Paul, Malta and the snake

Discussion in 'General Baptist Discussions' started by Crabtownboy, Jan 27, 2011.

  1. Crabtownboy

    Crabtownboy
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    I was talking at lunch with one of the Ph.D. students here. She was born on Malta. I asked, "What kind of snake bite Paul? The people with him were amazed his arm did not even sell. They expected him to die."

    She replied, "There are no poisonous snakes on Malta."

    So, why, in your opinion, was the story in Acts written as it was?
    Why were the people amazed that Paul was not harmed?

    I believe there are several good explanations, but I would like to get others take on this event.

    Some believe it was the Leopard Snake that bite Paul.

    [​IMG]



     
    #1 Crabtownboy, Jan 27, 2011
    Last edited by a moderator: Jan 27, 2011
  2. preachinjesus

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    Just because there aren't poisonous snakes now doesn't mean they didn't exist then.

    The Acts story is authentic to Paul's ministry. Honestly if I was living in premodern, pre-scientific times and saw someone get bitten by a snake I knew was deadly I'd be surprised if they didn't immediately fall down and die. :)
     
  3. Crabtownboy

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    That is one possibility. It seems a bit strange to me that the poisonous would have all disappeared while non-poisonous ones are still there.

    I think there are other explanations that are possible.

    Not arguing, just discussing.
     
  4. Amy.G

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    Maybe your friend just doesn't know much about snakes?
     
  5. Crabtownboy

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    I expect she knows. She was born and grew up on Malta. Let's give her the benefit of the doubt. What explanations can you think of that would explain why the story is written as it is. Thanks.
     
  6. freeatlast

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    The answer is simple. all the snakes disappeared at some point for a period of years. Then as ships and people came in new varieties of non poisonous were brought in through trade and commerce.
     
  7. preachinjesus

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    Well certainly there are other options. One could reasonably assert that over the last 2,000 years micro-evolutionary changes have pushed the poisonous snakes out and kept the non-venomous.

    Or at one point the citizens could have had a snake whacking day (I'm thinking of a Simpsons episode here) and killed all the poisonous snakes.

    Or it could have been a stowaway on a ship that happened to find Paul.

    There are, essentially, limitless possibilities (within reason.) Ah the good ole use of abductive reasoning. :)

    Me too! :thumbsup:
     
  8. glfredrick

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    A very quick search returned some results about Maltese snakes (current) including this:

    And this:


    In addition, there have been vipers sighted on Malta, wit the last "officially registered" sighting occuring in 1853.

    I would not bet against the Bible story myself...
     
  9. sag38

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    Cat Snakes are poisonous and are found on Malta but are not indigenous. They could have been on the island during Paul's days. Their fangs are in the rear of their mouth offering a chewing type bite. I'm not sure of their toxicity. In recent years they were accidentally introduced to the island of Guam and have wreaked havoc with the eco system there.
     
  10. Amy.G

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    The story is written as it is because it is true. I don't mean to sound flippant, but if God's word says it, it is true. I don't question the indigenous nature of Malta. I don't have to. Maybe that's over simplified, but that's me. :)
     
  11. Crucified in Christ

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    F.F. Bruce writes it better than I can so I will defer to him:

    What kind of snake was it? The Greek word means “viper.” But we are told that there are no vipers, or indeed poisonous snakes of any kind, in Malta today. That, however, is not a conclusive argument. “The objections which have been advanced, that there are now no vipers in the island, and only one place where any wood grows, are too trivial to deserve notice. Such changes are natural and probable in a small island, populous and long civilized.” One might compare Ireland, which has been free from snakes for long centuries, although tradition asserts that they were once plentiful there until they were banished—by St. Patrick (according to the Christian account) or by Fionn MacCumhail (according to the earlier pagan legend). When we read that this snake “fastened on” Paul’s hand, we must understand that it bit him, if it was indeed a viper, since vipers do not coil.
     
  12. sag38

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    Vipers do coil up unless there is a difference between a pit viper and a viper. I assume they are one in the same. Rattlesnakes, cotton mouths, copperheads, bushmasters, furdelances, etc. mainly coil up before striking. However, they do not wrap around their victims as constrictors do. Is that what you mean by coiling up.
     
  13. Crucified in Christ

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    Sag38- I would ask the author what he meant by coiling up, but it will have to wait till I meet him one day in glory as he has taken up residence with our Lord.
     
