How are we to interpret this?


Hello everyone,

My 18 year old son asked me about this passage, and I have no answer to offer him. Can anyone help? Jesus said if believers “drink any deadly thing, it will not harm them”, etc. How are we to interpret this?

Mark 16:15-18
Jesus appeared to the Eleven and said to them:
“Go into the whole world
and proclaim the Gospel to every creature.
Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved;
whoever does not believe will be condemned.
These signs will accompany those who believe:
in my name they will drive out demons,
they will speak new languages.
They will pick up serpents with their hands,
and if they drink any deadly thing, it will not harm them.
They will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.”


I’m not a big believer in, “well that’s the long ending of Mark so don’t worry about it.” I believe that passage to be inspired, and if you’re comfortable telling your son that it may not even belong in the Bible then that’s up to you. I can assume that answer will be here but I don’t agree with it.

My answer is that Jesus was telling the truth here. Multiple times Jesus made outrageous claims that have never happened and will never happen because no one truly has that amount of faith.

Matthew 21:18 In the morning, as he was returning to the city, he became hungry.

19 And seeing a fig tree by the wayside, he went to it and found nothing on it but only leaves. And he said to it, "May no fruit ever come from you again! " And the fig tree withered at once.

20 When the disciples saw it, they marveled, saying, "How did the fig tree wither at once? "

21 And Jesus answered them, "Truly, I say to you, if you have faith and do not doubt, you will not only do what has been done to the fig tree, but even if you say to this mountain, 'Be taken up and thrown into the sea, ’ it will happen.

22 And whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive, if you have faith. "

Withering fig trees, moving mountains, drinking poison, healing the sick, walking on water, etc. All are possible with Faith, but who truly has that kind of Faith?


This is from the Navarre Bible commentary:

‘In the early days of the Church, public miracles of this kind happened frequently. There are numerous historical records of these events in the New Testament (cf., e.g., Acts 3:1-11; 28:3-6) and in other Christian writings. It was very fitting that this should be so, for it gave visible proof of the truth of Christianity. Miracles of this type still occur, but much more seldom; they are very exceptional. This, too, is fitting because, on the one hand, the truth of Christianity has been attested to enough; and, on the other, it leaves room for us to merit through faith. St. Jerome comments: “Miracles were necessary at the beginning to confirm the people in faith. But, once the faith of the Church is confirmed, miracles are not necessary” (Comm. on Mark, in loc.). However, God still works miracles through saints in every generation, including our own.’


Of course, as the OP is Catholic, they have no option to eliminate any part of Scripture for any reason.

And Jesus, being God, cannot lie, He is always telling the Truth. This is also not up for debate by Catholics.

From the above two points we can draw the conclusion that:
a) everything attributed to Jesus in the Bible was actually said by Jesus
b) everything said by Jesus is true.

I’m not criticizing your answer, only trying to give a Catholic perspective for the OP. Your point about people lacking the Faith necessary is a good one. :thumbsup:

God bless.


Tell him to avoid ingesting deadly things just the same. Jesus also said “Do not put the Lord your God to the test.”


This has to be taken in full context, not just on it’s own. For one it certainly is not a reason to go out and partake of anything that is known to be harmful. It does however reveal God’s power and care for us.

If I recall correctly this passage relates to an event in which imprisoned disciples were given a poisonous supply of food or drink. (Sorry I need to re-read the whole thing and be off on some point here.) By prayer the effects of the poison were taken away.

I wish I could remember the exact case of this documented to have happened in more recent times. But the whole outcome is prayer is answered by God and he can and will protect us from harm, even attempts on our lives, if it is His will.

In all I think the passage refers to our trust in God, our need for prayer and the belief that he will protect us even from the most deadly of events according to His will and design.


Great question!

well, than maybe we are not following his word correctly, it seems strange to me NOT ONE person in modern time can do anything remotely close to these things…so you are implying NOT ONE person alive today has the amount of faith required for such things? Maybe we are all truly lost then?


You’re just not reading the right things about the right people.


Jesus said that those who believe WILL do these things. He did not sat that they had to have an extraordinary amount of faith, or extraordinary knowledge and He did say that these abilities would come to an end.

There is a problem here and avoiding it does no one any good. I have to also point out that Jesus does not say how poisonous, how lethal…He gives no degrees, no species, how many or how powerful the demons are, what kind of language.

I have seen people handle snakes, be bitten and survive without treatment, seen people claim to speak in tongues…Haven’t seen demons


FYI: From CNN-Snake handlers of Appalachia. Strangely, I was in the play “Holy Ghost” in college, about a church that worshiped this way. I seem to recall that a person can build a resistance to the venom if they are not extremely allergic.


