(RNS) — The topics people search for each year on Bible Gateway are always interesting, according to Jonathan Petersen, content manager of the website.
But this year’s may be the “most intriguing,” Petersen wrote on the site.
Searches for the words “sorcery” and “sorceries” saw the biggest spike, increasing 193% over the last year on Bible Gateway, which allows users to read and search the text of multiple translations of the Bible.
And that doesn’t appear to be because witchcraft is increasingly becoming mainstream, even trendy.
Rather, Petersen wrote, curiosity over what the Bible has to say about sorcery is related to heightened interest in the Greek word “pharmakeia.” He pointed to its definition in the Mounce Concise Greek-English Dictionary of the New Testament: “employment of drugs for any purpose; sorcery, magic, enchantment.”
“Pharmakeia” appears in Galatians 5:19-21: “The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.”
The word also appears in Revelation 18:23, which reads in part, “By your magic spell all the nations were led astray.”
More recently, it has appeared in debates over COVID-19 prevention measures, particularly opposition by some charismatic and evangelical Christians to vaccines against the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.
Perhaps most prominently, Sherri Tenpenny — an osteopathic doctor and longtime anti-vaccine activist who appears on the Center for Countering Digital Hate’s “Disinformation Dozen” list — used the term this past year during her Instagram Bible study “Happy Hour with Dr. T.”
“What about Jesus healing the sick with his hands and with prayer? Our Lord would have never turned to the pharmakeia, the sorcerers, overlooking his father’s results,” Tenpenny said.In a March 25 video, Tenpenny took aim at pastors, priests and rabbis who closed their houses of worship during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic and later opened them as vaccination centers, “pleasing the pharmakeia, the sorcerers, no doubt,” she said. In an April 8 video, she again mentioned church leaders opening their sanctuaries to “sorcerers” to administer COVID-19 vaccines, which she believes are “experimental genetic modification tools” that will “permanently mark” recipients.
Christian singer and former “American Idol” contestant Danny Gokey also referenced “pharmakeia” in a series of tweets earlier this week linking COVID-19 vaccines to the “mark of the beast” mentioned in the biblical book of Revelation.