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Are only the `good' worth saving? The Legend of Admetus and Alcestis

Posted Oct 20, 2011 by kym Jones in Everlasting Gospel
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The Greeks had a fable which told of the legend of the good King Admetus and his young Queen Alcestis. They believed that it epitomised the greatest form of love there is, which they called `eros'. The apostle Paul made an oblique reference to it in Romans 5: 6 - 11, in which he compared the changeable love of men, to the unconditional love of God:

`For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet possibly for a good man some would even dare to die. But God commends his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him. For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life. And not only so, but we also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement.' (Romans 5: 6 - 11.)

The Greeks believed that because God is perfect, then the sole work of man is to imitate that perfection, and `become' a god. Thus the Roman philosopher Seneca (c. 4 B.C - 65 A.D), who was a disciple of a branch of Greek philosophy which is known as Stoicism wrote:
`Need you refuse to believe that there's something divine in one who is a part of God? All the world that contains us is one, and is God: we are his colleagues and his members. Our spirit is able: it arrives there, if its blemishes don't hold it down. As our body stands erect, its eyes fixed on the sky, so our spirit, free to expand as far as it will, is formed by nature to desire equality with godhead.' (`Seneca's letters to Lucilius: Volume 2', Lucius Annaeus Senceca.)

This belief is known as pantheism, and is derived from two Greek words - pan - meaning "All", and theo - meaning "God"; and thus means that `All is God'. It lay at the basis of Greek thought, and teaches that as everything originated in God, then everything must in some small way imperfectly reflect the divinity of God. They reasoned that as the soul originated in God, then therefore it equates to the `Divine Spark' of life and must be immortal and divine of its own right. But they also likened the world in which we live to be like a prison which chains the soul to the body, so at death the dissolution of the body sets free the soul, which enables it to return to the One god in all from whence it first came, and once again take its place among the stars in heaven, which were thought to be the abode of the souls of men. But at death, sometimes the soul was seduced by the desire of animating a body, and instead of ascending to the lofty heights of the heaven from whence it first came, it instead again became imprisoned, or reincarnated in another body.
The more educated Greeks believed that God is a deistic Prime Mover who set the world in motion and then promptly forgot about it. Creation was considered to be a a process of divine evolution which they called emanation, in which the most powerful, and most intelligent of the gods were likened to divine `sparks' which were first thrown off from the One God in All. All of the lesser gods were believed to have emanated from this pair of Gods, whom the Greeks identified as Zeus, the `Father of the Gods' and Hera, the `Mother of the Gods'. But just as a stone dropped in a pond creates ripples which become smaller as they move further away from their point of origin, so also did the Greeks believe that as each succeeding pair of Gods emanated from the pair that preceded them, so also did they become less attenuated to the `Original Source' and begin to `forget' the divine knowledge of the One, in a process of divine procreation, in which God begat God. Thus the less attenuated Gods assimilated some of the baser human emotions as they moved closer to the material plane of existence in which we live, and weren't really all that much different from us at all, except of course that they were immortal.
The Greeks believed that because Sophia was the last of these divine emanations that proceeded from the One; then like a man who is caught in a fog, she had almost completely forgotten all knowledge of the `mysteries' of the One. The divine mysteries accordingly remained hidden to her, and in attempting to access this knowledge, in her grief and distress she `fell' and created the universe of matter, which was considered to be so far removed from the One, that in the absence of the knowledge of the One, all matter was considered to be evil, as all good resided in the One. But as men live in the universe in which matter was brought forth and the fleshly bodies of men are indeed comprised of matter, then the souls of men were considered to have originated so far from the One, that they have been corrupted by the flesh in which they dwell, to the point that the soul has forgotten almost all knowledge, which the Greeks called the gnosis, or knowledge of the One. Therefore the whole duty of man was to remember that which he had forgotten, for by utilizing the dynamics of Reason, he might become enlightened and thus attain to the hidden knowledge (gnosis) of his True Self. This could be achieved by enlisting the help of the adept who were trained in the higher `mysteries' of enlightenment, the knowledge (gnosis) of which remained hidden to the profane. However, under the direction of the temple priest who was trained in the higher mysteries, one could partake in the ritualized temple prostitution which imitated the procreative activity of the gods, so that one might briefly achieve an ecstatic transcendence which elevated one's `Divine Self' far above this earthly plane of existence, and thus momentarily achieve the bliss of union with the One, which was believed to imitate the moment at death in which the soul is released from its earthly prison, and becomes reunited with the One. Thus, this ecstatic transcendence imitated the divine, and the procreation of men imitated the procreation of the gods, and the enlightenment of the `self' through attaining to the hidden gnosis of the esoteric eventually became the basis of most eastern religions, and what is now known as the `New Age Movement'.

