Michael Heiser's work on the Divine Council

Discussion in 'Theological Forum' started by Myson, Sep 10, 2018.

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  1. Myson

    Myson Puritan Board Freshman

    Michael Heiser's work on the Divine Council

    Has anyone read any of this stuff before? I heard about it on The Bible Project podcast, which I love significantly less than the videos. They brought up this guy Michael Heiser and seem to be totally sold that the Bible demands this worldview of God doing more with this council than himself. It seems a bit... Fishy... To me. Why haven't I ever heard of this before? Why have I never seen this in church history? Maybe I have they just used different names for it? Any thoughts?


  2. arapahoepark

    arapahoepark Puritan Board Graduate

    I inte d to read it but,from what I gather it is similar to even just how the Puritans thought of angels.
  3. Reformed Bookworm

    Reformed Bookworm Puritan Board Sophomore

    I have read his books and watched many of his videos. It is not that fishy or is it a new discovery. There have been many peer reviewed papers on this topic. There is a lot of content in the Old Testament that is of a polemic nature in regards to Near Eastern mythology. You find a divine council in many Near Eastern myths.
    I can't say I agree with everything in his books or videos but I think the argument is solid for a divine council. Either way, It doesn't change anything in our theology. The problem is we assign set attributes to the word, "elohim." He argues that we should view it as a name that establishes a divine location. The Divine Council or these lesser elohim are created and ruled over by the One true uncreated God. They bend to His will and carry out His will just as humans do. It goes without saying, He doesn't need these lesser elohim to accomplish His will. He doesn't need humans either but He graciously uses us. They, along with us, are created for His glory and good pleasure.

    "One day the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came with them." -Job 1:6

    "19 And Micaiah said, "Therefore hear the word of the Lord: I saw the Lord sitting on his throne, and all the host of heaven standing beside him on his right hand and on his left; 20 and the Lord said, 'Who will entice Ahab, that he may go up and fall at Ramoth-gilead?' And one said one thing, and another said another. 21 Then a spirit came forward and stood before the Lord, saying, 'I will entice him.' 22 And the Lord said to him, 'By what means?' And he said, 'I will go out, and will be a lying spirit in the mouth of all his prophets.' And he said, 'You are to entice him, and you shall succeed; go out and do so.' 23 Now therefore behold, the Lord has put a lying spirit in the mouth of all these your prophets; the Lord has declared disaster for you." - 1 Kings 22:19-23

    "God has taken His place in the divine assembly; He judges among the gods" Psalm 82:1
    Last edited: Sep 10, 2018
  4. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritan Board Doctor

    I've read everything Heiser has written. His view has precedents and it is not fishy.

    Kline was writing about Divine Council decades before Heiser wrote, and yet the Reformed community, when they attacked Kline for his oddities, never attacked him on that point.

    If we take the term "elohim" and import into it attributes like omniscient et al, then we have some bizarre conclusions. Yahweh is an elohim (God is a spirit) but not all elohim are Yahweh.

    If we say Psalm 82 refers to Jewish elders, then we are committed to the idea that there are Jewish dudes in the sky who rule over the nations.
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  5. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritan Board Doctor

    Several reasons:

    1) Until the Renaissance, very few thinkers in church history (except Jerome) knew Hebrew and almost zero knew any other semitic language (outside of Isaac the Syrian, Ephrem, and Issac of Nineveh). And Ugaritic wasn't discovered until 100 years ago.

    2) Even an anti-Nephilim thinker like Augustine believe in incubi, succubi, and other demons. Those are clearly spirit-beings (I am not saying they exist, only that Augustine said they did), yet Augustine didn't know enough Hebrew to work through those issues.

    3) Usually the most important issues of the day (justification, etc) get the most attention. That's only natural.

    I've written a lot on this topic, but I've generally not posted it here because this topic has been controversial. I can give you links in a PM.
  6. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritan Board Doctor

  7. Reformed Bookworm

    Reformed Bookworm Puritan Board Sophomore

    I would be interested in reading the material you've written on this topic. Heiser had this author on his show one time. Have you read this book?

