We read in Acts 28 how St. Paul survived the bite of a deadly viper in the Island Melita. In fact, we seldom come across Christian missionaries, pastors, or clergymen getting killed by snakebite. One exception is the case of Jamie Coot, the Pentecost pastor of Kentucky who was bitten to death by the rattlesnake he was handling during a service in Feb, 2014. One is inclined to believe that Christian pastors and clergymen, including those working in forested areas, enjoy a sort of God-given privilege, as was the case of St Paul, against death due to snake-bite. However, this assumption needs to be checked for factual veracity.

Have there been reports of death of Christian pastors or clergymen on account of snakebite in the history of the Church?


1 Answer 1


There appears to be evidence to show some Pentecostal pastors have died as a result from handling snakes during religious services:

The handling of venomous snakes has significant risks. Ralph Hood observes, "If you go to any serpent-handling church, you'll see people with atrophied hands, and missing fingers. All the serpent-handling families have suffered such things".[20] Jamie Coots, a pastor who subsequently died from a snakebite, said, "Handlers get bitten all the time, and every few years someone dies".[38]

Various figures for the total number of deaths from snakebite during religious services have been proposed:

"over 100 documented deaths" (2003) by Ralph Hood.[20]

"around 120" (2005) by Robert Winston.[39]

"about 100 deaths" (2013) by Julia Duin, a journalist who has covered snake handling churches and is writing a book on the subject.[40]

"91 documented snake bite deaths" (2015) by Paul Williamson, professor of psychology at Henderson State University and co-author of books with Ralph Hood.[41]

Another source indicates that 35 people died between 1936 and 1973.

This practice is prevelant in some Holiness or Pentecostal churches is parts of the United States.

Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Snake_handling_in_Christianity#Risks

  • While this answer is not entirely useless, individuals flaunting God's presumed protection are hardly evidence against that protection existing where someone is not deliberately trying to abuse it. "You shall not put the Lord your God to the test" (Deuteronomy 6:16).
    – Matthew
    Jun 1, 2023 at 12:53
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    Matthew, the question asks if pastors or clergymen have been killed by snake bites. It does not ask for any opinion of whether these individuals are flaunting or abusing God's presumed protection. I agree with you that we must not put the Lord our God to the test. Perhaps the O.P. needs to edit the question?
    – Lesley
    Jun 1, 2023 at 13:15
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    To clarify: I have attributed the absence or rarity of snake- bite death of clergymen , to divine intervention as was evident in the case of St Paul. Thus, my question is on bite by snakes that roam around in nature, and not by those kept in captivity for dubious purposes. Jun 1, 2023 at 13:40
  • I belong to a tropical area where churches and residence of priests are very prone to approach by snakes ( And of course, the church mice are not as poor as the proverb says !). Many priests are also required to walk through forested terrain on their pastoral job. But never in my life have I heard of death of a priest or pastor on account of snake- bite, though many die in road accidents . Hence my question. Jun 1, 2023 at 13:47
  • The original Question seeks to investigate whether "Christian pastors and clergymen, including those working in forested areas, enjoy a sort of God-given privilege, as was the case of St Paul, against death due to snake-bite". Since it seems a valid question whether such protection, if real, would extend to individuals trying to flaunt it, observing that it does not, while not irrelevant, isn't really a complete Answer. (Con't...)
    – Matthew
    Jun 1, 2023 at 14:20

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