There, in the town of Salamis, they went to the Jewish synagogues and preached the word of God. John Mark went with them as their assistant. Afterward they traveled from town to town across the entire island until finally they reached Paphos, where they met a Jewish sorcerer, a false prophet named Bar-Jesus. He had attached himself to the governor, Sergius Paulus, who was an intelligent man. The governor invited Barnabas and Saul to visit him, for he wanted to hear the word of God. But Elymas, the sorcerer (as his name means in Greek), interfered and urged the governor to pay no attention to what Barnabas and Saul said. He was trying to keep the governor from believing.
Saul, also known as Paul, was filled with the Holy Spirit, and he looked the sorcerer in the eye. Then he said, “You son of the devil, full of every sort of deceit and fraud, and enemy of all that is good! Will you never stop perverting the true ways of the Lord? Watch now, for the Lord has laid His hand of punishment upon you, and you will be struck blind. You will not see the sunlight for some time.” Instantly mist and darkness came over the man’s eyes, and he began groping around begging for someone to take his hand and lead him.
When the governor saw what had happened, he became a believer, for he was astonished at the teaching about the Lord. . . Paul and his companions then left Paphos by ship for Pamphylia, landing at the port town of Perga. There John Mark left them and returned to Jerusalem. (Acts 13:5-13)
Given what I told you in Gem 1614 you know now Paul and Barnabas were dealing with a significant power encounter. Luke has told us clearly that they are in a town reknown for other gods and goddesses. The senior government official’s eternal life is at stake. He is surrounded by alternatives to the message of Jesus, the Gospel – the Good News about Jesus. The one who has the proconsul’s ear is not a good confidant. He is a Jewish sorcerer with mystical (Kabalistic) tendencies and he is a false prophet. Not only that he bears the name of Jesus as well. Into this mix Paul has to bring truth.
Bar-Jesus is not someone in the same mould as Jesus at all. As I said in the last Gem, there is a quadruple threat hidden in this man. Luke tells us that Sergius Paulus is an intelligent man but Bar-Jesus has attached himself to the proconsul. Bar-Jesus had come alongside of Sergius Paulus and befriended him with a purpose. Some commentators think that Bar-Jesus was actually a member of the court of the governor. I don’t think so. I think he had just ingratiated himself to the proconsul, perhaps because the proconsul himself had an interest in magic and things mystical.
Some of you have asked me are there two magicians, Bar-Jesus and Elymas or is Elymas another name for Bar-Jesus? As someone wrote, “Do we have a double threat here Ian to add to your quadruple threat?” That is a good question David? It shows you are paying attention to the text. Are there two magicians here or just one? The simplest way to deal with this is to note that Luke has told us his name in Greek is Elymas. His Hebrew name is Bar-Jesus and his Greek name is Elymas. Hence we are dealing with one magician not two. There is some difficulty on the meaning or derivation of this name Elymas. It is not a Greek word. Thus some think that he was just called that among the Greek speakers even though the name was not of Greek origin. In the text of the manuscript Beza the word is [etoimas] which is like the Greek word for “ready”. Still others think the name derives from [ho loimas] which means “pestilential fellow”. His name is supposed to be the meaning or interpretation of his name in Greek. There is an Arabic word [alama] derived from [alim] “a wise of learned man”. So you see there is some doubt over the nature of this man and his name and how exactly Elymas is the meaning of Bar-Jesus in Greek.
If you look upon the International Standard Encyclopaedia in E-Sword you will find the following input:
Bar-Jesus bar-jē´zus (Βαριησοῦς, Bariēsoús): “A certain sorcerer (Greek mágos), a false prophet, a Jew” whom Paul and Silas found at Paphos in Cyprus in the train of Sergius Paulus, the Roman proconsul (Act_13:6). The proconsul was “a man of understanding” (literally, a prudent or sagacious man), of an inquiring mind, interested in the thought and magic of his times. This characteristic explains the presence of a magos among his staff and his desire to hear Barnabas and Saul. Bar-Jesus was the magician’s Jewish name. Elymas is said to be the interpretation of his name (Act_13:8). It is the Greek transliteration of an Aramaic or Arabic word equivalent to Greek magos. From Arabic ‛alama, “to know” is derived ‛alim, “a wise” or “learned man.” In Koran, Sur note 106, Moses is called Sāḥir ‛alı̄m, “wise magician.” Elymas therefore means “sorcerer” (compare Simon “Magus”).
