Snakes In Church

The mysterious world of religion includes “snake handling churches.” I had never understood the origin of this practice until I read the link.  Those who believe snake handling is an important religious statement, of course, cite the Bible.

In the last few years over a hundred snake handlers have died because of Mark 16: 17-18, And these signs shall follow them that believe: In my name shall they cast out devils….They shall take up shall not hurt them…and they shall recover.

This last phrase, “and they shall recover” is referred to when those snake handlers are bitten. They do not go to doctors. They die.

According to a new book on snake handling preachers/churches, this branch of the Pentecostals is often looking for “signs” that God is on their team. Pentecostalism is about personal relationships with Jesus/God. And, the Bible talks of miracles. If one believes those miracles are not made up stories it is easy to see why some today would believe God could perform a miracle this Sunday with snakes.

I wonder what a mother from a snake handling church would say to her little girl if she came home from a friend’s house and said, “We went to Sarah’s church. There were no snakes. Why is that?”

If the mother were like other Christians, she would reply, “Well Angie, the Smiths are nice people. But, they do not go to a real Christian church like we do.”

If churches ignore the snakes in Mark 16:17-18 can they be good Christians?

31 Responses

  1. Juan Ruiz

    As one of the posters in the link comments:

    “The last twelve verses, 16:9–20, are not present in two 4th-century manuscripts: Codex Sinaiticus and Codex Vaticanus, the earliest complete manuscripts of Mark. Their faith is based on a later addition to the text and is a grave error.”

    1. Juan 8:33 “Their faith is based on a later addition to the text and is a grave error.”

      It would be helpful is God would clear this up by telling us exactly what he wrote.

      1. Juan Ruiz

        This is part of the textual tradition: Copyists manipulated text to their heart’s content, which underscores that they had no notion that they were inerrant nor the Word of God. Compare mss and you see additions, deletions, omissions, and misreadings. The Markan example here is reflective of that. Someone did not like “They were afraid and ran away, and told no one.” It’s abrupt, non-conclusive, and nihilistic. If they told no one, news of the Resurrection was not communicated. So more verses were added.

        Same is true of the adulterous woman in John. It’s not found in the oldest mss. Somone knew the story, and added it. That that woman was Mary Magdalene is just a false interpretation, with no Scriptural support. Much like three Magi.

        1. Henry

          JR:“This is part of the textual tradition: Copyists manipulated textx to their heart’s content, which underscores that they had no notion that they were inerrant nor the Word of God.”

          Purely speculative in your 1:35. I could speculate, too. While Nero, the gay atheist boy killer, was also trying to burn the Christians out of their catacomb, a portion of some of the manuscripts was destroyed. Later, copies that had the full text were found and compared.
          With the ancient documents rule, I would suppose the burden is on you to explain your allegation.

        2. Juan 1:35 Good observation. It’s one of many reasons all the importance of the Bible is peculiar. The written word came along a few thousand years before the Bible was written. It must have changed some sort of psychological perception of information. “If it is written, it is the permanent truth.” But, as you note correctly, it was copied over and over again by scribes with who knows what motivation. They had to be wealthy, or from wealthy and influential families themselves. Would not we expect as least some of them were more interested in inserting their own views than copying accurately views of someone they might dislike.

          That’s why the branches of the faith that treat the Bible as metaphor have the strongest case. John Shelby Spong said God is so and mysterious and big we cannot comprehend what it is. Whatever ancient goat herders might have thought of the god is unimportant. Why not just leave it at that? But then, of course, we could not go about passing judgement on those we do not like or consider inferior. That’s where the popularity of the faith and its money comes from.

          1. Catcher

            @ 2;42; “…The Bible is peculiar”. “The written word came along a few thousand years before..: I assume the Old Testament only? The snakes are from Mark., (the New Testament). Today’s topic.
            Conflation? Conflation.

            I did a search on “wealthy goat herders who wrote the Bible. Strange, Here I thought that was an original claim from Jon. Not so. Even with that, there is disagreement among atheists.
            Here Jon parrots others, the same as he accuses Catholics and others. Pots and kettles.
            He demands names of “Original authors”, but can’t name one goat herder .

          2. Catcher 5:09 wealth goat herders…Here I thought that was an original claim from Jon.

            Yes, five or six years ago when I first used the term I had not seen it elsewhere. Since then I have seen it several places. Here is a discussion of “wealthy goat herders”

            The thing is, earlier civilizations were hunters and gathers. By the time the Bible was written there were farmers, crops and animals. The Bible reflects the economics of the time it was written and reflects the interests of those who wrote it. In that part of the world goats and sheep were the best fit, animals small enough to be handled by humans but who could make a living grazing. Learning to read and write, especially to write, required lots of expensive time away from the goats. Only wealthy people could afford it.

            Anyone is welcome to believe these wealthy goat herders had so much insight they can advise us today women should not be preachers/priests or gay marriage is a grave sin or there is a life after death. For myself, I see no reason to think they had any qualities or knowledge to help us today.

          3. Catcher

            @ 6;17; Don’t understand? see my 5;09 , first paragraph. Not complicated.

            Could you also provide the names of those goat herders you mention?
            I note your yahoo link. That was one of several I saw in my research.

