THEY Were Amazed! HE was Amazed!!! Simon the Amazer was Amazed!

THEY Were Amazed! HE was Amazed!!! Simon the Amazer was Amazed!
Acts 8:11 and 13

The Samarian crowds following Simon the magician watched him perform magic and THEY were amazed!
But then Simon watched Philip perform acts the power of the Holy Spirit and HE was amazed! — Bible Bits translation of Acts 8:11,13

We believe we see something in the phrasing of Luke’s Greek writing which has not made it into the many English translations, with the exception perhaps of one. This instance occurs in the book of Acts in chapter 8 at verses 11 and 13.

First, let’s review what is happening in the narrative of events in chapter 8 of Acts:

Stephen has recently been stoned to death. Saul is hunting down Christians in Jerusalem with a vengeance, “arresting” them and violently assaulting them with forces of temple police or the angry mob. Disciple Philip in the mean time is growing the church in Samaria (of all places), winning souls and converts, performing baptisms, and displaying the Holy Spirit’s miraculous healing of many bodies and spirits. Philip’s crowds are crazy.

Philip encounters a local Samaria city man named Simon. There were many magicians in the first century, and apparently this Simon is one of the best, being very good at his illusion craft. The clever-but-shady business man greatly awes the crowds he gathers to the point of popular craziness at what his conjuring deceptions seem to demonstrate. The dishonest nature of Simon’s business enterprise informs us that Simon is by nature a conniving, opportunistic man. Yet his crowds are crazy.

And so both Philip and Simon are drawing crowds, performing miraculous signs, and generating highly-charged public enthusiasm.

Simon is himself curious about Philip’s stage show and so attends a performance of a fellow professional magician. Yet Simon instead witnesses the ministry and truly miraculous signs of the Holy Spirit, and recognizes as a professional practitioner himself that Philip certainly is by no means another version of himself. Philip is not exploiting the techniques, skills, tricks, sleight-of-hand, technical devices and practiced illusions of a magician. More importantly — if we are reading this section and the following correctly — Simon also hears the gospel message of salvation preached by the Word of Philip and becomes a new practicing believer.

There is more to Simon’s conversion story in subsequent passages, but we will stop here at Acts 8:11 and 13 as this is where Bible Bits’ interests lie. Further illustration of Simon’s opportunistic personal character come later, but we’ll take him as (like the rest of us) an imperfect, growing, learning, believer.

Here are our two verses of interest, 8:11 and 8:13. As you read this, know that in verse 11 the local population is impressed by Simon the magician, while in verse 13, Simon is impressed by Philip:

New Revised Standard: And they listened eagerly to him because for a long time he had amazed them with his magic.
New Matthew Bible: And they set much store by him, because for a long time he had taken them in with magic.
New American Bible Revised: They paid attention to him because he had astounded them by his magic for a long time,
New International Version: They followed him because he had amazed them for a long time with his sorcery.

NRSV: Even Simon himself believed. After being baptized, he stayed constantly with Philip and was amazed when he saw the signs and great miracles that took place.
NMB: Then Simon himself believed also, and was baptized, and continued with Philip; and he marvelled, seeing the miracles and signs that were shown.
NABRE: Even Simon himself believed and, after being baptized, became devoted to Philip; and when he saw the signs and mighty deeds that were occurring, he was astounded.
NIV: Simon himself believed and was baptized. And he followed Philip everywhere, astonished by the great signs and miracles he saw.

We see nothing of special interest in these. These are a straightforward description of events.

Now read these two verses in Kenneth Wuest’s New Testament, An Expanded Translation:

11: And they kept on giving heed to him because for a considerable length of time he had rendered them beside themselves with amazement by means of his magical arts.

13: Moreover Simon himself also believed, and having been baptized, continuing as an adherent of Philip, viewing with an interested and critical eye both the attesting miracles and also the great miracles which excited wonder as they were being performed, was being rendered beside himself with amazement.

“Beside themselves with amazement.” “Beside himself with amazement.”

This repetition jumps out at us. We see it as a deliberate, catchy, turn of phrase. And in verse 13, this catchy phrase comes at the end of a sentence. We wonder if this somehow reflects something Wuest sees in the Greek.

Suppose one wrote it like this:

11: blah blah blah and THEY were beside THEMSELVES with amazement!
13: blah blah blah and HE was beside HIMSELF with amazement!

This would not change the underlying understanding of what happened to Simon the magician, but it would add literary chops to the writing, and punch to our understanding.

We know that Wuest likes to follow the Greek word order to the extent possible, and know also that Biblical Greek writers (moreso than in modern English) deployed the writing technique where word placement in the stream of text was used to place emphasis. In Wuest’s translation, his phrase “beside themselves / himself with amazement” seems to be a deliberate repetition of phrase, and in 13 it comes at the end of verse.

And so, we want to examine the Greek and see if our suggested turn of phrase appears at the end of the Greek sentence. The idea is that if Luke placed our “amazement” phrase at the end of his sentences, and duplicated it, then perhaps he is using his literary craft to grab our attention.

