Sunday, November 13, 2011

Misused Verse #7

Yes, finally, the last one!

     I have been looking forward to this for a very long time, the final verse in the misused verse series. After this, I want to get into the requirements and purposes of the pastoral office. But first, the verse. It happens to be none other than Mark 16:17-18, which reads from the ESV as: "And these signs shall accompany those that believe: in my name they shall cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues; (18) they will pick up serpents with their hands; and if they drink deadly poison, it will not hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover." This verse is often used by the Christians in snake handling denominations to justify their acts of snake handling and poison drinking. They believe that these acts evidence their faith in Jesus Christ, but I believe that while these acts could accompany Christians (and they did: Acts 2:1; 3:2; 5:15-16; 8:7; 19:12; 28:3; 28:8 and many many many more). While I do believe that healings and other miracles will accompany those who have a true faith in Jesus Christ, I do not believe that this verse condones the practices of the Snake handling churches, and I have numerous reasons.
     First and foremost the immediate context of the verse. This verse is in an extended ending of the gospel according to Mark, which does not appear in the two oldest texts. Think of it as an extended edition of a movie, that was added on by people who had no part in the production of the original*. The verses given in this text should be read with caution, and, according to the Wycliffe Bible Commentary, "could not reasonably be used as a basis for the deliberate and presumptuous handling of serpents and drinking of poison which are practiced by certain extreme religious sects." Also, I would highly advise not using any of the verses found in this extended version as a basis for any other doctrine, unless it is supported by other passages in the New Testament that are not as ambiguous, which leads me to my second point.
     The idea of handling serpents as a show of faith is not found in any other verse in the Bible. Hear me through: there is mention of power to "tread on serpents" as well as "scorpions," given in Luke 10:19, however, one must realize that this was said by Jesus Christ specifically to the seventy-two disciples that had been appointed by our Lord Jesus to go into the towns that he was about to enter as "lambs in the midst of wolves" (try picturing that!) and proclaim the nearness of the kingdom of God, as well as heal the sick in any of the towns that received them favorably. These verses, because they are directed specifically at the seventy-two, cannot in good conscience, be applied to all Christians today. The idea of being able to drink poison is also not found anywhere else in the New Testament. Sorry, but it isn't...
     The word translated "serpent" in this passage (ὄφις), can also be translated figuratively as an "artful malicious person." And in the passage from Luke, the Greek word translated as "Scorpion" is what Strong's dictionary describes as "an obsolete word, (perhaps strengthened from the base of σκοπός and meaning to pierce)." Due to the fact that I have not yet learned Greek (it's on the agenda, but haven't gotten that far yet) I will trust the scholars in their translation of the word scorpion, but I will speculate about the word serpent. Throughout the Bible, the serpent is the symbol of craftiness an cunning, and perhaps once again our Lord is speaking in a parable and alluding to Christian's ability to put down heretics and others who use divisive methods and attempt to divide the church. Another possible explanation is that Christ was alluding to the apostle Paul being bitten by a serpent on the island of Malta (see Acts 28:1-5).
     Finally, the Bible ultimately commands us not to put God to the test (see Deuteronomy 6:16; Matt 4:7, 22:8; Luke 4:12; 1 Cor 10:9 [very appropriate]), and every time they pick up a serpent they are putting God's mercy and protection to the test.
     If you have any comments, please post them, I would love to get more opinions on this very confusing verse. I hope you found this post thought-provoking, informative, and interesting to read. I look forward to writing on less troubling matters.

Until next we write, I hope that Christ will keep you and protect you.

Your brother in Christ,


"Experience: that most brutal of teachers. But you learn, my God do you learn."
C. S. Lewis

The experience of watching numerous people die handling snakes, should logically lead a person to conclude it is an unethical and false practice, however, that seems to not be the case for those who live in snake handling communities...

*::NOTICE!:: This is kind of like a retraction, in that it is an edition of the actual post for better clarity and understanding, in an effort to prevent misunderstanding. When I refer to the passage in Mark as being like and extended version of a movie, I am not saying it was for sure written by humans, I'm saying that we don't know (we being myself and every other Biblical scholar to my knowledge) whether it was written by humans apart from or in the inspiration of God. Therefore, it should be read with caution... Carry on.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Misused Verse # 6

Hello All! I hope this blog post finds you safe and well.

    This misused verse was also brought to my attention by Mr. Rosebrough at Pirate Christian Radio. This misused verse can be very dangerous in the hands of the right (perhaps wrong would be better) pastor. The verse in question is Deuteronomy 15:10, which reads like this: "You shall give to him freely, and your heart shall not be grudging when you give to him, because for this the LORD your God shall bless you in all your work and in all that you undertake." First, you should notice that this is in the OLD Testament, and is part of the law, so therefore it does not directly apply to us, because we are no longer under the law, but in Christ. Second, you should notice that this is in verse 10, and therefore something was more than likely left off the front of this verse (context!). So, in order to get a good understanding of this verse, we need to back up to the start of the paragraph, to verse 7: "If among you, one of your brothers should become poor, in any of your towns within your land that the LORD your God has given you, you shall not harden your heart or shut your hand against your poor brother, 8 but you shall open your hand to him and lend him sufficient for his need, whatever it may be. 9 Take care lest there be an unworthy thought in you heart and you say, 'the seventh year, the year of release is near,' and your heart look grudgingly on your poor brother, and you give him nothing, and he cry to the LORD against you and you be guilty of sin" (breaking the law by omission). This verse, in and of its self, is pretty harmless. But in the hands of a skilled Bible twister (wolf in sheep's clothing), it can be used to drastic effect. When I heard this verse, the pastor speaking said something along the lines of this: "If you want to sell your house and give the money, do it. If you want to cash in your 401(k) and give the money, do it. If you want to sell your car and give the money, do it." If your pastor is doing something along those lines with this verse or any other giving verse, one piece of advice: Run! Just run! If you want to try and point this problem out to your pastor, sure, maybe he'll repent, but correcting this heresy could result in a loss of income for the church, so I doubt he (or she [different topic for a different time]) will fix it.
    Most verses that are ripped out of context like this and used this way can be fixed simply by putting it back in context, and that is very good for those of you faced with problems like this, but the effects of not standing up and pointing out these mistakes can be devastating. Pray for the people who are stuck in churches like these, who convince their followers to give everything they have to the church in times as troubling as this. I trust that the LORD is powerful and can help those who are tricked into giving everything to these empty churches, but I believe the best way is for the pastor to repent of his wrong doings, or for the people to find a church where the word of God is rightly handled and preached.


Joe Anderson

"For a time is coming where people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to truth and wander off into myths." 2 Timothy 4:3-4
My friends, that time is here, and has been here since the beginning of the church, but recently, it has been getting worse. The solution? Drive a stake through its vampric heart.