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ELYMAS (ĕl'ĭmăs, Gr. Elymas). A Jew, Bar-Jesus (meaning son of Jesus or Joshua), a sorcerer who was with Sergius Paulus, the proconsul of Cyprus. He became blind following Paul’s curse, causing the proconsul to believe in the Lord (Acts.13.4-Acts.13.13). His name, Elymas, is Greek in form but is not a Greek translation of Bar-Jesus or of “sorcerer” (Gr. magos); it may be the transliteration of an Aramaic or Arabic root meaning “wise,” and equivalent to magos; hence the phrase “Elymas the sorcerer (for that is what his name means)” (Acts.13.8).

ELYMAS ĕl’ ə məs (̓Ελύμας, G1829). A Jewish magician and false prophet whom Paul found on his first missionary journey, in the retinue of Sergius Paulus, the Rom. proconsul of Cyprus (Acts 13:6-12). Sergius Paulus is described by Luke as a “man of intelligence,” who when he heard that Paul and Barnabas were giving lectures on religion and ethics summoned them to appear before him so that he might hear what they had to say. In the apostolic period there were many traveling teachers and philosophers, some of whom acquired a great reputation and eventually were asked to teach at one of the great universities.

Bar-Jesus, which means “son of Jesus” or “Joshua,” was a member of the proconsul’s court and prob. had considerable influence over him. Ancient lit. abounds in stories of men skilled in the lore of the occult who became favorites of men in power. Juvenal (VI. 562; XIV. 248) and Horace (Sat. I. 2. 1), for example, mention Chaldaean astrologers and imposters who were prob. Babylonian Jews. It must not be assumed that such men were necessarily cheap frauds, like gypsy fortune tellers. Often they were the men of science of the day, better acquainted than most people of their time with the powers and processes of nature, but also learned in the strange skills of the Median priests.

Afraid that he might lose his influence over Sergius Paulus if the proconsul were persuaded of the truth of the Christian religion, Elymas spoke against Paul and Barnabas and sought to turn the proconsul from the faith. Paul, filled with the Spirit, looked intently upon him and told him that because he had opposed the truth of God he would become blind and be unable to see for a time. Immediately Elymas lost his sight; and when Sergius Paulus saw what befell the magician he believed, “for he was astonished at the teaching of the Lord” (Acts 13:12).

Josephus (Antiq. XX. vii. 2) tells of a Jew of Cyprus who was a magician and who helped the procurator Felix to win Drusilla (24:24), the wife of Aziz of Emesa, away from her husband. There is a possibility that he and Elymas are the same person.

There is a problem regarding the name of this man. Acts 13:6 says that his name was Bar-Jesus; but v. 8 refers to him as “Elymas the magician (for that is the meaning of his name).” There is clearly no connection beween the names Bar-Jesus and Elymas. The word Elymas seems to be derived from the Arab. word ’alim, signifying “wise,” and to be equivalent to Magus. The likelihood is that Bar-Jesus gave himself the name or the title Elymas because he claimed the powers of the Median priests. See Bar-jesus.

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)

(Elumas, "wise"; Ac 13:8).

See Bar-jesus.