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Mark 16:17-18: Handling Snakes

Based on these verses, some Pentecostal churches—primarily in the Appalachian Mountain states in the eastern United States—have emphasized the handling of poisonous snakes and scorpions as part of their religious services. Playing with fire and drinking water laced with poison is also practiced by some of these churches, as they teach that God commands such obedience. While it is true that many have survived after being bitten, others have died. Besides, testing God is contrary to His Word (Matt 4:7). Because of the danger, Alabama, Kentucky, and Tennessee have even banned the handling of snakes in public. Mark 16:9-20 is not found in the earliest and most accurate New Testament manuscripts, so it is unlikely that Mark even wrote this ending. Finally, while it is true that Paul was accidentally bitten by a poisonous viper and survived (Acts 28:3-6), there is no evidence that New Testament leaders or Christian churches before the 1900’s ever encouraged worshiping with poisonous snakes or drinking poison.

For other passages discussing common passages used by Latter-day Saints, click here.

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