jewish side; they reputed his apostleship and also feared his attack against their ancient rituals and ceremonies.7

Nowhere in the book of Hebrews does Paul assert his apostleship, unlike his other epistles, but instead he builds his entire thesis uniquely from basic Jewish arguments from Old Testament passages. He exalts Christ, not his own apostleship.

There are reasons in the text that we could infer that the book was probably written after Paul’s first imprisonment, but before his second arrest.8 It was clearly written prior to the destruction of the Temple in 70 a.d. The impending destruction of the Temple may have been one of the reasons that God had Paul show them how they needed, as Christian believers, not only to accept Christ, but to come out of Judaism.9

Peter’s Testimony

Peter also seems to allude to this letter in 2 Peter 3:15-16:

And account that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation; even as our beloved brother Paul also according to the wisdom given unto him hath written unto you…
2 Peter 3:15

Peter here ascribes a letter written by Paul to the Hebrews. But the other 13 Pauline epistles all went to Gentile churches. So if Hebrews was not written by Paul, then there is a missing letter written by Paul to the Hebrews.

As also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction.
2 Peter 3:16

Here Peter is commenting on Paul’s letter, saying that Paul had written some things that were hard to understand (indeed, the difficulties in Hebrews 6 and 10).

Pressing On to Maturity

The primary focus of this letter to believers is to press on to spiritual maturity.10

For anyone serious about their spiritual growth, both the Epistle to the Romans and the Epistle to the Hebrews are absolutely essential to thoroughly understand.

And is there any priority or commitment that is more important — or urgent — in your own life? Pray about it.

The Day the Sun Stood Still (Chuck Missler)

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Do you really believe that?Chuck, you ve got to be kidding! That’s often the reaction by some to the idea that we take the Long Day of Joshua seriously.

The days were just not long enough for some of Joshua’s battles. In the Battle of Beth-Horon, responding to Joshua’s request, the Bible says the sun stood still to extend the day for Israel to defeat their enemies.

Why Joshua?

  • It is a manual for spiritual warfare;
  • It is a prophetic anticipation of the Book of Revelation;
  • It deals with the background to Israel’s claim to the land, which is presently being contested by the current Peace Process.
  • It contains some of the most fascinating passages in the Old Testament.

The Name of the Book

It may come as a surprise that the name Joshua, in Hebrew, is essentially equivalent to our Lord’s name in Anglicized Greek: Jesus. That was designed to get our attention.

Furthermore, as a military commander, Joshua’s actions at Jericho strangely parallel the events in the Book of Revelation: he first sends in two witnesses, he defeats the enemy with seven trumpets, and he seems to ignore the numerous ordinances in the Torah.

The Levites were exempt from military duties yet they are in the march against Jericho. The Ark of the Covenant is also in the march. They are supposed to rest on the seventh day yet on the seventh day they march seven times as much!

What is really going on?

And who really fought the battle of Jericho? Despite the declarations of the popular song, it wasn’t Joshua. It was a mysterious personage who identifies Himself with the Burning Bush of 40 years earlier: our Lord Himself!

The kings aligned themselves with a leader who called himself “The Lord of Righteousness.” (Does he foreshadow the Antichrist?) The kings are subsequently defeated with signs in the sun and moon and then hide in caves.

An Anticipatory Model?

As we examine the Book of Joshua carefully, we notice that it seems to be a precursor to the book of Revelation: another Yehoshua, as Commander-in- Chief, will dispossess the Planet Earth of its usurpers first sending in two witnesses, then with a series of judgments of sevens finally defeats the kings with signs in the sun, moon, etc. The kings hide in caves, etc.

Rahab, Woman of Destiny

Where was the most dangerous spot in Jericho? On the walls! Think about it. Where was the safest place in Jericho? In Rahab s house. Where was Rahab’s house? On the wall.

It is Rahab, a Gentile of dubious reputation who becomes the mother of Boaz, the hero in the Book of Ruth who links Bethlehem with the House of David. (You cannot really understand the Seven Sealed Book in Revelation unless you have studied the Book of Ruth as a book of prophecy!).

Rahab subsequently emerges in the genealogy of the Son of God–which is a study in itself.

Two Memorials

When they cross the Jordan (in a manner conspicuously parallel to the crossing of the Red Sea 40 years earlier), 12 stones are erected on the Gilgal side, after crossing.

Also, just prior to the Jordan returning to its regular flow, Joshua sets up 12 stones in the middle of the Jordan, which will then be covered with the waters.  Strange.

These are not only commemorative of their deliverance, they are prophetic of ours: the baptism of His death, and the deliverance by His resurrection.

