The King James Version (KJV) of the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament) translates
Exodus 22:18 as:
"Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live."
The Revised English Bible also translates this passage to require the death penalty
with interpreting this and similar passages in the Hebrew Scriptures is that
"Witch" in the English language today has at least 19
meanings, some of which are mutually exclusive. Perhaps the most frequently
A synonym of "Wiccan," a male or female follower of Wicca.
Individuals with magical powers found in fantasy novels like
Harry Potter,™ but who do not exist in real life.
Evil sorcerers who use black magic to harm or even kill others.
They exist but, in our opinion, their power does not lie in their
rituals and curses. It lies in the faith in their magic in the minds of their
victims. Perfectly healthy people have fallen sick and died within days of
having learned that a death curse has been placed on them. In our opinion, they
did not die of the curse, but of their faith in the power of the curse.
The Hebrew word in Exodus 22:18 that is translated here as "witch" is "m'khashepah." It actually means a woman who uses
spoken spells to harm others by causing their death, the death of members of
their family or livestock, or loss of property.
Clearly, "evil sorceress" or "woman who does evil magic" would be
a much more precise and unambiguous translation of the Hebrew. In fact, almost all Bible
translations -- from the New International Version to the Amplified Bible
abandoned the use of the word "witch" and used sorceress or sorcery in
its place. However, the most common translations are often ignored in favor of
the King James Version when a person wants to denigrate Wicca.
By definition, evil sorcerers are devoted to harming others. This contrasts with the main rule of
behavior for Wiccans which is called the Wiccan Rede: "A'in it harm none, do what thou wilt."
In modern English this says that a Wiccan is free to do whatever they want to as
long as it harms nobody including themselves. So the "m'khashepah" in Hebrew is
clearly the polar opposite of today's Wiccan. Exodus 22:18 and similar
anti-witchcraft passages in the Hebrew Scriptures cannot possibly refer to
Wiccans or those other Neopagans who share the Rede.
Many English translations of the Christian Scriptures (New Testament)
also appear to condemn
Witches and Witchcraft. But in reality, the original Greek word refers to people who
use poisons to murder others. It does not refer to Wiccans.
Biblical inerrancy refers to the original autograph copies of the book, written in
Hebrew, Aramaic or Greek, or whether
It refers to their favorite English translation of the Bible.
With a bit of dialogue, perhaps this hurdle can be laid to rest as no longer applicable.
However, some conservative Protestant faith groups are aligned with the "King
James Only" movement and may not accept the above explanation. They prefer
the KJV over all other translations . Some even view the KJV as a "new
revelation" from God. They believe that the translation itself is inerrant and believe
that it corrects errors in the original Greek, Hebrew and Aramaic text, as written by the
original authors of the Bible.