I have recieved a number of queries about this verse, from both Christians and practicing Neo-Pagans and Wiccans alike. A typical query on this verse is as follows:
Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live - Exodus 22:18 (from the King James Version)
What is your take, as a Christian on this? I'm not trying to stir the waters, but I'm curious as to what you as a Christian - who was once a Witch - think about this particular passage. I've met people who consider it to be an error or a mis-translation, and I've also met one man in particular who considered it to be taken literally.
But I am curious as to what you think of it?
In Australia (I don't know about elsewhere but I assume it is similar) there is a lot of Wiccan and Neo-Pagan 'propaganda' (for want of a better term) aimed at 'disproving' Exodus 22:18 "Thou shalt not suffer a Witch to live" - the basic purpose of which is to show that when Christians talk about Witchcraft being 'wicked', 'evil' or 'Satanic' that they don't know what they are talking about.
Exodus 22:18 is often singled out as it is often used by the more 'rabid' 'fundies' (as we used to refer to many Christians when I was still a practicing Paganism) as a 'proof text' to show that Witchcraft, Wicca and Neo-Paganism is against God.
By saying it says 'poisoner' not 'Witch' many hope to infer that Christians are not as smart as they would have you believe (we certainly used this tact in my old Coven when answering letters from Christians that appearred in the local papers carrying on about the "wicked Witches" in town (see My Testimony) and that Witchcraft, Wicca, Paganism and Magick was 'benign'.
The word translated as Witch in the King James Version (KJV) is 'Kashaph' in the original Hebrew manuscripts which means literally "to whisper a spell". It has no other meaning and is quite explicit... in short... a Witch.
The belief that it is a mistranslation comes from the Greek translation of the Old Testament known as the 'Septaugint'. The word used in that is "Pharmakea" (from which we get the word Pharmacy) which means literally "one who brews potions or philters", but like a lot of words when translating from one language to another there is not always a direct 'word for word' translation and many words have 'shades' of meaning or alternate meanings depending on context. eg. What does the word STATION mean to you? Depending on the context used it could be a radio station... a railway station... or one's station in life... but unless given in a context the word itself is ambiguous.
The same applies to some extent with 'Pharmakea'. One of the shades of meaning is "one who brews or uses poisons" - a poisoner. However, a more common meaning is "one who brews or uses magical potions" - and since murder is already covered in the long list of Mosaic laws that this one verse is a part of (Exodus 20:1-23-33 - see specifically Exodus 20:13) and a poisoner would be, by definition, a murderer, one concludes that the author was not talking about a literal poisoner. In fact, the context in which it is used, and in keeping with how the same word is used throughout the Septaugint and the New Testament alike, the meaning is clearly a 'Witch' not a 'poisoner'. (eg Galations 5:20; Revelation 9:21, 18:23)
In any case, the translators of the King James Version, which this quote is taken from did NOT use the 'Septaugint' (which uses the word 'Pharmakea') as a source material, instead they relied solely on available Hebrew manuscripts (which use the word Kashaph in this verse) for their translation of the Old Testament.
As stated above, this misinterpretation of the GREEK text (and the word Pharmakea) not the original HEBREW (and the word Kashaph) is constantly used by Wiccan and Neo-Pagan 'apologists' as 'evidence' of 'mis-translation' of the verse and that Christians don't know what they are talking about when it comes to the subject. But if one is looks at the original text it is plain they are the ones in error.
That said, it should be remembered by all that the New Testament documents the coming of the Messiah and marks the end of Mosaic Law. The New Covenant of Grace is then established with man, and there is no licence to be found in this verse for the murder of, attacks upon or other forms of persecution of 'Witches'... Such acts do nothing to advance the cause of Christ, but only hinder the effective witness of others, which only furthers the cause of Satan... (see My Testimony)
Evangelizing the world is the object and burden of the Church. The Great Commission is to "preach the gospel to every creature". For the Church to fulfill the Great Commission is not contingent on "not suffering a Witch to live". The mission of the Church is to preach the gospel - come whatmay! THIS is the main thrust of the Church's warfare against Satan!!
In my opinion, a much better passage to examine relative to Witchcraft and occult practices is 'When you enter the land the Lord your God is giving you, do not imitate the detestable ways of the nations there. Let no one be found among you who sacrifices his son or daughter in the fire, 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.' - Deuteronomy 18:9-11
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PHARMAKEIA: A Guide to Greek Witchcraft at Theoi Project: A Guide to Greek Gods, Spirits and Monsters
Copyright 2005 - Jean-Luc deVere
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