Sorcery Bible Definition

by Dr. Michael L. Williams · Print Print · Email Email

One of the most common images around Halloween is that of an old witch huddled over a boiling cauldron creating a potion. Likewise, sorcerers, are depicted as having special powers and using potions that cause supernatural things to happen or mythical creatures to respond to their beckoning. In either case, the witch or sorcerer is the one that has the power to make these thing happen. Given the popularity of sorcery in popular media and literature, it is important to understand what does the Bible definition for sorcery?

What is sorcery?

Webster’s 1828 Dictionary defines sorcery as: “SOR’CERY, noun, Magic; enchantment; witchcraft; divination be the assistance of evil spirits, or the power of commanding evil spirits” (1). Historically, the word sorcery along the word sorcerer has similar origins (2): 

Sorcery (n.) c. 1300, “witchcraft, magic, enchantment; act or instance of sorcery; supernatural state of affairs; seemingly magical works,” from Old French sorcerie, from sorcier, “sorcerer, wizard,” from Medieval Latin “sortiarius” teller of fortunes by lot; sorcerer,” literally “one who influences fate or fortune,” from Latin sors (genitive sortis) “lot, fate, fortune” (see sort (n.)).

Sorcery Bible definition

What does the Bible say about sorcery?

It is clear to see that the word sorcery is synonymous with magic and witchcraft as related to supernatural states or works. We see the word sorcery, sorceries, or sorcerers used several times in the Bible. In the Old Testament, we see it referred to by several variations of the Hebrew word, kāshaph, (3) which refers to a sorcerer, witch, or witchcraft. The base meaning of the word means to whisper a spell, enchant, or practice magic. It is seen in the following verses:

Then Pharaoh also called the wise men and the sorcerers: now the magicians of Egypt, they also did in like manner with their enchantments. (Exodus 7:11)

For thou hast trusted in thy wickedness: thou hast said, None seeth me. Thy wisdom and thy knowledge, it hath perverted thee; and thou hast said in thine heart, I am, and none else beside me. Therefore shall evil come upon thee; thou shalt not know from whence it riseth: and mischief shall fall upon thee; thou shalt not be able to put it off: and desolation shall come upon thee suddenly, which thou shalt not know.  Stand now with thine enchantments, and with the multitude of thy sorceries, wherein thou hast laboured from thy youth; if so be thou shalt be able to profit, if so be thou mayest prevail. (Isaiah 47:10-12)

Therefore hearken not ye to your prophets, nor to your diviners, nor to your dreamers, nor to your enchanters, nor to your sorcerers, which speak unto you, saying, Ye shall not serve the king of Babylon: (Jeremiah 27:9)

Then the king commanded to call the magicians, and the astrologers, and the sorcerers, and the Chaldeans, for to shew the king his dreams. So they came and stood before the king.
Daniel 2:2

And I will come near to you to judgment; and I will be a swift witness against the sorcerers, and against the adulterers, and against false swearers, and against those that oppress the hireling in his wages, the widow, and the fatherless, and that turn aside the stranger from his right, and fear not me, saith the LORD of hosts. (Malachi 3:5)

In the New Testament, we see it referred to by several variations of the Greek word, mageuo, (4) which is where we get the word magic, magician, or sorcerer. It is seen in the following verses:

But there was a certain man, called Simon, which beforetime in the same city used sorcery, and bewitched the people of Samaria, giving out that himself was some great one: To whom they all gave heed, from the least to the greatest, saying, This man is the great power of God. And to him they had regard, because that of long time he had bewitched them with sorceries. Acts 8:9-11

And when they had gone through the isle unto Paphos, they found a certain sorcerer, a false prophet, a Jew, whose name was Barjesus: Which was with the deputy of the country, Sergius Paulus, a prudent man; who called for Barnabas and Saul, and desired to hear the word of God. But Elymas the sorcerer (for so is his name by interpretation) withstood them, seeking to turn away the deputy from the faith. Then Saul, (who also is called Paul,) filled with the Holy Ghost, set his eyes on him, And said, O full of all subtilty and all mischief, thou child of the devil, thou enemy of all righteousness, wilt thou not cease to pervert the right ways of the Lord? (Acts 13:6-10)

Finally, there is another word in Scripture that brings to light the potions created by witches or sorcerers. This aspect of sorcery has great application to living our lives as Christians. It is seen in the Geek word, pharmakeia, (5) which is where we get the word, pharmaceuticals, or drugs. References to this word are found in the following verses:

And the rest of the men which were not killed by these plagues yet repented not of the works of their hands, that they should not worship devils, and idols of gold, and silver, and brass, and stone, and of wood: which neither can see, nor hear, nor walk: Neither repented they of their murders, nor of their sorceries, nor of their fornication, nor of their thefts. (Revelation 9:20-21)

And the light of a candle shall shine no more at all in thee; and the voice of the bridegroom and of the bride shall be heard no more at all in thee: for thy merchants were the great men of the earth; for by thy sorceries were all nations deceived. (Revelation 18:23)

But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death. (Revelation 21:8)

Blessed are they that do his commandments that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city. For without are dogs, and sorcerers, and whoremongers, and murderers, and idolaters, and whosoever loveth and maketh a lie. (Revelation 22:14-15)

Mind of Christ

It is clear from these references that sorcery is deeply involved in practices that are satanic and has a drug use element to it that causes alterations in a person’s ability to think clearly. This is of particular importance because if someone is involved in using mind-altering drugs, they cannot have the mind of Christ. Without the mind of Christ, we do not have protection over our thoughts and that allows us to be deceived, accepting of antichrist teaching, and inspires us to make Christ honoring decisions. Simply stated, sorcery is a key element to leading people away from God and results in destroying their lives. (See also Romans 15:6; 1 Corinthians 1:10; 1 Corinthians 2:16; Philippians 1:27; Philippians 2:5; Philippians 4:7-9; 2 Thessalonians 2:2; 1 Peter 1:13; 1 Peter 4:1).

