BAR JESUS ("son of Jesu or Joshua"):
A Jewish magician described in Acts xiii. 6-11 as a "sorcerer, a false prophet," who, when Paul and Barnabas came to Cyprus, was found in the company of Sergius Paulus, the Roman proconsul. He also bore the title of "Elymas" (= sorcerer; perhaps related to , Deut. xiii. 2; explained also from the Arabic alim = wise). He opposed Paul in his attempt to convert the proconsul; whereupon Paul, "filled with the Holy Ghost, set his eyes on him," and cursed him with temporary blindness, calling him "son of the Devil" ("Ben Belial"); and "immediately there fell on him a mist and a darkness," and he had to be led by the hand. The proconsul, "when he saw what was done," was converted. Simon Magus, to whom Bar Jesus bears a striking resemblance, is apparently the person mentioned by Josephus ("Ant." xx. 7, § 2), as "Simon . . . a Jew, born in Cyprus," who "pretended to be a magician," one of the friends of Felix, the procurator of Judea, and employed by him to seduce Drusilla from her husband, Azizus, king of Emesa. The same Simon Magus occurs in the story of Peter the Apostle (Acts viii. 20-24), of which the Paul story obviously forms a counterpart. New Testament critics therefore doubt the authenticity of the whole story (see Holzmann, on Acts xiii., and P. W. Schmiedel, in "Encyc. Bibl.")
The Syriac, taking offense at "Son of Jesus" being called "Son of the Devil," has changed the name "Bar Jesus" into "Bar Shuma" (Son of the Name); one Latin translation has "Bar Jesuba," which again has led modern writers like August Klostermann to new conjectures.
- Cheyne, Encyc. Biblica, s.v.;
- Hastings, Dict. of the Bible, s.v.