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Did the man "Jesus" exist? 
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Post Re: Did the man "Jesus" exist?
lady of shallot wrote:
Also frankly I have never understood why it was such a big deal if there was a Jesus that he was crucified. Lots of people were.


Robert Tulip wrote:

The existence of Jesus Christ is something of a 'no go' area for historical evidence. Earl Doherty is probably the best source to understand the depth of the problem, but he is treated as a pariah among the dominant 'historical Jesus' school, where the argument from incredulity often passes for logic. People say they cannot imagine that Jesus did not exist. I once held that view myself. But looking at the evidence, fabrication is far more plausible.

Earl's website, http://jesuspuzzle.humanists.net/, gives the gist of main arguments in his books, and hopefully will encourage interested readers to look to the full account in Jesus Neither God Nor Man, which is exhaustive, forensic, logical, well-referenced and compelling. All the old canards such as Josephus, Tacitus, Pliny and others are thoroughly demolished.


I always wonder how the lack of evidence for Jesus should be interpreted. Given that Jesus was likely an itinerant street preacher, perhaps one of many, proclaiming the end of the world during this time, wouldn't we expect there to be little if any historical evidence for his existence? As Lady says, lots of people were crucified at this time. Do we have historical evidence for any of them?

I know Robert comes down on the side that Jesus never existed, and it's an intriguing idea. I still think it's more likely that a man named Jesus lived and was crucified, and his life was the basis for the myths that followed. One point in favor of this approach is that many aspects of Jesus' life are too strange or otherwise inconsistent to have been fabricated. For example, the idea that Jesus was crucified and that he cried out, asking why God has forsaken him, is largely inconsistent with the mythos of a god or demi god. It takes a lot of rationalization to work these kinds of details out. Why invent such details in the first place?

Edit: Lady, I hope you continue to participate in this discussion. I always enjoy your posts.


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Mon Jan 16, 2012 3:42 pm
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Post Re: Did the man "Jesus" exist?
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I still think it's more likely that a man named Jesus lived and was crucified, and his life was the basis for the myths that followed.


Reconstructing historical figures from antiquity is tricky business indeed. The surviving manuscripts are copies, of copies, of copies. That is why scholars develop certain criteria to determine their validity.

Biblical scholars agree that it is highly probable that Jesus existed. The portrait and teachings of the man transmogrified when documented over the course of years gone by. That is not a farfetched hypothesis.

I think where Mysticism runs into trouble is its attempt to dismiss each and every written account of Jesus (aka "poisoning the well"). That simply is contrary to what mainstream scholarship recognizes. Having said that, I can now arbitrarily dismiss near all of antiquity when the spirit moves me to (no pun intended).

It's a bit uncanny how Mysticists can insist on the validity of much of their speculative assertions and not find themselves in a similar camp that Creationists share.
Odd


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Mon Jan 16, 2012 5:07 pm
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Post Re: Did the man "Jesus" exist?
ant wrote:
Quote:
I still think it's more likely that a man named Jesus lived and was crucified, and his life was the basis for the myths that followed.


Reconstructing historical figures from antiquity is tricky business indeed. The surviving manuscripts are copies, of copies, of copies. That is why scholars develop certain criteria to determine their validity.

Biblical scholars agree that it is highly probable that Jesus existed. The portrait and teachings of the man transmogrified when documented over the course of years gone by. That is not a farfetched hypothesis.

I think where Mysticism runs into trouble is its attempt to dismiss each and every written account of Jesus (aka "poisoning the well"). That simply is contrary to what mainstream scholarship recognizes. Having said that, I can now arbitrarily dismiss near all of antiquity when the spirit moves me to (no pun intended).

It's a bit uncanny how Mysticists can insist on the validity of much of their speculative assertions and not find themselves in a similar camp that Creationists share.
Odd


I'm confused by the term, "Mysticist." I think you mean mythicist?

In any event, I wouldn't be inclined to compare mythicists with Creationists. That seems unfair. If you read Robert's posts, you won't see claims that Jesus definitely never existed, only that he interprets the evidence that way. I don't believe Robert's arguments for a reformed Christianity rely on Jesus never having existed.


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Mon Jan 16, 2012 5:46 pm
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Post Re: Did the man "Jesus" exist?
geo wrote:
ant wrote:
Quote:
I still think it's more likely that a man named Jesus lived and was crucified, and his life was the basis for the myths that followed.


Reconstructing historical figures from antiquity is tricky business indeed. The surviving manuscripts are copies, of copies, of copies. That is why scholars develop certain criteria to determine their validity.