With the caveat that we at Bible Bits do not really know Greek, and can only follow the Greek tools available in books and online, we offer this view of Luke’s writing:

The Nestle-Aland 28 “official” Greek text of Acts 8:11 and 13 are as follows:

11 προσεῖχον δὲ αὐτῷ διὰ τὸ ἱκανῷ χρόνῳ ταῖς μαγείαις ἐξεστακέναι αὐτούς.

13 ὁ δὲ Σίμων καὶ αὐτὸς ἐπίστευσεν καὶ βαπτισθεὶς ἦν προσκαρτερῶν τῷ Φιλίππῳ, θεωρῶν τε σημεῖα καὶ δυνάμεις μεγάλας γινομένας ἐξίστατο.

The transliteration and raw word-translation of these is something like this:

Observe that in 11, the final words of the line yield something like “… they were amazed.”

And in 13, while the pronoun “he” occurs near the start of the word string, the final words again yield something like “… he was amazed.”

More or less. Yes? Is this the deliberate, end-of-line turn of phrase we are looking for? Here in the Greek?

To be sure, the basic understanding of the fuller passage does not depend on our suggested word craft. With or without our desired catch phrases, the narrative informs us that, at first, Simon’s fans were stirred up, and then Philip’s, with Simon being among the fans of Philip. If Luke is truly doing that which we suggest, he is merely adding emphasis and rhetorical punch.

At Bible Bits we look for this sorta thing. The Bible is loaded with little bits of writing craft and word selections in the Hebrew or Greek which add nuances of emotion, meaning and emphasis. At times, the English translator will attempt to capture these but most often the original play on words or idiomatic expressions are lost.

This is why Bible Bits promotes good commentary study and original language study.

And so, we are curious to see if we are on to something here. Again, with lack of humility, we offer our own translation/paraphrase of Luke’s passage:

Acts 8:9-11: The people of Samaria were astounded by Simon’s sorcery… and THEY were amazed!

Acts 8:12-13: Simon the sorcerer saw the works of the Holy Spirit through Philip, became a believer… and HE was amazed!

Yes? No?

We will close with chapter 8 verses 9-13 in a few translations:

New English Bible: A man named Simon had been in the city for some time, and had swept the Samaritans off their feet with his magical arts, claiming to be someone great. 10 All of them, high and low, listened eagerly to him. ‘This man’, they said, ‘is that power of God which is called “The Great Power”.’ 11 They listened because they had for so long been carried away by his magic. 12 But when they came to believe Philip with his good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, men and women alike. 13 Even Simon himself believed, and was baptized, and thereupon was constantly in Philip’s company. He was carried away when he saw the powerful signs and miracles that were taking place.

New Jerusalem Bible: Now a man called Simon had for some time been practising magic arts in the town and astounded the Samaritan people. He had given it out that he was someone momentous, 10 and everyone believed in him; eminent citizens and ordinary people alike had declared, ‘He is the divine power that is called Great.’ 11 He had this following because for a considerable period they had been astounded by his wizardry. 12 But when they came to accept Philip’s preaching of the good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptised, both men and women, 13 and even Simon himself became a believer. After his baptism Simon went round constantly with Philip and was astonished when he saw the wonders and great miracles that took place.

J.P. Green Literal: But a certain man named Simon had long been conjuring in the city and amazing the nation of Samaria, claiming himself to be some great one. 10 All were paying attention to him , from small to great, saying, This one is the power of God, which is great. 11 And they were paying attention to him because for a long time he had amazed them with his conjuring. 12 But when they believed Philip preaching the gospel, the things concerning the kingdom of God, and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women. 13 And Simon himself also believed, and being baptized was continuing steadfastly with Philip. And seeing miraculous signs and mighty works happening, he was amazed.

New American Standard Bible: Now there was a man named Simon, who formerly was practicing magic in the city and astonishing the people of Samaria, claiming to be someone great; 10 and they all, from smallest to greatest, were giving attention to him, saying, “This man is what is called the Great Power of God.” 11 And they were giving him attention because he had for a long time astonished them with his magic arts. 12 But when they believed Philip preaching the good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were being baptized, men and women alike. 13 Even Simon himself believed; and after being baptized, he continued on with Philip, and as he observed signs and great miracles taking place, he was constantly amazed.

Literal Standard Version: And a certain man, by name Simon, was previously in the city using magic, and amazing the nation of Samaria, saying himself to be a certain great one, to whom they were all giving heed, from small to great, saying, “This one is the great power of God”; and they were giving heed to him, because of his having amazed them for a long time with deeds of magic. And when they believed Philip, proclaiming good news, the things concerning the Kingdom of God and the Name of Jesus Christ, they were immersed—both men and women; and Simon himself also believed, and having been immersed, he was continuing with Philip, beholding also signs and mighty acts being done, he was amazed.

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Again, not only are we at Bible Bits not Greek experts, we are not even Greek novices. And so, take our suggestion of translation here with an unspoiled healthy grain of salt.

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As usual, if you choose to reply to our post, please cite and quote scripture, and in this case, weigh-in with some actual expertise in Koine Greek syntax, parts of speech, word order, and word meaning.


God bless you! God’s blessings to you and take a stab at reading the actual Bible in the Greek!

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