The Pope Benedict’s account of resurrection and the hearsay rule!

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The Gospel of Mark is the earliest of the four canonical gospels and even that is not written by an eye-witness.
According to Encyclopedia Britannica:
“The Gospel According to Mark, also called The Holy Gospel Of Jesus Christ According To St. Mark, second of the four New Testament Gospels (narratives recounting the life and death of Jesus Christ), and, with Matthew and Luke, one of the three Synoptic Gospels (i.e., those presenting a common view). It is attributed to John Mark (Acts 12:12; 15:37), an associate of Paul and a disciple of Peter, whose teachings the Gospel may reflect. It is the shortest and the earliest of the four Gospels, presumably written during the decade preceding the destruction of Jerusalem in ad 70. Most scholars agree that it was used by Matthew and Luke in composing their accounts; more than 90 percent of the content of Mark’s Gospel appears in Matthew’s, and more than 50 percent in the Gospel of Luke. Although the text lacks literary polish, it is simple and direct; and, as the earliest Gospel, it is the primary source of information about the ministry of Jesus.”[1]
Now, let me give you an account about hearsay before we dwell into resurrection.  The benefit of information revolution and wikipedia in exposing the Christian dogma and propaganda cannot be under-estimated.  Here is the account of hearsay from wikepedia:

Hearsay is information gathered by one person from another person concerning some event, condition, or thing of which the first person had no direct experience. When submitted as evidence, such statements are called hearsay evidence. As a legal term, “hearsay” can also have the narrower meaning of the use of such information as evidence to prove the truth of what is asserted. Such use of “hearsay evidence” in court is generally not allowed. This prohibition is called the hearsay rule.

For example, a witness says “Susan told me Tom was in town”. Since the witness did not see Tom in town, the statement would be hearsay evidence to the fact that Tom was in town, and not admissible. However, it would be admissible as evidence that Susan said Tom was in town, and on the issue of her knowledge of whether he was in town.

United States

“Hearsay is a statement, other than one made by the declarant while testifying at the trial or hearing, offered in evidence to prove the truth of the matter asserted.” [1] Per Federal Rule of Evidence 801(d)(2)(a), a statement made by a defendant is only admissible as evidence if it is inculpatory; exculpatory statements made to an investigator are hearsay and therefore cannot be admitted as evidence unless the defendant testifies.[2] This has been cited by James Duane, a law professor at Regent University, as a reason why talking to the government’s criminal investigators cannot possibly help a defendant.[3]

England and Wales

In England and Wales, hearsay is generally admissible in civil proceedings[4] but is only admissible in criminal proceedings if it falls within a statutory or a preserved common law exception[5], all of the parties to the proceedings agree, or the court is satisfied that it is in the interests of justice that the evidence is admissible.[6]

Section 116 of the Criminal Justice Act 2003 provides that where a witness is unavailable, hearsay is admissible where a) the relevant person is dead; b) the relevant person is unfit to be a witness because of his bodily or mental condition; c) the relevant person is outside the UK and it is not reasonably practicable to secure his attendance; d) the relevant person cannot be found; e) through fear, the relevant person does not give oral evidence in the proceedings and the court gives leave for the statement to be given in evidence.

The two main common law exceptions to the rule that hearsay is inadmissible are res gestae and confessions.

