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WHAT THE BIBLE SAYS ABOUT WICCA AND WITCHCRAFT

Interpretation of Deuteronomy 18:10-11

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Deuteronomy 18:10-11 in 19 English translations of the Bible:

The word Witchcraft in the New International Version's translation of Deuteronomy 18:10-11 is a significant problem for Wiccans. Many Evangelical Christians naturally assume that it refers to followers of the Wiccan faith, since they are the only sizable group who identifies themselves as Witches. This verse is often quoted near Halloween; it has sometimes been used as the text of sermons that have triggered hatred, verbal attacks and even physical attacks on Wiccans.

The first part of Verse 10 apparently prohibits the ancient Israelites from engaging in child sacrifice. The Pagan tribes around Israel allegedly murdered children by casting them into a fire. Many theologians believe that this refers to some sort of a trial by fire that would not usually result in a death. Various translations render the remainder of Verse 10 and Verse 11 as:

  1. American Standard Version: There shall not be found with thee any one...that useth divination, one that practiseth augury, or an enchanter, or a sorcerer, | or a charmer, or a consulter with a familiar spirit, or a wizard, or a necromancer.
  2. Amplified Bible: There shall not be found among you anyone who... uses divination or is a soothsayer or an augur or a sorcerer, | or a charmer, or a medium or a wizard or a necromancer.
  3. The Answer: Don't let anyone use magic or witchcraft, or try to explain the meaning of signs. | Don't let anyone try to control others with magic, and don't let them be mediums or try to talk with the spirits of dead people."
  4. Good News Version: ...and don't let your people practice divination or look for omens or use spells | or charms and don't let them consult the spirits of the dead.
  5. James Moffatt Translation: There must be none among you... who practices divination or soothsaying, no augur, no sorcerer, | no one who weaves spells, no medium or magician, no necromancer.
  6. Jerusalem Bible: There must never be anyone among you who ... practices divination, who is a soothsayer, augur or sorcerer, | who uses charms, consults ghosts or spirits, or calls up the dead.
  7. King James Version: There shall not be found among you anyone ....that useth divination, or an observer of times, or an enchanter or a witch, or a charmer, or a consulter with familiar spirits, or a wizard, or a necromancer.
  8. Living Bible: No Israeli may practice black magic, or call on the evil spirits for aid, or be a fortune teller, | or be a serpent charmer, medium, or wizard, or call forth the spirits of the dead..
  9. Modern Language Bible: There must not be found among you anyone... practicing divination, or soothsaying, observing omens, applying sorcery, | a charmer, a medium, a wizard, or a necromancer.
  10. New American Bible: Let there be not be found among you anyone [who is]...a fortune-teller, soothsayer, charmer, diviner, | or caster of spells, no one who consults ghosts and spirits or seeks oracles from the dead.
  11. New American Standard Bible: There shall not be found among you... one who uses divination, one who practices witchcraft, or one who interprets omens or a sorcerer, | or one who casts a spell, or a medium, or a spiritist, or one who calls up the dead.
  12. New Century Version: Don't let anyone use magic or witchcraft. No one should try to explain the meaning of signs, | don't let anyone try to control others with magic. Don't let them be mediums or try to talk with the spirits of dead people. .
  13. New International Version: Let no one be found among you who ... practices divination or sorcery, interprets omens, engages in witchcraft, | or casts spells, or who is a medium or spiritist or who consults the dead.
  14. New Living Translation: Do not let your people practice fortune-telling or sorcery, or allow them to interpret omens, or engage in witchcraft, | or cast spells or function as mediums or psychics, or call forth the spirits of the dead.
  15. New Revised Standard Version: No one shall be found among you who practices divination, or is a soothsayer or an augur, or a sorcerer, | or one who cast spells or who consults ghosts and spirits, or who seeks oracles from the dead.
  16. New World Translation: There shall not be found in you anyone ... who employs divination, a practicer of magic or anyone who looks for omens or a sorcerer | or one who binds others with a spell or anyone who consults a spirit medium or a professional foreteller of events or anyone who inquires of the dead.
  17. The Promise: Contemporary English Version: ..don't try to use any kind of magic or witchcraft to tell fortunes, or to cast spells or to talk with spirits of the dead.
  18. Revised Standard Version: There shall not be found among you... | anyone who practices divination, a soothsayer, or an augur or a sorcerer, or a charmer, or a medium, or a wizard, or a necromancer.
  19. Revised English Bible: Let no one be found among you who makes his son or daughter pass through fire, no... an augur or soothsayer or diviner or sorcerer, | none who cast spells or traffics with ghosts and spirits, and no necromancer.