Biblical scholars agree that it is highly probable that Jesus existed. The portrait and teachings of the man transmogrified when documented over the course of years gone by. That is not a farfetched hypothesis.

I think where Mysticism runs into trouble is its attempt to dismiss each and every written account of Jesus (aka "poisoning the well"). That simply is contrary to what mainstream scholarship recognizes. Having said that, I can now arbitrarily dismiss near all of antiquity when the spirit moves me to (no pun intended).

It's a bit uncanny how Mysticists can insist on the validity of much of their speculative assertions and not find themselves in a similar camp that Creationists share.
Odd


I'm confused by the term, "Mysticist." I think you mean mythicist?

In any event, I wouldn't be inclined to compare mythicists with Creationists. That seems unfair. If you read Robert's posts, you won't see claims that Jesus definitely never existed, only that he interprets the evidence that way. I don't believe Robert's arguments for a reformed Christianity rely on Jesus never having existed.



Yes (dang it!) I mean "mythicist" :lol: :blush:

I guess then I am directing my talking points at those who conclude from this Mythicist branch that Jesus was just a fabricated myth.
I dont buy that - yet.
The mythicist angle is outside the more accepted mainstream scholarly institution that is unanimous in its interpretation of evidence that Jesus more than likely existed. It is not the minority position.

As is the case of an institution as obscure as mythicism, said institution will produce its own expert personnel who will seek recognition as the newfound authority as opposed to the institution with a stronger foothold. Doherty is seeking such status. Adherents will follow shortly thereafter.


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Mon Jan 16, 2012 6:12 pm
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Post Re: Did the man "Jesus" exist?
I've talked with Robert a lot over the past several years, and I hope he knows that I think his "Thanks" count is justified. But I also want to say, "Go Ant!" This isn't because of your opinions, but because of the standards of evidence you're asking for.


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Mon Jan 16, 2012 9:40 pm
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Post Re: Did the man "Jesus" exist?
geo wrote:
I always wonder how the lack of evidence for Jesus should be interpreted. Given that Jesus was likely an itinerant street preacher, perhaps one of many, proclaiming the end of the world during this time, wouldn't we expect there to be little if any historical evidence for his existence? As Lady says, lots of people were crucified at this time. Do we have historical evidence for any of them?
I don’t by any means say the existence of Jesus Christ is impossible, only that it is wildly improbable on a dispassionate logical reading of the evidence of the evolution of the early church. On the balance of probabilities, the gradual construction of Jesus Christ as a fictional focus of faith and hope is far more plausible than the conventional idea that the New Testament has its seed in one genius founder who was crucified under Pilate.

There are so many angles on this material. If I may digress mildly as a way of exploring this question of the identity of Jesus, when I was at university, back in 1986, I sat in on a theology class offered by Professor John McIntyre, who was visiting Sydney from the University of Edinburgh, on the topic of christology. He explained to us the concept of hypostasis, one of these weird obscure mind-bending theological words, which means that Jesus Christ was one person with two natures, a human nature as Jesus of Nazareth, and a divine nature as the eternal Christ. The hypostatic union is the one person of Jesus Christ in the traditional creed from the council of Chalcedon. A review of McIntyre's book is here., and his book is available on line at The Shape of Christology. You would have to be keen to delve far into this material, but the concept of hypostasis is enough to illustrate that the concept of Jesus Christ is primarily mythic.

The question of the identity of Jesus Christ has been a central concern of mine since before I attended Professor McIntyre’s lectures. Perhaps my atheist attitude was too transparently dismissive for the theologians to cope with, but in any event, I used this Christological material as a basic framework in my own views on existential philosophy, exploring the ontological relation in the structure of human nature between our existence in the present moment and the eternity that surrounds us. In this sense, Jesus stands for the passing presence of material reality, while Christ stands for the enfolding aeons before and after making the history of the universe. A famous hymn, There's A Light Upon the Mountain, expresses the hypostatic union of christology in the line 'the suffering dying Jesus is the Christ upon the throne'. This use of ‘is’ supports the messianic ethics that the last shall be first, the stone the builder refused shall be head of the corner, the least important thing in the eyes of the world (Jesus) is the most important thing in the eyes of God (Christ).

