Comments: this week's columns

Howse's article interested me. One of the things that piqued my interest when researching the lost Apocrypha was what had been removed. Most people know of my contempt for the removal of Susanna as it gave vulnerables the precedent to protect themselves from collusive predators that would molest them.

It is also interesting to see texts removed that acknowledged angels taking on human form to assist souls e.g. the book of Enoch.

Yet acknowledgements of angels and higher beings are made in the bible, the prayer book, and Jewish texts. Sometimes I think souls like to gloss over the permeability between humanity and angels. In part I think that is to "beef up" their own claim to divinity, as well as to deny that there is accountability beyond the "top" human power brokers.

There are biblical texts that demonstrate angels can take on human form e.g. the three visitors to Abraham on their way to check out Sodom and Gomorrah.

We also see that both humans and angels are subject to being disciplined by God e.g. Ezekiel 28:1-19 I especially like "But you are a man and not a god, though you think you are as wise as a god. Are you wiser than Daniel ? Is no secret hidden from you?"

One wonders whether Adam knew where Eve was and what was happening to her? If he knew, then he approved and is an abusive soul mate. However, if he did not know, then he is not God, as some secrets can be hidden from him.

Adam already knows how God "...made a fire come out from you, and it consumed you, and I reduced you to ashes on the ground in the sight of all who were watching." Adam would also know that this did not happen because God intervened with a warning to allow him the chance to rise up to match so that he was not killed by the unquenchable fire. Not all encounters with the cherubim of the ark happen within this space-time continuum.

Not all advocacy happens within human courts. Where all of humanity has become insane, the debate is taken to the level above. At this level, it is no longer just humans who are disciplined, but their appointed guardians as well.

Posted by Cheryl Clough at Saturday, 28 April 2007 at 11:12pm BST

This quote in Forsyth's article amused me, where Huckabee apparently has declared that, “Until Moses comes down with two stone tablets from Brokeback Mountain saying he's changed the rules, let's keep it like it is.” My retort would be that even if Moses did come down with the two stone tablets, they would deny it was Moses or dispute that they were THE two stone tablets. No soul is more blind that the one who refuses not to see.

Posted by Cheryl Clough at Saturday, 28 April 2007 at 11:12pm BST

As regards Roderick Strange's comment in the Credo comment of the times for every "intelligent" person - er... Yes I have, yes I do, and it gets more tangled the more it goes on.

Posted by Pluralist at Sunday, 29 April 2007 at 12:22am BST

The Church Times includes a report which highlights how the evangelical world is starting to eat itself as a result of all this penal substitution "stuff" (to use an episcopal word).

We have, in the extremist corner, Wallace Benn allied with The Word Alive and Christian Unions splitting from, in the extremist corner, Peter Broadbent of Spring Harvest, because Spring Harvest invites an evangelical Baptist minister and media man Steve Chalke to speak. Then we have the diatribe of "I could write even more on this" Tom Wright saying how unbiblical is the Principal to be of Oak Hill theological college, rumoured to be Anglican. Jeffrey John receives all their spite, as if a common enemy, whilst really we know that there is no such antagonism as that for a former member who seems to be on a road out - that is for Steve Chalke.

Oh dear. The point is that whilst they're all having a go at TEC and liberal theologians past and present, what really gets them is that they can't agree amongst themselves, can't even tolerate themselves half the time. Should Mr Akinola walk into England and start drawing sympathisers into the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion) and create a pure institution for their activities, it won't be the liberals and moderates at each others' throats, but these evangelicals who simply cannot agree with each other in and amongst their dogma and competition for correct biblical interpretation.

Quite a spectacle, really. Those with the greatest difficulty on their hands should a split come are the open evangelicals, being well let down in recent months by their supposed intellectual leader in Durham.

Posted by Pluralist at Sunday, 29 April 2007 at 1:03pm BST

Pluralist - you seem pleased to see what you think is great disunity?

Anyway, see the Church Times for +Wright's easy defence of PSA from the weak attack it came under recently.