Now that you know about hearsay, let us talk about resurrection story of Jesus and see if there are parallels between the two.  According to Encyclopedia Britannica:
The Resurrection of Christ, a central doctrine of Christianity, is based on the belief that Jesus Christ was raised from the dead on the third day after his Crucifixion and that through his conquering of death all believers will subsequently share in his victory over “sin, death, and the Devil.” The celebration of this event, called Easter, or the Festival of the Resurrection, is the major feast day of the church. The accounts of the Resurrection of Jesus are found in the four Gospels—Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John—and various theological expressions of the early church’s universal conviction and consensus that Christ rose from the dead are found throughout the rest of the New Testament, especially in the letters of the Apostle Paul (e.g., 1 Corinthians 15).
According to the Gospel accounts, certain woman disciples went to the tomb of Jesus, which was located in the garden of Joseph of Arimathea, a member of the Sanhedrin (the supreme Jewish religious court) and a secret disciple of Jesus. They found the stone sealing the tomb moved and the tomb empty, and they informed Peter and other disciples that the body of Jesus was not there. Later, various disciples saw Jesus in Jerusalem, even entering a room that was locked; he was also seen in Galilee. (Accounts of the locations and occasions of the appearances differ in various Gospels.) Other than such appearances noted in the Gospels, the account of the resurrected Lord’s walking the Earth for 40 days and subsequently ascending into heaven is found only in the book of the Acts of the Apostles.[2]
Note that Christianity talks about a resurrection 2000 years ago that has not happened before or since or in any other location.  If it was so important for human salvation, one would hope that the loving God would have catered for the needs of those also who preceeded Jesus or were in other locations, which will not hear about Jesus for centuries to come.  The proposed resurrection by its very definition becomes an extra-ordinary event for which extra-ordinary proofs should be provided.  But as very precisely noted in this excerpt from Encyclopedia Britannica, all we have is contradicting testimony of the four Gospels that were not written by eye-witnesses.  Note the words, “Accounts of the locations and occasions of the appearances differ in various Gospels.”  Jesus before his crucifixion could not walk through the walls but resurrected Jesus did, as it was not the same old, same old Jesus.  Was it some sort of phatom?  As regards the claim in Encyclopedia Britannica that it became the universal conviction of the church, I offer a book by Prof. Bart Ehrman, Lost Christianities: The Battles for Scripture and the Faiths We Never Knew.  Only the book of Acts talks about ascension of Jesus 40 days after resurrection.  The hearsay account of the four canonical gospels differs from one another, hardly sufficient evidence to base a religion on!

Christian apologists try to use the label of ‘facts,’ to create credibility for the hearsay evidence that they present for resurrection. But, the ‘facts’ of one apologist differ in some ways from the ‘facts’ of another apologist and in this comparison we can see that all the evidence mounts to no more than hearsay, which is antonym for ‘fact.’

Additionally, different apologists will acknowledge, in an overt or occult manner, vulnerability of different aspects of the resurrection story.  If these confessions are collected in one single knol the whole case of resurrection disappears in thin air like the human part of Jesus allegedly disappeared in thin air at the time of ascension.

