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By 25. January 2021January 24th, 2023Apostasy


The book for elders, “Shepherd The Flock Of God” claims that practicing spiritism is the same as apostasy and is a disfellowshipping offense. The book refers to Galatians 5:20, where NWT13 has the word “spiritism” as one of the works of the flesh.

The rendering “spiritism” is uncertain because the literal meaning of the Greek word farmakeia is “druggery,” and the use of drugs may or may not lead to spiritism. The Watchtower literature agrees that the literal rendering is “druggery.” But without any linguistic explanation, the meaning “spiritism” is chosen.

The Governing Body believes that farmakeia (“spiritism”) is a disfellowshipping offense because Paul says that those who practice the works of the flesh, including “spiritism,” will not inherit God’s Kingdom. I show that this is wrong. According to 1 Corinthians chapter 6, disfellowshipping should occur only when the personality or moral character of a person becomes wicked, and they are permeated by wrongdoing. To be sure, the works of the flesh represent desires and actions that are wrong, but these do not in themselves indicate wicked personalities.

A Christian who starts to practice spiritism cannot be disfellowshipped for “spiritism” because 1) a clear, concrete definition of the word cannot be ascertained using the Watchtower literature, and 2) “spiritism” is not listed in the Bible as a disfellowshipping offense. However, Moses shows that those who sacrifice to idols, in reality, sacrifice to demons. This shows that what Jehovah’s Witnesses call “spiritism” is in reality a form of idolatry (contact with the demons), and therefore, the Witness who practices spiritism can be disfellowshipped because of idolatry. This is a disfellowshipping offense according to 1 Corinthians 6:9

Among the disfellowshipping offenses listed in the book “Shepherd The Flock Of God” is spiritism, as seen in 12.39 (6):

Spiritism:  Deut 18:9-13; 1 Cor 10:21, 22; Gal 5:20; lvs pp. 216, 217.

The book How to Remain in God’s Love, pages 216, 217, says:

10 Demonism involves supernatural things that bring a person into contact with the demons, things such as fortune-telling, witchcraft, casting spells, or trying to speak with the dead. The Bible tells us that demonism is “detestable” and that we cannot be involved with demonism and at the same time worship Jehovah. (Deuteronomy 18:10-12;  Revelation 21:8) Christians must completely avoid all forms of demonism.​—Romans 12:9.

11 Satan knows that if we are attracted to the supernatural, it will be easy for him to draw us into demonism. Any form of demonism would destroy our relationship with Jehovah.


The first problem we encounter when considering “spiritism” as a disfellowshipping offense is that the word has many different meanings in the Watchtower literature.

The use of the word “spiritism” in the Watchtower literature

The NWT13 uses the word “spiritism” one time, “spiritistic practices” two times, “those practicing spiritism” one time, and “those who practice spiritism” one time. The passages are quoted below from NWT13:

Galatians 5: 19, 20

Now the works of the flesh are plainly seen…idolatry, spiritism (farmakeia), hostility, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, dissensions, divisions, sects.

Revelation 9:21

And they did not repent of their murders nor of their spiritistic practices (farmakon) nor of their sexual immorality nor of their thefts.

Revelation 18:23

No light of a lamp will ever shine in you again, and no voice of a bridegroom or of a bride will ever be heard in you again; for your merchants were the top-ranking men of the earth, and by your spiritistic practices (farmakeia) all the nations were misled.

Revelation 21:8

 But as for the cowards and those without faith and those who are disgusting in their filth and murderers and the sexually immoral and those practicing spiritism (farmakos) and idolaters and all the liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur. This means the second death.”

Revelation 22:15

Outside are the dogs and those who practice spiritism (farmakos) and those who are sexually immoral and the murderers and the idolaters and everyone who loves and practices lying.

