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phlox

The Lord's Prayer

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Surprised to read that the Pope wants to change a line of the Lord’s Prayer.  I understand his point that Satan (or evil personified),  not God the loving Father, leads us into fear, anger, bitterness.  The question is whether the word 'temptation' suggests being encouraged to do wrong, or being allowed to suffer to the point of losing faith.  Most bibles have the word temptation; the translation I use is the NRSV, which has “And do not bring us to the time of trial…“  I’m no theologian, but I’ve always thought this line meant ‘please don’t let our faith be tested beyond endurance, don’t let affliction destroy our trust in You.’

I wonder how this suggested change in the prayer reflects on the Pope’s view of current events in the world.

Edited by phlox

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It's an interesting debate for him to be wading into, given that Catholics tend to say "deliver us from evil" whereas the Orthodox tend to say "deliver us from the evil one". The Catholic translation seems to refer to generalized evil -- mine, yours, whoever's -- whereas the Orthodox translation focuses on evil as it is personified by Satan. So for Pope Francis to say now that the prayer should acknowledge a greater role for Satan is interesting.

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Someone could, of course, inform Pope Francis that the line has been changed  and butchered over and over again by almost a century of modernized English translations.

“And let us not be put to the test” (Bible in Basic English), “And do not lead us into hard testing” (Complete Jewish Bible), “Do not bring us to hard testing” (Good News Translation), “Don’t allow us to be tempted” (God’s Word Translation), “Keep us safe from ourselves and the Devil.  You’re in charge!” (The Message Bible), “Keep us from falling into sin when we are tempted” (New International Reader’s Version), “And don’t let us yield to temptation” (New Living Translation), “And do not bring us to the time of trial” (New Revised Standard).

The theological problems with some of the above, notwithstanding, The New Century Version is the one that gets it wrong in the sense the Pope complains of (“And do not cause us to be tempted”), which is not the same sense as “Lead us not into temptation.”

“Lead us not into temptation” was never understood by the KJV/English Book of Common Prayer as implying that God causes temptation.

See Matthew Poole’s 1660s Commentaries:
“The term temptation in the general signifieth a trial, and is sometimes used to express God’s trials of his people’s faith and obedience, but most ordinarily to express Satan’s trials of us, by motions to sin; which may be from our own lusts, Jam 1:13,14; or from the devil, who is therefore called the tempter; or from the world. These are the temptations which we are commanded to pray against: not that God leads any persons into such temptations, unless by the permission of his providence.”

In other words, praying “lead us not into temptation” is the same as praying “protect us from temptation” and it is understood as such by anyone who stops to think about it.

Of course, the word “lead us” is also associated with a shepherd leading his flock (Psalm 23), so praying for Him not to lead us to temptation is asking for direction, whereas praying “help us to avoid times of trial” implies much more modern agency and has its own theological problems given that Christian theology does not necessarily direct Christians to avoid the world’s troubles or promise them that they may avoid trial.

__________________________________________

See also:

“Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil” has been changed to “Do no bring us to the time of trial, but deliver us from evil.”  Why?  For the sake of clarity?  (That is the usual answer.)  I know, because every sense in my body informs me, and ever misinclination of my mind, what is temptation, from which we seek deliverance.  But “the time of trial?”  That sounds as if the Supreme Court is in session.
- William F. Buckley, Jr., “His New Prayer,” November 17, 1977, Buckley: The Right Word, 1996, pg. 110
__________________________________________

Among other things, we aren't going to expect the current Pope to have an ear for the rhythms and poetry of old liturgical English.

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On 12/8/2017 at 6:40 AM, phlox said:

Surprised to read that the Pope wants to change a line of the Lord’s Prayer.  I understand his point that Satan (or evil personified),  not God the loving Father, leads us into fear, anger, bitterness. 

 

On 12/8/2017 at 10:19 AM, Peter T Chattaway said:

It's an interesting debate for him to be wading into, given that Catholics tend to say "deliver us from evil" whereas the Orthodox tend to say "deliver us from the evil one". The Catholic translation seems to refer to generalized evil -- mine, yours, whoever's -- whereas the Orthodox translation focuses on evil as it is personified by Satan. So for Pope Francis to say now that the prayer should acknowledge a greater role for Satan is interesting.

