From "The Encyclopedia of Witchcraft and Demonology"
by Robbins / Crown / 1959
BIBLE WITCHCRAFT. One of histories ironies is the justification
of witchcraft on biblical texts, written originally for a
religion which had no devil. Catholics and Protestants quoted
Exodus xxii. 18, "Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live." But
the Hebrew word kaskagh (occuring twelve times in the Old
Testament with various meanings) here means, as Reginald Scot
pointed out in 1584, "poisoner," and certainly had nothing to do
with the highly sophisticated Christian conception of a witch.
Yet the domination of Holy Scriptures was such that these
mistranslations fostered the delusion. After the execution of
Goody Knapp at Fairfield (Kent) in 1653, a neighbor said "it was
long before she could believe this poor woman was a witch, or
that there were any witches, till the word of God convinced her,
which saith, Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live."
Another text which changed the Hebrew meaning--"a woman with a
familiar spirit" for "pythoness"-- occurred in 1 Samuel xxvii,
the miscalled Witch of Endor.
Writers who tried to expose the witchcraft superstition, such
as Reginald Scot or Thomas Ady, had to clear up two fallacies:
(1) The numerous Hebrew words, uniformly translated by veneficus
or maleficus or witch, covered many different practitioners of
the occult, from jugglers to astrologers. To refer to all of
these different classes by one word (witch) was inadequate and
erroneous. (2) The defination of witch based on the pact with
Satan, transvection, metamorphosis, sabbat and maleficia was
neither implied or defined anywhere in the Bible. That the Old
Testament did not deal with witchcraft is hardly surprising, for
witchcraft depended on a Christian demonology. Thus Sir Walter
It cannot be said that, in any part of that sacred volume [Old
Testament], a text occurs indicating the existance of a system
of witchcraft, under the Jewish dispensation, in any respect
similar to that against which the law-books of so many European
nations have, until very lately, denounced punishment.... In the
four Gospels, the word, under any sense, does not occur.
(Letters on Demonology and Witchcraft)
Lea suggested the biblical denunciations against sorcery were
directed almost exclusively against divination.
In fact, therefore, while it may discuss magic and occult
customs, the Bible has nothing to do with heretical witchcraft.