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A Talking Snake? Bible Answer Man Hints That What Many Pastors Teach Isn’t Exactly True

talking snake
Screen grab from YouTube: @Bible Answer Man

In a new short video, “Bible Answer Man” host Hank Hanegraaff tackles the question of whether Satan, as a serpent, actually spoke words to Eve in the Garden of Eden. The issue arose again, he says, as he was reading a critique of a new Christian apologetics book. That author “supposes that if we take Genesis literally, then we have to believe that Eve was deceived by a talking snake,” Hanegraaff says, which “is far from true.”

Through his answer, Hanegraaff explains what it really means to read Scripture literally—and why that distinction is important.

Talking Snake? Woodenly Literal vs. Obvious and Natural

Hanegraaff, president of the Christian Research Institute, says it’s important to distinguish between being “woodenly literal” and looking at the biblical author’s intentions “in the most obvious and natural sense.” Reading Scripture literally, he says, “is to read it as literature,” which means interpreting it “just as we interpret other forms of communication.”

Assuming that the serpent spoke aloud in Genesis 3 ignores the author’s intent, says Hanegraaff. “When Moses uses this symbolism of a snake, we do violence to his intentions if we interpret him in a woodenly literal fashion. When Moses is describing Satan as a serpent, or, for that matter, when the apostle John describes Satan as a dragon, we don’t intend that what he is trying to tell us is what Satan looks like. Rather, both authors, the apostle John and Moses, want to teach us what Satan is like.”

He continues, “Dragons, after all, are the stuff of mythology, not theology. If we think of Satan as either a slithering snake or a fire-breathing dragon, we not only misunderstand the nature of fallen angels, but we also suppose that Jesus triumphed over the work of the devil by stepping on the head of a snake. Of course, he triumphed through his Passion on the cross.”

Hank Hanegraaff: Intention and Meaning Are Key

To answer the question at hand, Hanegraaff concludes, “Eve was not deceived by a talking snake. Rather, Moses used the symbol of a snake to communicate the wiles of the evil one who deceived Eve through mind-to-mind communication, just as he seeks to deceive [us] today.”

Understanding the literal principle of biblical interpretation is important for all Christians, emphasizes Hanegraaff. “We read the Bible just as we do other literature,” he says. “We interpret it not in a wooden, literalistic sense but in the sense in which it is intended.”

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Stephanie Martin, a freelance journalist, has worked in Christian publishing for 28 years. She’s active at her church in Lakewood, Colorado, where she lives with her family.