This blog gains its name from the book Steele's Answers published in 1912. It began as an effort to blog through that book, posting each of the Questions and Answers in the book in the order in which they appeared. I began the project on Dec. 10, 2011. I completed it on July 11, 2015. Along the way, I began to also post snippets from Dr. Steele's other writings — and from some other holiness writers of his times. I still do that every once in a while.

Monday, February 17, 2014

On Mark 16:17, 18 (The Snake Handling Verses)

QUESTION: Is Mark 16:17, 18 to be taken in its literal meaning? If so, have not all believers the power to cast out devils, to heal the sick, to drink deadly poisons and handle rattlesnakes without harm?

ANSWER: The Revision informs the reader that the last twelve verses of Mark are not in the two oldest manuscripts, and that some authorities have a different ending to his Gospel. Most of the experts regard it as "an apocryphal fragment" (Meyer) and that "the internal evidence is very weighty against Mark being the author." (Alford.) No less than twenty-one words and phrases occur in these verses, and some of them several times, which are never elsewhere used by Mark. For this reason I have for more than thirty years conscientiously refrained from quoting any part of this passage as a proof-text of any doctrine. It is thought that either he left his Gospel unfinished, having died in the middle of a sentence, or what is more probable, that the last part of his manuscript was accidentally torn off before any copies were made. In India a favorite method of annoying the missionary preaching in the open air is to bring him a cobra, whose bite is fatal, and ask him to handle it in proof of the truth of his sacred books. The grave doubt of the genuineness of this passage affords him a good reason for declining this test. We look in vain in the Acts of the Apostles for any instance of drinking poison or picking up snakes to demonstrate the divine origin of Christianity.

Steele's Answers p. 105, 106.