Problem: Believers can handle snakes and drink poison
Verses: Mark 16:17-18; Status: Weak

According to Mark 16:17-18, true believers can drink poison and handle snakes with no ill effects:

And these signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up serpents with their hands; and if they drink any deadly poison, it will not hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover. (ESV)

Some people today believe in faith healers, but I doubt anyone really thinks that believers can drink deadly poison with no consequences. However, these verses are part of what's called the "Longer Ending of Mark". I'll quote from the NIV Study Bible:

Serious doubt exists as to whether these verses belong to the Gospel of Mark. They are absent from important early manuscripts and display certain peculiarities of vocabulary, style and theological content that are unlike the rest of Mark. His Gospel probably ended at 16:8, or its original ending has been lost.

So if the Longer Ending of Mark is doubtful, this would tend to eliminate the problem. However, you may occasionally encounter people who want to argue for the Longer Ending being genuine. For such people, the problem is more difficult, though you could still argue that "those who believe" refers only to the early Christian missionaries.

Updated: Summer 2008

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