Posted by NP at Monday, 30 April 2007 at 2:47pm BST

This is sad. I was looking forward to a good discussion about the book of Enoch. http://reluctant-messenger.com/enoch.htm

It is clear that the apostle Paul considered Enoch was judged with respect "By faith Enoch was taken from this life, so that he did not experience death; he could not be found, because God had taken him away. For before he was taken, he was commended as one who pleased God." (Hebrews 11:5)

The other thing that interests me about this book is that Enoch put forward a petition on behalf of the fallen angels, which might have failed, but Enoch is still seen with respect. (Like Abraham pleading for mercy with Sodom and Gomorrah, the pleas might not always succeed but being prepared to advocate on behalf of unworthies can have its own righteousness).

There could have been a discussion about whether God had a plan for reconciling not just the human but the higher levels. e.g. Ephesians 4:10, Hebrews 7:26 & 12:26, Amos 9:2, Isaiah 1:2 & 45:5-12. Then that discussion could have explored the implications of the claims for Jesus' sacrifice not being just for the souls of this earth, but also for the souls in both the heights and depths.

The greatest tragedy in recent times is witnessing attempts to reduce God/Jesus/Spirits' authority and capacity to act where and how God's Will would be done.

It is not humanity's place to tell God who should or should not be forgiven. It is not humanity's place to murder their siblings or cousins because of greed or jealousy. Nor is it seemly to attempt to deny or disinherit any of God's children.

Posted by Cheryl Clough at Monday, 30 April 2007 at 10:26pm BST

Dear Cheryl,

Hebrews is not a letter nor by Paul. It is an Alexandrian 2nd century treatise. No one in the Early Church thought it was by Paul, except possibly Clement of Alexandria (!) who added a pauline letter ending to "prove" his case...

;=)

Posted by Göran Koch-Swahne at Tuesday, 1 May 2007 at 9:01pm BST

Hi Göran,
I'm still very confused about your fascinating posts. If Hebrews is not a Pauline letter it should not be used to determine Pauline theology.

But apart from that - does the fact that it was a 2nd century treatise, possibly partly written with the intention of making it sound Pauline, any real implication for how we should understand it?

Sorry if I sound dense!

Posted by Erika Baker at Tuesday, 1 May 2007 at 10:08pm BST

I think so. There is the small trifle of truth, you know...

Posted by Göran Koch-Swahne at Wednesday, 2 May 2007 at 8:23pm BST

Hebrews should be read as the great and isolated Alexandrian letter that it is.

Remember that the various collections of scriptures that were brought together over 1000 years to form the different post Renaissance NTs, came from different parts of the Church, expressing the varying and sometimes competing theologies of competing Patriarchates/Nations.

The 4 gospels of the one Gospel are n o t synoptic; they tell much the same events in much the same order (with illuminating exceptions) but have d i f f e r e n t views.

To Paul Christ is the Hilasterion in the Holiest of Holy, to Hebrews Christ is the High Priest sprinkling it ;=)

Ephesians and Colossians are the same scripture (again a treatise, not a letter) with different views/evaluations. Put them side by side and compare. What Ephesians (maybe Bishop Onésimos of Efesos) calls “rubbish”, the other (maybe Marcion) gets upset about.

The Johannine Apokalypsis was not accepted in an Alexandria (which was suspicious of the Johannine letters as well) which had its own apokalypsis; the 1000-page Shepherd, along with Barnabas’ anti Jewish letter (again not a letter but a treatise), and so on…

The late 2nd / early 3rd century Alexandrian redaction (Clement of Alexandria, the p 46, & c.) re-worked, corrected and harmonized by the 5th century Byzantine redaction, did not acknowledge the Pastorals, too close in time to be taken as authentic (and – according to the “Muratoria” list – written as one redacted anti-Marcionite letter, in the order Titus, 1 Tim, 2 Tim), but tried to promote it’s own Alexandrian scriptures instead ;=)

Likewise, the Catholic letters (= general letters lacking addresses) of Alexandria were not accepted in neighbouring Antioch for several centuries...

Modern (and antique) Integrism is wrong.

The view of the Early Church (see Eusebios’ Church History) was that a n y scripture could witness to the Righteousness of God in Christ; any scripture could contain grains of Truth. Nothing was dangerous; (almost) nothing was magic.

The view of “scripture” of the Early Church was neither high or low, but w i d e.

The Church collected its holy scriptures because they gave witness to her Faith in different Patriarchates, at different moments in time. Because they were different!

