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Canonization of the Old Testament

The original Order of the books of Scripture


By Dr.Ernest Martin


     There is no doubt that the world has the complete Bible in
its midst. One of them is the beloved King James' Version
published in 1611. There have been many other complete versions
produced over the last 100 years. So, why do we need "The
Original Bible Restored"? The fact is, there needs to he a
drastic revision within all Bible translations and versions (and
that means all Bibles in existence no matter in what languages
they have been published). Truly, there is not a Bible on the
market today which follows the arrangement of the earliest
manuscripts! One might think that such a state of affairs could
not exist, but it does! Publishers have assiduously neglected to
produce a complete Bible which positions the books in the correct
manuscript order. The outcome has been a mass of Bible
translations and versions which are literally topsy-turvy in
their design and arrangement.

     One might at first glance dismiss this infraction as being
of minor consequence. But this represents a prime misjudgment
when anyone looks seriously at the issue! In truth, the Bible of
the manuscripts has all its divisions, parts and order of books
in a symmetrical balance which shows a harmonious story-flow from
beginning to end. But publishers have abandoned all attempts to
restore this Bible to the general public!

     Look at it this way. Suppose you bought a novel containing
49 chapters which introduced the various characters and plot in a
progressive way from start to finish. Would it not be difficult
to understand what the plot was all about if chapter 16 followed
immediately after chapter 6, and especially if the chapters were
not properly numbered? What then if chapter 22 were placed after
after 7, chapter 22 before 21, chapter 14 after 21, chapters 12
and 3 followed 14, chapter 18 positioned after 13, chapter 17
followed 8 and 9, chapter 20 after 10, and finally chapter 11
after chapter 20. This would represent utter confusion! But if
one reckons the chapters of our hypothetical novel as being the
books of the Old Testament, this is the exact sequence we are
saddled with in our present Bibles'.

     Let's not stop with the Old Testament! Look at what has
happened to the 27 New Testament books! Return once more to the
illustration of our novel. It means that chapters 23 to 27 follow
immediately after chapter 11. Chapters 28 to 34 are found after
chapter 44, while chapter 44 itself follows chapter 48, and
chapters 35 to 43 are positioned after chapter 27. This is
further confusion!

     Some might say, however, that a comparison of the Bible with
a novel is not proper. But this is exactly where the first
mistake is made in appreciating the manuscript order of the
biblical books. It will be shown in this book that there is a
definite weaving together of a single story theme through the
biblical books. And it is a remarkably consistent account which
often amazes people when they see it for the first time. The only
reason that such a homogeneous narrative has not been recognized
by most people today is because none of our published Bibles has
the books of the Old and New Testaments in the original
manuscript order. When the proper design is restored, a marvelous
and revealing series of connected subjects is seen running
through the Bible which illustrates a compatible and coherent
account from beginning to end. This book will reveal some of
those amazing relationships which exist between and among the
various books. This information may well prove to be an
eye-opener to many students of the Bible - facts that have never
been realized before!

     Other matters are considered in the body of this book. It
will be seen that the responsibility for canonizing the New
Testament fell to the apostles themselves. It was they who had
the authority to write and collect the various books of the New
Testament, and that two apostles in particular were given the
special assignment of formulating the New Testament into a
complete and final book! It will also be shown that the original
number of both the Old and New Testament books should be reckoned
as 49 - not the 66 that we have in our modern Bibles! The present
enumeration reflects a numerical pattern which is very unlike the
original. Indeed, some Bibles even have an extra eleven (or
fourteen) books included in their contents. This divergency
represents an abandonment of the original number and arrangement
of the books.

     The subject of this book is almost like an adventure story -
a story of re-discovery. Yet, in actual fact, this book contains
not one bit of new evidence (regarding the manuscript order of
the biblical books) that has not been known by New Testament
textual scholars for over a century and a half. It is an
incredible circumstance that most readers of the Bible are
totally unaware of this evidence. Such proof has long been in the
hands of scholars but not one attempt has been made to provide
the English speaking world with a complete Bible which follows
the manuscripts. And it is a rare occasion indeed that the
introductions to any English version even deem it necessary to
inform the general public what the manuscript order really is,
and even then it is usually a brief and inconsequential reference
that the reader would hardly think important.

