Relatively few Christians have any idea that the Bible refers to drug use. Among those who do, most have been told that the Greek word that refers to the use of drugs is pharmakeia (pronounced fär-mä-kā’-ä). This is the spelling/pronunciation found in Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, which is widely used by English speaking Bible students. However, one of the most used Bible dictionaries is Vine’s Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words, and as you can see below, Vine prefers the spelling/pronunciation pharmakia (pronounced fär-mä-kē’-ä ). That is why he lists it first and gives the alternate spelling (eia) in parentheses.
PHARMAKIA (or -EIA) (Eng., pharmacy etc.) primarily signified the use of medicine, drugs, spells; then, poisoning; then sorcery. . . . 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.
Still other Bible dictionaries, such as Vincent’s Word Studies in the New Testament, give only pharmakia.
So, which is it? Is it pharmakeia (fär-mä-kā’-ä) or pharmakia (fär-mä-kē’-ä)?
Neither one is wrong, but Greek scholars have different opinions on which is more correct. As far as their pronunciation goes, nobody really knows. There aren’t any sound recordings of ancient Greek, so no one knows for certain how they were pronounced, but they were probably pronounced the same way we pronounce them today.
So there you have it. It’s kinda like the old po-TAY-to or po-TAH-to, to-MAY-to or to-MAH-to debate! There’s really no correct answer, just preferences to choose from.
I chose to stick with Vine’s preferred spelling primarily because it gives much more information on pharmakia than Strong’s, but it really doesn’t matter how you spell it or say it. It only matters if you understand what it refers to, and in the Bible, pharmakia always refers to the use of drugs in the practices of idolatry and witchcraft.