The three related Greek words farmakeia, farmakos, and farmakon are used in the scriptures. What the translators of NWT13 mean by the use of the word “spiritism” is seen in the comment on Galatians 5:20 in the online New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures (Study Edition):

Spiritism: Or “sorcery; occultism; use of drugs.” The Greek noun here rendered “spiritism” is phar·ma·ki’a, which basically refers to “use of drugs.” The Greek term possibly came to be connected with spiritism, magic, or the occult because drugs were used when invoking the power of the demons in order to practice sorcery. The Septuagint uses the Greek word phar·ma·ki’a to render Hebrew words for “magic (arts)”; “secret arts”; and “sorceries.” (Ex 7:11, 22; 8:7, 18; Isa 47:9, 12) Paul uses the word to refer to occult practices, which may be suggested by his listing “spiritism” immediately after idolatry. (See Glossary, “Idol; Idolatry.”) The related noun phar·ma·kos is rendered “those practicing spiritism” at Re 21:8.—Re 22:15: see Glossary.

The Glossary says:


The belief that the spirits of dead humans survive the death of the physical body and that they can and do communicate with the living, especially through a person (a medium) particularly susceptible to their influence. The Greek word for “practice of spiritism” is phar·ma·kiʹa, which literally means “druggery.” This term came to be connected with spiritism because in ancient times, drugs were used when invoking the power of the demons in order to practice sorcery.​—Ga 5:20; Re 21:8.

The definition in the Glossary shows that the meaning of the English word “spiritism” from the viewpoint of the NWT translators is rather narrow. Here, its meaning is restricted to attempts to contact the spirits of dead humans.

However, the references in the in Watchtower ONLINE LIBRARY show a much wider definition of spiritism, as I present below. The word “spiritualism” is used synonymously with the word “spiritism.” The Watchtower of 1956, page 109, shows that spiritism is rather old:

Spiritualism is about four thousand years old, but it has staged a vigorous modern reappearance in the West. The American spiritualistic movement had its beginning in 1848 with the young Fox sisters of Hydeville, New York, who later moved to Rochester, New York, to continue with their mediumship there, attracting nation-wide attention.

However, for about a hundred years before the start of the American phase of spiritualism, Germany and Switzerland had their spiritualists who developed or believed in psychic phenomena almost identical with those connected with the American movement. They had spirit vision, spirit writing, foreknowledge of coming events from the spirit realm, and daily direct communication with inhabitants of the spirit realm.

I bring three quotations showing what is included in the word “Spiritism.” The Truth That Leads to Eternal Life, page 61, says:

14 God condemns every kind of spiritism. The Bible tells us what some of these disapproved things are: divination, magic, looking for omens, sorcery, binding others with a spell (hypnotism, black magic, and so forth), consulting a spirit medium or a fortune-teller and inquiring of the dead. (Deuteronomy 18:10-12; Isaiah 8:19) All of this is demonism, and those who turn to such practices make themselves enemies of God.​—Leviticus 19:31; 1 Chronicles 10:13, 14.

15 Divination is one of the common forms of spiritism. It is the effort to obtain knowledge of the unknown or of the future by means of omens or demon power. (Acts 16:16) Many are the ways divination is practiced today, such as by divining rods, pendulums, crystal-ball gazing, Ouija boards, ESP, examining the lines of one’s hand (palmistry), studying the flight of certain birds, looking for omens in one’s dreams and in other incidents in one’s life and then trying to relate these to the future. There is also divination by the stars, commonly called astrology. This originated in ancient Babylon, as did various forms of the magical arts. The Bible shows that all who use divination sin against God.​—1 Samuel 15:22, 23.

The Watchtower of 1 September 1987, page 3, says:

Yes, spiritism and the occult​—in the forms of astrology, hypnotism, parapsychology, extrasensory perception, magic, interpretation of dreams, and so forth—​are attracting people from all walks of life.

Awake! of 22 July 2000, page 3, says:

Various Forms of Spiritism

The practice of spiritism may consist of consulting a spirit medium, inquiring of the dead, or looking for omens. One popular form of spiritism is divination—attempting to find out about the future or the unknown with the help of spirits. Some forms of divination are astrology, crystal-ball gazing, interpretation of dreams, palmistry, and fortune-telling with the help of tarot cards.

