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the Week of Proper 10 / Ordinary 15
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Bible Commentaries
Colossians 2

Old & New Testament Restoration CommentaryRestoration Commentary

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Verse 1

Col 2:1

Colossians 2:1

For I would have you know how greatly I strive for you,—This conflict for those he had not seen was mental conflict, one of the heart. Possibly a striving in prayer (Colossians 4:12) to God for them, that they might know the full truth of God, and be faithful to it. This epistle to them to encourage them to be faithful was a result of that struggle and anxiety in their behalf.

and for them at Laodicea,—All the Christians in the Lycus Valley, in which Laodicea was located, were exposed to the vicious influences of the false teachers.

and for as many as have not seen my face in the flesh;—The disciples at Colossae and Laodicea knew of Paul and his work, but had never seen his “face in the flesh.” He had never visited the churches in that locality. He only knew those individuals who had visited him.

Verse 2

Col 2:2

Colossians 2:2

that their hearts may be comforted,—His anxiety in behalf of all who had not seen his face arose from the fear that they might not receive the full teaching of the word of God. The only teaching they had received was yet verbal. The scriptures had not been completed and collected. Paul was the only apostle who had labored in that section of the country; and the other teachers, if inspired at all, were only partially gifted. So there was great danger that where the apostles did not go the teaching would be imperfect and partial. [He regards the danger to which they were exposed and the afflictions which they endured and by mention of these prepares them for his exhortation.]

they being knit together in love,—This describes the manner in which the comforting should take place. The light and service secured by the full knowledge of the gospel would bring additional comfort, would more favorably unite and cement them together in love. The increase in knowledge and the more complete con­formity of the life to the will of God is always laid down as the condition of fuller comfort and more perfect union in love.

and unto all riches of the full assurance of understand­ing,—This refers to the spiritual riches, and it comes through practicing what is known. The knowledge is of Christ, and in him all the treasures of the knowledge and wisdom are hidden.

that they may know the mystery of God, even Christ,—To learn Christ is to learn the mystery of God. [Christ in whom the inscrutable nature of God, rich in the hidden treasure of wisdom and knowledge, is revealed to us.]

Verse 3

Col 2:3

Colossians 2:3

in whom are all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge hidden.—Christ as the Mediator is the great treasure house, so to speak, where is found all the wisdom and knowledge needful for the Christian. Christ is what abundant treasures are in reference to the supply of our wants.

Verse 4

Col 2:4

Colossians 2:4

This I say, that no one may delude you with persuasive­ness of speech.—He gives them this knowledge that they may not be turned away from Christ by enticing words. He gives the following warning concerning false teachers. “For they that are such serve not our Lord Christ, but their own belly; and by their smooth and fair speech they beguile the hearts of the innocent.” (Romans 16:18). And again he warns: “Be no longer children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, in craftiness, after the wiles of error.” (Ephesians 4:14). The protection against this being carried away by error given in enticing words is a full knowledge of God’s will as delivered in Christ. The Colossian church was steadfast in faith and true to the word of God, though not taught by an apostle.

Verse 5

Col 2:5

Colossians 2:5

For though I am absent in the flesh, yet am I with you in the spirit,—Paul’s heart was really with the Colossian Chris­tians, from whom he was absent, and whom he had never seen.

joying and beholding your order, and the steadfastness of your faith in Christ.—Through the reports of Epaphras he could see and enjoy their order and the steadfastness of their faith as though he was present with them and saw it. [They held their position as good soldiers of Christ, and their faith in him enabled them to present to every enemy an immovable line of battle. The tone of this verse suggests that looseness of faith exposes Christians to disastrous results.]

Verse 6

Col 2:6

Colossians 2:6

As therefore ye received Christ Jesus the Lord,—[They who welcomed the good news of salvation through Christ Jesus thereby receive Christ himself to be their Lord and their life. Where the message of his love is welcomed, he himself comes in spiritual and real presence, and dwells in the spirit.]

so walk in him,—Live your life, regulate your whole con­duct in accordance with the way you learned Christ, and in union with him.