    God's Rivals: Why Has God Allowed Different Religions? Insights from the Bible and the Early Church https://www.amazon.com/dp/0830825649/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_apa_UYRLBbKBXN51Y

    Heiser has a new book coming out in nine days. It should be another interesting read.

    Angels: What the Bible Really Says About God’s Heavenly Host https://www.amazon.com/dp/1683591046/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_apa_c0RLBb2AF20V7
  8. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritan Board Doctor

    And Heiser is one of our best allies against critical scholarship. He is quite in the norm on these issues. Liberal scholars know that the OT teaches this wacky supernatural stuff. Of course it does, but they think it is all pious bunk anyway. Heiser takes their premises and draws the supernatural conclusion. Here is the scholarship on this. This is not out of the ordinary.

    E. Theodore Mullen, Jr., “Divine Assembly,” The Anchor Yale Bible Dictionary, vol. 2 (New York: Doubleday, 1992), 215–216

    S. B. Parker, “Sons of (The) God(S),” Dictionary of Deities and Demons in the Bible (Leiden; Boston; Köln; Grand Rapids, MI; Cambridge: Brill; Eerdmans, 1999)

    Michael S. Heiser, “Divine Council,” The Lexham Bible Dictionary (ed. John D. Barry and Lazarus Wentz; Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2012)

    Michael S. Heiser, “Divine Council,” in the Dictionary of the Old Testament: Wisdom, Poetry, and Writings (Downers Grove, Ill.: Intervarsity Press, 2008
    E. Theodore Mullen, The Divine Council in Canaanite and Early Hebrew Literature (Harvard Semitic Monographs 24; Chico, CA: Scholars Press, 1980)

    Lowell K. Handy, Among the Host of Heaven: The Syro-Palestinian Pantheon as Bureaucracy(Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 1994)

    Matitiahu Tsevat, “God and the Gods in Assembly,” Hebrew Union College Annual 4041 (19691970): 123-137

    Mark S. Smith, “Astral Religion and the Representation of Divinity: The Cases of Ugarit and Judah,” Prayer, Magic, and the Stars in the Ancient and Late Antique World (ed. Scott Noegel, Joel Walker, Brannon Wheeler; University Park, PA: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2003), 187-206

    Alan Scott, Origen and the Life of the Stars: The History of An Idea (Oxford Early Christian Studies; Oxford University Press, 1994.

    asper J. Labuschagne, The Incomparability of Yahweh in the Old Testament (E. J. Brill, 1966)

    Catrin H. Williams, “I am He”: The Meaning and Interpretation of “ANI HU” in Jewish and Early Christian Literature (WUNT 113, Reihe 2; Tübingen: Mohr-Siebeck, 1999)

    Nathan MacDonald, Deuteronomy and the Meaning of” Monotheism (FZAT 1, Reihe 2; Tübingen: Mohr-Siebeck, 2012)

    Mark S. Smith, The origins of biblical monotheism: Israel’s polytheistic background and the Ugaritic texts. Oxford University Press, 2001.

    Kline, M. G. “Creation in the Image of the Glory-Spirit.” WTJ 39 (1977) 250–72.

    J. M. Lundquist, “What Is a Temple? A Preliminary Typology” In The Quest for the Kingdom of God: Studies in Honor of George Mendenhall (Winona Lake: Eisenbrauns, 1983), 205-219

    J. M. Lundquist, “The Common Temple Ideology of the Ancient Near East,” in The Temple in Antiquity (Religious Monograph Series 9; ed. T. G. Madsen; Provo, Utah, 1984), 53-76

    I. Cornelius, “גַּן,” New International Dictionary of Old Testament Theology and Exegesis, ed. W. A. VanGemeren (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1997), 1.875–78

