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QUESTION: "Galatians 5:19 includes witchcraft as 'works of the flesh.' Is following astrology witchcraft?

ANSWER: In Galatians 5:20 Paul lists "Witchcraft" as being a "work of the flesh." He makes it plain that those who engage in "works of the flesh" shall not inherit the kingdom of God. "Witchcraft" is the King James reading; the American Standard Version has "sorcery." "Sorcery" is the more nearly accurate reading.

The question before us is: "Is following astrology witchcraft" as the word "witchcraft" is used in Gal. 5: 20?

In order to answer this question we must determine three things: (1) What is "witchcraft"—or sorcery—as used in Gal. 5:20? (2) What is "astrology"? (3) Is there a common factor (or are there common factors) condemned by the Gal. 5:20 reference?

What is "witchcraft" or "sorcery"? This word is the translation of the Greek φαρμακεια, which is actually the source of background of our English word "pharmacy." It refers basically to the use of drugs, recognizing that there is a legitimate use of drugs, and that there is an illegitimate use of drugs. The word sometimes means "poison." The illegitimate use of drugs came to be associated with pagan religions, the superstitious, the occult. In Gal. 5:20 it occurs in a context wherein Paul was discussing sinful practices associated with sinful religions.

Thus, φαρμακεια (sorcery) includes:

1. The use of drugs;

2. The illegitimate use of drugs;

3. The use of drugs in connection with pagan religions and ceremonies of superstition;

4. Becoming associated with sinful religions and sinful religious practices;

5. Becoming associated with superstition;

6. Seeking after unusual knowledge and influences from extra-terrestrial sources.

Thus, witchcraft is basically an effort upon the part of a human being to seek to obtain, from extraterrestrial sources, knowledge relating to mundane affairs.

A "sorcerer" is one who . practices "sorcery." His power is allegedly gained from the aid or control of evil spirits, particularly for the purposes of gaining hidden knowledge. All such is clearly condemned in such passages as: Ex. 7:11; Rev. 21:8; Rev. 22:15.

Sorcerers were common in Egypt, Assyria, and Babylon (Is. 49:9,12; Dan. 2:2), but were banned in Israel, Deut. 18:10-12. In Old Testament times "sorcerers" were called "witches" and were punishable by death, Ex. 22:18.

What is "astrology"? The word “astrology" means etymologically---study of the stars. Astrology is a pseudo-science which is based upon the assumption that the heavenly bodies control the affairs of men, and that their movements and positions can be used to predict the future. Astrology assumes that human destinies are all determined by the behavior of the masses of matter millions of miles away. Originally, there were two basic divisions of astrology: the natural astrology, which studied the nature and behavior of the heavenly bodies in order to make calendars, and to predict movements of sun, moon, and planets. This branch of astrology developed into astronomy. The other branch of astrology is the judicial (or mundane) branch. It is judicial astrology which claims to be able to predict earthquakes, plagues, wars, as well as the characters and fates of individuals.

It should be remembered that astro-logy predicted that the earth would be destroyed by a flood in the year 1524.

Now, since we know what "witchcraft" (or sorcery) is, and since we know what "astrology" is, and since we know that God, in Gal. 5:20, specifically condemns "witchcraft"—we are in position to determine whether or not Gal. 5:20 shows God's condemnation upon "astrology" and those who "follow" it.

Both "witchcraft" and "astrology" relate to the deep human realization of need for guidance from without. Human beings, generally, recognize their weaknesses and limitations, and realize their need for guidance. Though "witchcraft" and "astrology" differ in several respects, they are alike in several respects. They both relate to the basic human need for guidance from without. They both promise to the seeker that guidance may be found. They both relate to the mysterious and to the superstitious. They both have a religious tinge.

When an individual, in seeking to fill a basic human need, turns to witchcraft or to astrology--

1. He violates the sacred principle of Deut. 29:39—the fact that the secret things belong to God;

2. He is seeking to obtain spiritual information from sources other than God and the Bible;

3. He thus attempts to guide his life by some means other than the Word of God;

4. He thus involves himself in the realm of the superstitious;

5. He thus gives credence to the idea that the Word of God is not a sufficient guide;

6. He thus becomes an idolater. He involves himself in a false religion .

It must be clear, therefore, that Paul's emphatic condemnation of "witchcraft" applies with equal force to "astrology" and to those who follow it.

Roy Deaver, The Defender, November, 1972

Witchcraft  and Astrology
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