Snakes and serpents in the Scriptures

4. Apostle Paul Immune to Snakebite – Acts 28

After being shipwrecked in Malta in Acts 28, the Apostle Paul is received by the island’s natives and invited to sit next to a fire — and in a matter of moments, Paul goes from being seen as a murderer to being hailed as a “god”: 

“Paul gathered a pile of brushwood and, as he put it on the fire, a viper, driven out by the heat, fastened itself on his hand. When the islanders saw the snake hanging from his hand, they said to each other, ‘This man must be a murderer; for though he escaped from the sea, the goddess Justice has not allowed him to live.’ But Paul shook the snake off into the fire and suffered no ill effects. The people expected him to swell up or suddenly fall dead; but after waiting a long time and seeing nothing unusual happen to him, they changed their minds and said he was a god.” (Acts 28:3-6)

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This account, coupled with a controversial passage in Mark 16, has led some Christians to believe they can pick up venomous snakes with their bare hands and not be bitten.

Some churches have launched controversial “snake-handling” ministries despite such beliefs leading to a number of snake-handling-related deaths in recent years, including popular snake-handling Pentecostal pastor Jamie Coot of the National Geographic series "Snake Salvation," who died in February 2014 after being bitten by one of his snakes during a church service. 

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