R4E130909 – Simon the Sorcerer (New Testament Character Study) by Douglas Jacoby
- There are at least 8 Simons in the Bible, not to mention several men named Simeon (a related name).
- Simon received the epithet Magus, which means magician / sorcerer. Technically speaking, a magus (pl. magi) was a Zoroastrian astrologer. Whether or not this was Simon’s religious background, he did make certain claims to esoteric knowledge / power, and thus could be considered a magician or sorcerer. For more on the Magi, refer to the upcoming podcast.
- He is presumably a Samaritan, although it is possible he was a Jew operating in Samaria.
- The fact that Samaritans were heterodox in their doctrine, and perhaps thought to be gullible, enhances the power of their conversion. And so, barrier by barrier, the walls come tumblin’ down…
- The gospel is in its second phase of expansion, penetrating Judea and Samaria (Acts 1:8)
Scriptural study (I was reading from the NASB.)
- Acts 8:4-24 is the only text where Simon the Sorcerer makes an appearance.
- This man is fascinated with the dramatic and the impressive.
- One is reminded of both Pharaoh’s magicians (Exodus 7:11) and Herod Agrippa I (Acts 12:21-23)
- Simon seems to have been genuinely converted.
- When he realizes the apostles’ hands in some way imparted something miraculous to his former fans, he covets such power. (Note: something supernatural had taken place. At each of four major moments in salvation history [Acts 2, 8, 10, and 19] the Holy Spirit makes a point as the gospel moves into new territories/situations. For more, please read The Spirit.)
- We may quickly lean towards doubting Simon’s conversion, yet there is evidence it was genuine. (It’s probably a moot point.)
- The incident reminds us of Jeremiah 34:12-16.
- There (as God admits) the people had repented, but later changed their minds.
- We should be wary of defining repentance so strictly that no wavering is possible, or that people are tempted to hide their failings or doubts for fear of being deemed inauthentic. (See 1 Kings 21:29.)
- Although before his baptism, as soon afterward, Simon preferred impressing people over fearing God, he responds humbly (it must be admitted) when rebuked by the apostle Peter.
- The solution in such cases is not severe discipline (though the apostolic rebuke was severe), nor
- rebaptism (there is no thought of that in this passage), but
- repentance. Revelation 3:19 is instructive: when Christians lose their way, lose their fire, lose their purity of motive, the answer is always repentance–and thus resumption of fellowship with their Lord.
- Learn about the sin of simony, the sale of clerical office. This perverse practice was current in the Middle Ages.
- You might also want to explore the parallels between Simon the Sorcerer and Jannes and Jambres, the magicians of Pharaoh (and to whom a pseudepigraphal work was attributed). All three had reached impressive levels in their ability to wow the crowds. Or make a list of figures in the Bible who failed to give glory to God.
- Later traditions about a show-down between Peter and Simon Magus appear in polemical texts among various patristic writers (Epiphanius, Hippolytus, Irenaeus, Justin Martyr), and also in apocryphal documents like The Acts of Peter (late 2nd century).
- Stay away from sorcery, which we are warned about in both testaments (2 Kings 9:22; 2 Chronicles 33:6; Isaiah 47:9,12; Micah 5:12; Galatians 5:20; Revelation 9:21, 18:23). On the other hand, there is a difference between black magic and innocent fantasy. For more, please weigh my comments in my podcast on Harry Potter.
- Not so quick to judge people’s repentance. (Rebaptism isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.)
- Beware the sensational. Sensational doesn’t equate to spiritual. Am I moved by hype and glitz, or by heart and truth? Do I consciously or even unconsciously hope to impress others by my story (Colossians 2:18-19)?
- Simon’s problem wasn’t that he was too deep (profound or esoteric), but that he was shallow. He was concerned with the appearances of things. Yet deep spirituality is rooted in a Christ-like character, purified by suffering, evidenced in perseverance through loving ministry.