I love the title of the Guardian article: Lead Us Not Into Mistranslation. So good!

The implications of evil general or evil personified are interesting (I think both are totally fine and are not mutually exclusive), but it seems the real issue for the Pope is not “deliver us from evil [/ the evil one]” or even “temptation.” It’s about people believing that God, not satan, tempts us to sin, leads us astray, etc. It’s about “lead us not” more than anything.

On 12/8/2017 at 10:35 AM, J.A.A. Purves said:

Someone could, of course, inform Pope Francis that the line has been changed  and butchered over and over again by almost a century of modernized English translations.

This is very true, but I think it's important to remember that this issue has more to do with liturgical and devotional use than translating the Biblical text. Bible and liturgy are inseparable, but communal worship demands a certain language that is usable by people in their present context. The same is true for Biblical translation, I suppose. But translation implies that it is going into the present context, and in our present context, when people hear "lead us not into temptation" it means something different than it did in the 1600s. Biblical scholar Robert Alter has said that the Tyndale, Geneva, and KJV translators had a masterful command of the English language with an inadequate command of the original texts, whereas today's translators have a masterful command of the texts and original languages but an inadequate understanding of English. (And another flaw is that they feel beholden to interpretative glosses inherent in previous translations but absent or ambiguous in the original, especially when better translations would ruffle feathers of the faithful) . It's not a good translation--especially for liturgical use, in which people speak the words in prayer--if it doesn't match how the words are used.

On 12/8/2017 at 6:40 AM, phlox said:

The question is whether the word 'temptation' suggests being encouraged to do wrong, or being allowed to suffer to the point of losing faith.  Most bibles have the word temptation; the translation I use is the NRSV, which has “And do not bring us to the time of trial…“  I’m no theologian, but I’ve always thought this line meant ‘please don’t let our faith be tested beyond endurance, don’t let affliction destroy our trust in You.’

 

On 12/8/2017 at 10:35 AM, J.A.A. Purves said:

“Lead us not into temptation” was never understood by the KJV/English Book of Common Prayer as implying that God causes temptation.

See Matthew Poole’s 1660s Commentaries:
“The term temptation in the general signifieth a trial, and is sometimes used to express God’s trials of his people’s faith and obedience, but most ordinarily to express Satan’s trials of us, by motions to sin; which may be from our own lusts, Jam 1:13,14; or from the devil, who is therefore called the tempter; or from the world. These are the temptations which we are commanded to pray against: not that God leads any persons into such temptations, unless by the permission of his providence.”

In other words, praying “lead us not into temptation” is the same as praying “protect us from temptation”

I'm very much agreed with this. This is how I’ve mostly understood it, at least in my Christian maturity, and how I think how it should be understood biblically. I think a helpful gloss on this passage is Jesus’ words to the disciples in Gethsemane: Pray that you will not fall into temptation. (Luke 22:40)

My church uses the 1988 ecumenical phrasing "Save us from the time of trial, and deliver us from evil." Let me immediately acknowledge that "save us" isn't as accurate a translation. But  I prefer this one for liturgical use because it is capable of doing the most spiritual work. "Save us" has biblical echoes that show how the prayer resonates elsewhere in Scripture (not to mention in "deliver us"). And I like “trial” since it covers temptation but also other tests that may not be moral or individual but may still have high spiritual stakes. “Trial” or “testing” or even “tribulation” (think of those implications!) could be used for the word that is traditionally in English translated as “temptation.” I get Buckley's point but I think that temptation is too limiting a term. And, hey, I think it's great to say "temptation" when praying the prayer devotionally. But the biblical text implies more than what that word means in English, and in this case, I think so should the prayer.

On 12/8/2017 at 10:35 AM, J.A.A. Purves said:

and it is understood as such by anyone who stops to think about it.

Hmm, I don't agree with this. I think that problem the Pope identifies is all too real. The question of God's relationship to evil is huge and important, but this text isn't the place to have that conversation over. Many people don't stop to think about it. Many do think twice and don't understand that "lead us not" actually means something more like "protect us from." If they don't have enough guidance, why would they? I think "protect us" or "save us" is better for that reason. 

