Inerrancy and Infallibility of Scripture

Discussion in 'Theology and Doctrine' started by Rexlion, Jun 16, 2020.

  1. Rexlion

    Rexlion Well-Known Member

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    In recent months we have had some scattered discussions on this topic. It has come up in several threads, including https://forums.anglican.net/threads/terms-and-rules-proposed-amendment-to-ii-3-scripture.3898/page-4 and https://forums.anglican.net/threads/fasting-before-holy-communion.3935/page-2#post-38842 . Perhaps we can bring these disparate thoughts together into this topical thread, for the sake of better organizing our thoughts and for future searchers of truth.

    We should begin by establishing, if possible, a commonly agreeable definition of the terms, "inerrant" and "infallible." For these, I propose to borrow definitions from the Chicago Statement of Faith (1978), found here:
    http://www.bible-researcher.com/chicago1.html (The entire document is not very long and worth reading.)
    Scripture is Infallible: it is true and reliable in all the matters it addresses; neither misleading nor misled, it is a sure, safe, and reliable rule and guide in all matters.
    Scripture is Inerrant: it is free from all falsehood, fraud, deceit, and mistake, and so safeguards the truth that Holy Scripture is entirely true and trustworthy in all its assertions.
     
  2. Rexlion

    Rexlion Well-Known Member

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    With regard to inerrancy (and truthfulness) of Scripture, the Chicago Statement also includes this portion which I think helps clarify what is meant:

    We affirm that canonical Scripture should always be interpreted on the basis that it is infallible and inerrant. However, in determining what the God-taught writer is asserting in each passage, we must pay the most careful attention to its claims and character as a human production. In inspiration, God utilized the culture and conventions of His penman's milieu, a milieu that God controls in His sovereign providence; it is misinterpretation to imagine otherwise.

    So history must be treated as history, poetry as poetry, hyperbole and metaphor as hyperbole and metaphor, generalization and approximation as what they are, and so forth. Differences between literary conventions in Bible times and in ours must also be observed: since, for instance, non-chronological narration and imprecise citation were conventional and acceptable and violated no expectations in those days, we must not regard these things as faults when we find them in Bible writers. When total precision of a particular kind was not expected nor aimed at, it is no error not to have achieved it. Scripture is inerrant, not in the sense of being absolutely precise by modern standards, but in the sense of making good its claims and achieving that measure of focused truth at which its authors aimed. (emphasis added)

    The truthfulness of Scripture is not negated by the appearance in it of irregularities of grammar or spelling, phenomenal descriptions of nature, reports of false statements (e.g., the lies of Satan), or seeming discrepancies between one passage and another. It is not right to set the so-called "phenomena" of Scripture against the teaching of Scripture about itself. Apparent inconsistencies should not be ignored. Solution of them, where this can be convincingly achieved, will encourage our faith, and where for the present no convincing solution is at hand we shall significantly honor God by trusting His assurance that His Word is true, despite these appearances, and by maintaining our confidence that one day they will be seen to have been illusions.​
     
  3. Rexlion

    Rexlion Well-Known Member

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    How did the early church fathers view the Scriptures? Some quotes:

    “We should leave things [of an unknowable] nature to God who creates us, being most assured that the Scriptures are indeed perfect, since they were spoken by the Word of God and His Spirit” (Irenaeus, Against Heresies, 2.28.2).

    “Look carefully into the Scriptures, which are the true utterances of the Holy Spirit. Observe that nothing of an unjust or counterfeit character is written in them” (Clement of Rome, First Epistle to the Corinthians, 45).

    “The statements of Holy Scripture will never be discordant with truth” (Tertullian, A Treatise on the Soul, 21).

    "...in the Scriptures is no conflict... whether of the Old Scriptures with the New, or of the Law with the Prophets or of the gospels with the Apostolic Scriptures, or of the Apostolic Scriptures with each other. . . . For as the different chords of the psalter or the lyre, each of which gives forth a certain sound of its own which seems unlike the sound of another chord, are thought by a man who is not musical and ignorant of the principle of musical harmony (Origen, Commentary on Matthew, 2).