Verse 7

Col 2:7

Colossians 2:7

rooted and builded up in him,—This suggests stability and nourishment and life derived from inward contact with Christ. It calls attention to the foundation on which the character is builded up in him. The root, the foundation, is faith in Christ.

and established in your faith, even as ye were taught—The completing the life and forming the character must be by obedi­ence to him, by a continued walk in Christ, and this fixes or establishes the faith. [A progressive increase of faith is the. con­dition of all Christian progress. The faith which is already the firmest is still capable of and needs strengthening. Its range can be enlarged, its tenacity increased, and its power over heart and life reinforced. The eye of faith is never so keen but that it may become more long-sighted; its grasp never so close that it may not be tightened; its realization never so solid but that it may be made more substantial; this continued strengthening of faith is the most essential form of a Christian’s effort at self-improvement. Strengthen your faith and you strengthen all graces; for it measures our reception of divine help.]

abounding in thanksgiving.—[They should abound in thanks­giving because they had received the knowledge of the great truths and blessings through the Lord Jesus Christ]

Verse 8

Col 2:8

Colossians 2:8

Take heed lest there shall be any one that maketh spoil of you through his philosophy and vain deceit,—He warns them that they must not let any one pervert them from the faith in Christ by their human reasonings and theories that are vain and deceptive. The Spirit recognized that no salvation could come to man through human philosophies, or the deductions of human reason, through the vain deceit of man’s experience as developed in society, in history, or in any worldly experiences or wisdom can teach. All efforts to find righteousness in any of these spoil men, deprive them of the only true righteousness that is found in Christ, and that comes from God through Christ Jesus. All the philoso­phies of men, all the deceits of human wisdom, and all the rudi­ments of the world discovered by human reason spoil men, ruin their souls, lead them to everlasting death by leading them away from God and his salvation.

after the tradition of men,—[This so-called philosophy was a man-made scheme. God had nothing to do with it. It was originated entirely by men and is handed along from men to men. “The stream rises no higher than its source.”]

after the rudiments of the world,—[As to their subject mat­ter, it concerns itself with what is of the world. This marks the chief point of contact with the earlier Judaism, in the stress still laid on matters of ritual law, ascetic observance, and the like. The phrase suggests more than Jewish ritualistic observances, since “world” includes the whole sphere of material things, and Paul is giving the category to which the false teaching belonged. To go back to rudiments was to show themselves children. (Galatians 4:3).]

and not after Christ:—[This is in contrast with all that precedes—Christ is the source, substance, and the end of the plan of salvation. What is not after Christ is rudimentary; all teaching that does not make him the center only serves to lead men captive. All culture apart from him is an illusion and deceit.]

Verse 9

Col 2:9

Colossians 2:9

for in him dwelleth—Not a mere emanation of the Su­preme Being, but dwelleth and remains forever—not dwelling in him for a time and leaving him again.

all the fulness—The whole is an extension and enforcement of “for it was the good pleasure of the Father that in him should all the fulness dwell.” (Colossians 1:19).

of the Godhead bodily,—[The false teachers claimed to be in horror of all that was material, as having in it the seed of evil, and for that reason they denied either the reality of our Lord’s body or its inseparable connection with the Godhead in him. Hence Paul’s emphasis here; as John also in the following: “And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us (and we beheld his glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father), full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14). And he gave the following warning: “Beloved, believe not every spirit, but prove the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets are gone out into the world. Hereby know ye the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God: and every spirit that confesseth not Jesus is not of God: and this is the spirit of the antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it cometh; and now it is in the world already.” (1 John 4:1-3).]

All the wisdom, power, and goodness of the Godhead for up­lifting and saving men is embodied in the person of Jesus Christ. And in his provisions are found the only source and righteousness and life for man. Whosoever looks away from him and his teachings turns his back upon God and upon all his provisions for the salvation of man. “But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who was made unto us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctifica­tion, and redemption: that, according as it is written, He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord.” (1 Corinthians 1:30-31). In the way of redemption provided by God, man must walk, that his righteousness and salvation may be of God and not stand in the wisdom of man. In the bodily form of Jesus Christ dwells the full power and excellence of the Godhead. For after his resurrec­tion from the dead, Jesus said: “All authority hath been given unto me in heaven and on earth.” (Matthew 28:18).

