Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Picturing Jesus

Opponents of picturing Jesus typically deploy two stock arguments:

1. On the one hand they contend that picturing Jesus violates the Second commandment inasmuch as Jesus is God.

This argument assumes that pictures of Jesus successfully depict God. And that’s the real problem.

2. On the other hand, they contend that picturing Jesus is Nestorian inasmuch as any depiction of his physical appearance can’t adequately represent the unified person of Christ.

But this argument assumes that pictures of Jesus fail to depict God. And that’s the real problem.

It’s hard to see how both arguments are mutually tenable.

36 comments:

  1. Either the depiction of Jesus is successful, or it fails to depict God. Thus either the 2nd (idolatry) or the 9th commandment (lying) is broken.

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  2. That's a false dichotomy. SInce you're not actually represeting the *whole* state of affirs, should I concluse that arguments against images of Christ are violations of the 9th commandment?

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  3. VYTAUTAS SAID:

    "Either the depiction of Jesus is successful, or it fails to depict God. Thus either the 2nd (idolatry) or the 9th commandment (lying) is broken."

    So when God depicts himself as a rock, God is lying to us inasmuch as that depiction fails to capture the fullness of the divine nature.

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  4. Paul, What other options are there besides successful or fails?

    Steve, It is impossible for God to lie.

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  5. VYTAUTAS SAID:

    "Steve, It is impossible for God to lie."

    Which does nothing to salvage the logic of your argument. Try again.

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  6. BTW, was Jesus lying when he represented himself in a body?

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  7. 1. On the one hand they contend that picturing Jesus violates the Second commandment inasmuch as Jesus is God.

    This argument assumes that pictures of Jesus successfully depict God. And that’s the real problem.


    The assumption is not that the pictures of Jesus successfully depict God, but instead the opposite. God’s point in Deut. 4:15 is that no one knows his form and therefore any representation of Him is tantamount to idolatry. Likewise today no one can claim they know what Jesus look like so any picture of His is tantamount to idolatry, because it is not accurate.

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  8. Steve, you asked me if God was lying, then I said that it was impossible for God to lie, which shows that God cannot fail to depict himself. Likewise, Jesus could not have lied. I don't see how I failed in my argument.

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  9. It seems the "Jesus is God therefore we cannot image him" argument allows for an argument that we can image him.

    1. It is wrong to make an image of God.

    2. Jesus is God.

    3. Therefore, it is wrong to make an image of Jesus.

    __________________________

    1*. It is permissible to make images of humans.

    2* Jesus is human.

    3*. Therefore, it is permissible to make images of Jesus.


    Seems the arguments cancel each other out.

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  10. But is not Jesus sui generis?

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  11. Vytautus,

    Not 100% sure what you mean by that. But an intial answer might be that your counter proves too much. If your point is intended to defeat 1* -> 3*, then it also defeats 1 -> 3.

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  12. Since Jesus is the God-man, and the arguments you gave focus only either on God or humans, they do not take everything into account, that is the God-man, the person, not just the natures. So is it okay to depict Jesus as human but not as God?

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  13. I hope you'd make that move. The 2nd commandments says no images of "God," not "God-men."

    Anyway, yes, it is okay to hi-light some of the properties or attributes of the human or created nature. When they shaved Jesus' beard, did little pieces of divinity fall to the ground?

    Also, could we paint a picture of Jesus in the tomb (after he died and before he rose?)

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  14. Also, the argument has always been: Jesus is God; images of God are violates of 2nd commandment; so images of God are wrong. It's illicit to object when a perfect mirror of the argument is shown to have a conclusion you don't like.

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  15. Nobody seems to be asking why a professing Christian would attempt to depict Jesus.

    I can easily understand why anti-theists rejoice over "Piss Christ"; because they hate God.

    But why are professing Christians depicting Him? And why are some professing Christians so zealous to defend the practice?

    Are we terrified that Romans 14 might be secretly in jeapardy if we don't rush to the defense of images of Christ?

    In Him,
    CD

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  16. CD,

    We're not asking since that wasn't the original objection. You're shifting ground.

    And, of course, we could turn your question around. Why would a professing Christian take such umbrage at pictures of Christ?

    It's like a vampire who hisses at the sight of the cross.

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  17. Paul - I hope you'd make that move. The 2nd commandments says no images of "God," not "God-men."

    Vytautas - Right, hence Jesus is a special case.