I had an English professor as an undergrad who wrote a book with her pastor husband called /Worship Words: Discipling Language for Faithful Ministry/, and she emphasized that language changes and "words wear out." Phrases like "lead us not" sound lovely but don't mean the same thing that they did in the 1600s (not that they even were the best translation then either) except to those both already liturgically initiated and historically literate, which should not be conditions of access to the meaning of the Lord's Prayer. 

On 12/8/2017 at 10:35 AM, J.A.A. Purves said:

Among other things, we aren't going to expect the current Pope to have an ear for the rhythms and poetry of old liturgical English.

True. But the Pope is concerned, as he should be, with present liturgical English. The New Testament was written in vernacular koine Greek, not classical Attic Greek, after all, and I think that's a good analogue. 

We just need contemporary translations (liturgical and biblical) that also have an ear for rhythm and poetry.

On 12/8/2017 at 7:29 PM, Peter T Chattaway said:

J.A.A. Purves wrote:
: “Keep us safe from ourselves and the Devil.  You’re in charge!” (The Message Bible)

... Seriously?

I have no desire to defend this one, but The Message, of course, is not technically a translation of the Biblical text. It is an interpretive paraphrase in conversational English (a targum, if you will) that brings out meanings latent in the text (a good thing) while sometimes foreclosing other legitimate interpretations (not so good).  It’s meant to be read alongside true translations, and I think it can be really helpful. I think Eugene Peterson is a trustworthy Biblical interpreter, and I’ve found his work on the role of the Bible in spirituality helpful. I don’t think The Message itself should be held to the same standards as other translations for that reason. It also means that I don’t think many of its phrasings are defensible as translations, and often miss the mark. This may be one of those cases.

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Way out of my league in terms of biblical scholarship, but I’d have to agree about the NRSV translation-- ‘time of trial’ isn’t the best choice.

From what I read, the Pope’s suggested rewording is “do not let us fall into temptation.”  I can’t go along with his assertion that Satan is a person, but I find it significant that he calls attention to this verse at this particular time… when the authority of political leaders is being questioned, when it seems we are indeed being led astray.

Edited by phlox

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Rob Z wrote:
: My church uses the 1988 ecumenical phrasing "Save us from the time of trial, and deliver us from evil." Let me immediately acknowledge that "save us" isn't as accurate a translation. But  I prefer this one for liturgical use because it is capable of doing the most spiritual work.

I dunno. I mean, for starters, most English translations -- including the dominant Catholic and evangelical translations -- use "the evil one" instead of "evil". The KJV (and derivative translations like the RSV) is actually quite rare in preferring "deliver us from evil", but that's what most non-Orthodox English-speakers are used to because of the shadow that the KJV casts over English liturgy in general.

And I think there's a very definite point to be made by juxtaposing "temptation" with "the evil one". Losing *one* of those concepts is bad enough; losing *both* pushes things even further in the wrong direction. Or so it seems to this layman, at any rate.

: Phrases like "lead us not" sound lovely but don't mean the same thing that they did in the 1600s (not that they even were the best translation then either) except to those both already liturgically initiated and historically literate, which should not be conditions of access to the meaning of the Lord's Prayer. 

Not sure that liturgy should be concerned about "conditions of access". The whole point of liturgy is that it shapes us, not that we shape it. We come into a deeper relationship with liturgy and its meaning through tradition and repetition. What's the point of liturgy that dumbs things down for the sake of a more seeker-sensitive surface?

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18 hours ago, Peter T Chattaway said:

Not sure that liturgy should be concerned about "conditions of access". The whole point of liturgy is that it shapes us, not that we shape it. We come into a deeper relationship with liturgy and its meaning through tradition and repetition. What's the point of liturgy that dumbs things down for the sake of a more seeker-sensitive surface?