    2. Catcher

      Re. Mark 16;9-20′ Yes. Most modern comprehensive translations contain that info in the cross references, and is fairly well known. Also, the RCC translations note the point with the term; { “shorter ending and longer ending “} with explanation.. None of the KJV translations, (plural ) I have don’t contain that information. Interestingly most fundamentalists, are (King James only)

  2. Juan Ruiz

    “Interestingly most fundamentalists, are (King James only)”

    I have heard fundamentalists declare that the KJV is “better” than the original. Much like the RCC did at one time with the Vulgate.

    1. Henry 8:52 Goat herders was introduced into the dialogue several years ago.

      That’s because the Bible’s authors were wealthy men in an agrarian society. Goats were a major source of livelihood. Oh yes, there were also sheep. It would have been more accurate to have called them “wealthy sheep and goat herders”. I apologize.

    2. Catcher

      Re. “Goat Herders”; If one goes by jon’s 5;25, he sounds like he invented it “5 or 6 years ago”. That would have been shortly after Al Gore invented the internet.. Yet with all his brilliance, he can’t see the thousand year disconnect of timelines between the writings of the Hebrew Bible, AKA OT, and the NT.

      1. Catcher 8:05 Yet with all his brilliance, he can’t see the thousand year disconnect to timelines between the writings of the Hebrew Bible, AKA, OT and the NT.

        Let’s examine that. In the OT the wealthy goat herders believed in superstition, that visions/dreams were actual events and in fanciful miracles. By the time the NT was written, the wealthy goat herders now believed in superstition, that visions/dreams were actual events and in fanciful miracles.

        In the NT, long after the OT, and to you a time of modern thinking, you have Mathew 27:52 where the graves of long dead saints opened up and the bones walked into town where “they were seen by many.”

        1. Catcher

          Zombie apocalypse. They’re still making movies on it.
          Mat. does not say “bones” It says; “bodies”. First earthquakes, and opened tombs due to the earthquakes, . Such a deal. No indication of this being added to embellish in footnotes,. If it did, or didn’t, it does not change the narrative of the Gospels

          It’s there, I know no one who pivots his/her faith on this one instance. This does cause questions/ speculation, but If Christ be risen, why not.

          If you put so much trust in those goat herders, what were their names? Nicknames? Ole Goodgoats, Lars scapegoats, or Sven nogoats.

          How many goats must have to be considered wealthy. Are white goats more valuable than black? An old goat -expert like you should know these things.

          1. Catcher 10:02 re: The graves of saints opening and the bones walking out
            This does cause questions/speculation, but if Christ be risen why not.

            I can answer that. Because it’s nuts.

          2. Catcher

            “Thats nuts” That takes balls. for a liberal on a speculation.. ;Any other subjects you don’t have answers to, or do you know it all, and just bluster your way around?
            You didn’t answer my questions. You old pig herder you. How many pigs must one have to be called a wealthy pig herder?

          3. Catcher

            Jon @ 11;10; “Catcher 10;02 re; The graves of saints opening and the bones walking out”. Not my words. Yours. Again you continue to use “bones” where “bodies” is the word. Obviously you can’t answer honestly because you can’t read, nor comprehend. And too proud to admit it.

          4. Catcher 12:10 because you can’t read nor comprehend

            You said the NT was different than the OT. If this is true, by the time NT writers came along they would have known bodies decompose and there would have been only bones walking out of the graves. I’m quite certain the original language would have been bones, not bodies.

            I have to wonder about your own knowledge of the Bible. You said in 10:02 that if Christ is risen why would we not have such a thing as bones walking out of graves. They did not walk out of graves at the resurrection. It was at the resurrection they sashayed into town and were seen by many.

            I asked an Orthodox priest about this passage a few years back. He said there are some places in the NT where you have to roll your eyes.

          5. Catcher

            Jon @ 4;54; I fully anticipated your response. Unfortunately my keyboard won’t reproduce the Greek, but the Greek word “awjua ,” in the Greek interlinear renders the word “body. With the corresponding ,#4983 in Strongs Expanded lexicon is “awjua” is rendered the body (as a sound whold)In a very wide application, lit. or fig;-bodily 1. of a man 1a living, eg, Mt. 6;22, or 1b. dead, Mt.27;52; or 1c. in resurrection, 1cor 15;44or 2. of beasts, Heb 13;11; 3; of grain; sna do on. Sometimes the word stands, by synechdoche, for the “complete man.”…..9. The “body” is an essential part of the man and therefore the redeemed are not perfedted till the resurrection. Heb 11;40;”No man in his final state will be without his body”, Jn 5;28-29 ; Rev 20;12.

            Your false application is shallot in the extreme.
            Perhaps your Orthodox priest does not know his Greek.

          6. Catcher 5:17 Perhaps you Orthodox priest does not know his Greek

            I’m sure he knows Greek as well as any Orthodox priest. It used to be called the Greek Orthodox Church. He just doesn’t believe the whole thing ever happened. Neither do I. That’s why it matters not one twit whether I refer to bones or bodies.

          7. Catcher

            Back from a bite to eat. ref. Greens interlinear of Hebrew, Greek and English page 765, and Strong’s expanded Greek dictionary of the New Testament, page 245, ref. # 4983.
            Re. “bodies” Lenski parallels the Greek above, Vol 1, page 1130 and 1131.

            Jon! you are out of your league. on this. You brought up the passage, now live with it.

  3. Henry

    Well, I’d rather you characterize the people in the bible as “wealthy sheep and goat herders” than be a goat roper like you atheist men tend to be.

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