Acts 8 – Philip, Simon, and Magic

After the execution of Stephen, Luke tells us that a great persecution broke out in Jerusalem, presumably led by Saul and other Hellenistic Jews from the synagogue of the Freedmen. Philip, introduced in Acts 6 as a deacon, now functions as an evangelist in Samaria. Like Stephen, he appears to have been a leader among the Hellenists. He goes into the region of Samaria and has great success as an evangelist.

Among those who believe is a man named Simon, who is described as a magician (verses 9-13). Justin Martyr describes Simon as a source of a great deal of heresy in the early church. While it is impossible to confirm anything he says, Luke describes him here as a man who had functioned as a first century magician who used these skills to draw people to himself. A Magus could be a respectable class of scientific advisers to leaders, but often they were quacks and charlatans.

This appears to be what Simon is, since he is amazing people for a long time in the Samaritan town. In Simon’s case, he seems to have been able to perform a number of miracles by which he was able to gain a following among the Samaritans. Luke does not tell us what is motivation might have been, but there is a connection between magic and money in other contexts in Acts (13:6-8, 16:18-19, 19:14-19), so it is possible that Simon was functioning as a miracle worker in order to make money.

My Favorite Magician

My Favorite Magician

Keener points out a number of comparisons between Philip and Simon. Both work wonders and draw crowds. Simon is a “great power” (8:10) and Philip preforms “great powers” (8:13). Both amaze the Samaritans, Simon with magic (8:9, 11) and Philip with miracles (8:13). Simon, however, attempts to make himself something great, while Philip acts only “in the name of Jesus” (8:12,16). This is the first of several confrontations with magicians Luke describes in Acts. Paul will be opposed by Elymas, a Philippian slave girl is possessed by “the spirit of python” so that she acts as an oracle, and the Sons of Sceva attempt to cast out demons and are beaten, resulting in the burning of magical scrolls by some Ephesian Christians (Keener 2:1499).

Why is there an interest in magic in the book of Acts? One reason is the ancient world was obsessed with magic. Magic was an attempt to manipulate spirits and force them to act in ways religion did not (Keener: 2:1500). While moderns think of magic as a “trick” or an “illusion,” the ancients understood magic as a way of dealing with reality. Love potions and curses were available for purchase in places like Ephesus, fortune-tellers were in the marketplace to help you make decisions, and people bought charms and spells to protect them against evil spirits. If Philip the Evangelist did miracles, it would be very easy to confuse them with magical practices.

How does the story of Simon the Sorcerer in Acts 8 function as a warning against magic? Or was the story intended to explain to Christians the source of the disciples’ power? Perhaps this is a good passage to think about application: Luke meant for his readers to understand something about the practice of magic in the first century, but how do we draw application to modern, western cultures where magic is not practiced? Is this a story which would be more quickly applied in an African environment than an American college campus?

36 thoughts on “Acts 8 – Philip, Simon, and Magic

  1. I preached through Acts last year and covered this section in two sermons. The titles were “How to Spot a Counterfeit” parts 1 & 2. The main points (which are also my application points) for the first sermon were: 1) To spot a counterfeit, I must first be able to spot what is genuine. Acts 8:4-8. 2) Spotting counterfeits can be difficult because they mimic the genuine. Acts 8:9-13. 3) When genuineness is questionable, confirmation is needed. Acts 8:14-17. For the second sermon, the main points were: 1) Counterfeit belief exists because of misunderstood truth. Acts 8:18-19. 2) Counterfeit belief exists because of misdirected hearts. Acts 8:20-24. 3) Genuine belief seeks to advance the gospel, to expand the kingdom. Acts 8:25.

  2. Magic is an interesting topic that I didn’t realize had an influence on the book of Acts. The controversy is, “is the power of the early Christians coming from the Holy Spirit or magic? Something to understand is that the ancient world was obsessed with magic. Magic was an attempt to manipulate spirits and force them to act in ways religion did not. So in Acts 13:6-8 when a magician is met, is the sorcerer performing sorcery? I believe this is a warning to the disciples of magic and not an explanation for their ability to perform power. Going back to Acts 8 when we see Simon (a magician) having magic and Philip doing miracles, it’s very easy to assume that magic that didn’t come from God could have been in play regardless of Phillip saying “in the name of Jesus” (Acts 8:12).

    • Troy, I think this topic of magic is very interesting because the apostles were performing miracles to show people the power of the Holy Spirit. The difference between Simon and Philip in Acts 8 was one worked for themselves and the other was a witness of Jesus Christ. I think that Simon could have tricked people into thinking what he was doing was a gift from God because of the miracles that people were witnessing from the apostles. Both Simon and Philip were great at gathering crowds and both amazed people with their magic and miracles (Long.) I think we both agree that in Acts 8 magic could have tricked people into thinking it was a miracle.

  3. The reason people would compare magic and what the apostles were doing is that they were trying to make a comparison to something that was familiar (familiar just meaning they had seen it before, not practiced it themselves). This story, though, highlights the source of healing being the Holy Spirit and if someone tries to do magic, his/her actions will fail. But when God intervenes, plans prevail.

