Biblical People

Biblical People: Elymas (Bar-Jesus)

Barnabas and Paul/Saul sail to Cyprus and travel the island telling people about Jesus. When they get to Paphos, they meet Bar-Jesus, a Jewish sorcerer (in this case, a magician who practices witchcraft) and false prophet. His Greek name is Elymas.

He’s also an aide to the Roman governor, Sergius Paulus. Sergius wants to learn more about Jesus, but Elymas opposes Barnabas and Paul and tries to thwart their influence over his boss.

Paul will have none of it. Filled with the Holy Spirit, he glares at Elymas. “You’re the devil’s spawn and the enemy of all that’s good. You’re full of lies and tricks. Why do you persist in perverting God’s ways?” Then Paul adds the kicker: “God’s had enough of you and will strike you blind.”

At that moment, Elymas loses his sight. In a panic, he gropes around, seeking someone to take his hand and guide him.

This gets Sergius’s attention. He’s amazed and believes in Jesus.

But we don’t know what happens to Elymas. Is his blindness temporary? Maybe Paul heals him. If so, does Paul heal him right away? Or maybe God, through Paul, is content to leave Elymas blind for a while.

After all, when Paul first encountered Jesus, he remained blind for three days until Ananias (2), led by the Holy Spirit, healed Paul and restored his sight.

I’m glad that Sergius believes in Jesus, and I hope that Elymas will soon see again. But more importantly, I hope that Elymas will believe in Jesus too.

What might we unintentionally do to stand in the way of others who want to learn more about Jesus?

[Discover more about Elymas in Acts 13:6–12.]

Read more about other biblical characters in The Friends and Foes of Jesus, now available in e-book, paperback, and hardcover.

A lifelong student of the Bible, Peter DeHaan, PhD, wrote the 1,000-page website to encourage people to explore the Bible. His main blog and many books urge Christians to push past the status quo and reconsider how they practice their faith in every area of their lives.

By Peter DeHaan

Peter writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and make a faith that matters. Learn more at