    “Since I am entirely convinced that no Scripture contradicts another, I shall admit that I do not understand what is recorded, and shall strive to persuade those who imagine that the Scriptures are contradictory, to be rather of the same opinion of myself” (Justin, Dialogue with Trypho, a Jew, 65).

    “I have learned to yield this [total] respect and honor only to the canonical books of Scripture. Of these alone do I most firmly believe that their authors were completely free from error” (Augustine to Jerome, Letters, 82).
    If Augustine came across a text that appeared incongruent with other biblical teaching or seemed to purport some error, he ascribed the problem to one of three causes: (1) a faulty copy of the original text; (2) a poor translation of the original text that does not capture rightly the author’s intended meaning; or (3) himself as a fallible interpreter (Letters, 82).
     
  4. Rexlion

    Rexlion Well-Known Member

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    As I have posted elsewhere, I believe the Bible is an accurate and, in many instances, detailed historical record. A small detail here or a minor question there should not change that. Otherwise we start to tumble down a slippery slope.

    Did the cock not crow twice? Mark says it did, but some might choose to believe otherwise just because Matthew, Luke and John only mentioned one crowing of the cock. Does that make the Bible unreliable in matters of historic details? It shouldn't, but some prefer to think it does.

    What is next? Will some people decide that the miracles of Jesus (the healings, the feeding of thousands, the raising of Lazarus) are simply too fantastical to be believed, and since they don't see the Bible as an accurate historical record, will they simply reject the accounts? Will some choose to believe (as do Craig Evans and some other modern academicians) that Jesus never actually spoke the five "I am"s? Will some decide that Jesus never rose from the dead bodily but only in spirit? Or perhaps that He never rose at all! Where do we draw the line?

    If the Bible can't even be trusted as an accurate historical document, it will surely fail as a reliable communication of spiritual truth and as the word of God. In an online exchange I recently had with an atheist, he raised this very point; to him the Bible is a collection of fictional tales, and to him Jesus' very existence cannot be proved, so therefore it was impossible for the man to accept anything Jesus 'supposedly' said or did. Historicity of the Bible accounts, and of the N.T. events in particular, are crucial to our evangelistic cause (the great commission). The agnostics and atheists recognize this fact, so we Christians surely should own up to it as well.
     
    Last edited: Jun 16, 2020
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  5. Phoenix

    Phoenix Moderator Staff Member Anglican

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    Since this touches on the issue I’m involved in, I figured that I’d step in and share my 2 cents.

    This isn’t one of the problematic statements, because all are agreed that here the gospels intend to present historical record. Since the historical record is never identical in multiple accounts, it is very easy to reconcile the conflicting records by either subsiding the one within the other, or even just by adding them and saying that there were three crows; as has been done in the “harmony of the gospels” scholarship. No logical issue there. The bigger issue revolves around statements like this:

    Does the wind have wings?

    From a scientific context, good trees can indeed bear bad fruit, so this must be shifting into a rhetorical context that uses metaphors. Similar with the mustard seed narrative where we know scientifically that the mustard seed isn’t literally the smallest possible seed.

    The way to look at these has been long ago provided by the scholars, namely that only one of the genres in the Scripture is scientific and historic, and there are other non-scientific and non-historic genres in the Scriptures (with the song of Solomon being the biggest example). We just have to count those in, and not hold everything to the historic/scientific principle.
     
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  6. Rexlion

    Rexlion Well-Known Member

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    Indeed, "history must be treated as history, poetry as poetry, hyperbole and metaphor as hyperbole and metaphor, generalization and approximation as what they are, and so forth."
     
  7. Tiffy

    Tiffy Well-Known Member

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    Some inerrantists are in fact errant in their belief. This 'errancy' is not however detrimental to their salvation, only to their understanding of the nature of reality.