     It is time that the world be presented with "The Manuscript
Version of the Bible." Publishing such a work would provide a
proper canon of the Bible. The word "canon" means rule or
standard. There is no version being published today that
resembles the canonical Bible of the manuscripts. But why not?
Should not Christians want to perpetuate the biblical canon
devised by the men who formed it? In this book we provide a great
deal of internal evidence from the Bible itself which goes a long
way in showing that the early manuscript order of the books is
not only correct, it is an essential factor which helps to
emphasize some significant biblical themes. There is one which is
most important! If the books of the Old and New Testaments are
restored to their manuscript arrangement, the center books of the
whole Bible are the five New Testament books which describe the
life and times of Jesus Christ. In a word, Jesus Christ is
featured as the focal point (the fulcrum) of all Scripture. But
only the manuscript order is able to demonstrate this.

     In this book we stress the importance of letting the Bible
itself speak about its own origin and arrangement of books. It is
now being recognized in the scholarly world that such internal
evidence is a valuable tool in understanding canonical matters.
We provide a considerable amount of information on this internal
evidence that is often overlooked by many students of the

     Since the year 1983 (the year in which this book is being
written) has been designated by the President and Congress of the
United States as "The Year of the Bible," there is no better time
for modern man to return to the manuscript order of the books.
One of the main reasons for writing this book is to awaken an
enthusiasm among New Testament scholars (who have been telling
the scholarly world for a century and a half about the true order
of the 27 New Testament books) to get busy and tell the
publishing companies who produce the Bibles to return to the
proper order! If ministers and preachers of the Gospel, priests
and a concerned laity would also provide an incentive of
encouragement, the publishers would respond. There is a dire need
for a "Manuscript Version of the Bible." It would present the
messages of the Bible in the original format that left the hands
of the canonizers. When the general public would see the Bible in
its proper arrangement, a new interest and appreciation for the
Word of God could be the result. This book is designed to show
some of the interesting insights that are possible when this
restitution is accomplished. We think that the public would
respond favorably to the "manuscript Version of the Bible" and
when it is made available, the world will finally have within the
pages of a single volume (for the first time in modern history)
"The Original Bible Restored."


     It can be demonstrated in a clear and positive way that no
popular version of the Bible in modern times has followed the
ancient manuscripts in the arrangement of the biblical books. It
is almost unbelievable that such a situation could exist,
especially in our highly critical age, yet publishers in their
quest to print numerous versions of the Bible have been led to
avoid the actual manuscript positioning of the biblical books in
favor of a later ecclesiastical order which has no justification
from early Hebrew and Greek texts.

     Let us look at the New Testament first:. When the textual
scholars of the last century printed their final results of
surveying the early New Testament manuscripts, they all without
exception placed the resultant arrangement of the books in the
same order. They felt compelled to do this because of the
overwhelming evidence from the manuscripts. Scrivener, after
surveying over 4000 manuscripts, said:

"Whether copies contain the whole or a part of the sacred volume,
the general order of the books is the following: Gospels, Acts,
Catholic Epistles, Pauline Epistles, Apocalypse" (Introduction to
the Criticism of the New Testament, vol.I, p.72).

     The fact is, all textual scholars who led the pioneering
work in the evaluation of New Testament manuscripts consistently
recorded the proper manuscript order of the books in their
editions intended for biblical scholars. They placed the seven
Catholic Epistles (James, I & 2 Peter, 1,2 & 3 John and Jude)
before the fourteen of the apostle Paul. This is a very
significant feature of the early manuscripts. (It ought to be
stated that the word "Catholic" in this instance does not refer
to any Christian denomination. It only means that the epistles
themselves are "Universal" or "General").

"This is the position [of the Catholic Epistles] assigned them in
the critical editions of Lachmann, Tischendorf, Tregelles,
Westcott and Hort" (Hastings, Dict. of the Bible, vol.l, p.360).

     The early manuscripts which most textual critics uphold as
the best in existence (notably the Vaticanus, the Alexandrinus
and the Ephraem) position the seven Catholic Epistles before
those of Paul. There can be little doubt that this is where they
belong. But in our modern versions, the translators have
abandoned this order and adopted an ecclesiastical one which most
will admit is provincial and sectarian and one that cannot
represent the original arrangement of the New Testament books,
This, on the other hand, was not the case with the ancient
scholars and leaders of the church.