  4. I find the topic of magic interesting especially in the book of Acts. In the book of Acts there are a lot of examples of the apostles preforming miracles and gathering crowds to witness. A thought that comes up when reading this is could people believe that this could be magic? When Peter and John performed the miracle in Acts 2 they lead thousands of people to be believers of Christ. Could people have been tricked others with magic during this time of the apostles performing miracles? I think Simon could have definitely been trying to make some money with magic because he was trying to make a name for himself unlike Phillip who was performing miracles in the “name of Jesus.” (Acts 8:13)

  5. The magic performed by Simon in Acts 8 reminds me of the prosperity gospels that we so frequently hear about in our culture. Simon’s magic was not real magic, it was just a charade. When Simon saw Phillip’s “magic” he knew it was real, not just a trick. Simon knew that the miracles that Phillip did would be bad for his business. So Simon had two options: Find a new job, or learn how to do “magic” like Phillip. Of course, Simon did not truly understand the power of the Holy Spirit or its purposes. This is quite similar to many prosperity gospel preachers. Many of these preachers began their careers as motivational speakers (see T.D. Jakes) and as their careers progressed they realized that the promise of a better life on its own was not as appealing as a life where both your earthly and eternal destinies are provided for. The Simon is our warning against preachers of this theology. It warns us of those whose motivation is not centered in Scripture or the work of the Holy Spirit. Simon was impressive on the outside. He had power and reputation among the Samaritans. However, he was never preaching the gospel or using his gifts for the glory of God. That key difference is what separates teachers of the gospel of Jesus from teachers of the gospel of self. In the end, Simon revealed who he really was. He was a fraud who chose to use his gifts to serve himself and exploit others.

  6. Was Simon a magician, or an illusionist? Or something else? We don’t know, what we know is what the Bible tells us. In our western society we give them the title “magician” but really they are optical illusionists. But in biblical or 1st century time the same people would have been thought to be sorcerers and magicians. Is this the case for Simon?
    Back in ancient times people were involved with many different things such as occult practices and black magic. Ancient cultures like the Egyptians practiced all sorts of bad things and experimented with the dark arts. An example of this is in Exodus 7:8-12, in this passage Moses and Aaron appeared before the Pharaoh. Aaron took his staff threw it down and it became a snake. Pharaoh summoned Egyptian wise men and sorcerers, and magicians who also threw there staffs down and they to became snakes. Verse 11 mentions they did it by their secret arts. Other cultures have also practiced some type of magic. In some parts of the world dark magic is practiced by different cultures and religions. Dark magic is associated with witchcraft, voodoo, and other such systems. So, the question is Was it possible that Simon the sorcerer could have practiced some type or form of dark magic?

  7. I wonder what the difference is between magic and spiritual miracles. Based off my limited understanding, a magician is someone who is aware of the intricates of nature and how things happen and uses that for his advantage. Long mentions how generally Simon would preform miracles in order for financial gain. Acts 8:10 shows an interesting relationship between Simon and God, ““This man is the power of God that is called Great.” Maybe this was because those people never witnessed the physical miracles of Jesus Christ. At this point in time, they would have been aware of the experiences of the prophets and leaders in the Torah ( Moses parting the Red Sea, 10 plagues). It is hard to distinguish whether Simon was a miracle worker or a magician before his encounter with Philip.

    The fact that ancient magic was viewed as a coping mechanism for reality, is vastly different than our current 21st century idea of illusionist and escapist (Long). After reflecting on this passage, I think the primary difference between magic and miracles is the matter of the heart. Philip was teaching and preforming miracles based off the power of God and according to his commission. Simons actions in verse 19 are hard to label as selfish or thoughtful. He could have desired to have the power of the Holy Spirit in order to serve his brethren, or it could have been another business prospect.

  8. Magic during the biblical era was commonplace. Nowadays, the thought of going to someone to get some sort of love potion or faux remedy seems silly, but back then it was the norm, which I think is why the Bible makes mention of it (and how it’s wrong). Modern society doesn’t need to worry quite as much about magic and its practice compared to citizens thousands of years ago, but that doesn’t make it right to gain “power” from anywhere but God. Even then, you don’t see miracles happen like what the Apostles did when they began their ministry.
    I think that this story with Simon has multiple purposes, firstly to display that magic is not of God, and second to show where the disciples’ power came from. God has warned about magic before this point in time, and those messages are still true. Simon wanted to use magic for his own monetary gain and notoriety. He would use it to amaze the people in Samaria and give them a reason to think he has “great power from God” (Acts 8:10). Simon even offered to purchase the power to grant the Holy Spirit from Peter. Peter then goes on to rebuke him for what he has said. What’s important to gather here is that the power that was granted to the apostles was from God and was used to further the message of Christ and the Holy Spirit. The apostles didn’t use it to further their own agendas or fill their wallets, but they used the power of the Spirit for God.