    Daniel T. Lioy, “The Garden of Eden as a Primordial Temple or Sacred Space for Humankind,” Conspectus: The Journal of the South African Theological Seminary 10 (2010): 25-57

    I. Cornelius, “The Garden in the Iconography of the Ancient Near East,” Journal of Semitic Studies 1 (1989) 204–28

    G. J. Wenham, “Sanctuary Symbolism in the Garden of Eden Story,” in “I Studied Inscriptions from Before the Flood”: Ancient Near Eastern and Literary Approaches to Genesis 1–11, ed R. S. Hess and D. Tsumura (SBTS 4: Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 1994) 19–25

    L. Michael Morales, The Tabernacle Prefigured: Cosmic Mountain Ideology in Genesis and Exodus (Biblical Tools and Studies 15; Peeters, 2011

    John H. Walton, Ancient Near Eastern Thought and the Old Testament: Introducing the Conceptual World of the Hebrew Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2006), 123-124, 196-198

    On the Watchers in Daniel 10 and Daniel 10 more generally:

    John J. Collins, “Watcher,” Dictionary of Deities and Demons in the Bible (ed. Karel van der Toorn, Bob Becking, and Pieter W. van der Horst; Leiden; Boston; Köln; Grand Rapids, MI; Cambridge: Brill; Eerdmans, 1999)

    M. J. Davidson, Angels at Qumran. A Comparative Study of 1Enoch 1–36, 72–108 and Sectarian writings from Qumran (JSP Sup 11; Sheffield 1992), 38–40

    R. Murray, “The Origin of Aramaic ʿîr, Angel, Orientalia 53 (1984): 303–317

    Aleksander R. Michalak, Angels as warriors in late Second Temple Jewish literature(Wissenschaftliche Untersuchungen Zum Neuen Testament 2 Reihe 330; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2012

    Skinner, J. A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on Genesis. ICC. 2d ed. Edinburgh: Clark, 1930

    Johann Jakob Stamm, “Die Imago-Lehre von Karl Barth und die alttestamentliche Wissenschaft,” Antwort. FS Karl Barth, Zürich-Zollikon (1956): 84-98.
  9. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritan Board Doctor

    I've read other stuff by that author. I have that show on my iPod. I'll send you my "Enochian Intelligence Agency Files" when I get home.

    Yeah. I can't wait for Angels to come out.
  10. Reformed Bookworm

    Reformed Bookworm Puritan Board Sophomore

  11. Scott Bushey

    Scott Bushey Puritan Board Doctor

    Last time I cited Heiser here, I was laughed off stage....
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  12. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritan Board Doctor

    I think he is fluent in about a dozen semitic dialects and languages. He regularly gives papers at ETS and SBL. He is the one who should be laughing at us. His exegesis completely changed my apologetics
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  13. Reformed Bookworm

    Reformed Bookworm Puritan Board Sophomore

    It is a sad reality in the Reformed community. I fear we are too quick to dismiss supernatural realities of Scriptures.
    Last edited: Sep 10, 2018
  14. py3ak

    py3ak They're stalling and plotting against me Staff Member

    One of the ways changes occur in Biblical interpretation, is that an element or theme is taken from a sidelight and made into a perspective. Sometimes that's good, and sometimes that isn't. The advantage can be that a certain topic receives a much fuller discussion and airing than previously. The downside is that the excitement of the "new" can have a distorting influence on what should be settled doctrine. The safe way is to critically appropriate what is on offer in careful dialogue with the history of interpretation; but that last part rarely happens, at least not until there's been a big hairy fight about it.
  15. Ask Mr. Religion

    Ask Mr. Religion Flatly Unflappable

    In general I am not a big fan of the man:


    If you use Logos and are a Faithlife Connect (formerly Logos Now) subscriber, the next update you run will likely install a sneak peek at the first three chapters of Heiser's Angels: What the Bible Really Says About God’s Heavenly Host.

    For example, concerning 1 Kings 22:19–23, Heiser writes in the preview...

