I recently came across this:

Gal 5:19 Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, Gal 5:20 Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, Gal 5:21 Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.

Would Christianity have me believe in [the existence of] witchcraft, too!?

  • This needs better wording. Perhaps 'What does witchcraft, mean in context here, and how does that meaning translate to us today?' Commented Jun 24, 2013 at 18:25
  • @aceinthehole My question isn't so much, "what does that meaning translate to us today." It's more, "what did they mean by this back then." I want to know, does Galatians expect me to believe in witchcraft. There are some good answers below... Commented Jun 24, 2013 at 18:34
  • @user1477388: In order to ask about "witchcraft" by quoting Gal. 5:20, you'll need to determine if that's the correct meaning of the word. blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/… You'll need to do more than just read the above link. The context in Gal. 5:20 doesn't really help since it's just a list of prohibtied things. It doesn't really help understand what the word actually means in that context.
    – user900
    Commented Jun 24, 2013 at 19:56
  • 1
    Wiccans certainly believe in witchcraft, and practice it. Whether their beliefs are true or not isn't on-topic, of course, but Scripture speaks about seers, divination, oracles, and followers of other things that Wiccans and other pagan religions believe. Whether such things are real doesn't matter. Scripture warns about following any false teaching... Amy teaching contrary to Scriptures, even cunningly devised fables. Commented Jun 24, 2013 at 22:56
  • how about 'What does witchcraft mean in its original context, what would the Galatians in the first century, and Paul have meant by this term'. Commented Jun 24, 2013 at 23:02

5 Answers 5


It wouldn't have you believe in witchcraft it would just have you avoid it.

Whether you believe in it or not is entirely separate from it existing, see this wiki about Ouija boards.

So you don't have to believe that Ouija boards work, I personally don't. However, even though I don't believe they work, I still don't associate with those types of things.

Incidentally this is related to How does one test the spirits and identify false preachers?.

The power of satan is real, just see the story of Moses in Exodus:

7:22 And the magicians of Egypt did so with their enchantments: and Pharaoh's heart was hardened,

Which is why we have tests to know the power of the Lord from the power of the devil.


You have to remember that the worldview of the NT and HB are very different than our own. The use of magic in the Greco-Roman world was more akin to a "Science" than religion. It was a very technical trade that required precision and attention to detail. I'll let you decide whether or not it was actually effectual, I generally don't.

We have gobs of magical texts from all over the Greco-Roman world. The basic purpose of magic was to forceably manipulate the cosmic order by way of incantations or ritual. Magic was a way for people without real power influence their daily lives and combat the powers (whether real or only perceived) which oppressed them. As such, public officials often were the "victims" of magical spells and frequently felt the need to practice counter-magic to remain safe.

It also makes for a fun story.

In other words, you have to think about what is being forbidden; the passage doesn't make any claims about whether magic is effectual (though I suspect many people assumed it was), rather it is about Christians trying to manipulate cosmic forces for their benefit---a job that should be only God's. The so-called Witch of En Dor text actually provides a rather nice negative example in the person of Saul. Because Yahweh stopped speaking to Saul in dreams, he sought a way to circumvent God's silence, by trying to contact Samuel through a medium.


Gal 5:20 Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies,

Strong's G5331




From G5332; medication (“pharmacy”), that is, (by extension) magic (literal or figurative): - sorcery, witchcraft.

Exo 22:18 Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live.

Deu 18:10 There shall not be found among you any one that maketh his son or his daughter to pass through the fire, or that useth divination, or an observer of times, or an enchanter, or a witch,

1Sa 28:7 Then said Saul unto his servants, Seek me a woman that hath a familiar spirit, that I may go to her, and enquire of her. And his servants said to him, Behold, there is a woman that hath a familiar spirit at Endor.

Act 16:16 And it came to pass, as we went to prayer, a certain damsel possessed with a spirit of divination met us, which brought her masters much gain by soothsaying:

Yes the Bible would have you believe that there are people assocated with wicked spirits who might be classified as witches or warlocks. Its very rare. There are those who are commonly called witches in First Samuel and Acts. I did leave off Balem and Simon both warlocks. No witchcraft in Gal 5:20 refers mostly to drug abuse as it is the word from which we get pharmacy its secondary meaning is magical witchcraft.

  • 2
    Magic in the ancient world was more akin to a 'science' than religion---that's why we adopted the word for medicine. Commented Jun 24, 2013 at 20:24
  • @jackweinbender not according to the Bible
    – user4060
    Commented Jun 24, 2013 at 20:32
  • I'm not talking about the Bible, I'm talking about how people actually viewed magic in the ancient world. Commented Jun 24, 2013 at 20:36
  • @jackweinbender i believe the Bible gives us an accurate view on what witcraft actually is and how it was used and viewed
    – user4060
    Commented Jun 24, 2013 at 20:42

The word 'witch' is of Germanic origin. The New Testament was written in Greek, and the real word in the text was 'pharmakeia'. The meaning of that is obvious - the use of drugs. One would suppose this meant mind altering drugs, unless the ancient Israelites were so benighted as to have no medicines.

This has nothing to do with the word 'witch', derived from 'witge' or 'way' and referring to the 'way of the goddess' - the goddess being Inanna, who was beloved in northern Europe before Christianity arrived there. Chaldees in northern Europe - 'wizards' or 'viziers', i.e. 'seers' - worshipped only God (by definition as Chaldees) so they secularized the way of the goddess. It would become known as the 'way of wisdom' in English.

This code of honour was the precursor to modern notions of good form, and its principles were the foundation of pre-Indo European social values in northwestern Europe. Some teachings of wisdom were that you should never be proud or ashamed of anything you have not done yourself, that dignity comes from within and has nothing to do with shallow appearance, that you should never be ashamed of physical defeat, that you should not waste your time trying to be better than everyone else, and other such sterling values. It also taught a deep regard for nature, and an awareness of unsaid truths that lie hidden behind what is declared.

Both the Chaldees and the devotees of Inanna spoke of the 'way' or 'witge' to Germanic people, hoping to teach them their own rules of conduct, but since they had a vast array of medicines (living in a rainforest) the 'way' was assumed to be their medical science rather than their ethical code. Thus it is not surprising that in English translations of the New Testament, 'pharmakeia' came to be translated as 'witchcraft', especially since it was a common practice for Germanic invaders to vilify the inhabitants of regions they took over.


the original word refers to "the use of drugs and effects on the mind" as we get our English word from this Greek word.. for example our word pharmacy is made-up from this Greek word defined from Wuest Studies in the New Testament from Theological Dict. of the New Testament..\ Although many have their "ideas" as they read the words "witchcraft" or sorcery" depending on the translation used, a study of the original word "is possible" and that is actually the correct understanding this word.. "use of drugs which affect the mind" are prohibited by God. It has nothing to do with "magic" or "casting spells" as some might think

  • Welcome to Christianity.SE, Jack. Please take the tour and visit the help center to get an idea for how an SE Q&A site works, and particularly how to write a supported answer. In particular, for this answer, please add in the Greeks terms and phrases that you are referring to as having those meanings. Once again Welcome, and we hope you'll browse and enjoy other questions and answers on this site. :) Commented Nov 27, 2017 at 15:35

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