We do not have 4 gospels of the one Gospel to say the same thing. They don’t. The Bible is Jewish scriptures, not Indo European ones.

Posted by Göran Koch-Swahne at Wednesday, 2 May 2007 at 9:01pm BST

Göran,
thank you for that.
So if we agreed with the Early Church that Scripture if wide, we could still read the existing canon, believing it to have been put together over centuries by prayerful people with divine inspiration (leaving the odd political manouvering and posturing aside and trusting the Divine that it can find a way through our human schemings).

Your comments then explain why there are contradictions and where they originate. But unless I assume that contradictions and human error immediately invalidate the deeper meaning of the writings, and that they smother the divine rather than allow it to shine through, and if I assume that the writers weren't all ivory tower philologians talking among themselves: how does this actually change the way Hebrews (and all the other texts) should be read? Bearing in mind that for many of us it's a living text through which the Holy Spirit speaks directly to us even today?

Of course, if we're proof-texting literalists who insist that only our own way of reading can be right, we do indeed have a problem.

Posted by Erika Baker at Thursday, 3 May 2007 at 8:17am BST

Leaving the Pastorals apart (which as early as the mid 2nd century present the absolute opposite to Paul's teachings on Society, Church and State, women, slaves, Olympics, military service & c, as his own) the "problem" you refer to divides into two:

1. Integrism, or simply put the lumping together of various scriptural utterances to form new hitherto un-heard of "teachings", "legitimizing" ancient heathen philosophy and gnosticism and/or latter day social and ecclesiastical politics,

2. Forged translations, from the late 12th century Parisian Versio vulgata onwards, putting these latter day State and Academy novelties into the sacred texts themselves (in our time leading to the re-circulation and re-processing of earlier, dated, forgeries to express novel, late modern, socio-political "needs").

Posted by Göran Koch-Swahne at Thursday, 3 May 2007 at 6:43pm BST

So I am warning against reading the Holy Scriptures in the plural un-wittingly as the Holy Scripture in the singular of Hellenism.

My point is not what the NPs of this world say, that the Bible, or the Church , or Creation, or Christ or God should be painted in the light of a late modern socio-political agenda, but that this forging is in the past; 9th century, 12th century, 16th century, second half of the 20th century ("Dynamic Equivalence"), and that it is our duty to fight it and bring the Holy Scriptures of the Church back to Christ's Gospel after 1000 years of servitude to the Powers that be.

Posted by Göran Koch-Swahne at Thursday, 3 May 2007 at 7:06pm BST

Göran,
So we need to take all the added layers off and concentrate on the authentic "Christian Gospel"?

And would you advocate removing all dynamic equivalence in favour of formal equivalence? That would certainly preserve your original texts better, but it would also keep them rooted in their culture and would make it difficult for us to find much contemporary meaning in them. Don't you need a careful mixed approach?

"Servitude to the Powers that be" sounds quite dramatic, and I'm sure the texts have often been abused and altered, by well meaning people as much as by political schemers.

I suppose the real question is whether we believe that, despite their limitations, they nevertheles form part of continued, Spirit guided revelation, or whether all additions and forgeries are inherently uninspired and must be disregarded as false innovations.

Posted by Erika Baker at Friday, 4 May 2007 at 2:35pm BST

I don’t really think changing Idolatry to “sex”, or Disloyalty to “marriage breaking”, or Greed to “unchastity” is merely adding layers. It’s a different gospel.

“Dynamic equivalence” is a Lie. Not even “and” is unambiguous, it may mean a host of things. As basically a historian I have is no use of a text if I don’t know both what the words may mean and what they cannot mean. Both are equally important. Distorting it in our image, or giving it the meaning of a 3rd or 4th language, only proves that we actually do not care what the Bible says!

All claims to the contrary are so many Freudian slips ;=)

Erica wrote: “I suppose the real question is whether we believe that, despite their limitations, they nevertheless form part of continued, Spirit guided revelation, or whether all additions and forgeries are inherently uninspired and must be disregarded as false innovations.”

I don’t know if “inspired” is very helpful here. Of course they are “inspired”… by something ;=)

Per the Early Church, a l l scriptures, no matter how much they might be “holy scripture” to whomever, may contain logoi spermatikoì; seeds of Truth, and as such form part of an ongoing Spirit guided revelation. This is part of the background to the important discussion about historical typoi; OT pre-views and fulfilments.