  14. North Carolina Tentmaker

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    Do we have to accept the fact that the snake was poisonous? Does the Bible say that it was? KJVO folks may not like this but here are the facts.

    Acts 28:3-8
    [3] And when Paul had gathered a bundle of sticks, and laid them on the fire, there came a viper out of the heat, and fastened on his hand.
    [4] And when the barbarians saw the venomous beast hang on his hand, they said among themselves, No doubt this man is a murderer, whom, though he hath escaped the sea, yet vengeance suffereth not to live.
    [5] And he shook off the beast into the fire, and felt no harm.
    [6] Howbeit they looked when he should have swollen, or fallen down dead suddenly: but after they had looked a great while, and saw no harm come to him, they changed their minds, and said that he was a god.

    There are two places here where we are told it was a poisonous snake. In verse 3 the snake is called a viper and vipers are poisonous. The Greek word here is χιδνα or echidna. The KJV translates it “viper” every time it is used, but it only refers to a snake in this verse. Every other time the Bible uses this word it is part of the phrase “generation of vipers” and refers to wicked men. No other place in the Bible does echidna refer to a reptile.

    In verse 4 we read that the barbarians saw the “venomous beast” hang from his hand. That looks pretty clear in the KJV, but the word venomous does not actually occur in verse 4 but is a translators addition. That is why it is in italics. The Greek word translated “the venomous beast” is the word θηρον or therion. This word occurs 46 times in scripture and is translated beast or wild beast every other time. This is the same word translated “beast” in verse 5. Most times this word refers to mammals.

    So when we look at the Greek there is no need to believe that this was in fact a venomous snake. The fact that the people with Paul thought the snake was venomous and expected him to die is clear, but the bible does NOT say that the snake was poisonous. At least not until 1611 it didn’t.

    If you want to believe it was a poisonous snake you can, the Bible does not clearly say it was not, but a belief that it was a poisonous snake is not required if you believe the Bible literally.
     
  15. Crucified in Christ

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    I see your points, but I would wonder why the Holy Spirit, through Luke, would include this account if it simply recalled a non-poisonous snake biting Paul with the result that Paul didn't die. Of course, under these circumstances, Paul didn't die. This would also make us speculate as to why the residents of Malta would have been so sure that it was a poisonous viper if it was not a poisonous snake. Their response, that Paul must have been given a death sentence by God, only makes sense if the people clearly saw the snake and recognized it as a poisonous type. Given these points, I think that it is much more logical to believe that there was a poisonous snake on the Island at that time (something that we have reports of elsewhere) and that it was well known for its deadly effect.
     
  16. North Carolina Tentmaker

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    That is of course certainly possible CiC. And there are many accounts of people being bitten by poisonous snakes and either not getting an injection of venom or not having a reaction to it. God certainly could have done it that way. But if we judge by the misinformation on snakes today, many people think they are all poisonous today. I had a call once from a woman who had an “Egyptian Adder” in her holly bush in Tennessee. Of course it turned out to be a rat snake.

    If you want to believe Paul was bitten by a common snake and God used that to give Paul an opportunity to witness to the natives of the Island, then that is compatible with scripture. If you want to believe Paul was bitten by a poisonous snake and God spared his life for the same purpose that is compatible as well. Either option is miraculous.

    The fact that poisonous snakes may not live on Malta today or did not in Paul’s time is irrelevant to the story or the authority and accuracy of scripture. That is my point anyway.
     
  17. luke1616

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    Makes me wonder why we question the bible whether the snake was really poisonous or not. The point is as believers the Holy Spirit can so fill us that a viper cannot effect us. The power of God is awesome!
     
  18. Luke2427

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    He can and he has. Paul's survival here is a fulfillment of one of your favorite passages of Scripture, Mark 16, imo.

    That it was going to come to pass as Christ declared in Mark 16 is proven by Paul's survival in Meleta.

    But to purport that these things are God's normative way of moving his church forward in every age is quite adolescent, imo.
     
  19. Iconoclast

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    Signs of an apostle were used by God as foundational for the church.It is not happening today.I believe the scriptural account...not some girl from malta.
     
  20. Crucified in Christ

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    Point taken...God's grace in bringing the gospel to new people is an amazing thing!
     

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