Acts 13:6

From Salamis to Paphos.

Saturday, 17 December 2022

Now when they had gone through the island to Paphos, they found a certain sorcerer, a false prophet, a Jew whose name was Bar-Jesus, Acts 13:6

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The last verse covered the arrival at, and evangelization of, Salamis on the island of Cyprus. Next, Luke’s words continue with, “Now when they had gone through the island to Paphos.”

The city of Paphos is first noted here. It will be seen only one more time, in verse 13:13. The meaning of its name is not certain. It is a maritime city located on the southwest coast of Cyprus, meaning they traveled the entire breadth of the island, eventually arriving there. Of this city, John Gill states –

“Paphus, a city on the sea coast, in the island of Cyprus, formerly famous for the sacred rites of Venus, and the verses of the poets; which fell by frequent earthquakes, and now only shows, by its ruins, what it formerly was: so Seneca (y) says, … ‘how often has Paphus fell within itself?’ that is, by earthquakes: the ruins of many goodly churches and buildings are to be seen in it; and the walls of a strong, and almost impregnable tower, situated upon a hill in the middle of the city, supposed to be the habitation of Sergius Paulus; there is also shown, under a certain church, a prison divided into seven rooms, where they say Paul and Barnabas were imprisoned, for preaching the Gospel.”

While in Paphos, it next says, “they found a certain sorcerer.” The word translated as “sorcerer” is magos. It is the same word used to describe the Magi that came at the time of Jesus’ birth. The verb form of the word is used of Simon the Sorcerer in Acts 8:9 as well.

It is an astrologer and by implication a magician. The word finds its origin in Persia. The Old Testament term Rab-mag, found in Jeremiah 39:3 & 13 is its etymological root. Of this magos, it next records that he was “a false prophet.”

The word is pseudoprophétés. Jesus is cited five times in the synoptic gospels using this term when speaking of the false prophets. It will also be seen in 2 Peter, 1 John, and three times in Revelation. It means exactly as it is translated. This guy is a supposed prophet, but his prophecies were false. Next, it says of him that he was “a Jew.”

Being a Jew is not surprising. The designation simply identifies his line of descent, but it does not signify any connection to the God of Israel. This is true throughout the Old Testament where there were innumerable false prophets in the land.

Being of Israel, or being a Jew, in no way identifies a person as being faithful to God. In fact, when Jesus mentions the false prophets in the gospels, His words are spoken to Israel, thus identifying them as Jews as well. Concerning this false prophet, it next says, “whose name was Bar-Jesus.”

The word bar before the name signifies “son of.” It is the Aramaic equivalent of the Hebrew ben. Hence, his name is “son of Jesus.” At this time in Israel’s history, the name Jesus was a common one. Another example of this name is found in Colossians 4:11 where Paul writes of “Jesus who is called Justus.” Once Jesus the Messiah came, the name quickly stopped being used among the Jews.

Life application: It is a good time to review the source fallacy known as the genetic fallacy. This fallacy, also known as a source fallacy, fallacy of origins, or fallacy of virtue, “is a fallacy of irrelevance in which arguments or information are dismissed or validated based solely on their source of origin rather than their content. In other words, a claim is ignored or given credibility based on its source rather than the claim itself” (Wikipedia).

It has become as common as hearing barks in a dog kennel for people to ascribe some sort of special ability, talent, or especially spiritual or biblical insight to a person because he is Jewish. In other words, “Oh, he is a great Bible teacher. He is Jewish and understands Hebrew.”

This type of thinking is fallacious, and it is dangerous. It is the kind of thinking that probably landed this false prophet, Bar-Jesus, in the job he was in. It is the kind of thinking that has elevated various Bible teachers, who actually have no idea what they are talking about, to almost superstar status.

The fallacy also extends to preachers who are the sons of famous preachers – “He must really know his stuff; his dad is Superstar Stanley.” It extends to possessing a certain degree – “He has a doctorate in systematic theology. He must really know his stuff.” It extends to certain abilities – “He knows both Hebrew and Greek.” And so on.

These things do not necessarily equate to a knowledge of the Bible. Innumerable people in the pulpit have doctorates and yet they teach aberrant doctrines. Being trained in, or even fluent in, the biblical languages is great, but that does not equate to sound doctrine. Having a title, possessing a degree, or knowing a language does not mean a person is trustworthy in providing biblical instruction.

Remember this as you listen to teachers. Evaluate what they say based on how it aligns with Scripture. And guess what? You cannot do that if you do not know Scripture already. Do you want to avoid Bad Doctrine Drive? Do you want to stay off the Heresy Highway? Here is how you do it: Set your navigation device onto Bible Boulevard. Get on it and stay on it. Learn every detail of it. In this, you will do well.

O God, stir up in us the great desire to learn Your word. Help us to know it well enough that we will not get sent down wrong avenues of falsity by those who would attempt to exercise control over our spiritual lives. May we focus our eyes and our hearts on Jesus as we learn this precious word that reveals Him to us. Amen.