Christ, the Word in Creation, is present in Creation from day one, before the Incarnation.

Personally, I find parts of what I believe to be Marcion (for instance Romans 1:18-25 or 8:38-39 and Colossians) to be some of the most beautiful and most inspired (because unprecedented), and therefore inspiring words in the NT. But I don’t think the concept of “God’s Wrath” towards Creation is at all useful or even compatible with the view that the same God created his Creation very good and sent his only begotten to save it, to bring it back to Him.

This is painting God in the image of Dualism.

I also find the Pastorals circle’s inversion of Paul most un-inspiring; pro slavery, anti women (incl. 1 Cor 11:4-7, 10 and 13-16, and 14:34-35), pro War (Bacchus cult), pro Olympics (Zeus cult), church quarrels (the episcopal election), and sectarianism (catalogues of sin)...

Test everything against the Gospel! Everything into subordination, hierarchy, “obedience”, is the Powers that be, not the Gospel of God’s righteousness in Christ.

Posted by Göran Koch-Swahne at Saturday, 5 May 2007 at 7:45pm BST

Göran,
I still feel very helpless about this. I am not a historian, I don't know any of the langugages of the old texts, and I certainly am not a biblical scholar.

Your last sentence, "test everything against the Gospel", implies that those texts have not been changed, that the alterations apply only to the rest of the NT.
That would make it comparatively easy for someone like me.

But if the Gospels too have been subject to manipulation - how is anyone supposed to read the Bible in a meaningful way?

Do genuine, unchangend old texts still exist including their translations?
Are there translations of the genuine texts, stripped of all subsequent changes?

Posted by Erika Baker at Sunday, 6 May 2007 at 8:27am BST

To start from the end… The elder the translation, the more reliable, in my experience. The Swed-ish 1526/1541 is infinitely better than any of the 20th century ones (and much closer to Greek language-wise).

Modern translations are often worthless, especially when into “Dynamic Equivalence” (a sober-ing is on the way, as in the 2001 English Standard Version turning back to the traditional post scholastic errors/sexualizations – which, contrary to DE ones, are systematic and thus easy to spot ;=)

Generally speaking, only ideologically un-interesting passages are still correctly translated, often carried on from the 2nd century North African, very reliable, Old Latin translation.

That’s one for continuity!

However, count on everything socio-politically prostitutable to have been changed – often several times over.

Posted by Göran Koch-Swahne at Sunday, 6 May 2007 at 2:14pm BST

The 4 gospels were all added to early on. In reading they must be kept apart from one another. At Lund we were told, both at the Theological Institution and at Seminary, never to mix Marcan with Johannine theology, and so on.

Mark, written for Rome, is the more original story gospel (the first stage being collections of words gospels such as the lat 2nd century Gnosticist Gospel of Thomas), arguing against earlier merely wonder-maker versions. I would date this to the 40ies, even. Follows Antiochene Dr Luke much into Herstory (might have been a lady ;=)

John of Efesos is Theology more than anything – slightly Gnostic (but not yet Gnosticist). Great for meditation, but not much so for reading out loud.

Matt, to my mind is unequivocally Alexandrian 120-140ies. That is after the 130 2nd Jewish War break with (outlawed) Judaism.

Matt not seldom follows the published letters of Paul a g a i n s t Mark and Luke (and sometimes, as in Matt 19.9 – giving Idolatry as permissible cause for divorce – inverts Paul in 1 Cor 7:12-17, who argues against the compulsory religious/ethnic divorce of Ezraism, see Ezra 10).

But then, the letters of Paul were only published c:a 100 ;=)

The earliest text-witnesses (often translations) such as the Greek/Latin Codex Bezae (a 440ies copy of a 170-180 original, perhaps by Ireneos himself) representing the first half of the 2nd century, already show changes (both textual, as for instance, the “and he said, saying” indicating quotes from Jesus, and accommodations to the surrounding World, as in the relegating of women back to Kinder und Küche).

Given all this (remember, dearest Erica; that you are not yet free from Integrism!) I still confidently say that the Holy Scriptures (always in the plural) of the Church, laboriously collected over centuries, contain all things necessary for Salvation but also things that may be detrimental, if mistaken for the real thing.