    "When the council meeting commences, God asks the spirit beings present how Ahab’s death should be accomplished. God had decreed Ahab was going to die at Ramoth-Gilead, but he allows debate and participation when it comes to the means of Ahab’s demise. One of the spirit beings proposes a plan (vv. 21–22): “I will go out, and will be a lying spirit in the mouth of all his prophets.” God approves, knowing full well that the plan will succeed. Had the omniscient God of Israel known the proposition would fail, he would have heard another one or proceeded on his own account.

    "The text presents us with a clear instance where God has sovereignly decided to act but allows his lesser, intelligent servants to participate in how his decision is carried out. God wasn’t searching for ideas, as though he couldn’t conceive of a plan. He allowed those who serve him the latitude to propose options. In other words, the members of the host were involved in the divine decree."

    "There is no hint that the suggestion of the spirit being to deceive Ahab was preprogrammed. God was also not bound to it. Had a member of the heavenly host proposed an idea God in his omniscience knew would not succeed, he could have vetoed it. The criterion was simple: will it succeed? The omniscient God knew the suggestion would succeed and approved it."​

    Heiser, Michael S. Angels: What the Bible Really Says about God’s Heavenly Host (Advance Preview). Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2018. Print

    Like I said, I am not a fan.
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  16. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritan Board Doctor

    One time on Facebook I said "The Nephilim are real." You know, just quoting a bible verse. A guy threatened to call my Presbytery.
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  17. Reformed Bookworm

    Reformed Bookworm Puritan Board Sophomore

    That is truly unfortunate. Jonathan Edwards certainly embraced the reality of them.
  18. Ask Mr. Religion

    Ask Mr. Religion Flatly Unflappable

    More from the preview:

    The interest in free will as it relates to members of the heavenly host arises from questions about how and when Satan turned against God, or whether angels still can, at some future time, rebel. There is no scriptural indication in either the Old or New Testament that the ability to rebel against God’s authority was “turned off” at any time. Consequently, they can still conceivably fall. But one would suspect that, given the fate of divine rebels recounted in Scripture, those who remain faithful would be much less inclined toward rebellion.​

    Heiser, throughout the preview, relies heavily upon Miller's Israelite Religion and Biblical Theology.

    The quote above is not surprising, given this:

    And some subtle flirtation with open theism:
    "7. Do Free Decisions of Divine and Human Imagers of God Overturn God’s Predestination and Foreknowledge and Mean the Future is Open?

    "It may sound contradictory, but my answers to the above questions are, respectively, “no/no” and “yes.” "​

    See: http://www.michaelsheiser.com/TheNakedBible/ETS 2009 Heiser.pdf
  19. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritan Board Doctor

    Yeah, he is inadequate on that. I don't go to him for systematic theology. I am more interested in the Hebrew text and in not getting my angelology from Kant and Milton. And Reformed guys (Doug Van Dorn) and scholars (Meredith Kline) say more or less the same thing on imago dei and divine council.
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  20. Reformed Bookworm

    Reformed Bookworm Puritan Board Sophomore

    As I stated in my first post, I certainly don't agree with him on everything. I'll refer to Edwards or Calvin when I want to study free will.
    Last edited: Sep 10, 2018
  21. lynnie

    lynnie Puritan Board Senior

    I am reading his book on the Unseen Realm right now. I found the chapter about Babylon to be very helpful. People try to figure out what Babylon in Revelation means, and I think his analysis answers that.

    Yeah, some of the comments about free will are kind of funky.
  22. arapahoepark

    arapahoepark Puritan Board Graduate

    What are Kline's works on this?
  23. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritan Board Doctor

    Images of the Spirit.
    God, Heaven, and Har-Magedon touches on aspects of this.
  24. Paul.Barth

    Paul.Barth Puritan Board Freshman

    Heiser certainly doesn’t seem to hold to the inerrancy of Scripture, although he claims to. At the very least it’s not anything that resembles the historic Christian doctrine of inerrancy. Anything positive that can be gleaned from him can be gleaned from orthodox scholars. Listen to his Naked Bible podcast episodes on hermeneutics and you’ll easily see how dangerous he is.
  25. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritan Board Doctor

    All he said was that he didn't believe in the divine stapler. There is an editor who collected some of the papyri. This is evident from Ezekiel 1, where Ezekiel switches from 1st person to 3rd person for no apparent reason.

