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I was studying the words of Christ this morning where he charged His disciples in Mark 16:17-18.

Jesus said,

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.

And when I got to verse 18, the expression "...they will pick up serpents" began to suggest several meanings to me. I quite understand the use of imagery across the verses of the Bible. Is it best to interpret "serpents" as imagery in verse 18? If it will help to interpret it that way, then what does "picking up serpents" really imply in Mark 16:17-18?

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  • Tyndale (1534) and the Matthews Bible (1537) have 'they shall kill serpents'. Geneva Bible (1560) has 'take away'. Bishops Bible (1568) has 'drive away'.YLT has 'take up'. – Nigel J Aug 25 '20 at 12:02
  • Ernest - Thanks for offering a fantastic question regarding the puzzling prophecy in Mark 16:18! I look forward to hearing your interpretations of this verse as well in context to other parables and scripture. - Blessings! – חִידָה Aug 25 '20 at 14:04
  • While not answering your question directly, this article is interesting to note: Should Mark 16:9-20 be in the Bible? – agarza Aug 25 '20 at 14:17
  • @Nijel J: I resonate with “take away serpents”. But still having some reservations. To “pick up” sounds more positive than to “take away”??? – Ernest Abinokhauno Aug 26 '20 at 7:45
  • Code Sinaiticus and Vaticanus both conclude Mark at 16:8 Hence 9-20 should not be in the Bible – Ozzie Ozzie Aug 26 '20 at 20:51
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Contemporary English Version, Mark 16:18a

They will handle snakes

they will handle
ἀροῦσιν (arousin)
Verb - Future Indicative Active - 3rd Person Plural
Strong's Greek 142: To raise, lift up, take away, remove.

This was fulfilled in

Acts 28:5 But Paul shook the snake off into the fire and suffered no ill effects. 6The 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.

The natives were convinced by this sign: serpents could not harm the servants of God.

Else where, Jesus says in

Luke 10:19 I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you.

Literally, serpents are poisonous snakes. Metaphorically, they are poisonous enemies. No matter, neither can harm the servants of God.

Mark 16:17-18 reinforces this same idea in Luke 10:19. God will protect his workers from all harms while they are working for God and it is a sign that you are God's workers.

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  • [Luk 20:43 NLT] (43) until I humble your enemies, making them a footstool under your feet.' [Rom 16:20 NLT] (20) The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. May the grace of our Lord Jesus be with you. [Heb 1:13-14 NLT] (13) And God never said to any of the angels, "Sit in the place of honor at my right hand until I humble your enemies, making them a footstool under your feet." (14) Therefore, angels are only servants--spirits sent to care for people who will inherit salvation. – Ruminator Aug 25 '20 at 15:14
  • Good point. I updated. – Tony Chan Aug 26 '20 at 16:08
  • Thank you Tony, for this post. I'd rather lean towards the understanding of snakes being poisonous enemies much rather than taking it from the literal interpretation surrounding Paul's experience - although I agree it’s a part of it. But, going by this version of your post, how do we reconcile the phrase? Is it by way of saying that we shall “pick up” those poisonous enemies? – Ernest Abinokhauno Aug 26 '20 at 18:39
  • ἀροῦσιν means pick up or remove. The remove part was fulfilled in Paul. The pick up part could have been fulfilled but not recorded in the Bible. In any case, the word is ambiguous. – Tony Chan Aug 27 '20 at 13:52
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Regarding the modern Gospel account of Mark 16:18, what is meant by "they will pick up snakes with their hands"?

[Disclaimer] - In the ancient Greek Gospel of Mark found in the Codex Sinaiticus, Mark 16 ends at verse 8. * [Reference : http://www.codex-sinaiticus.net/] . - The missing verses of Mark 16:9-20 cause contextual questions about the validity of later editions (400 AD-Present) of Mark 16 manuscripts.

In the modern Gospel account of Mark 16:18 we read a strange prophecy from the resurrected Yeshua (Jesus) of Nazareth regarding His disciples' supernatural ability to be immune to snakes and poison.

Mark 16:18 [NIV] "they will pick up snakes with their hands; and when they drink deadly poison, it will not hurt them at all; they will place their hands on sick people, and they will get well."

The Greek Translation of Mark 16:18 rephrases "they will pick up snakes with their hands" and states : "with (ἐν) their (ταῖς) hands (χερσὶν) serpents (ὄφεις) they will take up (ἀροῦσιν)".

What does "with their hands serpents will they take up" refer to in parallelism with Yeshua's ministry and in terms of the future abilities of Yeshua's disciples?

Consider Yeshua's parable about a bad Father giving snakes to son in Luke 11:11 [NIV] : " Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a serpent (ὄφιν) instead? " - The point is made later in Luke 11:13 that Serpents (False Teachings) in reference to [Genesis 3:1-4] will be replaced with the Holy Spirit (God's Teachings).

In parallel to Yeshua's parables of Luke 11:11-13, the prophecy of Mark 16:18 is claiming Yeshua's disciples will metaphorically replace false teachings concerning God with the Holy Spirit through charitable works of their hands to feed God's children.

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