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Sunday, September 22, 2013

Slytherin Salvation

Snake Salvation is a new reality show that airs on the National Geographic Channel and features two Pentecostal preachers, Jamie Coots and Andrew Hamblin, who practice the 100-year old tradition of handling deadly snakes in church, based on the following passage from the Gospel of Mark (16:9-19)
Now after he rose early on the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, from whom he had cast out seven demons. She went out and told those who had been with him, while they were mourning and weeping. But when they heard that he was alive and had been seen by her, they would not believe it. After this he appeared in another form to two of them, as they were walking into the country. And they went back and told the rest, but they did not believe them. Later he appeared to the eleven themselves as they were sitting at the table; and he upbraided them for their lack of faith and stubbornness, because they had not believed those who saw him after he had risen. And he said to them, "Go into all the world and proclaim the good news to the whole creation. The one who believes and is baptized will be saved; but the one who does not believe will be condemned. And these signs will accompany those who believe: by using my name they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up snakes in their hands, and if they drink any deadly thing, it will not hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover." So then the Lord Jesus, after he had spoken to them, was taken up into heaven and sat down at the right hand of God. And they went out and proclaimed the good news everywhere, while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the message by the signs that accompanied it.
which they interpret as meaning that a poisonous snakebite will not harm them as long as they're anointed by God’s power. Coots and Hamblin also believe that if they don’t practice snake handling, they're destined for hell.

The irony is that this passage does not appear in the earliest manuscripts of Mark, suggesting that they were added later, probably in the second century. Most biblical scholars, even theologically conservative ones, agree that Mark's Gospel originally ended at verse 8, which means that Coots, Hamblin, and their followers are risking their lives for a handful of verses that don't even belong in the Bible.

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