OriginalChristianity.Net

Not Traditional, Original

The Vision of OriginalChristianity.Net

The vision of OriginalChristianity.Net is to look at the beliefs and practices of the the original Christians.  The reason why this is important is that over the millennium Christianity has developed numerous factions that all claim that that they are the true continuation of original Christianity.  I heard exactly that when I visited a Greek Orthodox Church, I have read it in Roman Catholic literature, it is in the bulletin of a local non-denominational church in my area.  They make these claims despite the fact that they have disagreed, even violently at times.  For other articles on this topic, see A Major Objection to the Restoration Movement Is That Christianity Has Not Changed Substantially Over Time, and Another Claim of Original Christianity in Practice Today,

Throughout this website are numerous articles written on the numerous divisions in the Church that we have today, how a lot of these doctrines developed that are behind all these divisions, and some key points on how original Christianity differed from today.  It is important to look at all these things because they are part of Christianity now and play a big part, perhaps more as obstacles, in the faith of the individual believer.

But the key point of this website is to be able to envision what original Christianity, and in particular the time of Jesus and the apostles and disciples that he touched was really like. There was an incredible spirituality. With the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus the Messiah, and afterward the sending of the Holy Spirit we see the most incredible movement of God on earth since creation.

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This was a time of power, miracles, healing, and deliverance, not only by Jesus, but by those he touched, his apostles and disciples. People saw God in action through these men. They saw the word of God living, because they lived it together. There was incredible community and sharing. There was incredible believing. There was great faith.

It was a time of simple doctrine.  There were no official doctrines on infant baptism or believer’s baptism. There was no doctrine that prophecy and the other gifts and manifestations of the spirit had ceased. There were baptisms being carried out, and the last supper repeated as a memorial, but there were no “sacraments”, somehow mysteriously conveying grace by ritualistic practices. There were no autonomous churches disputing which form of church government was doctrinally correct, which end times theology was correct, or arguments over whether or not there was eternal security.

There was no argument over the status of the Bible, because there was no Bible. Jesus had referenced the law and the prophets, including the Psalms, as the word of God. And only those books with the addition of the words of Jesus were considered the word of God. There were no written Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. There were no epistles of Peter, Paul, Hebrews, John, and Jude. So there was no argument over doctrines derived from them like eternal security, justification by grace, predestination, or even the Trinity.

Philosophy was rejected as an unwise practice of the Greeks that actually tore down faith more than it built, so discussion of faith wasn’t an analytical exercise in the nuances of the meanings of words, but rather simple directives, and powerful stories and analogies that emphasize the important meanings to be focused on while ignoring the myriad details that can lead people astray.

What existed was the good news that Jesus the Messiah had come, that he had fulfilled the law, had sent the Holy Spirit, and now many believers were walking in great faith and power. What existed was great praise, great faith, and great love of God.

All of this is not to say that this was an easy time. There were persecutions, challenges, and trials, as both the Jews and the Romans saw this burgeoning Christianity as a threat. But this just served to bring the Christians closer together, and more united in their faith.

Original Christianity was a time of great unity, simple doctrine, great believing, with many believers walking in the love of God, and the power of the Holy Spirit.

So as you read these articles that discuss all of the divisions, and developments, both good and bad throughout the millennia of history of Christianity, it is important to maintain the focus of the simple vision of original Christianity.  Pray, praise the Lord, walk in the power of the spirit, love God and love your neighbor, and rejoice in what Christ has done. Join together with any Christian who is doing the same.  And in the process perhaps we can bring some of what made original Christianity so great back to life.

© copyright 2012 Mark W Smith, all rights reserved.

Welcome to Original Christianity.Net

It appears that universally, in the church, we Christians marvel at both at Jesus’ miracles and the wisdom in his parables. We especially are in awe of his life, his incredible birth, his short but incredibly powerful ministry, his passion, death, and resurrection. We love him for those. We are also moved by the depth of the wisdom and inspiration of books like the Psalms and Proverbs. Almost universally, although most would say all true Christians, acknowledge him as Lord, and strive to follow his leadership as we walk in a dark world filled with daily challenges, including overcoming evil.