    Paul - Anyway, yes, it is okay to hi-light some of the properties or attributes of the human or created nature. When they shaved Jesus' beard, did little pieces of divinity fall to the ground?

    Vytautas - No, this action is proper to his human nature.

    Paul - Also, could we paint a picture of Jesus in the tomb (after he died and before he rose?)

    Vytautas - No, his body is proper to his divine person.

    It seems you backed me into a corner, but we must keep in mind accidence and essence. Hair from the beard is an accidence, while his body is an essence of Christ's person after the incarnation.

    Paul - Also, the argument has always been: Jesus is God; images of God are violates of 2nd commandment; so images of God are wrong. It's illicit to object when a perfect mirror of the argument is shown to have a conclusion you don't like.

    Vytautas - I don't like it. It is permissible to do something unless it is forbidden. That is, liberty must yield to restrictions.

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  18. It's improper to say that Jesus' body is "an essence of Christ's person after the incarnation." Jesus said "today you will be with me," but the thief was not with Jesus *body* that day.

    I also don't know what you mean by saying his "body" is proper to his divine nature. The body has traditionally been associated with his human nature.

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  19. Steve said: "We're not asking since that wasn't the original objection. You're shifting ground."

    Touche.

    And again: And, of course, we could turn your question around. Why would a professing Christian take such umbrage at pictures of Christ?"

    The Biblical prohibitions against imaging God, as has been pointed out before here, I think.

    And finally "It's like a vampire who hisses at the sight of the cross."

    Is it? That's an interesting analogy.

    In Christ,
    CD

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  20. CORAM DEO SAID:

    "The Biblical prohibitions against imaging God, as has been pointed out before here, I think."

    Which disregards all of the subsequent argumentation. Once again, you're not even attempting to keep up with the progress of the argument. Instead, you just repeat the same talking points as if nothing was said to overturn your facile claims.

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  21. Also, the argument has always been: Jesus is God; images of God are violates of 2nd commandment; so images of God are wrong. It's illicit to object when a perfect mirror of the argument is shown to have a conclusion you don't like.

    Paul a key verse in this argument is based on Deuteronomy 4:15 where God says it is idolatry to create a representation of Him, because no one knows what He looks like since they have never seen Him. Therefore does it follows, if you don’t know the appearance of the God-man, is it likewise idolatry? An objection to this is that we know Jesus was a man, but does a depiction of *any* man count as a valid depiction of Jesus or idolatry? I would say *any* man is not a valid depiction of Jesus, and therefore it falls under the same prohibition as given in Deut. 4:15. Otherwise we have the following as all valid depictions of Jesus:

    1.Caucasian Jesus: Long blonde hair, blue eyes, and dark tan

    2.Hip-Hop Jesus: A grill with his pants hanging down

    3.A remote Tribal Jesus: Bone in the nose, huge earrings

    If a valid depiction is not required then there are not boundaries, but if a valid depiction is required then no one knows what it is. So except for those who lived during the times of Jesus and saw Him the rest are guilty of idolatry.

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  22. Ronnie,

    Before I respond, are you saying that it would have been acceptable for, say, St. Peter, to draw a picture of Christ?

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  23. I also, of course, disagree with your application of Deut 4 to Jesus. Properly speaking, God has no form. So to carve a formed image isn't even an approximation. It is impossible to image God. Not because we haven't seen him, but because he has no form. He is formless. carved images identified Him with something created, something with form and matter. Of course, this isn't so with Jesus. He had a *created* body. He was *part of* the creation, so the Romans 1 and Acts 17 anti-idolatrous statements don't work here.

    Anyway, there are some things we can know about Jesus. Appart from the descriptions the Bible gives, we know things about Jewish males from that time from archeology.

    Furthermore, idolatry is a specific sin, with specific intentions attended to it, and so you can't say that an artist who paints of picture of Jesus (gives an artist's rendition) is guilty of idolatry. He may or may not be.

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  24. Ronnie,

    Before I respond, are you saying that it would have been acceptable for, say, St. Peter, to draw a picture of Christ?


    Paul,

    I'm saying it *could* have been possible since some one who saw Jesus *could* have an accurate depiction of Him, whereas it isn't even possible for us today.

    Ronnie

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  25. Ronnie,

    Are you saying it would have been permissible for St. Peter to draw a picture of Jesus?