    He's easily my favorite scholar. He is the reason I restudied Hebrew and am beginning to learn Ugaritic.

    Here is his defense of Moses.
  26. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritan Board Doctor

    The problem with saying, "Anything good he said, others have said it better," is that you are going to have to provide a list. That raises other problems. I've tried to provide part of a bibliography way up above. Here is some more.

    Barker, Margaret. The Great Angel: A Study of Israel’s Second God. Louisville, KY: Westminster / John Knox Publishers, 1992

    Bauckham, Richard, “The Throne of God and the Worship of Jesus” Pages 43-69 in The Jewish Roots of Christological Monotheism: Papers from the St. Andrews Conference on the Historical Origins of the Worship of Jesus. Edited by C. Newman, J. Davila, and G. Lewis. Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1999

    Bauckham, Richard, God Crucified: Monotheism & Christology in the New Testament. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1998

    Boyarin, Daniel. “The Gospel of the Memra: Jewish Binitarianism and the Prologue to John,” Harvard Theological Review 94:3 (July, 2001), 243-284

    Boyarin, Daniel, “Two Powers in Heaven; or, The Making of a Heresy,” Pages 331-370 in The Idea of Biblical Interpretation: Essays in Honor of James L. Kugel. Leiden: Brill, 2003

    Fossum, Jarl E. The Image of the Invisible God: Essays on the Influence of Jewish Mysticism on Early Christology. Göttingen: Vandenhoeck and Ruprecht, 1995

    Gathercole, Simon. The Pre-Existent Son: Recovering the Christologies of Matthew, Mark, and Luke. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2006

    Hannah, Darrell D. Michael and Christ: Michael Traditions and Angel Christology in Early Christianity. Wissenschaftliche Untersuchungen zum Neuen Testament 109. Tübingen: Mohr-Siebeck, 1999

    Hurtado, Larry W. “What Do We Mean by ‘First-Century Jewish Monotheism’?” Pages 348-368 in Society of Biblical Literature 1993 Seminar Papers. Edited by E. H. Lovering Jr. Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1993

    Hurtado, Larry W. One God, One Lord: Early Christian Devotion and Ancient Jewish Monotheism. Philadelphia: Fortress, 1988

    Hurtado, Larry W. Lord Jesus Christ: Devotion to Jesus in Earliest Christianity. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2003

    Hurtado, Larry W. “First-Century Jewish Monotheism.” Journal for the Study of the New Testament 71 (1998): 3-26

    Hurtado, Larry W. “Jesus’ Divine Sonship in Paul’s Epistle to the Romans,” Pages 217-233 in Romans and the People of God. Edited by N. T. Wright and S. Soderlund. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1999

    Hurtado, Larry W. “The Binitarian Shape of Early Christian Worship.” Pages 187-213 in The Jewish Roots of Christological Monotheism, Papers from the St. Andrews Conference on the Historical Origins of the Worship of Jesus. Edited by Carey C. Newman, James R. Davila and Gladys S. Lewis, Supplements to the Journal for the Study of Judaism, ed. John J. Collins. Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1999

    Hurtado, Larry W. How on Earth Did Jesus Become a God?: Historical Questions about Earliest Devotion to Jesus. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2005

    Lee, Aquila H. I. From Messiah to Pre-existent Son. Wissenschaftliche Untersuchungen zum Neuen Testament 192. Tübingen: Mohr-Siebeck, 2005; reprinted Wipf and Stock, 2009

    Segal, Alan F. Two Powers in Heaven: Early Rabbinic Reports about Christianity and Gnosticism. Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1977