The Greek philosopher Plato sought to remove this life generating principle, which he called `eros', from the mire of sensuality and base corruption in which we dwell and elevated it to a `Heavenly Eros'; where all motivation is free of the encumbrages of the material world in which we live, so that the soul can be perfected through the contemplation of the intellect, which was manifested in the performance of good works which were the outward evidence of the soul `becoming' God. `Eros' came to be regarded as the elixir of life; to drink of it was to mirror the action of the gods - it was believed that it motivates men to marry, produce families of their own and aspires to all that is noble and good.

The Greeks also believed that as all good originated from the Gods, then if one had the good fortune to be regarded as a virtuous man, then surely the man of virtue was not far removed from the abode of the Gods. This most noble attribute of virtue was revealed in the Greek conception of love, which they called `eros', and mirrored the highest knowledge (gnosis) to which one's Intellect could attain; for it was believed that this was represented by a good and virtuous man laying down his life for his friends. They had a fable of the legendary King Admetus and his fair wife Alcestus, which epitomized the Greek conception of love:

"Admetus was the ruler of a small town not very far from the sea who loved his people and they loved him, as not only was he their king, but he also knew the names of everyone within his small kingdom, and was very kind and of a gentle disposition. One day a half-starved beggar from a land far away came to his door, so the young king gave him shelter and fed him, for in his kingdom, no one ever went hungry. He gave him his best warm cloak, and bade his servants treat him as an honoured guest of the house.

The next morning, the beggar implored the king to make him his slave, and he would serve him for a year. But although the king did not need another slave, he saw that even his poorest servant was better off than this man, so he took pity on him and made him his shepherd, as there was nothing else that the king needed to have this man do. But as to where the man came from, he would not say.
After a year and a day had passed, the young king decided to see how well the man had tended his sheep and goats. Imagine his surprise when the sweet sound of music filled his ears, such as that which shepherds would play, but far surpassed any music which he had ever heard! But where was his shepherd? For a tall and handsome young man sat on the hilltop where the shepherd would oversee his sheep, and was clad in much finer robes than that which any king might wear. In his hands he bore a golden lyre, upon his belt was a silver bow, in his quiver were arrows finer than any human hand could make, and his countenance was that of the Gods. And as the young king surveyed his flock, he found that it had increased tenfold, and the sheep possessed the finest coats that he had ever seen! Then the beautiful young man spoke:

"I am the poor, starving beggar whom you were so kind to. My name is Apollo - twelve months ago the mighty Jupiter, my father, drove me out of Olympus and I was without a friend and utterly alone. He told me that I could not return until I had laid aside my divinity and appeared as a mortal man, and had served for a year as a man's slave. I was dirty, ragged and starving, but you clothed and fed me and treated me as your own son. What reward would you ask that I give you?"

Admetus replied that he was happy that he had helped Apollo, and this in itself was its own reward, for he could think of nothing that he wanted or needed. Then the young god informed him to merely call his name if he were ever needed, for he promised Admetus that when Hades, the god of the Underworld sent Death for him, he would have one chance in which death might be defeated. He then departed, playing sweet music on his lyre.
King Admetus lived only a few miles from a rich city by the sea named Iolcus, which was ruled by a tyrant named Pelias, who cared for nothing but himself. Many a noble, young prince from Greece had attempted to woo his daughter named Alcestis for his wife, but her heart lay with Admetus, and none could win her favour. So Admetus appeared before the King, and asked the King that she might be his wife. Now Pelias was greedy, and thought that this insignificant young ruler from a little town only a few miles away was too poor to provide him with the riches he desired so that they might recompense him for his loss, so he devised a plan which made it impossible for Admetus to wed his daughter. He instructed Admetus that:

"No one shall wed my daughter unless he proves that he is worthy to have her as his wife. Only he who enters my palace in a chariot drawn by a lion and a wild boar shall wed her."