  9. Magic back then definitely played a big part in the Biblical era. I think back to the time of Moses where the Pharaoh had sorcerers almost duplicate some of the plagues that God had placed on the Egyptians. I think that human’s have struggled with the same things even a thousand years ago, things are just approached differently. People back then used magic to try and manipulate or mock God, and instead of going to God for the answers it seems like they wanted to create their own results. With this being said I think that the story of Simon has a common theme that can be used all across cultures and that is that power does not come from our own doings it comes from God. Looking back into Acts all of the miracles that Philip did he made sure that the people were aware that it was the the Lord Jesus Christ, no human could inhabit the same power as God. All throughout the Bible God has overcome any earthly power or sorcerer, both the Old testament and New testament are proof to this.

  10. I am reminded of what Samuel said to King Saul after his second major rebellion concerning the Amalekites, Samuel said “For rebellion is like the sin of divination, and arrogance like the evil of idolatry. (1 Samuel 15:23). Other translations will say “rebellion is witchcraft”. Paul makes a point in this in his letter to the Galatians “You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? Before your very eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified.” (Gal. 3:1). The Galatians had started believing a different Gospel than what Paul had preached and thus the Galatians were in rebellion and under witchcraft.
    Saul had sought the witch at Endor for advice on what to do next since the Lord would not answer Saul via dreams, lots, or prophets (1 Sam. 28:8).
    I the parallel I see is that Simon claimed to be someone great and people titled him “the Great One—The Power of God”. To be in such a position is to use what you have for the sake of power and attention. Polhill says of Simon, “he seems to have made some claim to at least embody the very power of God ” (Polhill. Acts. p. 215).

    Polhill continues in mentioning that Justin Martyr, one of the earliest writers says Simon, “was worshiped by “almost all” of the Samaritans of his day as “the first god. ” (Polhill. Acts. P.216).

    Once Simon was converted he still had this craving for power and attention. Which audiences should question the genuiness in his profession of Christianity. After offering money to Peter to have the power for others to receive the Holy Spirit Peter rebukes him and advises that Simon repent of his wickedness. More Specifically, Peter says that he can see that Simon is full of bitter jealousy and held captive by sin (Acts 8:23).

    It would be hard for western civilization to understand the power of magic as opposed to Africa and other countries that practice it. If they were to witness the miraculous power of Jesus Christ I think they would realize that their divination is only evil and not of God. This may be the emphasis in the chapter seeing how keener compares and contrast Phillip and Simon. Phillip does miraculous wonders in the name of Jesus and Simon does so in his own name and claiming to be God (Acts 19:14, Rom. 1:22).

    Hearing the name of Jesus is not the same as knowing and proclaiming the name of Jesus, otherwise the sons of Sceva would have not received the beating they did.

    In a way it is like a “get rich quick” scheme. You want to get rich quick because it will boost your reputation and status. Following Jesus requires forsaking your life and possessions for His sake and not your own. Magic is the counterfeit of God’s power, especially when has no access to God’s power such is the case of Saul and Simon.

  11. This is a rather funny topic because as I came back into the dorms tonight after eating a lovely meal at panda express because the GCU food was like a normal Saturday night, I saw Mr. Broderick in the women’s lounge doing some of his usual magic tricks. I always love it when I get to see him do some of his awesome TRICKS, and I think that we view magic tricks in our western view as just that, just tricks, so I think that for us we read the scripture differently, but at the same time the exact same way as the people it was written to would have read it. we read it as a warning sign as to not do anything miraculous without putting Gods stamp on it, and I believe that was the original intent for the passage, that whatever you do you should always have Gods hand in it.

  12. As a believer, I can see the distinctions between Simon’s magic and Philip’s miracles. Long’s blog compares and contrasts the similarities and differences for readers of the Book of Acts. Magic is from the Evil One. Miracles are from the Righteous One. Long explains that Simon exalts himself “while Philip acts only ‘in the name of Jesus’ (Acts 8:12, 16).” A non-believer may be confused and fooled into mistaking magic for miracles. In fact, a believer may also be fooled! Therefore, we must understand what the scriptures teach us about the topic of magic.

    In previous years, I studied what the Bible says about magic because I am from Long Island, NY which is a very secular culture that indulges in such evil practices. I have a close relative who believes wholeheartedly in magic, sorcery, and mediums who communicate with the dead. She goes to events and has even invited me to go along with her. Of course, I declined.

    In addition, my best friend from childhood “Jane” believes she has powers and has a large following who also believes she has such powers. Although our lives diverged, we have remained friends for 35 years! I became a Christian. “Jane” became The (“Town”) Psychic and has her own business called Readings by “Jane”. (I replaced her name and the name of the town for confidentiality and because I would not want any of you to look her up!) I remain hopeful and prayerful that one day, she will come to faith in Jesus and give up her “gifts” of communicating with the dead, predicting the future, reading tarot cards, and worshiping false gods. Although our lives took very different paths, I have held fast to the following scriptures to protect myself from ever falling prey to believing what she believes or practicing what she practices. She respects my faith and our clear boundaries around the topic of magic have enabled us to remain friends. Here are a few passages that have protected me, and I hope they help you if you are ever tempted to dabble in these evil beliefs and practices:

    Deuteronomy 18:10-12 reads, “There shall not be found among you anyone who…practices divination or tells fortunes or interprets omens, or a sorcerer or a charmer or a medium or a necromancer or who who inquires of the dead for whoever does these things is an abomination to the Lord…”

    Leviticus 19:26 reads, “…You shall not interpret omens or tell fortunes.”
    Galatians 5:19-20 reads, “Now the works of the flesh are evident: …idolatry, sorcery…and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.”

    Revelation 21:8 reads “But as for the cowardly, the faithless…sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.”
    John 3:19-21 reads, “And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.”

    And of course, the final litmus test is Philippians 4:8 which reads, “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”

    Magic had no place in the Old Testament, in the New Testament, or in our lives today. Acts 8 is a warning against magic and helps believers to note the differences between Simon’s magic and Philip’s miracles which will help us to avoid such pitfalls that may tempt believers to go astray.

  13. This is an interesting story. Simon the magician already “has powers”. The people refer to him as Simon the great. After reading the ESV study Bible, it was interesting to learn a bit about magicians and their role in the the ancient world. It seems this was more common than not. And the magic that they performed was much closer to magic in Africa than the Americanized Harry Potter magic.
     If individuals like Simon are common in the ancient world, then the “powers” weren’t necessarily a new phenomenon. It seems like something of a show of powers (akin to Elijah’s Mt. Carmel experience). Here are two people both with power, though of a different sort. Clearly even Simon realizes that this is not the traditional magic or power but something more real and tangible. This is something that he does not have but wants (and asks to buy it with money).
    Yet again the gospel triumphs. It is bigger than the known powers of the day. Even the magician is astounded. He believes and is baptized. There is some debate about whether or not Simon was actually a believer. Regardless, this encounter with Simon serves the greater themes and purposes of Acts: the gospel is continuing to spread to all people. And, the power of Jesus is noticeably different from the leading “magical powers” of the day. Even Simon the magician notices the power of Jesus as something different and to be desired. And even he is offered salvation.

  14. Our American society is intrigued by the concept of magic. When most people hear the word magic, they probably think of a magician who just knows how to play eye tricks on you. Most magic tricks have a logical reason behind them. However, a lot of us grew up reading books like Harry Potter or watching shows like Wizards of Waverly Place. I always thought it would be cool to have magic, the kind that Disney portrays. I never really thought about where the idea of magic came from. “Magic was an attempt to manipulate spirits and force them to act in ways religion did not. While moderns think of magic as a “trick” or an “illusion,” the ancients understood magic as a way of dealing with reality” (Long). This is exactly how characters in books, tv shows, and movies use magic. If they are facing a problem, they fix it with magic. “Ancient literature and discovered magical books indicate that magic often involved special incantations, potions, and the use of magical objects such as amulets, incantation bowls, or figurines” (Polhill, 2109). Everyone always thinks that fortune-tellers and wigi boards are all just fun and games, but they aren’t. Demons and evil spirits are real. When I was a freshman in high school my brother and I went to a Halloween party. At one point a few of the other kids got out a wigi board and as soon as we realized what it was, we waited on the front porch until one of our parents came to pick us up. We had a few other friends with us who also grew up in Christian homes and one of them had forgotten something in the house. My brother and one of his friends went to go get it for her and they said that when they entered the house again, they felt like they had some sort of weight on their chests. Demons are not something that you want to mess with and according to the Bible that is where magic was rooted from.

  15. I am going to be answering the following questions: How does the story of Simon the Sorcerer in Acts 8 function as a warning against magic? Or was the story intended to explain to Christians the source of the disciples’ power? Is this a story that would be more quickly applied in an African environment than an American college campus? First, how does the story of Simon the Sorcerer in Acts 8 function as a warning against magic? Or was the story intended to explain to Christians the source of the disciples’ power? I think a big takeaway from that story is to be careful how you use it and who we give the credit to. Philip openly said what he was doing was “in the name of Jesus” and so he was giving full credit to God for what he was doing, but for Simon, he thought he could make money off of it (vs. 18-19). But to answer the question as a whole I would say both because it does show the disciple’s powers, but in the same sense, I do believe it’s an example of how not to abuse the powers that God can give us when he chooses to do so. The last question is, Is this a story that would be more quickly applied in an African environment than an American college campus? I would say an African environment more than a college campus, but if we were comparing to an African environment to just America I would say both because we have plenty of individuals in the states who claim many magic ideas, beliefs, morals, etc. an example could be people who consider themselves a “medium” that is just one example of many.

  16. It is interesting to read about the magic that Simon did in Acts, as it provides a greater understanding of how magic worked within the culture and its purposes at the time. I have watched the Harry Potter movies and Wizards of Waverly Place and not really thought much about it in a negative or sinful way since it is a fantasy in another world. However, the magic that Simon performed is dangerous because the Bible tells us numerous times to not engage with magic in this world. In the context of Acts 8 where Simon performed magic, it was viewed as a way of dealing with reality. For example, people would rely on fortune-tellers to help make decisions. In Deuteronomy 18:10-12, it states “Let no one be found among you who sacrifices his son or daughter in the fire, who practices divination or sorcery, interprets omens, engages in witchcraft, or casts spells, or who is a medium or spiritist or who consults the dead. Anyone who does these things is detestable to the Lord” (New International Version). Just as it was in the ancient world, it is also detestable today to practice anything which involves trying to gain power over God and his creation. Magic looks different in the modern world than it did in ancient times, yet people still choose to engage with magic and try to gain control over God. One example could be astrology or horoscopes. God wants us to seek guidance from Him, not from a horoscope or a local psychic. Another example is people who use Ouija boards. Satan and evil spirits are real and not something that we mess around with. While some people may view it as harmless fun, God makes it clear that this is not a gray area. As Christians, we cannot compromise to the ways of the world and rely on any source other than God for power and guidance in our lives.

  17. I’m not an expert, but I have a hunch that the purpose of the story of Simon the sorcerer, being included was very intentional on Luke’s part to explain the nature of what it was the apostles were doing. After all even today in pop culture miracles are sometimes lumped into the category of “religious magic” with a couple prominent examples of this being the priests in Conan the Barbarian, and Clerics in games like Dungeons & Dragons. When given a very surface level observation miracles may be confused for magic or other dark powers such as when the Pharisees accuse Jesus of such things Matthew 12:22-28. Here in the story of Simon the sorcerer, the source of the apostles power is made clear, it is neither dark powers, nor is it cheap tricks, it is genuine power granted by the Holy Spirit. Luke may have included this in his writings because if Simon who had witnessed the Spirit’s power could misunderstand it as magic, why wouldn’t others have same confusion especially without the benefit of witnessing it first hand? There is likely more purpose to this story than this, but this could be at least a partial explanation for its purpose.

  18. I think Justin Martyr may certainly hold some truth in what he says. Simon is called “This man is the power of God that is called Great” (8:10). For Justin to say that this man was a source of heresy in the early church is not too farfetched knowing that Simon was around for a long time before Philip came to town. People paid attention to him from all social class’s, believing him to be very powerful. It is amazing that he was able to put aside his “fame” to believe in what they were preaching. What would be the point of the power of the Holy Spirit if I had already had the same perceivable power? Playing devil’s advocate of course. Simon recognized that what they had was more powerful than anything he had been able to do. In this chapter especially, there is a comparison between magic and the power of the name of Jesus. We in modern America are very unlikely to have an encounter with something supernatural or if we do, we probably will not even notice or write it off as something very different. There are other parts of the world that would immediately recognize those instances for what they are. Simon, although probably not demon possessed has a different understanding of magic than we do. I have heard of witch doctors and exorcists, but they are not at all a part of my daily reality. I think it would be much easier applied in a place where “real” magic and supernatural happenings were more recognized and present.

  19. I did not really think about how magic is a part of a lot of aspects of our lives today. From the Disney show Wizards of Waverly Place, to Harry Potter, to Horror/Scary movies, to magicians and psychics at Cedar Point on Halloweekends. I have always been taught to not engage in magic or things apart from God. I am pretty sure I was also told not to watch the Wizard Disney show, but continued to watch it instead. I never took anything seriously, but I can see how kids could think or want to learn more about magic. The Bible tells us however to not engage in this type of magic. Deuteronomy talks about not practicing divination fortune telling or interpreting omens and not summoning the dead. (Deuteronomy 18:10-11). Long’s post reminds me of the verse in 1 John where it says “do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God” (1 John 4:1). Long talks about both Peter and Simon drawing crowds and performing unnatural events. “Both amaze the Samaritans, Simon with magic (8:9, 11) and Philip with miracles (8:13)” (Long). Just like in Acts 8, we should discern whether things are from God or from this world.

  20. One thing that I think is very interesting to note about this passage is that in chapter 8 verse 13, Simon the magician, was amazed at the work of the Lord, and the work that Philip was doing (Acts 8:13). Simon was a magician from Samaria who Philip met while preaching the good news. Luke feels the need to point out that many thought that Simon’s works were amazing and many marveled at them (Acts 8:11) Simon was obviously a great magician, but the Lord and his miracles astounded even the great Simon.
    I have heard this passage used many times in the Christian community as a Biblical command against magic of any kind. This was a popular passage when I was in middle school as to why you should not read Harry Potter or even Lord of the Rings. Looking at the passage we don’t see a command against magic or even that Simon was condemned for doing such magic in his past, what we do see however is the clear power of God once again at work. In verses 10-11 it talks about how all the people were fascinated with Simon, how they flocked to see him. They called him god, and believed that his power must come from another outside source. Then steps in Philip and the power of the Holy Spirit in verse 12. It says the people believed in Jesus. Men, women, and children flocked to be baptized. Simon himself was one of those people, for when he saw for the first time the power of god, he was truly amazed.
    Now there are truth dark spiritual forces, and there are many places in the Bible that clearly state the dangers of those. I would be interested to dive deeper into a study on Simon in partially, if he was indeed a true dark magician or more of an illusionist playing with people minds. Regardless It is important to note the Holy Spirits overwhelming power especially in regards to Simon’s wondrous works.