Another way of understanding hypostasis is seeing Jesus Christ as a title, not a name. Jesus means savior, and Christ means anointed, so Christ Jesus, the form that Paul often uses, means anointed savior. It is rather hard to imagine Mr and Mrs Joseph and Mary Christ christening their son Jesus, giving him the name Jesus Christ, but that is the least of the implausibles in the historical account of Jesus Christ as a wandering apocalyptic. The title ‘anointed savior’ helps to illustrate how the idea of Jesus Christ was ‘in the air’ at the time, as a widespread expectation of an anointed savior naturally expressed itself as an expectation of a Jesus Christ. The anointing supposedly came from heaven, while the saving came from earth, uniting heaven and earth in a word of power. For one of the various Jesus figures to have been recognised in his lifetime as the Christ, and to be executed in Jerusalem as a pretender to the throne of Israel, seems to be the bare minimum. It really is incomprehensible how such a king could pass under the radar of history.

In the early church, and especially in the Epistles of Paul, probably written mid first century, the eternal Christ is central, and the historical Jesus is secondary, lacking any detail except the barest framework. The messianic vision was initially presented as a matter of eternal grace, a mystical vision lacking in the detail of a flesh and blood life, but crucially, with a presence in the world through the proclamation of the apostle as a source of transformative ethics.

As the story of Jesus developed political impetus as a focus for anti-Roman sentiment after the crushing defeat of the Jewish War, the church agenda required that this eternal anointed spiritual Christ figure, initially understood as the cosmic presence of God in the world, was not just a mythical spirit, but a real material person. And so flesh was gradually put on the spirit. The story became a lightning rod for heroism in the midst of defeat.

Hence we find the progressive manufacture of the myth of Jesus of Nazareth. Nazareth is not mentioned by Paul (and nor are Bethlehem or Jerusalem). Even with the first Gospel, Mark, Jesus is primarily a Nazarene, a term more akin to the Ebionite cult than the then non-existent town. No, there are just far too many such inconsistencies in the Gospels to accept that these myths have their origin in a single person.


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Tue Jan 17, 2012 8:31 am
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Post Re: Did the man "Jesus" exist?
Geo said:

" Do we have historical evidence for any of them? (crucified people)"

Spartacus comes to mind.

Of course it is impossible to disprove the life of anyone in antiquity. What I find interesting is what we do know historically from the supposed lifetime of Jesus. For instance just before his dates, Cleopatra was carrying on an extensive correspondence with the wife of Herod. We know about that.

This was not the same Herod as he of Jesus' time. So if there was a man named Jesus who was as influential as reported there should be some contemporaneous record. I think the lack of proof is what is so compelling to believers. for instance everyone recognizes the reality of the life of Mohammed which of course makes it plausible to dis believe in any divinity of his (there is no such claim)

If the believers in the reality of a flesh and blood Jesus and his actual existence had proof positive they could not continue to believe he is the son of God. Anymore than they would be likely to believe such an actuality happening today. Really, can you imagine? And yet, why not? If then, why not now?



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Post Re: Did the man "Jesus" exist?
Geo said:

" Do we have historical evidence for any of them? (crucified people)"

Spartacus comes to mind.

Of course it is impossible to disprove the life of anyone in antiquity. What I find interesting is what we do know historically from the supposed lifetime of Jesus. For instance just before his dates, Cleopatra was carrying on an extensive correspondence with the wife of Herod. We know about that.

This was not the same Herod as he of Jesus' time. So if there was a man named Jesus who was as influential as reported there should be some contemporaneous record. I think the lack of proof is what is so compelling to believers. for instance everyone recognizes the reality of the life of Mohammed which of course makes it plausible to dis believe in any divinity of his (there is no such claim)

If the believers in the reality of a flesh and blood Jesus and his actual existence had proof positive they could not continue to believe he is the son of God. Anymore than they would be likely to believe such an actuality happening today. Really, can you imagine? And yet, why not? If then, why not now?



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Post Re: Did the man "Jesus" exist?
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So if there was a man named Jesus who was as influential as reported there should be some contemporaneous record. I think the lack of proof is what is so compelling to believers.


History is not as black and white as "EITHER Jesus existed OR he did not." There are too many variables to consider when reconstructing past events, particularly those that go back thousands of years.

Maybe the historical figure "jesus" was known by another name? Maybe everything documented about him was fabricated? Maybe it is only partially true? Considering just those questions (there are countless others) is problematic. It probably isn't the first time a true to life historical character had certain segments of his life mythologized. It's highly doubtful, based on the evidence available, that Jesus was completely mythologized.

Certainly a rational, logical individual can come to the conclusion that because history is not black and white, it is illogical to make broad, sweeping generalizations that trumpet absolute statements such as "Jesus was a myth - case closed."
I'd advise questioning anyone that does. Most likely there is a strong bias against religion in general.