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In fact, there are some universal, and some almost universal, elements in Christianity. Universally held elements of Christianity include this deep awe of Christ, and likewise, for the bible. The bible, or at least for some, sections of the bible, such as the parables of Christ in the gospels, the powerful poetry of the Psalms, and the wisdom in Proverbs are universally held in the deepest regard. Almost universally held elements include the belief in Christ as the only begotten son of the Father, physically born of the Virgin Mary in Bethlehem, who died for out sins, and was raised from the dead and is presently seated at the right hand of God. Christians look forward to spending eternity with the Lord. Even more, there is common ground as churches promote worship, baptism, and communion with some similarity.

But beyond some basics like these, there is far less agreement on the tenets of Christianity. In fact, there is an elephant in the Church, an elephant of disagreement resulting in tens of thousands of sects, disagreeing on many doctrines.

The disagreements have been legion, often bloody, and always confusing. Christians have killed other Christians for defying the rule of infant baptism and proclaiming “believer’s baptism”. Many Christians have declared other Christians apostate because of their view of the Bible, whether it is inerrant, infallible, or at least partially of human origin.

And even if they agree on the status of the Bible, they don’t agree on what it says on these issues. For example, there is disagreement over basic principles of interpretation like whether the overriding principle is based on the covenants of God versus which dispensation we are in.

There are Christians that call other Christians apostate (traitorous) because they believe that the gifts of the spirit, i.e., prophecy and speaking in tongues, etc. still exist, and vice versa. These days there are sharp divides over homosexuality, abortion, the Word of Faith movement, the emergent Church movement, and the role of women in the church.

Even if Christians don’t call others apostate, they still disagree to the point of not fellowshipping over issues like: dietary laws (whether they need to be followed), drinking alcohol, end times (Eschatology), eternal security, evolution vs. literal seven days of creation, giving vs. tithing, predestination, psychology: the acceptability of Christian counseling, sacraments as conveyers of grace or not, the “in the name of Jesus” debate, and pacifism vs. the concept of a just war, and other issues.

Then there is the ecumenical concept of Christian “orthodoxy” that suggests that none of the issues so far discussed really matter even there are huge divisions over them. The only issue that really matters in “orthodoxy” is whether one accepts the doctrine of the Trinity, that Jesus the man is really God and a person in a triune godhead with two other persons, the Father, and the Holy Spirit. This doctrine is promoted as the absolutely most important concept in Christianity even though this emphasis is totally missing for the first centuries of the church.

And let alone that the very doctrine of the Trinity has been disputed over the centuries with more Christians killing other Christians over this issue than any other. It appears that for some that as long as a church accepts the doctrine of the Trinity it doesn’t matter if it teaches that homosexuality is normal or apostate, and/or abortion is choice or murder, and/or baptism should be infant baptism or believer’s baptism, and/or there are two “ordinances” or seven sacraments, and so forth, and so on.

This mess is a huge blemish on the body of Christ. Some of these issues may be legitimate, but to have so many “orthodox” churches teaching so many disparate doctrines flies right in the face of Paul’s charge for believers to have the same mind:

Now I exhort you, brothers, through the name of our Lord Jesus Christ that you all say the same thing, and there be no divisions among you, but you be united in the same mind and in the same judgment. (1 Corinthians 1:10 LITV)

If, as Paul teaches, we corporately are the body of Christ, then does the current collective body of competing Christian theologies accurately reflect the mind of Christ. Certainly, no one can think so.

But, before the present time with our tens of thousands of Christian denominations, and before the Reformation that shifted the focus of Christianity from the decisions of church councils and the Pope to the Bible as the principle source of guidance, and before the great schism about a thousand years ago, even before there were arguments over the nature of Christ, the Trinity and whether Mary was the mother of God in the beginning of the age of Christendom (fourth century), even before there was a Catholic church (110 A.D.) there was original primitive Christianity.

