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Resolving religious conflicts within a family

Impediment 2: Exodus 22:18 and
similar "anti-witchcraft" passages:

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See also Impediment 1: Excerpts from Paul's epistles

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Impediment 2: Exodus 22:18 etc.:

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 for witches.

One problem 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 used meanings are:
bulletA synonym of "Wiccan," a male or female follower of Wicca.

bulletIndividuals with magical powers found in fantasy novels like Harry Potter,™ but who do not exist in real life.

bulletEvil 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 -- have 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.

A conservative Christian who believes in the inerrancy of the Bible must decide whether:
bulletBiblical inerrancy refers to the original autograph copies of the book, written in Hebrew, Aramaic or Greek, or whether
bulletIt 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.

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See also Impediment 3: Beliefs about salvation

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Site navigation:

Home > World religions > Wicca > Christian conflict > Families > here

Home > Christianity > Comparison to other faiths > Christian conflict > Families > here

Home > Religious conflict > Specific conflicts > Christian conflict > Families > here

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Copyright © 2008 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2008-NOV-17
Latest update and review: 2008-NOV-20
Author: B.A. Robinson

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