  21. I never really thought about magic in terms of Christianity or religion in general until I read Acts 8. Simon the magician is compared to Philip in this story, which makes a little bit of sense to me. They are both seen as having “great power”, but are they both guided by the Holy Spirit? I, personally, do not think Simon had the intent of doing works for the glory of God, but he was doing in a way to bring attention to the fact that miracles can be made. Magic was a way to force a miracle to be done in ways that Jesus or religion in general did not promote. Looking directly at Acts 8:9-25, it shows that Simon was not in the mindset of using magic as a way to point others towards the Holy Spirit. Although Simon was baptized, he was using his power to make money and to give money to receive the Holy Spirit in a different way. I can not really pull any other application about magic from any other passage because I am unaware of this type of concept before today, but I would be interested in learning more about how some people could use this as a way to look to Christ or if there is even a way to have it be a positive thing in regard to religion.

  22. I believe that if you were sort of stretching for further application, you could make a reasonable judgment that Acts 8 warns against being deceived by “magic”. Not a warning against magic, but maybe more of a warning against untruth when it comes to supernatural things. This also lead’s into talking about the disciples and where they get their power from. That’s what I believe is a big part, or the biggest part of this passage. The explanation and the imagery of how the disciples “get their power” and whom they get it from. Acts 8:9-10 “…saying that he himself was somebody great… ‘This man is the power of God that is called Great’”. If you want to focus on the magic section of this passage, you can easily apply this story to how people sometimes take “credit” for things that aren’t of the spirit and would be deceiving to others and lead them astray. Whether that is fake miracles, or even magic, that is what Luke could potentially be drawing out of this passage. The biggest part of this passage, however, is the dialogue we see between Simon and Peter. Simon wishes to access the power that dwells within these men and asks how he could buy it with money. Peter uses this to teach and brings light on the sin of Simon which was that he was in “the gall of bitterness and in the bond of iniquity” (Acts 8:23). We respond like this sometimes whether we know it or not through our pursuit of works in the church. We get caught in the wrong mindset and ask, “what can I do to get more love from God?” which is one horrible question to ask. Because you can’t get more.

  23. One thing that struck me while I read this article was the differences in the meaning of magic then and magic now. Magician could be a term used for scientists of the time, and while this is not something that we think of, the same terminology is used with the magi who bring gifts to little Jesus. However, this does not seem to be the case with Simon. As mentioned, the meaning of magic for our Western society is based around illusions and fun little tricks of the hand. It has lost the meaning that it was given in the Bible. I think a closer depiction of what magic than would be the equivalent to the actions that can happen through zodiac signs, horoscopes, and wigi boards. For the unbeliever, these are thrilling experiences that leave them is a sense of awe if they come true or do the unexplainable. For the Christian, these are tools that introduce you to a darker, unwelcomed presence.
    The same idea seems to be happening here. Philip’s emphasis on where is power comes from is to show that what Simon is doing is not from Jesus. Polhill notes that Acts 13:6 parallels the use of magic that Simon is using in chapter 8. Paul calls the magic-user in Acts 13 “son of the devil”, basically saying that this magic is of demonic powers (2109). The use of this magic is deceptive and to say that it is from the devil makes sense as John 8:44 calls him the father of all lies. In 1 Samuel 28, we see that King Saul goes to a medium, a profession that he had outlawed because it was contrary to God. It is implied that Simon’s magic mirrors that of darker powers and Philip knows that Simon’s magic is not from God. Therefore, Philip makes a point to let the people know that he is working through the power of Jesus Christ, the risen messiah.

  24. I think the story of Simon and the apostles in Acts 8 is not so much of a warning against magic as it is a teaching of where the apostles’ power is coming from. Sure, one could definitely apply this text to certain contexts. As you stated, it may not be completely applicable on our American college campuses today because we do not trust in magic or base our lives off of it (Long, 2019). However, the pendulum seems to be slowly swinging that way; manifestation, chakra healing, energy, etc, (although maybe that’s holistic and not magic?) Nonetheless, I do think this could be literally interpreted better in a culture where literal magic takes the place of faith. Acts 8:9 says that Simon practiced magic in the city and claimed to be someone great (ESV). Polhill explains further saying he claimed to have had divine powers and called himself “The Great One” (2008, p. 2280). I believe that this passage is more a lesson about where the divine power comes from, more than it is a warning to Simon. Verse 10 says that the people said Simon “was the power of God,” because of his magic (Acts 8:10). Yet when Phillip came and showed them the true power of God they received the Holy Spirit. This could also be a warning against being deceived by things that seem like they are from the Lord but are not. The people in Samaria all followed Simon and believed in his works, until they received true Godly power and realized that he had no authority.

  25. There are several thoughts that could be given in regard to Acts 8 and Philip’s encounter with Simon. The first thought is that this encounter is similar to those in which Jesus had during his ministry. Many people called out Jesus as being a false prophet because of his abilities to cast out demons or to heal those with ailments. Secondly, this encounter emphasizes the difference between those sources of power to heal others, whether from God or Satan. Thirdly, this encounter resonates somewhat with modern culture in that culture has become increasingly accepting of the inclusion of eastern practices which include the use of crystals, mantras, and transcendentalism. As well as the inclusion of Satanic practices such as tarot readings, speaking to the dead, and miraculous healings. When reading Acts 8 at first it may seem that there is no comparison between the encounter of Philip and Simon and modern culture, but once understanding that the practice of magic has multiple ways in which it may be practiced, the comparison becomes more noticeable. Interestingly enough, it is actually easy to fool non-Christin believers into believing that the practice of magic was actually an act of God. Remember in the desert when Jesus was tempted by Satan himself, Satan knew the scriptures. Also, Satan had the power to cause Job to fall ill with sickness, with the permission of God but could not kill Job (Job 1:6-12). So, with these two examples given from scripture it supports the reason as for why the practice of magic was often mistaken as being sourced from God rather than Satan. There are plenty of other examples of this especially through Jesus’ ministry recorded in the gospels.

  26. I think Acts 8 highlights the differences between magic and the power of God. Long (2019) states, “If Philip the Evangelist did miracles, it would be very easy to confuse them with magical practices” (para. 6). Miracles done through the apostles may be easily confused with magic done by others, especially since magic was more common in ancient times. I think the main difference between Simon the Magician and the apostles is money. This is clearly highlighted in verses 17-23 (ESV) when the Holy Spirit is received by many and Simon offers money in order to have the ability to give the Holy Spirit to others. Peter responds angrily, “But Peter said to him, ‘May your silver perish with you, because you thought you could obtain the gift of God with money!’” (Acts 8:20, ESV). Simon was approaching the idea of signs and wonders with greed, almost viewing miracles as procedural or business transactions. It reminds me of Ananias and Sapphira in chapter 5, both struck down by God because of greed.
    However, Simon clearly did not have an full understanding of the ministry the apostles were attempting to do through miracles and the spreading of the Holy Spirit. Although Simon may have been seeking money in exchange for the ability to perform a miracle (or a magic-trick), this was common for magicians in that time. They would often exchange secrets for money (Polhill, 2008, p. 2097). Simon may not have been acting in greed, but rather out of what he was familiar with, but this means he likely did not have a full understanding of what the apostles were seeking to do. Clearly, this is a story that highlights the differences between magic and the miracles of God. But, it also demonstrates the power of culture and habits. The things we grow up thinking are normal are hard to shake. For Simon, exchanging money for a trick was common and, when he attempted to do this with the apostles, he received anger and judgement. It was up to Simon to repent and to set aside the habits of his life and step into a new understanding of what miracles were and who God was.

  27. As stated in this post, “Simon…attempts to make himself something great, while Philip acts only “in the name of Jesus” (8:12,16)” (Long). Luke clearly contrasts the motives of the two men; Simon apparently is performing magic for selfish reasons, since “magicians often exchanged secrets for money,” whereas Philip is not concerned with his own greatness but with making the name of Jesus known (Polhill, 2097). In many ways this does serve as a warning, that just because someone appears to do something beneficial for another, it does not mean that there is not an ulterior (and, in some cases, it could be argued, sinister) motive.

    In our modern American culture, I think most people view magic as a “sleight of hand”, something fun to laugh about but which has a plausible, scientific explanation. One modern application that did come to mind is regarding some so called “faith healings” we see in some modern “Word of Faith” movements. From Benny Hinn to Kenneth Copeland, there are many preachers who purport to be “making the name of Jesus known,” but through their actions we see the true “condition of [their] heart” (Polhill, 2097). I listened to an interview with Benny Hinn’s nephew, Costi Hinn, in which he very clearly stated that his uncle would promise healings in exchange for money–and then when that healing didn’t happen, claim that the individual either didn’t have enough faith, or hadn’t donated enough money to the church.

    I think, therefore, Luke’s story in Acts 8 could be applied not only as a warning against magic, but as a warning against those who would claim to do miraculous works through their own power or (worse) claim to do those works through Jesus’ power, all the while being motivated by selfishness.

  28. After reading Acts 8 I find it interesting that Simon who has power and magic is wanting more. He finds himself comparing himself to Philip and wanting what Philip has. Now I don’t think this has any direct meaning but in my head, this shows that God’s power is greater than any other. An individual who has power that’s not from God wants the power that is presented to Philip by God. The difference between the two of these individuals is described in the blog post when you say “Simon, however, attempts to make himself great, while Philip acts only “in the name of Jesus.” (8:13) This significance is that even though Simon has magic and is wowing people over he still wants more. Magic was a drawback in the times when this was written as you described in class today it was a worthy profession but there is a longing that Simon has for more when Philip is satisfied and doing his work for God. This longing then leads to Simon coming to know God and that just shows that God always wins.

  29. In Acts 8 the story of Simon the Sorcerer functions as a warning against magic in a couple of ways. The first way this story serves as a warning is by allowing the readers of The Book of Acts to know that people performing magic can pretend as if they are like God of great power. Portraying themselves as being just as impressive by performing many signs and wonders, as Simon did, and that can lead people astray down the wrong path thinking there is another god than the one true God.
    Philip also performed many signs and wonders just as Simon did, however, we see as readers in Acts 8 that Simon was only pretending to be saved because he wanted the “magic” Philip was performing. In The Book of Acts’ study notes, “Peter’s [would have a] strong rebuke to Simon soon after [that] would suggest that Simon did not have genuine faith” (Polhill, 2008, p. 2097). Peter says this because after seeing the apostles give the Holy Spirit to people, Simon also wanted to perform that. In fact, Simon offered money to have that ability. Peter responds to Simon by saying, “May your silver perish with you because you thought you could obtain the gift of God with money” (Acts 8:20). With this, it cautions us because people can say they are saved, baptized, or even act like they are Christian, but not all Christians live as if they should which is all of us because we are broken people, but some people may be lying about their faith on purpose for the fame it may bring them or the people it brings them to be friends with.
    So, I think this story in Acts 8 was mostly used to caution us as Christians. It makes some great points about all the power God gave the apostles, but as I said, I see this verse pointing more to caution us that not all people are doing things with the right intentions and that there can be people who may appear to be or act like God yet they are not.

  30. After reading the story of Simon the Sorcerer here in Acts and along with the blog post, we can see that it serves as a warning against magic in the early Christian church. When I was a little boy, magic was always interesting for me because I always wanted to try and figure out how the tricks were actually done. We see that magic was a widespread practice in the ancient world, where people looked to try and find ways to manipulate reality. The story of Simon shows us the dangers of magic, because he was using his magician skills to amaze people and gain a following in the town of Samaria. However, we see that his motivations were not to bring common good to the community, as it was solely used for money and personal attractiveness. One of the most interesting parts for me as we keep reading is that Philip, performs magical miracles “in the name of Jesus” and does not seek personal gain. This story of Simon the Sorcerer highlights the differences between true spiritual power and the manipulation of reality through magic. It also serves as a reminder to the early Christian church that they should rely on the power of Jesus, not on their own ways of magic or something like that. This also can be a helpful reminder in our world today.

  31. The story of Simon the Sorcerer in Acts 8 is a cautionary tale that teaches the importance of having genuine faith in God and warns against the temptation to use magic to attain power or influence. Simon, a magician, was drawn to the power that the apostles exhibited through the Holy Spirit and offered them money to acquire that same power. Peter’s rebuke of Simon emphasizes that true faith in Jesus cannot be bought or manipulated, and that the power of the Holy Spirit is superior to any form of magic. The story also highlights the dangers of seeking power or control through deceit or manipulation. Simon’s attempt to use magic to gain influence over the people was ultimately exposed as false and led to his condemnation by Peter. The story serves as a reminder that true power and influence come from living a life of integrity and serving others, rather than using manipulative or deceptive means. The story of Simon the Sorcerer is not limited to a particular cultural context and has universal application. While belief in magic may be more prevalent in some cultures, the lessons of the story apply to any context where people are tempted to seek power or control through dishonest means. In modern western cultures, people may be drawn to the allure of wealth, fame, or technology as a means of gaining power, but the story of Simon the Sorcerer remains relevant in emphasizing the importance of genuine faith, integrity, and service to others as the true sources of power and influence.

  32. Generation to generation, people were making money according to what people were obsessing about. Now Tik Tak is popular, and people have started posting videos more and more. And some people are making a copy for their posts. They learned and shared each other’s skills to make more money.
    In the early church, what people obsess about was the miracles, so many people use it as a chance to make money. Simon was one of them (Act 8:9-25). He is so skillful in magic and gets people’s attention and makes money. Everyone knows him, believes in him. Where did he learn the magic skills? From someone with price or none we don’t know. But he knows that his magic skill is just a trick.
    After he believed in Christ and saw the Miracles of the Holy Spirit, He might properly think, Trick people to get their attention like he did his. Maybe that’s the reason why he asked Peter to Buy the Holy Spirit with Price. He asked, maybe he doesn’t understand the work of the Holy Spirit yet. But eventually, he asked Peter for the forgiveness of the Lord for what he had done.
    When this scene was happening, there may have been a lot of people around who knew him. For this, people may understand the works of the Holy Spirit, the Power of God is not like a magician. And this understanding is to spread the Gospel more farther. And we all know that magic is just performing, but the miracles are life changing.

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