Vaccine Debates Are Responsible for 2021’s Fastest-Growing Bible Search Term: Sorcery

Does Scripture warn about Big Pharma? Endorse mask-wearing? Christians Googled for answers in 2021.

As the pandemic first hit in 2020, Christians sought out Scripture about fear, comfort, and healing. A year later, their Bible searching habits reflect ongoing clashes around COVID-19 responses.

The fastest-growing search term on Bible Gateway in the past year was “sorcery,” which drew 193 percent more queries than in 2020. The boost was inspired not by the recent rise in witchcraft but by arguments against the COVID-19 vaccine.

“The increase in sorceries is related to heightened interest in the Greek word pharmakeia, which, according to the Mounce Concise Greek-English Dictionary of the New Testament means ‘employment of drugs for any purpose; sorcery, magic, enchantment,’” wrote Jonathan Peterson, content manager for Bible Gateway. Analysis of Bible Gateway’s annual trends came from Stephen Smith, senior director of digital projects on the site and the Bible tech guru behind

Some Christians have brought up the term when claiming that Scripture prophetically warns against the vaccine and vaccine mandates, since it shares a root with the word pharmaceuticals.

Pharmakeia is used in Galatians 5:20, Peterson noted, where it is listed among the “acts of the flesh” that Paul advises against. In the vaccine debates, Christians are more likely to point out its use in Revelation 18:23, where it’s translated as “magic spell” in a declaration made against Babylon: “Your merchants were the world’s important people. By your magic spell all the nations were led astray.”

The pharmakeia argument tends to come up in among certain Christians with a focus on end …

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