In addition to the many and varied aspects of spiritism mentioned in the quotations above, there are even more examples in The Watchtower ONLINE LIBRARY under the headings “spiritism.” A partial list of features follows:


Black magic

White magic

Bird-flight, studying

Crystal-ball gazing


Divining rods

Extrasensory perception

Fire walking

Fortune telling


Inquiring of the dead


Mediums, consulting

Omens, looking for

Ouija boards

Palmistry, examining lines in the hand




Spells, binding others

Spiritistic healing

Tarot Cards



Secular definitions of “spiritism”

In the Watchtower literature, the word “spiritism” is an umbrella term that includes a wide variety of actions and features. In the secular world, the word no longer is limited to singular features and actions, but has become institutionalized as a religion and a philosophical system.

Wikipedia has the following definition:

Spiritism is a religion, self-described as a spiritualistic philosophy, that started in the 19th century by the French educator Hippolyte Léon Denizard Rivail, who, under the pen name Allan Kardec, wrote books on “the nature, origin, and destiny of spirits, and their relation with the corporeal world”. Spiritists refer to Kardec as the codifier.

Spiritist philosophy postulates that humans, along with all other living beings, are essentially immortal spirits that temporarily inhabit physical bodies for several necessary incarnations to attain moral and intellectual improvement. It also asserts that disembodied spirits, through passive or active mediumship, may have beneficent or malevolent influence on the physical world.[4] Spiritism is an evolution-affirming religion.[1]

A website dealing with biblical questions and answers has the following definition:

Question: “What is Spiritism?

Answer: Spiritism, as defined by its founder, Allen Kardec, is “a science dedicated to the relationship between incorporeal beings and human beings.” Kardec was a French educator whose real name was Hippolyte Leon Denizard Rivail. Kardec codified the Kardecist Spiritualism Doctrine, the aim of which was to study spirits—their origin, nature, destiny, and relation to the corporeal world. Spiritism became a popular movement and is now represented in 35 countries. Kardec also wrote The Spirits’ Book in an attempt to show how Spiritism differs from spiritualism.

The main idea of Spiritism is that immortal spirits travel from one body to another over several lifetimes in order to improve themselves morally and intellectually. While this belief sounds similar to reincarnation, it is different in that, according to Spiritism, spirits cannot come back as animals or any lower life form. The migration of the spirit is always forward, and spirits always inhabit human bodies. Spiritists believe that this explains the differences in temperament and intellect in human beings. Spiritism also claims that disembodied spirits can have benevolent or maleficent effects on the living and that humans can communicate with spirits through séances and mediums. Spiritism came into favor in the 19th century, alongside modernism, and is compatible with that philosophy on several fronts, most notably the belief that man can continually improve by way of rational thought. Author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and his wife were famous spiritists.

Spiritism is not a religion but rather a philosophy and “way of life,” according to spiritists. There are no ministers, and group meetings consist of sharing ideas about spirits, how they may or may not be moving in the world, the results of those movements, etc. Spiritists value scientific research over worship or rule-following, though they affirm moral living and rational intellectual pursuits.[2]

The reason why I have referenced so many definitions of “spiritism” is that the Shepherd book uses the word “spiritism” in Galatians 5:20 as a basis for the disfellowshipping offense “spiritism.” So, we need to know if the word “spiritism” mentioned in that passage is a sound and secure basis for the disfellowshipping offense “spiritism”. This issue can be approached from three different angles, 1) Is the rendering “spiritism” for the Greek word farmakeia an accurate rendering from the view of lexical semantics?, 2) Do all the collocations of the English word “spiritism” corroborate the collocations of the Greek word farmakeia?, and 3) Do the Christian Greek Scriptures show that practicing farmakeia is a disfellowshipping offense?

The definition of farmakeia by different lexicons

The only way to find the meaning and references of a Greek word in the Christian Grteek Scriptures is to study the contexts where it occurs in the these Scriptures. Greek lexicons and dictionaries can give us some clues as to the meaning of a Greek word. But because these sources may include the meaning of a word in Classical Greek, which is often different from its Scriptural meaning, we should use these sources with reservation and caution. In connection with the word farmakeia I refer to two dictionaries.

Mounce Greek Dictionary says:

employment of drugs for any purpose; sorcery, magic, enchantment, Rev. 18:23; Gal. 5:20.