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  26. I also, of course, disagree with your application of Deut 4 to Jesus. Properly speaking, God has no form. So to carve a formed image isn't even an approximation. It is impossible to image God. Not because we haven't seen him, but because he has no form. He is formless.

    It doesn’t say God doesn’t have a form, but that they *didn’t see a form*. The hope of the beatific vision is that *we will see* God as He really is, whatever that may be.

    So to carve a formed image isn't even an approximation. It is impossible to image God. Not because we haven't seen him, but because he has no form. He is formless. carved images identified Him with something created, something with form and matter. Of course, this isn't so with Jesus. He had a *created* body. He was *part of* the creation, so the Romans 1 and Acts 17 anti-idolatrous statements don't work here.


    So are you saying an approximation is valid? If so isn’t the Hip-Hop Jesus an approximation? Who determines what level of approximation is valid? Seems like a slippery slope.

    Anyway, there are some things we can know about Jesus. Appart from the descriptions the Bible gives, we know things about Jewish males from that time from archeology.


    I’m sure you would agree that there is a wide variety in the appearance of Jewish males even though there are some similarities (height, hair length, weight, facial features, bone structure), but even this is just an ad hoc limit on the approximation.


    Furthermore, idolatry is a specific sin, with specific intentions attended to it, and so you can't say that an artist who paints of picture of Jesus (gives an artist's rendition) is guilty of idolatry. He may or may not be.

    What specific sin is idolatry? Reading Deut. 4 it seems to include the making of God in a form that is not true.

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  27. Are you saying it would have been permissible for St. Peter to draw a picture of Jesus?


    Paul, I thought I answered you previously. The answer is yes, as long as it was an accurate picture and not something of Peter's own invention.

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  28. Paul - It's improper to say that Jesus' body is "an essence of Christ's person after the incarnation." Jesus said "today you will be with me," but the thief was not with Jesus *body* that day.

    Vytautas - But the thief was with Jesus on the cross that day. In paradise, his body was cut off for a time. So is the body accidental to a person?

    Paul - I also don't know what you mean by saying his "body" is proper to his divine nature. The body has traditionally been associated with his human nature.

    Vytautas - I mean that his body is associated with his human nature, but what can be said of his human nature can be said of his person, who is divine as well as human.

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  29. Ronnie wrote: If a valid depiction is not required then there are not boundaries, but if a valid depiction is required then no one knows what it is

    Well, generically speaking I would postulate the "form" Jesus became from the womb of Mary reflects similarly the forms today of those Jews who can trace their blood line back to ancient times.

    I met a man in Switzerland who was Jewish who claimed to have historical documents as a part of his personal effects that trace his family line back to the days of Moses and Aaron's priesthood. Looking at him, I could only imagine Christ having similar features as he based on these verses:

    Joh 1:9 The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.
    Joh 1:10 He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him.
    Joh 1:11 He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him.


    It is a logical and reasonable deduction that after a seed is planted, when it sprouts and grows up, it comes to its fullness in form after its kind.

    I read about the discovery of corn kernels found in clay pots unearthed in archaeological sites of ancient Aztec ruins that once they planted those kernels, they sprouted and grew to fully produce cobs. The conclusion was the recent fruit, the cobs of corn that came after their planting, looked exactly like what the cobs of corn looked like back three thousand years when the same corn kernels were planted in the ground. The clay pots they were discovered in preserved them so that some 50 or so years ago they came alive after planting!

    Every creation produces after its kind.

    Artists from the Dakota Indians region depict Mary and Jesus dressed in the dress of the Dakota Indians. I have seen similar artistic depictions and renderings in some of the other nations I have been too depicting Mary and Jesus dressed in their particular ethnic garb.

    One believes "picturing" Jesus is a sin. Another believes everything they do that is not of His Faith is a sinful act! The Bible says whatever is not of Faith is sin.

    We live in a time after the abolition of the law's commands:


    Eph 2:14 For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility
    Eph 2:15 by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace,
    Eph 2:16 and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility.


    Wouldn't it be wise then to approach all this sort of depiction as "evangelistic" as the Apostle Paul did as he describes his motive in Philippians 1? Or is that just anachronistic?

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  30. Ronnie,

    Just to let you know, every single anti-images person that I know of and have read would disagree with you about Peter (and, BTW, you didn't answer me. You said Peter *could* do it. Well, I *could* too. I have that power. My question was whether it would have been *permissible* for him to do so.)

