WITCH; WITCHCRAFT From ISBE

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    WITCH; WITCHCRAFT
    wich, wich'-kraft:
    1. Meaning and Use of the Words
    2. Biblical Usage
    3. Common Elements in Witchcraft and Ancient Oriental Magic
    4. Rise, Spread and Persecution of Witchcraft
    LITERATURE
    1. Meaning and Use of the Words:
    The word "witch" seems to denote etymologically "one that knows." it is
    historically both masculine and feminine; indeed the Anglo-Saxon form wicca,
    to which the English word is to be traced, is masculine alone. "Wizard" is
    given as masculine for witch, but it has in reality no connection with it.
    Wright (English Dialect Dictionary, VII, 521) says he never heard an
    uneducated person speak of wizard. When this word is used by the people it
    denotes, he says, a person who undoes the work of a witch. Shakespeare often
    uses "witch" of a male (compare Cymbeline, I, 6, l. 166: "He is .... a
    witch"). In Wycliff's translation of Acts 8:9 Simon Magus is called "a
    witch" ("wicche"). Since the 13th century the word "witch" has come more and
    more to denote a woman who has formed a compact with the Devil or with evil
    spirits, by whose aid she is able to cause all sorts of injury to living
    beings and to things. The term "witchcraft" means in modern English the arts
    and practices of such women.
    2. Biblical Usage:
    Since the ideas we attach to "witch" and "witchcraft" were unknown in Bible
    times, the words have no right place in our English Bible, and this has been
    recognized to some extent but not completely by the Revisers of 1884. The
    word "witch" occurs twice in the King James Version, namely, (1) in Ex
    22:18, "Thou shalt not suffer a witch (the Revised Version (British and
    American) "a sorceress") to live"; (2) in Dt 18:10, "or a witch" (the
    Revised Version (British and American) "or a sorcerer"). The Hebrew word is
    in both cases the participle of the verb (kishsheph), denoting "to practice
    the magical article." See MAGIC, V, 2. In the first passage, however, the
    feminine ending (-ah) is attached, but this ending denotes also one of a
    class and (on the contrary) a collection of units; see Kautzsch, Hebrew
    Grammar 28, section 122,s,t.
    The phrase "the witch of Endor" occurs frequently in literature, and
    especially in common parlance, but it is not found in the English Bible. The
    expression has come from the heading and summary of the King James Version,
    both often so misleading. In 1 Sam 28, where alone the character is spoken
    of, English Versions of the Bible translates the Hebrew 'esheth ba`alath
    'obh by "a woman that hath a familiar spirit." A literal rendering would be
    "a woman who is mistress of an 'obh or ghost," i.e. one able to compel the
    departed spirit to return and to answer certain questions. This woman was
    therefore a necromancer, a species of diviner (see DIVINATION, IV; ENDOR,
    WITCH OF; FAMILIAR), and not what the term "witch" imports.
    The word "witchcraft" occurs thrice in the King James Version in 1 Sam
    15:23, "the sin of witchcraft" should be as in the Revised Version margin,
    "the sin of divination," the latter representing the Hebrew word qecem,
    generally translated "divination".
    See DIVINATION, sec. VII, 1.
    The phrase "used witchcraft" (of Manasseh, 2 Ch 33:16) is properly rendered
    in the Revised Version (British and American) "practised sorcery," the
    Hebrew verb (kishsheph) being that whence the participles in Ex 22:18 and Dt
    18:10, translated in the King James Version "witch," are derived (see
    above). The word translated in the King James Version "witchcraft" in Gal
    5:20 (pharmakeia) is the ordinary Greek one for "sorcery," and is so
    rendered in the Revised Version (British and American), though it means
    literally the act of administering drugs and then of giving magical potions.
    It naturally comes then to stand for the magician's art, as in the present
    passage and also in The Wisdom of Solomon 12:4; 18:13; and in the Septuagint
    of Isa 47:9, where it represents the Hebrew noun keshaphim, translated
    "sorceries"; compare the Hebrew verb kishsheph; see above.