The basic meaning of farmakeia in Classical Greek texts is “drugs” with the focus on the use of drugs. As the source says, drugs could be used for any purpose, for example, as medicine, and as a means for wellbeing or intoxication, that have nothing to do with spiritism. But it seems that farmakeia often was used in a magic connection. So, the problem in pinpointing the meaning of the word is to distinguish between its basic meaning of “drugs/druggery” and how these drugs were used. This is seen in the discussion of the word in  The Watchtower of 1971, page 248:

Drugs were known in the ancient days of Bible writing. For what, especially, were they known? For their connection with sorcery, witchcraft, spiritism. But drugs did not bring their users into ‘communion with God,’ as some modern drug advocates claim. At Galatians 5:20, spiritism is classed, not as a fruit of God’s spirit, but as one of the “works of the flesh” that will prevent one from entering God’s kingdom. Here the Greek word used for “practice of spiritism” or “sorcery” is phar·ma·kiʹa, literally, “druggery.”

On this word, Vine’s Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words comments: “PHARMAKIA . . . primarily signified the use of medicine, drugs, spells; then, poisoning; then, sorcery, . . . See also Rev. 9:21; 18:23. . . . In sorcery, the use of drugs, whether simple or potent, was generally accompanied by incantations and appeals to occult powers, with the provision of various charms, amulets, etc., professedly designed to keep the applicant or patient from the attention and power of demons, but actually to impress the applicant with the mysterious resources and powers of the sorcerer.”


On the basis of the two quotations above, can the rendering “spiritism” be justified? Vines Expository Dictionary shows that the word could indicate both the use of medicine and poisoning, as well as sorcery.  Analyzing how the Greek word rendered “spiritism” is used in the Christian Greek Scriptures can help us eliminate some of the lexical meanings of the word derived from Classical Greek, and thus get us closer to its original Scriptural meaning. For example: Because farmakeia is one of the works of the flesh, the neutral term “medicine” is excluded in the Christian Greek Scriptures. Revelation 18:23 shows that because of the farmakeia of Babylon the Great, all the nations were led astray. This makes the meaning “poisoning” unlikely but not impossible. Thus, the remaining lexical meanings “sorcery, magic, and enchantment” (Mounce Greek Dictionary) are likely. Table 1.1 has a comparison of the possible meanings of farmakeia  with the Governing Body rendering of that word as “spiritism” along with its accompanying definitions.

Table 1.1 A comparison between farmakeia and “spiritism”

Sorcery: A type of magic in which spirits, especially evil ones, are used to make things happen.[3] The belief that the spirits of dead humans survive the death of the physical body and that they can and do communicate with the living, especially through a person (a medium) particularly susceptible to their influence.[4]
Magic: The use of special powers to make things happen that would usually be impossible, such as in stories for children.[5] Astrology, black magic, white magic, bird-flight study of, crystal-ball gazing, divination, divining rods, extrasensory perception, fire walking, fortune telling, hypnotism, inquiring of the dead, magic,

mediums consulting, omens looking for, ouija boards, palmistry, parapsychology, pendulums, sorcery, spells binding, spiritistic healing, tarot cards, witch doctors, voodoo.[6]

Enchantment: “Something that is thought to have magical power over someone.[7] Spiritism is a religion; spiritism is a philosophy.[8]

We assume that farmakeia with the basic meaning “druggery” does not refer to drugs used as medicine or as poisoning, but refers instead to something that is supernatural. The common denominator of the definitions on the left side of table 1.1 is “magic performed by the help of unseen spirits” with stress on the word “magic.” This is far from the Governing Body’s definition of spiritism in the upper right box of table 1.1 as attempts to contact the spirits of the dead, which is the definition in the online New World Translation (Study Edition). This means that from the point of view of lexical semantics, the translation of farmakeia with “spiritism” is inaccurate and misleading.

Jehovah’s Witnesses who know the Watchtower literature, would associate “spiritism” with all the characteristics and actions mentioned in the middle box to the right. However, all of the ritualistic practices listed there will lead the reader further away from the actual meaning and references of the Greek word farmakeia. Persons who are not Jehovah’s Witnesses would associate “spiritism” with attempts to contact the dead, and with modern systems and paradigms that are viewed by some as religions and by others as philosophies. This also is very far from the meaning and references of the Greek word farmakeia.

