“Give us Barabbas!”, from The Bible and its Story Taught by One Thousand Picture Lessons, 1910
Damien F. Mackey
So, who was Barabbas? Where did He come from? Where did He go?
These three questions that we read at: http://turretinfan.blogspot.com/2009/09/who-is-barabbas.html
will engage our interest in this article, in which I try to imagine Barabbas beyond the little that we know about him from the Gospels. I shall endeavour to paint a much vaster portrait of Barabbas from other parts of the New Testament that I think could just possibly be referring to him. And also from history. I shall be concluding that Barabbas, far from being the uncouth and dirty oaf as he is often depicted (e.g. Mel Gibson’s film, The Passion of the Christ), was a strong and charismatic revolutionary leader and a highly religious man, who sided with the common people and the poor. Hence he was a most worthy choice for the type of Messiah that the Jewish people were anticipating to free them from Roman dominance. Jesus Christ on the other hand, whose view of Messiahship was of the Suffering Servant type (of Isaiah 53), as explained by Pope Benedict XVI in his book on Jesus of Nazareth, was not the kind of Messiah that the majority expected (even in the case of St. Peter), or wanted, and hence the loud clamour for the release of the popular Barabbas.
- A. As an Insurrectionist Leader and False Messiah
What we already know of Barabbas
Essentially this Barabbas was an insurrectionist and it may be in this context that he had murdered. Let us return to the above blog account of Barabbas for more information about him, firstly from the Scriptures:
All four of the gospels refer to Jesus’ fellow prisoner, Barabbas, by name. First, I’ll present the four accounts and then some commentary:
Now at that feast the governor was wont to release unto the people a prisoner, whom they would. And they had then a notable prisoner, called Barabbas. Therefore when they were gathered together, Pilate said unto them, “Whom will ye that I release unto you? Barabbas, or Jesus which is called Christ?” For he knew that for envy they had delivered him. When he was set down on the judgment seat, his wife sent unto him, saying, “Have thou nothing to do with that just man: for I have suffered many things this day in a dream because of him.” But the chief priests and elders persuaded the multitude that they should ask for Barabbas, and destroy Jesus. The governor answered and said unto them, “Whether of the twain will ye that I release unto you?” They said, “Barabbas.” Pilate saith unto them, “What shall I do then with Jesus which is called Christ?” They all say unto him, “Let him be crucified.” And the governor said, “Why, what evil hath he done?” But they cried out the more, saying, “Let him be crucified.” When Pilate saw that he could prevail nothing, but that rather a tumult was made, he took water, and washed his hands before the multitude, saying, “I am innocent of the blood of this just person: see ye to it.” Then answered all the people, and said, “His blood be on us, and on our children.” Then released he Barabbas unto them: and when he had scourged Jesus, he delivered him to be crucified.
Mark similarly provides an account. Mark 15:6-15:
Now at that feast he released unto them one prisoner, whomsoever they desired. And there was one named Barabbas, which lay bound with them that had made insurrection with him, who had committed murder in the insurrection. And the multitude crying aloud began to desire him to do as he had ever done unto them. But Pilate answered them, saying, “Will ye that I release unto you the King of the Jews?” For he knew that the chief priests had delivered him for envy. But the chief priests moved the people, that he should rather release Barabbas unto them. And Pilate answered and said again unto them, “What will ye then that I shall do unto him whom ye call the King of the Jews?” And they cried out again, “Crucify him.” Then Pilate said unto them, “Why, what evil hath he done?” And they cried out the more exceedingly, “Crucify him.” And so Pilate, willing to content the people, released Barabbas unto them, and delivered Jesus, when he had scourged him, to be crucified.
Luke also has an account. Luke 23:13-25:
And Pilate, when he had called together the chief priests and the rulers and the people, said unto them, “Ye have brought this man unto me, as one that perverteth the people: and, behold, I, having examined him before you, have found no fault in this man touching those things whereof ye accuse him: no, nor yet Herod: for I sent you to him; and, lo, nothing worthy of death is done unto him. I will therefore chastise him, and release him.” (For of necessity he must release one unto them at the feast.) And they cried out all at once, saying, “Away with this man, and release unto us Barabbas:” (Who for a certain sedition made in the city, and for murder, was cast into prison.) Pilate therefore, willing to release Jesus, spake again to them. But they cried, saying, “Crucify him, crucify him.” And he said unto them the third time, “Why, what evil hath he done? I have found no cause of death in him: I will therefore chastise him, and let him go.” And they were instant with loud voices, requiring that he might be crucified. And the voices of them and of the chief priests prevailed. And Pilate gave sentence that it should be as they required. And he released unto them him that for sedition and murder was cast into prison, whom they had desired; but he delivered Jesus to their will.
Finally, John also has the account. John 18:38-19:16 Pilate saith unto him, “What is truth?” And when he had said this, he went out again unto the Jews, and saith unto them, “I find in him no fault at all. But ye have a custom, that I should release unto you one at the passover: will ye therefore that I release unto you the King of the Jews?” Then cried they all again, saying, “Not this man, but Barabbas.” Now Barabbas was a robber. ….
There are no further references to Barabbas in the text of the New Testament.
Then follows a summary of this:
[Barabbas] was a robber (John’s account), a notable prisoner (Matthew’s account), someone who had (with others who were also imprisoned) made an insurrection/ sedition and committed murder in the insurrection (Mark’s and Luke’s accounts). So, this man was a true brigand and a captain of them. His name appears to be taken from “bar abba” meaning “son of the father” (although some have suggested “bar rabbi” meaning “son of the teacher.”
Supposedly, He participated in the ‘insurrection’, – what “insurrection”? The “insurrection” wherein fanatically ‘religious’ Jews sought to overthrow Herod’s Roman supported ‘secular’ governance -in an unsuccessful attempt to re-establish the ancient ‘theocratic’ form of governance as was instituted by David’ (after the Lord rebuked the ‘anointed’ king Saul and replaced him with David?
Already this provides us with a broader possible view of Barabbas as a man who had led an insurrection against the pro-Roman government of the land in the hope of restoring a more theocratic type of rule as in the halçyon days of King David. Many Jews, especially the sicarii and those associated with them, would have thrilled to this idea.
Barabbas the brigand, yes; Jesus of Nazareth, no.
But the days of King David were long gone. And now Jesus the Son of David had arrived. And it was his form of Messiahship, and his form of governance and kingdom that God favoured. This meant that a revivified old Davidic form was no longer relevant, making of Barabbas a false messiah. Had not Jesus himself warned of the arrival of false Christs?
“For false messiahs [christs] and false prophets will appear and produce great signs and omens, to lead astray, if possible, even the elect” (Mathew 24:24; cf. Mark 13:22).
Indeed Barabbas was, as we shall find, the very epitome of one of these.
Our source tells of a view proposed by some today that Jesus and Barabbas – far from being true and false Messiahs, respectively – were actually one and the same person. Here is the outlandish argument followed by, thankfully, the rejection of it:
…. I was a little surprised to see a rather bizarre comment in my comment box attempting to promote a novel view:
The argument (Roland’s)
“Anathema” continues even unto this very day… to wit, ‘Christian’s’ regard towards “Jesus Barabbas” (originally written in the Greek Gospel according or attributed to Matthew (27:17). But is such regard justified?
Is the depiction, contained only in the Holy Gospels, of “Jesus Barabbas” accurate or true?
Standing on the stage of ecclesiastical history’s most dramatic and celebrated hour, like a potted plant of poison ivy, Jesus Barabbas said nothing whatsoever to anybody (nobody said anything to Him), -yet He is incongruently released (because Pontius Pilate honored a Jewish ‘custom’ -of releasing one prisoner during the Passover, -never before or since exercised).
Nevertheless, He is described as being “notorious”… to whom?
I’m sure young Saul of Tarsus had something to say (and do) when ‘the messiah’ came riding on an ass into Jerusalem that fateful day…
It certainly wasn’t “Jesus Barabbas”, -which, by the way, “Jesus” was His ‘name’, -”Barabbas” is what He was ‘called’. ‘Barabbas’ is not a surname (any more than is “Christ”), it is, rather, an Aramaic appellation, the meaning of which is: Bar = Son + Abba = Father (as in the Father of us all or ‘God’).
[Signed] Roland, a reluctant iconoclast.
Rejection of it
There are numerous errors in this comment. First, the name is just Barabbas (not “Jesus Barabbas”). Second, the fact that we don’t have any historical record to which to tie this particular notorious criminal is hardly surprising: we don’t have any significant records of the crimes of the day – so treating historical silence as significant is an error. Third, the whole comment is riddled with misplaced sarcasm and innuendo, compounding those errors through what seems to be some sort of iconoclastic pride. I have no idea who Roland is (or why he was using the handle “Barabbas126″ to post the comment), but I’d be interested to hear if anyone else has encountered this same deviant view anywhere else. Actually, we are going to consider later (in B.) that Barabbas did in fact also have a ‘Jesus’ name – though it was an adopted name, not how he was originally called.
Pitiful little is known about our character under the identity of Barabbas. Our source has come up with just these bits and pieces from further research: I scanned through the early church writers to see if there were any interesting legends about him. I mostly came up empty. Tertullian describes him as “the most abandoned criminal” (Tertullian, Against Marcion, Book 4, Chapter 42) Cyril of Alexandria describes him as “a notorious robber” and “a dangerous and brutal criminal, [who was] not free from blood-guiltiness” (Cyril of Alexandria, Commentary on John, at John 18:40) Augustine calls him “the robber,” “the murderer,” and “the destroyer [of life]“(Augustine, Tractate 116 on John’s Gospel, at John 19:1) Even Faustus (whom Augustine opposed) called him “the notorious robber” (Faustus quoted in Augustine’s Reply to Faustus, Book 14, Section 1) Chrysostom provides a characteristically colorful description:
“For which was right? to let go the acknowledged criminal, or Him about whose guilt there was a question? For, if in the case of acknowledged offenders it was fit there should be a liberation, much more in those of whom there was a doubt. For surely this man did not seem to them worse than acknowledged murderers. For on this account, it is not merely said they had a robber; but one noted, that is, who was infamous in wickedness, who had perpetrated countless murders”.
