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Drug Abuse in Scripture

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                        The Early Church
'For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have Everlasting Life' St. John 3:16 KJV



Drug Abuse in  Scripture and Other extra-Biblical Writings

Didache and St Ignatius  All rights reseved

The first teaching from the Early Church which condemned drug abuse again appeared from Saint Paul in his Epistle to the Galatians in about c. 49-52 AD.

The acts of a sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, (Gk. πορνεία porneia ‘harlotry/pornography’) [...] witchcraft (φαρμακία pharmakia ‘enchantment or magic with drugs’)...hatred...jealousy...envy...orgies and the like’.

Galatians 5:19-21- NIV / KJV / Greek NT

Galatians 5:19-21 Read online (NKJV) / New Testament Greek


The Διδαχή Didaché

ου μαγεύσεις ου φαρμακεύεις ‘use no magic; no [love] philters’

The second great teaching from the Early Church on drug abuse appears in the ancient Διδαχή Didaché which means literally 'A Teaching'. The document, discovered in 1883 is believed to have been compiled possibly as early as c.  70-100 AD (some maintain c. 80-120) and is believed to be oldest example of Christian Literature beyond the New Testament itself. It originally bore the title The Teaching of the Twelve Apostles and is is recognized, along with the Book of Enoch as one of the most important discoveries of all time.


The second part of the teaching

    1 But the second commandment of the teaching is this: 2  "Thou shalt do no murder; thou shalt not commit adultery"; thou shalt not commit sodomy; thou shalt not commit fornication; thou shalt not steal; thou shalt not use magic; thou shalt not use philtres; [ου μαγεύσεις ου φαρμακεύεις ou mageûseis ou pharmakeûeis ‘no magic, no love potions’] thou shalt not procure abortion, nor commit infanticide;

 The Didaché (Ch.2 v.1-2)  Trans. Kirsopp Lake (1872-1946) First published 1912


Public domain


The Didache and the Comparative Epistle of Saint Barnabas


Didache All rights reserved

* ‘Little child‘ Matthew 18:3 (Cp. St. Mark 9:36). In view of the the timeline as we now have it much doubt is cast on this tradition. Most scholars now place St. Ignatius as Syrian born about c. 35 AD and probably a convert of St. John the Evangelist.  Much of the chronology, including the date of the Epistles themselves is however still much disputed.

St. Ignatius to the Trallians v.6 Trans. Roberts-Donaldson (1851-1915) slightly adapted  & abridged.

Public domain


Mini Book Reader for


The Teaching of the Twelve Apostles

See Ch. 2 v. 2 English translation with notes ου μαγεύσεις (ου φαρμακεύεις) pp.168-169 with page



Philip Schaff 1819 - 1893

Public domain



A further teaching against drug abuse in the Early Church, apart from that of the Council of Ancyra in 314 AD came from Tertullian, Bishop of Carthage (c. 150-230 AD) and Basil’s Canons from c. 36 AD approx.

Pharmacides 'Faiths of the World'' Gardiner vol ii p.654  Public domain

Scanned from The Faiths of the World, A Dictionary, James Gardner, vol ii p.654 . First published Fullarton & Co London 1858

Public domain


See also ‘Notes’ page Lexicon φαρμακεία pharmakeia medicinal use/abuse etc.

For further info. on texts, translations and citations of drug abuse and related in the Early Church from, among others, the Apostolic Constitutions of 400 CE,  the Ante-Nicene Fathers, Saint Augustine and others:



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The Septuagint (LXX)


The ‘Bible’ of the Early Church

The Septuagint, or ancient Greek version of the Hebrew Old Testament was the ‘Bible’ of the Early Church. Generally called the LXX this ancient text was translated, or at least completed,  from an original Hebrew in Alexandria about c. 250 BC. Most Old Testament quotes appearing  the New Testament and other Early Writings are taken from the LXX.

As translation Greek the LXX has undoubtedly preserved traces of the original Sopherim or tradition of the ‘old Scribes’ from Hebrew far older than the ‘transmitted’ text of the later Massoretic. A recension which did not fully appear until at least c. 500-1000 AD.

Some scholars maintain that the text of the LXX is at times so literal as to be a virtual ‘Hebrew in disguise’. (NBD p.1298). As such the scholars point out that great care must be taken if attempts are made to reconstruct any underlying original where variants in spelling and grammar invariably occur. Special Grammars have been written to facilitate translation of this ancient text .

The academic Septuagint Grammar makes it clear, that, as peculiar to Biblical Greek, (GSG p.173) the LXX φαρμακία -εία  pharmakia, -eia and cognates, where preserved in the the New Testament and other Early Church literature, have remained virtually unchanged through time and transmission as a literal reflection of an original Hebrew.

Septuagint (LXX) Concordance

(ii) Grammar of Septuagint Greek F.C. Conybeare & St. George Stock. p.173.

Public domain

For further info. on the Septuagint please visit

The LXX Online

Free Interlinear LXX-Septuagint (Greek Old Testament)

The Codex Sinaiticus Project