The East was flooding the Roman Empire with its new and wonderful religious systems, which, culminating in neo-Platonism, were the great rivals of Christianity both in their cruder and in their more strictly religious forms. Superstition was extremely prevalent, and wonder-workers of all kinds, whether imposters or honest exponents of some new faith, found their task easy through the credulity of the public. Babylonia was the home of magic, for charms are found on the oldest tablets. “Magos” was originally applied to the priests of the Persians who overran Babylonia, but the title degenerated when it was assumed by baser persons for baser articles Juvenal (vi.562, etc.), Horace (Sat. i.2.1) and other Latin authors mention Chaldean astrologers and impostors, probably Babylonian Jews. Many of the Magians, however, were the scientists of their day, the heirs of the science of Babylon and the lore of Persia, and not merely pretenders or conjurers (see MAGIC). It may have been as the representative of some oriental system, a compound of “science” and religion, that Bar-Jesus was attached to the train of Sergius Paulus.
Both Sergius and Elymas had heard about the teaching of the apostles, and this aroused the curiosity of Sergius and the fear of Elymas. When the apostles came, obedient to the command of the proconsul, their doctrine visibly produced on him a considerable impression. Fearing lest his position of influence and gain would be taken by the new teachers, Elymas “withstood them, seeking to turn aside the proconsul from the faith” (Act_13:8). Paul, inspired by the Holy Spirit, worked a wonder on the wonder-worker by striking him blind with his word, Thus revealing to the proconsul that behind him was Divine power. Sergius Paulus believed, “being astonished at the teaching of the Lord” (Act_13:12).
I like the entry in the ISBE which says “both Sergius and Elymas had heard about the teaching of the apostles, and this aroused the curiosity of Sergius and the fear of Elymas.” Whoever this man was he “interfered and urged the governor to pay no attention to what Barnabas and Saul said. He was trying to keep the governor from believing.” So Paul looks Elymas in the eye and addresses what he had to say to him personally. “You son of the devil, full of every sort of deceit and fraud, and enemy of all that is good! Will you never stop perverting the true ways of the Lord? Watch now, for the Lord has laid His hand of punishment upon you, and you will be struck blind. You will not see the sunlight for some time.” The “watch now” comment, is not just for Elymas himself, after Paul has made the statement Elymas can no longer “watch now”. This statement is more likely to be for the benefit of Sergius Paulus (the ProConsul) and all in his court who are witnessing this event. Notice how quickly the words of Paul come to fruition. “Instantly mist and darkness came over the man’s eyes, and he began groping around begging for someone to take his hand and lead him. When the governor saw what had happened, he became a believer, for he was astonished at the teaching about the Lord.”
Well you have to admit that was a pretty impressive power encounter. The forces of darkness have been exposed and routed after that encounter. Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit is no match for a practising sorcerer and exponent of black magic.
Two other questions I received on this passage were:
- What happened to Sergius Paulus, was he converted? There is no mention of his conversion.
- What happened to Elymas, was he left in his blindness?
- Immediately after this encounter Paul and his companions leave for Pamphylia. So does that mean Elymas was left in his darkness?
If you don’t take responsibility for the truth within you or that which forms your foundation then someone else will influence you with their truth.Ian Vail
We either influence or we are influenced.Sidney Mohede
Either you will change their life or they will change yours.Sidney Mohede
Guard the truth within you carefully. Your influence is bases on the choices you make.Sidney Mohede
Focus not on yourself but on the Christ who dwells within you.Anon
Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, looked the sorcerer in the eye and said, “You son of the devil, full of every sort of deceit and fraud, and enemy of all that is good! Will you never stop perverting the true ways of the Lord?”Acts 13:9-10
Bear in mind, Paul had only just met Bar-Jesus, also known as Elymas. What a gift of discernment!