Early Christian Beliefs

     Almost all the Greek speaking ecclesiastical authorities
from the areas of Palestine, Syria, Asia Minor, and Greece refer
to the books of the New Testament in the manuscript arrangement
mentioned above.
     Athanasius said the order was "the four Gospels; the Acts of
the Apostles; the seven Catholic Epistles; the fourteen epistles
of St.Paul; and the Revelation of John" (Home, Introduction.
vol.IV, p.253).

     Leontius of Byzantium mentioned the order as "Matthew, Mark,
Luke, John; the Acts of the Apostles; the seven Catholic
Epistles; the Epistles of Paul; and the Apocalypse" (ibid.).

     Philastris was even bold in his statement that the seven
Catholic Epistles must be positioned before Paul's because in
Galatians 1:17 Paul said that the Jewish apostles were "before
me" (Moffatt, Introduction to the Literature of the N. T., p.13).

     The normal manuscript order was also advocated by the
clerics at the eastern Church Council of Laodicea (Canon LX,
NPNF, vol.XIV. p.159) and it was further maintained by Cyril,
Bishop of Jerusalem, (Catechetical Lectures 4.36, NPNF, vol.VIl,
     John of Damascus (born 675 A.D.) -- author of the standard
textbook on Dogmatic Theology for the Greek Church - referred to
the manuscript order of the books as the proper one. Without
qualification he stated that the seven Catholic Epistles must be
placed right after the Book of Acts (Lardner, Credibility, vol.V,

     Further names could be cited in support of this prevelant
view among eastern churchmen. These included Cassiodorus,
Nicephorus and also the Peshitta Version of the New Testament
(Moffatt, p.14). These were followed by the Stoichiometry from
Cotelerius (806 A.D.) and Oecumenius (950 A.D) the Bishop of
Thessaly who wrote a short copy of verse on the New Testament in
the proper manuscript order (Lardner, vol.V, pp.89,154,155).
     This order (with the Catholic Epistles positioned before
those of Paul) was even recognized by Jerome, the translator of
the Latin Vulgate Version of the Bible. However, when Jerome
wrote a personal letter to his friend Paulinus, he followed an
order peculiar to Epiphanius who even placed Paul's letters right
after the four Gospels (Lardner, vol.IV, pp.437,438). This order
is also found in the Sinaiticus manuscript.

     But what about the order of New Testament books which we
find in our Bibles today? This arrangement had its origin in the
areas of Rome and Carthage and came essentially from Latin
speaking eccelesiastical authorities. The western fathers were
prone to place Paul's epistles immediately after the Book of
Acts, thus violating the early Greek manuscript arrangement. This
re-adjustment (from the western point of view) had the advantage
of placing the epistles of Paul (the apostle to the Gentiles)
into a first rank position over and above the "Jewish" apostles.
It especially was fortuitous because it elevated the Book of
Romans (the first epistle in Paul's collection) to first rank
above all other epistles of the New Testament! The upshot of this
re-positioning by western authorities provided a supposed
biblical sanction for advancing the jurisdiction of the Roman
church into a position of first rank over all other church areas!
Let me state at the outset that this evaluation of mine is not
intended as a censure of the Church at Rome. But it is a simple
fact of history that the "authority" arguments which were going
on in the third and fourth centuries played a major role in the
re-designing of the New Testament books by those in the western
(and Gentile) sections of Christendom.

     The reason for the western advancement of Paul (and Rome)
over the seven Catholic epistles (which were considered "Jewish")
was given in the last century by M'Clintock and Strong:

"The Western Church . . . as represented by Jerome and Augustine,
and their successors, gave priority of position to the Pauline
epistles. The tendency of the Western Church to recognize Rome as
the center of authority may perhaps, in part, account for this
departure from the custom of the East. The order in the
Alexandrian, Vatican and Ephraem manuscripts gives precedence to
the Catholic Epistles, and as this is also recognized by the
Council of Laodicea. Cyril of Jerusalem and Athanasius, it would
appear to have been characteristic of the Eastern churches"
(CBTEL, vol.I, p.800).

     It is really easy to see that the "western re-arrangement"
(which we find in our Bibles today) was an attempt to exalt the
political position of the western church over early Christendom.
It put Rome ahead of the churches of the East.

