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Bible Studies/Pharmakeia and modern medicine


I was wondering if modern medicine is prophesied in the bible? Preferably Revelations 18:23 (PSR)  23.   And no longer may a light of a lamp shine at all in you (many people on neuroleptics have dark baggy eyes), and no longer may a voice of a bridegroom and bride be heard at all in you (The voice of Yahuwshua the savior), because your merchants (Doctors/pharmacists) were the big men (Big Pharma) of the earth, because all the heathen masses were misled by your drugs!" (Pharmakeia/pharmaceuticals)

This is from the PSR translation, in which, the word pharmakeia is translated as "drugs" Elsewhere, it is logical to see the drugs refer to getting high, drunk, etc.. the stereotypical party life so to speak. However, in the above verse, Big Pharma fits perfect...a lot of Christians say the psychiatric medicines are tools of the adversary to ultimately blind them and weaken their minds to more easily be manipulated and controlled. Does this verse refer to big pharma and pharmaceuticals? What does Pharmakeia mean, is it the use of medications? Are pharmacists sorcerers? do we commit sorcery when we take psychiatric medicines?


One of the biggest questions that has to be answered regarding Revelation (or any prophetic parts of the Bible) is whether a prophesy can mean something for us today in the 21st century that it never could have meant for the original audience in the 1st century.  In other words, did John encode a message only to be interpreted or understood in the distant future?  If so, who says it applies to us rather than people 500 years ago or 500 years from now?  When I read Revelation I try to avoid the temptation to assign meanings that wouldn't be true to a first century audience.

The first century Jew didn't have what we would call pharmaceutics.  They certainly had herbal remedies, but the use of pharmakeia could accurately be translated as sorcery accomplished through idolatry as easily as the use of a drug.  However, usage in both Galatians 5 and Revelation 9 seem to suggest it was generally used to refer to "witchcraft" or "sorcery".

So, while I would certainly say that the Scriptures teach against reliance on anything other than Christ (this would include drugs) I'm not sure we can faithfully get it from Revelation 18.  In this context, I would translate pharmakeia as sorcery or witchcraft.  I would also mention that while herbal remedies were common in the first century that pharmacy as an industry would be inconceivable.  Anyone who would be selling remedies would most likely be trying to convince the buyers that by using the ingredients they would unlock a special favor from the gods.

As far as taking medicine I think it is important realize that total healing comes only from God and everything else may be helpful but is incomplete.  As a pastor I support the use of psychiatric drugs rarely, and only under certain conditions:
1. The believer cannot function in daily life
2. The believer has a severe and diagnosible mental illness such as schizophrenia

Even then, I still believe that Christian counseling is vital to regaining full health.  Denying a schizophrenic medication would, however, be like denying a heart patient medication.  Instead of the result being a stopped heart it would be a damaged mind.

The danger of trying to interpret it in an exclusively 21st century context is that the Scripture can become very fuzzy based on the interpreter rather than the author who often supplies the meaning.  For example, based on the Scripture you referenced I believe I could make a case against free trade:
"Light of a lamp" = lighthouses and other naval warning systems
"Voice of the bridegroom and bride" = Ships sailing who do not use standard methods to communicate
"Your merchants..." Large barges and liners that "rule" the world by controlling international trade
"By your magic spell all the nations..." = The idol worshiping Kenyans (and other nationalities) becoming pirates, killing our economies for both "God's holy people" and all other who will suffer because of their act "all who have been slaughtered on the earth."

I would interpret Revelation 18:21-24 as a description of Babylon's final destruction.  Verse 23 would be showing how Babylon will be permanently and irrevocably removed from God's holy people because their culture led the world astray.  I would be comfortable interpreting Babylon as 1st century Rome or a future culture/civilization that is leading the faithful astray.

Prophesy is always tricky, but I hope I at least shed a bit of illumination regarding our hermetic!  As always, follow up is welcome!

Kris Browning

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Rev. Kristopher Browning


Prolegomena: Theology of Inspiration, Theology of Revelation, Theology of Authority, Doctrine of the Holy Trinity (historical and contemporary), Cosmology (creation), Theodicy (existence/creation of evil), Hamartiology (Sin), Salvation, Ecclesiology (Theology of the Church) especially missiology, Eschatology (Last things, second coming, rapture).


Independent academic research, guided study, practical application via the local church ministry. 2013 to Present: Family Life Pastor, Shawnee Alliance Church (Lima, OH) 2010 to 2013: Lead Pastor, Fellowship Alliance Chapel (Huber Heights, OH) 2009-2010: Shawnee Alliance Church (Lima, OH) 2008-2009: Hope Community Church (Mount Vernon, OH) 2006-2007: Bladensburg Church of Christ (Bladensburg, OH)

The Christian and Missionary Alliance

Inspire Magazine, Spring 2012

BA in Religion, Mount Vernon Nazarene University M. Min, Mount Vernon Nazarene University Ph.D. in Organizational Leadership (expected 2017), Indiana Wesleyan University

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