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Thread: Snake handling, poison drinking

  1. #1

    Snake handling, poison drinking

    The authenticity of the latter portion of Mark 16 is disputed. If you believe that it's inauthentic, ignore that for now, and for the sake of discussion, assume it is authentic.

    In Mark 16.17-18, Jesus says that his followers will cast out demons, they will speak in various languages, they will "take up" serpents, they will survive any "deadly thing" they drink, and they will heal the sick.

    There are a few churches on the "edges" of mainstream Christianity, who take two of these totally literally. Specifically, there are churches that teach that Jesus was telling his disciples that they could handle snakes and drink poison and not die from either. Some of these churches, for whatever stupid reasons, go out of their way to do these two things, turning Jesus' commands into nothing more than an entertainment venue for the congregation.

    What I'm trying to say is... what purpose to the Kingdom of God does picking up snakes have? How does going out of your way to show off that you can handle snakes edify the Church? What sense does it make for a follower of Christ to get on the stage in front of the congregation and prove that they have real faith in Jesus by intentionally drinking a toxic liquid?

    So my point is this: when Jesus told his disciples that they would handle serpents and survive drinking poison... did he mean that as literally as people nowadays interpret it to mean?

    In Matthew 17.20, Jesus told his apostles that if they "have faith like a grain of mustard seed", they could command mountains to move out of their way. But in all honesty, what purpose would moving a mountain have for the Kingdom of God? In what way could such an act edify the Church? I think it's plainly obvious that Jesus was using the "mountain" as a metaphor for obstacles in general. That he didn't expect the apostles to literally tell mountains to jump from one valley into another, but that if they truly had faith in God, that God would help them overcome any obstacles.

    So, back to snake handling and drinking poison. Did Jesus honestly expect his followers to go out of their way to find snakes to pick up and show off with? To go out of their way to prove their faith by drinking poison? To be honest, I believe that no, he did not expect his followers to literally do these things. And I think the Christian who does is seriously misguided in reading what he was commanding.

    So what would Jesus be meaning, then? We know that Jesus called the Pharisees "vipers" on occasion, and that "snakes" have been a timeless symbol of deceit. Maybe Jesus was using "snake handling" as a metaphor for his apostles to "handle" the Pharisaic vipers? And what about the "deadly drinks"? Does anyone else have thoughts on the subject?

  2. #2
    If you believe Mark 16 to be genuine(I do), then you can't discount any of it.

    If you say the tongues, casting out demons, and healings part is real, then you have to accept the rest as well.

    Problem is, the first 3 can be faked in today's churches, but the last two can't. You can fake tongues, healings, and demon castings, but you can't fake snake bites or poison drinking, because the results are death.

    But these gifts were for a sign to unbelieving Jews in the 1st century, so they don't apply to 21st century Christians at all today. No unbelieving 1st century Jews living in the USA today.

  3. #3
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    I think it could possibly still apply today. But I don't think it means to go drink poison and go get bitten by snake and it will not affect you.More like if that happens you can trust in the power of God to heal you. It makes me think about how in acts 28 :
    "1Once safely on shore, we found out that the island was called Malta. 2The islanders showed us unusual kindness. They built a fire and welcomed us all because it was raining and cold. 3Paul gathered a pile of brushwood and, as he put it on the fire, a viper, driven out by the heat, fastened itself on his hand. 4When the islanders saw the snake hanging from his hand, they said to each other, "This man must be a murderer; for though he escaped from the sea, Justice has not allowed him to live." 5But Paul shook the snake off into the fire and suffered no ill effects. 6The people expected him to swell up or suddenly fall dead, but after waiting a long time and seeing nothing unusual happen to him, they changed their minds and said he was a god."
    I'm always not really sure what I think though. So yeah!

  4. #4
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    Tell ya what.

    I'll bring ya some poison to drink and some poisonous snakes for you to handle.

    And if you survive that...well...then I will listen to anything you got on your mind.

    Until that time the main way I am going to see that passage is figurative and/or as a late addition which is what many that know the manuscripts that make up our bible tells us it is.

    If the passage is believed spiritually...then yes...I can be around sinful men and not be harmed. I can listen to lying preachers who have messages that are doing harm to solid biblical principles and come away with nourishment that will not harm me.

    I can give aide and comfort to those that need a spiritual healing...as well as those with habits that are destructive to give them up.


    all dependant upon your interpretation isn't it?

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by markedward View Post
    The authenticity of the latter portion of Mark 16 is disputed. If you believe that it's inauthentic, ignore that for now, and for the sake of discussion, assume it is authentic.

    In Mark 16.17-18, Jesus says that his followers will cast out demons, they will speak in various languages, they will "take up" serpents, they will survive any "deadly thing" they drink, and they will heal the sick.

