One of the two main arguments used to drum up Christian support for cannabis prohibition is the discussion of the koine Greek word PHARMAKEIA. Paul uses it when describing the lust of the flesh in Galatians chapter 5. I think it’s time to tear that house of cards down…
Exerpt from “Drugs & the Christian”, By Rev. Dale A. Robbins‘1. Drugs have a Proven Connection with Sorcery and Witchcraft -Revelation 21:8 “But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.”According to W.E. Vine’s expository dictionary of New Testament Words (page 1074), the word SORCERY comes from a Greek word, PHARMAKIA – used as a noun, it “signifies a sorcerer,” one who uses drugs, potions, spells, enchantments, as in Rev. 21:8.The English word for drugs, pharmacy, comes from this same root.Drugs and potions have traditionally been used in witchcraft and satanic rituals to induce deeper subconscious states which enable persons to have fellowship and communication with demons.Realizing the satanic relationship with drug use helps us to understand why abusers of drugs experience such bondage and depravation.Nowhere in the Bible or in history have drugs been used to bring people closer to God – they have always been used in relation to bringing people closer to evil powers and demonic influences.’
Here is my response and challenge to Brother Robbins’ position-
φαρμακεία pharmakeia <5331> farmakeia, pharmakeia Pronunciation: far-mak-i’-ah Origin: from 5332
1) the use or the administering of drugs
3) sorcery, magical arts, often found in connection with idolatry and fostered by it
4) metaph. the deceptions and seductions of idolatry from 5332; medication (“pharmacy”), i.e. (by extension) magic
(literally or figuratively):-sorcery, witchcraft.
see GREEK for 5332
The Biblical usage of the word φαρμακεία in the New Testament MUST carry with it the appeal to false gods, which is why it is always translated as “sorcery”, and not “medicine” or “drugs”. Paul’s prohibition of φαρμακεία as described in Galatians 5:20, in the description of the lusts of the flesh, is a clear charge against “sorcery”- resting his charge in the First Commandment- “you shall have no other god’s before Me”.
Holding Brother Robbins’ definition consistent: no doctor would be able to prescribe medication without the Wrath of God coming upon him; pharmacists and pharmaceutical researchers would be identified as “sorcerers”; and no Christian would be able to take medication without sinning. One would also wonder how the Apostle Luke, a physician, could have been chosen by Christ, if Brother Robbins’ position is accurate. Suggesting that consuming medicine is “sorcery”, is irrational and inconsistent. The definition Brother Robbins employs will in no way withstand the principles set forward in the Word of God and the traditions of the early church. I think Origen said it well, “no one would act rationally in avoiding medicine because of its heresies”.
Simply put, Vine’s #1 is not the best definition for the Biblical usage of the word; it seeks to imply into (eisegesis) the meaning of the word, a 2000+ years late English understanding, so that prohibition-bent philosophies can be embraced by Christianity; it is a point of compromise and complacency with culture and government policies and politics. -and make note: this compromise didn’t happen overnight. It has taken every bit of four generations for the Church to embrace this position, approximately from the early 1800’s, taking root mainly in American churches, and then spreading globally by the mid 1900’s.
Along with Vine’s definition of pharmakeia- “in “sorcery”, the use of drugs, whether simple or potent, was generally accompanied by incantations and appeals to occult powers, with the provision of various charms, amulets, etc…”
Paul NEVER used the word pharmakeia to describe a drug, or any substance that God has created. He couldn’t have, because, by default, he would also have to embrace Gnostic Dualism, a heretical position that views matter as inherently evil. Paul always used pharmakeia in the context of a “sorcerer” or a “witch”. The principle Biblical meaning, holding to Vine’s stated definitions, is the one which identifies the appeal to a false god; “the fruit of the deceptions and seductions of idolatry”. What Vine’s presents as the #4 definition of the word pharmakeia, would be most accurate.
No doubt that many “diviners” and “wise men” and “astrologers” used psychoactive substances in an appeal to false gods, in an effort to invoke communication; and this is what the Apostle was speaking about. We are the servants of the One True God. It is sin to appeal to another, as we are to have no other gods before Him. This does not mean that consuming an herb is sorcery, but the appeal to or acknowledgment of another is the heart of it, that is the sorcery and witchcraft.
In no way shape or form is the Apostle suggesting that we are to abstain from medicine. His charge is against sorcery, not medicine. This does not mean that medicine is the best method of healing, (nowhere in the Bible does God ever tell Israel to take medicine), it means that we are free to use medicine in the purposes that God designed them to be used, and are to acknowledge him concerning them.
Foods or drink should have no effect on your spiritual life. What we eat and drink are not the standard set by God for us to discern by, after the Cross. The only food or drink that should have any significance to your spirit and soul is the Bread and Wine of the Eucharist, the Holy Communion; and the only reason that is the case, is because Christ sanctioned it.