     A reflection of this type of re-designing is found in the
writings of the Latin theologian Rufinus, born about 330 A.D., a
churchman of the "western school" (Lardner, vo1.IV, pp.483,484).
The western arrangement was also advocated by the Third Council
of Carthage (ibid. p.487). Innocent of Rome did the same (ibid.
p.586) and so did Gelasius, Bishop of Rome (492 A.D.) (ibid.
vo1.V, p.76). These wanted Rome (not Jerusalem or eastern cities)
in top authority among the Christian churches.
     There were even two easterners who followed the western
order. One was Gregory of Nazianzus. This might be expected with
Gregory because he championed a universal orthodoxy for both the
eastern and western sections of the church against the doctrines
of eastern Arianism. Associated with him was Amphilochius, Bishop
of Iconium (ibid. vo1.IV, pp.292,293).
     There is no doubt that the main reason for the westerners'
replacement of Paul's epistles to a position before those of
James, Peter, John, and Jude, was to exalt Paul (the Gentile
apostle) over the Jewish apostles, which in turn helped to
elevate the later western ecclesiastical authorities of the third
and fourth centuries into a supreme political position within
Christendom. There was, however, a major problem with the
exaltation of Paul because it put Peter (whom most people felt
was the first Bishop of Rome) into an inferior position. This may
have been an embarrassment, but it was avoided by pointing out
that the two epistles of Peter were written to Jews, not Gentiles
as the Romans were. So even the first "Pope" got put into a last

     In spite of these sectarian reasons for placing Paul's
letters before the seven Catholic Epistles, the proper order of
the New Testament books was well known and maintained by the
majority of early Greek manuscripts. And this is exactly how the
New Testament books should be positioned today! Professor
Gregory, who devoted his life to the study of the manuscripts,
summed up the real order of the New Testament books.

"The order in which we place the books of the New Testament is
not a matter of indifference. Every Christian should be familiar
with these books, and should know precisely where to find each
book. Every New Testament should have the books in precisely the
same order, the order of the Greek Church, which in this case is
of right the guardian of this ancient literature. The proper
order is, I think: First, the Four Gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke,
and John. Second, the Book of Acts. Third, the Catholic Epistles:
James, First and Second Peter, First, Second, and Third John, and
Jude. Fourth, the Epistles of Paul: Romans, First and Second
Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, First
and Second Thessalonians, Hebrews, First and Second Timothy,
Titus, Philemon. And fifth, the Book of Revelation... The Greek
order is that which places the Epistle to the Hebrews between
Thessalonians and Timothy, and that is the order to which we
should hold. The Latin order places Hebrews after Philemon. But
we must keep to the old order or we shall have the New Testament
turned upside down in connection with every fancied discovery as
to authorship and date of books" (Canon and Text of the New
Testament, pp.467-469).

     There can be no question that Professor Gregory was right in
his scholarly evaluation. In fact, one wonders why the
translators and publishers of our modern Bibles have completely
abandoned the obvious manuscript order? This must be reckoned a
major oversight! It is time that New Testament scholars today and
also the publishers of Bibles return to the proper order and
inform the general public about the original disposition of the
New Testament books. The rewards for restoring the manuscript
order can afford us with a much better understanding of the
messages of the New Testament. And when both the Old and New
Testaments are returned to their original designs (and combined
together) a brand new appreciation of the Bible could be the

The Old Testament

     The books of the Old Testament also need to be re-positioned
to accord with the manuscripts maintained by the Jewish
     Our Christian Old Testament follows an order of books which
had its origin in Egypt in the second and third centuries A.D.
This was finally accomplished about 200 years after Christ when
the codex form for producing books became popular (this is the
type of book with which we are familiar today). Before this was
done, however, it was customary to use scrolls for the
reproduction of books and in Egypt there was no standardization
of book arrangement for most of the Old Testament books. Their
positioning and design did not seem important to those in Egypt
as long as the Old Testament books were in scroll form.
     There was, on the other hand, an early interest among the
Egyptians in the sacred writings of the Jews. As early as the
third century before Christ, the Egyptians were having parts of
the Old Testament translated into Greek. By the time of Christ we
can be reasonably assured that all the Old Testament was
translated into Greek. The apostles were accustomed to refer to
these Greek translations from Egyptian sources. They were called
the Septuagint (from the belief that seventy-LXX-elders of the
Jews began the translations over two and a half centuries before
the birth of Christ).