The first apologist that I want to bring here as a witness is Michael Licona. He debated Prof. Bart Ehrman and was trying to prove the historic validity of resurrection, he had the first opening statement. He suggested three (so called) ‘facts’ to make the sum total of his thesis of resurrection:
1. Jesus’ death by crucifixion.
2. Sighting of Jesus by the Apostles after Crucifixion.
3. Sighting by Paul.
It turned out that the first fact was a red herring and had no relevance to the debate, as Ehrman simply mentioned that Jesus did not have to be crucified but could have been drowned or died of cholera and could have been raised from the dead. So the first ‘fact’ goes away fairly quickly and the other two ‘facts’ are in fact only ‘one fact’ as these imply witnessing by certain people including Paul. So much for the three ‘facts’ of Licona! We will return to his only remaining ‘fact’ later in the knol. But, let us proceed to the ‘facts’ of another Christian apologist Prof. William Lane Craig and address one of his ‘facts.’  He makes a big deal out of the so called ‘fact’ of the empty tomb after Jesus’ crucifixion and its relevance to the resurrection claim. His ‘fact’ is easily negated by a little quote from the recent book, by the chief apologist, Pope Benedict XVI:
“Jesus traveled the path of death right to the bitter and seemingly hopeless end in the tomb. Jesus’ tomb was evidently known. And here the question naturally arises: Did he remain in the tomb? Or was it empty after he had risen?
In modern theology this question has been extensively debated. Most commentators come to the conclusion that an empty tomb would not be enough to prove the Resurrection. If the tomb were indeed empty, there could be some other explanation for it. On this basis, the commentators conclude that the question of the empty tomb is immaterial and can therefore be ignored, which tends also to mean that it probably was not empty anyway, so at least a dispute with modern science over the possibility of bodily resurrection can be avoided. But at the basis of all this lies a distorted way of posing the question.
Naturally, the empty tomb as such does not prove the Resurrection. Mary Magdalene, in John’s account, found it empty and assumed that someone must have taken Jesus’ body away. The empty tomb is no proof of the Resurrection, that much is undeniable. Conversely, though, one might ask: Is the Resurrection compatible with the body remaining in the tomb? Can Jesus be risen if he is still lying in the tomb? What kind of resurrection would that be? Today, notions of resurrection have been developed for which the fate of the corpse is inconsequential. Yet the content of the Resurrection becomes so vague in the process that one must ask with what kind of reality we are dealing in this form of Christianity.
Be that as it may: Thomas Soding, Ulrich Wilckens, and others rightly point out that in Jerusalem at the time, the proclamation of the Resurrection would have been completely impossible if anyone had been able to point to a body lying in the tomb. To this extent, for the sake of posing the question correctly, we have to say that the empty tomb as such, while it cannot prove the Resurrection, is nevertheless a necessary condition for Resurrection faith, which was specifically concerned with the body and, consequently, with the whole of the person.”[3]
So, the punch line is that the empty tomb, unlike what William Lane Craig proposes in at least three of his debates with agnostics and atheists, does not prove resurrection hypothesis; but may be necessary for considering such a hypothesis.
To show my hand in the beginning of this knol, let me say, by pitching one Christian apologist against others, in this knol, with a little help from the university based scholars of Christianity, I will show, how flimsy is the case of all of them including that of the Pope Benedict XVI in his most recent presentation in Holy Week: From the Entrance Into Jerusalem To The Resurrection, published by Ignatius Press, in 2011.
Before I continue with my cross examination of the Pope’s account let me provide the link of my demystifying of Prof. William Lane’s account:
The vision of Saint Paul
You would recall from Michael Licona and Prof. Bart Ehrman debate that Christian apologists when trying to prove the historic validity of resurrection bank on the sighting of Jesus by the Apostles after Crucifixion and sighting by St. Paul.
You would also recall that resurrection is an extra-ordinary claim never witnessed in the modern times and extra-ordinary claims require extraordinary proofs.
The so called sighting by St. Paul is described in Acts in chapter number 9, 22 and 29. All these are not direct descriptions by St. Paul himself and are twenty years after Jesus was put on cross and do not necessary have to be resurrected Jesus and could have been visionary experience. Many Muslims have had similar experiences of sighting different prophets or saints or the Holy Prophet Muhammad and never any explanation like resurrection is evoked.  Such experiences are considered to be visions.  Ehrman in the said debate describes experience of many devout Christians who have visions of Mother Mary.  Are the accounts about Paul’s sighting of Jesus worthy of basing a religion on, you be the judge? But, let me review these three accounts from the book of Acts that do not match each other in details and the Pope recognizes this discrepancy in his recent book under discussion:
Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples. He went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any there who belonged to the Way, whether men or women, he might take them as prisoners to Jerusalem. As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?”
“Who are you, Lord?” Saul asked.
“I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” he replied. “Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.”
The men traveling with Saul stood there speechless; they heard the sound but did not see anyone. Saul got up from the ground, but when he opened his eyes he could see nothing. So they led him by the hand into Damascus. For three days he was blind, and did not eat or drink anything. (Acts 9:1-9)
Is this a fully satisfying account and proof for a dead god coming back to life three days later, or shall we say 36 hours believed by the naive and indoctrinated to be three days?  Resurrection of men after death is not uncommon in the biblical account and according to the Pope’s own confession mounts to nothing:
Now it must be acknowledged that if in Jesus’ Res­urrection we were dealing simply with the miracle of a resuscitated corpse, it would ultimately be of no concern to us. For it would be no more important than the resus­citation of a clinically dead person through the art of doc­tors. For the world as such and for our human existence, nothing would have changed. The miracle of a resusci­tated corpse would indicate that Jesus’ Resurrection was equivalent to the raising of the son of the widow of Nain (Lk 7:II-I7), the daughter of Jairus (Mk 5:22-24, 35-43 and parallel passages), and Lazarus (Jn 11:1-44). After a more or less short period, these individuals returned to their former lives, and then at a later point they died definitively.[4]
So, it is some how magically coming alive of a god or a man-god hybrid that is important!  How important it would be if his absence over the three days or 36 hours was not missed and nothing went broke in the universe in his absence?  But, let us move on to the second testimony from the book of Acts, as it describes the sighting of resurrected Jesus by St. Paul. Carefully read and compare and contrast the account with two other accounts of the so called post-crucifixion sightings by St. Paul.  Here comes Acts, chapter 22, unlike Acts 9, companiions see the light, whereas the light blinds Saul the companions are not blinded, these subtle discripencies reveal how forced and tortured these testimonies are, not the simple and straight forward description of a true witness:
“About noon as I came near Damascus, suddenly a bright light from heaven flashed around me. I fell to the ground and heard a voice say to me, ‘Saul! Saul! Why do you persecute me?’

