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Title: Elymas  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Sergius Paulus, Raphael Cartoons, Biblical Magi, Paul the Apostle, Dorcas
Collection: People in Acts of the Apostles
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia


Elymas the Sorcerer is struck blind before Sergius Paulus. Painting by Raphael from the Raphael Cartoons.

Elymas, also known as Bar-Jesus (gr. Bar-iesou, arc. Bar-Shuma, lat. Bariesu), is a Jewish person in the Acts of the Apostles, chapter 13,[1] in the New Testament. Acts of the Apostles calls him a magus, which the King James Bible here translates as "sorcerer". He is represented as opposing the disciple Paul of Tarsus, who is called at this point for the first time with his Roman name, and Barnabas in the city of Paphos on Cyprus, when Sergius Paulus, the Roman Proconsul, wishes to hear Paul and Barnabas speak about Jesus. Because of this opposition, Paul claims that God had decided to make him temporarily blind. A cloud of darkness immediately begins blocking his sight;[2] after this Sergius Paulus is converted to Christianity.[3]

Elymas’s intentions for Sergius are unclear, only that he was desperate to keep him from receiving the word about Jesus. Perhaps he had the proconsul’s ear and was his advisor on matters of faith. This would make sense as Sergius is obviously learned about Jewish teachings and Elymas is Jewish. The message Paul and Barnabas bring threatens the false-prophet’s usefulness to the island's most powerful administrator.

Interestingly, Bar-Jesus received the same curse that Paul himself did: temporary blindness.[4] It is clear from the passage that Bar-Jesus had the ear of the proconsul and was well known throughout the region. He was a self-proclaimed prophet of God[5] who may have had his own religious agenda.


Elymas means "Wise" in Arabic, and may be used to translate magos,[6] while Bar-Shuma' literally means "son of Shuma" in Aramaic. Bar-Jesus means "Son of Joshua" or "Son of Yeshua" in Hebrew.


  1. ^ Acts 13
  2. ^ "Immediately mist and darkness fell upon him, and he went about seeking people to lead him by the hand;" Acts 13:11
  3. ^ "When the proconsul saw what had happened, he believed, for he was amazed at the teaching about the Lord." Acts 13:12
  4. ^ Acts 9:8
  5. ^ Acts 13:6
  6. ^ Ernest Haenchen, The Acts of the Apostles: A Commentary, Philadelphia: The Westminister Press, 1971, pg. 398; ISBN 0-664-20919-X


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