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Post Re: Did the man "Jesus" exist?
History is not as black and white as "EITHER Jesus existed OR he did not." There are too many variables to consider when reconstructing past events, particularly those that go back thousands of years.

Maybe the historical figure "jesus" was known by another name? Maybe everything documented about him was fabricated? Maybe it is only partially true? Considering just those questions (there are countless others) is problematic. It probably isn't the first time a true to life historical character had certain segments of his life mythologized. It's highly doubtful, based on the evidence available, that Jesus was completely mythologized.

Certainly a rational, logical individual can come to the conclusion that because history is not black and white, it is illogical to make broad, sweeping generalizations that trumpet absolute statements such as "Jesus was a myth - case closed."
I'd advise questioning anyone that does. Most likely there is a strong bias against religion in general.[/quote]

What? Proof of his identity is that he was known by another name? A very strong Pro religious view is the only explanation for such a statement.



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Post Re: Did the man "Jesus" exist?
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What? Proof of his identity is that he was known by another name? A very strong Pro religious view is the only explanation for such a statement
.


Hi Lady of S! :)

I think you misunderstood what I was saying. I'm certain of it.

Lots of variables to consider regarding this issue. That's all I'm saying.


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“For it is owing to their wonder that men both now begin to and at first began to philosophize; they wondered originally at the obvious difficulties, then advanced little by little and stated difficulties about the greater matters, e.g. about the phenomena of the moon and those of the sun and of the stars, and about the genesis of the universe. And a man who is puzzled and wonders thinks himself ignorant” (Metaphysics, 350 BC)


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Post Re: Did the man "Jesus" exist?
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History is not as black and white as "EITHER Jesus existed OR he did not." There are too many variables to consider when reconstructing past events, particularly those that go back thousands of years.

Maybe the historical figure "jesus" was known by another name? Maybe everything documented about him was fabricated? Maybe it is only partially true? Considering just those questions (there are countless others) is problematic.


What keeps me from being persuaded that Christ was real is that people write things that are false all the time, for any number of reasons. Even scientists who believe they are being brutally objective are often victims of their own bias without realizing it. If the story of Christ was propagated enough, I'd say we would find references to him even if he weren't a real person; references to him based on the assumption that he existed, after hearing the stories.

Even if Josephus' writing(specifically the passage in question) were shown to be undeniably authentic, that still doesn't mean he was referencing a real person. He may merely have referenced Christ based on stories he'd heard, in order to clarify which "Joseph" he was referring to(brother of the Christ).

It may not seem fair, but I don't think there is enough information to say that Christ really did exist. There is a precedent that the things men write are unreliable.


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Tue Jan 17, 2012 11:53 pm
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Post Re: Did the man "Jesus" exist?
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t may not seem fair, but I don't think there is enough information to say that Christ really did exist. There is a precedent that the things men write are unreliable.


Based on what seems to be hyper-skeptisizm about the existence of certain ancient historical figures, and the exclusion of manuscript evidence attested in multiple disinterested sources, we can start eliminating figures like Socrates from history. We can doubt his existence on the same grounds.
Do you believe Socrates existed? If so, what do you base your belief of his existence on?

The criterion used by scholars to arrive at reasonable conclusions as to who existed and who most likely did not is now cut in half.


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“For it is owing to their wonder that men both now begin to and at first began to philosophize; they wondered originally at the obvious difficulties, then advanced little by little and stated difficulties about the greater matters, e.g. about the phenomena of the moon and those of the sun and of the stars, and about the genesis of the universe. And a man who is puzzled and wonders thinks himself ignorant” (Metaphysics, 350 BC)


Last edited by ant on Wed Jan 18, 2012 12:45 am, edited 1 time in total.



Wed Jan 18, 2012 12:44 am
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Post Re: Did the man "Jesus" exist?
ant wrote:
Do you believe Socrates existed? If so, what do you base your belief of his existence on?


Good questions. Socrates is attested in detail, with no supernatural content, by his immediate pupil Plato, author of numerous books which became classics of philosophy, and by other reliable eye witnesses. Aristophanes, a contemporary critic of Socrates, wrote a play, The Clouds, in which Socrates is a main character, corroborating Plato's testimony. Xenophon was an admirer and student of Socrates who wrote a history in which he discusses Socrates' trial as a misguided and wrongfully conducted event. Xenophon discusses Socrates in "The Anabasis," and also in his "Memorabilia of Socrates." He describes Socrates as a good citizen, who was wrongfully accused by Anytus and Meletus at his trial.