    There are a few churches on the "edges" of mainstream Christianity, who take two of these totally literally. Specifically, there are churches that teach that Jesus was telling his disciples that they could handle snakes and drink poison and not die from either. Some of these churches, for whatever stupid reasons, go out of their way to do these two things, turning Jesus' commands into nothing more than an entertainment venue for the congregation.

    What I'm trying to say is... what purpose to the Kingdom of God does picking up snakes have? How does going out of your way to show off that you can handle snakes edify the Church? What sense does it make for a follower of Christ to get on the stage in front of the congregation and prove that they have real faith in Jesus by intentionally drinking a toxic liquid?

    So my point is this: when Jesus told his disciples that they would handle serpents and survive drinking poison... did he mean that as literally as people nowadays interpret it to mean?

    In Matthew 17.20, Jesus told his apostles that if they "have faith like a grain of mustard seed", they could command mountains to move out of their way. But in all honesty, what purpose would moving a mountain have for the Kingdom of God? In what way could such an act edify the Church? I think it's plainly obvious that Jesus was using the "mountain" as a metaphor for obstacles in general. That he didn't expect the apostles to literally tell mountains to jump from one valley into another, but that if they truly had faith in God, that God would help them overcome any obstacles.

    So, back to snake handling and drinking poison. Did Jesus honestly expect his followers to go out of their way to find snakes to pick up and show off with? To go out of their way to prove their faith by drinking poison? To be honest, I believe that no, he did not expect his followers to literally do these things. And I think the Christian who does is seriously misguided in reading what he was commanding.

    So what would Jesus be meaning, then? We know that Jesus called the Pharisees "vipers" on occasion, and that "snakes" have been a timeless symbol of deceit. Maybe Jesus was using "snake handling" as a metaphor for his apostles to "handle" the Pharisaic vipers? And what about the "deadly drinks"? Does anyone else have thoughts on the subject?
    I've always taken it to mean that such things would not harm a Christian if they were encountered accidentally. I'm thinking in terms of disturbing a viper when walking in the mountains to be with God rather than picking something deadly out of a tank for entertainment.

    Ultimately the question has to be down to who gets the glory. If someone pulls a deadly snake out of a tank in front of a church for the entertainment value and to prove a point they might as well be doing it in front of a circus. They might say the glory is for God but it's hard to see how the actual focus is on anything other than "look at ME, look at ME with this deadly snake, look at MY faith to handle it". Whereas if someone survives a snake bite (or doesn't receive it in the first place) when there isn't a huge audience they are more likely to give the glory to God for protecting them. I think this falls nicely within what Paul was getting at in 1Co 13.
    24 August 2013 - I've decided to take a break from a number of internet forums, including this one, for my own reasons.
    I expect to be back at some time in the future, although at present don't know when that will be.
    I've been here just a few days shy of six years, and those six years have been greatly blessed.

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    1Jn 4:1 NKJV Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world.
    1Th 5:21-22 NKJV Test all things; hold fast what is good. (22) Abstain from every form of evil.




  6. #6
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    Do not tempt the Lord thy God... (assuming it is original)
    For what mortal has ever heard the voice of the living God speaking out of fire, as we have, and survived? ~ Deuteronomy 5:26

    If you're not prepared to risk your very life for your "enemy" you have no right to speak to him of love. ~ Daughter

    Many say they are called... but I am pretty convinced that with many of them it was the wrong number. ~ Project Peter

  7. #7
    Quote Originally Posted by tango View Post
    I've always taken it to mean that such things would not harm a Christian if they were encountered accidentally. I'm thinking in terms of disturbing a viper when walking in the mountains to be with God
    I'm not so sure that this is the case. In re-reading the other three things, we see that they have to do with how Christians interact with other people. They cast demons out of other people, they heal other people, they speak in tongues to other people... but in the middle of these three, they handle snakes and drink poison. I think this would give a reinforcement to them being somewhat metaphorical. They "handle snakes", that is, they handle the "vipers", religious hypocrites. Another way for them to "interact with other people". The "deadly drink" one is still up in the air, but in the consistency of the other four pointing to how Christians interact with others, I would think the "deadly drink" one is the same way.

    Now that I think about it, I remember pointing out in a thread a few weeks back that "drinking wormwood" is used in the Old Testament as a metaphor for listening to false prophecy and false teaching. Perhaps Christ is telling his apostles that they will be able to handle the religious "vipers", and they will be able to endure false teachings and not be "poisoned" by them, similar to what JohnDB said.

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by tango View Post
    I've always taken it to mean that such things would not harm a Christian if they were encountered accidentally. I'm thinking in terms of disturbing a viper when walking in the mountains to be with God rather than picking something deadly out of a tank for entertainment.

    Ultimately the question has to be down to who gets the glory. If someone pulls a deadly snake out of a tank in front of a church for the entertainment value and to prove a point they might as well be doing it in front of a circus. They might say the glory is for God but it's hard to see how the actual focus is on anything other than "look at ME, look at ME with this deadly snake, look at MY faith to handle it". Whereas if someone survives a snake bite (or doesn't receive it in the first place) when there isn't a huge audience they are more likely to give the glory to God for protecting them. I think this falls nicely within what Paul was getting at in 1Co 13.