This pronouncement made Admetus very sad, and he left the kings presence. As he walked home, he espied his beautiful flock of sheep and goats grazing on the hillside near his town, and remembered the words which the god had spoken to him - just call on the name of Apollo and he would help. So very early the next morning, he built an altar of stones in an open field, sacrificed the fattest goat of the flock, and laid its thighs upon the flames. When the sweet Savour of burning flesh filled the air, he called Apollo's name. When the god appeared, Admetus told him of Alcestis, who was the fairest maiden in the land, and that only he who proved himself worthy by entering the kingdom of Pelias in a chariot drawn by a lion and a wild boar could take her hand in marriage. Apollo decided that this worthy man should be helped, and kept his promise. He first captured a lion and subdued it, although it snapped at him with its jaws. He then found a wild boar in a thicket and caught it, and led the two beasts beside him to a golden chariot which stood abandoned only a little way outside of the city precinct of Iolcus, as if it were waiting for him. Imagine how astonished King Pelias was, when the god Apollo appeared to him in a golden chariot drawn by a lion and a boar, with young King Admetus at his side in honour! He could hardly refuse Admetus' request for the hand of Alcestis in marriage, when accompanied by the god!

So the young king and his fair maiden were married and lived happily for many years. His people loved the happy couple, and they loved them in return. Apollo also loved them and blessed them, and their kingdom prospered. One day Admetus was walking through his fields admiring his sheep, when he espied a radiant figure, and knew that Apollo had come to speak with him again.
"Oh Apollo," said he, "All that I know of love and happiness has been bestowed upon me through my friendship with you."

But Apollo gazed sadly upon the countenance of his friend, and exclaimed:

"Admetus, I have come to tell you that Hades, the god of the Underworld will shortly send death to you, and you will die. But do not fear, I have descended to the cheerless halls of Proserpine, his wife - and made a bargain with her on your behalf. She has told me that if any virtuous man or woman willingly takes your place, then you will live. You are loved by all - and rightly so; it may be that you will find someone who is willing to take your place."
So with a heavy heart Admetus approached his aging parents and told them of his predicament. But when he asked them if one of them would die in his place, they shook their heads and exclaimed:
`My son, although we love you with all our hearts, we love our own lives more. We cannot die for you.'

He then asked his brothers and sisters if they would die for him, but received the same answer. Even an old crone with a withered hand who appeared to be on death's door herself recoiled in horror when asked if she would die for him! After that, the streets of his kingdom were deserted and no one dared face him, for although all agreed that their good king deserved to live, for he was such a good man - all loved their own lives more and none were willing to forgo their earthly existence so that their King might live. So Admetus retired to his chambers with a heavy heart, lay down on his bed and closed his eyes, hoping that Death might speedily take him. At that moment Alcestis cried out to Apollo, and exclaimed:
`Oh beloved Apollo, you have blessed my husband and increased his fame and fortune tenfold in our entire kingdom. Admetus is such a good man, and his people need him so much, that he deserves to live! I will die for him, so that he might live.'

And she did. All the land wept for the good wife of the good king, who was greatly beloved of her people and who had died so that her King might live. So when her spirit left the confines of her body, she appeared before the pale faced presence of Proserpine, who took pity on her, and bade that she might once again live as a reward for the faithfulness she had shown to her husband. And so it was that as Admetus and Alcestis increased in age, so also did Apollo reward them for their faithfulness, and when Death finally came for them in their old age, they were ready for him."

"This," exclaimed the Greek philosophers, "Is the greatest form of love that there is - that a man should lay down his life for friends!" Over the centuries, many Christians have in the past agreed with the Greek philosophers, for Christ Himself said:
`Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.' (John 15: 13.)