    God doesn't have a form. It's not like he does but he hides himself. Or, did you really think Moses saw his "backside?" So far anti-images people have argued for person/body identity; that God has a form; and that if something isn't 100% accurate is false--which is to argue at cross purposes with inerrency.

    You then admit you're making a slipper slope fallacy. So I don't see what I have to respond to there. In any case, you haven't even shown that a hip-hop Jesus would be a violation of 2C, at best it would be disrespectful.

    In any case, I deny your entire "100% accuracy" argument. SO you have yet to prove it. I deny your reading of Deut 4, and I deny your application of it to Jesus. Jesus' body was *created*, and *that's* the point of Deut 4. Identifying the creator with the created.

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  31. Vytautus,

    "Vytautas - But the thief was with Jesus on the cross that day. In paradise, his body was cut off for a time. So is the body accidental to a person?

    The physical body? Yes. If not, he could not exist without it. Here's something essential:

    [P] Persons are essentially persons.


    So, Jesus could not have existed without being a person. It would be impossible. Jesus could exist without a body. He did. Now, that might not be *natural* (for that's how God made us to function and (partly) to image him), but the body isn't *essential* to man.

    " I mean that his body is associated with his human nature, but what can be said of his human nature can be said of his person, who is divine as well as human"

    No, that's not entirely true. For example, his body died and was in a tomb for a time, not his person. Now, his person *has* a body, but that's a property of the person. It is part of *creation.* It's not a violation of the 2nd commandment to picture a *created* thing *had by* the divine-human person that is Jesus Christ.

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  32. Just to let you know, every single anti-images person that I know of and have read would disagree with you about Peter …

    Paul,

    Have you read Dr David VanDrunen or Daniel Hyde works on this subject, because they both agree that those who saw Jesus could have pictured Him without it being sinful. Furthermore, by implication it seems those who argue the reason it is idolatry/sinful to make representations of Jesus is because they are inaccurate and based on the imagination of men( contra Acts 17:29) would have to agree if it is accurate and not invented by men then there is not necessarily a problem.


    God doesn't have a form. It's not like he does but he hides himself. Or, did you really think Moses saw his "backside?"


    Paul you keep asserting that he doesn’t have a form, but you haven’t argued from Scripture or reason that He doesn’t. The text doesn’t say He doesn’t have a form, but that they didn’t see a form. Those two things are not identical.

    Moses saw something, as a number of other Israelites did, but those were Theophanies, Christophanies, types, and shadows not God as He really is.

    So far anti-images people have argued for person/body identity; that God has a form; and that if something isn't 100% accurate is false--which is to argue at cross purposes with inerrency.


    I can only speak for myself, and what I have argued is the following:

    The bible never says that God doesn’t have any form, but instead the Israelites didn’t see a form. I’m not contending that the picture has to be 100% accurate , but it has be based on truth and not the invention of one’s imagination( Acts 17:29).


    You then admit you're making a slipper slope fallacy. So I don't see what I have to respond to there. In any case, you haven't even shown that a hip-hop Jesus would be a violation of 2C, at best it would be disrespectful.


    Why would it be disrespectful? You keep making these arbitrary judgments based on your perspective of how close the approximation is to the real Jesus. If you are contending that images are ok then you should be ok with any of them since all of them are based on the invention of one’s imagination.


    In any case, I deny your entire "100% accuracy" argument. SO you have yet to prove it. I deny your reading of Deut 4, and I deny your application of it to Jesus. Jesus' body was *created*, and *that's* the point of Deut 4. Identifying the creator with the created.


    I don’t mean 100% accurate in the sense that one has to depict every scar or wrinkle on Jesus, but instead the image is not based on the invention of one’s imagination, but instead it is based on the real God-man. If you deny this, then on what basis do you start to make a critique of any representation of Jesus that is not arbitrary?
    My argument from Deut 4 made two points so I’m not sure if you are denying both or just one. First, the text says the Israelites did not see a form, not that God doesn’t have a form. Are you denying that? If you don’t deny it, but you still contend that He doesn’t have a form then you have to make a positive argument from Scripture to demonstrate that is so. Second, my point is that since the Israelites did not know God’s form they were not allowed to invent an image of God. Likewise, this still follows for Jesus if you do not know what He looks like you shouldn’t use your own imagination to invent an image of Jesus.