I also say with Paul (1 Cor 4.6), Dr Hooker and the Swedish 1593 Confessio fidei, that nothing beyond what is written is to be required of anybody – which, however, to my mind (I have no other) is precisely what is being done today, by anti Moderns posing as the guardians of Faith (Christian) and Morals (Gnosticist ravings on the Spilling of Semen and the Neo Platonist State Absolutist fiction that Oppression is necessary for Stabilitas).

Posted by Göran Koch-Swahne at Sunday, 6 May 2007 at 2:17pm BST

Thatks, Göran!

"I still confidently say that the Holy Scriptures (always in the plural) of the Church, laboriously collected over centuries, contain all things necessary for Salvation but also things that may be detrimental, if mistaken for the real thing."

To sumarise then - by their fruits shall you tell them! plus ça change...

Thanks for the fascinating explanations!

Posted by Erika Baker at Monday, 7 May 2007 at 8:18am BST

Goran,
I suspect this is what got you labelled "not Christian" on T19. I mean, to suggest that the Divine Dictation might actually have been corrputed along the way is a huge challenge. The whole basis of sola scriptura is that the "traditions of men" can be, and were, corrupted. To even hint the same for the written word is to take away their only other source of authority, and this means there is no-one to tell them how to get to play in the Heavenly Playground after they die. Ah, well, what are you going to do?

Posted by Ford Elms at Wednesday, 9 May 2007 at 3:51pm BST

What tickles me (and did Barr 30 years ago) is the insistence of some on the incorruptibility of Scripture despite the textual apparatus beneath any critical edition....

The usual get out, of course, is 'as originally given'. It takes only a picosecond to realise that once a ConsEv trots out that argument they've given in to everything they accuse non-ConsEvs of falling prey to.

Posted by Mynsterpreost (=David Rowett) at Wednesday, 9 May 2007 at 6:58pm BST

I think What'shisname meant Merseymike, really.

(not that it makes the thing less stupid ;=)

"Ah, well, what are you going to do?"

Just now; 2 more glasses of whine and a good night's sleep.

Tomorrow I'll add a few things.

'til then!

Posted by Göran Koch-Swahne at Wednesday, 9 May 2007 at 7:27pm BST

Ford, you can carry on mocking those who want to stick to the authority of scripture.....but what convincing alternative do you propose?

pseudo-intellectual nordic musings?

please do not lean on VGR's ideas for your authority

Posted by NP at Thursday, 10 May 2007 at 9:16am BST

"what convincing alternative do you propose?"

The tradition of the first 1500 years of Christianity. Sola Scriptura was not how the Apostles nor the Church that followed them saw their Scriptures. Just because traditional Scriptural interpretation gets things wrong sometimes doesn't mean we have to jettison it. God will correct our errors in his own time. Sola scriptura gets it wrong too: God hates parts of His Creation and we can too, the Son is subordinate to the Father in the Trinity, salvery was justified, slavery was not justified, the world is flat, prosperity Gospel, all these points have been argued from sola scriptura. I posted a long list of Biblical inconsistencies that seem to me to be a big problem for sola scriptura, you have not even bothered to address it.

Whether or not Paul or any other early Church leader would have accepted Gene Robinson has nothing to do with whether or not these leaders believed that scripture was the sole authority in the Church. They did not. I can respect someone who affirms that sola scriptura is the proper way of interpreting Scripture as long as they acknowledge that it is a reformation era innovation. To do otherwise is to deny historical fact. Just because the Reformers invented it doesn't mean it isn't true, you don't need to latch on to a fictitious historical continuity to maintain the truth of sola scriptura. I don't think it's true, but who am I?

Posted by Ford Elms at Thursday, 10 May 2007 at 12:48pm BST

Ford - you talk as if the Reformers made up the idea.....but I know you are aware of why they asserted the authority of scripture (based on, among other things, the writing of St Paul and the words of JC) ........ it is not "innovation" to say to a corrupt church that its tradition is not right and that scripture has higher authority (not now and not when the Reformers had to do it - the whole point was that they were not making up a religion but reforming a corrupt church and taking it back to the truth)

Posted by NP at Thursday, 10 May 2007 at 2:47pm BST

"reforming a corrupt church and taking it back to the truth"

Taking it back to the Truth as they defined it as being based solely on Scripture. I'm interested in how you understand us to have gotten Scripture. I recently read How We Got the Bible, by Neil Lightfoot. It seems written for a higih school readership, but made some interesting points. I was fascinated by the way he acknowledged that it was the Church that was able to sort out which of the available writings were Scripture and which weren't using exactly the same argument I would use, but then claimed your position as to the sole authority of Scripture, which, to me does not follow at all fromt the first premise. But then again, he also referred to the Fathers as "ordinary Christians" rather like considering David Beckham and "ordinary soccer player" I should think.