Absolutely agreed.  Any liturgical prayer, poem, or song (even if spoken aloud in Greek or Latin) can still be explained to lay congregations so that they understand the meaning.  The fact that a text may need to be explained is not an argument against the text itself being used in church or liturgical practice.  This isn't even to mention the fact that rhythm and cadence for prayers (particularly for prayers designed to be spoken aloud communally) does matter, and pretending that it doesn't matter is more destructive (of beauty, of memorization, of music) than the revisers will admit.

Meanwhile, Anthony Esolen just weighed in on the translation "lead us not into temptation" as being accurate from the Greek text:

Quote

The words of Jesus are clear. The original Greek is not ambiguous. There is no variant hiding in the shelves. We cannot go from an active verb, subjunctive mood, aorist tense, second person singular, with a clear direct object, to a wholly different verb—“do not allow”—completed by an infinitive that is nowhere in the text—“to fall”—without shifting from translation to theological exegesis. The task of the translator, though he should be informed by the theological, cultural, and linguistic context of the time, is to render what the words mean, literally, even (perhaps especially) when those words sound foreign to our ears.

Here someone will shout, “But sometimes the meanings are not literal.” I agree. Sometimes the primary meaning is figurative; but that is still a linguistic judgment, and not theological exegesis. Even so, we are far more likely to paint for our readers a broad range of figurative meaning by keeping close to the literal field wherein that meaning takes root and flourishes, than by dispensing with the literal, and losing it and much of the figurative to boot. Hence translations that suppress the word “seed” (as in “Abraham's seed”), or “fruit” (as in “be fruitful, and multiply,” or Jesus’s parable of the vineyard owner who sent his servants to gather the “fruit” of his land), replacing these words with “offspring” and “produce,” are not only pallid English. They make it impossible for us to hear the figurative resonances of these words as Jesus and his fellow Jews heard them, across all of Scripture. They distance us—who are already farther off than is healthy—from what Aidan Nichols, O. P. has called “the warmth and wonder of created things,” of fruit, and seed, and the marital act that sows the seed.

Someone else will say that language changes over time, and that is why we need revisions. Perhaps; but the ancient Greek has not changed, and English in this regard has not changed. “Lead us not into temptation” means “do not lead us into temptation,” and that is that. We might revise and render “temptation” as “testing” or “trial”: “Do not lead us to the test,” but that would still fall under the pope’s disapproval.

No, I believe that the Greek means what it means, and what it means is accurately rendered as “lead us not into temptation,” exactly the same in Matthew as it is in Luke.

Then someone objects, and says that the Greek is just a translation of the Lord’s Aramaic, so that we, by guesswork, can efface the Greek and replace it with a supposititious original. There are three problems here. First, the Greek is the text we have, and it is canonical. Second, there is no reason to suppose that Greek-speaking Jews did not pray the prayer exactly as the Greek-speaking Saint Luke records it, which in this line is identical to Matthew’s. Third, if we consider a Semitic substrate it becomes more likely, not less, that the Greek me eisenenkeis hemas eis peirasmon is an exact rendering of what would be a verse of psalmic poetry, as I believe all of the Lord’s Prayer is. We would have A + B + C, where A is the negative, B is a causative verb (in Hebrew, “lead” = “to cause to go,” as in Psalm 23) with affixes for second-person singular subject and third-person plural object, and C is “into-temptation.” Such a verse or half-verse would be familiar to every one of Jesus's listeners, and they would have expected it to be completed by a second half. And so it is, in another A + B + C: “but + free-us + from-evil,” each element in correspondence with its partner in the previous half. No, I’m afraid that all attempts to justify an alteration on linguistic grounds fail.

 

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On 12/10/2017 at 7:37 PM, Peter T Chattaway said:

Not sure that liturgy should be concerned about "conditions of access". The whole point of liturgy is that it shapes us, not that we shape it. We come into a deeper relationship with liturgy and its meaning through tradition and repetition. What's the point of liturgy that dumbs things down for the sake of a more seeker-sensitive surface?