    The plural "witchcrafts" (in the King James Version and the Revised Version
    (British and American)) stands for the Hebrew noun just noticed (keshaphim)
    in 2 Ki 9:22; Mic 5:12; Nah 3:4, but in all three passages a proper
    rendering would be "sorceries" or "magical arts." "Witchcrafts" is
    inaccurate and misleading.
    The verb "bewitch" occurs in Acts 8:9,11 the King James Version (of Simon
    Magus bewitching the people) and in Gal 3:1 ("O foolish Galatians, who hath
    bewitched you?"). In the first context the Greek verb is existemi, which is
    properly rendered by the Revisers "amazed"; in 3:13 the passive of the same
    verb is translated "he was amazed" (the King James Version "He wondered").
    In Gal 3:1, the verb is baskaubaino, which is used of a blinding effect of
    the evil eye and has perhaps an occult reference, but it has nothing
    whatever to do with "witch" or "witchcraft."
    3. Common Elements in Witchcraft and Ancient Oriental Magic:
    Though the conceptions conveyed by the English word "witch" and its cognates
    were unknown to the Hebrews of Bible times, yet the fundamental thought
    involved in such terms was familiar enough to the ancient Hebrews and to
    other nations of antiquity (Babylonians, Egyptians, etc.), namely, that
    there exists a class of persons called by us magicians, sorcerers, etc., who
    have superhuman power over living creatures including man, and also over
    Nature and natural objects. This power is of two kinds: (1) cosmic, (2)
    personal. For an explanation see MAGIC, II. it is in Assyrio-Babylonian
    literature that we have the completest account of magical doctrine and
    practice. The words used in that literature for the male and female magician
    are ashipu and ashiptu, which correspond to the Hebrew mekhashsheph and
    mekhashshephah in Dt 18:10 and Ex 22:18 (see 2, above) and are cognate to
    'ashshaph (see Dan 1:20; 2:2,10, etc.), which means a magician (the Revised
    Version (British and American) "enchanter"). Other Babylonian words are
    kashshapu and kashshaptu, which in etymology and in sense agree with the
    Hebrew terms mekhashsheph and mekhashshephah mentioned above. But neither in
    the Babylonian or Hebrew words is there the peculiar idea of a witch,
    namely, one who traffics with malicious spirits for malicious ends. indeed
    the magician was a source of good (male and female) as conceived by the
    Babylonians, especially the ashipu and ashiptu, to the state and to
    individuals, as well as of evil, and he was often therefore in the service
    of the state as the guide of its policy. And the same applies to the
    magician as the Hebrews regarded him, though the true teachers and leaders
    in Israel condemned magic and divination of every sort as being radically
    opposed to the religion of Yahweh (Dt 18:10 f). Of course, if a Babylonian
    magician used his art to the injury of others he was punished as other
    criminals, and in case of the death of the victim he was executed as a
    murderer. It is, however, noteworthy in its bearing on "witchcraft" that the
    female magician or sorceress played a larger part in ancient Babylonia than
    her male counterpart, and the same is true of the Greeks and other ancient
    people. This arose perhaps from the fact that in primitive times men spent
    their time in fighting and hunting; the cooking of the food and the healing
    of the sick, wounded, etc., by magical potions and otherwise, falling to the
    lot of the woman who stayed at home. In the early history of the Hebrews
    inspired women played a greater role than in later time; compare Miriam (Ex
    15:20 f; Nu 12); Deborah (Jdg 5:12); Huldah (2 Ki 22:14 ff). Note also the
    'ishshah chakhamah, or "wise woman" of 2 Sam 14:2 ff; 20:16.
    The first two sections of the Code of Hammurabi are as follows: "1. If a man
    has laid a curse (kispu = keshaphim) upon (another) man and it is not
    justified, he that laid the curse shall be put to death. 2. If a man has put
    a spell upon (another) man and it is not justified, he upon whom the spell
    is laid shall go to the holy river; into the holy river shall he plunge. If
    the holy river overcome him (and he is drowned), the man who put the spell
    upon him shall take possession of his house. If the holy river declares him
    innocent and he remains unharmed the man who laid the spell shall be put to
    death. He that plunged into the river shall take possession of the house of
    him who laid the spell upon him." Not a word is said here of a female that
    weaves a spell, but probably the word "man" in the Babylonian is to be taken
    as including male and female (so Canon C. H. W. Johns in a private letter,
    dated December 22, 1912).
