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It is important to realize that:


The term "witchcraft" in the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament) refers to (mostly) women who used spoken curses to injure other people or destroy their property.


The term, "witchcraft" in the Christian Scriptures (New Testament) refers to murderers who use poisons to kill people. 


In North America, "Witch" and "Witchcraft" most often refer to Wiccans and Wicca.


Wiccans are modern-day Neopagans. They follow Wicca, a new religion that has been created, in part, from ancient Celtic beliefs, practices, Gods, Goddesses, holy days and symbols. They follow the Wiccan Rede, a rule of behavior which prohibits Wiccans from performing any activity that dominates, manipulates, controls, or injures others.

Thus, in terms of behavior, Wicca is a benign and healing religion; the "witchcrafts" mentioned in the Bible are evil and destructive. The two are exact opposites.

That said, it is important to remember that:


The Bible contains many passages exhibiting intolerance towards other religions, and almost no passages which actively promote inter-religious tolerance. Wicca is certainly a religion that is very different from Judaism and Christianity. Wicca, as well as Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, Native Spirituality, Taoism, and hundreds of other religions are thus equally condemned by many verses in the Bible.


Many Wiccans engage in specific practices to foretell the future. These include scrying, tarot cards, I Ching, runes, etc. Although these practices are not mentioned in the Bible, they are similar to other divination techniques which are condemned in various biblical passages. However, not all Wiccans engage in divination. And the vast majority of persons who use divination are not Wiccans.

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Who exactly is a Witch?

In this section, we are considering whether the Bible specifically condemns Wicca. We have not been able to find any translation of either the Hebrew or Christian Scriptures which contains the words Wicca or Wiccan. However, many translations of the Bible, such as the King James Version and the New International Version, condemn what they call "Witches" and "Witchcraft". This causes serious misunderstandings.

The religion of Wicca is one of at least 18 different practices associated with the term "witchcraft." Most of are unrelated to each other. Of these 18 practices, six main forms of "witchcraft" exist today.

The most popular usages of "Witch" refer to:

  1. A woman of such incredible beauty that she bewitches men.
  2. An old woman, often portrayed with an evil appearance; sometimes called a "hag."
  3. A follower of Religious Satanism who either worships Satan or recognizes Satan as a virile pre-Christian, pagan concept. They may perform evil sorcery, but only against their enemies.
  4. A person devoted to performing evil sorcery: using rituals, spoken curses, etc to injure or kill others.
  5. A Wiccan; a follower of a modern religion that was reconstructed partly from an ancient religion of the Celts. Wiccans are prohibited from harming others.
  6. In Africa, a native healer who practices alternative, holistic medicine and may engage in evil sorcery.
  7. In TV programs like Bewitched, a person, usually a woman, who was born with supernatural abilities and is capable of performing miracles by waving a wand, wiggling a nose, etc.
  8. In children's books like the Harry Potter series, where people live in an alternative universe with unicorns, invisibility cloaks, dragons, talking animals, magical quills, flying broomsticks, magic wands, etc.

There are many additional meanings not cited above. Most are variations on the above eight.

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General religious intolerance in the Bible:

Passages in the Hebrew and Christian Scriptures are quite intolerant of other religions:


The Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament) condemn, in particular, non-monotheistic religions. One example is The Book of Joshua, where God authorizes the genocide of Canaanites because they were Pagans.  Since many Wiccans believe in the existence of a dual divinity (a Goddess and a God), Wicca would fall under this general condemnation of non-monotheistic religions, as would Hindus, followers of Native American spirituality, and hundreds of other religions.


The Christian Scriptures (New Testament) attack Jews as being children of the Devil. They contain many passages which condemned Gnostic Christianity -- a part of the early Christian movement which believed in the existence of two deities. The Scriptures also state that non-Christians worship either Satan or a demon. This latter condemnation would include followers of Wicca and hundreds of other religions. Together, they constitute about 67% of the human race.


Various passages from the Hebrew Scriptures condemn methods of foretelling the future. Although these practices are sometime used by some Wiccans, they do not form an integral part of their religion. Many Wiccans follow their religion without using divination.

These are general condemnations. They criticize a wide variety of non-Judeo-Christian religions, not Wicca specifically.

On the other hand, many English translations of the Bible refer to Witches and Witchcraft by name. A careful analysis of the original passages in the original Greek and Hebrew, shows that they condemn individuals who:


Use spoken curses to harm or murder others. 


Use poison to harm or murder others.

Wiccans are prohibited from engaging in either of these activities. Wiccans are prohibited by the Wiccan Rede from dominating, manipulating, controlling, or doing harm to others. The use of the terms "Witch" or "Witchcraft" in English translations of the Bible is either a poor translation or a mistranslation. The Bible appears contain no direct references to Wicca and Wiccans.

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Ambiguity in Bible translations:

By translating the original Hebrew and Greek text as "Witch" and "Witchcraft", translators have selected one of the most confusing words in the English language. In the case of the King James Version, this seems to have been done deliberately. King James had a deathly fear of "Witches" (in the 4th meaning above). The justification for choosing such a misleading word in a some recent translations, is less clear. The translators must be aware of the exact meaning of the original Hebrew word; yet they selected an English word which was clearly ambiguous. Further, it makes large numbers of people vulnerable to religious hatred.

The only large religious group in North America who describe themselves as "Witches" are Wiccans and other Neo-Pagans. That minority of Wiccans who are open about their faith suffer extreme persecution from very well meaning, very devout but very misinformed Christians who honestly believe that they are following the guidance of various Biblical passages. In recent years in the U.S., this discrimination has occasionally taken the form of lynching, attempted mass murder by stoning, shooting, and other forms of assault. Fortunately, most modern translations have been using the slightly less ambiguous term "sorcery" in place of "Witchcraft". We expect that this change, plus accurate portrayal of Wiccans in the media, will gradually lessen the discrimination that they experience. More information about Witches.

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Related essay:

bullet What the Bible says about divination and the Occult

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Site navigation:

 Home > World religions > Wicca > Wicca/Bible > here

or Home > Christianity > Bible & the world > Wicca/Bible > here

or Home > Christianity > Bible topics > Wicca/Bible >  here

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Copyright 1997 to 2001 incl. and 2003 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Latest update: 2003-JUN-2
Author: B.A. Robinson

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