Verse 10

Col 2:10

Colossians 2:10

and in him ye are made full,—By entering into Christ, and living up to his requirements, they were completed and per­fected in work and in character. [The divine gifts thus obtained are ample, hence they ought not to seek to supplement this suffi­cient supply by looking to other sources.]

who is the head of all principality and power:—The repeti­tion of these terms indicates that the false teachers presented the angels as mediators, or in a manner which detracted from the sufficiency of Christ. This affirmation of the absolute supremacy of Christ to the angelic world meets this error. Nor is this superiority simply one of position, since the head is in vital con­nection with the members, who derive their life from it. [To partake of the divine fullness is not the special privilege of the initiated; it belongs to all who are united to the Lord Jesus Christ.]

Verse 11

Col 2:11

Colossians 2:11

in whom ye were also circumcised with a circumcision not made with hands,—There was a literal circumcision of the flesh in the Jewish dispensation; there is a spiritual circumcision in the church of Christ.

in the putting off—As we take off and put away clothes. The readers are said to “have put off the old man with his doings’’ (Colossians 3:9), and to “have put on the new man” (Colossians 3:10); and again, “put on therefore, as God’s elect, holy and beloved, a heart of compassion, kindness, lowliness, meekness, longsuffering.” (Colossians 3:12).

of the body of the flesh,—[The human body looked upon in its material construction, in view of the truth ever to the mind of Paul (Romans 6:12) that through the needs and desires arising from the constitution of our body sin rules all those who have not become obedient to the Lord Jesus Christ. For in the man of the world the flesh, although in its self good, has come under the dominion of sin and has become the weapon with which sin enslaves its victims. Hence apart from Christ, man’s flesh is “sinful flesh” (Romans 8:3), and his body a “body of sin” (Romans 6:6). Circumcision is only the outward removal, by human hands, of a small part of that body which to so many is an instru­ment by which sin holds them captive. But the servants of Christ have stripped off from themselves and laid aside their entire body of flesh, inasmuch they have been completely rescued from its deadly dominion. Henceforth they stand in a new relation to their own bodies—these are no longer the throne of sin but the temple of God. The apostle says: “Or know ye not that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit which is in you, which ye have from God ? and ye are not your own; for ye were bought with a price: glorify God therefore in your body.” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).]

in the circumcision of Christ;—In entering into Christ, they received the true spiritual circumcision made without hands, of which the circumcision of the flesh was a type. That true cir­cumcision was the putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by that circumcision or cutting off of the sins which Christ does for us when we enter into him.

Verse 12

Col 2:12

Colossians 2:12

having been buried with him in baptism,—The putting off the body of the flesh or the true spiritual circumcision was effected by being buried with him in baptism. This implies that they were dead to sin through faith in Christ.

wherein ye were also raised with him—They were also raised with him in baptism. In this act the sins were removed, as by circumcision the flesh was cut off. [The language is taken from the coming up out of the water which is associated with the fact of Christ’s resurrection, which is clearly referred to. Christ went down into the grave, but came up again. So the believer disappears under the waters of baptism. This is a side not pre­sented in circumcision. In baptism there is an impressive exhibi­tion of the fact that we are born anew, This new life we get in union with Christ. The working of God is signally displayed in raising Christ from the dead. It is to be taken in connection with the removal of sin which operated in Christ’s death. Christ rose from the dead possessor of a new and endless life. If we take as the object of our faith the working which raised Christ from the dead, we shall become sharers with him in the same new and endless life.]

through faith in the working of God,—They were both buried and raised with Christ in baptism, by the working of faith in God. Baptism avails nothing without faith. It is only as faith recognizes a risen Savior that the act of baptism becomes of spiritual significance, and rising with Christ becomes an actual spiritual experience.

who raised him from the dead.—God’s working is here set forth as the object of the believing, not as the cause. In this connection it was natural to characterize God as the one “who raised him from the dead.” Only through faith in such a God as able and willing to raise us up spiritually can we partake in this new life.