Aristotle was born after Socrates died; however he makes numerous references to Socrates throughout his works. Since Plato was a student of Socrates, and Aristotle was a student of Plato, the references are assumed to have come from Plato's direct experiences with Socrates, and also the various Sophists such as Gorgias and Protagoras who stated they were fond of arguing with Socrates. The nihilistic rhetorician Gorgias, and the sophist Protagoras, were contemporaries of Socrates. Both remarked how they enjoyed engaging Socrates in arguments because he was the only philosopher against whom neither ever won an argument!

Aristotle credits Socrates with the invention of induction: "Socrates was occupying himself with the excellences of character, and in connection with them became the first to raise the problem of universal definition. . . . It was with good reason that he should be seeking the essence, for he was seeking to argue deductively and the beginning of deductive arguments is the essence. . . . For two things may be fairly ascribed to Socrates—inductive reasoning and universal definition, both of which are concerned with the starting point of science." (Metaphysics 13.4, 1078b24-30)

How does this compare to the Anointed Savior (Jesus Christ)? By contrast, there are no eyewitness accounts of Jesus, only hearsay from several generations later, and mythologisation by Paul in which the man barely appears but primarily serves as a functionary of cosmic atonement. Aristotle's thought has a logical basis in critique of Socrates' earlier thought, transmitted through Plato. Nothing like such a clear lineage of ideas exists with Christ.

The evidentiary gulf between Socrates and Jesus is extreme. The evidence for Socrates is compelling while the evidence for Christ is non-existent.


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Post Re: Did the man "Jesus" exist?
ant wrote:
History is not as black and white as "EITHER Jesus existed OR he did not." There are too many variables to consider when reconstructing past events, particularly those that go back thousands of years.
For anyone else whose existence is uncertain, people admit it is uncertain. Not Jesus. Christians say he is the best attested person ever, that anyone who doubts His existence is a fool who should be shunned, that the Christ Myth Theory has already been refuted, etc etc trotting out the same tired calumny of baseless dogma. Faith means never having to say you are sorry.
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Maybe the historical figure "jesus" was known by another name? Maybe everything documented about him was fabricated? Maybe it is only partially true? Considering just those questions (there are countless others) is problematic. It probably isn't the first time a true to life historical character had certain segments of his life mythologized. It's highly doubtful, based on the evidence available, that Jesus was completely mythologized.
This opens up an interesting question regarding historical causal trees. Genetics provides the best example of such causal trees. We know there is a mitochondrial eve who everyone alive is descended from, because there is scientific evidence that admits of no other explanation.

But when it comes to the existence of Jesus, the causal trees are memetic, based on the evolution of ideas, with provenance that overlaps, disappears and is utterly contestable. Some of the Q sayings seem to go back to ancient Egypt, as do some of the miracles and symbols. The passion has no evidence, and appears to be mythic typology based on various dying and rising saviors such as Dionysus, Osiris and Adonis. The Jesus Seminar conducted a poll of liberal theologians of which bits of the Gospel they thought were authentic, and came up with a range of views. My view is that the bit with best claim to coming from Jesus is the loaves and fishes, but as cosmic parable, not actual miracle.

This method of elaborating fantasy on an actual person is known as evemerism. But with Jesus, it seems the evemeristic sources are so various in time and identity that it makes little sense to identify them with one so-called historical Jesus.

The idea is intriguing that there was a real Jesus but almost everything we know about him is wrong and distorted. What this would mean would be there was one man in Palestine whose ideas and deeds are at the actual historical origin of the Gospels, rather like there is one shiver of snow at the top of a mountain that is the source of an avalanche, but in the historical process the recollection of these deeds was so twisted that the picture we have bears no resemblance to the facts. This is a line I have explored in seeing Christ as the avatar of the age of Pisces.
Quote:
Certainly a rational, logical individual can come to the conclusion that because history is not black and white, it is illogical to make broad, sweeping generalizations that trumpet absolute statements such as "Jesus was a myth - case closed."
I'd advise questioning anyone that does. Most likely there is a strong bias against religion in general.

I would prefer to say "Jesus was a myth - case opened".

Suggesting that recognition of the mythic nature of Christ closes discussion of his identity is a very superficial and bigoted attitude, sadly common among nonbelievers. Observing the extreme levels of duplicity, ignorance, error and delusion that went into constructing the Christ myth tells us an enormous amount about human psychology and religious consciousness. George Orwell mined this fertile seam in his novel 1984 by basing Big Brother on the Pope of Rome. Seeing that people were capable of such a Big Lie says a lot about the nature of sin.


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A Nation Under Judgment by Richard Capriola


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