- Chrysostom, Homily 86 on Matthew, Section 2, at Matthew 27:11-12
On the whole, though, the early church basically leaves Barabbas alone. A couple (Origen and Rabanius) describe him as figuring the Devil, while Pseudo-Jerome goes so far as to associate him with the scapegoat which was freed. I’m told the “Gospel According to the Hebrews” is an apocryphal work that takes the “son of the teacher” interpretation as opposed to “son of the father,” but generally the apocryphal works also pretty much leave him alone or simply parrot the canonical accounts. Gill provides similar comments, and adds:
“The Ethiopic version adds, “the prince”, or “chief of robbers, and all knew him”; and the Arabic, instead of a “prisoner”, reads, a “thief”, as he was”.
He also points out that this name was a common name among the Jews, providing various citations to folks by that name. There does not seem to be much more out there on him.
[End of quotes]
Now, supplementing this with Wikipedia’s article, “Barabbas”
we read that:
Barabbas is a figure in the Christian narrative of the Passion of Jesus, in which he is the insurrectionary whom Pontius Pilate freed at the Passover feast in Jerusalem.
The penalty for Barabbas’ crime was death by crucifixion, but according to the four canonical gospels and the non-canonical Gospel of Peter there was a prevailing Passover custom in Jerusalem that allowed or required Pilate, the praefectus or governor of Judaea, to commute one prisoner’s death sentence by popular acclaim, and the “crowd” (ochlos) — which has become “the Jews” and “the multitude” in some translations — were offered a choice of whether to have Barabbas or Jesus Christ released from Roman custody. According to the closely parallel gospels of Matthew (27:15-26), Mark (15:6-15), and Luke (23:13–25), and the more divergent accounts in John (18:38-19:16) and the Gospel of Peter, the crowd chose Barabbas to be released and Jesus of Nazareth to be crucified. A passage found only in the Gospel of Matthew has the crowd saying, “Let his blood be upon us and upon our children”.
The story of Barabbas has special social significances, because it has historically been used to lay the blame for the crucifixion of Jesus on the Jews, and to justify anti-Semitism—an interpretation dismissed by Pope Benedict XVI in his 2011 book … 
Matthew refers to Barabbas only as a “notorious prisoner.” Mark and Luke further refer to Barabbas as one involved in a stasis, a riot. John 18:40 refers to Barabbas as a lēstēs (“bandit”), “the word Josephus always employs when talking about Revolutionaries”, Robert Eisenman observes.
Three gospels state that there was a custom at Passover during which the Roman governor would release a prisoner of the crowd’s choice: Mark 15:6; Matthew 27:15; and John 18:39. Later copies of Luke contain a corresponding verse (Luke 23:17), though it is not present in the earliest manuscripts, and may be a later gloss to bring Luke into conformity. The gospels differ on whether the custom was a Roman one or a Jewish one, as part of the Jubilee.
No custom of releasing prisoners in Jerusalem is recorded in any historical document other than the gospels. An Ancient Roman celebration called Lectisternium involved feasting and sometimes included a temporary removal of the chains from all prisoners. However, J. Blinzler associates Barabbas’ release with a passage in the Mishna Peshahim 8,6 which says that the Passover lamb may be offered ‘for one whom they have promised to bring out of prison’. (J. Blinzler, The Trial of Jesus, 1959, pp218ff.)
Barabbas’ name appears as bar-Abbas in the Greek texts. It is derived ultimately from the Aramaic בר-אבא, Bar-abbâ, “son of the father”. According to early Greek texts, Barabbas’ full name was Jesus Barabbas. Later texts shorten his name to just Barabbas.
Abba has been found as a personal name in a 1st-century burial at Giv’at ja-Mivtar, and Abba also appears as a personal name frequently in the Gemara section of the Talmud, dating from AD 200–400. These findings support “Barabbas” being used to indicate the son of a person named Abba or Abbas (a patronymic).
….Bar-Abbas is a well intentioned believer whose actions in a Jewish resistance movement make him a kind of Dietrich Bonhoeffer figure. His heroics, and the type of resistance he sought, are what led the crowds to call for his release over the more passive resistance offered by Yeshua of Nazareth.
Benjamin Urrutia, co-author of The Logia of Yeshua: The Sayings of Jesus … opposes the notion that Jesus may have either led or planned a violent insurrection. Jesus was a strong advocate of “turning the other cheek” – which means not submission but strong and courageous, though nonviolent, defiance and resistance. Jesus, in this view, must have been the planner and leader of the Jewish nonviolent resistance to Pilate’s plan to set up Roman Eagle standards on Jerusalem’s Temple Mount. The story of this successful resistance is told by Josephus — who does not say who the leader was ….
[End of quote]
Now there is a very strange story that we read in Flaccus’ account of the writings of Philo of Alexandria, a contemporary of the Apostles, about a certain Carabbas, that seems to be a confusion of Barabbas (the name) and the mistreatment and mockery of Jesus and his kingship. The whole thing is wrongly taken as being totally unrelated to the incident recorded in the Gospels – but I would consider it to be a later reference (albeit grossly distorted) to the trial and mistreatment of Jesus Christ:
Writings of Philo of Alexandria, Flaccus, VI:36-39:
36: There was a certain madman named Carabbas … this man spent all his days and nights naked in the roads, minding neither cold nor heat, the sport of idle children and wanton youths; 37: and they, driving the poor wretch as far as the public gymnasium, and setting him up there on high that he might be seen by everybody, flattened out a leaf of papyrus and put it on his head instead of a diadem, and clothed the rest of his body with a common door mat instead of a cloak and instead of a sceptre they put in his hand a small stick of the native papyrus which they found lying by the wayside and gave to him; 38: and when, like actors in theatrical spectacles, he had received all the insignia of royal authority, and had been dressed and adorned like a king, the young men bearing sticks on their shoulders stood on each side of him instead of spear-bearers, in imitation of the bodyguards of the king, and then others came up, some as if to salute him, and others pretending to wish to consult with him about the affairs of the state. 39: Then from the multitude of those who were standing around there arose a wonderful shout of men calling out Maris!; and this is the name by which it is said that they call the king of the Syrians; for they knew that Agrippa was by birth a Syrian, and also that he was possessed of a great district of Syria of which he was the sovereign ….
Cf. Matthew 17:
26: Then released he Barabbas unto them: and when he had scourged Jesus, he delivered him to be crucified. 27: Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the common hall, and gathered unto him the whole band of soldiers. 28: And they stripped him, and put on him a scarlet robe. 29: And when they had plaited a crown of thorns, they put it upon his head, and a reed in his right hand: and they bowed the knee before him, and mocked him, saying, Hail, King of the Jews!
Finally, I should like to recall a tradition – most important for this article – that: “Some sources also say that [Barabbas] was later killed while taking part in another revolt against the Romans”.
referred to in various places on the Net according to which Barabbas later fell into the hands of the Romans again (http://www.gospel-mysteries.net/barabbas.html)
Conclusion 1. A More Complete Barabbas
Buzz words for Barabbas: He was notable or notorious, an insurrectionist/murderer, a leader or captain, a fanatically religious Jew, a believer, who resisted the Romans and the Herods, and who wished to return to a theocratic state as of old. He was imprisoned by the Romans, but set free by Pontius Pilate. Later he fell into the hands of the Romans again. He was also designated a prince and a false messiah figuring the Devil.
We now pass from traditions relating to Barabbas – presumably more or less true – to speculation as to who else he may have been based largely on the descriptions offered by these buzz words.
What may have been Barabbas’s alter egos in the New Testament and in history?
I am going to propose that the rebel’s name was actually Simon, Simon Barabbas (‘Simon Son of Abbas’). In so doing, we can align him with various supposedly individual characters of the name Simon (albeit a most common Jewish name) who figure in the New Testament and in Jewish history; colourful characters indeed who fit the above buzz words.
Our first match will be with the notorious Simon Bar Giora, who led the insurrection against Rome in 66-69 AD (conventional dating). Simon Bar Giora immediately fits our Simon Barabbas as to (a) name structure; (b) chronological range; as a (c) charismatic revolutionary leader; (d) a possible or would-be “prince”, (e) fiercely religious, who (f) resisted the Romans. Another key factor, as we shall read, is that Simon Bar Giora had previous ‘form’ as a bandit, “already apparently known as a partisan leader”. So, we can imagine him as a young man, as Barabbas, and later as a fully mature Bar Giora, now of vast experience (and wickedness).
Now, previously, I had in various articles identified this Simon Bar Giora with the even more famous Simon Bar Kochba (‘Son of the Star’). Though history separates Bar Giora (First Jewish Revolt) from Bar Kochba (Second Jewish Revolt) by some six decades or so, I have argued that there was in fact only the one major Jewish revolt. The 66-70 AD revolt had been so devastating for the land of Israel and its people, and for Jerusalem, that it is hard to imagine that there could have arisen such another major revolt merely a generation and a half later – and still with reference to the Temple. (We shall read below: “Despite the devastation wrought by the Romans during the First Jewish-Roman War … which left the population and countryside in ruins …”). Common to the two (supposedly) revolts that history books describe, the Jews against Rome, was (i) a leader, Simon; (ii) an Eleazer; and (iii) an approximately 3 years duration. Above all, it is apparent from Bar Kochba’s coins that the Temple was still standing in his day and that the Ark of the Covenant was still in it! (“These coins tell us more. In the first place, they show us the Temple and the Ark of the Covenant inside it”. See below).
Moreover, my previous argument was that St. John’s Roman persecutor, some say Nero, some say Domitian, was one and the same emperor, Nero Domitianus. Domitian is frequently referred to as Nero Redivivus. In this way, I have historically ‘folded’ Bar Giora’s 66 AD revolt with Bar Kochba’s 132 AD revolt. Elsewhere I have tentatively put a case for Nero’s also being the emperor Hadrian (both Grecophiles, great builders, homosexual, and vicious). Both sent their best general, who had experience in Britain, to crush a Jewish revolt.
This composite scenario that I am envisaging now lands us with a plethora of Simon Bar – type names (Bar Abbas; Bar Giora and Bar Kochba) for our leading character. I tentatively suggest that the character’s original name was Simon Bar Abbas (Barabbas), that Bar Giora, variously Bar Piora (‘Son of a Proselyte’), was how he was sometimes described, and we know (and shall read below) that Bar Kochba was the messianic name given to him by his great admirer, Rabbi Akiba.