     Though all the books of the Old Testament were able to be
consulted in the Greek by the time of Christ, still the order of
those books was not established until the invention of the codex
form of book. As stated before, this is the kind of book that we
are familiar with today. In ancient times (and even throughout
the early period of the apostles) it was common to read documents
from scrolls - from rolled up pieces of papyrus or animal skins.
But the codex form of producing books was brought into existence
in the latter part of our first century. It was about 200 years
later that the Septuagint Version of the Old Testament was
finally assembled together into our modern codex form. This
codexing of the Old Testament books had the effect of
standardizing the Egyptian order for the Gentile Christians who
could only read the sacred books in the Greek. This caused the
later Christians in Egypt to abandon the Jewish arrangement which
was maintained in Palestine. But, the Old Testament, reckoned as
official by the Jews for their synagogue services, is the proper
and original one. The arrangement can be shown to be in existence
at least back to the second century B.C. It is this order that
all Christian Bibles should retain - not the ecclesiastical (and
traditional) one which had its origin at the time the Septuagint
was codexed in Egypt. The Palestinian design needs to be
restored! When it is, there will emerge some revealing and
important teachings which will go a long way in showing that we
have the complete and proper Old Testament today!

The manuscript order of the Hebrew canon is as follows:


1) Genesis
2) Exodus 
3) Leviticus 
4) Numbers 
5) Deuteronomy


6) Joshua and Judges 
7) The Book of Kingdoms (Samuel and Kings) 
8) Isaiah
9) Jeremiah 
10) Ezekiel
11) The Twelve (Hosea to Malachi)


12) Psalms
13) Proverbs 
14) Job
15) Song of Songs
16) Ruth
17) Lamentations 
18) Ecclesiastes 
19) Esther
20) Daniel
21) Ezra-Nehemiah
22) The Book of Chronicles

     These 22 books of the Old Testament (and their arrangement
as indicated above) should be the standard followed by every
version of e Bible today! They represent the exact number which
are presently in our King James Version but, as one can observe,
they are arranged and enumerated differently.

     Notice also that the Old Testament was divided into three
parts called "The Tripartite Divisions." These divisions were
maintained among the original Temple scrolls and reproduced for
particular use in synagogue services. Christ himself referred to
these official Tripartite Divisions as the Law of Moses, the
Prophets, and the Psalms (Luke 24:44,45). (His reference to "the
Psalms" was, as we will show, to all the eleven books of the
Third Division which got its title from the book which introduced
the division.) Remarkably, Christ designated these Tripartite
Divisions as "the Scriptures" (verse 45). This recognition by
Christ of the three divisions of the Old Testament is the only
place in the New Testament where the Old Testament revelation is
defined. This provides the highest possible authority for the
retention of those three divisions!

     When these features are restored to modern Bibles there will
be an amazing relationship to be seen between all the books of
the Old and New Testaments. The Bible would become interesting to
most people, and a great deal of important information about the
Bible would come on the scene that people have not realized

A Numerical Summary

     The standard manuscript disposition of the Old and New
Testament books shows a symmetrical balance between the divisions
and parts that is truly inspiring and instructive. We will look
at the significance of this matter later on in this book, but as
a preliminary synopsis, note that the original Scriptures had
exactly 49 books: 22 in the Old Testament and 27 in the New. This
number is, of course, 7 times 7, and seven represents the
symbolic number of completion or finalization. One could spend
many pages giving biblical references to the significance of the
number seven. But as a simple illustration of its symbolic
meaning, look at the basic features of the Jewish calendar. The
Hebrews recognized that the seventh day of the week completed the
week. The seven weeks of grain harvest (the 49 days from Passover
to Pentecost) completed the firstfruits harvest. The first seven
months of the Hebrew calendar contained the times for the seven
annual festivals commanded by Moses. In a sense it could be said
that the festival year of Moses was seven months long, and those
seven months contained and completed the holyday schedule for the
Israelites. And let us not forget that every seventh year was
reckoned a Sabbatical Year and it commemorated the completion of
six years of agricultural activity for the Hebrews in Palestine.
After seven of those Sabbatical Years were completed (a period of
49 years), the Year of Jubilee was reached - which was supposed
to be a time of agricultural and financial rejuvenation for all
Israelites in Palestine. This was the time when all social and
economic activities were supposed to return to the same condition
as at the beginning of the previous 49 years.