“‘Who are you, Lord?’ I asked.
“‘I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom you are persecuting,’ he replied. My companions saw the light, but they did not understand the voice of him who was speaking to me.
“‘What shall I do, Lord?’ I asked.
“‘Get up,’ the Lord said, ‘and go into Damascus. There you will be told all that you have been assigned to do.’ My companions led me by the hand into Damascus, because the brilliance of the light had blinded me.  (Acts 22:6-11)
Whereas, Saul was blinded by the flash the companions could see fine and led him by hand into Damascus.  Whereas in this account only Paul fell to the ground but in Acts 26 account the companions also fell to the floor. The Pope confesses these discripencies but still does not understand that extra-ordinary claims require extra-ordinary proofs and continues to insist that the possible vision of Saul and his companions is a proof for resurrection:
According to all three accounts of Saint Paul’s conver­sion in the Acts of the Apostles, there were two elements to his encounter with the risen Christ: a light that shone “brighter than the sun” (26:13) together with a voice that spoke to Saul “in the Hebrew language” (26:14). Whereas the first account says that the people accompanying Saul could hear the voice but “[saw] no one” (9:7), the second account says, conversely, that they “saw the light but did not hear the voice of the one who was speaking to me” (22:9). The third account says of the people accompanying Saul only that they all fell to the ground with him (cf 26:14).[5]
So, let us move to the accout of the vision in Acts 26, according to the Pope the voice that spoke to Paul was in Hebrew but according to New International Version the voice spoke in Aramaic, but that is petty detail compared to every thing else that is thrown at us in the Easter story:
I was so obsessed with persecuting them that I even hunted them down in foreign cities. “On one of these journeys I was going to Damascus with the authority and commission of the chief priests. About noon, King Agrippa, as I was on the road, I saw a light from heaven, brighter than the sun, blazing around me and my companions. We all fell to the ground, and I heard a voice saying to me in Aramaic, ‘Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads.’