So it was then - and so it is today. So much so, that many Christians, both Catholic and Protestant, hold to the mistaken belief that Christ lay down His life for His friends; for only the good are worth saving - just as this account of Admetus and Alcestis teaches! But when Christ spoke those words, He commented on our `natural' human love, for like the Greeks, we admire those whom we respect and seek out those who are like us, and fear and shun those who are unlike us.

But a tiny band of men known as `Christians' turned the world upside down in the first century (Acts 17: 6), when they declared that this wasn't really `it' at all, for Christ dared to die the `second death' (Rev. 2: 11), and thus save those  who don't deserve to be saved, which is surely the good news of the gospel! This was `foolishness' to the Greeks, for why would a man do such a thing? After all, they believed that those who live in squalor deserve their base existence, for their souls have been hopelessly corrupted by sensualism and evil acts in a prior existence, and in this life, they must elevate their souls to a more pure existence by the suffering of the body and the aspiration of the doing of good deeds. As far as the Greeks were concerned, the very notion that this man ransomed his life for the souls of men was none other than foolishness, for "Is it not known by all that not only do the wicked deserve their fate, but the soul is of divine origin and cannot die, for all men aspire to be the god that they once were?" The apostle Paul commented on the wisdom of the Greek philosophers in the following text, whom he described as `the disputer of this world':
`For it is written, I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and will bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent. Where is the wise? where is the scribe? where is the disputer of this world? has not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe. For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom: But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumbling block, and unto the Greeks foolishness; but unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God. (1 Corinthians 1: 19 - 24.)

How many men would die for their enemies? None. But Christ died for us when we were yet enemies to Him - and even dared to die the second death, which is to say Christ experienced what the lost must feel when they are separated from God forever in what the Bible describes as `the second death'. This is a love which is beyond belief! It sharply contrasts the Greek idea of love by revealing it to be non-love, or self-love; for the Greeks viewed death as a friend, for death released the soul from the confines of the body which weighed it down and corrupted it. Thus Socrates was able to stare death in the face with a smile as he serenely drank his cup of hemlock while his friends stood at his side, believing that his soul was about to return to the One from whence it first came. Not so with Christ, for in Gethsemane, as He felt the union with His Father begin to break up, He suffered in mortal agony, for He could not see beyond the grave and experienced the terror which all the lost must feel when they are faced with the imminent prospect of being separated from the great Giver of Life for eternity. Death was no friend to Christ!
No doubt there are elements in the fable of Admetus and Alcestis which closely mirror the account of the crucifixion of Christ. There are many who believe that this proves that Christianity is a refined form of the pagan religions, for Christianity undoubtedly parallels the salvation accounts of many pagan religions. However, no pagan religion on earth has ever taught that the greatest form of love is that a man should lay down his life for his enemies, for this is so beyond our natural comprehension that it took Calvary to demonstrate it to us, so that we might dimly comprehend the depths of the love which the Father and Son have for us - for if Christ had not revealed the agape of God to us on the cross - we would never have been able to otherwise comprehend it!
The Bible instead gives conclusive evidence that its sixty six books which were written by forty authors over thousands of years is of supernatural origin, and by the prophetic word of God contained within its pages, foretold of the Messiah to come thousands of years before the actual event. One of the most intriguing of these prophecies was given just before Noah built his ark, and warned of the destruction of the world by a coming flood. For we find that the meanings of the names of the first ten generations of men from Adam to the flood forms the following sentence which foretold the coming Messiah, who was yet thousands of years in the future!

`Man is appointed mortal sorrow, but the blessed God shall come down teaching that His death shall bring the lamenting comfort.'

If we study the meanings of the names of these men, it becomes apparent how this prophecy is derived:
Adam: Simply means "man"
Seth, the son of Adam: His name means "appointed". `For God hath appointed me another seed instead of Abel, whom Cain slew.' (Genesis 4: 25.)