Simon bar Giora
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Simon_bar_Giora“)
Simon bar Giora (alternatively known as Simeon bar Giora or Simon ben Giora or Shimon bar Giora) d. 70 CE, was a leader of revolutionary forces during the First Jewish-Roman War in the 1st century Judea.
Simon bar Giora first became notable in the First Jewish-Roman War, when Roman troops marched towards Jerusalem in 66. Simon helped in defeating the advance by attacking from the north. He put the hindmost of the army into disorder, and carried off many of the beasts that carried the weapons of war, and led them into the city. However, he was rejected a commanding position by the Jerusalem authorities, for they did not want a popular leader of a rebellious peasantry if they were to moderate the revolt and negotiate with the Romans. As a result, Simon gathered a large number of revolutionaries and started robbing houses of wealthy people in the district of Acrabbene:
||But as for the Acrabbene toparchy, Simon, the son of Gioras, got a great number of those that were fond of innovations together, and betook himself to ravage the country; nor did he only harass the rich men’s houses, but tormented their bodies, and appeared openly and beforehand to affect tyranny in his government. And when an army was sent against him by Artanus, and the other rulers, he and his band retired to the robbers that were at Masada.
Simon stayed safe from the Jewish authorities in Masada until Ananus ben Ananus was killed in the Zealot Temple Siege, after which he left the fortress for the hill country and proclaimed liberty for those in slavery, and a reward to those already free. He gathered power quickly as more people and influential men joined him. He soon dared to venture into the flatlands, constructed a fort in a village called Nain, and stored food and booty in caves. It was obvious that he prepared to attack Jerusalem. However, Simon ben Giora first attacked Idumea and his intimidating army met no real resistance. He marched into Hebron, robbed the grain stores of towns and villages, and plundered the countryside in order to feed his vast troops. By this time, he was followed by forty thousand people not including his soldiers. Simon’s success began worrying the Zealots in Jerusalem. Since they did not dare fight in open battle, they lay an ambush, capturing his wife and some of her entourage. They expected Simon to lay down his weapons in exchange for her freedom. However, Simon grew very angry, went to Jerusalem and took everybody leaving the city captive. Some he tortured, some he killed and he cut of the hands of others, sending them back into the city with the message that he would do likewise to all Jerusalem if his wife was not released. This frightened the Zealots so immensely that they eventually let her go.
In spring 69 the advancing Roman army forced Simon ben Giora to retreat to Jerusalem, where he camped outside the city walls and once again began harassing people. Within Jerusalem, John of Giscala had set himself up as a despotic ruler after overthrowing lawful authority in the Zealot Temple Siege. In order to get rid of him, the Jerusalem authorities decided to ask Simon to enter the city and drive John away. Acclaimed by the people as their savior and guardian, Simon was admitted. With fifteen thousand soldiers at hand Simon soon controlled the whole upper city and some of the lower city. John held parts of the lower city and the temple’s outer court with six thousand men and a third splinter group of twenty-four hundred men controlled the temple’s inner court. Factions fought vigorously over the control of Jerusalem, always trying to destroy each other’s grain stores to starve each other into submission. This internal fighting later proved disastrous: not only was this a sabbatical year (with less grain available), but the city was under siege by the time the harvest began. Nevertheless, of the leaders of the rebellion, Simon in particular was regarded with reverence and awe. By his authority, coins were minted declaring the redemption of Zion.
Just before Passover in 70 CE Titus began the siege of Jerusalem. He quickly took down the first and second wall, but then met fierce resistance as the factions within Jerusalem realized the necessity of joining forces. However, Simon and John both upheld their reigns of terror over the citizens, causing many to flee to the Romans. To counteract these desertions, Simon put every potential betrayer, including some of his previous friends, to death. In August 70, five months after the siege began, Jerusalem fell to Titus. Simon escaped into the subterranean passages of the city. By means of stonecutters he tried to dig away into freedom, but ran out of food before he could finish. Clothed in the garments of a Jewish king he rose out of the ground at the very spot where the temple had stood, was taken prisoner and brought to Rome.
Like kings of other countries Simon was displayed during the triumphal procession and put to death near the Temple of Jupiter at the Tarpeian Rock.
To supplement this, here now is a Jewish account of Simon Bar Giora
BAR GIORA, SIMEON, Jewish military leader in the war against Rome (66–70 C.E.). Simeon was born, according to Josephus, in *Gerasa, a large Hellenistic city in Transjordan, where the Jews lived in peace with the city’s non-Jewish population. Some scholars, however, identify his birthplace with the village of Jerash in the neighborhood of Hartuv (Press, Ereẓ, 1 (19512), 174, S.V. Geresh), others with Kefar Jorish near Shechem on the grounds that Simeon’s activity began in its vicinity, i.e., in the province of Acrabatene. Since the word giora means proselyte in Aramaic, many scholars hold that his father was a convert to Judaism. The main source of information about Simeon is Josephus who is to be treated with circumspection, especially where an appraisal of the man and his activities are concerned, since Josephus entertained feelings of intense animosity toward him. Simeon, already apparently known as a partisan leader, first distinguished himself in the battle at Beth-Horon against *Cestius Gallus (66 C.E.), in which the Jews inflicted a crushing defeat on the Roman army. Despite this achievement, however, Simeon was relegated to the background, since in Jerusalem the moderate party in control was disposed to come to terms with Rome. Simeon gathered around him a band of ardent patriots and, according to Josephus, engaged in brigandage. It is obvious, however, even from Josephus’ own biased account, that these acts of “brigandage” were military operations conducted by the rebels under the leadership of Simeon against their internal enemies, opponents of the revolt, and sympathizers with Rome. In retaliation for these operations, the forces of the moderate government in Jerusalem compelled Simeon to take refuge among the *Sicarii who, under the command of *Eleazar b. Jair, had captured *Masada. For a time Simeon remained with them, taking part in their raids. Subsequently leaving them, he parted company, and “terrorized” the southern part of Ereẓ Israel. Although growing increasingly stronger, he was unable to capture Jerusalem. The Zealots in Jerusalem, who were fearful of him, seized his wife but released her because of his threats. In addition to his continuous war against the party in control in Jerusalem, Simeon also fought against the Idumeans and succeeded in occupying Idumea with the help of supporters among the Idumeans themselves. Hebron, too, fell into his hands. In April 69 C.E. he entered Jerusalem, the gates of the city having been opened to him by the enemies of *John of Giscala, who had called on Simeon to come to their aid. Simeon thus gained control of the larger part of Jerusalem, both of the Upper and a considerable section of the Lower City. The struggle between Simeon and John of Giscala continued. Constant hostilities were waged between them in the city, and came to an end only when Titus’ forces reached the outskirts of Jerusalem (April 70 C.E.). Although all the rebels joined together during the siege to fight against the Romans and performed deeds of astounding bravery, the advantage enjoyed by the Roman army proved decisive. The Temple was burned and the devastated city captured by the enemy. Simeon and several of his most loyal friends hid in an underground passage among the ruins, but, unable to escape, Simeon finally surrendered to the Romans and was taken prisoner. The circumstances of his surrender were extremely strange. Josephus relates that Simeon suddenly appeared among the Temple ruins, as though out of the bowels of the earth, dressed in white and covered with a purple mantle. At the sight of him the Romans were terrified, but after recovering from their fear, bound him in chains. His strange appearance was probably connected with messianic expectations on his part; or by submitting to the victorious enemy he may have deliberately invited martyrdom. Simeon was led as a prisoner in the triumphal procession held in Rome by Vespasian and his sons to celebrate their victory over the Jews. Scourged all the way, he was taken to the Mamertine prison, at the northeast end of the Forum, and executed at the moment of the culmination of the triumph. That he and not John of Giscala played this part in the triumphal procession shows that the Romans regarded him as the most important leader in Jerusalem and as the rebel commander. This is evident from other extant information as well. His army was far larger than that of his rivals, having numbered about 15,000 at the beginning of the siege of Jerusalem. His soldiers were also the best organized and disciplined. The fact that he was invited to Jerusalem by the priests and the people may have provided him with some legal basis for his leadership, although not all the patriot elements recognized his authority. Since information about them is very sparse, it is difficult to comprehend and explain the basis of the conflict between their different parties. At times it is even difficult to distinguish between the parties themselves. Nevertheless, from extant information it would appear that Simeon b. Giora was the leader of a clear eschatological trend in the movement of rebellion against Rome, and possibly filled the role of “king messiah” within the complex of eschatological beliefs held by his followers. His exceptional bravery and daring, mentioned by Josephus, undoubtedly attracted many to him, and won him preeminence among the rebel leaders. In contrast to the bitter hostility that existed between him and John of Giscala, there was a measure of understanding between him and the Sicarii at Masada. Conspicuous among Simeon’s characteristics was the enmity he bore toward the rich and the sympathy he showed to the poor, even to the extent of freeing slaves. This approach of his doubtless had its origin in his party’s social outlook, opposed as it was to the existing order also in regard to the economic system and social justice.
Conclusion 2. Barabbas was Simon Bar Giora
Buzz words for Simon Bar Giora: These descriptions are perfect for Barabbas, a popular leader of a rebellious peasantry; already apparently known as a partisan leader; robber; people’s savior and guardian.
Perhaps even regarded with reverence and awe; torturer; and, ultimately, slain by Romans.
Added to this, we get these loftier elements government; significant army; coin minting re ‘Redemption of Zion’; Jewish king; messianic expectations on his part.
Now we pass on to who I believe was Simon Bar Giora’s alter ego in the Jewish Revolt against Rome:
Simon bar Kokhba
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Simon_bar_Kokhba)
Shimon bar Kokhba (Hebrew: שמעון בר כוכבא, also transliterated as Bar Kochba) was the Jewish leader of what is known as the Bar Kokhba revolt against the Roman Empire in 132 CE, establishing an independent Jewish state of Israel which he ruled for three years as Nasi (“Ruler”). His state was conquered by the Romans in 135 following a two-year war.
Documents discovered in the modern era … give us his original name, Simon ben Kosiba, (Hebrew: שמעון בן כוסבא) he was given the surname Bar Kokhba, (Aramaic for “Son of a Star”, referring to the Star Prophecy of Numbers 24:17, “A star has shot off Jacob”) by his contemporary, the Jewish sage Rabbi Akiva.