While some of the focus of Christianity remains, much has changed over the millennia. The question is whether all or even any of the different traditions that have developed are correct, or the original believers were the ones that actually got it the most right. The place to start is by looking at the beliefs and practices of original, primitive Christianity, and seriously consider embracing them again even though some of them may be radically different from what you or I hold today.

In the days of original, primitive Christianity:

(In the listings below hyperlinks offer more information on the point being made.)

Elements usually still held today:

Elements still held today by some:

Elements held today by few, if any believers:

Elements that are divisive today but didn’t appear to exist then:

The most current blogs (articles) are below. The articles can touch on a large number of topics including ancient history, the original language of the bible, grammar and logic, dividing doctrines besides the basics of Christianity, what Jesus taught, and development (movements) in Christianity throughout the centuries. For an organized listing of the blogs (articles) to get an overview and better understanding of the contents on this web site, go to the table of contents. There is more information on design of this website on this page; look on the right sidebar under Original Christianity and click “Why? Click to Read More…”

LP0.2 Dating the Bible

Dating ancient events has always proved challenging.  For one thing, there have been numerous calendars that different cultures have used and synchronizing them is not always easy.  The Egyptians had a 12 month calendar but each month had the same 30 days, (three 10 day weeks, no less). The Romans had several calendars; the original Julian calendar had only 355 days which we all now know will never work. 

Dionysis Exeguus did an admirable thing for Christianity in centering dates around the birth of Christ, but he is also responsible for an error that caused it to be off.  The problem is that Herod the Great, responsible for killing all the babies under two to murder the Christ child, died in 4 B.C. so Jesus could not be born later than that.  So all date calculations need to account for that.

Consequently dating the Bible appears to be as much art as science.  Different sources give dates that, while close to each other, rarely match especially the farther back you go.  One of the early modern attempts at dating the events in the Bible was done by James Ussher in the 17th century.  He based his dates primarily on then known dates of events in the bible and time periods like the years between the patriarchs. The following are examples of bible verses that specify time periods:

So all the generations from Abraham to David were fourteen generations, and from David to the deportation to Babylon fourteen generations, and from the deportation to Babylon to the Christ fourteen generations. Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. (Mat 1:17-18 ESV)

In the four hundred and eightieth year after the people of Israel came out of the land of Egypt, in the fourth year of Solomon’s reign over Israel, in the month of Ziv, which is the second month, he began to build the house of the LORD.  (1Ki 6:1 ESV)

And in the thirty-seventh year of the exile of Jehoiachin king of Judah, in the twelfth month, on the twenty-seventh day of the month, Evil-merodach king of Babylon, in the year that he began to reign, graciously freed Jehoiachin king of Judah from prison.  (2Ki 25:27 ESV)

Ussher’s work was a scholarly work for its time.   Furthermore, Ussher integrated known historical data to produce not just a bible history but a world history aptly named Annals of the World, a tome of greater than 1200 pages.

Since that time scholars have been able to co-ordinate more historical records of other civilizations  with events in the new testament.  Even with that there is still no firm estimate of the exact year of the birth of Adam or a lot of other biblical events.  Part of the reason is that per the scientific community man has been around longer than the bible seems to accommodate.

I have used a number of sources in looking at dates.  Timeline.biblehistory.com is a very good web site with a timeline chock full of dates and facts that correspond bible history dates with world history and middle east history. I have used Eerdman’s Handbook to the Bible for forty odd years now and it has some dates, more approximations,  in amongst all the bible details there.  Rose’s Book of Bible Charts, Maps, and Timelines is a more recent publication and has a wealth of date knowledge in it among many other things.

Eerdman’s Handbook has the least precise date data.  In the book they make statements regarding the difficulty of constructing timelines.  For example, Erdmann’s says that there appears “at first glance” enough evidence to construct an accurate timeline regarding the chronology of the Kings. They cite that the reigns of the Kings are clearly given and the events that affected both kingdoms are given.  The book writes:

“However, serious problems arise on closer inspection.  For instance, in Judah, the total from Rehoboam to Ahaziah’s death is 95 years, whereas the identical period of Israel from Jeroboam to Joram’s death, totals 98 years.”[i] 

The book gives more examples like this explain the challenges of making accurate time charts even when an abundance of time data appears to be given.

