Can I drink poision and pick up snakes and live?

(Bill Brander) #1

If the last part of Mark’s Gospel is “suspect”, why is it included in our Bibles?
I ask because here in SA there have been two churches doing that sort of thing to prove their faith.


(Wonder Rexford Krampa ) #2

Why would even think of doing such a thing? Does drinking poison and picking up snakes correspond to life? No. They correspond rather to death. But Jesus gave us life and is as a result of we being baptized into his death; the spirit of life is at work in us. What that spirit would not allow you do is to drink poison and pick up snakes for the sake of living. Instead, he’d not allow such things as poison take your life for Christ’ sake.

(SeanO) #3

@billbrander Bibles often put this passage in brackets because it is not in the original text, but they do not remove it because there is a debate and they want to let the reader make up their mind for themselves. There is a similar passage in John - I have included some links at the bottom regarding that passage.

Here is an article from John Piper on a man named Coots who died because of handling snakes. He points out that even if you believe this passage in Mark should be in the Bible, a correct reading of it would not lead us to handle snakes… Rather, the text is saying that some believers, like Paul, experienced miraculous preservation when bitten by snakes (not handling them on purpose!) on the island of Malta.

Besides the fact that some of the earliest manuscripts don’t even include Mark 16:9–20, the problem with Coots’s understanding is that Mark 16:18 is not a commandment. It describes signs that “will accompany those who believe” (verse 17). What the author most likely had in mind were experiences such as Paul’s in Acts 28:3–6, when he was unexpectedly bitten by a poisonous serpent and suffered no ill effects.

Jamie Coots was sincere. But sincerity will not protect us from peril if we are sincerely wrong. Mark 16:18 does not instruct, nor does the New Testament anywhere enjoin, believers to handle poisonous serpents in worship services as proof of their faith. Coots’s devout convictions were based on a text he misread. He had “a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge” (Romans 10:2). And his end was sad.

Help your people understand this is an issue of the original text’s transmission , not its inspiration

Some Connect Threads on the Pericope in John

(Carson Weitnauer) #4

Hi @billbrander,

Another way of approaching this is to ask what the Bible says about proving our faith.

For instance:

  • The testing of faith by the Lord of the Israelites in Deuteronomy 8. Would they keep God’s commandments?
  • The parable of the sower in Matthew 13. We see true faith when a believer perseveres through trials, avoids temptation, and bears fruit for the kingdom.
  • The joy of steadfast faith in James 1. True faith perseveres through trials as believers grow to maturity in Christ. Similarly in 1 Thessalonians 3 - despite persecution, the believers are known for their faith and love. Or in 1 Peter 1, the believers are suffering greatly, yet their hope is in Christ, their minds are prepared for action, and they are called to be holy in all their conduct.
  • The sacrifice of possessions for the gain of knowing Christ in Matthew 19. Whether we are called to give all or some of our possessions away, a radical generosity demonstrates that our true treasure is with God.

There are many more examples like this in the Scriptures. It is not only that the ending of Mark 16 is a much later addition to the gospel, but it is also the sad neglect of the clear teaching of the Bible about what a proven faith ought to look like.

I would encourage you - how can your church, your Bible study, your fellow Christians provide an alternative example of what it looks like to faithfully follow Jesus despite risk and hardship?