After the failure of the revolt, the rabbinical writers referred to bar Kokhba as “Simon bar Kozeba” (Hebrew: בר כוזיבא, “Son of lies” or “Son of deception”).
Third Jewish revolt
Bar Kochba silver Shekel/tetradrachm. Obverse: the Jewish Temple facade with the rising star, surrounded by “Shimon”. Reverse: A lulav, the text reads: “to the freedom of Jerusalem”
Bar Kochba silver Zuz/denarius. Obverse: trumpets surrounded by “To the freedom of Jerusalem“. Reverse: A lyre surrounded by “Year two to the freedom of Israel“
Despite the devastation wrought by the Romans during the First Jewish-Roman War … which left the population and countryside in ruins, a series of laws passed by Roman Emperors provided the incentive for the second rebellion. The last straw was a series of laws enacted by the Roman Emperor Hadrian, including an attempt to prevent Jews from living in Jerusalem; a new Roman city, Aelia Capitolina, was to be built in its place. The second Jewish rebellion took place 60 years after the first and re-established an independent state lasting three years. For many Jews of the time, this turn of events was heralded as the long hoped for Messianic Age. The excitement was short-lived, however; after a brief span of glory, the revolt was eventually crushed by the Roman legions.
The state minted its own coins, known today as Bar Kochba Revolt coinage. These were inscribed “the first (or second) year of the redemption of Israel”. Bar Kokhba ruled with the title of “Nasi”. The Romans fared very poorly during the initial revolt facing a completely unified Jewish force (unlike during the First Jewish-Roman War, where Flavius Josephus records three separate Jewish armies fighting each other for control of the Temple Mount during the three weeks time after the Romans had breached Jerusalem’s walls and were fighting their way to the center).
A complete Roman legion with auxiliaries was annihilated. The new state knew only one year of peace. The Romans committed no fewer than twelve legions, amounting to one third to one half of the entire Roman army, to reconquer this now independent state. Being outnumbered and taking heavy casualties, the Romans refused to engage in an open battle and instead adopted a scorched earth policy which reduced and demoralized the Judean populace, slowly grinding away at the will of the Judeans to sustain the war.
Bar Kokhba took up refuge in the fortress of Betar. The Romans eventually captured it and killed all the defenders. According to Cassius Dio, 580,000 Jews were killed, 50 fortified towns and 985 villages razed. Yet so costly was the Roman victory that the Emperor Hadrian, when reporting to the Roman Senate, did not see fit to begin with the customary greeting “If you and your children are well, all is well. For I and the army are all in good health.”  He was the only Roman general known to have refused to celebrate his victory with a triumphal entrance into his capital.
In the aftermath of the war, Hadrian consolidated the older political units of Judaea, Galilee and Samaria into the new province of Syria Palaestina, which is commonly interpreted as an attempt to complete the disassociation with Judaea
Over the past few decades, new information about the revolt has come to light, from the discovery of several collections of letters, some possibly by Bar Kokhba himself, in the Cave of Letters overlooking the Dead Sea. These letters can now be seen at the Israel Museum.
Let us now supplement this with a piece about Simon Bar Kochba under the heading of “Messianic claimaints” (http://www.livius.org/men-mh/messiah/messianic_claimants17.html):
Coin of Simon ben Kosiba, showing the Temple with the Messianic star on the roof and the Ark of the Covenant inside (British Museum)
Simon ben Kosiba (132-135 CE)
Sources: ‘Abot de Rabbi Nathan A 38.3; Babylonian Talmud, Gittin 57a-58b; Genesis Rabbah 65.21 (on 27.22); Lamentations Rabbah 1.16 §45 and 2.2 §4; Palestinian Talmud, Ta’anit 4.5 (commenting on Mishna, Ta’anit 4.6); Palestinian Talmud, Nedarim 3.8 (commenting on Mishna, Nedarim 3.10-11a); Seder Elijah Rabbah 151; letters from Wadi Murabba`at (ed. P. Benoit, J.T. Milik and R. de Vaux); fifteen letters from Nahal Hever (ed. Yigael Yadin); Appian of Alexandria, Syrian war 50; Cassius Dio, Roman history 69.12.1-14.3; Eusebius, History of the church 4.5.2 and 4.6.1-4; Fronto, Letter to Marcus Aurelius; Historia Augusta, “Hadrian“, 14.2; Hieronymus, Commentary on Isaiah 2.15; Justin the Martyr, First apology 31.5-6 and Dialogue with the Jew Trypho 108.1-3 …. . Comment: Jesus of Nazareth and Simon ben Kosiba are the only Jewish leaders who are positively identified as Messiahs in the Jewish sources: Jesus is explicitly called ‘Messiah’ by Flavius Josephus, Ben Kosiba in several rabbinical treatises. In order to understand the following text, it must be remembered that Ben Kosiba was known under two other names: his adherents called him Bar Kochba, ‘son of the star’ (a reference to Balaam’s prophecy); and his enemies called him Bar Kozeba, ‘son of the disappointment’ or ‘son of the lie’. The editor of the Palestinian Talmud clearly belonged to the second group. He tells: Rabbi Simeon ben Yohai taught: ‘Aqiba, my master, used to interpret a star goes forth from Jacob as a Kozeba goes forth from Jacob.‘ Rabbi Aqiba, when he saw Ben Kozeba, said: ‘This is the King Messiah.’ Rabbi Yohanan ben Torta said to him: ‘Aqiba! Grass will grow on your cheeks and still the Son of David does not come!’ (Palestinian Talmud, Ta`anit 4.5) This text contradicts itself. In the first line, rabbi Aqiba (the president of the rabbinical academy at Yavne and the official religious leader of the Judaean Jews) expresses that he is disappointed in Simon ben Kosiba, but in the second line he is very enthusiastic. The only way to solve this inconsistency, is to accept that the editor of the Palestinian Talmud has changed the text on two places. Because there are parallel texts (e.g., Lamentations Rabbah 2.2 §4), we may assume that the text originally ran like this: Rabbi Simeon ben Yohai taught: ‘Aqiba, my master, used to interpret a star goes forth from Jacob as a Kochba goes forth from Jacob.‘ Rabbi Aqiba, when he saw Ben Kosiba, said: ‘This is the King Messiah.’ Rabbi Yohanan ben Torta said to him: ‘Aqiba! Grass will grow on your cheeks and still the Son of David does not come!’ The editor of the Palestinian Talmud changed all references into ‘son of the disappointment’ (Kozeba), but, however the precise wording of this testimony, it is clear that Aqiba said that Simon ben Kosiba was the Messiah and was corrected by rabbi Yohanan ben Torta. If our reconstruction is sound, we know that he proposed to call him ‘son of the star’ (Bar Kochba). This nickname must have been very popular, because it is also used by the contemporary Christian authors Justin Martyr and Ariston of Pella: Barchochebas, the leader of the revolt of the Jews, gave orders that Christians alone should be led away to cruel punishments, unless they should deny Jesus as the Christ and blaspheme. [Justin, First apology 31.6] The Jews were lead by a certain Bar Chochebas, which means Star. [Ariston of Pella, quoted by Eusebius, History of the Church 4.6.2]
||A star is also what we see on the roof of the Temple, depicted on the coins which Simon ben Kosiba struck. All this can only mean that Simon ben Kosiba was indeed regarded as the man to whom Balaam’s prophecy was applied, the Messiah.
These coins tell us more. In the first place, they show us the Temple and the Ark of the Covenant inside it. This shows that the restoration of the Temple [sic] was one of the aims of the rebellion. This is not necessarily a messianic aim, but it was a popular theme in the decades preceding the war of 132-136. For instance, an Aramaic translation (a ‘targum’) of Isaiah53.5 written about 100 CE, adds the words ‘and the Messiah will build the sanctuary’. Another point that deserves attention is the legend, which reads on the obverse ‘Simon, prince of Israel‘ and on the reverse ‘Year one of the redemption of Israel’. From the Amidah or Eighteen prayer, we know that the word ‘redemption’ had a very strong eschatological meaning. But it is not strictly messianic. On the other hand, the obverse legend can only be understood in a messianic sense, because the word ‘prince’ (Nasi) is a common synonym for Messiah. It is therefore very difficult not to interpret Simon’s coins as the coins of a Messiah.
Simon ben Kosiba wrote letters to his fellow rebels, several of which have been found by archaeologists. Again, he calls himself ‘prince’ (e.g, ‘On the twenty-eighth marhesvan of the third year of Simon ben Kosiba, prince of Israel…’).
Another aspect of Ben Kosiba’s career that becomes understandable when we know that he was recognized as the Messiah, is the description of a miracle fraud:
That famed Barchochebas, the instigator of the Jewish uprising, kept fanning a lighted blade of straw in his mouth with puffs of breath so as to give the impression that he was spewing out flames.
[Jerome, Against Rufinus 3.31]
This is of course a rationalization of a miracle story. The interesting point is that this type of miracle is exactly what the Messiah was expected to do:
Behold, when he saw the onrush of the approaching multitude, he neither lifted his hand nor held a spear or any weapon of war; but I saw how he sent forth from his mouth as it were a stream of fire, and from his lips a flaming breath, and from his tongue he shot forth a storm of sparks. All these were mingled together, the stream of fire and the flaming breath and the great storm, and fell on the onrushing multitide which was prepared to fight, and burnt them all up, so that suddenly nothing was seen of the innumerable multitude but only the dust of ashes and the smell of smoke.
[4 Ezra 13.9-11]
One final piece of evidence may be introduced. As we saw above, the contemporary Christian author Justin stated that Simon ben Kosiba ordered Christians to be ‘led away to cruel punishments, unless they should deny Jesus as the Christ and blaspheme’. This only makes sense when Ben Kosiba feared a rival Messiah.
Conclusion 3. Simon Bar Giora was Simon Bar Kochba
Buzz words for Simon Bar Kochba: These descriptions are perfect for Simon Bar Giora (Barabbas?), Jewish leader of a revolt against the Romans; government; significant army; coin minting re ‘Redemption of Zion’; even Jewish king and ruler; regarded with reverence; torturer; and, ultimately, slain by Romans. Most significantly, the Messianic element, hinted at in Bar Giora, becomes overt with Bar Kochba, as a messiah. New element here, opposed to Christ, cruel persecutor of Christians.