Verse 13

Col 2:13

Colossians 2:13

And you, being dead through your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh,—They were Gentiles, as such uncircumcised; this external condition fitly indicates their de­praved and carnal condition. Their uncircumcision was once the sign of their fleshly condition, but now they had received the circumcision of the heart.

you, I say, did he make alive together with him,—Now he had made them alive, brought them together with himself, when they had been buried and raised with Christ.

having forgiven us all our trespasses;—The Lord’s resurrec­tion was the expression of the fact of his acceptance by the Father; our entrance on union with him as the Risen One was the ex­pression of our acceptance in him. [This is the most beautiful allusion to circumcision imaginable. There were those who had accepted the gospel, who through the influence of false teachers were led to think they needed to be circumcised in order to secure the remission of sin. To them the apostle said: You are complete in Christ; you need not be circumcised with a circumcision made with hands. The fleshly circumcision only took off a small por­tion of flesh; but spiritual circumcision, which we have in being crucified with Christ, in being buried with him in baptism, cuts off without a knife, and without a hand, the whole body of the sins of the flesh. This is Christ’s way of circumcising. So we have a circumcision of all sins, the mighty mass is now cut off through our faith and baptism into Christ, with whom we have risen through the faith of the mighty operation of God, who raised him from the dead.]

Verse 14

Col 2:14

Colossians 2:14

Having blotted out the bond written in ordinances that was against us,—Not a soul was ever saved by the law of Moses, because none ever kept it, save Jesus Christ who fulfilled it completely; and he was not lost, to need salvation. Persons under the law of Moses were saved, but it was by and through Christ. No man could be justified by the law, because all sinned and violated the law; and law condemns, and does not justify, or purge from sin. All Jews and Gentiles have sinned, or broken the law, so cannot be saved by law. The law was given to train and prepare men for the reception of Jesus Christ, the promised seed, in whom all nations of the earth should be blessed.

which was contrary to us:—The Mosaic law condemned, but could not save, so it “was contrary to us.” and he hath taken it out of the way,—The whole of the Mosaic law, including the commandments written on stones (2 Corinthians 3:7), was taken out of the way, nailed to the cross, and is no longer in force as a law in any of its parts. In the new covenant many laws that were in the old covenant were re-enacted and are to be obeyed not because they were in the old, but because they are a part of the new.

nailing it to the cross;—It was taken out of the way when Jesus Christ was nailed to the cross. [This is a very graphic way of saying that the obstacle to forgiveness which lay in the law—in the justice of God of which the law is an embodiment—was re­moved by the death of Christ. Practically the nails which fastened to the cross the hands and the feet of Jesus, and thus slew him, pierced and invalidated the law which pronounced the just condemnation of sinners. Hence Paul could say: “There is therefore now no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 8:1). By the cross of Christ Paul could truthfully affirm that “the world hath been crucified unto me, and I unto the world.” (Galatians 6:14).]

Verse 15

Col 2:15

Colossians 2:15

having despoiled the principalities and the powers,—This is a figure from the treatment of enemies when conquered. Jesus was condemned and put to death by the principalities and powers of earthly governments—Jewish and Roman.

he made a show of them openly, triumphing over them in it.—He struggled with death, overcame it and them, and in his res­urrection and ascension made a show openly of his triumph over them.

Verse 16

Col 2:16

Colossians 2:16

Let no man therefore judge you—Since the old covenant was nailed to the cross of Christ, and was thus made invalid, its written decrees, he tells them, are not binding on the saints, and they were not to be judged for neglecting them.

in meat, or in drink,—This refers to ceremonial, and, doubt­less, extremely rigid requirements as to clean and unclean articles of food and drink. Whether a man eats or drinks or not his con­duct in this respect supplies no fit ground for a judgment of him.

