Archive for May, 2012

American Pentecostal pastor Mark Wolford dies after being bitten by a rattlesnake

Recent news has come that a Pentecostal Snake handling Pastor in America, Mark Wolford, has died following a church event at which he handled a rattle snake as a test of faith.

This movement in America has troubled me for sometime, and at this particular event, Mark Wolford is reported to have been bitten by a yellow rattler as he sat on the floor.

The congregation also handles snakes as they are passed around, person to person amongst church members. 

These actions derive from an interpretation of a text from the New Testament, which contains the words of Jesus. This text is contained within Mark 16: 18.

The problem however, is not with the text in its original historical setting, but with what I regard as the poor handling of the narrative in this modern setting.

The problem is that text’s are subject to interpretation and Mark 16: 15-18 within its initial context need not relate beyond the actual context of the 1st century disciples of Jesus, living in Judea to whom the context shows that the Jewish Messiah gave this word.

There is nothing whatsoever to assume that this text relates to gentile Christians of today. Likewise, there is nothing, unless one assumes, to believe that this text relates to every Christian or believers in general who have lived since to 1st century and just under 2000 years later. On the contrary, this sign or signs of which Jesus is referring need not be taken as anything but a sign for those to whom Jesus was speaking to at that time. These people were the original Messianic Jews from the 1st century. That is what the context states and what reason should we have to assume or conclude otherwise?

However, it is not fair of me to shoot down a belief and merely make comments against it and thus conclude that I have spoken the truth. Thus, I will give my reasons for why I deny these actions as right conduct of Christianity.

My reasons are as follows;

The prophet Isaiah prophesied that signs would follow within the Messianic era, that is when Messiah had come. This text is written within Isaiah 35: 5-6. These signs included the healing of the sick, the mute and that tongues would be spoken. He also prophesied that the Messianic followers would be witnesses to Messiah (Isaiah 43: 10) 

The original followers of Jesus, who were Jews, would have known the texts of Isaiah and would have known exactly what Jesus was saying. He was proclaiming Himself as Messiah.

The subject no doubt goes back to Eden when the serpent once tempted the woman and thus, we know the familiar narrative, this when we read Genesis 1: 26 and Isaiah 11: 6-9 we see that what had gone wrong at Eden, was to be restored by Messiah.

This is why Luke, around AD 60 records an event in Acts 28: 1-6 of where Paul was bitten by a viper on Malita (Malta) yet “suffered no harm” (Acts 28: 5) Clearly Luke is recording this event to show the original disciples and followers of Jesus that Paul was in fact a true believer and that the signs that the prophet Isaiah wrote about had come to pass. Thus, Jesus was the Messiah.

And notice that Luke did not handle the viper and Paul did not handle it either, but shook it off and cast it into the fire (Acts 28: 5)

It is likewise Luke’s recording of the event of Acts 28: 1-6 which gives me reason, not only to deny the actions of the snake handling churches in America, but to deny the claims of certain modern scholars, who argue that the last 12 verse of Mark’s gospel are not original? If so, then how can they account for Luke’s recording of a fulfilment of the words spoken by Jesus, which Luke wrote around AD 60?

However, that is another issue and I do not desire to move into that area of scholarship on this post, since the matter requires more detail than that. But what Luke’s narrative does show is that these events did happen in the 1st century AD, yet there is nothing more to be said about it in the entire New Testament outside of these two passages, so why attach importance to such events if they are only mentioned twice in scripture?

Thus, I think the prophesies of Isaiah show us that the intended meaning behind these events is to show that Messiah had come. But to interpret these texts for gentile Christians today, is not only ignorant or neglectful of the actual context of scripture, but is is somewhat venomous.

 It is clear to me that there is a difference between faith and wild deeds. That a person does not need to show faith in Christ by somewhat hyper wild actions. But good works and peace, love and gentleness shows true faith.

 

Thus, I would ask that if anyone who may be part of these churches in America and read this article, please consider what I have said and let this event show you that it is not safe or sound to handle rattle snakes, and I do not believe that God would ask this of you, since it is He who has given you the faith to believe and it is He who desires you to study and show yourself approved (2 Timothy 2: 15) God does not ask you to handle dangerous snakes at the command or influence of dangerous ministers to test your faith. For it is He whom has given faith.

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