on Acts 8 :9
A certain man called Simon - In ancient ecclesiastical writers, we have the strangest account of this man; they say that he pretended to be the Father, who gave the law to Moses; that he came in the reign of Tiberius in the person of the Son; that he descended on the apostles on the day of pentecost, in flames of fire, in quality of the Holy Spirit; that he was the Messiah, the Paraclete, and Jupiter; that the woman who accompanied him, called Helena, was Minerva, or the first intelligence; with many other extravagancies which probably never had an existence. All that we know to be certain on this subject is, that he used sorcery, that he bewitched the people, and that he gave out himself to be some great one.
This might be sufficient, were not men prone to be wise above what is written.
Our word sorcerer, from the French sorcier, which, from the Latin sors, a lot, signifies the using of lots to draw presages concerning the future; a custom that prevailed in all countries, and was practised with a great variety of forms. On the word lot see the note, Leviticus 16:8, Leviticus 16:9; and Joshua 14:2.
The Greek word, μαγευων, signifies practising the rites or science of the Magi, or Mughan, the worshippers of fire among the Persians; the same as Majoos, and Majooseean, from which we have our word magician. See the note on Matthew 2:1.
And bewitched the people of Samaria - εξιϚων, Astonishing, amazing, or confounding the judgment of the people, from εξιϚημι, to remove out of a place or state, to be transported beyond one's self, to be out of one's wits; a word that expresses precisely the same effect which the tricks or legerdemain of a juggler produce in the minds of the common people who behold his feats. It is very likely that Simon was a man of this cast, for the east has always abounded in persons of this sort. The Persian, Arabian, Hindoo, and Chinese jugglers are notorious to the present day; and even while I write this, (July, 1813), three Indian jugglers, lately arrived, are astonishing the people of London; and if such persons can now interest and amaze the people of a city so cultivated and enlightened, what might not such do among the grosser people of Sychem or Sebaste, eighteen hundred years ago?
That himself was some great one - That the feats which he performed sufficiently proved that he possessed a most powerful supernatural agency, and could do whatsoever he pleased.
on Acts 8 :9
But there was a certain man called Simon - The fathers have written much respecting this man, and have given strange accounts of him; but nothing more is certainly known of him than is stated in this place. Rosenmuller and Kuinoel suppose him to have been a Simon mentioned by Josephus (Antiq., book 20, chapter 7, section 2), who was born in Cyprus. He was a magician, and was employed by Felix to persuade Drusilla to forsake her husband Azizus, and to marry Felix. But it is not very probable that this was the same person. (See the note in Whiston's Josephus.) Simon Magus was probably a "Jew" or a "Samaritan," who had addicted himself to the arts of magic, and who was much celebrated for it. He had studied philosophy in Alexandria in Egypt (Mosheim, vol. i., pp. 113, 114, Murdock's translation), and then lived in Samaria. After he was cut off from the hope of adding to his other powers the power of working miracles, the "fathers" say that he fell into many errors, and became the founder of the sect of the Simonians. They accused him of affirming that he came down as the "Father" in respect to the Samaritans, the "Son" in respect to the Jews, and the "Holy Spirit" in respect to the Gentiles. He did not acknowledge Christ to be the Son of God, but a rival, and pretended himself to be Christ. He rejected the Law of Moses. Many other things are affirmed of him which rest on doubtful authority. He seems to have become an enemy to Christianity, though he was willing "then" to avail himself of some of its doctrines in order to advance his own interests. The account that he came to a tragical death in Rome; that he was honored as a deity by the Roman senate; and that a statue was erected to his memory in the isle of Tiber, is now generally rejected. His end is not known. (See Calmet, art. "Simon Magus," and Mosheim, vol. i., p. 114, note.)
Beforetime - The practice of magic, or sorcery, was common at that time, and in all the ancient nations.
Used sorcery - Greek: μαγεύων mageuōn. Exercising the arts of the "Magi," or "magicians"; hence, the name Simon "Magus." See the notes on Matthew 2:1. The ancient "Magi" had their rise in Persia, and were at first addicted to the study of philosophy, astronomy, medicine, etc. This name came afterward to signify those who made use of the knowledge of these arts for the purpose of imposing on mankind - astrologers, soothsayers, necromancers, fortune-tellers, etc. Such persons pretended to predict future events by the positions of the stars, and to cure diseases by incantations, etc. See Isaiah 2:6. See also Daniel 1:20; Daniel 2:2. It was expressly forbidden the Jews to consult such persons on pain of death, Leviticus 19:31; Leviticus 20:6. In these arts Simon had been eminently successful.
And bewitched - This is an unhappy translation. The Greek means merely that he "astonished" or amazed the people, or "confounded" their judgment. The idea of "bewitching" them is not in the original.
Giving out ... - "Saying"; that is, boasting. It was in this way, partly, that he so confounded them. Jugglers generally impose on people just in proportion to the "extravagance" and folly of their pretensions. The same remark may be made of "quack doctors," and of all persons who attempt to delude and impose on people.
on Acts 8 :9
8:9 A certain man - using magic - So there was such a thing as witchcraft once! In Asia at least, if not in Europe or America.