Consequently lot of bible history just avoids putting a date to an event.  I personally think that giving dates that are a good estimate is better than not having dates at all because they give a historical overview timewise that puts things in perspective.   

The following chart gives an idea of how different sources estimate dates and which dates they provide.  All dates are BC.

Event Ussher Rose[ii] Timeline.bible…[iii] Eerdman’s[iv]
Creation 4004[v] No estimate 3954 No estimate
Abraham’s Birth 1996[vi] 2166 or 1999 1946 20th century
David’s Birth 1085[vii] 1011 1040 11th century
Isaiah  Birth 759 (date of prophecy)[viii] 760 766 740 (date of prophecy)

For a look at an attempt at reconciling this complicated problem there is a dissertation named ‘Chronology of the Old Testament: A Return to the Basics’ available online, but I did not find it an easy read[ix]


[i] Eerdman’s Handbook to the Bible, William B Eerdman’s Publishing Company, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1973, p. 269

[ii] Rose Book of Bible Charts, Maps and TimeLines, Rose Publishing, Peabody Massachusetts, 2005, the timeline is on a foldout page at the very beginning.

[iii] http://timeline.biblehistory.com/home, that web page opens up a time line that spans all of bible history,

[iv] Eerdman’s Handbook to the Bible, William B Eerdman’s Publishing Company, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1973, Charts are provided p 118-121, 374-375 that give approzimate dates

[v] https://archive.org/details/AnnalsOfTheWorld/page/n11

[vi] https://archive.org/details/AnnalsOfTheWorld/page/n17

[vii] https://archive.org/details/AnnalsOfTheWorld/page/n69

[viii] https://archive.org/details/AnnalsOfTheWorld/page/n95

[ix] http://www.ntslibrary.com/PDF%20Books%20II/Jones%20-%20Chronology%20of%20the%20OT.pdf

0.2 Early Old Testament Places of Worship

As we have seen in a previous articles, O.1 Overview of Worship in Old Testament Times, it was common in the early centuries to worship outdoors.  A determining factor in where an altar or might be created would be the presence of God. If someone experienced the presence of God in a place it was common to put an altar there to commemorate. Here are a number of examples:

Then Noah built an altar to the LORD and took some of every clean animal and some of every clean bird and offered burnt offerings on the altar. And when the LORD smelled the pleasing aroma, the LORD said in his heart, “I will never again curse the ground because of man, for the intention of man’s heart is evil from his youth. Neither will I ever again strike down every living creature as I have done. While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease.” (Gen 8:20-22 ESV)

What a wonderful blessing that is stated here!  God vows to never flood the earth again because Noah built an altar, and the sacrifice he gave on that altar touched God’s heart.

The next record is just one the documents the appearance of the Lord to a man, and the man’s response in building the altar, and making a sacrifice on it.

Then the LORD appeared to Abram and said, “To your offspring I will give this land.” So he built there an altar to the LORD, who had appeared to him. From there he moved to the hill country on the east of Bethel and pitched his tent, with Bethel on the west and Ai on the east. And there he built an altar to the LORD and called upon the name of the LORD. (Gen 12:7-8 ESV)

In Genesis 13:4, we see Abram going back to a place where he had made an altar, and he worshipped there, calling upon the name of the Lord.

Now Abram was very rich in livestock, in silver, and in gold. And he journeyed on from the Negeb as far as Bethel to the place where his tent had been at the beginning, between Bethel and Ai, to the place where he had made an altar at the first. And there Abram called upon the name of the LORD.
(Gen 13:2-4 ESV)

So by now we are seeing the pattern, a believer experiences God in a certain place, and builds an altar at that place, and then it becomes a place of worship. Here are some more examples:

Isaac:

And the LORD appeared to him the same night and said, “I am the God of Abraham your father. Fear not, for I am with you and will bless you and multiply your offspring for my servant Abraham’s sake.” So he built an altar there and called upon the name of the LORD and pitched his tent there. And there Isaac’s servants dug a well. (Gen 26:24-25 ESV)