or in respect of a feast day or a new moon—Christians should not permit themselves to be bound to Jewish festivals in their worship of God; neither to the great annual feasts. The claims of these observances were, no doubt, greatly exaggerated, and, possibly made tests of fellowship,

or a sabbath day:—[The sabbath means rest, and was a shadow of the rest which believers have in Christ. “For we who have believed do enter into that rest. . . . There remaineth there­fore a sabbath rest for the people of God. . . . Let us therefore give diligence to enter into that rest, that no man fall after the same example of disobedience.” (Hebrews 4:3-11). The seventh day was the Sabbath or rest of God in creation, and was afterwards given to the Israelites, and formed part of their economy of types. But since Christ has come, this typical rest cannot be kept without ignoring him as our rest. The Sabbath of the Israelites is past, and the first day of the week has begun in life and liberty. It is not physical rest that is to be sought, but praise and adoration to him who has brought life and immortality to light. On the first day of the week the believer ceases his daily labor, but it is that he may honor Christ by his spiritual service. The first day of the week should never be called a Sabbath, because it is neither true nor appropriate to so name his resurrection day.]

Verse 17

Col 2:17

Colossians 2:17

which are a shadow of the things to come; but the body is Christ’s.—The whole system and prohibitions of the Mosaic dispensation had a typical significance, pointing to the coming of Christ. They were only a shadow of the realities which came through him.

Verse 18

Col 2:18

Colossians 2:18

Let no man rob you of your prize—The reward they were to obtain through fidelity to Christ was eternal life. There was danger that the false teachers would so beguile them that they would turn aside from their faithfulness to Christ and lose their reward.

by a voluntary humility—Self-imposed acts of mortification of the body, as service to God, was the outward evidence of false humility, and points to something blameworthy; a false and per­verted lowliness, which deemed that God was so inaccessible that he could only be approached through the mediation of inferior beings.

and worshipping of the angels,—This was the outward evi­dence of false humility, and carries the idea that no man can invent methods of worship of his own, he cannot worship angels. The Lord Jesus when tempted by Satan, said: “It is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve.” (Matthew 4:10).

dwelling in the things which he hath seen, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind,—[This refers to the false teachers who had sprung up among the Colossians, claiming supernatural knowledge by which the mind is said to be “puffed up.” The supernatural knowledge to which the pretensions were made was that favorite knowledge claimed by the mystics of the secrets of the heavenly places and especially of the grades and functions of the hierarchy of heaven. Paul brands it as belonging to the mind, not of the spirit, but to the flesh, for indeed it was really superstition, resting not on faith, but on supposed visions and supernatural manifes­tations. He casts no reflection on the use of one’s mind, but on the gullibility and foolish pride of the ignorant victims of the charlatans.]

Verse 19

Col 2:19

Colossians 2:19

and not holding fast the Head,—Those thus puffed up with their own wisdom, and adopting their own ways of service, failed to hold Jesus as Head, and sought to act independently of him. [In this lay the fatal error. All these speculations and superstitions interfered with the direct hold of the soul on the mediation of Christ as Head, from whom alone, as being the image of the invisible God, come all spiritual life and growth.]

from whom—This refers to Christ personally. In the par­allel passage (Ephesians 4:16), whom points to Christ as Head.

all the body,—As every part of the whole body depends for life and efficiency on its being in connection with the head, just so absolutely does every member of the spiritual body depend on Christ

being supplied and knit together through the joints and bands,—Through the nourishment administered to every part by each member performing his proper part under the direction of the head. The welfare and development of the whole body is dependent upon the proper working of each and every member.

increaseth with the increase of God.—By every member working effectually in his sphere, they all make the increase of the body unto the building up of itself. By this joint and har­monious working of all the parts, the body grows into the well proportioned body of Christ, all moved and governed by him. These bodies of men, controlled by the Spirit of God, are the only manifestations of the church visible to men in the flesh. This shows the close relation that every individual member sustains to Christ the Head. This relation is spiritual and is regulated by the Spirit permeating all the members of the body. The Spirit does this through the truths revealed through the apostles. (Luke 24:48-49; John 16:13-14). Spiritual influences are directed to the spirit of man that thinks, considers, wills, purposes, and acts in accord with that will.

