On wealthy Lookout Mountain, Ga., I once worked on a construction site with a very nice and respectful bulldozer driver who went to a Snake Handling Church. I was shocked because I thought everyone involved would be some kind of mentally deficient freak.
I told him that Jesus and Peter and Paul and John and all of the apostles did not intentionally handle serpents. Therefore I would never do so. He respectfully nodded.
Now that the National Geographic Channel has a program showcasing a Snake Handling Church in Kentucky, educated men of God need to speak up. The Bible says that we are not to tempt God. Those who handle snakes do just that. Matthew Henry commenting on Deuteronomy 6:16 says “thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God, either by despairing of his power and goodness while we keep in the way of our duty, or by presuming upon it when we turn aside out of that way.” Jesus quoted this verse when Satan tempted Him on the Pinnacle of the Temple to throw Himself down. Satan wanted Jesus to prove that God would keep Him safe while being forced into a rescue or recovery situation. Jumping off the Pinnacle of the Temple would have been approximately 350 feet, a little higher than the Statue of Liberty. This would have been a deadly risk similar to the bite of a deadly rattlesnake. Jesus refused.
The only serpent Paul ever handled, he did so by accident while working on firewood. It was not intentional.
The fact is that most conservative Bible-believing scholars do not even have confidence in the end of Mark's gospel (Mark 16:9-20) where these snake handlers get their motivation. It was likely something a scribe added on for some unknown reason. The best New Testament manuscripts do not have the snake handling passage at the end of Mark. Most English Bibles have it in brackets to show its uncertainty.
I am not a liberal. I believe that the Bible is the inerrant inspired plenary Word of God in the original manuscripts. We don't have those original manuscripts, but the English Bible is 99.9999 percent pure. It is time for Bible publishers to stop printing this highly improbable ending to Mark's gospel. Perhaps in time they will. It might just save some lives and end the worst entertainment on TV, the entertainment that distracts from the glory of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Johnson City, Tennessee