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Bible Dictionaries

Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible


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BAR-JESUS . The name of ‘a certain Magian, a false prophet, a Jew’ ( Acts 13:6 ) whom St. Paul, on his visit to Cyprus, found in the retinue of Sergius Paulus, the Roman proconsul. The title Elymas ( Acts 13:8 ) is equivalent to Magus ( Acts 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 Acts 13:8 , which states that Sergius Paulus ‘was listening with much pleasure to them.’ In St. Paul’s judgment on this false prophet ( Acts 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. Philippians 3:2 ).

J. G. Tasker.

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These files are public domain.
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Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Bar-Jesus'. Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible. 1909.

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