Note that the Temple and the Ark, supposedly obsolete, are depicted in Bar Kochba’s coinage.
In common with Barabbas, Bar Giora, Bar Kochba, is the trait of a popular and charismatic leader of rebellion against Rome, notoriety, theft, violence and murder. The progression from a small time bandit and revolutionary (Barabbas) to a strong leader of an armed force with priestly or messianic and even kingly pretensions, a minter of coins and controller of economy (Bar Giora), may actually represent the development and career of Barabbas from a young man to a hardened opponent of the Herods and Rome. And basically the description here of Bar Giora applies also to Bar Kochba, with even more emphasis on the governance and messianic aspects. But now, in the case of Bar Kochba, we encounter a new element as well: that of a miraculous wonder worker, perhaps a magician with a heavy dose of fake and charlatanism.
- B. As a Magician with Roman Influence and False Messiah
This leads us inevitably to an evil magician and wonderworker of the New Testament of lofty ambition worthy of a Simon Bar Kochba, namely Simon Magus of the Acts of the Apostles. I shall also be double identifying the latter, by connecting him with the magician Bar Jesus (also given as Elymas) also of Acts. But, before we proceed with accounts of the New Testament magician and wonder worker, here is my basic explanation for the plethora of names for our leading character:
Original Names: Simon and Barabbas (Bar-Abbas).
Descriptions: Bar Giora (Piora), ‘Son of the Proselyte’; Magus (magician).
As a baptised Christian: Bar Jesus (can also mean Disciple of Jesus).
Greek name: Elymas [Atomas]
As a messiah figure: Bar Kosiba, Bar Kochba (‘Son of the Star’).
Derogatory Name: Bar Kozeba (‘Son of Deception’, ‘Son of Lies’).
If Simon Magus is also our composite Simon (beginning with Barabbas and ending with Bar Kochba), then he would serve to fill in the large gap (some 35 years?) between Barabbas and the Trial of Jesus on the one hand – when Barabbas first emerges in the Gospels – and, on the other hand, the rise of Simon Bar Giora in the 66 AD Jewish Revolt against Rome.
Here, then, is Wikipedia’s sometimes quite fanciful account of:
Simon the Sorcerer or Simon the Magician, in Latin Simon Magus, (Greek Σίμων ὁ μάγος) was a Samaritan magus or religious figure and a convert to Christianity, baptised by Philip, whose later confrontation with Peter is recorded in Acts 8:9-24. The sin of simony, or paying for position and influence in the church, is named for Simon. The Apostolic Constitutions also accuses him of lawlessness.
Surviving traditions about Simon appear in anti-heretical texts, such as those of Irenaeus, Justin Martyr, Hippolytus, and Epiphanius, where he is often regarded as the source of all heresies. Justin wrote that nearly all the Samaritans in his time were adherents of a certain Simon of Gitta, a village not far from Flavia Neapolis. Irenaeus held him as being one of the founders of Gnosticism and the sect of the Simonians. Hippolytus quotes from a work he attributes to Simon or his followers the Simonians, Apophasis Megale, or Great Declaration. According to the early church heresiologists Simon is also supposed to have written several lost treatises, two of which bear the titles The Four Quarters of the World and The Sermons of the Refuter.
In apocryphal works including the Acts of Peter, Pseudo-Clementines, and the Epistle of the Apostles, Simon also appears as a formidable sorcerer with the ability to levitate and fly at will.
Acts of the Apostles
The different sources for information on Simon contain quite different pictures of him, so much so that it has been questioned whether they all refer to the same person. Assuming all references are to the same person, as some (but by no means all) of the Church fathers did, the earliest reference to him is the canonical Acts of the Apostles, this is his only appearance in the New Testament.
But there was a certain man, called Simon, which beforetime in the same city used sorcery, and bewitched the people of Samaria, giving out that himself was some great one: 10to whom they all gave heed, from the least to the greatest, saying, “This man is the great power of God.” 11And to him they had regard, because that of long time he had bewitched them with sorceries. 12But when they believed Philip preaching the things concerning the kingdom of God, and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women. 13Then Simon himself believed also: and when he was baptized, he continued with Philip, and wondered, beholding the miracles and signs which were done. 14Now when the apostles which were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent unto them Peter and John: 15who, when they were come down, prayed for them, that they might receive the Holy Ghost: 16(for as yet he was fallen upon none of them: only they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.) 17Then laid they their hands on them, and they received the Holy Ghost. 18And when Simon saw that through laying on of the apostles’ hands the Holy Ghost was given, he offered them money, 19saying, “Give me also this power, that on whomsoever I lay hands, he may receive the Holy Ghost.” 20But Peter said unto him, “Thy money perish with thee, because thou hast thought that the gift of God may be purchased with money. 21Thou hast neither part nor lot in this matter: for thy heart is not right in the sight of God. 22Repent therefore of this thy wickedness, and pray God, if perhaps the thought of thine heart may be forgiven thee, 23for I perceive that thou art in the gall of bitterness, and in the bond of iniquity.” 24Then answered Simon, and said, “Pray ye to the Lord for me, that none of these things which ye have spoken come upon me.”
Acts tells of a person named Simōn practicing magic in the city of Sebaste in Samaria, meeting with Philip the Evangelist, and then trying to offer money to the Apostles in exchange for miraculous abilities, specifically the power of laying on of hands. In Acts 8:20, Peter denounces Simon’s attitude, and declares, “May your money perish with you!”
Josephus mentions a magician named Simon as being involved with the procurator Felix, King Agrippa II and his sister Drusilla, where Felix has Simon convince Drusilla to marry him instead of the man she was engaged to. Some scholars have considered the two to be identical, although this is not generally accepted, as the Simon of Josephus is a Jew rather than a Samaritan.
Wikipedia now proceeds to introduce the notorious woman with whom Simon was so deeply involved. Could she be the wicked “Jezebel” about whom John warns the Christians in the Book of Revelation? I shall come back to this idea later:
Justin Martyr and Irenaeus
Justin Martyr (in his Apologies, and in a lost work against heresies, which Irenaeus used as his main source) and Irenaeus (Adversus Haereses) record that after being cast out by the Apostles he came to Rome where, having joined to himself a profligate woman of the name of Helen, he gave out that it was he who appeared among the Jews as the Son, in Samaria as the Father and among other nations as the Holy Spirit. He performed such miracles by magic acts during the reign of Claudius that he was regarded as a god and honored with a statue on the island in the Tiber which the two bridges cross, with the inscription Simoni Deo Sancto, “To Simon the Holy God”. However, in the 16th century, a statue was unearthed on the island in question, inscribed to Semo Sancus, a Sabine deity, leading most scholars to believe that Justin Martyr confused Semoni Sancus with Simon.
Myth of Simon and Helen
Justin and Irenaeus are the first to recount the myth of Simon and Helen, which became the center of Simonian doctrine. Epiphanius of Salamis also makes Simon speak in the first person in several places in his Panarion, and the inference is that he is quoting from a version of it, though perhaps not verbatim.
In the beginning God had his first thought, his Ennoia, which was female, and that thought was to create the angels. The First Thought then descended into the lower regions and created the angels. But the angels rebelled against her out of jealousy and created the world as her prison, imprisoning her in a female body. Thereafter, she was reincarnated many times, each time being shamed. Her many reincarnations included Helen of Troy; among others, and she finally was reincarnated as Helen, a slave and prostitute in the Phoenician city of Tyre. God then descended in the form of Simon Magus, to rescue his Ennoia, and to confer salvation upon men through knowledge of himself.
“And on her account,” he says, “did I come down; for this is that which is written in the Gospel ‘the lost sheep‘.”
For as the angels were mismanaging the world, owing to their individual lust for rule, he had come to set things straight, and had descended under a changed form, likening himself to the Principalities and Powers through whom he passed, so that among men he appeared as a man, though he was not a man, and was thought to have suffered in Judaea, though he had not suffered.
“But in each heaven I changed my form,” says he, “in accordance with the form of those who were in each heaven, that I might escape the notice of my angelic powers and come down to the Thought, who is none other than her who is also called Prunikos and Holy Ghost, through whom I created the angels, while the angels created the world and men.”
But the prophets had delivered their prophecies under the inspiration of the world-creating angels: wherefore those who had their hope in him and in Helen minded them no more, and, as being free, did what they pleased; for men were saved according to his grace, but not according to just works. For works were not just by nature, but only by convention, in accordance with the enactments of the world-creating angels, who by precepts of this kind sought to bring men into slavery. Wherefore he promised that the world should be dissolved, and that those who were his should be freed from the dominion of the world-creators.
In this account of Simon there is a large portion common to almost all forms of Gnostic myths, together with something special to this form. They have in common the place in the work of creation assigned to the female principle, the conception of the Deity; the ignorance of the rulers of this lower world with regard to the Supreme Power; the descent of the female (Sophia) into the lower regions, and her inability to return. Special to the Simonian tale is the identification of Simon himself with the Supreme, and of his consort Helena with the female principle.
Upon the story of “the lost sheep,” Hippolytus (in his Philosophumena) comments as follows.
But the liar was enamoured of this wench, whose name was Helen, and had bought her and had her to wife, and it was out of respect for his disciples that he invented this fairy-tale.
Reduced to despair, he says, by the curse laid upon him by Peter, Simon embarked on the career that has been described:
Until he came to Rome also and fell foul of the Apostles. Peter withstood him on many occasions. At last he came [...] and began to teach sitting under a plane tree. When he was on the point of being shown up, he said, in order to gain time, that if he were buried alive he would rise again on the third day. So he bade that a tomb should be dug by his disciples and that he should be buried in it. Now they did what they were ordered, but he remained there until now: for he was not the Christ.
Hippolytus gives a much more doctrinally detailed account of Simonianism, including a system of divine emanations and interpretations of the Old Testament, with extensive quotations from the Apophasis Megale. Some believe that Hippolytus’ account is of a later, more developed form of Simonianism, and that the original doctrines of the group were simpler, close to the account given by Justin Martyr and Irenaeus (this account however is also included in Hippolytus’ work).
Hippolytus says the free love doctrine was held by them in its purest form, and speaks in language similar to that of Irenaeus about the variety of magic arts practiced by the Simonians, and also of their having images of Simon and Helen under the forms of Zeus and Athena. But he also adds, “if any one, on seeing the images either of Simon or Helen, shall call them by those names, he is cast out, as showing ignorance of the mysteries.”