“Then I asked, ‘Who are you, Lord?’
“‘I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,’ the Lord replied. ‘Now get up and stand on your feet. I have appeared to you to appoint you as a servant and as a witness of what you have seen and will see of me. I will rescue you from your own people and from the Gentiles. I am sending you to them to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.’ (Acts 26:11-18)
According to Acts 22, Paul was to be given his assignment in Damascus but in Acts 26 his assignment is given to him there and then on the road to Damascus!
Jesus resurrection is claimed to be somehow extra special but we are never offered any extra-ordinary proof for this supposedly extra-ordinary event, except for hotch potch of writings from 2000 years ago written decades after the event, nor is the so called mystery ever explained to us in any details! Is it coming to life of the man Jesus? Is it coming to life of divine Jesus? Is it coming to life of man-god hybrid Jesus? The first time the making of the hybrid required the uterus of Mother Mary, what was the vehicle of recreation or resurrection this time around? What happened to Jesus’ human body as he ascended? What happened to the rest of divinity as one third of it lay dead for 36 hours? Perhaps scores or hundreds of such unanswered questions can be listed. We are not told answers to any of these essential questions by the Pope, after he has spent several decades of his long life in examining this all important issue of resurrection and written several books in defense of dogma of Christianity. All we are offered is some rhetoric that the Pope believes should be good enough for the already converted:
On this basis we can understand the unique character of this New Testament testimony. Jesus has not returned to a normal human life in this world like Lazarus and the oth­ers whom Jesus raised from the dead. He has entered upon a different life, a new life-he has entered the vast breadth of God himself, and it is from there that he reveals himself to his followers.[6]
I have knols about oral traditions and how the New Testament was compiled and there I will further elaborate that the writers of the four canonical gospels were not eyewitnesses, so my case about resurrection being hearsay rests on simple logic and definition of hearsay.  The first canonical gospel was written 30-40 years after Jesus was put on the cross and the last one namely John 60-70 years after crucifixion.
Testimony as recorded in the canonical Gospels
The most dramatic part of the story here is that the last 12 verses of the final chapter of Gospel of Mark are a later addition and this fact is acknowledged by the Pope but he weaves some rationalization for this major later interpolation.[7]  In the long tradition of Christian apologists, the Pope does not allow facts to come in the way of obsession with the man-god, Jesus of Nazareth.  At any rate, here are the convenient additions that were not there in the earliest manuscripts of Mark which was the first Gospel to be written and had the least freedom available to its writer to exagerate; these verses are italicized in the New International Version of the Bible, to highlight their later addition:
When Jesus rose early on the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom he had driven seven demons. She went and told those who had been with him and who were mourning and weeping. When they heard that Jesus was alive and that she had seen him, they did not believe it.
Afterward Jesus appeared in a different form to two of them while they were walking in the country. These returned and reported it to the rest; but they did not believe them either.  Later Jesus appeared to the Eleven as they were eating; he rebuked them for their lack of faith and their stubborn refusal to believe those who had seen him after he had risen. He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. And these signs will accompany those who believe: In my name they will drive out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up snakes with their hands; and when they drink deadly poison, it will not hurt them at all; they will place their hands on sick people, and they will get well.”  After the Lord Jesus had spoken to them, he was taken up into heaven and he sat at the right hand of God. Then the disciples went out and preached everywhere, and the Lord worked with them and confirmed his word by the signs that accompanied it.  (Mark 16:9-20)
The Pope glosses over this most dramatic finding about Mark which is more deserving to be called a ‘fact!’   A whole new ending of 12 verses is added and this is only one of the many gross examples and yet the Christian apologists continue to insist that the interpolations were minor and of no theological consequence.  Go figure!  What Robert Wright  has written about the chronology of the four Gospels is more insightful in explaining the new ending of the Mark, than the rationalizations offered by the Pope: 
“Hard evidence about the ‘historical Jesus’ is scanty. The Bible’s gospel accounts of Jesus’s life and words-the books of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John – were written sometime between 65 and 100 CE, thirty-five to seventy years after his death. By that time, their raw material, stories then circulating about Jesus in oral or written form, had no doubt been shaped by the psychological and rhetorical needs of his followers. (The letters of Paul – New Testament books such as Philippians and Romans – were written earlier, beginning around twenty years after Jesus’s death. Unfortunately, they say almost nothing about Jesus’s life and very little about his words.)
 
The book of Mark is generally considered the most factually reliable of the four gospels. It was written around 70 CE, roughly four decades after the Crucifixion. That’s a long lag, but it offers less time for the accrual of dubious information than the roughly five decades available for Matthew and Luke or the six or seven decades for John. What’s more, during Mark’s composition there would have been people sixty or seventy years old who as young adults had personally witnessed the doings and sayings of Jesus and knew his biographical details – and whose recollections may have constrained the author’s inventiveness. This population would shrink during the decade or more before other gospels took shape, expanding creative freedom.
 
Certainly as we move through the gospels in the order of their composition, we can see the accumulation of more and more dubious information. Mark doesn’t give us anything like ‘the plain unvarnished truth,’ but his story is plainly less varnished than are later accounts. (The actual name and identity of the author of Mark, as with the other gospels, is unknown, but in all cases, for convenience, I’ll call the authors by the names of their books.)
 