    For instance, some are convinced that there are no contradictions anywhere in the Bible. Clearly they feel that if there were any contadictions, just a single one, then that would render their Bible 'defective' and therefore untrustworthy as documents upon which one can rely for information upon which one may rest one's eternal destiny.

    The mistake here is merely that they are mistakenly placing their faith in the perfection of the scriptures rather than placing it solely in the Word of God, (which is actually trusting in God's integrity and character), and therefore in the life, divinity, example and teaching of Jesus of Nazareth, rather than the factually literal accuracy of a collection of ancient literature.

    This, I feel is putting the cart before the horse. In order to establish Christ's Divinity they must needs to establish and assert the Bible's inerancy, infallibility and authority first, thus making allegience to Christ and his teaching dependant on their etiological preferences concerning the relationship between the Word of God and the words of the scriptures.

    I don't find the slipery slope argument a convincing one when it comes to the close examination of the actual way in which the inspired scriptures came to us. One either believes the Word and takes it as relevant to us as a matter of life and death or one does not and simply disregards it as irrelevant to our eternal destiny. It needs no effort on our behalf to 'defend' it, insist upon it's authority, perfection or infallibility, any more than God himself needs our support.

    A metaphor for the attitude of Biblical infallibility inerrantists, might be the fear that a lawyer might have for his profession if there were no longer a police force to enforce The Law. The yawning slipery slope that the lawyer would be contemplating would, I feel, be pretty much equivalent to the fear that you express regarding the necessity of having an unquestionably inerrant, authoritative and irrefutably perfect Bible.
     
  8. Tiffy

    Tiffy Well-Known Member

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    Regarding the necessity of having an unquestionably inerrant, authoritative and irrefutably perfect Bible, even if it is believed to be such, as many piously do, it is still then quite possible to misquote, misunderstand and misinterpret the contents of the Bible through ignorance or even deliberate mendacity, (as was the case when Satan quoted it to Christ).
    .
     
  9. Rexlion

    Rexlion Well-Known Member

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    Either one is a Bible errantist or a Bible inerrantist. Which are you?
     
    Last edited: Jun 17, 2020
  10. Phoenix

    Phoenix Moderator Staff Member Anglican

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    The question only applies to questions of fact, does it not?

    Can we not state, with the church fathers and the divines, that the Scripture is inspired, which establishes its trustworthiness across all the genres, even the poetic and rhetorical ones? Whether the wind has wings or not, that statement is inspired and therefore trustworthy, with the questions as to its factual status (from a skeptic, let's say) being guilty of committing a category mistake?

    If we adopt the position of inerrancy, the wind doesn't have wings, meaning that the Scripture is in error, and therefore is untrustworthy. If we adopt the (millennia-old) position of inspiration, "the wind has wings" is inspired, and therefore is trustworthy.
     
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  11. Rexlion

    Rexlion Well-Known Member

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    I'm not sure that it does "only apply to questions of fact." Are you proposing that a different definition of "inerrant" would be more apropos? I began by suggesting definitions (which are subject to discussion and to modification for good reasons) because we can find ourselves talking past one another if we use different definitions. The proposed definition for Inerrant was: free from all falsehood, fraud, deceit, and mistake. I don't think there's anything in that definition which precludes Scriptures from containing misstatements by speakers, poetry, alliterative devices, figures of speech, metaphors, or variant perceptions of witnesses.

    Tiffy has stated that it is not necessary for Scripture to be regarded as "inerrant, authoritative and irrefutably perfect." So my question to Tiffy could be rephrased as, "Do you believe that Scripture contains any falsehood, fraud, deceit, or mistake? Or are you casting aspersions upon the inerrancy aspect by lumping it in with 'irrefutably perfect,' an unreachable Bible standard which no one claims?"
     
