"The Snake Salvation" reality star and pastor of the Full Gospel Tabernacle in Jesus Name Church of Middlesboro, KY, Jamie Coots, died Saturday of a snake bite. Kentucky.com reported on Feb. 16 that he was pronounced dead about two hours after the rattlesnake sunk it's fangs into his right hand. Coots' son, Cody, said, "It was the quickest snakebite I ever seen in my life."
Coots believed snake handling commanded by God
Coots believed the rare Christian tradition of snake handling is commanded by God. When asked where his belief came from he explained it was a Pentecostal holiness belief taken from the text of the 16 chapter of Mark.
"And these signs will accompany those who believe: In My name they will drive out demons; they will speak in new languages; they will pick up snakes; if they should drink anything deadly, it will never harm them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will get well" (Mark 16:17-18 HCSB)
Jamie Coots had served as pastor of the Middlesboro church since 1994 maintaining a family tradition that spanned 100 years dating back to when his grandfather had built the church. Handling deadly snakes in the name of God was part of every church service.
“To me it’s as much of a commandment from God when he said, ‘they shall take up serpents’ as it was when he ‘thou shall not commit adultery.” Jamie Coots on Snake Salvation
Refused medical treatment
After being bitten by the rattler during a church service, Pastor Jamie Coots refused to go to the hospital or accept medical treatment according to police. In one episode of the show, Coots had said “When I first started church I said if I ever went to a hospital or a doctor over a snake bite I would quit church.”
Is snake handling really biblical? When digging deeper into Mark 18, we find the phrase "will pick up" is only used once in the entire Bible and comes from the Greek airō which has a variety of meanings including "to raise up, elevate, lift up." However, according to Strong's Lexicon other meanings include:
- To bear away what has been raised, carry off (remove)
- Take from among the living, either by a natural death or by violence (kill)
Applying these meanings to snake handling would mean removing or killing the snakes.
Along with this, there are some who question whether Mark chapter 16, verses 9-20 belong in the Bible as some of the oldest manuscripts do not contain these verses. Other manuscripts set these verses apart from the rest of the text. As a result, it is not wise to base a doctrine or practice solely on this single use of a phrase that has more than one meaning.