Is Witchcraft a Sin? (Sorcery, Divination, Magic, and More)


Witchcraft has many forms and expressions. Believers and practitioners of witchcraft have been around for thousands of years, evidenced by the fact that the Bible mentions it numerous times. Though many expressions of witchcraft are practiced privately, the belief system is well-known enough to make many people curious about it from a biblical perspective.

According to the Bible, witchcraft is sinful in all its expressions, including folk magic, neopaganism, and overt Satanism. The Old Testament considered practitioners of witchcraft guilty of an extreme offense, punishable by death. The New Testament records that some of the first Christians converted from witchcraft.

What is the purpose of witchcraft? What does witchcraft refer to in the Bible? What Bible story mentions practitioners of witchcraft converting to Christianity? What are some well-known Bible verses about witchcraft? Keep reading to learn the answers to these questions and others.

Also see Does the Bible Say Zodiac Signs Are Sinful? to learn more.

witchcraft
What is the purpose of witchcraft? See below

The Nature, Practice, and Offense of Witchcraft

Witchcraft and its practitioners are the subjects of numerous stereotypes in popular culture. People don’t need to agree with their beliefs or practices to acknowledge that certain characterizations aren’t true. Nevertheless, the Bible considers witchcraft a grave offense that is idolatrous and blasphemous in nature.

What is witchcraft? Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary offers multiple definitions for “witchcraft,” including “the use of sorcery or magic,” “communication with the devil,” and “rituals and practices that incorporate belief in magic and that are associated especially with neo-pagan traditions and religions (such as Wicca).” [1] The biblical description of witchcraft can be found below.

What is the purpose of witchcraft? The Encyclopedia Britannica mentions the purpose of witchcraft in its definition of the term: “the exercise or invocation of alleged supernatural powers to control people or events, practices typically involving sorcery or magic.” [2] Some practitioners of witchcraft testify to internal fulfillment (e.g. inner peace), while others desire external advancement (e.g. financial increase).

What does witchcraft mean in the Bible? Many well-reviewed Bible translations render certain Hebrew words as “witchcraft.” Depending on the context of a passage, some translations use more precise words to describe certain people and practices. For example, a well-known story in 1 Samuel is that of Saul and the “Witch of Endor,” yet most English translations describe her as a “medium” (e.g. 1 Sam. 28:7) because of her practice of communing with the dead.

Sometimes translations render the same Hebrew or Greek word with a different English word. An example is Revelation 21:8.

  • NIV: “But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars—they will be consigned to the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death.”
  • NLT: “But cowards, unbelievers, the corrupt, murderers, the immoral, those who practice witchcraft, idol worshipers, and all liars—their fate is in the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death.”
  • ESV: “But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.”

The Bible uses many different terms that could be broadly considered witchcraft according to conventional definitions of the term.

PracticeDefinition
Sorcerythe use of power gained from the assistance or control of evil spirits especially
Divinationthe art or practice that seeks to foresee or foretell future events or discover hidden knowledge usually by the interpretation of omens or by the aid of supernatural powers
Mediumsan individual held to be a channel of communication between the earthly world and a world of spirits
Spiritistspractitioners who believe that spirits of the dead communicate with the living usually through a medium
Magicthe use of means (such as charms or spells) believed to have supernatural power over natural forces
Necromancersa person who uses witchcraft or sorcery, especially to reanimate dead people or to foretell the future by communicating with them

Also see What Does the Bible Say About Watching Anime? to learn more.

Practitioners of Witchcraft decide to follow Jesus Christ

In the Book of Acts, Luke tells of the Apostle Paul’s ministry in Ephesus, which included the conversion of people who practiced witchcraft. Popular English translations render the word in different ways:

  • “Sorcery” (NIV, NLT)
  • “Curious art” (KJV)
  • “Magic” (NKJV, NASB, CSB, ESV)
  • “Witchcraft” (CEV)

Acts 19:19-20 reads, “Also many of those who were now believers came, confessing and divulging their practices. And a number of those who had practiced magic arts brought their books together and burned them in the sight of all. And they counted the value of them and found it came to fifty thousand pieces of silver. So the word of the Lord continued to increase and prevail mightily.” (ESV)

  • The new Christians confessed their sin (cf. 1 John 1:9), abandoning their old ways.
  • They disclosed their hidden and private practices (cf John 3:19), devoting themselves publicly and privately to Christ.
  • They destroyed the books that contained information about their old ways (cf. Philippians 3:8), in effect “burning the ships” back to their old beliefs and practices.
  • They sacrificed previously important and valuable items (cf. Luke 18:23), demonstrating that they counted the cost of following Christ and considered him worth it (Luke 14:28).

Also see Does the Bible Say Cussing Is Sinful? to learn more.

sorcery magic spells witches
What does the Bible say about witchcraft? See below

Bible verses about witchcraft

  • Leviticus 19:31, “Do not turn to mediums or necromancers; do not seek them out, and so make yourselves unclean by them: I am the Lord your God.”
  • Exodus 22:18, “You shall not permit a sorceress to live.”
  • Leviticus 20:27, “A man or a woman who is a medium or a necromancer shall surely be put to death. They shall be stoned with stones; their blood shall be upon them.”
  • Revelation 21:8, “But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.”
  • 1 Samuel 15:23, “For rebellion is as the sin of divination, and presumption is as iniquity and idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the Lord, he has also rejected you from being king.”
  • Leviticus 20:26, “If a person turns to mediums and necromancers, whoring after them, I will set my face against that person and will cut him off from among his people.”
  • 2 Chronicles 33:6, “And he burned his sons as an offering in the Valley of the Son of Hinnom, and used fortune-telling and omens and sorcery, and dealt with mediums and with necromancers. He did much evil in the sight of the Lord, provoking him to anger.”

Also see Is Racism A Sin? to learn more.

References:
[1] Source
[2] Source

Daniel Isaiah Joseph

Daniel's seminary degree is in Exegetical Theology. He was a pastor for 10 years. As a professor, he has taught Bible and theology courses at two Christian universities. Please see the About page for details.

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