They Shall Take Up Serpents
By Mildred Garner
“They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover,” Mark 16:18.
A careful study of word meaning is an absolute must to the sincere Christian if they wish to come into a clear understanding of Yahweh's word. The misunderstanding of one word in a sentence can rob us of many blessings. In fact, it can cost us our life. For example, the misunderstanding of the Greek word “airo,” translated “take up” in the above scripture is the reason that many Christians have taken up serpents in their religious services. Many sincere Christians have been bitten by these snakes and more than a few have died. Though Mark16:18 is the only place where airo is used in this manner, there are other places in the Bible where this word is used. It is always wise to search the scriptures before one arrives at a final conclusion as to what is being said in the text.
Airo is often used in the Bible as taking away, removing, or destroying, without any suggestion of caging and handling. Matthew 24:39 used it in speaking of the waters sweeping the people away in the days of Noah. It is translated away with him in Luke 23:18 where sinners were rejecting Christ and wished to have him crucified.
Here are more examples of where and how this word is used in the Bible:
Luke 6:29: “And him that ‘taketh away’ (airo) thy cloak forbid not to take away thy coat also.” Here the taking away is a violent or aggressive act.
Luke 11:22: “But when a stronger than he shall come upon him, and overcome him, he ‘taketh (airo)’ from him all his armor wherein he trusted.” Here again, airo is shown to be an aggressive act of taking something away by force.
John 11:48: “If we let him (Christ) alone, all men will believe on him; and the Romans shall come and ‘take away’ (airo) both our place and nation.” This also is suggesting a violent or aggressive action.
The statement in John 10:18 is made by the Lord concerning His crucifixion, saying, “No man ‘taketh’ (airo) it (my life) from me, but I lay it down of myself.” Here “airo” is used in describing a violent and aggressive act of taking away a person's life.
Again John uses airo to narrate the story of the trial and crucifixion of our precious Savior: “And it was the preparation of the passover, and about the sixth hour: and he saith unto the Jews, Behold your King! But they cried out, ‘away’ (airo) with him, ‘away’ (airo) with him, crucify him. Pilate saith unto them, Shall I crucify your King? The chief priests answered, We have no king but Caesar,” John 19:14-15.
Airo is found in other ancient Greek writings and with the same meaning as the Scripture uses it, and there is not one instance in the New Testament where believers demonstrated their faith by snake charming. In fact, the only place in the New Testament where a Christian experienced an encounter with a reptile was when Paul was bitten by one. In this, the miracle was not in Paul's ability to handle snakes without being bitten, but of accidentally being bitten and feeling no ill effects afterwards (Acts 28:5).
The serpent is a symbol of evil. What our Savior would have us to understand by the statement he made in Mark 16:18, is that we are to have power over the most dreaded forces, not just to endure them, but to take, or cast them away. That is, we should remove them, not cage them to handle in church services.