A criminal refugee who landed in Malta by boat, St Paul defines Malta’s Catholic roots and – more importantly – is the man that rid the island of venomous snakes (somehow).
However, this may never have actually taken place on the island after a Maltese scholar suggested that it actually took place in a completely different part of the Mediterranean.
Don’t be so shocked; St Patrick also has a similar origin story back in Ireland.
So intrinsically tied to Maltese identity and religion, we were all told ad nauseam that no venomous snakes lived on the island due to St Paul’s miraculous intervention (either through preaching or just merely by throwing the thing in the fire with his blessed hand).
However, Pawlu’s daring move appears to be the primary source of doubt for Stephan Mifsud
Speaking to Aletea, Mifsud, who studies Maltese fauna and flora, says there have never been any records of poisonous snakes on the islands that had gone extinct.
But hey, Malta, is mentioned in the bible, right? Well, centuries of translations simply landed on the name of Melita for the island St Paul landed one.
Rather than bask in our solitary biblical mention, Mifsud points to the similarly sounding island of Meleda or Mljet. Located off the coast of Croatia, the island was once so heavily infested by the Vipera ammodytes, a type of viper, that a mongoose was introduced to help cull the species.
“The symptoms of a bite by this viper coincide with those reported in the Acts,” Mifsud says, “immediate ‘swelling’ due to hemorrhagic oedema, ‘falling down’ due to faintness/dizziness, followed by circulatory shock, pulmonary congestion and internal bleeding, all of which would lead to death if not treated properly.”
“Maltese traditionalists have come up with several complicated nautical, archaeological and other arguments to discount the Adriatic Melita as St. Paul’s island, in favour of Malta,” he says. “Unfortunately the clear biological evidence proves otherwise.”