 

On 12/11/2017 at 2:07 PM, J.A.A. Purves said:

Absolutely agreed.  Any liturgical prayer, poem, or song (even if spoken aloud in Greek or Latin) can still be explained to lay congregations so that they understand the meaning.  The fact that a text may need to be explained is not an argument against the text itself being used in church or liturgical practice.  This isn't even to mention the fact that rhythm and cadence for prayers (particularly for prayers designed to be spoken aloud communally) does matter, and pretending that it doesn't matter is more destructive (of beauty, of memorization, of music) than the revisers will admit.

I agree that people need education in the liturgy no matter what. And I agree that liturgy forms us (and that we especially need that Christian formation in the face of the power of “secular cultural liturgies,” as described by Jamie Smith). But that doesn’t mean that liturgy can’t or shouldn’t be changed by the church when needed. (Saying that we don’t or shouldn’t form liturgy sounds to me kind of like Protestants saying that they aren’t formed by tradition, only the Bible, but I might not totally get your meaning.) I agree that “protect us” is what “lead us not” means (although I think “save us” is even better). Why not say “protect us from temptation” if that what the Greek means? That has a nice iambic rhythm (as does “protect us from the time of trial”), too, and seems to me not to lose too much on the grounds of rhythm and cadence, which I agree are important.

I am absolutely not suggesting that liturgy be dumbed down for seeker sensibilities. (Yeah, “conditions of access” is a clunky phrase. What I meant was that the language itself shouldn’t be the barrier to comprehending and fully participating in the prayers spoken. I was thinking more of children growing up in the church than adult seekers, but I think it applies to everyone.) I’m suggesting the translation needs to be updated to be more accurate. I don’ think you were suggesting that contemporary English is inherently dumber than 1600s English, but even if it was, we speak contemporary English, not early modern English and not ancient Greek (which again, was contemporaneous vernacular Greek). This isn’t beside the point, but I don’t think it really gets away from the fact that the problem the Pope identifies is real, and that a better translation is needed. Many revisers get it wrong, as you say, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be done right.

On 12/11/2017 at 2:07 PM, J.A.A. Purves said:

 

I don’t disagree with Esolen’s quibbles with the Pope’s proposed alternative, but I do disagree with his philosophy of translation. It’s similar to the ESV translation philosophy as I understand it, and isn’t a proper translation of the original into a contemporary language if accuracy in rendering of the original comes at the cost of sufficiently. The ESV is explicit about prioritizing traditional translations of texts. There is something to be said for that, but I think that it does this at the expense of accuracy of translation into English. He seems to be implying that the text suggests that God does lead us into temptation of the sort that the Pope is concerned about, and I agree with the Pope and I think everyone else in this thread that that’s a misunderstanding. I say that accuracy of translation should trump tradition (certainly in this case), and I think that I could root my arguments for that in the larger Christian Tradition, although I haven’t thought that one through thoroughly.

A blog I like that takes this perspective (by a Jewish Biblical scholar) is https://goddidntsaythat.com/

Let me add that I think Esolen is a good translator, and his philosophy of translation can be very useful. I’ve read Dante’s Commedia in three translations and I liked his the best. But Dante isn’t Scripture, nor is it liturgy. I agree more with his translation philosophy when it comes to literary translations of the Bible with commentary, like Robert Alter’s or the Anchor Bible series or perhaps this new translation by David Bentley Hart that looks intriguing. We desperately need those translations, alongside NIVs, ESVs, NRSVs, and historical translations.

Here are some helpful thoughts on the issue from some Biblical scholars posted at Christianity Today.

Quote

 

“I think that the pope is correct in his concern about the way the English translation can be misconstrued. (Of course, this is not the only place it can be misunderstood by those who recite it without understanding it. As I recall, they still prayed this prayer in public schools when I was little, and I wondered what it meant to make a name ‘hollow.’) The most likely sense is for God to protect us from succumbing to testing (as is clear in the parallel text in Matthew 26), and in Matthew it is parallel to deliverance from the evil one. The liturgical problem would be that people accustomed to praying the prayer a particular way might not adapt well to the change in wording. But whether they change the wording or not, the public raising of the question will help people have a better understanding of what they mean—or should mean—when they pray this prayer.”
~Craig S. Keener, professor of biblical studies, Asbury Theological Seminary