  12. Tiffy

    Tiffy Well-Known Member

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    I think I agree with Phoenix on this. As Anglicans we are not required to believe anything of scripture, for salvation, unless it is contained in scripture.

    As per Article 6:

    I don't have to believe scripture is anything other than 'inspired' by God. Scripture says it is, so I accept that. Anything else, over and above that is optional. If you want to believe extra biblical things that's fine by me, just as long, that is, that you don't try to make it a requirement of my salvation to believe what you have chosen to believe.

    I believe what it says I should believe in Article 6. That's good enough for me.

    Was the Chicago Statement of Faith (1978) a document constructed and agreed upon by the Anglican Communion?

    If not, it's not binding on me or any other Anglican with regard to salvation or even with regard to effective evangelism and doctrine.

    Admirably pious and well intended as the Chicago Statement of Faith (1978) may be it is not essential to salvation that it should become an article of the faith or thought requisite or necessary to salvation to go beyond the belief that scripture is inspired i.e. 'God Breathed' and containeth all things necessary to salvation.

    Once we start to really study the scriptures this question gets progressively more difficult to answer until when a certain level of understanding has been attained it becomes impossible to answer with a simple Yes or a No. Both a Yes and a No answer would both be wrong.

    To illustrate my contention I pose you this question:

    Has Satan ever done, or does he ever do, God's will?

    If we say no, then we make Satan more powerful than God in that Satan can resist an omnipotent God, at least in the short term. Anything Satan does he does because God allows it.

    If we say yes, we then make God an acccessory complicit with Satan. Read the Book of Job to discover Satan is portrayed as God's henchman making wagers with The Almighty.

    Some questions do not simply have yes / no answers.

    Compare 2 Sam.24:1 with 1 Chron.21:1. Who told David to number Israel, God or Satan?
    .
     
    Last edited: Jun 17, 2020
  13. Phoenix

    Phoenix Moderator Staff Member Anglican

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    For the record, that is not what I had stated.
     
  14. Tiffy

    Tiffy Well-Known Member

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    No, true, but that is what as an Anglican you should believe according to Article 6.
     
  15. Rexlion

    Rexlion Well-Known Member

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    I asked, "Either one is a Bible errantist or a Bible inerrantist. Which are you?"

    So you dodge the question.

    No, you don't have to believe scripture is inerrant. But you seem hesitant to give a straight answer. And this, after many occasions of running down "inerrantists" for their "errant" beliefs.

    Was it good enough for the early fathers? (Of course they did not use that word "inerrant" because the English language did not yet exist, but they called Scripture "perfect," said it was never without truth, and is without conflict and contradiction.) Was it good enough for Anselm? For Jewel? When you write of irreconcilable problems within Scripture, you set yourself in opposition to them all; do you suppose they all were wrong?

    Of course it is not. And no one said it was binding. I advanced it as a good starting point for definitions because those definitions seem sensible, but it was open for debate. If you think the definitions are faulty, please state your reasoning.

    Only faith in Christ's perfect redemption is "essential to salvation." In fact, not even the belief that "Scripture is inspired" is necessary to salvation, but it most certainly help lead souls to faith in Christ's redemption, does it not? As does a belief that Scripture is inerrant. Why do you have a problem with that?


    This is a 'straw man' argument. Such esoteric and philosophical questions have no bearing upon whether scripture is inerrant or even inspired, let alone upon whether you are an errantist or an inerrantist as concerns the Bible. The answer is as simple as whether one is wet or dry, black or white, in or out.
     
  16. Tiffy

    Tiffy Well-Known Member

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    Your question would not be allowed in a court of law, because it is a leading question. You set up the dichotomy and assumption that one has to be, either an errantist or an inerrantist; then you demand a yes / no answer as if only the two possible options exist. I will not be led into that kind of trap. This wily old trout wil not go for that fly. It is you who assert that the Bible is inerrant. You should not assume that anyone, who has not made up their mind in the way you have, must by default fall into the 'errantist' category of your making.

