What does bewitch mean in Galatians 3:1?

Galatians 3:1 O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified.

From the interlinear bible I learn that the word is ebaskanen which has a meaning to give an evil eye to. What does this really mean?

Does this have any relation/connection with the eye being evil mentioned by Christ in

Matthew 6:22-23 22 The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light.

23 But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness!


  • Your link to Strong gives a reference to phasko (Strong 940) "Akin to phasko; to malign, i.e. (by extension) to fascinate (by false representations) -- bewitch.".
    – Nigel J
    Commented Mar 30, 2019 at 13:12
  • Is this the same thing as Enchantment by the Serpent in the Garden of Eden? Commented Mar 31, 2019 at 11:25

4 Answers 4


ἐβάσκανεν (ebaskanen) is from the root word βασκαίνω (baskainó) which only occurs in the NT in Gal 3:1. BDAG describes this words as:

to exert an evil influence through the eye, bewitch, as with the 'evil eye'

Thus Paul uses a play on words in Gal 3:1 by saying, "who has bewitched you with that evil eye? It was before your very eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified." Both are clearly literary figures of speech (Jesus was not visibly crucified in Galatia!) Paul appears to talking about silver-tongued orators who have lead the Galatians into legalism - the opposite of Christ' free grace. Or, in the idiom of Paul, who has cast their evil eye on you to lead you astray with such foolishness despite the truth of God's grace being presented to you.

Ellicott puts it this way:

Bewitched you.--The Greek word for this is probably connected in origin with the Latin word from which is derived our own "fascinate," and the idea prominent in both is that which is embodied in the popular superstition of the evil eye. This superstition lingers still, especially in some southern countries, such as Italy and Spain. In Italy it is well known under the names "jettatura," "occhio cattivo." In Spain its existence has been graphically illustrated by a picture of the late J. Phillip, R.A., now in the museum at Stirling. The metaphor here is strikingly in harmony with that which follows. The cross of Christ has been "evidently set forth" (i.e., posted up in large and bold characters) before the Galatians, but some evil fascination (that of their Judaising teachers) has drawn away their eyes from looking upon it, and held them fixed upon another object (legal observances), as baneful as the cross was salutary.

I see no immediate connection between the implied "evil eye" of Gal 3:1 and Matt 6:22, 23 as the latter is discussing the personal life as distinct from false teachings and doctrine in Gal 3:1.


My 1,700 page supplemented American Edition (1854) of Liddell & Scott gives baskania as blame, baskanos as envious, slanderous and talebearing; and sums up baskaino (Paul's word in Galatians 3:1) as 'to use ill words of another - to slander or backbite'.

In profane use, the edition states that there was a meaning that strayed into the 'bewitch' 'spell' or 'evil eye' area but this does not appear (from this supplemented edition of Liddell & Scott) to be a primary meaning.

The concepts of envy, slander, tale-bearing and backbiting are (as the OP's comment suggests) very much in keeping with the activity of him who is described as a serpent and, particularly I would say, in keeping with the meaning of diabolos - slanderer. (Dia-bolos, through entanglement - as with the bolos fishing net.)

Thus it appears in Galatians 3:1 that Paul is asking 'Who has, through envy and slander, misled you from the pure gospel ?'

He then makes this clear by saying 'that ye should not obey the truth'. It is their obedience to truth that has been affected. They are not cowering in fear of some spooky 'evil eye' or weird 'curse'. What Paul is addressing is that the Galatian Christians have hearkened to slanderous lies and been moved from their steadfast following of gospel doctrine.

Further, he remonstrates with them 'before whose eyes Jesus Christ has been evidently set forth (in preaching) crucified among you'.

Before their very eyes, by the preaching of Paul, these Galatians had 'seen' (by faith) the crucified Saviour. But now, by envy, by slander, by other words of untruth, they are moved out of the path and need to be recovered from a parallel path which, if followed, will diverge more and more in legality.

They were not diverted to weirdness by an evil eye - to follow strange rituals or to become idolatrous lunatics. They were subtly misled by false statements (close to truth but not true) to turn back, from believing in Jesus Christ to be perfected (supposedly) by the Law of Moses !

The translators have evidently struggled to convey baskaino with one English word. 'Bewitch' is perhaps not exactly the meaning which Paul had in his inspired mind.

'Divert' ? 'Mislead' ? Possibly.

Foolish as these Christians had been, I do not think that they were altogether stupid and superstitious enough to fall foul of a wandering, hocus-pocus conjurer. They had been diverted from truth by that which often diverts from truth - something close to truth but which is not, exactly, truth . . .

. . . just as the serpent in Eden used half-truth, innuendo and slander to divert Eve from the right way, as the OP states in comment.


There may be here an oblique reference to the origins of the culture of the Galatians -- i.e. Gauls - i.e. Celts, who came to that area earlier, with their various prevailing traditions and superstitions, mixing with the religions of the middle east, and, of course, Christianity. They were wrestling with many ideas foreign to Celtic tradition, including the Judaisers who were challenging St. Paul's teaching of salvation through faith, by grace alone. The "Gauls" i.e. Celts were use to the idea of "bewitching," meaning, EVIL INFLUENCES brought to bear by non-christian religious/spiritual/pagan practices. Just a thought. I think . . . this word has historical, grammatical and cultural implications. I mean, Paul is referencing the CULTURE of the Galatians, like we might say, "who has introduced a virus" in your midst that would infect you with bad ideas . . . and so forth and so on. The locus of the IDEA may come from celtic cultural traditions.

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    – Dottard
    Commented Jun 7, 2020 at 2:46

No. The two are unrelated.

The ancient Greeks thought that vision was something that involved a force emanating from the eyes. So, it was thought a person could influence others by looking at them. To dig deeper into the etymology of this word only leads to the genetic fallacy (that the origins of a word affect its meaning as used in common speech).

Paul was exasperated, I think he's employing mild sarcasm as a rhetorical device. By this time the word has come to mean "bewitch, entrance, spellbind, pixilate" as if to ask "Are you not in your right mind?" Or, "I know somebody musta done this to you 'cause I di'n't raise you this way!"

The Hebrew idiom "evil eye" means to be selfish or self-centered. It means to regard others in an unfavorable way. See Deut. 15:7-9

(from vs 9) ...and thine eye be evil against thy poor brother, and thou givest him nought...

J-sus was basically saying that if you're only about yourself, what good are you? You can't see your need for G-d. You can't see where to help people. You can't see that you can't see. You're messed up, bro.

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    Commented Dec 23, 2020 at 21:38

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