How should farmakeia be translated? Most English translations use the word “sorcery,” and another alternative is “magic.” NWT13 has the footnote “Or “sorcery; druggery,” which is illuminating. Because we cannot be certain that farmakeia refers to something that is supernatural, the rendering “spiritism” misleads the readers. A much better translation would be “druggery,” and a footnote could tell that in ancient times the word farmakeia often were connected with spiritism. In this way, the translators would not force their interpretation of the word on the readers, but the readers would see the alternatives and make their own interpretations.

The Greek word  farmakeia in Galatians 5:20 is not a disfellowshipping offense

Disfellowshipping offenses are listed in 1 Corinthians, chapters 5 and 6. In chapter 6 we find the following evil persons that are listed:

Table 1.2 Evil persons listed in 1 Corinthians 6

pornos A man or woman who engages in sexual immorality.
eidōlolatrēs One who takes part in idol worship.
moikhos A person who commits adultery.
malakos The passive male partner in homosexual intercourse.
aresenokoitēs The male partner in homosexual intercourse.
kleptēs A thief.
pleonektēs An exploiter[1][1].  The word “greed” is defined as “an insatiable desire for more.” Neither Classical Greek nor Classical Hebrew had a word with this meaning. Therefore, translating the Greek word pleonektēs with “greed” is wrong. My translation is “exploiter.” For a detailed discussion of this issue see the article “Greed” in the category “The eleven disfellowshipping offenses.”
methysos A drunkard.
loidoros A reviler, an abusive person.
harpax A rapacious person, a robber.

In Galatians chapter 5 the following works of the flesh are listed:

Table 1.3 The works of the flesh listed in Galatians 5

porneia Sexual immorality.
akatharsia Uncleanness.
asēlgeia Unrestrained lust.
eidōlolatria Idolatry.
farmakeia Use of magic, often involving drugs.
ekhthros Enmity.
eris Strife, discord.
zēlos Jealousy.
thymoi Anger, rage.
eritheia Disputes, outbreak of selfishness.
dikhostasia Division, dissention.
hairesis Making a sect.
fthonos Envy.
methyō Drunkenness.
kōmos Excessive feasting.

In 1 Corinthians 6:9 (NWT13) we find the words: “unrighteous people will not inherit God’s Kingdom,” and at the end of verse 10 we read that the evil persons described in those verses “will not inherit God’s Kingdom.” After the list of the works of the flesh in Galatians chapter 5, we read in verse 21 (NWT13): “that those who practice such things will not inherit God’s Kingdom.”

Because the phrase “will not inherit God’s Kingdom” is mentioned in 1 Corinthians 6:9, 10, in connection with persons who should be disfellowshipped, and the same words are found in Galatians 5:21, the Governing Body argues that this signals that some of the “works of the flesh” listed in Galatians chapter 5 must also be disfellowshipping offenses. And since spiritism (farmakeia) is on that list, it must be a disfellowshipping offense as well.

However, this argument is wrong because there are great disparities between 1 Corinthians chapter 6 and Galatians chapter 5. The important point is that the words “thieves, exploiters (NWT13, “greedy persons”), drunkards, revilers, and extortioners” in 1 Corinthians 6:10 do not refer to particular actions. But each word serves as a nomen agentis, a substantive made from a verb, an “actor noun.” Examples are  “speaker” from “speak” and “rider” from “ride.” The actor nouns may also refer to an occupation or a characteristic. For example, the Greek word alieus (“fisherman”) comes from the verb alieuō (“to fish”) and hiereus (“priest”) comes from the verb hierateuō (“to serve as a priest”). Both alieus and hiereus show what the persons are. And similarly, the words in 1 Corinthians 6:9, 10 show what the persons are, that is, the persons they have become. This means that only those who are permeated by one or more of the serious sins mentioned deserve to be disfellowshipped. We may use John 12:6 as an example. The text says that Judas was a thief because he used to steal the money that was put in the money box. Thus, a thief is a person who is permeated by thievery, an incorrigible stealer.  An “exploiter” (pleonektēs) is the nomen agentis of pleonekteō, which, according to DNTT means, “to take advantage of, wrong, defraud, or cheat.” Thus, an “exploiter” is one who is practicing or is permeated by the actions expressed by the verb.

