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Of the five NT occurrences, four are in the expression “a generation of vipers” KJV; “brood of vipers” RSV, used by John the Baptist (Matt 3:7; Luke 3:7) and by the Lord in different contexts (Matt 12:34; 23:33). Reference is clearly to dangerous snakes, while the words “generation” and “brood” suggest the batch of young vipers which emerge from the mother, anything from a dozen or so in smaller species to fifty or more in the giant vipers. The remaining reference is the only literal one (Acts 28:3), where Paul is bitten by a snake. This is traditionally identified as the common viper of the Mediterranean, but today there are no venomous snakes on Malta. It is possible that the viper has become extinct since Paul visited the island, but it is also possible that the species concerned was harmless. In undeveloped countries even today all snakes are regarded as poisonous and a “bite” by even a non-poisonous species can result in severe shock. Viper is almost synonymous with adder (q.v.). See also Serpent.

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)

See Serpent.

See also

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