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Can a person be both a Christian and a Wiccan?

Resolving biblical teachings
about Witchcraft and divination

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Biblical teachings about Witchcraft

Many conservative Christians believe that the Bible contains many specific condemnations of Witchcraft. Further, some believe that these denunciations apply to Wicca today.

One frequently quoted verse from the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament) is Exodus 22:18. The original Hebrew manuscript uses the word "m'khashepah" -- a woman who uses spoken spells to harm others typically by causing their death or loss of property. It is mistranslated:

  • In the King James Version as "Thou shalt not allow a witch to live."
  • In the Revised English Bible as: "You must not allow a witch to live."

Unfortunately, the word "Witch" has at least 19 different meanings -- some mutually exclusive. In North America, the term frequently refers to Wiccans -- the followers of the Wiccan religion. According to the Scofield Reference Bible this verse was written in the year 1491 BCE. This is some 650 years before the origin of the Celtic people from whom the oldest elements of Wicca were taken. So Exodus 22:18 can hardly be referring to Wiccans.

Unfortunately, the translators of the Revised English Bible did not appear to care about any potential injury that their translation might cause to Wiccans. They inserted many footnotes on the page where this verse appears, but none clarify the meaning of Exodus 22:18.

Other mistranslations include:

  • The Good News Bible. It lets men off the hook by using the phrase "woman who practices magic."
  • The New Century Version uses the phrase "evil magic"

These are also poor translations because of the ambiguity of the word "magic" in today's world.

Most modern translations use "sorceress" or "evil sorceress." But the King James Version remains in very common use by conservative Protestants and thus continues causes grief to some Wiccans.

Clearly, the term "evil sorceress" would be a good translation into today's English. It is found in most of the dozens of other English translations of the Bible not mentioned above.

Another verse in the Hebrew Scriptures that contains "m'khashepah" is Deuteronomy 18:10-11 

Two similarly mistranslated passages from the Christian Scriptures (New Testament) are Galatians 5:19-20 and Revelation 21:8. The Greek word that is translated here as "witch" is unrelated to Wicca. It would be better translated as "one who concocts potions to kill people," or simply "poisoner." Such activity by Wiccans is, of course, clearly prohibited by their Wiccan Rede which does not allow believers to harm, manipulate, control or dominate other people. So the references to "witch" in some translations of the Christian Scriptions cannot refer to Wiccans.

Conclusion: It may be safely concluded that references to Witch and Witchcraft in some English translations of the Bible are unrelated to Wicca. 

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Biblical teachings about divination

There are many verses in the Bible that prohibit certain methods for foretelling the future by the ancient Israelites. These include Exodus 22:18, Leviticus 19:26-26; 19:31; 20:6; Deuteronomy 18:10-11; Isaiah 8:19 and Malachai 3:5. Of these, Deuteronomy 18 is perhaps the most important. They forbade the Israelites from engaging in eight specific practices. Various translations of the Bible use various ambiguous terms or phrases here: augur, black magic, calls up the dead, charmer, consults with spirits, divination, enchanter, fortune teller, interpret omens, look for omens, magician, medium, necromancer, observer of times, sorcerer, soothsayer, spiritist, weaves or casts spells, witchcraft, and wizard. The terms magician, sorcerer, spiritist, and witch have many different meanings.

Clearly, translators have had a great deal of difficulty selecting unique English words or short phrases to translate the Hebrew text. Returning to the original Hebrew words:

  1. yid'oni: Making contact with spirits who are not of God. Some Christians may suggest that this clause might forbid the New Age practice of channeling. However, New Agers themselves are generally convinced that the spirits with which they deal are from God.
  2. sho'el 'ov: Making contact with the dead. This would probably prohibit a medium from contacting the dead, as in Spiritualism.
  3. qosem q'samim: Foretelling the future by using lots. This would probably condemn casting runes, using the I Ching or a similar divination system.
  4. m'onen: Predicting the future by interpreting signs in nature. (e.g. predicting the harshness of a winter by looking at moss on trees, or fur thickness on animals in the wild, or whether the groundhog sees his shadow).
  5. m'nachesh: Enchanting (perhaps related to nachash, a snake; i.e. snake charming).
  6. chover chavar: Casting evil spells by magical knot tying.
  7. m'khaseph: Evil sorcery; using spoken spells to harm other people.
  8. doresh 'el hametim: Literally "One who asks the dead", probably via another method of contacting dead people than is used in sho'el 'ov.

People differ in their beliefs about whether injunctions from the Hebrew Testament are applicable to-day:

  • Most Jews believe that they only apply to fellow Jews
  • Some Christians (e.g. Christian Reconstructinists, House of Yahweh) believe that they still apply to Christians today.
  • Other Christians believe that they still apply to Christians unless rejected by passages in the Christian Scriptures.
  • Liberal and Progressive Christians in particular generally reject certain laws and regulations in the Hebrew Scriptures as being profoundly immoral and not representing the Will of God. These might include: committing genocide, implementing human slavery, transferring guilt and punishment from the guilty to the innocent, burning some hookers alive, whipping children with a rod, raping female prisoners of war, execution of non-virgin brides, executing people who work on the Sabbath, executing sexually active persons with a homosexual orientation,  executing religious minorities, etc.

So, when Wiccans reject many of the commands and regulations in the Hebrew Scriptures, they are agreeing with at least some Christians. 

Divination techniques are used by many, but not all, Wiccans. They typically utilize only a few of those listed above:

  • #3 prohibits runes, perhaps tarot cards, the I Ching.
  • #4 prohibits prediction of the future by interpreting natural signs.

The Biblical passages appear to apply to persons who are directly engaged in the various practices (e.g. mediums, channelers, astrologers, etc.); they do not seem to refer to people who simply observe the activity being done by others.

On the other hand, there are a number of instances in the Bible where respected leaders were involved in divining the future, apparently without any condemnations by God. Some are:

  • In Genesis 44:5, Joseph's household manager refers to a silver drinking cup " which my lord drinketh and whereby indeed he devineth". Later, Joseph accuses his brothers of stealing the cup, saying "that such a man as I can certainly divine [the identity of the thieves]". These passages show that Joseph engaged in scrying to foretell the future.
  • The Urim and Thummim were two objects mentioned in Numbers 27:21 and 1 Samuel 28:6 of the Hebrew Scriptures. They were apparently devices (perhaps in the form of flat stones) that the high priest consulted to determine the will of God. They might have worked something like a pair of dice.
  • The prophet Daniel was employed for many years in Babylon as the chief occultist to the king. He was supervisor "... of the magicians, astrologers, Chaldeans and soothsayers." See Daniel 5:11.

Conclusion: Wiccans could avoid the relatively few divination techniques that are forbidden. They could:

  • Use those methods that Joseph, the priests and Daniel used.
  • Use techniques and devices that are not specifically prohibited, like Ouija boards.
  • Merely observe the divinations being performed by others.

Wiccans could also ignore the prohibitions -- as many Christians do -- as being no longer binding on non-Jews. Or Wiccans could simply not engage in divination, which is not a core theological belief in Wicca.

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Copyright © 1999 to 2008 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Latest update and review: 2008-NOV-12
Author: B.A. Robinson
Links updated: 2008-JAN-09

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