    4. Rise, Spread, and Persecution of Witchcraft:
    In the early and especially in the medieval church, the conception of the
    Devil occupied a very important place, and human beings were thought to be
    under his dominion until he was exorcised in baptism. It is to this belief
    that we owe the rise and spread of infant baptism. The unbaptized were
    thought to be Devil-possessed. The belief in the existence of women
    magicians had come down from hoary antiquity. It was but a short step to
    ascribe the evil those women performed to the Devil and his hosts. Then it
    was natural to think that the Devil would not grant such extraordinary
    powers without some quid pro quo; hence, the witch (or wizard) was supposed
    to have sold her (or his) soul to the Devil, a proceeding that would delight
    the heart of the great enemy of good always on the alert to hinder the
    salvation of men; compare the Faust legend. For the conditions believed to
    be imposed by the Devil upon all who would be in league with him see A.
    Lehmann, Aberglaube und Zauberei2 (1908), 110 ff.
    This idea of a covenant with the Devil is wholly absent from the early
    heathen conception of magic; nor do we in the latter read of meetings at
    night between the magicians and the demons with whom they dealt, such as
    took place on the Witches' Sabbath. The witches were believed to have sexual
    commerce with devils and to be capable only of inflicting evil, both
    thoughts alien to oriental and therefore to Biblical magic.
    The history and persecution and execution of women, generally ignorant and
    innocent, supposed to have been guilty of witchcraft, do not fall within the
    scope of this article, but may be perused in innumerable works: see
    "Literature" below. In Europe alone, not to mention America (Salem, etc.),
    Sprenger says that over nine million suspected witches were put to death on
    the flimsiest evidence; even if this estimate be too high the actual number
    must have been enormous. The present writer in his booklet, The Survival of
    the Evangelical Faith ("Essays for the Times," 1909), gives a brief account
    of the defense of the reality of witch power by nearly all the Christian
    theologians of the 17th century and by most of those living in the early
    18th century (see pp. 23 ff). See also MAGIC, and The Expositor T, IX, 157
    ff.
    LITERATURE.
    In addition to the literature cited under articles DIVINATION and MAGIC
    (which see), the following worlds may be mentioned (the books on witchcraft
    proper are simply innumerable): Reginald Scot, The Discovery of Witchcraft
    (aimed at preventing the persecution of witches, 1584; republished London,
    1886); reply to the last work by James I of England: Daemonologie, 1597;
    Casaubon, On Credulity and Incredulity .... A Treatise Proving Spirits,
    Witches and Supernatural Operations, 1668; Joseph Glanrill, Saducismus
    Triumphatus: Full and Plain Evidences concerning Witches and Apparitions
    (the last two books are by theologians who class with "atheists"--a vague
    word in those times for unbelief--all such as doubt the power of witches and
    deny the power of devils upon human life). For the history of witchcraft and
    its persecutions see howard Williams, The Superstitions of Witchcraft, 1865,
    and (brief but interesting and compact) Charles Mackay, Memoirs of
    Extraordinary Popular Delusions (2 volumes, 1851, 101-91). See also Sir W.
    Scott, Demonology and Witchcraft, 1830; W. R. Halliday, Greek Divination: A
    Study of its Methods and Principles, London, Macmillan (important); and
    article by the present writer in The Expositor, January, 1914, on "The Words
    Witch and Witchcraft in history and in Literature." For a full account of
    the witch craze and persecution at Salem, near Boston, U.S.A., see The
    Wonders of the Invisible World by Cotton Mather, D. D., with a further
    account by increase Mather, D. D., and compare Demon Possession by J. L.
    Nevins, 303-10.
    T. Witton Davies
     

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