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  33. Just to let you know, every single anti-images person that I know of and have read would disagree with you about Peter …


    Have you read Dr David VanDrunen or Daniel Hyde works on this subject, because they both agree that those who saw Jesus could have pictured Him without it being sinful. Furthermore, by implication it seems those who argue the reason it is idolatry/sinful to make representations of Jesus is because they are inaccurate and based on the imagination of men( contra Acts 17:29) would have to agree if it is accurate and not invented by men then there is not necessarily a problem.


    God doesn't have a form. It's not like he does but he hides himself. Or, did you really think Moses saw his "backside?"


    The text doesn’t say He doesn’t have a form, but that they didn’t see a form. Those two things are not identical.

    Moses saw something, as a number of other Israelites did, but those were Theophanies, Christophanies, types, and shadows not God as He really is.

    You then admit you're making a slipper slope fallacy. So I don't see what I have to respond to there. In any case, you haven't even shown that a hip-hop Jesus would be a violation of 2C, at best it would be disrespectful.


    Why would it be disrespectful? You keep making these arbitrary judgments based on your perspective of how close the approximation is to the real Jesus. If you are contending that images are ok then you should be ok with any of them since all of them are based on the invention of one’s imagination(Acts 17:29).


    In any case, I deny your entire "100% accuracy" argument. SO you have yet to prove it. I deny your reading of Deut 4, and I deny your application of it to Jesus. Jesus' body was *created*, and *that's* the point of Deut 4. Identifying the creator with the created.


    I don’t mean 100% accurate in the sense that one has to depict every scar or wrinkle on Jesus, but instead the image is not based on the invention of one’s imagination, but instead it is based on the real God-man. If you deny this, then on what basis do you start to make a critique of any representation of Jesus that is not arbitrary?

    My argument from Deut 4 made two points so I’m not sure if you are denying both or just one. First, the text says the Israelites did not see a form, not that God doesn’t have a form. Are you denying that? If you don’t deny it, but you still contend that He doesn’t have a form then you have to make a positive argument from Scripture to demonstrate that is so. Second, my point is that since the Israelites did not know God’s form they were not allowed to invent an image of God. Likewise, this still follows for Jesus if you do not know what He looks like you shouldn’t use your own imagination to invent an image of Jesus.

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  34. Just to let you know, every single anti-images person that I know of and have read would disagree with you about Peter …


    Have you read Dr David VanDrunen or Daniel Hyde works on this subject, because they both agree that those who saw Jesus could have pictured Him without it being sinful. Furthermore, by implication it seems those who argue the reason it is idolatry/sinful to make representations of Jesus is because they are inaccurate and based on the imagination of men( contra Acts 17:29) would have to agree if it is accurate and not invented by men then there is not necessarily a problem.


    God doesn't have a form. It's not like he does but he hides himself. Or, did you really think Moses saw his "backside?"


    Moses saw something, as a number of other Israelites did, but those were Theophanies, Christophanies, types, and shadows not God as He really is.


    In any case, you haven't even shown that a hip-hop Jesus would be a violation of 2C, at best it would be disrespectful.


    Why would it be disrespectful? You keep making these arbitrary judgments based on your perspective of how close the approximation is to the real Jesus. If you are contending that images are ok then you should be ok with any of them since all of them are based on the invention of one’s imagination(Acts 17:29).

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  35. In any case, I deny your entire "100% accuracy" argument. SO you have yet to prove it. I deny your reading of Deut 4, and I deny your application of it to Jesus. Jesus' body was *created*, and *that's* the point of Deut 4. Identifying the creator with the created.


    I don’t mean 100% accurate in the sense that one has to depict every scar or wrinkle on Jesus, but instead the image is not based on the invention of one’s imagination, but instead it is based on the real God-man. If you deny this, then on what basis do you start to make a critique of any representation of Jesus that is not arbitrary?

    My argument from Deut 4 made two points so I’m not sure if you are denying both or just one. First, the text says the Israelites did not see a form, not that God doesn’t have a form. Are you denying that? If you don’t deny it, but you still contend that He doesn’t have a form then you have to make a positive argument from Scripture to demonstrate that is so. Second, my point is that since the Israelites did not know God’s form they were not allowed to invent an image of God. Likewise, this still follows for Jesus if you do not know what He looks like you shouldn’t use your own imagination to invent an image of Jesus

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  36. A compilation of most if not all our posts on the topic of graven images and the second commandment can be found here.

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