Mark 16:17-19 (ESV):

17 And these signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues; 18 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 these signs will accompany those who believe" - is this a universal predicate, independent of time and space, conditioned only on the individual's faith ("those who believe")?

Note: for those interested in the debate of whether the longer ending of Mark is inspired, see What are arguments for the divine inspiration of the longer ending of Mark (Mark 16:9-20)?


1 Answer 1


First, the passage in Mark 16:9-20 is highly disputed and many do NOT believe it should be part of the Biblical canon. However, for the sake of this question, let us consider the text without the matter of textual criticism.

The text of Mark 16:17 lists several phenomena:

And these signs will accompany those who believe:

  • In My name they will drive out demons [See also Luke 10:17]
  • they will speak in new tongues [See Acts 2:1-4, 1 Cor 14]
  • they will pick up snakes with their hands [See Acts 28:3-5]
  • and if they drink any deadly poison, it will not harm them
  • they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will be made well [See James 5:13-15 and the many healings in Acts, etc]

Thus, the list of "wonders" in Mark 16 mostly has fulfilments in other places in the NT. i could not find an instance involving poison. However, we have plenty of instances where the word is used as a metaphor such as, James 3:8, Acts 8:23, 14:2, Rom 3:13, Heb 12:15, etc.

Note that the text of Mark 16:17 does NOT say that such signs would apply to ALL believers but simply "accompany" those who believe - ie, be manifest among believers - some would have different spiritual gifts to do such things. See 1 Cor 14.

  • I notice that you bolded the word “if” in “and if they drink any deadly poison, it will not hurt them”. The word “if” here could indicate that they usually don’t drink deadly poison. Thus, people who regularly drink deadly poison get hurt by it; not people who drink deadly poison irregularly. The best example being caffeine. Apr 16, 2021 at 0:09
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    @Constantthin - I will leave the vexed and controversial subject of caffeine (an alkaloid poison) to others. I completely agree that the sense of Mark 16:17 appears to be an accidental or unwitting consumption of poison. Deliberately drinking poison and demanding a divine miracle would amount to presumption.
    – Dottard
    Apr 16, 2021 at 0:33
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    @Constantthin - to second Dottard's words, remember also Jesus' response to Satan's temptation in Matt 4:5-7: 5 Then the devil took him to the holy city and set him on the pinnacle of the temple 6 and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down, for it is written, “‘He will command his angels concerning you,’ and “‘On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.’” 7 Jesus said to him, “Again it is written, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’
    – user38524
    Apr 16, 2021 at 0:55
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    I Agree. The Pentecostal snake-handlers got it wrong. If you are going to go overboard on something it better be on water. Apr 16, 2021 at 3:52

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