“It's very common for Bible teachers to note possible misunderstandings in the course of explaining a passage of Scripture. When I read the pope’s comments, I thought, ‘Yes, that’s exactly what a Bible teacher should do: ward off theologically and pastorally harmful misinterpretations.’ Furthermore, the pope’s perspective could be supported with an appeal to James 1:13: ‘No one, when tempted, should say, “I am being tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil and he himself tempts no one’ (NRSV). On the other hand, there would seem to me to be less invasive ways to avoid the problem than what this new French translation does. The 1988 version from the ecumenical English Language Liturgical Consultation, for example, renders it more word-for-word literally as, “Save us from the time of trial.” Surely there's a similar middle way possible in French?”
~Wesley Hill, assistant professor of biblical studies, Trinity School for Ministry

“The expression ‘do not lead us into temptation’ could suggest God might do this. Others texts say he never does (James 1:13–15). The rhetorical point of the request is the disciple knows that if one is to be protected from sin and temptation, God must take us there. So the sense of the request is very much ‘protect us from temptation.’ It is expressed negatively to make the point. It expresses a dependence of disciples on God for every area of life while recognizing who he is and affirming a desire for his will to take place. Interestingly we call it the Lord’s Prayer as it comes from the Lord, but it really is the Disciples’ Prayer, a prayer from Jesus we are to pray for each other. (Note all the plurals showing it is not a private prayer only but what we pray as a group for each other). I would prefer a rendering that says ‘protect us from temptation.’ The second part of the request is deliver us from the evil one, a point that underscores the protection idea. The one problem with ‘let us not fall into temptation’ is it suggests God is reacting to us. In fact, the request is the opposite. It is a request from the disciple to be responsive to God, recognize the need to be responsive, and ask him for a leading that does not take the believer into temptation, thus for protection that the disciples recognize God must do in order for things to go well.”
~Darrell L. Bock, executive director of cultural engagement and senior research professor of New Testament studies, Dallas Theological Seminary

 

 

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On 12/10/2017 at 7:37 PM, Peter T Chattaway said:

I dunno. I mean, for starters, most English translations -- including the dominant Catholic and evangelical translations -- use "the evil one" instead of "evil". The KJV (and derivative translations like the RSV) is actually quite rare in preferring "deliver us from evil", but that's what most non-Orthodox English-speakers are used to because of the shadow that the KJV casts over English liturgy in general.

And I think there's a very definite point to be made by juxtaposing "temptation" with "the evil one". Losing *one* of those concepts is bad enough; losing *both* pushes things even further in the wrong direction. Or so it seems to this layman, at any rate.

I’m curious if English-speaking Orthodox tend to use “trespasses” in the Lord’s Prayer? I grew up with debts/debtors (the Matthew text) and my current church uses sins/ “those who sin against us,” so that has always sounded off to me. I like that Luke has both sins and debts, and I wish that were in more liturgical use. I honestly don't know where "trespasses" comes from since KJV has "debts." 

I read somewhere about biblical metaphors for sin, that there are three primary metaphors that developed over time: first, sin as burden to be carried, then sin as stain to be washed away, finally sin as debt to be repaid. Perhaps it's a property-conscious mindset that developed the metaphor of trespass later?

Makes me think that now some of the most common metaphors for sin are "brokenness" and "separation." Beyond theological extrapolations from the Bible, I wonder how those developed. (Just to be clear, I do not hope we end up with "forgive us our brokenness as we forgive those separated from us"! But a translator could do worse.)

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I agree with the quote from Darrell Bock: “The expression ‘do not lead us into temptation’ could suggest God might do this..."

As a lifelong Protestant layman who has always recited the Lord's Prayer using the phrase "and lead us not into temptation," the Pope's comments were an eye opener.  The phrase suggests the believer is asking God not to do something that He would (or could) otherwise choose to do...to wit, lead us into temptation. That is simply untrue. God does not tempt his followers. The only tempter in the Bible is Satan.  The idea that anyone could conclude, based on the Lord's Prayer, that God tempts people as Satan does is truly disturbing.

I love the beauty, majesty, and poetry of the Lord's Prayer as I learned it but maybe we need to rethink some of the wording based on contemporary English usage.

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