Verse 20

Col 2:20

Colossians 2:20

If ye died with Christ—When they were buried with Christ in baptism their death with Christ was signified and sealed. (Colossians 2:12). They entered into that real and vital union with him which makes his death, as a complete renunciation of the old life of sin. (2 Corinthians 5:14-15; Galatians 2:19-20; Galatians 6:14).

from the rudiments of the world,—From the ends, ways, and manners of the world.

why, as though living in the world,—If you are no longer moved by worldly rewards, honors, and ends; if you are dead with Christ to earthly conditions; since you put off at your baptism your old ways of life.

do ye subject yourselves to ordinances,—The ordinances here mean the law of Moses first, to which the Jews were disposed to cling, and teach that the Gentiles should observe; but they embraced all the observances and appointments which human philosophies and reasonings could command.

Verse 21

Col 2:21

Colossians 2:21

Handle not, nor taste, nor touch—This is an admonition to wholly abstain from the inventions and devices of men in the worship and services of God. God has taught from the beginning that it is a fearful thing to change or in any way to modify his appointments. He has taught by precept and example, that that is the greatest sin. The expulsion of Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden (Genesis 2:16-17; Genesis 3:6-24), and the death and the woes that came upon them and the whole world, is a fearful example, warning man for all time what a fearful sin it is to add to or take from the commandments of God. He said to Moses: “Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish from it, that ye may keep the commandments of Jehovah your God which I command you.” (Deuteronomy 4:2). Indeed, the whole history of God’s dealing with the human family is a condemnation of adding to or taking from the word of God. This is the presumptuous sin. The same is true of every word sealed by the blood of Christ. Every precept and every example of Jesus was given to impress the necessity of accepting the will of God, without taking from or adding to his commandments. He said: “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 7:21). This plainly teaches that all worship is vain that adds to or takes from the word of God. The great end of the Bible is to lead man to give up his own ways and follow God’s commandments without any modification whatever. That is the sum and substance of all true religion, as taught from the first chapter of Genesis to the last verse of Revelation.

Verse 22

Col 2:22

Colossians 2:22

(all which things are to perish with the using), after the precepts and doctrines of men?—The prohibitions are specific in form, and refer to certain kinds of food and drink. The Essenes taught the avoidance of oil, flesh, marriage, and of contact with strangers. Jesus had made the same point against the Pharisees who contended that in order to be saved one must wash his hands before eating. (Mark 7:14-19,) Monks and nuns practice asceticism for the sake of supposed pietistic effect on themselves. The idea of poverty being essential to piety springs from the same contention.

Verse 23

Col 2:23

Colossians 2:23

Which things have indeed a show of wisdom—The in­ventions of men make a great show of wisdom, and worship after man’s will much greater show than the commandments of God.

in will-worship,—Will-worship is after our own will. It is self-chosen; and for this single reason is a departure from alle­giance to God. [However plausible and specious such worship may appear, however much of show of wisdom it may exhibit, the Holy Spirit has written its folly and emptiness so plainly that none but the willingly blind can fail to see it. Loyalty to the divine government requires hearty obedience to divine law. What­ever God commands, therefore, we must do. To hesitate is to falter, is to forsake our allegiance. To set up any “commandment of men,” and honor it as a command of God, is treason. God’s will is expressed in his commandments. Every commandment, even the least, is an expression of his will, and an embodiment of his authority as the monarch of the universe. To obey his com­mandment, to do his will, is, therefore, the very essence of true piety. Everything else is mere will-worship.]

and humility,—This is a studied and affected humility, not resting on a basis of faith and love, but consciously cultivated, and therefore not inconsistent with pride. In this way false teachers would become really more dangerous—for no false teachers are so dangerous as those who assume the aspect of great humility and claim great reverence for divine things.

and severity to the body; but are not of any value against the indulgence of the flesh.—These things may have a show of humility and wisdom, so far as self-imposed worship and humility and severity of the body are concerned; but they are of no value or worth whatever as a safeguard against any real temp­tation to bodily indulgence. Ascetic observances do not make a man pure or shield him against fleshly temptations and indul­gences.

Bibliographical Information
"Commentary on Colossians 2". "Old & New Testament Restoration Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/onr/colossians-2.html.
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