"it is not "innovation" to say to a corrupt church that its tradition is not right and that scripture has higher authority"

The first part might not be, but the second certainly is. How do you explain Acts 15:28 in this context? Something directly against Scripture is being stated by the Apostles as Truth. And I'm not arguing the point about sexual immorality here, I agree with it. I am arguing that they used their experience and their trust that they were being guided by the Spirit to understand the teaching of the faith, and were not at all concerned that it went against the Scriptures they knew.

Posted by Ford Elms at Thursday, 10 May 2007 at 4:36pm BST

Sorry for the double post, but NP, how do you deal with the issue that many seemingly contradictory things, and many things inconsistent with the Gospel can be "proven" from Scripture? I gave you a short list, you didn't seem to notice it.

Posted by Ford Elms at Thursday, 10 May 2007 at 4:38pm BST

Hi Ford - sorry if I have missed points you made - very busy this week (off to India this weekend)

Apostles had authority - given to them so I can accept an apostle saying I can have a bacon sandwich and I can accept St Paul saying to Timothy that he must stick to scripture even when false teaching is in the church.


"Innovation" is fine if strongly based - my problem with TEC is that it wants the AC to accept innovation which is directly contradicting scripture.....I am afraid I will only be happy with TEC's innovation if somone can make a strong case that this is what the Lord and his Apostles intended

Posted by NP at Thursday, 10 May 2007 at 5:01pm BST

The answer to the accusation that the traditions of men are un-reliable is, of course, that there has been, since very early on, a death penalty for forgery, but no corresponding one for a week memory…

In fact, traditions are reliable. Documents are not.

Collections many times the biblical format have survived more or less unscathed for quite as long. On the other hand, for whoever wants to, documents are easy to change; which is why the Mazorets didn’t want to “correct” even “obvious” errors and omissions.

It’s only the Way of the World…

Indeed what is fascinating about these conversations is that the Gospel has been heard, despite all the Efforts of the World!

From Carolingian times Academia and State have been preaching Hierarchy, Subordination, Exclusion, Hate, Crusades, 6 Phantom categories, Burnings, Hell and Damnation…

The Social discipline of Empire.

And yet, people have heard Equality, Emancipation, Inclusion, Love, Mutuality.

The Gospel of God’s Righteousness in Christ Jesus.

Which is what God whispers softly when you read the Good Book talking to your heart.

What I can contribute as someone with a degree, are bits of learning and some scattered insights that come to me because of my peculiar place in time and space. Individual circumstances and a certain goût de la véritée allow me to indicate some directions where to dig for hidden truth.

Despite all the efforts of Empire, the Gospel still belongs to all of us through the Church and through the Good Book – even when “modified” to suit the latest fashions ;=)

Gods tender Mercy knows no bounds,
his Truth shall never decay…

Posted by Göran Koch-Swahne at Thursday, 10 May 2007 at 6:54pm BST

Goran - well done on getting a degree.

Quite funny reading Andrew Brown's article. The Guardian's correspondents get things wrong so frequently.....eg painting the choice in the AC as one between Akionla or the ABC.

It is the ABC and the other AC Primates (including the double-minded KJS) who have given TEC a deadline of Sept 30 to get in line or walk apart....the choice is for TEC and not for the AC(first error of Brown) and the choice is either to follow TEC's innovations or follow the AC's agreed line......but I am sure the lefty readership of the Guardian lapped up the article and the man will get paid to write more stuff regardless of the facts.

Posted by NP at Friday, 11 May 2007 at 12:22pm BST

Göran,
there must have been a software problem and my comment never got through, but I had particularly wanted to thank you for your wonderful last post.

Posted by Erika Baker at Friday, 11 May 2007 at 9:00pm BST
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