If the bible opposes the practice of magic does this mean its claims of "magic" are literally real (as opposed to metaphorically)?

If so, is there scientific proof of the existence of "magic"? Is there an explanation of what "magic" is in the first place?

  • Removing side discussion, which can be summarised as "in Christianity, magic and miracles are very different things", vs "they are not demonstrably different from a scientific perspective" Commented Mar 28, 2012 at 6:34

4 Answers 4


The Bible also opposes idolatry, even though the prophets say that an idol is nothing but a thing made out of wood and precious metal.

as Psalm 135 says:

The idols of the nations are silver and gold, made by the hands of men. 16 They have mouths, but cannot speak, eyes, but they cannot see; 17 they have ears, but cannot hear, nor is there breath in their mouths. 18 Those who make them will be like them, and so will all who trust in them.

Or as Jeremiah says,

People who worship idols are stupid and foolish. The things they worship are made of wood!

Any quick concordance search will show that "worthless" and "idols" show up a lot! So, if there is no power in an idol, why does God make such a big deal over it? Because of it's effect on the idol worshiper!

The problem with magic isn't so much the "magic," but rather the senseless chasing after another power. When, in Acts 8, Simon the magician wanted to purchase this power, Peters reaction was that he didn't understand what God was.

As Luke writes it in Acts,

 9 Now for some time a man named Simon had practiced sorcery in the city and amazed all the people of Samaria. He boasted that he was someone great, 10 and all the people, both high and low, gave him their attention and exclaimed, “This man is rightly called the Great Power of God.” 11 They followed him because he had amazed them for a long time with his sorcery. 12 But when they believed Philip as he proclaimed the good news of the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women. 13 Simon himself believed and was baptized. And he followed Philip everywhere, astonished by the great signs and miracles he saw ...

18 When Simon saw that the Spirit was given at the laying on of the apostles’ hands, he offered them money 19 and said, “Give me also this ability so that everyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit.

20 Peter answered: “May your money perish with you, because you thought you could buy the gift of God with money! 21 You have no part or share in this ministry, because your heart is not right before God. 22 Repent of this wickedness and pray to the Lord in the hope that he may forgive you for having such a thought in your heart. 23 For I see that you are full of bitterness and captive to sin

To this same end, magic is not an opposing force to God, but is rather a red herring that keeps them from Him.

  • Help me understand, from your interpretation, "magic" is just the pursuit of power and nothing more?
    – rpeg
    Commented Mar 26, 2012 at 22:10
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    At least in Acts 8, yes. Commented Mar 26, 2012 at 22:11
  • So are you saying that the Bible does not imply that magic is real? That was the actual question... it seems that's what you're saying, but I wonder if it could be stated a bit more explicitly.
    – Flimzy
    Commented Sep 5, 2013 at 7:13

The basic idea behind the practice of magic is to use supernatural means to acquire power or knowledge not normally available. While opinions definitely differ from one branch of Christianity to another with regard to whether magic is literally real, the basic principle that makes it offensive is the idea that a person is trying to subvert the natural order that God has established.

This goes back to the transgression of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden: God gave them a commandment about the way they should behave, and then Satan tempted them with an alternative plan, telling them that it would produce better results for them.

The other thing about it is that the practice of magic frequently seeks to duplicate the effects of miracles brought about by God's power. For example, Isaiah spoke against going to diviners for revelations, as the proper source of such knowledge is the Lord. And in the New Testament, we have the account of Jewish exorcists seeking to duplicate the miracles of Paul, and the time when a sorcerer saw the power that the Lord had given to Peter, and asked to buy this power from him.

In all these cases, the common thread is seeking the effects of the power of God without actually going through the Lord and complying with his commandments. It's no surprise that God looks unfavorably on such practices; no one likes a counterfeiter!

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    As my kids would say, Jinx! You owe me a soda! Same exact tack to both our answers! Commented Mar 26, 2012 at 22:26
  • "to use supernatural means to acquire power". If that's how it's defined, is there any proof for the existence of magic according to your definition?
    – rpeg
    Commented Mar 26, 2012 at 22:30
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    As Arthur C. Clarke famously said, "Any technology, sufficiently advanced, is indistinguishable from magic." Commented Mar 27, 2012 at 0:44
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    @MasonWheeler As much as I hate to give a point to rpeg, Jannes and Jambres were able to match Aaron's magic trick of turning the rod into a snake. Unlike their tricks, however, Aaron's was able to swallow up their snakes, so we may be able to discount that. Commented Mar 27, 2012 at 0:46
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    @MasonWheeler "It's not magic to you because you know how it works. But 2000 years ago, it would have been magic to everyone." Couldn't the same be said about the origin of the species?
    – rpeg
    Commented Mar 27, 2012 at 3:27

If you ever get a chance, I recommend An Exorcist Tells His Story. It spends a good deal of time going into now not only is magic real, but it is always made the power of some demon. Miracles, he testifies, have tangible and direct counterparts (though miracles will win in the end).

As to proofs, well, there is as much proof for magic as there is for miracles. It does not meet scientific rigor, but that does not mean that they do not exist or that they have not happened.

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    Not sure what the down vote was for. This is the only answer which actually has anything even remotely close to actual, tangible, reference to events. Commented Mar 27, 2012 at 17:56

Not necessarily. Magic can also mean magical thinking, which is even a real danger / temptation for a Christian. If someone prays, or lights a candle, or donates to charity, or asks a saint to intervene, or more drastically, kisses a relic only in order to have a "sure way" to grant his/her own wishes, that can be regarded as magical thinking. Especially if you think/believe that with your prayer/ritual/whatever you can actually force or trick God to grant you something.

Magic is when you perform some ritual for a supernatural outcome which you believe should be under your control. It doesn't matter if that supernatural outcome is really possible, it's enough if you believe it to be possible by the means you are trying. This is drastically against Christian teaching, where everything God gives you, He gives you out of grace, and not because you forced Him to do so.

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