In contrast to 1 Corinthians chapter 6, where the personalities or moral character of wicked persons are mentioned, Galatians chapter 5 describes, not persons, but the desires and works of the flesh. None of the works of the flesh are disfellowshipping offenses. But three of the works of the flesh—porneia (“sexual immorality”), eidōlolatria (“idolatry”), and methyō (“drunkenness”)— have corresponding nomen agentis (pornos, eidololatrēs, and methysos) in 1 Corinthians. This means that if a person is permeated by one of these three works of the flesh, he or she deserves to be disfellowshipped. As mentioned earlier, the Governing Body has reasoned that because 1 Corinthians chapter 6 and Galatians chapter 5 both use the phrase “will not inherit God’s Kingdom,” and because three of the “works of the flesh” mentioned in Galatians chapter 5 also have corresponding nomen agentis that are disfellowshipping offenses, then other works on that list must also be disfellowshipping offenses. But if we decide that one of the works of the flesh, such as, for example, farmakia (“druggery” or “magic”), must be a disfellowshipping offense, because it is said that those who practice it, “will not inherit God’s Kingdom,” then, by that same logic, all the works of the flesh listed in Galatians chapter 5 would also have to be disfellowshipping offenses. But the Governing Body will never claim that. Therefore, we cannot arbitrarily take just one of the works of the flesh and decide that it is a disfellowshipping offense.

Supporting the view that Paul is not speaking of disfellowshipping offenses in Galatians chapter 5 is the fact that some of the works of the flesh are easy to identify, while others are difficult to identify. For example, sexual immorality, idolatry,  making a sect, drunkenness, and excessive feasting, are rather easy to identify. But loose conduct, uncleanness, enmity, strife, discord, jealousy, anger, rage, disputes, outbreak of selfishness, division, dissension, and envy are more elusive. Would it, for example, be possible to disfellowship someone because of jealousy or envy? Absolutely not!

But what do the words that those who practice these works will not inherit God’s Kingdom mean? Paul’s point seems to be that the works of the flesh (the fleshly desires) are against the spirit (5:16, 17). So, if anyone practices these things, this person must work hard to repent and change. In time, our efforts will pay off and we can improve (5:16, 25). True, the ransom sacrifice of Jesus atones for sin, but we must also try hard to overcome our weaknesses. Otherwise, the person will not inherit God’s Kingdom. It is clear that most persons who will not inherit God’s Kingdom are persons who are wicked and have never belonged to the Christian congregation.

The following three questions were posed above: 1) Is the rendering “spiritism” for the Greek word farmakeia an accurate rendering from the view of lexical semantics?, 2) Do all the collocations of the English word “spiritism” corroborate the collocations of the Greek word farmakeia?, and 3) Do the Christian Greek Scriptures show that practicing farmakeia is a disfellowshipping offense? The answers to these questions are: 1) The word “spiritism” is an inaccurate rendering of farmakeia, 2) The English collocations of “spiritism” are very different from the meanings and collocations of farmakeaia, and 3) No passage in the Bible shows that farmakeia (“druggery” or “magic”) is a disfellowshipping offense.

The word “spiritism” is an inaccurate rendering of the Greek word farmakeia, and  “druggery” would be a better rendering. The Christian Greek Scriptures do not show that the word farmakeia refers to a disfellowshipping offense.




[4]. NWT Glossary, NWT Study Edition.


[6]. Some of the actions and phenomena described in the Watchtower literature as spiritism.




This article has established that the Governing Body’s translation of farmakeia as “spiritism” is an inaccurate rendering of that Greek word. Also, the English derivations of spiritistic practices that have accumulated under this umbrella term over the years, do not match the meanings and collocations of farmakeia.

