Vol. 6, No. 1
~ Page 8 ~
[Biblical Notes Quarterly. Vol. 6, No. 1. January-March 2002, 4-5.]
Sorcery -- the word conjures (no pun intended) numerous images that fire our imaginations: spells cast in unknown tongues by gray bearded wizards, malevolent witches, otherworldly forces, runes read by candlelight, eerie chants, powerful talismans, mysterious potions, voodoo dolls, magic amulets, hexes, flying broomsticks, dark nights, mist shrouded cemeteries, full moons, ghosts, cauldrons bubbling in the shadows, eye of newt, wing of bat and all of that. No doubt, we owe much of our perception to Hollywood, but from early times, sorcery has been a real evil to be reckoned with. It was a bane of the Canaanites, and God, in no uncertain terms, forbade Israel to have anything to do with it.
There shall not be found among you anyone who makes his son or his daughter pass through the fire, or one who practices witchcraft, or a soothsayer, or one who interprets omens, or a sorcerer, or one who conjures spells, or a medium, or a spiritist, or one who calls up the dead. For all who do these things are an abomination to the LORD, and because of these abominations the LORD your God drives them out from before you. (Deuteronomy 18:10-12 NKJV)
In fact, under Moses' law, sorcery was a capital crime, carrying the death penalty (Exodus 22:18). To his credit, King Saul took action to remove witches from Israel (though one wonders why they were not summarily executed, as per the law). Not to his credit, after banishing them, Saul decided he needed to consult a witch -- hence, the sťance where God allowed Samuel to be brought up from the grave to rebuke Saul and prophesy his death on the morrow (1 Samuel 28:3-25).
In the New Testament, sorcery is listed as a work of the flesh, which, if practiced, will keep a soul out of heaven (Galatians 5:20). Sorcery is from the Greek word pharmakeia. According to the Linguistic Key to the Greek New Testament, by Rienecker and Rogers, pharmakeia means "the use of medicine or drugs, the use of drugs for magical purposes, magic, sorcery" (517). In his Greek-English Lexicon, J.H. Thayer says it means "sorcery, magical arts" (649). In his Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, W.E. Vine says pharmakeia "primarily signified the use of medicine, drugs, spells; then, poisoning; then, sorcery" (1074-1075). The term pharmakeia is a broad one that encompasses the use of recreational and illegal drugs, as well as magic, witchcraft, voodoo, superstition, astrology, fortune telling, horoscopes, sorcery and the like (many of these terms overlap).
Like his ancient counterpart, modern man is to shun sorcery in all its facets. It has no redeeming quality. It exalts itself against God, who considers it an abomination deserving of capital punishment. It is a device of the devil. And who really knows how dangerous witchcraft is? The Bible does not say we are to fear magic potions and spells. But it does say we are in a war against "principalities, against powers, against rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places" (Ephesians 6:12). Witchcraft is not to be taken lightly or esteemed as a harmless, superstitious hobby. God takes it seriously. Its practitioners take it seriously. Beyond certain revealed truths (such as 1 Corinthians 10:13), no one knows everything the devil does or how he does it. Remember Paul's words to the Thessalonians:
The coming of the lawless one is according to the working of Satan, with all power, signs, and lying wonders, and with all unrighteous deception among those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this reason God will send them strong delusion, that they should believe the lie, that they all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness. (2 Thessalonians 2:9-12)
Why the concern? After all, isn't witchcraft just something found in old books, or a romantic ingredient to bolster a campfire ghost story? Henry M. Morris, in The Defender's Study Bible, observes, "The naturalistic assumptions that have prevailed in western nations during the age of science are rapidly being displaced by the revival of occultic practices in the New Age movement" (235). Today's witch does not parade in a pointy black hat and sport a huge wart on her green nose. She may, in fact, be your next-door neighbor, or work in the office two doors down.
Anyone with a credit card and Internet access can go to Amazon.com and, after the easiest of searches, have at his choosing a plethora of titles, of which the following are but a sampling.
The Good Spell Book: Love Charms, Magical Cures and Other Sorcery (Gilliam Kemp, Hardcover 1999)
Star Magick: A Complete Guide to Astrological Sorcery (D.F. Dax)
To Ride a Silver Broomstick: New Generation Witchcraft (Silver Ravenwolf, Paperback 1993)
Wicca: A Guide for the Solitary Practitioner (Scott Cunningham, Paperback 1990)
Witch Alone: Thirteen Moons to Master Natural Magic (Marian Green, Paperback 1991)
The Sabbats: A Witch's Approach to Living the Old Ways (Edain McCoy)
Circle Round: Raising Children in Goddess Traditions (Starhawk, et al, Paperback 2000)
The Witches' Bible: The Complete Witches Handbook (Janet Farrar, Stewart Farrar, Paperback 1996)
Book of Shadows: A Modern Woman's Journey into the Wisdom of Witchcraft and the Magic of the Goddess (Phyllis Curott, Paperback 1999)
The Witch in Every Woman: Reawakening the Magical Nature of the Feminine to Heal, Protect, Create and Empower (Cabot, Mills, Paperback 1998)
Halloween: Customs, Recipes, Spells (Silver Ravenwolf, Paperback 1999)
How to be a Wicked Witch: Good Spells, Charms, Potions and Notions for Bad Days (Patricia Telesco, Paperback 2001)
Your Book of Shadows: How to Write Your Own Magickal Spells (Patricia Telesco, Paperback 1999)
Goddess in My Pocket: Simple Spells, Charms, Potions and Chants to Get You Everything You Want (Patricia Telesco, Paperback 1998)
These are not reprints from the 1700's. Note that the oldest date on any of these books is 1990. There is no denying the occult is a thriving business in our day. And no wonder -- when people reject the Gospel, they will inevitably put something unsavory in its place. Satan is more than willing to accommodate a soul's need to look to something higher than itself. So, the devil volunteers himself to meet that yearning, and one avenue through which he does it is sorcery.
In Acts 19, many Ephesians emerged from paganism and were converted to Christ. We are told, "Also, many of those who had practiced magic brought their books together and burned them in the sight of all. And they counted up the value of them, and it totaled fifty thousand pieces of silver" (Acts 19:19). Destroying their occult libraries was a natural outcome of their conversion to the Lord. Their books were not works of history, or scholarly reference material. They were, like the volumes listed above, designed to help the reader actually practice magic. And that is why they needed to go. Call it intolerant. Call it backward. Call it unenlightened. Call it extremism. Call it censorship. Call it what you will. But it's time to burn some more books.