Acts 28:5

ESV He, however, shook off the creature into the fire and suffered no harm.
NIV But Paul shook the snake off into the fire and suffered no ill effects.
NASB However, Paul shook the creature off into the fire and suffered no harm.
CSB But he shook the snake off into the fire and suffered no harm.
NLT But Paul shook off the snake into the fire and was unharmed.
KJV And he shook off the beast into the fire, and felt no harm.

What does Acts 28:5 mean?

Over the last two years, Paul has been attacked, beaten, falsely imprisoned, storm-tossed, and shipwrecked (Acts 21—27). Now, he's trying to warm himself on a cold and rainy island when a snake of some type grabs his hand. The locals expect Paul to die from this. What they know or think about the snake is unclear, but they would know Paul is a prisoner. They probably aren't up to date on how appealed the false charges since the governors of Judea wouldn't give him justice. For whatever reasons, they determine he must be a murderer: the gods tried to kill him with a storm and are now sending a serpent to finish the job (Acts 28:1–4).

Paul is unperturbed. God has promised that Paul will get to Rome, and Paul does not doubt that promise (Acts 23:11). He nonchalantly shakes the snake off and doesn't drop dead.

At that point, the locals will decide he must be a god (Acts 28:6). Undoubtedly, Paul refutes their conclusion (Acts 14:12–18). However, he uses the opportunity presented to heal the island leader's father and others from the island. The islanders respond by providing the castaways with everything they need for their three-month stay (Acts 28:6–10).

This passage has an interesting tie to the disputed ending of Mark. The earliest, most accurate copies of the gospel of Mark end at Mark 16:8, but other versions continue to verse 20. Mark 16:14–18 purportedly records a version of the Great Commission Jesus gave the disciples which is more authentically provided in Matthew 28:19–20. Mark 16:17–18 includes the phrase, "And these signs will accompany those who believe…they will pick up serpents with their hands." The disputed passage does not contradict any theological truths found in the Bible; casting out demons, speaking in new tongues, healing, and other miracles are authenticated in the early chapters of Acts. The assurance about picking up serpents, however, has led to the dangerous practice of snake-handling. Just because Paul survives this encounter doesn't mean Christians should make snake-handling a habit.
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