I have to be honest and say that I don’t believe that this passage is part of Scripture ‘as originally given‘ — and so having a bible study on it was a little peculiar. Because the reason I try and gather people to study the Bible is that Scripture is God-breathed, and uniquely powerful to cut through our minds’ fuzzy logic and our hearts’ wobbly feelings with the living and active Word of the Lord. And I want to create communities in which there is a contagious culture of fiery faith in all that Scripture teaches, not dodging the difficult doctrines or avoiding the awkward affirmations that the Bible sometimes gives us.
There are of course some fantastic bits in this passage: there’s the Great Commission to preach the gospel to all creation; there’s the promise that the Holy Spirit will confirm the coming of the Kingdom with miraculous signs; there’s the reminder of the simple truth that salvation comes if and only if you believe in Jesus; and of course there’s the resurrection of Jesus witnessed multiple times!
But then there’s the weird bits about drinking poison and messing around with snakes. Which unfortunately undermines how strongly you can press the point with the other things. (Though there are some Pentecostal Christians who embrace snake-handling, God bless them!)
Eating: Bring & Share Picnic
Present: Peter (and parents) & Taryn + Isaac; Linda + Adam; Lucy & Theo, Ryan, (Sophie); Mrittunjoy; Rebecka; Jono, Hannah; (Alyssa, James); (Sandro & Deborah)
Passage: Mark 16:9-20
On that subject…
– In case you missed it in my answer to the relevant question, Wikipedia has a comprehensive account of the various bits of manuscript evidence regarding this passage.
– If you’re interested in the question of the textual reliability of the New Testament more generally, then a twentieth-century scholar called F.F. Bruce wrote the definitive book on the subject: ‘The New Testament Documents: Are They Reliable?’. And it seems that as well as being for sale on Amazon, its text is freely available here.
– And on the subject of snake-handling, here’s a fascinating and somewhat unsympathetic five minute report from CNN: