Acts 13:6-17 – The Blinding of Bar-Jesus

Barnabas and Saul arrive at Paphos they are challenged by a “sorcerer and false prophet” named Bar-Jesus, or Bar-Joshua. Bar-Jesus was a counselor for Sergius Paulus, the Roman proconsul on Cyprus.  Thus Bar-Jesus was a very powerful man in the government His name means “son of the Savior,” but he is also known as Elymas, meaning “Wise” in Arabic.

Sergius Paulus wishes to meet with Saul, but Bar-Jesus opposes this meeting.  Paul is described as “full of the Spirit” as he condemns Bar-Jesus.  Paul accuses him of trickery and deceit, and perverting the ways of the Lord.  Paul then blinds the man, and he had to be led away. This is in itself a rather unique event in the New Testament, but the miracle is also a symbolic act.   There are a number of miracles in the New Testament which are more or less “prophetic acts.”  Jesus heals a blind man in Mark 8:22-26 who begins to see, then sees fully.  This is a picture of the understanding of the disciples at that point in the gospel of Mark.  The result is that the Gentile man who is not a God-Fearer believed and was amazed at the teaching about the Lord.

Luke uses the Blinding of Bar-Jesus at this point in Acts to signal a major shift to Gentile mission.  Luke begins to refer to Saul and Paul.  The change occurs in the middle of the conflict with Bar-Jesus.   Likely Saul was always also known as Paul, but it is at this critical part of the story when Luke chooses to change names in the narrative.  This indicates a major shift in the progress of salvation history, from the Jews to the Gentiles.

Luke also switches the order of the names from this point on in the book; up until this event, Barnabas and Saul have traveled together, now Paul and Barnabas will travel on to Antioch.  The only exception is at the Jerusalem council in Acts 15, likely because Barnabas took the lead in speaking with James.  On a literary level, Paul is the main human character for the rest of the book; the blinding of Bar-Jesus is the transitional point in the whole book.

Paul and Bar-Jesus are in many ways similar: both were blind and both encounter the truth of the Gospel of Jesus.  As Darrell Bock says, “Elymas is where Paul was years earlier” (Acts, 446).  But Bar-Jesus is radically off-base from the Law.  He is a sorcerer and working for a Roman official.  While Paul condemns this one man for his unfaithfulness, he is also pointing his finger at the whole of the Jewish nation; Paul too was in error concerning the nature of Jesus as the Messiah.

It is critical to note that Bar-Jesus is blind only for a time, not permanently.  So too, Israel is only set aside in the progress of salvation, they are not “cut off forever.”  If this is a symbolic miracle indicating that the Jews are “blinded” to the gospel, it also promises a restoration of the Jewish people in the future.

60 thoughts on “Acts 13:6-17 – The Blinding of Bar-Jesus

  1. 2 points:

    First, it seems like the mission to the Gentiles transitions in the next chapter (14) since it begins with them teaching in the Jewish synagogue “as usual,” and ends with them telling the disciples of the “door opened to the Gentiles.”

    Second, Paul used the Holy Spirit here as a weapon, which is pretty cool, but seems fairly unique to the New Testament. I’m surprised we don’t see charismatic believers using the Holy Spirit to blind abortion doctors or democrats. Jesus blinded Saul, but I can’t think of any other miracles where an ailment was brought upon someone rather than taken away. Help me out.

    • Yow… the HS as a weapon? That might be a bit over the top. I do think that most (if not all?) the blind receiving site or a person being blinded are “symbolic miracles.”

      There are a few cases like this in the Hebrew Bible, Miriam was struck with leprosy, Jeroboam with a shriveled hand. In both cases they are healed almost immediately. Perhaps that is a better angle to look at this miracle -blinding, a temporary judicial action which will be accompanied by mercy in the future.

      • I know it’s not really a weapon…My point was that it didn’t seem often miracles with negative results to the receiver were performed for any reason, especially in the N.T., which makes it interesting to me.

  2. I find it very interesting that the idea of, and physically being blinded is used so many times in the Bible. Just like the examples that you mentioned P. Long, and that it always has a parallel that relates to the Gospel or learning of the news that has begun to be spread. It is the perfect analogy though, because in a sense that is exactly what has happened or how people feel when they do not see something the way others may see it. You feel like you are blind when you cannot see the answer even when it is right there in front of you. I think it is a good way of explaining how Israel has been set aside and that there will come a time when they are the focus again, like you said at the end of the post. “…for a time you will be unable to see…” (13:11). If you bring this back to anyone who does not understand, or is like Israel, it is not that they will never understand, but that for a time, until it is God’s will for them to see, they are going to be in the darkness. But eventually they will see the light and come to an understanding of Christ.

    • its not just israel thats blinded read the scripture israel is scattered to the ends of the earth we all have abrahams blood but also the seraphim not serpent in the garden thats why we are sinful from birth

  3. I think that the way Jesus uses the blinding of both Paul and Bar-Jesus is very odd, but effective at the same time. When I think of it; I think along the lines of the blinding being shown as Gods radience being so bright, God protects them from it by blinding them, I feel it shows how the Spirit is so perfect and un seeable that God shields them. Its a far fetched thought but it makes sense when I think about it. I also agree with P.Long and Jessica when its mentioned that God uses examples of blinding all throughout the NT, and also in a way with Moses on Mt. Siani, where he has to shield his eyes because Gods light is too bright. If it were me I would want to look upon God, even if he told me not too, just because I would want to fully be able to experience His presence. Which kind of ties in with what I was saying earlier about God protecting them by blinding them to his light before they became ingulfed with the Spirit.

  4. Can we USE the power of the Holy Spirit to accomplish God’s will, or is it the Holy Spirit who guides us to do his will if we allow him? Or both somehow?
    Paul appears to be prophesying what was to happen to Bar-Jesus in the future, but is it a scenario ‘SOMEWHAT’ like what Jesus said in John 14:13,14,where he tells his disciples that they can ask anything in his name and for the glory of God it will be done(if it does glorify God and is his will)? Although that verse might be taken out of context, but its the sense that if we want God’s will to be done he will empower it/allow it? or is it that Paul was a vessel of the Lord, and like prophets in the past, and through the Holy Spirit in him, he prophesied what God wanted him to say and what was about to happento Bar-Jesus.

    • “Or both somehow?” I usually hate that answer, but this is probably the same here. It seems to me that if someone tried to “use the power” they would be in for disappointment – perhaps yielding to the Spirit is a better way to put it.

  5. I agree with your comment that this scene signifies a shift from Jewish ministry to Gentile ministry. Since you have been pointing out all semester how intricately Luke tells the story, down to very specific word choices, I see more of the same here.
    If, in a sense, Peter is the poster boy for God’s ministry to the Jews and likewise Paul to the Gentiles, Luke’s use of the word “motioning” in verse 16 to describe Paul is significant. “Kataseio” is the same word used to describe Peter just verses earlier in Acts 12.17.

    Also, I am curious how similar Paul’s and Bar-Jesus’ experiences were with blindness? Of Paul, the Bible says he could “see nothing,” he was “without sight,” then “there fell from his eyes something like scales.”
    Of Bar-J it says, “mist and darkness fell upon him.” I agree that these stories compare, I am just wondering how closely?

    • I do not think there is any linguistic connection aside from blindness, the reason for the physical blindness is different in each case. This is a case where there is a thematic similarity, and a fairly consistent one if we include the pair of blind men in the Gospels who receive sight to indicate some sort of spiritual understanding.

      BTW, motioning with the hand is considered what a good orator does before delivering a speech. Luke describes both Peter and Paul as “striking a pose” before speaking since that is what a good speaker does.

      • In short term

        God wanted to demonstrate to Sergius Paulus that the Kingdom of heaven that Paul came to teach him about was not a matter of talking, but of power that surpasses that of Bar Jesus the sorcery.

  6. This is a bit off-topic, but the first thing that popped into my head while reading this was the common question to God, “Why do you let bad things happen?” I believe that God has a purpose in everything, and sometimes darkness needs to take place so that someone will see the light. In this case, proconsul believes after witnessing the power of the Spirit. Also, it doesn’t say it, but I wonder if Bar-Jesus had an experience similar to Paul’s. He had to have recognized the power of God with what had happened to him. The more I read Acts, the more I realize how well of a writer Luke is. He just seems to set things up so well specifically here with his ‘Saul’, ‘Paul’ reference and what is being symbolized in this chapter.
    I thought it was interesting that Paul that Bar-Jesus would be blind “for a time”. I wondered if this hinted at his coming to understand the truth. Was this a hint that Bar-Jesus would no longer be blind figuratively and literally?

    • Do you suppose that Bar-Jesus eventually accepted Jesus as Messiah when the blindness wore off? I suppose that might be true, although I am aware of no Christian tradition this happened. Unlike Paul, he does not appear to be a “faithful” Jewish person in the first place.

  7. Going off of what Andrew was saying about his question to God, I find myself asking that question as well sometimes “Why do you allow bad things to happen?” Like Andrew stated a lot of time we do need to get through the darkness in order to see the light. This also ties in with what Kimmy was saying about Paul and Bar Jesus and how God’s radiance is so bright that God is, what I guess you could say, shielding them from how radiant he truly is. I do think it is stange that he used blindness to make a point, I mean I would be kind of upset if God wanted to talk to me so he made me blind, but I see the point at the same time. I mean it obviously got his peoples attention, were talking about it now. Overall, God ALL things for a purpose although there are times we dont know why he does some things, he does and that’s all that is important.

    • It isn’t God that allows bad things to happen it is our choices and sin! We use our power of choice and when the consequences come we then turn and blame God! Really????? Please read Jeremiah 29:11.

      • What about the story of job, did not God allow Satan to tempt him after declaring that Job feared Him and that he was a righteous man who shunned evil?

        Sometimes God allows Satan to tempt us in order to test our faith 1Peter 1:6-7

        And sometimes God allows evil spirit to punish us if we disobeyi Him 1 Samuel 16:14

        And also if we we reject God and we do not want to listen to Him , He will send an evil spirit to lie to us , so that we believe what is not true and fall to our own destruction.

  8. I generally think that the way Luke sets up this shift in writing styles to symbolize the change in the redemptive plan of God is brilliant and very poetic. We see in this drastic shift what I consider to be the start of the Church, an organization of believers that no longer put gentiles under Israelites, seeing them as equals in the ekklesia of God. This is a contrast to Jews being the chosen people.

    But I have never noticed the way Luke symbolizes the temporary casting aside of Israel to the temporary blinding of Bar-Jesus. I have never noticed that connection before. It seems as though Luke goes to great lengths to symbolize an important shift. It almost seems hard not to be a MAD theologian.

  9. I am always amazed at the power of God. The Holy Spirit used Paul to make sure that the proconsul got the good news. Barjesus can be seen as a paralell to the Jews in general as they are as a whole trying to stop the gospel from being preached. Yet, just as BarJesus was blocked from interfering then Jews are still being blocked and set aside for the time being so that people can come to Christ. The Jews are still God’s chosen people and will continue to be so and someday thousands will finaly see the light.

  10. Okay, well I already commented on this, but it did not post. I guess I will do my best to remember what I said before…
    I like how PLong and Jared both make the connection that the blinding of Bar-Jesus goes along with the setting aside of Israel. I had never seen that connection before and found that very profound. I think there might be a correlation as well when God opens Paul’s eyes physically as He opens his eyes to His new revelation. Luke seems to make a lot of these connections, which makes me think he was an educated writer (as of course he was).

  11. Adding to what Katelynd and Andrew where talking about. I think that the blinding of Bar-Jesus was needed to show the significane of how we can not be narrow minded. Focusing on one thing can destroy us and have us become closed off to other things. When someone has been doing something for so long and then are asked to do something totally different, that they have already been called not to do, there has to be some hesitation there. The blinding not only opened the eyes to Bar-Jesus, but it alsio gave him the helped he needed to not be so close-minded. But how did they know that they were not doing something against God’s law? I know it was stated in the new testament, but with the risen Christ, how did they that, that law was changing?

  12. Whenever god does something it’s not for “naught” meaning not for no apparent reason. There’s always a lesson in it. And the person that it happens to is the only one who knows the full truth of the matter. God knows how to knock all of us ” off a donkey” in life to get our attention , whether through (sickness, blindness, death of a near friend or loved one or even an enemy , financially , etc. gods not stupid , we are remember he created us, knows every count of hair on our heads , who are we to question him , we’re dirt! Literally! He said ” I choose who I will bless and curse” it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of an angry god. He is definitely real indeed and deserves the “utmost” respect and reverence possibly given. !!!

  13. With Paul “full of the Holy Spirit” I can tell you as a minister that when that happens it is the Holy Spirit leading and empowering you to do something he wants done. A sorcerer named Bar-Jesus (meaning son of Jesus) who is practicing witchcraft with miracles produced by demons and who is getting in the way of someone’s hearing and believing the gospel of Christ is getting in the Holy Spirit’s way. The Holy Spirit wants the pro-consul to receive Jesus Christ as Lord and savior. Satan does not. So it looks like a new testament showdown like Elijah had with the false prophets of Baal but no one is killed here. The Holy Spirit does two things for both men to realize that their faith should rest in the power of God and not in the wisdom of men. On the one hand the pro-consul realizes the power of God over the power of Satan and that Paul preached the true gospel to him about Jesus so he could have the opportunity to receive eternal life through Christ. The other was a judgment of power on Bar Jesus or Elymas to put him in the dark for a time so that he can seriously consider the error of his ways and repent before it is too late for him. The Holy Spirit gets the job done through Paul for both men in two different ways through the same miracle as a demonstration of he gospel of Christ.


  15. Wonderful blog! Do you have any suggestions for aspiring writers?

    I’m hping to start my owwn website soon but I’m a ljttle lost on everything.
    Would you advise starting with a free platform like WordPress or goo for a paid option? There are so many options out there that I’m completely confused ..
    Any ideas? Thanks a lot!

    • I like WordPress better than Blogspot. The online tools are great and you get some decent (although basic) analytic info. You can convert your free wordpress site to a paid one pretty easy, that will get rid of the .wordpress. in the URL.

      Glad you enjoy this blog, hopefully you are not a spambot.

  16. I have greatly enjoyed the teaching behind the story of bar Jesus and Paul and Barnabas. I really have learned a lot and the explanation and the meaning of some names and what they meant. Thank you very much. 2 Timothy 2:2

  17. Wow! What a comparison. So insightful. Loved this. God’s Word so exciting!

  18. I find it most interesting that Sergius Paulus is the first named gentile Saul converts, and from that point onward is Saul (pronounced Sha-ool) now called Paul (pronounced Pow-lus). From Paphos to Perga and on to Antioch in Pisidia – where archaeological evidence indicates the Paulii family had a large country estate. Had Sergius requested he go there and preach to and convert his extended family? Had Sergius ‘naturalized’ Saul with a Senate-class adoption as gratitude for saving his eternal life? I think so. These Senate-class adoptions were common in the 1st century (note Josephus Flavius), and would have given Saul a surname with a lot of cache’ in that part of the Roman world. After Paulus’ conversion Paul’s success in the Roman-ruled world explodes! I’ve had to rethink a lot of the traditions and translations we grew up with might not necessarily be so, and maybe the truth is even more interesting. Paul never mentions his Roman citizenship when writing of his own origins. Anyway, that’s my theory – and I’m sticking with it (for now).

  19. This account of the blinding of Bar-Jesus stood out to me because it seems so strange – not to mention confusing (why does everyone have multiple names?).
    The blog post was very helpful in trying to understand what the point is here! The story reminds me of the account of Simon the Magician. Someone powerful is attracted the gospel, somehow it is deterred, the wicked are rebuked, and the gospel continues to spread unhindered. In addition to the gospel going out unhindered, it spreads in spite or because of the denial and then blindingof Bar Jesus.
    In this case, Sergius Paulus is seeking Paul and Bar Jesus attempts to derail it. Would those who witnessed the blinding of Bar Jesus know Paul’s own history? If so, this would confirm that Paul has been change and now is under the power of God. First he himself was blinded by God and now he is under that same power performing the same actions.
    What might this have been like for Paul? Did he know that he was going to be making someone else blind? Was this something like Peter’s restoration after denying Jesus?

  20. This passage in Acts is brief, but is so interesting. The things that stand out the most is the shift that the narrative takes here with the conflict as before Saul was Saul and after the conflict he is referred to as Paul. I did not really see real the significance until I read this post and made the connection between Paul’s “conversion” or “call” to Bar-Jesus’s blinding. Both of these characters were blinded and then changed because of the truth that was shown/ told to them. I think it is interesting to look at both of these points together because Luke obviously ties them together by changing his reference name of Saul to Paul at this event. It shows significance, whatever it may be, and it is worth noting and being aware of thus far in the book of Acts, and for the remainder of the book.

  21. The story of Bar-Jesus and the now called “Paul” stands out to me not only because of its representation of the Israelites that it makes but also how the blinding of Bar-Jesus compares to the story of Saul. Saul’s conversion story in Acts 9 involves Saul being blinded for his wicked ways of interpreting the Law, Saul reflecting while he is blind, and his eventually regaining of sight and new life following Jesus. Bar-Jesus has a similar story to Saul, where he is struck blind because of his sorcery and selfish motives to stay close to the proconsul (Polhill, p.2109). It is interesting to note that the proconsul had faith after Bar-Jesus was struck blind because typically people came to faith after seeing miracles of healing, rather than someone being struck blind or lame. Paul goes as far as calling Bar-Jesus “you son of the devil” (v.10) and after Paul strikes Bar-Jesus blind, the proconsul believes. It is worth noting that Bar-Jesus regains his sight which represents Israel’s rejection, or rather “blindness” to Christ and eventual return to the ways of Jesus (Long). The story of Bar-Jesus may be short in the narrative of Acts, but it is a large turning point for the Saul-now-Paul and his ministry to the Jews and his new calling to the Gentiles.

  22. This event is quite a masterpiece on how Luke wrote it. Within his literary style, he displays a major theological shift happening in the story of acts concerning the progress of salvation. Not only is Saul’s name switched to Paul, but Luke decides in the middle of this story to swift Paul and Barnabas’ name order. Both these literary shifts point to how there is a major shifting point happening. The shift means that their’s not only a possible change in leadership, but also a shift in the progress of salvation history, from the Jews to the Gentiles. The blinding of Bar-Jesus leads to the proconsul to believe, shifting the story to being gentile focused. His blinding could also indicate a symbolic perspective of Israel “being blinded” or set aside for some time. Honestly, when I read that interpretation I find it hard to pull that out unless you have that theological view. That’s not me saying it’s incorrect by any means, but just seems like it’s a stretch when it comes to this story.

  23. At the end of the article you say, “Paul and Bar-Jesus are in many ways similar: both were blind and both encounter the truth of the Gospel of Jesus.” This got me thinking that maybe that man needed what Paul got. what i mean by that is the only way that man was going to believe was if Paul showed him the power of Jesus. Making him blind so that he had time to think about what had happened to him. We also see that Bar-Jesus was where Paul was years earlier so this does make a lot of sense. We also see that Luke starts to call Saul, Paul here. I wonder if this is where he truly believes that Paul is called by Christ or what exactly happens but it all interests me very much!

  24. I think it is really interesting that Bar-Jesus isn’t blind forever, rather it is only temporary.

    I believe this reinforces the common statement in our society today that ‘God’s mercies are new everyday’. God had the power to turn Bar-Jesus fully blind forever but rather he showed mercy on the confused and crooked man. Acts 13:11 says, “Now the hand of the Lord is against you.” God shows his powerful and disciplined hand but also shows his merciful one. As Christians are to have a fearful respect of the Lord and this passage is a perfect example.

    He was openly opposing the gospel message that Barnabus and Paul were sharing. We see throughout the Bible that those who oppose the gospel, tend to end up making the message and stronger. When Paul, through the Holy Spirit brought blindness upon Bar-Jesus, this ended up just bringing more power to the gospel. This showed that God was able to remove the obstacles that the devil was placing in front of him. When the proconsul saw what happened, he believed in the power of the Lord and joined the kingdom that day. The devil’s opposition added numbers to God’s kingdom.

    This passage is full of some many important reasons. I had always thought there was a huge dramatic reason Saul goes from being known as Saul to Paul, but rather it is more subtle. Personally, I believe one significance of the name change is the growth in Saul. Saul was someone who was persistently denying the gospel and is then transformed into the person fighting for and preaching the gospel. As he changes into that new role, we have Bar-Jesus who is now taking over the old role of Saul of persecuting and denying the gospel.

    • After reading this passage and article, I was a little confused still on the importance of the name change from Saul to Paul and the connection between Bar-Jesus and Paul. After reading your post, I became a little more aware of what actually was going on. I think that Paul had a huge growth period as well like you noted. This part of acts shows that Christians should have a fearful respect because God has the power of doing things like this and removing and putting obstacles to help people grow. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and making my thoughts more intentional within this passage.

  25. In the post you mentioned how they switched from saying Barnabas and Paul to saying Paul and Barnabas. And to me them switching it they way they did and as you mentioned that this event was a major shift in the book goes to show just how detailed this writing is and how much purpose all of what is said has. So saying that this temporary blindness is a representation of how the Jews were “blinded” by the gospel is not a reach at all. And I believe that this event was so important because it gives people something visual that they can believe and it inspires them to follow Gods word and gives them hope of a future restoration.

  26. Although this passage in Acts 13 is very brief it has so much meaning behind it. The thing that I found most interesting is that Luke makes a change in his language when he starts referring to Saul as Paul. This interested me because Saul was also blinded just as Bar-Jesus to somewhat awaken them to the word of God. This is important to this chapter of Acts because it shows us the true power that God has in the life of people. By Luke including this it definitely reference’s Saul’s conversion to Paul although we do not know the true importance of this blinding. The main comparison I see between the two blinding’s is that Saul was a wicked man that needed to be led to the Lord. Just as Bar-Jesus was a sorcerer and worked for a Roman official which shows his unfaithfulness to the Lord which is why I believe this small story to be so significant.

  27. Reading through the interaction of Paul, Barnabas and Elymas I am fascinated by the way that the holy Spirit is used here. It is evident that Elymas is an ungodly man and that also can be addressed as a false teacher. When understanding why he was blinded by Paul I think we should refrain from labeling this scenario as the Holy Spirit being used as a weapon. Here Paul is using the power of the Holy Spirit to do the will of God. This man was living a life dishonoring God and Paul recognized this. Paul is “filled with the Holy Spirit” states Elymas was the “son of the devil”. I think the key point here is that Paul is filled with the Holy Spirit and because of this his actions are not of him but of God. When Elymas is blinded that is not Paul’s will doing but the Holy Spirits. Although it does not take away that this scenario is unique in the way of a “miracle” appearing as a punishment and not of healing or of grace. Looking at the big picture this scenario acts as a metaphor for the blindness of his spirit and the Jewish Nation. This metaphor reminds me of a Parable. The people do not fully understand the importance of Elymas’ blinding but it represents something much greater. Overall, this scene in the Bible is unique and needs to be interpreted carefully for it is of great significance and meaning.

  28. I found it very interesting the first place Paul and Barnabas visited contained elements of Paul’s salvation story. I am sure Paul was humbled by the experience with the magician, he probably saw a little bit of himself in Bar-Jesus. While Jesus the Son of God met Paul on the Damascus road and then blinded him for a short while; Bar-Jesus met Paul and was blinded for a short while because he was “a son of the devil” (vs 10). God grabbed the attention of Paul through the miracle of blindness and the kindness of Simon. However, with Bar-Jesus he did not have a repentant heart and he used demonic magic to keep his status. After Bar-Jesus was blinded the proconsul believed. Throughout Acts, miracles have a significant role in bringing unbelievers to genuine faith (Polhill, 2109).

    Luke’s transition of using Paul instead of Saul comes at a very distinct point. Paul and Barnabas have now been sent out by the Holy Spirit to proclaim the good news to both the Jews and Gentiles. At this point in time when Paul and Barnabas came into a new city they first went to the synagogue to teach. However, each time they went into a synagogue they were met with opposition from unbelieving Jews. Since these people thrust the truth aside and judged themselves unworthy of eternal life, they turned to the Gentiles (vs 13:46). I believe this statement was a large transition to include the Gentiles to the faith. This turning point was also the transitioning point of Saul’s name to Paul.

  29. I had never before looked at the blinded of Bar-Jesus in such a symbolic shift in the New Testament (Long). This makes a lot of sense however, even looking back through Jesus’ ministry and the miracles that he demonstrated. It is interesting to note the symbolism of the condition of the spirit reflected in the physical. Another aspect I had not considered was that Paul’s name shifts here. According to Polhill, “This verse marks the transition in Acts from Saul to Paul. Now that he is working in Gentile territory, the Hebrew Saul becomes known by his Roman name, Paul” (2109). I think that there is a common misconception that it is when Saul has his encounter with Jesus that his name shifts, but that is not the case. This is not a big event either, there is no section devoted purely to the shift in the name of Saul to Pau, it is just a smooth transition from the Hebrew to the Roman, symbolically referencing Paul’s mission (Long). Saul, although still speaking the name of Jesus Christ to whoever will listen, becomes more focused on reaching out to the Gentiles after chapter 13, and using his Roman name may make this cultural bridge a little bit easier. One aspect that is kind of cool is that although Bar-Jesus tried so hard to keep Paul and Barnabas always from the proconsul, it was in fact Bar-Jesus’ blindness that led the proconsul to believe in Jesus Christ and accept the Holy Spirit.

  30. I’ve never actually sat down and broke down this set of scripture before. I’ve always known and read (in obviously the multitude of Paul’s other letters) about how his calling, and passion was to bring the gospel to the gentiles. This event (as stated above) was recorded as almost the beginning and the “spark” to really set Paul off to minister and bring the gospel to the gentiles. I love how in this section of scripture as well, the Jews didn’t like what Paul was preaching, but he still preached in boldness, and in the spirit. This is also how Paul is described when confronting Bar-Jesus. I don’t know why, but I love to read about stories where these “ancient” disciples weren’t concerned about the events that might follow their teaching, but instead were only concerned by what was being taught and how many people were hearing them teach. It serves as both an inspiration and a reminder for me as I continue down a road of ministry work. Paul writes later to follow him as he follows Christ, and I enjoy reading all of these stories that just further get me “pumped” up, to do kingdom work.

  31. Saul and Barnabas’ interaction with Bar-Jesus is definitely an interesting one. There is a lot of theological significance in the story that I had never really realized before. Starting with how Bar-Jesus is an example of Israel and their relationship with God, the story is just rich with symbolism and significance. He represents a movement of salvation from Jews to Gentiles for a time, with restoration coming in the future. He represents the Israelites rejecting the message of Jesus, and their hardness of heart towards Him. He represents how Israel had been unfaithful to what God called them to, choosing instead their own will.
    Bar-Jesus’ representation of Israel is significant for understanding the rest of Acts. If you can see the symbolism in this passage, it gives you a better understanding of how the Spirit works in the rest of the book. The focus of the rest of the book is on the Gentiles, those who are open to receiving Jesus and not those that are callous towards Him. The majority of the Jews are blind to who Jesus really is and to His power. But moving past Acts, eventually their eyes will be opened and they will see salvation as a people.

  32. The blinding of Jesus in Acts 13 is truly fascinating to me for several reasons. First off, it shows God showing his divine mercy despite the recipient of this mercy underserving of it- they are rightfully being punished for the sin they have committed. The person in question here is none other than Bar-Jesus. This blinding of this man seems remarkably similar to the blinding that Paul received during his conversion in Acts chapter 9. When Paul was converted, he also received temporary blindness. To me it’s fascinating that God chooses to give both of these men temporary blindness, despite the wild difference between the two men- one would go on to become an incredible man- the other man was incredibly disgraced. Perhaps these two similar punishments are an example of God’s practice of non-favoritism? Perhaps it’s showing that God is merciful and just and that one person does not necessarily receive harsher punishment simply because they are an evil person- despite the fact that Paul was also doing evil things before his conversion. Perhaps the opportunity for Bar-Jesus to be converted was also a very clear path for him, maybe Paul even saw potential. Either way, this similar punishment will always be interesting to me.

  33. It is interesting to me that the blinding of Bar-Jesus was a symbolic miracle that Jews are blinded to the Gospel (Long, 2011). I had never thought about it before reading through this passage. This event was symbolic not only in that Bar-Jesus and the Jews were blinded, but also that it was not permanent, which symbolized that the Jews would not always be blinded to the Gospel, and they would eventually be restored. I also never thought about the fact that the blinding of Bar-Jesus marked a major shift in the progress of salvation history, from the Jews to the Gentiles (Long, 2011). It makes sense to me now that this would be a turning point in salvation history. Prior to this event, it was really only Jews who were included in receiving salvation through the Gospel, but God worked through Paul and Barnabas to spread the Gospel to the Gentiles as well, as seen in Acts 13. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, Paul and Barnabas preach the Gospel to the Jews, however the Jews eventually reject the message that Paul and Barnabas are spreading, so Paul and Barnabas turn to the Gentiles. This marked a turning point in salvation history because Paul and Barnabas were a light to the Gentiles, which enabled them to bring salvation not only to Jews, but also to Gentiles, which would spread the Gospel to the ends of the earth.

  34. For my response, I wanted to look at it from a different point of view. The blinding of Bar Jesus to me really shows how sometimes God has to take us to our lowest point to realize where we are at. For Bar Jesus, he was far from God being that he was a sorcerer and false prophet. He was living a life completely opposite from the Christian faith which was already a pretty low point in his life. He was choosing his own path, not God’s path. When we travel down our own paths it leads to destruction, and that is when at some point God intervenes and leads us out of that destructive path, and in Bar Jesus case blinding him actually was God rescuing him from further destruction. The blindness was an act of caring towards Bar Jesus. Sometimes I think we believers look into the nitty-gritty details of the Bible a little too much that we forget to ponder on the bigger picture which in this case is God showing compassion and wanting the very best for Bar Jesus in the aspect that he is wanting Bar Jesus to accept Jesus as Lord and Savior, and he shows this by blinding him temporarily. And this is not the only example in scripture where God does a miracle or a sign in a sense to reveal something to his children. He allows things to happen to mature us, to grow us, to bring us back to him.

  35. The blinding of Jesus just gave me a feeling that God has to take of through what we call it hell and back for us to understand and get where we need to be. With God sometimes he will get the best out of you when he knows your back against the wall. In this article you see that Bar wasn’t living right he was doing everything backwards instead of just putting his faith into God he decided to keep falling down this slope. In life God gives us options some of them are good choices and some of them are bad choices. God will give you the option to do bad by him or turn it around and do good by him and walk the walk with him. That what I felt he was doing with Bar Jesus giving him the option to be great with him or for him to make the wrong decision and take his own path.

  36. The story of Barnabas and Saul encountering Bar-Jesus is one of my favorites. There is so much that happens in this brief chapter of Acts. There are a couple things from this story that I think are really interesting. First is the name change from Saul to Paul. This a crucial part of the story and the blog post reiterates this by stating that “this indicates a major shift in the progress of salvation history, from the Jews to the Gentiles” (Long). The name change occurs during the moment that Bar-Jesus is being blinded. Another part of this story that I was intrigued by was the switching of the order of names. This whole time, the two missionaries were referred to as Barnabas and Saul. Now with the name change occurring, Luke refers to them as Paul and Barnabas. Luke doesn’t do this for no reason, though. The blog post states that, “on a literary level, Paul is the main human character for the rest of the book; the blinding of Bar-Jesus is the transitional point in the whole book” (Long). Lastly, I thought it was interesting how the blinding of Bar-Jesus is compared to Israel turning away from God. Both are only for a period of time and, as the blog post states, “it also promises a restoration of the Jewish people in the future” (Long).

  37. The importance of Acts 13:6-17 lies in its depiction of Paul and Barnabas’ ministry and the power of the Gospel message to overcome spiritual opposition. The passage shows how the missionaries encounter a false prophet named Bar-Jesus who is working to turn the proconsul away from the faith. Paul confronts the sorcerer and rebukes him, and the Holy Spirit intervenes by striking him blind. The proconsul is amazed at this display of power and is convinced to believe in the message of the Gospel. The passage also highlights Paul’s teaching ministry and his approach to preaching the Gospel to both Jews and Gentiles. He begins his message by recounting the history of the people of Israel and their relationship with God, emphasizing God’s faithfulness and power to deliver His people. I was not really familiar with this story and I found it pretty interesting and I enjoyed it a lot. I find it very relatable to our modern society as in there are people who we could compare to Bar-Jesus. This was also a very important point in the salvation history as you stated in the article above. It was a really cool comparison to see how the blinding of the fake prophet was compared to Israel denying God and turning their backs to him. A very powerful message that we should be aware of because it is very comparable and relatable.

  38. I had never heard of the story of Bar-Jesus until doing the assigned reading for this class. It is interesting to me how often sight is either given (Matt 9:27-31, Luke 18: 35-42, etc.) or taken away (Acts 9-Saul, Acts 13-Elymas). Jesus reminds his disciples in Luke, that a blind man cannot lead a blind man (Luke 6:39). Interestingly enough, in the story involving Elymas and the Proconsul, Elymas’ unbelief helps to lead the Proconsul to full belief in the Lord. After Bar-Jesus was blinded by Paul, Sergius Paulus had no reason to deny the Lord. “Then the proconsul believed, when he saw what had occurred, for he was astonished at the teaching of the Lord” (Acts 13:12). We know that due to his blindness, Bar-Jesus had to be led by the hand and although there is no reference as to who was leading him there is no way that a faithless man could guide another man to faith (ref. Luke 6:39). This story is another example of God using miracles to bring unbelievers to faith in him (Polhill, 2008, p. 2296). There are some parallels between Paul and Elymas, but where Paul immediately began to follow the Lord after his blindness (Acts 9:20), there is no evidence in Acts 13 that Elymas’ blindness had any effect on his own faith.

  39. Going along with what the end of the blog was indicating as it mentioned that Jews were blinded to the Gospel and now it was promising restoration for the future (Long), we see this in the rest of chapter 13. In chapter 13, similar to Stephen, Paul recounts their Jewish history, however unlike Stephen who was calling out Israel for their rejection of God-sent leaders, “Paul stressed God’s grace in providing leaders” (Polhill), leaders who would help bring and share the Gospel. This was fulfilling that promise of restoration of not only Jews but also Gentiles all over the word. However, now instead of the law being the mark, grace was now the way through which salvation was obtained, yet there is still the factor of faith. Like Bar-Jesus, oftentimes many people are presented the Gospel but if they don’t have faith in the grace of Christ, they remain in blindness, refusing to see the truth. Even then, there are people in our church, who like Bar-Jesus, we would expect to be wise and accepting of the Gospel, but rather remain “blind” in their rejection of the Gospel, which in return affects the prosperity of the Gospel and negatively impacts the glory that should be shown onto the kingdom of God.

  40. In Barnabas and Saul’s mission that they were told to go on, Bar-Jesus challenged them. Bar-Jesus was a “magician and a Jewish false prophet” (Acts 13:6). In reading this blog, something most people don’t think about is the fact that Barnabas and Saul just so happen to run into this sorcerer. If Barnabas and Saul never ran into Bar-Jesus, this story in the Bible would never have happened. With that being said, the Holy Spirit guided Barnabas and Saul at the right time and in the right direction, so they were able to run into Bar-Jesus to have this occurrence of the blinding of Bar-Jesus happen. It says Paul blinded Bar-Jesus while he was “filled with the Holy Spirit” (Acts 13:9). Most think of the Holy Spirit being used as almost a weapon in this instance, but it is just trying to show God’s wrath and God’s outstretched hand when people are teaching false teachings. It also shows how God is omniscient because Barnabas and Saul run into Bar-Jesus at the right time. Without Bar-Jesus challenging Barnabas and Saul, however, we would not see this symbolism between Bar-Jesus being in the dark like Saul when he was also blinded in Acts 9. Being in the dark represents not knowing God’s goodness and the Holy Spirit and not being indwelled in the person. In this example of Bar-Jesus being blind, it was a big shift and made most of the Gentiles realize Bar-Jesus was a false prophet and that God is the real God, so as a result there was a “major shift in the Gentile mission” as Long states in his Blog. Because of the blinding of Bar-Jesus, the Gentiles changed their faith and started worshipping the real God. As “throughout Acts, miracles have a significant role in bringing unbelievers to genuine faith” (Polhill, 2008, p. 2109). Once again, the miracle of being blind, being in the dark, and not knowing God has saved many Gentiles from other corrupt teachings and it proves how the Holy Spirit works to create goodness.

  41. I think it’s really interesting that instead of this being an instance of healing, it’s instead causing more physical ailment. Typically a miracle is something that is seen as good, but to the outsider in this story, it might seem like it’s bad, since Paul blinded Bar-Jesus (and didn’t heal him from anything.) But this miracle is still a miracle.
    I liked that you pointed out the fact that Paul was also blinded, in order to understand and know the Gospel. In Acts 9 verse 3, it says that “suddenly a light from heaven shone around [Paul]”. I wonder if Bar-Jesus experienced a similar light. It doesn’t seem like he did, since 13:11 says that “mist and darkness fell upon him”. But the good news that each story has slightly in common is the fact that this blinding miracle had the power to unveil the truth to each of them. Verse 12 of chapter 13 of Acts says, “Then the proconsul believed, when he saw what had occurred, for he was astonished at the teaching of the Lord.” Bar-Jesus eventually believed, and I’m assuming repented, after this miracle.
    So, even though this miracle doesn’t seem like a miracle, since it was actually harming Bar-Jesus in a certain way, it was miraculous because it saved him. The blinding that Bar-Jesus experienced was actually an ‘eye-opener’, just as it was for Paul.

  42. Acts 13:6-17 are the passages where the well known story of the Blinding of Bar-Jesus, or one of his many other names occurs. One thing that constantly is intriguing to me is the meaning behind people’s names. The name of Bar-Jesus is quite a unique one drawing people to ask what the meaning is, it means “son of a savior” and “wise” (Long). Learning the name at the beginning of this story can be quite ironic coming from a man who rebukes the name of Jesus, and empowers the Romans who persecute and engage in kingdom destroying things. The blinding of Bar-Jesus although also ironic is a miracle drawing people to them, the mystery, the power of God. Although miracles don’t occur in the same way today, the same beauty, power and mystery of Jesus is still all around us today. It is so sweet and interesting to know that the disciples during this time had such close communion with Jesus that they were granted the honor of performing miracles for the ministry of the gospel.

  43. After reading Acts 13:6-17, I was really just struck in awe of how powerful and mighty the God we serve actually is. God has the capability at any moment to completely change the way someone sees the world. Bar-Jesus, was a very deceitful, evil person who openly participated in many evil practices, no one was really seen as more powerful than him, and he was in a super powerful position being a counselor for Sergius Paulus, so he had absolutely nothing to fear. In an instant God was able to bring him to his knees, when he struck him with blindness, and God was able to humble him. Through this miracle of blindness the procounsel was saved, because he realized that Jesus was in fact the God he claimed to be. God was able to use one of the most evil, and deceitful forces in the world, to reach those who did not believe.

  44. Bar-Jesus seems to be an extremely controlling man as described at the beginning of this article (Long). Bar-Jesus had a lot of power and influence in the government it sounds like, and so he didn’t want anyone like Paul to threaten his power as described in Acts 13:8. The story makes more sense as to why Sergius Paulus believed Paul after he performed a miracle because he thought that Bar-Jesus was the most powerful man, and then after witnessing Paul’s miracle, he believed. I had no idea that the changing of Paul’s name to Saul in Acts 13:9 was a symbol to show the work of salvation transferring from Jews to Gentiles which is super amazing. It’s interesting to see that the blinding of Bar Jesus was a major transitional point in the book of Acts that reveals a deeper meaning. This example is once again revealing to me how much The Bible is inspired by God and how many layers are in the pages of Scripture. God’s Word carries so many layers and if one is willing to dig and study deeper, then one will be blown away by the awesomeness of God. The Bible emphasizes and commands us to study the Bible and not just read, which is crucial to know (2 Tim 2:15).

  45. First things first the relationship made between Paul and Bar-Jesus and their blindness is crazy to think about. It shows how closely knit together the Bible is and it blows my mind how much the Bible relates to itself. Speaking about Bar-Jesus though it’s interesting to think about this story as a major shift to Gentile’s mission. It’s also cool to note that Luke starts to call Saul, Paul halfway through this encounter. These changes show a major shift in the progress of salvation history which I never really thought about up until reading this blog. The thing that stood out to me the most though is that Bar-Jesus was only blind for only a time and not permanently the blog goes on to state that “Israel is only set aside in the progress of salvation and they are not “cut off forever”.

  46. Lukes type of writing has always been very astonishing to me and in the blinding of Bar-Jesus when Luke switches from Saul to Paul to symbolize the switch to Gentile missions, is a very interesting intentional switch. He also used this to explain that Paul was transitioning to be the main character of the early church. In an earlier Long blog post, we learned that Saul and Paul were just two names for the same guy, not actually a name change more like using his second name. I find this very interesting because it still symbolizes a change in his life from a murderer to the main character of the early church, but his name is still Saul, sort of. I never realized how many events and literary choices in the Bible were intentional to symbolize the events and characters, just like Long explained that the blinding of Bar-Jesus was only temporary, like how Israel and like how we have an opportunity to see again. As I stated earlier, the way Luke wrote different scenarios and how specific he is (Saul and Barnabas –> Paul and Baranabas) gives us many ways to see how the early church was.

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