St Mark is presenting a list of extraordinary gifts or charisms of the Holy Spirit that some Christians will receive. The *Catechism of the Catholic Church *briefly mentions extraordinary gifts of the Holy Spirit in paragraph 2003 in its discussion on Grace. St Paul presents a similar list of extraordinary gifts in 1 Corinthians, chap.12. As St Paul explains, not every believer receives such gifts. Rather, the gifts are distributed throughout the Church as the Holy Spirit wills. Saints throughout Church history have exhibited such extraordinary gifts. Reading through Acts and his letters, St Paul seems to have received all of the gifts mentioned by St Mark, except perhaps the one dealing with poison. If memory serves, someone tried to kill St Anthony of Padua by secretly poisoning his drink. The saint consumed his drink but was unharmed by the poison.


There are some do literally do these things, and Jesus is directing these words to the Church as a whole and not to each individual believer. But if you want to make it so that it addresses each individual, here’s how I would take it:

These signs will accompany those who believe:
in my name they will drive out demons,

Ok, obviously not everyone who believes is an exorcist. But those who believe in Jesus have no need to fear demons because they have the Cross as their protection. According to CCC 434 demons fear the name of Jesus. Demons are in a sense “driven out” from them because Christ protects them.

  • they will speak new languages.*

The language of faith, which can be expressed in many ways.

They will pick up serpents with their hands,

Signifying the power believers have over evil and demons (the serpents!) because of Christ.

  • and if they drink any deadly thing, it will not harm them.*

Encountering erroneous teachings won’t harm them spiritually if they hold fast to the Cross.

They will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.

Believers will preach their faith by word and deed to the “sick”, or those who don’t have (a strong) faith, and will contribute to the “recovery” of the world from sin.



Well, I forgot to say I have seen snake handling churches further down in KY, they seem to handle highly poisonous snakes quite often with no one being killed (that often, as I have heard of 1 or 2 being killed by this on rare occasion), they also drink arsenic and hold blow torches right up to their skin and somehow come out totally unaffected, so I assume these people ARE indeed being blessed by God, because I can tell you, if I held a torch next to my skin, I would have serious burns!! I would love to know how these people, who many make fun of btw, develop this level of faith…it is truly amazing!

I was mostly referring to people at other christian parishes though, Ive never seen anyone from a non-snake handling church get away with such things.


Faith is in God.
Matt 14:28 “Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.” 9 “Come,” he said. Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. 30 But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!” 31 Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?”
As one’s relationship with and faith in God deepens, one will accomplish miraculous things doing His will.


Deliberate exhibitions for frivolous purposes have nothing to do with the Scripture passage.
My brother has been in mission work his whole adult life (after graduating college) - and spent most of those years in Africa. One late night in Africa, while heading back to his house, he stepped on something. Looking down he saw it was a large, very deadly snake. I can’t remember for certain if his foot had come down in a way that it held the snake’s head or if he had a walking stick and was able to hold the head. Either way, he held it while someone got a machete and cut off the snake’s head. He told me the passage posted by the OP went through his head right after. (Epilogue: He had the snake skinned and then put in a frame. It was really pretty. He gave it to mother to keep for him until he was home in the USA permanently. She had it for years and everyone saw it when entering her house.) My brother is still living.

You may never see one of the events in the Scripture passage; the passage doesn’t promise that everyone will see one.


Don’t believe this, despite what you think you saw. This is trickery and unfounded nonsense. We are to put our faith in God and it is possible for him to protect us from even deadly snakes, poison and other dangers. But what you are describing here is nothing more than magic tricks.

There have been plenty of times in my life that by all appearances I should have died. But by the grace of God I didn’t. For example: coming out of a head-on car accident without a scratch (and I was driving), a near drowning, serious medical issues, almost being hit by two semi trucks as I walked across the street against a red light. If we stop to think about various events in our lives, with just a bit of reflection, we might all be surprised to discover how many times God has saved us from death, injury or illness, being abducted or attacked…you name it.

Every single day has miracles in it that all of us tend to miss because we are looking for something spectacular and showy. Wrong place to look.


There were signs given to the early Church by way of the Apostles which aimed to help folks accept the Apostle’s message, and therefore the Gospel of Christ. We can call these signs motives of credibility in the early Church.

To put it more simply: Jesus gave the Apostles the ability to perform certain signs so that people could trust them.

Whether or not these signs exist today go beyond the text, and so are irrelevant to interpreting its literal sense.


If Jesus said, Do not test the Lord, your God, then I would say that those who are testing Him by doing these things are not being protected by their faith. They are being led and fooled by Satan to do exactly what Jesus specifically does not want us to do. Satan does not want us to follow Jesus, so he tricks these people into interpreting Scripture to their own understanding and in turn misleading others because they think it is faith in God, but instead it is being misled by Satan.


Well, another verse tells people it is ok to pick up serpents and similar things…??


Some of it probably is trickery, but not all of it.

How do you describe someone who holds a blowtorch up to their skin and nothing happens, and their skin remains normal and healthy?

I could understand the trickery when they drink poison, as it could be anything in the bottle, but with a torch, the fire is clearly present and we all know fire and skin do not mix well.

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