Enosh, the son of Seth: His name means "mortal", in the sense of made mortal, because of incurable wickedness.
Kenan, the son of Enosh: His name means "sorrow".
Mahalel, the son of Kenan: His name is derived from two words; `Mahalal', which means "blessed", and `el', which means "God". Thus, Mahalel means "blessed God".
Jared, the son of Mahalel: His name is derived from `yaradh', which means "shall come down".
Enoch, the son of Jared: His name means "teaching".
Methusaleh, the son of Enoch:

Everyone has heard the expression `as old as Methusalah'! While most people believe that he lived for a thousand years, he actually lived for 969 years!. His name is derived from the Hebrew words `muth', which means "death", and `shalach', which means "to bring forth". It literally means `his death shall bring'. Jewish tradition teaches that the prophecy of the coming flood was revealed to Enoch, but as long as his son Methusaleh lived, the flood would be delayed for the sake of Methusaleh, his son. The year after Methusaleh died, the flood came!

Lamech, the son of Methusaleh: His name means "lament", as in despairing.

Noah, the son of Lamech: Lamech tells us in Genesis 5: 29 that Noah's name means "comfort".
Thus we find that within the names of these men we find a remarkable prophecy of Christ -

`Man [is] appointed mortal sorrow, [but the] blessed God shall come down teaching [that His] death shall bring [the] lamenting comfort.' 2

Thus we find that although most pagan religions mirror Christianity, this is because this prophecy was given before the flood, and before the Bible was even written, which necessitated that Lucifer, the fallen angel of God had foreknowledge of a coming Saviour long before Nimrod, the great-grandson of Noah ever lived, and set up his counterfeit system of salvation through Nimrod, his wife Semiramus and the (supposedly) re-incarnated Nimrod, which mirrored the Biblical conception of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Nimrod taught the nations that God is angry with fallen man because of his sin, and that the only way He could be appeased, was by the blood sacrifice of men. This counterfiet religion of Christ fanned out across the globe after the languages of men were confused shortly after the building of the Tower of Babel in ancient Babylon. Although eventually the many nations had many names for many gods, they could all be traced back to Nimrod, and his wife Semiramus, who lived shortly after the flood. However, by the time that Plato was born, the Jews already had many prophecies of the predicted Messiah, and Plato in fact learnt of Him from the Jews and adapted this and other ideas to his own ends, such as the idea of one God, which he used to refine the coarse paganism of the worship of many gods, into the worship of the One-in-all pantheistic God, from which all other gods emanated:

`In the fourth year of the eighty-seventh Olympiad, Plato, the famous Athenian philosopher, was born . . . . for having, in his travels to the East, (whither he went for his improvement in knowledge), conversed with the Jews, and got some insight into the writings of Moses, and their other sacred books, he learned many things from them which the philosophers did not attain unto and therefore he is said by Numenius to be none other than Moses speaking Greek; and many of the ancient fathers speak of him to the same purpose.' (`Clarke's Commentary', Adam Clarke, 1834, p. 994.)
The legend of Admetus and Alcestis so closely parallels the Bible in some instances, that the similarity of language of sacrificing the fattest goat of the flock and a boar caught in a thicket are too compelling to ignore, and are derived from the account of Abraham slaying Isaac, in anticipation of a Saviour to come who would lay down His life for fallen humanity:
`And Abraham lifted up his eyes, and looked, and behold behind him a ram caught in a thicket by his horns: and Abraham went and took the ram, and offered him up for a burnt offering in the stead of his son.' (Genesis 22: 13.)
Abraham lived centuries before the Greeks existed as a nation, and indicates that when Plato returned to Greece with his account of a Saviour to come, the story eventually evolved into the fable of Admetus and Alcestis - which was later commented on by Paul when he contrasted the conditional, and changeable love of the Greeks, which Plato called `eros', with the apostolic revelation of the unconditional `agape', or love of God, and revealed that all forms of conditional love are based upon a sense of need, and is in fact disguised selfishness, for the `agape' of Christ and the Father is of its own, completely self-less!