It is interesting that, much later, John the Baptist, at this very spot alludes to these stones in his challenge to the Pharisees and Sadducees.

Practical Applications

Perhaps the most important aspects of this military book are the practical insights for spiritual warfare. Its parallelism with Ephesians is also instructive.

The first issue is, who has the initiative? Remember, it was God who declared war on Satan.  When Christ first announced the church, He pointed out that the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. It is the church which has the initiative! That’s you and I, isn’t it?

What does “Crossing the Jordan” signify spiritually? Going to heaven? Hardly. There are enemies there. Warfare. Setbacks. The ingredients of success and failure in their adventures are detailed for our own instruction to gain victory instead of defeat.

After they cross the Jordan, they get circumcised! For 40 years Israel was not circumcised! It is remarkable that while they were miraculously provided for throughout their wilderness wanderings, they were not rebuked for not maintaining this sign of the covenant.

Is there an intentional parallel between this and the Jewish diaspora, during which they “are not my people”?

They are in enemy territory. So are you and I. (But are we adequately prepared? Ephesians warns us to “put on the whole armor of God.” You must do this before not during the battle!)

If you are not under attack, perhaps it is because you are not relevant, or perhaps you are already relegated to where the enemy wants you.

We may not realize this as we should, but no conflict, no crown. If we are truly Christians, then we will be in real warfare.

The Prophetic Horizon

As the nations of the world line up to challenge Israel’s rights to the land that God covenanted to them, another Yehoshua is getting ready to give them the surprise of their lives! He, too, is preparing to dispossess the land in fact, the entire Planet Earth of the Usurper and his followers!

The Book of Joshua also introduces the Shofar and the cycle of the Jubilee. After each seven sabbatical years (49 years), the next year was to be a Jubilee Year: all debts were forgiven, all slaves went free, and the land returned to its original owners.

Peter, referring to the Second Coming of Jesus Christ, alludes to the time of restitution of all things, which is regarded as an allusion to the Jubilee.

Many suspect that the Jubilee, too, will prove to be prophetically significant, and we are approaching the 70th Jubilee!

As we sit back and watch the emergence of a European Superstate, the rebuilding of Babylon, the positioning of Magog and the Muslim allies to attack Israel, and the Vatican positioning to lead a worldwide ecumenical movement and to internationalize the Temple Mount in Jerusalem we realize that the stage is being set for the big climax. It’s time to do our homework! It’s time to diligently find out what God has said about these things.

The Gospel in Genesis (Chuck Missler)

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We frequently use the familiar term, gospel, or good news. Where is the first place it appears in the Bible? The answer may surprise you.

An Integrated Message

The great discovery is that the Bible is a message system: it’s not simply 66 books penned by 40 authors over thousands of years, the Bible is an integrated whole which bears evidence of supernatural engineering in every detail.

The Jewish rabbis have a quaint way of expressing this very idea: they say that they will not understand the Scriptures until the Messiah comes. But when He comes, He will not only interpret each of the passages for us, He will interpret the very words; He will even interpret the very letters themselves; in fact, He will even interpret the spaces between the letters!

When I first heard this, I simply dismissed this as a colorful exaggeration. Until I reread Matthew 5:17 and 18:

“Think not that I have come to destroy the Torah and the prophets; I have not come to destroy but to fulfill.
For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.”

(A jot and tittle are the Hebrew equivalent of our dotting an i and the crossing of a t.)

An Example

A remarkable example of this can be glimpsed in Genesis Chapter 5, where we have the genealogy of Adam through Noah. This is one of those chapters which we often tend to skim over quickly as we pass through Genesis it’s simply a genealogy from Adam to Noah.

But God always rewards the diligent student. Let’s examine this chapter more closely.

In our Bible, we read the Hebrew names. What do these names mean in English?

A Study of Original Roots

The meaning of proper names can be a difficult pursuit since a direct translation is often not readily available. Even a conventional Hebrew lexicon can prove disappointing. A study of the original roots, however, can yield some fascinating insights.

(A caveat: many study aids, such as a conventional lexicon, can prove rather superficial when dealing with proper nouns. Furthermore, views concerning the meanings of original roots are not free of controversy and variant readings.)

Let’s take an example.

The Flood Judgment

Methuselah comes from muth, a root that means “death”;1 and from shalach, which means to bring, or to send forth. The name Methuselah means, “his death shall bring”.2

Methuselah’s father was given a prophecy of the coming Great Flood, and was apparently told that as long as his son was alive, the judgment of the flood would be withheld; but as soon as he died, the flood would be brought or sent forth.