Consider the problem of Jesus being from a humble village, Nazareth. The Hebrew Bible had said that the Messiah would be a descendant of King David and, like David, would be born in Bethlehem. Mark never addresses the question of how ‘Jesus of Nazareth’ could have been born in Bethlehem. But by the time Matthew and Luke were written, an answer had emerged – two answers, even. Luke says Jesus’s parents went to Bethlehem for a census and returned to Nazareth after his birth. In Matthew’s version, Jesus’s parents just seem to live in Bethlehem. How then would Jesus wind up in Nazareth? Through an elaborate side story that has the family fleeing to Egypt under duress and then, upon leaving Egypt, deeming a return to Bethlehem dangerous, and settling in ‘a town called Nazareth.’ This contradiction between Luke and Matthew suggests that in this case, Mark, the earliest gospel, is the place to find the awkward truth: Jesus of Nazareth was Jesus of Nazareth. (Mathew 2:23) John (1:46-49) solves the Nazareth problem in yet another way.
 
 
Indeed, by the time of John there has been a general change in the tenor of Jesus’s miracles. In Mark, Jesus didn’t do miracles ostentatiously, and sometimes he even took pains to perform them in private. (An answer to critics who .noted that few people other than Jesus’s followers claimed witness to his miracles?) In John, Jesus turns miracles into spectacles. Before raising Lazarus from the dead-something Jesus does in no other gospel-he says Lazarus’s illness was ‘for God’s glory, so that the son of God may be glorified through it.’ Moreover, the miracles are now explicitly symbolic. When Jesus heals a blind man, he says, ‘I am the light of the world.’ (Mark 5:37, Luke 8:51, John 11:4 & 9:5)
 
A fairly immodest claim – but John’s Jesus is not a modest man. In no previous gospel does Jesus equate himself with God. But in John he says, ‘The Father and I are one.’ (John 10:30) Christian legend and theology have by this point had sixty or seventy years to evolve, and they are less obedient than ever to memories of the real, human Jesus.
 
All of this suggests that if we are going to try to make a stab at reconstructing the ‘historical Jesus,’ even in broadest outlines, Mark, the earliest gospel, is the place to start. There, more than in any other account of Jesus’s life and sayings, the number of plainly awkward and barely varnished facts suggests at least some degree of factualness.[8]
Did Jesus rise in a physical body or a spiritual one?
If Jesus was given a spiritual body then how could Thomas poke it and feel Jesus’ wounds, why did his fingers not go through the phantom of a spiritual body? If it was a spiritual body why did it eat as mentioned in the New Testament? Additionally, if it was a spiritual body why was Jesus trying to hide and be secretive. All right you understand the issue now; it must have been a physical body.  Not so fast! If it were a physical body, how would we explain what St Paul was trying to weave, a story of a spiritual body? Let me build the details of St. Paul’s preachings now.
Trinitarians are preceded by the Jews and Unitarian Christians and followed by the Muslims. With these three groups jealously guarding pure and unadulterated Monotheism, the Trinitarianism does not stand a chance! Read on and in the words of Sir Francis Bacon, “Read not to contradict … but to weigh and consider.”
Epilogue
I hope I have met the demands of St. Paul and the Pope Benedict XVI by showing the baselessness of the resurrection story. The Pope begins his chapter on resurrection in his recent book, Holy Week: From the Entrance Into Jerusalem To The Resurrection, “‘If Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified of God that he raised Christ’ (I Cor 15:14-15). With these words Saint Paul explains quite drastically what faith in the Resurrec­tion of Jesus Christ means for the Christian message over­all: it is its very foundation. The Christian faith stands or falls with the truth of the testimony that Christ is risen from the dead.”[9]
As evidence for resurrection is no more than hearsay as I have shown in this knol, allow me to request all Christians to follow Paul’s judgement here and migrate to better theology rather than insisting on hearsay!
Prof.  Phillip Cary, professor of Christian theology, in his lecture series for The Teaching Company course on the Christian theology, stated that the Christianity is an obsession with the person of Jesus of Nazareth, and the Pope’s recent book mounts to nothing more.  An obsession yes, which insists without logic, rationality or reason!
If my elaboration here and in my collection about Christianity has not convinced you to move to better theology of Islam then please ask me questions in the comment section.  So long!

 

Wikipedia References

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