However, the awe inspiring knowledge of the `agape' of Christ began to retreat in the second, third and fourth centuries in the face of the Hellenization of the Church, as the Greek philosophies which picture God as eros began to infest the early Church with doctrines which have obscured the agape of Christ with the eros of the Greeks. They were accompanied by the pivotal doctrine of the natural immortality of the soul, which is the one doctrine which defines all others and is the basis of commonality of all pagan religions - for all pagan religions teach that the soul is of divine origin, and therefore immortal of its own right. Thus the doctrine of the conditional mortality of the soul - which gives knowledge of Christ experiencing the `second death' on behalf of the penitent believer and thus defines the agape of Christ, was gradually replaced by the doctrine of the natural immortality of the soul, with the result that the unconditional love (agape) of God became obscured by the self-seeking love, or eros of the Greeks, resulting in the belief that God plays hide and seek from us, and we must go in search of Him so that we might find Him. This error became the foundation of a host of other errors which then multiplied upon it, as an attempt was made by the early Church Fathers to explain how Christ could save fallen man while not having His divinity corrupted by the material plane of existence in which we dwell, for Greek logic decrees that anything which exists in the material world in which we live, such as the body, is by nature evil and corrupt.

We cannot clearly comprehend the `agape' of Christ until we have a clear conception of the death which Christ has saved the faithful from. For the doctrine of the `natural immortality of the soul' - or as it is more correctly known - the doctrine of the divine origin of the soul, is considered to be an orthodox doctrine of Christianity. However, most Christians are completely shocked when they learn that this orthodox doctrine of Christianity is rooted in the pantheism of the Greeks and the Babylonians which came before them, and thus obscures the true `agape' of Christ!

`Plato gave a strong focus on the inherent immortality of the soul. At first this was resisted by many Christians as incompatible with the gospel message, and the concept of the "conditional immortality" of the soul was preferred: namely, that God would elevate the human being into immortal life (and not merely the soul but the body too,) if (and only if) the creature was obedient to the covenant. Only after the third century did the presupposition of the soul's immortality became more commonly accepted in the Christian world. The dominant figures of Augustine and Origen were very influential for this development.' (`The SCM Press A-Z of Patristic Theology', J. McGuckin, 2005, p. 317.)

If we are to examine the Old Testament, which comprises the basis of the New Testament, we find that the Jewish conception of death was that death is like a dreamless sleep, after which some are raised to `everlasting life', which the New Testament tells us is when Christ returns, and then others are raised to `everlasting contempt,' which implies a judgment:
`And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and contempt. And they that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmanent; and they that turn many to righteousness as the stars forever and ever. But you, O Daniel, shut up the words, and seal the book, even to the time of the end: many shall run back and forth, and knowledge shall be increased . . . . But go your way till the time of the end: for you shall rest, and stand in your lot at the end of the day.' (Daniel 12: 2,3,4,12.)

But if our souls are inherently immortal and when we die we either go straight to heaven, or straight to a fiery furnace called hell in which the wicked are consigned to burn forever in everlasting destruction by a vengeful God who delights in the death of the wicked as is commonly taught in the Christian Churches, then can this doctrine truly represent a God of unconditional love? According to the following text, the answer is no:
`Say unto them, as I live, saith the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live: turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways; for why will ye die, O house of Israel?' (Ezekiel 33: 11.)

When instead seen in the light of the conditional immortality of the soul, this text then becomes a plea that the wicked turn from their evil ways, so that we might not die the death which the Bible describes as `the second death' (Revelation 2: 11), which is separation from the great Giver of Life forever, and the eternal death that ensues! For if the soul is truly immortal by natural right, then the atonement of Christ is obscured, and Christ is instead reduced to a divine Traffic Director Who sends us to heaven if we have been `good', or to burn in hell forever in everlasting punishment if we have been `bad' - which thus confuses the selfless love of Christ with the self-serving love of the Greeks!

1 Methuselah was 187 when Lamech was born, and lived a further 782 years. Noah was born to Lamech when Lamech was 182 (Genesis 5:25-28). Noah was 600 years old when the Flood came (Genesis 7: 6, 11). 600 + 182 = 782; which is the seven hundred and eighty second year of Lamech - the year Methuselah died!

2 (Original research derived from `Cosmic Codes', Dr. Church Missler, 1999, pp. 71 - 76.)