    I have only once stated on this website that "Some inerrantists are in fact errant in their belief".

    There have been many people down through history who have believed the scriptures 'inerrant'. The Pharisees being a notable gaggle of them. Jesus probably believed them to be, 'profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction and for instruction in righteousness': I doubt he considered them either infallible, comprehensive or inerrant though, otherwise he would not have bothered teaching anything other than what the scriptures already clearly laid down. In many respects the teaching of Jesus of Nazareth was the antidote to the wrong understanding of Old Testament scripture which the Pharisees so revered as 'inerrant' and 'authorative'. On the other hand Jesus rarely contradicted what the prophets of OT scripture had said, only enlarged upon it or interpreted it sometimes differently.

    For their piety I won't fault the definitions you offer. They do seem to me though to be manoevering people into a position where they have to be obedient to all of the words of a book, if they are to be 'saved'. That in itself is bordering on a kind of legalism which I abhor. It is the 'slipery slope' of fundamentalist sectarianism so caustic when taken to extremes by the likes of David Coresh et al.

    Certainly reading the Bible was profoundly influential in bringing about a healthy understanding of my human condition and need of a Saviour. It was never necessary though that I believe the words I was reading to be 'inerrant' in order for The Holy Spirit to speak directly into my heart at the time. The Bible is not like a prison rule book, which guantees success and a trouble free sentence, as long as you keep all the rules in the book. A Bible can be either a dead book or a living experience, depending upon how you approach it and how much notice one takes of what The Holy Spirit says to you as you read it. That is what I understand 'inspired' to really mean. Not just inspired in the writing of it, but inspired in the reading of it too, under the right conditions.

    Such a 'straw man' then that I won't get an answer to my question:

    "Compare 2 Sam.24:1 with 1 Chron.21:1. Who told David to number Israel, God or Satan?"

    Are you ready to plump for one or other yet, or are you still trying to reconcile the fundamental contradiction and find a way of proving BOTH of them at the same time told David to do a census of Israel.

    Some straw man that! :yes:
    .
     
  17. Rexlion

    Rexlion Well-Known Member

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    There are plenty of people (such as Craig Evans, who taught in a seminary!) who believe the Bible is inspired but not inerrant, and who therefore pick and choose the parts they think are historically accurate or theologically acceptable. Those who disbelieve inerrancy are free to discard the verses which call out homosexual behavior, the verse in which Christ says that no one comes to the Father but through Him, or even the part that says God made the heavens and the earth! Without the bright red line of God's written word, accepted as fully designed by God to be without falsehood and mistake, there is no clear standard for Christianity (unless we wish to embrace Tradition and the Magisterium to tell us what God was supposed to teach us, and that the Bible failed to teach).

    Also, I feel that the 'wind has wings' thing has no bearing on inerrancy, but only on our understanding of what the Bible is saying there. Inerrancy does not in any way demand a literal interpretation to every passage; far from it!
     
  18. Botolph

    Botolph Well-Known Member

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    VI. Of the Sufficiency of the Holy Scriptures for Salvation.
    Holy Scripture containeth all things necessary to salvation: so that whatsoever is not read therein, nor may be proved thereby, is not to be required of any man, that it should be believed as an article of the Faith, or be thought requisite or necessary to salvation. In the name of the Holy Scripture we do understand those canonical Books of the Old and New Testament, of whose authority was never any doubt in the Church.​

    Article 6 says that all we need to know for salvation may be found in scripture. Anything that cannot be proved by Holy Scripture should not be required of anyone to be believed. The article does not say that everything that can be proved by scripture is required to be believed for salvation. The article does not say that everything in scripture has to be absolutely historically accurate. Indeed article 7 excuses christians from the requirement to obey Old Testament precepts governing ceremonial and ritual, but requires obedience to those commandments that might be deemed moral.