Epiphanius writes that there were some Simonians still in existence in his day (c. AD 367), but he speaks of them as almost extinct. Gitta, he says, had sunk from a town into a village. Epiphanius further charges Simon with having tried to wrest the words of St. Paul about the armour of God (Ephesians 6:14-16) into agreement with his own identification of the Ennoia with Athena. He tells us also that he gave barbaric names to the “principalities and powers,” and that he was the beginning of the Gnostics. The Law, according to him, was not of God, but of “the sinister power.” The same was the case with the prophets, and it was death to believe in the Old Testament.
Cyril of Jerusalem
Cyril of Jerusalem (346 AD) in the sixth of his Catechetical Lectures prefaces his history of the Manichaeans by a brief account of earlier heresies: Simon Magus, he says, had given out that he was going to be translated to heaven, and was actually careening through the air in a chariot drawn by demons when Peter and Paul knelt down and prayed, and their prayers brought him to earth a mangled corpse.
Acts of Peter
The apocryphal Acts of Peter gives a more elaborate tale of Simon Magus’ death. Simon is performing magic in the Forum, and in order to prove himself to be a god, he levitates up into the air above the Forum. The apostle Peter prays to God to stop his flying, and he stops mid-air and falls into a place called the Sacra Via (meaning, Holy Way), breaking his legs “in three parts”. The previously non-hostile crowd then stones him. Now gravely injured, he had some people carry him on a bed at night from Rome to Ariccia, and was brought from there to Terracina to a person named Castor, who on accusations of sorcery was banished from Rome. The Acts then continue to say that he died “while being sorely cut by two physicians”.
Acts of Peter and Paul
Another apocryphal document, the Acts of Peter and Paul gives a slightly different version of the above incident, which was shown in the context of a debate in front of the Emperor Nero. In this version, Paul the Apostle is present along with Peter, Simon levitates from a high wooden tower made upon his request, and dies “divided into four parts” due to the fall. Peter and Paul were then put in prison by Nero while ordering Simon’s body be kept carefully for three days (thinking he would rise again).
The Pseudo-Clementine Recognitions and Homilies give an account of Simon Magus and some of his teachings in regards to the Simonians. They are of uncertain date and authorship, and seem to have been worked over by several hands in the interest of diverse forms of belief.
Simon was a Samaritan, and a native of Gitta. The name of his father was Antonius, that of his mother Rachel. He studied Greek literature in Alexandria, and, having in addition to this great power in magic, became so ambitious that he wished to be considered a highest power, higher even than the God who created the world. And sometimes he “darkly hinted” that he himself was Christ, calling himself the Standing One. Which name he used to indicate that he would stand for ever, and had no cause in him for bodily decay. He did not believe that the God who created the world was the highest, nor that the dead would rise. He denied Jerusalem, and introduced Mount Gerizim in its stead. In place of the Christ of the Christians he proclaimed himself; and the Law he allegorized in accordance with his own preconceptions. He did indeed preach righteousness and judgment to come: but this was merely a bait for the unwary.
There was one John the Baptist, who was the forerunner of Jesus in accordance with the law of parity; and as Jesus had twelve Apostles, bearing the number of the twelve solar months, so had he thirty leading men, making up the monthly tale of the moon. One of these thirty leading men was a woman called Helen, and the first and most esteemed by John was Simon. But on the death of John he was away in Egypt for the practice of magic, and one Dositheus, by spreading a false report of Simon’s death, succeeded in installing himself as head of the sect. Simon on coming back thought it better to dissemble, and, pretending friendship for Dositheus, accepted the second place. Soon, however, he began to hint to the thirty that Dositheus was not as well acquainted as he might be with the doctrines of the school.
Dositheus, when he perceived that Simon was depreciating him, fearing lest his reputation among men might be obscured (for he himself was supposed to be the Standing One), moved with rage, when they met as usual at the school, seized a rod, and began to beat Simon; but suddenly the rod seemed to pass through his body, as if it had been smoke. On which Dositheus, being astonished, says to him, ‘Tell me if thou art the Standing One, that I may adore thee.’ And when Simon answered that he was, then Dositheus, perceiving that he himself was not the Standing One, fell down and worshipped him, and gave up his own place as chief to Simon, ordering all the rank of thirty men to obey him; himself taking the inferior place which Simon formerly occupied. Not long after this he died.
The encounter between both Dositheus and Simon Magus was the beginnings of the sect of Simonians. The narrative goes on to say that Simon, having fallen in love with Helen, took her about with him, saying that she had come down into the world from the highest heavens, and was his mistress, inasmuch as she was Sophia, the Mother of All. It was for her sake, he said, that the Greeks and Barbarians fought the Trojan War, deluding themselves with an image of truth, for the real being was then present with the First God. By such specious allegories and Greek myths Simon deceived many, while at the same time he astounded them by his magic. A description is given of how he made a familiar spirit for himself by conjuring the soul out of a boy and keeping his image in his bedroom, and many instances of his feats of magic are given.
“Simon Magus” as a cipher
The Pseudo-Clementine writings were used in the 4th century by members of the Ebionite sect, one characteristic of which was hostility to Paul, whom they refused to recognize as an apostle. Ferdinand Christian Baur (1792–1860), founder of the Tübingen School, drew attention to the anti-Pauline characteristic in the Pseudo-Clementines, and pointed out that in the disputations between Simon and Peter, some of the claims Simon is represented as making (e.g. that of having seen the Lord, though not in his lifetime, yet subsequently in vision) were really the claims of Paul; and urged that Peter’s refutation of Simon was in some places intended as a polemic against Paul. The enmity between Peter and Simon is clearly shown. Simon’s magical powers are juxtaposed with Peter’s powers in order to express Peter’s authority over Simon through the power of prayer, and in the 17th Homily, the identification of Paul with Simon Magus is effected. Simon is there made to maintain that he has a better knowledge of the mind of Jesus than the disciples, who had seen and conversed with Him in person. His reason for this strange assertion is that visions are superior to waking reality, as divine is superior to human. Peter has much to say in reply to this, but the passage which mainly concerns us is as follows:
But can any one be educated for teaching by vision? And if you shall say, “It is possible,” why did the Teacher remain and converse with waking men for a whole year? And how can we believe you even as to the fact that he appeared to you? And how can he have appeared to you seeing that your sentiments are opposed to his teaching? But if you were seen and taught by him for a single hour, and so became an apostle, then preach his words, expound his meaning, love his apostles, fight not with me who had converse with him. For it is against a solid rock, the foundation-stone of the Church, that you have opposed yourself in opposing me. If you were not an adversary, you would not be slandering me and reviling the preaching that is given through me, in order that, as I heard myself in person from the Lord, when I speak I may not be believed, as though forsooth it were I who was condemned and I who was reprobate. Or, if you call me condemned, you are accusing God who revealed the Christ to me, and are inveighing against Him who called me blessed on the ground of the revelation. But if indeed you truly wish to work along with the truth, learn first from us what we learnt from Him, and when you have become a disciple of truth, become our fellow-workman.
There are other features in the portrait which remind us strongly of Marcion. For the first thing which we learn from the Homilies about Simon’s opinions is that he denied that God was just. By “God” he meant the Creator. But he undertakes to prove from Scripture that there is a higher God, who really possesses the perfections which are falsely ascribed to the lower. On these grounds Peter complains that, when he was setting out for the Gentiles to convert them from their worship of many gods upon earth, the Evil Power had sent Simon before him to make them believe that there were many gods in heaven.
And now from: http://www.ccel.org/s/schaff/encyc/encyc10/htm/ii.ix.ii.htm
1. In the Book of Acts.
One of the most difficult and interesting problems of apostolic and post-apostolic history is presented by Simon Magus, a Samaritan, who is described at once as a Christian, a Jew, and a pagan, a magician and a sorcerer, a Christian religious philosopher and an archheretic, a pseudo-apostle and a pseudo-Messiah, the founder of a religion and an incarnation of God. The earliest source concerning him is Acts viii. 5-24, where he appears as a sorcerer who had “bewitched the people of Samaria, giving out that himself was some great one,” yet becoming an adherent of the Apostle Philip and marveling at “the miracles and signs which were done” (verses 5-13). In verses 14-19, on the other hand, he seeks from Peter and John, not (as one would expect in the case of a sorcerer) the power of working miracles like Philip’s, but the gift of conferring the Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands, only to have his request refused because of the unworthy motives which had prompted it. It is held by some critics that this entire account was based by a redactor of Acts on some “Acts of Peter,” this redactor substituting Philip for Peter in verses 5, 6, 12, 13; adding allusions to John in verses 18b, 19a, 24, interpolating verse 10, and adding verses 14-18a and 19b. It should also be noted, in this connection, that neither the extant Acts of Peter nor the Church Fathers mention Philip and John in their accounts of Simon Magus.
2. In the Apocrypha and Justin Martyr.
The record of Acts is continued by the various recensions of the apocryphal Acts of Peter and kin dred literature (cf. Clement of Alexandria, Strom., vii. 17; Hippolytus, Philosophumena, vi. 20; Eusebius, Hist. eccl., ii. 14-15; Arnobius, Adv. gentes ii. 12; Philostorgius, Haer., xxix.; Epiphanius, Haer., xxi. 4; etc.), all of which deal with the conflict between Simon Peter and Simon Magus. The scene is Samaria in the Acta Vercellenses only, the other sources and Justin substituting Judea (or Jerusalem and Caesarea) and, most frequently, Rome. The time is the reign of Nero or (in the Acta Vercellenses) Claudius, but the only new trait ascribed to the characters is the pseudo-Messiahship of Simon Magus, which is shown, for instance,
in his attempted ascension (frustrated by the prayer of Peter) and in the epithet: “He that hath stood.” An entirely different picture is given by the heresiologists of the early Church. The fragments of Justin Martyr’s lost work on heresies state that Simon Magus was born in the Samaritan village of Gitta, and went to Rome in the reign of Claudius. There he is described as honored by a statue on an island in the Tiber, this statue bearing the inscription Simoni sancto deo (“To Simon, the holy god”). This latter statement seems, however, to be due to confusion with a statue actually set up on the island in question in honor of the Sabine deity Semo Sancus, with an inscription including the words Semoni Sanco deo. At the same time, the tradition of Simon’s residence at Rome in the reign of Claudius was evidently wide-spread, and Justin also states that nearly all the Samaritans honored Simon Magus “as the first god, above all power, authority, and might,” and as accompanied by a certain ex-courtezan Helena, designated “the first understanding from himself” (Apol., i. 26; Trypho, cxx.).
3. His System According to Later Heresiologists.
A valuable supplement to this information is given by a Roman heresiology written before 175 and incorporated by Irenaeus in his Haer., i. 23, also being used, in all probability, by Celsus, Tertullian, Hippolytus, and the pseudo-Tertullian. Here Simon Magus appears in an essentially Gnostic garb, being, on the one hand, the “highest God ” (or “Father”), and, on the other, “the most sublime power of God”; while Helena (here brought into connection with Tyre) is represented as “the first conception of his [Simon's] mind,” “the mother of all,” “wisdom,” “the Holy Spirit,” etc. Emanating from the Father, she descended to the realms beneath, where, in conformity to his will, she created the angelic powers which, without knowing the Father, created the world and man. Unwilling to be considered creatures, the angels imprisoned her in a female body, and she is the lost sheep for whose salvation the Father (Simon) appeared, to rescue both her and mankind from the slavery of the cosmic angelic powers. To deceive these powers, he was manifested to mankind as man, as the Father to the Samaritans and the Son to the Jews, suffering docetic passion. To this Irenaeus erroneously adds that Simon was supposed to have appeared as the Holy Ghost to the gentiles; and both he and Epiphanius give a number of further details which, while not impossible, cannot definitely be ascribed to the system. An entirely different presentation of Simon’s teaching is implied by Clement and Origen, and is further developed in the Philosophumena (vi. 7-18, x. 12; ANF, v. 74-81, 143). Here Helena (“Mind “) is unknown, and Simon is given his self-designation-”He that hath stood”; but Clement adds practically no new material, and Origen little beyond the statement that Simon regarded idolatry as a matter of no concern (Contra Celsum, vi. 11). A similar ignorance of Helena and a like emphasis on Simon as “He that hath stood” are shown by the Philosophumena. Here the center of all being is “boundless power,” which is both supramundane (inconceivable holy Silence) and intramundane (the “Father,” “He that hath stood, that standeth, and is to stand,” an androgynous power with neither beginning nor end, and essentially unitary). While remaining distinct as a seventh power, the Father causes to emanate three syzygies of cosmic powers, which in their spiritual aspect are “Mind,” “Intelligence,” “Voice,” “Name,” “Ratiocination,” and “Reflection,” and in their physical aspect are “Heaven,” “Earth,” “Sun,” “Moon,” “Air,” and “Water.” The Father is, moreover, “He that hath stood” in relation to premundane existence; “He that standeth” in relation to present being; and “He that shall stand” in relation to the final consummation. Man is simply the realization of “boundless power,” the ultimate end of the cosmic process in which the godhead attains self-consciousness. All this material is recapitulated, with some additional data, by the pseudo-Clementine Homilies and Recognitions. Simon Magus is here described as a necromancer driven by Peter from Caesarea to Antioch, and finally to Rome, everywhere shown to be an impostor, though declaring himself to be Christ, and overcome by divine miracles. Helena again appears, this time as “Wisdom,” “the All-Mother,” and “Lady,” sending forth two angels (who seize power over her), one to create the world, and the other to give the Law. The pseudo-Clementine sources also add that Simon Magus was the son of Antonius and Rachel, that he was educated in Greek learning at Alexandria, and that, after being received among the thirty disciples of John the Baptist, he became head of the sect after the death of his teacher. He is likewise described, though without plausibility, as the representative of Samaritan worship on Mount Gerizim who expounded the Law allegorically and denied the resurrection of the dead, as the representative of pagan philosophy (especially of astrological fatalism), and even as the defender of Marcion’s antithesis of the good and righteous God.
4. Untenable Theories Concerning Simon Magus.
In some passages in these writings Simon Magus wears the mask of Paul, and attacks are made on Pauline teachings under the guise of polemics in favor of the Petrine theology against the tenets of Simon Magus. There is, however, no basis for the theory that the picture of Simon Magus in the Clementine literature is deliberately designed to be a caricature of Paul inspired by the hatred of the Judaizing school, or for seeing in the struggle between Peter and Simon the victory of Petrine over Pauline Christianity. All the traits of Simon in this literature reveal him as only a magician or pseudo-Messiah, later given not merely Pauline, but also pagan and Marcionistic, characteristics; so that both in the apocryphal Acts and in the pseudo-Clementine literature Simon Magus was primarily not a pseudo-Paul, but a pseudo-Christ, and therefore the antithesis of Peter. Equally improbable is the hypothesis which identifies Simon Magus with the beast of Rev. xiii. 11-17, although it is not impossible that the Beliar which the Sibylline Books, iii. 63 sqq., describe as destined to come “from the Sebastenes” (Samaritans) represented Simon. It
has likewise been maintained that Simon Magus is to be identified with the heresiarch Simon of Gitta, who should, on this hypothesis, be dated in the early part of the second century, but for this theory there is not the slightest ground, especially in view of the testimony of Acts, Clement of Alexandria, and Justin. It is, on the other hand, not improbable that Simon Magus is to be identified with a Jewish magician named Simon who acted as a go-between for the procurator Felix of Judea. This Simon is described by Josephus (Ant., XX., vii. 2) as a Cypriot, but this statement probably rests upon a confusion of the Cyprian capital, Cittium (Hebr. Kittim), with the obscure Samaritan village of Gitta (Hebr. Gittim).
5. A Sorcerer Syncretized with the Sun.
All evidence goes to prove that Simon was what his epithet Magus implies-a sorcerer. This was the motive for his association with the apostles in Samaria, but while it would seem that he pretended to be, in the pagan sense, a god in human form (cf. Justin, Apol., i. 26), there is no indication that either Acts or Justin regarded him as a pseudo-Messiah; and even the apocryphal Acts and the pseudo-Clementine literature characterize him as a false Christ merely on the ground that he was the first-born of Satan (cf. Ignatius, Epist. ad Trallenses, longer version, xi.). It is true that the heresiologists describe him as the supreme God and even as the Redeemer, but a careful study of the sources, particularly of the extant fragments of his “Great Announcement” (preserved by Hippolytus, Philosophumena, vi. 6 sqq.), shows that Simon himself made no claim to Messiahship, this being attributed to him by his disciples. With this falls the theory that Simon Magus was the founder of a universal religion intended to rival Christianity; and he was not even the founder of a sect in the sense that such heresiarchs as Marcion were. The very fact that Simon himself became the subject of Gnostic speculation shows that he was not the founder of Gnosticism, nor do the earlier sources so represent him; it was only his followers who made this claim for him. Historically, then, Simon was but a sorcerer who asserted that he was a god. This assertion, aided by the high fame which he enjoyed throughout Samaria (cf. Acts viii.), reached its culmination in his identification with the Semitic sun-god Shamash, whose cult was united with that of the moon-goddess Astarte. This is confirmed by Simon’s companion, Helena, who is unknown to Acts, the apocryphal Acts, the Alexandrine heresiologists, or the “Great Announcement,” but whose name (“Moon”), combined with the immoral past ascribed her and her Tyrian home, obviously points to the Tyrian moon-goddess with her licentious rites. How long this cult of Simon Magus, which had evidently arisen long before the time of Justin, persisted in Samaria and other regions is unknown, but in the days of Origen the “Simonians” were exceedingly few in number in Palestine and the neighboring countries (Contra Celsum, i. 57), and by the time of Epiphanius (Haer., xxii. 2) they had become extinct. On the other hand, they had spread widely in the West before 200, and there long maintained themselves, (cf. Hippolytus, Philosophumena, vi. 15). They seem to have developed a sect essentially occult and libertine in character, worshiping Simon (cf. Irenaeus, Haer., I. xxiii. 4), and finally giving rise to two systems, that of the “Great Announcement” and that described by the heresiologists who based their writings upon Justin.
6. The Twofold Simonian System.
The authenticity of the “Great Announcement” has been assailed both because of its similarity to other Gnostic systems recorded by Hippolytus and on account of its divergence from Simon’s teachings as described by other heresiologigts. Neither of these arguments, however, is sufficient to prove the document spurious, especially in view of the confirmation of Hippolytus by other heresiologists; and the true explanation of the divergencies between the Philosophumena and Justin lies in the fact that there were two Simonian systems, one influenced by Alexandria and the other by Syria. The former influence is especially evident in the doctrine of the Godhead as “He that hath stood,” which finds a close parallelism in the Philonian system, and is also perceptible in the purely allegorical method of Biblical exegesis adopted by the “Great Announcement” (cf. also the account in the pseudo-Clementine Homilies, ii. 22 sqq.). It is uncertain whether the “Great Announcement” was written in Alexandria, but at all events its citation of non-Samaritan prophets and of Proverbs shows that it was composed neither by Simon nor by any of his Samaritan followers. The account given by Justin and those who drew upon him, on the other hand, indicates that the second Simonian system was evolved in Syria, its elements being a syncretism of Babylonian mythology and Hellenistic allegory (for the latter cf. Irenaeus, Haer., I. xxiii. 4; Epiphanius, Haer., xxi.). Both the Alexandrine and the Syrian form of Simonianism are unique in the history of Gnosticism in that they make a historic personage the supreme God, and, although destitute of any real Christian spirit, both show Christian influence, the Alexandrian “Great Announcement” using written Gospels and the Petrine and Pauline epistles, and the Syrian system comparing Helena with the lost sheep of Matt. xviii. 12 and Luke xv. 6. (HANS WAITZ.)