     Why are these sevens and multiples of sevens important? They
show that it was no accident that the total number of Old and New
Testament books came to 49 in number in the enumeration
maintained by the early Jewish and Christian authorities. 

     But there is more to it than that. There are also three
divisions to the Old Testament: 1) The Law, 2) The Prophets, and
3) The Writings' (the Psalms) Division. To these can be added the
four divisions of the New Testament: 1) The Historical Books
(Gospels and Acts), 2) The seven General (or Catholic) Epistles,
3) The fourteen (2 times 7) epistles of Paul, and 4) the final
Book of Revelation. When one adds the three divisions of the Old
with the four of the New, we arrive at seven divisions to the
complete Bible. This was no happenstance matter either!

     Throughout this book will be shown many more numerical
relationships within and among the various books of the Bible
involving the number seven. The divine Scripture is truly a
marvelously arranged book and it has a message from those
numerical patterns that will help enhance one's comprehension of
the biblical revelation. For the general public to appreciate
this fact, however, the first thing that ought to be done is for
publishers of Bibles, biblical scholars, and modern preachers of
the Gospel to abandon the sectarian arrangement of the biblical
books (which had its origin some two or three hundred years after
Christ) and return to the early manuscript order as maintained by
the Jews and Greeks! This would be a major undertaking of
revision because every version combining the Old and New
Testaments being published in the world today is in error and
should be adjusted! It would also be an enormous task to
reeducate people to accept the original manuscript divisions and
arrangement of the biblical books. The biggest problem of all is
to change people's minds from the apathy that is presently
expressed over the issue, and get them excited about a return to
the original Bible! We must not forget that there could be a
resistance to any change because it might rekindle the doctrinal
arguments of the third and fourth centuries regarding the place
where proper authority rests within Christendom. If one accepts
the retention of our present catalog of books, then some might
imagine that the Roman church has credentials for a top position.
But if one returns to the original manuscript order and restores
the seven Catholic Epistles to their rightful position in the New
Testament canon (and placing the Book of Hebrews after 2
Thessalonians), this would tend to exalt the "Jewish apostles"
over the apostle Paul and the Gentile section of the Christian
Church. This is clearly the proper thing to do. Even the apostle
Paul said that the message of Christian salvation should go to
"the Jew first" (Rom.2:10; 3:1,2). And in Paul's personal
evaluation of his rank in the Christian Church, he admitted that
the pillars in the Church were James, Peter, and John at
Jerusalem (Gal.2:9) and that they were apostles "before me"
(Gal.1:17). Indeed, the apostle Paul even considered himself the
"least of the apostles" (I Cor.15:9), and that he was a person
"who am less than the least of all saints" (Eph.3:8). There can
be no question that if the apostle Paul himself would have had a
say in the positioning of his own fourteen epistles, he would not
have insisted they be placed before the pillar apostles!

     The actual fact is, there is no need to lessen any church's
jurisdiction when the world returns to the manuscript order of
the Old and New Testament books. Such authority is based on a
host of other considerations, not simply the positioning of the
canonical books. Indeed the apostle Peter (the first recorded
Bishop of Rome) would then assume his rightful classification of
rank ahead of the apostle Paul who was "the least of the
apostles." (No there is no Scripture proof that Peter was the
first bishop of Rome and no such teaching of "rank" is taught in
the New Testament - Keith Hunt).

     One of the main reasons why I have written this book is to
reawaken an interest in this important matter in the minds of
scholars, preachers and laity alike. Our modern world is entitled
to have the versions of their Bibles (in their own languages) in
the same manner in which the early Christians had theirs! We
think that a new appreciation of the Holy Bible would be the



Certainly Martin is correct as to the order of the books of the
Bible from the ancient MSS, and as he will point out, the order
does have a logical pattern, especially in the New Testament,
that goes from important and basic foundation teachings, to Grade
school, to High school, to College.

Keith Hunt

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