The original wording of these verses condemned individuals who followed practices defined by these 8 Hebrew words:

  1. yid'oni: knowers; wizards; persons who make contact with spirits who are not of God. (Some Wiccans have engaged in spiritism and have attempted to contact the dead. However, this is not necessarily an integral part of the Wiccan religion).
  2. sho'el 'ov: making forbidden contact with the dead. (Ditto) .
  3. qosem q'samim: predicting the future by using lots or a similar system. (Many Wiccans as well as Christians sometimes use tarot cards, runes, scrying etc. to foretell the future, but this is not an integral part of the Wiccan religion) .
  4. m'onen: predicting the future by interpreting signs in nature. (Ditto) .
  5. m'nachesh an enchanter (perhaps a snake charmer, because "nachash" means snake. We have never heard of Wiccan snake charmers) .
  6. chover chavar: use of knot-tying to perform magic. (Wiccans sometimes engage in knot-tying, but only for positive healing magic. Again, it is a practice that some engage in, but is not an integral part of their religion).
  7. m'khaseph: an evil sorcerer (as in Exodus 22:18); a person using spoken spells to harm others. (Wiccans do not engage in this activity; they are specifically prohibited from doing so by their Wiccan Rede).
  8. doresh 'el hametim: a person who makes contact with the dead - probably by another method than sho'el 'ov. (Again, there are some Wiccans who engage in spiritism, but it is not necessarily an integral part of their religion).

These verses would seem to prohibit a number of modern day activities:

bulletHarming or killing people through the use of:
bulletevil sorcery intended to harm others.
bulletknot magic (tying and untying knots while cursing someone).
bulletEngaging in methods of foretelling the future by
bulletstudying nature (e.g. whether the winter will be unusually cold by studying the size of caterpillars or whether spring will be delayed by studying the actions of a groundhog).
bulletcasting sticks (e.g. I Ching or perhaps runes).
bulletastrology.
bulletRaising ghosts or spirits through the use of spiritism (a.k.a. spiritualism) by a medium.
bulletChanneling; this is a New Age practice in which a spirit speaks through a person.
bulletSnake charming.

Wiccans are prohibited from harming, dominating, manipulating or controlling people by any means. Some use various methods of foretelling the future, as do members of other religions. Some engage in spiritism, so do followers of other faiths. The latter two practices are not necessarily an integral part of their religion.

In our opinion, none of the eight Hebrew words should be translated as Witch or Witchcraft. None of the eight words refers to the religion of Wicca. Precise terms that accurately describe the activity should be used. We suggest:

  1. yid'oni: acting as a medium;
  2. sho'el 'ov: communicating with the dead;
  3. qosem q'samim: predicting the future using lots;
  4. m'onen: predicting the future by interpreting signs in nature;
  5. m'nachesh snake charming;
  6. chover chavar: using knot-tying to perform magic;
  7. m'khaseph: evil sorcery;
  8. doresh 'el hametim: channeling.

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References Used

  1. Alexi Kondratiev "Suffer a Witch to Live", Enchanté, the Journal for the Urbane Pagan, Mabon & Vinalia (1994), P. 11-15
  2. Paul Hume, "Thou shalt not suffer a Witch to live," at: http://www.witchvox.com/words/words_1999/

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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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