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What does Paul mean by "sorcery" in Galatians 5:20?

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In Galatians 5:20 Paul uses the word pharmakeia (Strong's Greek 5331). This word has been translated to "witchcraft" or "sorcery" in most English versions. For example:

(19) Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness,

(20) idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies

Galatians 5:19-20, NKJV

What is the meaning of pharmakeia in this context? Is Paul really referring to the use of a kind of dark magic?

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2 answers

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Per BDAG, “sorcery” or “magic” are good translations. When used of a person (e.g., φαρμακεύς), it is typically translated as “magician” and refers to a “maker of potions,” recognizing this common aspect of magic/sorcery.

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From what I've read, it seems to indicate specifically contraception. I've also seen it refer to hallucinogenics, such as one might use in a mystery cult.

Contraceptive Claim

Contraceptive Claim

Hallucinogenic Claim

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