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Pharmakeia In The Bible

Pharmakeia is located in the bible 171 times. For instance, in Psalm 107:27-28 “They cried to God for help; He saved them from their troubles. He sent His word and healed them, rescuing them from the grip of their enemies” Pharmakeia is one of the most diverse and extensive Greek words in the New Testament. This word could be translated as sorcery, drugs or medicines. In fact, pharmakeia is used for both good and evil. Nevertheless, it is crucial that you know how this word is used in the bible. Pharmakeia is a Greek word, originating from the verb pharamazo, which translates to ‘medicine man’ or ‘to administer drugs.’ It is used in the bible as a general term for witchcraft and specifically refers to magical techniques or potions that have a hallucinogenic or mind-altering effect. In the Bible, the word Pharmakeia is used and translated in different ways. What they have in common is that they all refer to forms of sorcery or magic and so relating them to our modern day occult. Pharmakeia, or “use of drugs,” is the root of the modern word “pharmacy.” The term appears only once in the Bible, in Galatians 5:20: “Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness…”

The passage is part of a list of behaviors that Christians should avoid. Pharmakeia has been traditionally translated as “witchcraft” or “sorcery” in English translations. However, scholars have argued that this is not necessarily an accurate translation; the use of drugs was common practice among ancient Greeks and Romans (and other cultures), but it wasn’t necessarily associated with witchcraft or sorcery. The Greek word pharmakeia comes from pharmakon (φαρμακον), which means “drug,” but also has connotations of poison. Pharmakon can be translated into English as either “poison” or “medicine.” These words don’t have such strong negative connotations today—for example, we commonly refer to medicines as “medicines”—but they do show us how complex our relationship with drugs is today

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Pharmakeia Definition

Pharmakeia is a word that appears in the Bible. The word pharmakeia comes from the Greek word pharmacy and translates to ‘the use of drugs’ or ‘the practice of preparing medicine’. Pharmakeia also refers to any form of sorcery or witchcraft that involves the use of drugs.

In ancient times, people would use special herbs, plants or other natural substances in order to heal sicknesses; these substances have been used since ancient times until today. Some examples include:

  • Herbs – sage, garlic
  • Roots – sassafras root
  • Leaves – aloe vera leaves

Pharmakeia Meaning

Definition of Pharmakeia in the Bible

The Greek word pharmakeia appears in Galatians 5:20 and Revelation 18:23. Terms from the same root word appear in Revelation 9:21, Revelation 21:8, and Revelation 22:15. These are typically translated into English as “sorcery,” “witchcraft,” or “sorcerer.” Ancient Greek uses of pharmakeia closely mirror the generic modern English word drugs ; the same Greek root word produced English terms such as pharmacy and pharmacist.

Modern use of the word sorcery evokes images of supernatural power and spells; biblical use of pharmakeia doesn’t fit well with such ideas. Rather, the term suggests various forms of drug abuse. Those might include drug use in pagan worship, as an addiction, or as a poison used to manipulate and control others.

In modern English, separate terms distinguish medicines, chemicals, and illicit drugs. As used in most contexts, a “pharmacist” and a “drug dealer” both distribute chemicals, but of different kinds and for drastically different reasons. Because English vernacular uses entirely different words, phrases like selling drugs evoke something illicit while taking meds or prescription drugs don’t imply anything nefarious. Ancient Greeks used words like pharmakeia to refer to that entire spectrum: from medicines to psychoactives to poisons. This makes cultural and biblical context crucial when interpreting terms related to pharmakeia.

Ancient societies were no stranger to mind-altering chemicals. Archaeologists note the presence of opium, hemp, and many other substances in Bible-era cultures. These compounds were not as potent as modern options but still capable of powerful effects. For example, synthetic drugs like carfentanyl are a hundred thousand times as powerful as an equivalent dose of natural opium—this is what allows a small dart to tranquilize an elephant. But opium itself is still a strong drug.

Mood-altering substances were also used in connection to ancient religious practices. Temples such as those in Greece sometimes used mind-altering drugs in fortune-telling and oracles. These may have included natural vapors and deliberately concocted mixtures. When Paul wrote Galatians and John recorded Revelation, these practices would have been part of pagan idolatry.

Substances that alter a person’s perceptions can be used as legitimate medicines (1 Timothy 4:4). They can also be abused for recreation. Even worse, they can be used in a predatory manner, influencing others and taking advantage of their skewed awareness. The biblical concept of “sorcery” seems to lean toward the latter end of this spectrum. A biblical “sorcerer” could be thought of as the equivalent of a modern “drug dealer.” Or as the type of person who slips chemicals into a woman’s drink to take advantage of her.

Galatians 5:20 is part of Paul’s list of contrasts to the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22–23). That list of works of the flesh (Galatians 5:19–21) does not appear to be random. The references are collected into groups of similar offenses. Paul begins by mentioning sexual sin, then idolatry, then “sorcery”—pharmakeia—and then division, before moving on to drunkenness and debauchery. His reference to pharmakeia is grouped closer to idolatry and sexuality than it is to drunkenness, which hints at the use of illicit drugs in ungodly spiritual practices.

John’s references might also be connected to pagan worship; Revelation 9:21 comes immediately after a condemnation of idolatry. Yet this reference also sits between mentions of murder and sexual sin. Revelation 18:23 is part of a condemnation of Babylon, referring to its “deception.” The phrasing closely echoes the statement of Nahum 3:4, which refers to “charms.” The Hebrew root word used in Nahum is kesheph. That is used in reference to idolatry and often translated as “sorcery,” and is seen in 2 Kings 9:22, Isaiah 47:9, 12, and Micah 5:12.

Combining these contexts, the exact meaning of pharmakeia isn’t crystal clear, but neither is it completely obscure. There’s no sense that Scripture uses terms such as pharmakeia in reference to supernatural powers. Instead, biblical “sorcery” seems to be about abusing drugs for idolatry, recreation, and/or oppression of other

Pharmakeia in the bible

Pharmakeia in the gospel of Matthew

While the Greek word pharmakeia doesn’t appear in this gospel, it is used in Matthew 9:32-34 as a direct translation of Isaiah 53:12. The Greek word pharmakeia means “sorcery” or “magic.”

The gospel writer later uses the same word to describe Jesus being killed by those who sought to destroy him (Matthew 27:35).

Pharmakeia in the book of Revelation
  • Revelation 18:23
  • Revelation 9:21
  • Revelation 21:8
  • Revelation 22:15
Pharmakeia is a greek word that means to use spells, potions, and drugs.

Pharmakeia is a greek word that means to use spells, potions, and drugs. It’s also the greek word for pharmacy. The Bible says that pharmakeia is translated as sorcery in 1 Timothy 4:1-6, 2 Timothy 3:8 and Revelation 9:21-22.

The Greek word for pharmacy is “pharmaka” which means drugs or potions, but it can also be used as an adjective meaning magical or poisonous (pharmakos). This was borrowed from the Near Eastern languages such as Akkadian pārmuqqušum meaning compounder or magician (cf. Hebrew peresha’im).

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