    Victor Matthews, Old Testament Parallels: Laws And Stories from the Ancient Near East

    Kenton Sparks, Ancient Texts for the Study of the Hebrew Bible: A Guide to the Background Literature

    Larry Helyer, Exploring Jewish Literature of the Second Temple Period: A Guide for New Testament Students (Christian Classics Bible Studies)

    Craig Evans, Ancient Texts for New Testament Studies: A Guide to the Background Literature

    D. deSilva, Introducing the Apocrypha: Message, Context, and Significance

    Foster, Before the Muses: An Anthology of Akkadian Literature

    Foster, From Distant Days: Myths, Tales, and Poetry of Ancient Mesopotamia

    Dalley, Myths from Mesopotamia: Creation, the Flood, Gilgamesh, and Others

    Jacobsen, The Harps that Once … Sumerian Poetry in Translation

    Ugaritic Texts:

    N. Wyatt, Religious Texts from Ugarit

    digital version

    Gibson, Canaanite Myths and Legends

    digital version

    M. Coogan and M. Smith, Stories from Ancient Canaan

    David L. Fouts, “A Defense of the Hyperbolic Interpretation of Large Numbers in the Old Testament,” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 40 (1997): 377-387
  27. Ask Mr. Religion

    Ask Mr. Religion Flatly Unflappable

    One can perhaps tease out where Dr. Heiser stands on inerrancy by reviewing his assessments of the Chicago Statement:



    His stance about "pre-scientific worldview" (which is incorporated into some of the above) leads me to worry that he is reducing all inspired Scripture concerning matters of science is but phenomenological:

    1 Cor. 11:14
    Doth not even nature itself teach you, that, if a man have long hair, it is a shame unto him?

    "...Paul is clearly in error in terms of his understanding of nature on this point (he’s a pre-scientific man). "

    His often sardonic views of the Confessions are enough to signal caution to glean what one can from any man's writings and discard the remainder. For example:
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  28. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritan Board Doctor

    Fair enough on the stuff on confessions. He's a low church baptist, so I saw that one coming. I don't agree with him on 1 Cor 11 (though I am familiar with the Greek medical texts on that point). As to the Chicago statement, some of his criticisms are on how ambiguous some statements are.

    If verbal inspiration means word-for-word (ghost writing), then it's rather odd that the Holy Spirit had two different guys alter some of the NT quotations of the OT, places where there is clear editorial work ("Moses was the most humble man,").

    I think inerrancy can accommodate those issues. I have never had a problem with that.

    And some of the OT language *is* phenomenological. Are there really pillars of the earth? Are there physical floodgates over our heads?

    For the record, I actually believe there are physical pillars of the earth. I believe Sheol is a quasi-physical realm under our feet where the shades of the Rephaim live (and who will be unleashed in Rev 9, when the Abyss is opened).
  29. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritan Board Doctor

    Fun fact on Heiser: If you ever want to see James Jordan's disciples go into full Red Alert mode, just mention Michael Heiser. One of the key aspects of Jordan's theology is the "Sethite" thesis. They will defend this line at all costs.

    What's even more ironic is that neither Jordan nor Heiser have probably ever heard of each other.
  30. TheInquirer

    TheInquirer Puritan Board Freshman

    I got into Unseen Realm a bit and have listened to some of Heiser's lectures on YouTube this past week and caught a bit of a whiff of what Patrick is highlighting. You can tell Heiser has a bit of an ax to grind as you listen to him. One example is his stress on the importance of context - which he defines as 2nd Temple extra biblical writings - as essential for understanding Scripture, especially 1 Enoch. I am very leery of that approach to hermeneutics.

    Who would you guys recommend that has put together a biblical theology of "sons of god" or the supernatural battle in the unseen realm from more of a Reformed Perspective? Interested in seeing how the theme plays out over the entire course of Scripture. I would agree with Heiser that, from my experience, this topic is under-emphasized and deserves greater attention.
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