Conclusion

Sorcery is referred to several times in the Bible. In its base form it is found in Hebrew and Greek words that are translated as sorcery, witchcraft, whispering a spell, enchanting, practicing magic, or drug use. All references to sorcery have a satanic, antichrist focus that destroys their lives by leading people away from Christ and living their lives for Him.

Read more on this subject here: What Does the Bible Say About Sorcery?

Resources – Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, King James Version. (1) Webster, Noah (1828) “Sorcery”. Webster’s Revised Unabridged Dictionary (1828): American Dictionary of the English Language, Retrieved from http://webstersdictionary1828.com/Dictionary/ sorcery(2) Online Etymology Dictionary (2016). “Sorcery”. Retrieved from Online Etymology Dictionary, retrieved from: http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?allowed_in_frame=0&search=sorcery. (3) Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance: Hebrew 3785. כְּשָׁפִים (kesheph) — sorcery. (n.d.). Retrieved July 06, 2016, from http://biblehub.com/strongs/hebrew/3785.htm. (4) Strong’s Greek: 3096. μαγεύω (mageuó) — to practice magic. (n.d.). Retrieved July 06, 2016, from http://biblehub.com/str/greek/3096.htm. (5) Strong’s Greek: 5331. φαρμακεία (pharmakeia) — the use of medicine, drugs or spells. (n.d.). Retrieved July 06, 2016, from http://biblehub.com/str/greek/5331.htm

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{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Tris July 9, 2016 at 12:18 am

I understand all of this and have for a long time.. my question would be… is it okay to watch things like harry potter? is it okay as an actor to portray those kind of characters? Thanks

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Sherrie Schwab July 9, 2016 at 9:45 pm

no it is not ok to watch Harry Potter it is sorcery and witchcraft and is very serious sin.the bible tells us to have nothing to do with the works of darkness.if you havevyou can pray and repent and renounce the works of darkness in your life and ask God to forgive you and close the door you opened to Satin by watching that.God bless You!! sherrie

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Sol Statler November 20, 2016 at 12:19 am

Very informative n exactly the answers or knowledge shared I was looking for. Thank you.

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Lee September 22, 2017 at 11:43 pm

Are modern day magicians committing a sin by doing magic shows? Please send me a reply by email.

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Jack Wellman September 23, 2017 at 8:38 am

I cannot answer that for the person performing the magic tricks. If they think it is wrong after having studied these passages then to them it is sin, for what is not of faith is sin. Personally, I would want nothing to do with magic and speaking for myself, I think it is wrong, so to each one, they must be convinced it is wrong or it is right in their own mind. Does this make sense sir?

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Lisa June 25, 2018 at 8:52 pm

Some of you need to get over yourselves. What kind of God do you think you have? A mean old man who sits upstairs and decides to let you burn in hell forever for watching a kid’s show called Harry Potter? I’ve been a Christian for a long time, and I’ve learned a thing or two from paying attention to other Christians. There is a type of Christian in this world who is very concerned with the devil and hell and especially how most people are going to hell. I believe that type of Christian has entirely misunderstood who Jesus was and why He died. I believe Christianity is foremostly about LOVE. I believe Jesus, and as He is a true reflection of the Father, is about LOVE. Not hell. Not mistakes and sins. Love.
The Pharisees were also very literal-minded about the rules, and what was a sin and what wasn’t a sin, and who was evil and who wasn’t. Jesus called them “a nest of vipers”.
God asks you for faith. He asks you for your love. Not your fear. Not that you should obey every rule. Jesus did not much appreciate the judgemental or the spiritually-proud. So I would say, not have you watched Harry Potter, but do you pay too much attention to what other people are doing and judging it?
I don’t want to be the kind of Christian that Jesus just wouldn’t like; a mean, judgemental, superior sort of person-even if I obeyed ALL the rules.

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William Bostic October 26, 2018 at 7:11 am

You are right that Jesus came and demonstrated the greatest love the world will ever know. You are wrong that Jesus, “did not much appreciate the judgmental”. Assuming we both accept the Bible as a reliable source of God’s will and wisdom, it states that all people are going to face judgment and Jesus himself will be the presiding judge. Jesus does clearly represent forgiveness and understanding of our fallen state. It is equally clear he does not endorse willful disobedience. To blur the impact on our relationship with God through the acceptance of demonic power as manifested through witchcraft is not just spiritual blindness, it is opening a door for compromise in many areas which are inconsistent with loving God with all our heart, mind, soul and strength.

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