    I likewise agree with your interpretation of the passage. Paul being bitten by the viper evidences this interpretation is correct. I disagree with your analysis of the snake handler. Most snake handlers are genuine. They do not seek to glority themselves. They seek to demonstrate their faith. I seriously dout they would endure the agony they endure for simply a circus act.

  9. #9
    Quote Originally Posted by markedward View Post
    I'm not so sure that this is the case. In re-reading the other three things, we see that they have to do with how Christians interact with other people. They cast demons out of other people, they heal other people, they speak in tongues to other people... but in the middle of these three, they handle snakes and drink poison. I think this would give a reinforcement to them being somewhat metaphorical. They "handle snakes", that is, they handle the "vipers", religious hypocrites. Another way for them to "interact with other people". The "deadly drink" one is still up in the air, but in the consistency of the other four pointing to how Christians interact with others, I would think the "deadly drink" one is the same way.

    Now that I think about it, I remember pointing out in a thread a few weeks back that "drinking wormwood" is used in the Old Testament as a metaphor for listening to false prophecy and false teaching. Perhaps Christ is telling his apostles that they will be able to handle the religious "vipers", and they will be able to endure false teachings and not be "poisoned" by them, similar to what JohnDB said.
    Why would the first 3 be literal, and the last 2 be metaphorical? All are literal, or all are metaphorical the way the text reads. Can't have it both ways by picking and chosing what you think is literal and what you think is metaphorical when the text reads "you will" in all cases.

  10. #10
    Quote Originally Posted by Urban Missionary View Post
    Do not tempt the Lord thy God... (assuming it is original)
    Yeah, that's always my first thought when I hear about snake handlers. I'm always reminded of Satan's temptation of Jesus.

    I remember reading somewhere that the power to drink poison and handle snakes was given only to the apostles and other early Christians in order to spread spread Christianity more quickly. Not sure if that's right or not.

    Snake handling is actually legal in the state I live in so we've got some of these churches around here. I'm scared to death of snakes so no way would I ever visit one.

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    Quote Originally Posted by markedward View Post
    The authenticity of the latter portion of Mark 16 is disputed. If you believe that it's inauthentic, ignore that for now, and for the sake of discussion, assume it is authentic.
    Assume

    I've experienced all but the survival of poison... so I don't assume.

    Mark, as for the purpose of picking up snakes... this is nothing but people being deceived by satan (who also protects them) to shed a bad light on true Christians. Show me an example of anyone in the NT "purposely" picking up snakes to play with them or purposely downing a shot of poison. I know Paul was bit, forgot what scripture it is in Acts but to my recollection, he wasn't purposely teasing with the snake but reached in a wood pile, was it? The snake bit him and he was unaffected.

    Not an example of "playing" with snakes.
    Slug1--out

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    Quote Originally Posted by HaveMercy View Post
    Yeah, that's always my first thought when I hear about snake handlers. I'm always reminded of Satan's temptation of Jesus.

    I remember reading somewhere that the power to drink poison and handle snakes was given only to the apostles and other early Christians in order to spread spread Christianity more quickly. Not sure if that's right or not.

    Snake handling is actually legal in the state I live in so we've got some of these churches around here. I'm scared to death of snakes so no way would I ever visit one.
    What state is it?

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    Quote Originally Posted by markedward View Post
    I'm not so sure that this is the case. In re-reading the other three things, we see that they have to do with how Christians interact with other people. They cast demons out of other people, they heal other people, they speak in tongues to other people... but in the middle of these three, they handle snakes and drink poison. I think this would give a reinforcement to them being somewhat metaphorical. They "handle snakes", that is, they handle the "vipers", religious hypocrites. Another way for them to "interact with other people". The "deadly drink" one is still up in the air, but in the consistency of the other four pointing to how Christians interact with others, I would think the "deadly drink" one is the same way.

    Now that I think about it, I remember pointing out in a thread a few weeks back that "drinking wormwood" is used in the Old Testament as a metaphor for listening to false prophecy and false teaching. Perhaps Christ is telling his apostles that they will be able to handle the religious "vipers", and they will be able to endure false teachings and not be "poisoned" by them, similar to what JohnDB said.
    I don't think it literal, I agree with what you said. I think many things are taken literal that shouldn't imho like this

  14. #14
    Quote Originally Posted by Reynolds357 View Post
    What state is it?
    West Virginia. I think we are the only state where it's legal.

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by HaveMercy View Post
    West Virginia. I think we are the only state where it's legal.
    I am glad it is still legal there. I do not agre with it. I think it is false doctrine. However, I believe people have a 1st amendment right to practice false doctrine.

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