This means that “druggery,” i.e., taking different kinds of drugs is not a disfellowshipping offense. And further, several actions that some view as spiritism are relatively innocent and do not seek supernatural assistance.

However, a member of the Christian congregation who becomes engaged in that list of spiritistic practices and becomes permeated with such practices deserves to be disfellowshipped from the Christian congregation. The reason is not that the terms “spiritism” or “spiritistic practices” that are used by the Governing Body are listed as disfellowshipping offenses in the Christian Greek Scriptures. But the actual practices themselves, listed under the Governing Body-derived umbrella term “spiritism,” can be subsumed under one of the disfellowshipping offenses listed by Paul in 1 Corinthians, chapters 5 and 6, namely, idolatry (eidōlolatria). I will elucidate this issue.

The Septuagint uses the word eidōlolatria for several Hebrew words that refers to idols of tree and stone. However, there is something behind these dead idols, according to Deuteronomy 32:17 (NWT13):

They were sacrificing to demons, not to God, To Gods they had not known. New ones that came along recently, To Gods that your forefathers did not know.

The Hebrew word that is translated by “demons” is shēdīm, and the LXX uses the word daimoniois. Both Dictionary of New Testament Theology vol. 2, page 286, and Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, vol. II, page 378, concludes that Paul’s argument in 1 Corinthians, chapter 10, builds on Deuteronomy 32:17. The online NWT13 agrees: “Paul is apparently quoting from or alluding to De 32:17.” Paul says in 1 Corinthians 10:18-22:

18 Look at Israel in the fleshly sense: Are not those who eat the sacrifices sharers with the altar? 19 What, then, am I saying? That what is sacrificed to an idol is anything, or that an idol is anything? 20 No; but I say that what the nations sacrifice, they sacrifice to demons and not to God; and I do not want you to become sharers with the demons. 21  You cannot be drinking the cup of Jehovah and the cup of demons; you cannot be partaking of “the table of Jehovah” and the table of demons. 22  Or ‘are we inciting Jehovah to jealousy’? We are not stronger than he is, are we?

The important point here is that the idolaters who sacrificed to idols, in reality, sacrificed to and came into contact with demons. This is a kind of idolatry, and by their offerings, they worshipped the demons instead of the living God, Jehovah. In a similar way, by practicing any of the different rituals listed under the Governing Body term “spiritism,” persons come into contact with demons and, in reality, worship them instead of Jehovah. Because of this, what has been dubbed “spiritism,” along with its accompanying practices, can be classified as a kind of idolatry, and Paul lists idolatry as a disfellowshipping offense in 1 Corinthians 6:9.

Christians who start to practice any of the rituals the Governing Body has labeled “spiritism” cannot be disfellowshipped on the basis of this derived word or definition. This is because “spiritism” is not an accurate translation of the Greek word farmakeia, nor is it a disfellowshipping offense. But they can be disfellowshipped because of idolatry—they are serving other gods (the demons) instead of Jehovah.


The word translated “spiritism” in Galatians 5:20 (NWT13) is farmakeia, and the literal meaning of this word is “druggery.” This alternative is given in a footnote together with “sorcery” in NWT13. Thus, the meaning of farmekeia is uncertain—it may or may not refer to “magic.” However, the Governing Body’s translation of farmekeia as “spiritism,” along with its accompanying definitions and collocations, is not an accurate rendering of that Greek word.

Spiritism is a disfellowshipping offense, according to the book “Shepherd The Flock Of God.”  The Bible does not support this conclusion because there is no scripture saying that farmakeia, or its translation “spiritism,” is a disfellowshipping offense. However, the ritualistic practices enumerated under the Gpverning Body’s umbrella term “spiritism” are examples of idolatry.

Moses shows that sacrificing to idols is the same as sacrificing to demons. Therefore, the practices listed under the Governing Body’s umbrella term “spiritism” constitute different forms of idolatry. A Christian who starts to practice any of these forms of idolatry cannot be disfellowshipped because of “spiritism,”  because spiritism is not a disfellowshipping offense. But he can be disfellowshipped because of idolatry, because such practices, in reality, constitute different kinds of idolatry.

Rolf Furuli

Author Rolf Furuli

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