Jacob:

And Jacob came safely to the city of Shechem, which is in the land of Canaan, on his way from Paddan-aram, and he camped before the city. And from the sons of Hamor, Shechem’s father, he bought for a hundred pieces of money the piece of land on which he had pitched his tent. There he erected an altar and called it El-Elohe-Israel. (Gen 33:18-20 ESV)

God said to Jacob, “Arise, go up to Bethel and dwell there. Make an altar there to the God who appeared to you when you fled from your brother Esau.” So Jacob said to his household and to all who were with him, “Put away the foreign gods that are among you and purify yourselves and change your garments. Then let us arise and go up to Bethel, so that I may make there an altar to the God who answers me in the day of my distress and has been with me wherever I have gone.” So they gave to Jacob all the foreign gods that they had, and the rings that were in their ears. Jacob hid them under the terebinth tree that was near Shechem. And as they journeyed, a terror from God fell upon the cities that were around them, so that they did not pursue the sons of Jacob. And Jacob came to Luz (that is, Bethel), which is in the land of Canaan, he and all the people who were with him, and there he built an altar and called the place El-bethel, because there God had revealed himself to him when he fled from his brother. (Gen 35:1-7 ESV)

Jacob again:

And Jacob came safely to the city of Shechem, which is in the land of Canaan, on his way from Paddan-aram, and he camped before the city. And from the sons of Hamor, Shechem’s father, he bought for a hundred pieces of money the piece of land on which he had pitched his tent. There he erected an altar and called it El-Elohe-Israel. (Gen 33:18-20 ESV)

Look at this incredible example of Moses, Joshua, and the battle with the Amalakites with the construction of an altar afterwards:

Then Amalek came and fought with Israel at Rephidim. So Moses said to Joshua, “Choose for us men, and go out and fight with Amalek. Tomorrow I will stand on the top of the hill with the staff of God in my hand.” So Joshua did as Moses told him, and fought with Amalek, while Moses, Aaron, and Hur went up to the top of the hill. Whenever Moses held up his hand, Israel prevailed, and whenever he lowered his hand, Amalek prevailed. But Moses’ hands grew weary, so they took a stone and put it under him, and he sat on it, while Aaron and Hur held up his hands, one on one side, and the other on the other side. So his hands were steady until the going down of the sun. And Joshua overwhelmed Amalek and his people with the sword. Then the LORD said to Moses, “Write this as a memorial in a book and recite it in the ears of Joshua, that I will utterly blot out the memory of Amalek from under heaven.” And Moses built an altar and called the name of it, The LORD Is My Banner, saying, “A hand upon the throne of the LORD! The LORD will have war with Amalek from generation to generation.”  (Exo 17:8-16 ESV)

From these records we see the pattern of the earliest believers which was to recognize those places where the Lord God had made contact with man as places of worship. Altars were constructed in those places, and they were visited when someone sought the Lord. Sacrifices were made there to the Lord God.

From a liturgical point of view then we see that the form of worship in those times was to construct altars in places where man made contact with God. Then the man would go to those places, probably prostrating themselves while asking the Lord for guidance in prayer. Part of the process would be to offer a sacrifice.  There is no mention of a designated priesthood before the Law so the head of household probably offered the sacrifice. Of course, the sacrifice would be a sacrifice of first fruits that is the best of the crop, or the best of the herd, perhaps a firstborn lamb.

0.1 Overview of Worship in Old Testament Times

When a lot of us Christians think of worship services what comes to mind are church services.  For Catholics it is the Mass.  For others it is a different service, but it is complete with a church, and a pastor or worship leader of some kind, and maybe musicians, and very possibly, communion, and probably a teaching of some kind.  And what worship service would be complete without prayer, and some announcements and some mixing with other believers?  But, in fact, worship started out as a much simpler process, and became more sophisticated over time.

According to Strong’s Concordance, the word worship itself comes from the Hebrew word – shachah, which just means to bow. It has the sense of being a servant under a master.  A connection is made between worship (bowing down) in the first of the 10 Commandments:

“I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. “You shall have no other gods before me. “You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments. (Exo 20:2-6 ESV)

In the middle of the above verses is ” You shall not bow down to them or serve them”.  Servants bow. Servants serve. As Christians we say we serve the living God. We worship him. Worship at its heart in bowing in service.