    XX. Of the Authority of the Church.
    The Church hath power to decree Rites or Ceremonies, and authority in Controversies of Faith: and yet it is not lawful for the Church to ordain any thing that is contrary to God's Word written, neither may it so expound one place of Scripture, that it be repugnant to another. Wherefore, although the Church be a witness and a keeper of Holy Writ, yet, as it ought not to decree anything against the same, so besides the same ought it not to enforce any thing to be believed for necessity of Salvation.​

    The principal of not expounding one place of scripture that it be repugnant to another, is sadly often forgotten, more freely by some parts of the Church than others. It suggests that we should allow the whole of scripture to speak, authentically with a sense of integration rather than divergence. In my view the Church has in some places and times been remiss in its role as the witness and keeper of Holy Writ.

    At the 1st Council of Constantinople the Holy Fathers there assembled determined the core fundamental declaration of that which ought to be believed by every Christian, and today we receive that as the Nicene Creed. It has been fashionable to find this too hard, or no longer relevant, or whatever else, however if you are looking to know what the church believes in essence, there is no better place to look, and the Nicene Creed as promulgated by the Council is attested to by Scripture at every point.

    The question being asked in this thread seems to be, Is the inerrancy and infallibility of scripture a required belief for salvation?
    • Some want to argue that this is a given if Holy Scripture contains all things requisite for salvation.
    • Others argue that you cannot prove a doctrine inerrancy or infallibility in Holy Scripture without failing the repugnancy test.
    Even in the Holy Fathers we find differences in approach, the Antiochene Schools being more inclined to literal readings and the Alexandrian Schools being more given to some metaphorical readings. Trying to make this a hard line argument for either school does not work, however there were differences in the approach to how scripture was to be read and understood. The Nicene Creed does not require assent to scripture, save in one point, namely the resurrection:

    And the third day he rose again according to the Scriptures,
    And ascended into heaven,
    And sitteth on the right hand of the Father.​

    And in that is our hope founded.

    I don't believe we need Scripture to be inerrant and infallible at every point for it to be inspired reliable and trustworthy as a whole. The Great Reformation Hymn - All My Hope of God is Founded - based entirely in scriptural principles says nothing of scripture. When you look at the writer of the 4th Gospel in his approach to evangelism, we don't see Sunday School or Bible Study, but more often three simple words - Come and See.

    I am not for one moment arguing against scripture, and in truth I have no great issue with those who want to find that scripture is inerrant and infallible, save that they often seem to then presume to then make that something that is required to be believed unto salvation. In John chapter 4 where Jesus encounters to Woman of Samaria she is clearly not asked to accept all the scriptures that the Samaritans rejected, she simply leaves here water pot to reveal Jesus as the fulfilment of Samaritan expectation and goes to the village asks the townsfolk to Come and See.
     
  19. Rexlion

    Rexlion Well-Known Member

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    I would be inclined to disagree with this premise. In fact I reject the notion that those are required beliefs for salvation, so how could I be asking such a question?

    The ideas I am advancing are these:
    1. There are good and sound reasons to accept the inerrancy and infallibility of scripture, most particularly because they lend themselves to orthodoxy and resistance against liberal, modern (re)interpretation of Scripture.
    2. Those who argue against inerrancy (or who criticize "inerrantists" for there "errant belief") do more harm than good to the cause of Christianity, for they (wittingly or unwittingly) cast support in favor of liberal, modern interpretation and against (small 'o') orthodoxy.
     
  20. Botolph

    Botolph Well-Known Member

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    I would have to say my experience of those who have advocated that position have been prepared top advance a number of other positions which I find less tenable, including 7 day creation, flat earth, earth sustained on pillars, and a rejection of heliocentricity, and yet it has been more the sense of Pharisaism that comes with this approach that I find less appealing, and not so much like Jesus as I would care for.

    I would probably see the shoe on the other foot. In part that would depend on how you perceive the cause of Christianity. I believe we are called to be ambassadors for Christ, and that we are not called to be God's bouncers.
     
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