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Reference: Bar-Jesus




son of Joshua, the patronymic of Elymas the sorcerer (Ac 13:6), who met Paul and Barnabas at Paphos. Elymas is a word of Arabic origin meaning "wise."

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The name of 'a certain Magian, a false prophet, a Jew' (Ac 13:6) whom St. Paul, on his visit to Cyprus, found in the retinue of Sergius Paulus, the Roman proconsul. The title Elymas (Ac 13:8) is equivalent to Magus (Ac 13:6), and is probably derived from an Arabic root signifying 'wise.' The knowledge of the Magians was half-mystical, half-scientific; amongst them were some devout seekers after truth, but many were mere tricksters. In the Apostolic age such men often acquired great influence, and Bar-jesus represents, as Ramsay (St. Paul the Traveller, p. 79) says, 'the strongest influence on the human will that existed in the Roman world, an influence which must destroy or be destroyed by Christianity, if the latter tried to conquer the Empire.' The narrative implies that the proconsul was too intelligent to be deceived by the Magian's pretensions, the motive of whose opposition to the Christian teachers is expressed in a Bezan addition to Ac 13:8, which states that Sergius Paulus 'was listening with much pleasure to them.' In St. Paul's judgment on this false prophet (Ac 13:10) there is a play upon words: Elymas was full of deceit and not of wisdom; Bar-jesus, i.e. 'son of Jesus,' had become a 'son of the devil.' This is Pauline (cf. Php 3:2).

J. G. Tasker.

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BAR-JESUS, or, according to some copies, BAR-JEU, was a Jewish magician in the island of Crete, Ac 13:6. St. Luke calls him Elymas. He was with the pro-consul Sergius Paulus, who, sending for Paul and Barnabas, desired to hear the word of God. Bar-Jesus endeavouring to hinder the pro-consul from embracing Christianity, Paul, filled with the Holy Ghost, "set his eyes upon him, and said, O full of all subtilty and mischief, thou child of the devil, thou enemy of all righteousness, wilt thou not cease to pervert the right ways of the Lord? Behold, the hand of the Lord is upon thee, and thou shalt be blind, not seeing the sun for a season;" which took place immediately. The pro-consul, who saw this miracle, was converted. Origen and Chrysostom think that Elymas, or Bar-Jesus, was converted likewise; and that St. Paul speedily restored his sight.

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