Today, there are churches, synagogues, mosques in everything from huge cities to small towns all over the world. However, in Old Testament times, it was common for people to worship outdoors, no building required.   Look at this verse from first Kings:

And Judah did what was evil in the sight of the LORD, and they provoked him to jealousy with their sins that they committed, more than all that their fathers had done. For they also built for themselves high places and pillars and Asherim on every high hill and under every green tree, (1Ki 14:22-23 ESV)

“They built for themselves high places and pillars and ashram on every high hill and under every green tree.” It was common for people everywhere including the early Jews to build a shrine, an altar, i.e., a place of worship in the countryside around where they lived.  Obviously, worship wasn’t just something that God’s people did alone, from early on we read that there are many people worshiping many gods around the world at that time.

The earliest worship records in the Old Testament refer to people worshiping outdoors. And by worship, as it could be something as simple as prostrating oneself on the ground with their hands toward heaven, or it could be a sacrifice of some sort, and it could be individually, or in groups.

Then Noah built an altar to the LORD and took some of every clean animal and some of every clean bird and offered burnt offerings on the altar. (Gen 8:20 ESV)

This is the first record of an altar in the Old Testament but altars were probably customary by then.  There are records of altars as a religious artifacts in numerous ancient cultures. After Noah was delivered from the flood, he made offerings to the Lord, sacrificing some of the clean animals in a worship service.

However, while not mentioning an altar per se Old Testament Historians postulate that altars were well in use before this. The first animal sacrifice was by God himself in clothing Adam and an altar may have been used there. Altars were used by Cain and Abel in their sacrifices.  Thus altars are in use from the very beginning of man for their use in worship.[i]

Like everything else in the world things get more sophisticated over time. People began worshiping in temples, having dedicated buildings designated as places of worship. Liturgies, rites of services also developed.

For the Israelites, God’s chosen people this transition happened during the Exodus. Specifically, during the giving of the law were in instructions regarding how the Levites, the priest tribe of Israel were to act in regards to offerings, sacrifices, and rituals. Festivals were set up.  Festivals included Passover, Unleavened Bread, the First Sheaf, the Feast of Weeks, the Feast of Tabernacles, the Day of Blowing of Trumpets, the Day of Atonement and more. And there were instructions to them for rituals during these feasts. 

The law specified worship rules like the people were to come only to the entrance of the tabernacle, the priests would sprinkle blood and so forth. Different sacrifices were ordained for different purposes.

The Law certainly had strict rules regarding everything including worship and the feasts, but we should see that worship was a beautiful thing and feasts were times of celebration that were greatly enjoyed.

The Tabernacle and the Temple talked about next are symbols of the future Christ. The Tabernacle was really a portable Temple. Jesus said he was the gate, he became the access of the people to the Holy of Holies. And Ephesians says that the body of Christ is now the temple.

For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit. (Eph 2:18-22 ESV)

After Israel entered the Promised Land, the great Temple was built.  The temple was the center of worship in Israel.  The temple was built to specific design and dimensions given by God through Moses and set out in many chapters in the law.

As far as Sabbath worship services there are no biblical records showing the origins of the synagogue.  But we know that they developed over time and became the meeting place on the Sabbath, and other times for the Jews.  Services there resembled Christian church services with readings, sermons, prayers and so forth


[i] The Old Testament, A historical, Theological and Critical Introduction, Richard S. Hess, Baker Academic, Grand Rapids MI, 2016 p. 52


[i] The Old Testament, A historical, Theological and Critical Introduction, Richard S. Hess, Baker Academic, Grand Rapids MI, 2016 p. 52

Biblical references are from the ASV version unless otherwise noted.
Posts and articles © copyright Mark W Smith 2007 - 2019. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Mark W Smith and OriginalChristianity.Net with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. You can reach Mark by emailing Mark at OriginalChristianity.net.

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