Whilst Peter and James encounter the wicked magician, Simon Magus, Paul encounters the wicked magician, Bar Jesus. It may be one and the same magician, with Bar Jesus being his name when baptised as a Christian (see below). Bar (‘Son of’) in Hebrew can have a wider meaning than just ‘son’, and might here mean a ‘follower of Jesus’. Here is a description of this character who even has high Roman connections (just as the magician Simon Magus reputedly had an enormous reputation in the city of Rome) (http://www.bsw.org/?l=71851&a=Comm04.html):
(Atomus) Elymas Bar-Jesus
“When they had gone though the whole island as far as Paphos, they met a certain magician, a Jewish false prophet, named Bar-Jesus. He was with the proconsul, Sergius Paulus, an intelligent man, who summoned Barnabas and Saul and wanted to hear the word of God. But Elymas the magician (for that is the translation of his name) opposed them and tried to turn the proconsul away from the faith. But Saul, also known as Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, looked intently at him and said, “You son of the devil, you enemy of all righteousness, full of all deceit and villainy, will you not stop making crooked the straight paths of the Lord? And now listen – the hand of the Lord is against you, and you will be blind for a while, unable to see the sun. Immediately mist and darkness came over him, and he went about groping for someone to lead him by the hand” (Acts 13:6-11)
The name “Elymas”
Commentators have long been puzzled about how the name “Elymas” can be interpreted to mean “magician” in the passage above. However, Rick Strelan appears to have resolved the problem.(1) In a recent article he suggests that the magician had taken the name of Elam, the eldest son of Shem, the son of Noah, and that Elam was considered an archetypal magician. The name “Elymas” would then have signified “magician” and this would explain Acts 13:8. In support of his proposal Strelan quotes Josephus:
“For Elymos left behind him the Elamites, the ancestors of the Persians” (Ant 1.6.4), and notes that the magoi were commonly associated with the Persians. There is also evidence, not mentioned by Strelan, that Shem was considered a magician. Firstly, in the Book of Jubilees a book of healing arts is given by Noah to his eldest son, Shem:
“And we explained to Noah all the medicines of their diseases, together with their seductions, how he might heal them with herbs of the earth. And Noah wrote down all things in a book as we instructed him concerning every kind of medicine. Thus the evil spirits were precluded from (hurting) the sons of Noah. And he gave all that he had written to Shem, his eldest son; for he loved him exceedingly above all his sons.”
The Treatise of Shem is a Pseudepigraphic work, written in the name of Shem, probably in the first century BC. It is an astrological treatise and therefore shows that Shem was associated with astrology.
To sum up: Noah’s eldest son was Shem, whose eldest son was Elam, whose name was written “Elymos” by Josephus in the first century. The evidence suggests that there was a tradition that the magical arts of astrology and perhaps healing passed down the Noah-Shem-Elam line. Therefore, by accepting the name “Elymas”, Bar-Jesus was identifying himself as a magician in an ancient Jewish tradition.
The name “Bar-Jesus”
Strelan argues that Elymas was, like Simon Magus, a follower of Jesus, of sorts. He suggests that Elymas took the name “Bar-Jesus” because he considered himself to be a disciple of Jesus. Strelan cites several cases where the term “Bar” or “Son of” is used to mean “disciple of”. While “Jesus” was a common name for Jews, Strelan is probably right. Someone who had named himself after Elam and had then started to perform his magic in the name of Jesus, might well have taken the name “Son of Jesus” to reflect the new source of his power or inspiration.
It is clear that “Elymas” was not his birth name. The name “Bar-Jesus”, on any hypothesis, cannot have been his only name in infancy, so he must have had another name. Josephus describes a Jewish magician from Cyprus:
“At the time when Felix was procurator of Judaea, he beheld her; and, inasmuch as she surpassed all other women in beauty, he conceived a passion for the lady. He sent to her one of his friends, a Cyprian Jew named Atomus, who pretended to be a magician, in an effort to persuade her to leave her husband and to marry Felix.” (Josephus Ant.20.142)
Both Atomus and Elymas were Jewish magicians from Cyprus who associated with high Roman officials. Felix was procurator from A.D. 52-59 so Atomus incident was only about a decade later than the Elymas incident. It is therefore chronologically possible that they were one and the same person. If, as seems likely, Elymas was employed by Sergius Paulus, he might well have lost his job after the encounter with Paul. If his other name, Bar-Jesus, indicates that he had been in contact with the Jesus movement, he may have had Judean connections. Thus it would not be surprising if Elymas left the employment of Sergius Paulus and attached himself to Felix in Judea.
The similarity in sound between “Atomus” and “Elymas” makes the identity more likely.
The western text of Acts has “Etoimos”, which may be a form of the name “Atomus”.
There are many examples of cases where a new name is chosen, in part, because of its phonetic resemblance to the original name (BarKosiba/BarKokhba/BarKoziba, Titus-Timothy, Mary-Magdalene, Saul-Paul, Silvanus-Silas etc.).
[(1) Strelan "Who Was Bar Jesus (Acts 13, 6-12)?" Biblica 85 (2004) 65-81].
Conclusion 4. Our Composite Simon was Simon Magus Bar Jesus
Buzz words for Simon Magus Bar Jesus. These descriptions are perfect for our composite Simon, Samaritan from region of Shechem (Flavia Neapolis); convert; lawlessness; wickedness; miracle wonder worker; aspirations to greatness, even a messianic God-likeness (‘ambition to be highest power’); pseudo-Messiah, devil-like; pseudo-Christ and distorter (opponent) of Christianity.
Finally, for Catholic readers, there is this brief reference to Simon Magus from the vision of Blessed Anne Catherine Emmerich, in
James the Greater and one of the disciples were sent to the pagan regions north of Capharnaum. Thomas and Matthew were dispatched to Ephesus, in order to prepare the country where at a future day Jesus’ Mother and many of those that believed in Him were to dwell. They wondered greatly at the fact of Mary’s going to live there. Thaddeus and Simon were to go first to Samaria, though none cared to go there. All preferred cities entirely pagan. Jesus told them that they would all meet twice in Jerusalem before going to preach the Gospel in distant pagan lands. He spoke of a man between Samaria and Jericho, who would, like Himself, perform many miracles, though by the power of the devil. He would manifest a desire of conversion, and they must kindly receive him, for even the devil should contribute to His glory. Simon Magus was meant by these words of Jesus. During this instruction the Apostles, as in a familiar conference, questioned Jesus upon whatever they could not understand, and He explained to them as far as was necessary. Everything was perfectly natural. Three years after the Crucifixion all the Apostles met in Jerusalem, after which Peter and John left the city and Mary accompanied the latter to Ephesus. Then arose in Jerusalem the persecution against Lazarus, Martha, and Magdalen. The last named had up to that time been doing penance in the desert, in the cave to which Elizabeth had escaped with John during the massacre of the Innocents. The Apostles, in that first reunion, brought together all that belonged to the body of the Church. When half of the time of Mary’s life after Christ’s Ascension had flown, about the sixth year after that event, the Apostles were again assembled in Jerusalem. It was then they drew up the Creed, made rules, relinquished all that they possessed, distributed it to the poor, and divided the Church into dioceses, after which they separated and went into far-off heathen countries. At Mary’s death they all met again for the last time. When they again separated for distant countries, it was until death. When Jesus left the Temple after this discourse, the enraged Pharisees lay in wait for Him both at the gate and on the way, for they intended to stone Him. But Jesus avoided them, proceeded to Bethania, and for three days went no more to the Temple. He wanted to give the Apostles and disciples time to think over what they had heard. Meantime they referred to Him for further explanation upon many points. Jesus ordered them to commit to writing what He had said relative to the future. I saw that Nathanael the Bridegroom, who was very skillful with the pen, did it, and I wondered the predictions. Nathanael at that time had no other name. it was only at Baptism that he received a second.
[End of quote]
“Son of Perdition”
To complete our essay, we need to consider whether our composite Simon can also be the apocalyptical “Son of perdition” as spoken of by St. Paul. (This title is also used by John for the betrayer, Judas: 17:12). Certainly Paul in particular has harsh words for the evil magician, as Bar-Jesus, calling him “Son of the Devil”.
And many commentators have even suggested (or at least mentioned what is common) that Simon Magus could have been the Beast of the Apocalypse, or the False Prophet who served the Beast. Here is just one very brief example, relating to the 666 number of the Beast
- The answer is that it is a play on the numerical values of Hebrew letters, together with the grades in the initiation process. It is simply intended to say: “Simon Magus’ monasteries are evil”. There is no relevance to us!The “Beast” was Simon Magus, who in the Book of Revelation was the great enemy of Christians, for he was conducting a rival mission to theirs. He controlled monasteries that used the Qumran system of grades, naming them by Hebrew letters. Certain grades marked significant stages. These were called Taw, Resh and Samekh. At Taw, a man was at the very top and was equal to the highest priest. At Resh he entered the sanctuary and could act like a lesser priest. At Samekh, he became an initiate, beginning the studies that would lead him higher. Below is the list of grade letters and numbers. Since Hebrew letters were also used for numbers, Taw could be read as 400. Resh could be read as 200, and Samekh as 60. That totals 660. Further, when initial letters alone were used, they were accompanied by the letter Waw, as is illustrated in the Scrolls (CD 4:19). The numerical value of Waw is 6. Total, 666. The writers of Revelation (one of the early parties in the Church) were very interested in numbers, following their Pythagorean studies, but were too attached to magic-sounding numbers. They knew that semi-educated people would read significance into them, and used 666 as a way of describing evil. Before the present information became available, scholars used to think that 666 in meant the Roman emperor, but they could not account for the actual number. Now it is explained by the Qumran grade numbers, which account for many details of the pesher. Here is the system of Hebrew letters, numbers, and grades from initiation upwards For the significance of all the grades, Taw —400 — High Priest Michael Shin 300 Deputy Priest Gabriel Resh 200 Sanctuary Priest Sariel Qof 100 Levite Raphael Sadhe 90 PE 80 Ayin 70 Samekh 60 Initiate [End of quote]
There is much more needing to be written about all of this.
If Simon Bar Giora (Bar Kochba) (our Simon Magus Bar Jesus) was minting his own coins, then he might well have been (to some degree at least) in control of the economy, “so that no one can buy or sell who does not have the mark, that is, the name of the beast or the number of its name” (Apocalypse 13:17).
Our composite Simon Barabbas, a mere mortal man, had aspired to divinity. He, having been defeated, ended up being paraded by the Romans in a triumphal procession and then executed.
On the contrary, Jesus Christ, Son of the Father, a Divine person, emptied himself … “forgave us all our sins, 14 having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross. 15 And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross”.[b] [Colossians 2:13-15]
In this way we can understand the stark contrast between the false and the true Messiah.