(Can you imagine raising a kid like that? Every time the boy caught a cold, the entire neighborhood must have panicked!)

And, indeed, the year that Methuselah died, the flood came.3

It is interesting that Methuselah’s life, in effect, was a symbol of God’s mercy in forestalling the coming judgment of the flood.

Therefore, it is fitting that his lifetime is the oldest in the Bible, speaking of the extensiveness of God’s mercy.

The Other Names

If there is such significance in Methuselah’s name, let’s examine the other names to see what may lie behind them.

Adam’s name means man. As the first man, that seems straight forward enough.

Seth

Adam’s son was named Seth, which means appointed. Eve said, “For God hath appointed me another seed instead of Abel, whom Cain slew.”4

Enosh

Seth’s son was called Enosh, which means mortal, frail, or miserable. It is from the root anash, to be incurable, used of a wound, grief, woe, sickness, or wickedness.

It was in the days of Enosh that men began to defile the name of the Living God.5

Kenan

Enosh’s son was named Kenan, which can mean sorrow, dirge, or elegy. (The precise denotation is somewhat elusive; some study aids unfortunately presume that Kenan is synonymous with Cainan.)

Balaam, looking down from the heights of Moab, uses a pun upon the name of the Kenites when he prophesies their destruction.6

We have no real idea as to why these names were chosen for their children. Often they may have referred to circumstances at birth, and so on.

Mahalalel

Kenan’s son was Mahalalel, from Mahalal which means blessed or praise; and El, the name for God. Thus, Mahalalel means the Blessed God. Often Hebrew names include El, the name of God, as Dan-i-el, “God is my Judge”, etc.

Jared

Mahalalel’s son was named Jared, from the verb yaradh, meaning shall come down.7

Enoch

Jared’s son was named Enoch, which means teaching, or commencement. He was the first of four generations of preachers. In fact, the earliest recorded prophecy was by Enoch, which amazingly enough deals with the Second Coming of Christ (although it is quoted in the Book of Jude in the New Testament):

Enoch also, the seventh from Adam, prophesied of these, saying, “Behold, the Lord cometh with ten thousands of his saints,

To execute judgment upon all, and to convince all that are ungodly among them of all their ungodly deeds which they have ungodly committed, and of all their hard speeches which ungodly sinners have spoken against.”
Jude 14, 15

Methuselah

Enoch was the father of Methuselah, who we have already mentioned. Enoch walked with God after he begat Methuselah.8 Apparently, Enoch received the prophecy of the Great Flood, and was told that as long as his son was alive, the judgment of the flood would be withheld. The year that Methuselah died, the flood came.

Enoch, of course, never died: he was translated 9 (or, if you’ll excuse the expression, raptured ). That’s how Methuselah can be the oldest man in the Bible, yet he died before his father!

Lamech

Methuselah’s son was named Lamech, a root still evident today in our own English word, lament or lamentation. Lamech suggests despairing.

(This name is also linked to the Lamech in Cain’s line who inadvertently killed his son Tubal-Cain in a hunting incident.10)

Noah

Lamech, of course, is the father of Noah, which is derived from nacham, to bring relief or comfort, as Lamech himself explains in Genesis 5:29.

The Composite List

Now let’s put it all together:
Hebrew English
Adam Man
Seth Appointed
Enosh Mortal
Kenan Sorrow;
Mahalalel The Blessed God
Jared Shall come down
Enoch Teaching
Methuselah His death shall bring
Lamech The Despairing
Noah Rest, or comfort.

That’s rather remarkable:

Man (is) appointed mortal sorrow; (but) the Blessed God shall come down teaching (that) His death shall bring (the) despairing rest.

Here’s the Gospel hidden within a genealogy in Genesis!

(You will never convince me that a group of Jewish rabbis conspired to hide the Christian Gospel right here in a genealogy within their venerated Torah!)

Evidence of Design

The implications of this discovery are more wide spread than is evident at first glance.

It demonstrates that in the earliest chapters of the Book of Genesis, God had already laid out His plan of redemption for the predicament of mankind. It is a love story, written in blood on a wooden cross which was erected in Judea almost 2,000 years ago.

The Bible is an integrated message system, the product of supernatural engineering. Every number, every place name, every detail every jot and tittle is there for our learning, our discovery, and our amazement. Truly, our God is an awesome God.

It is astonishing to discover how many Biblical controversies seem to evaporate if one simply recognized the unity the integrity of these 66 books, penned by 40 authors over thousands of years.

It is remarkable how many subtle discoveries lie behind the little details of the text. Some of these become immediately obvious with a little study; some are more technical and require special helps.

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