Acts 8:9–13 (NA28)
9Ἀνὴρ δέ τις ὀνόματι Σίμων προϋπῆρχεν ἐν τῇ πόλει μαγεύων καὶ ἐξιστάνων τὸ ἔθνος τῆς Σαμαρείας, λέγων εἶναί τινα ἑαυτὸν μέγαν,
Now a certain man by the name Simon had been in the city practicing magic and astonishing the people of Samaria saying he was someone great
- But before the conversion of the people is recorded, Luke turns his readers’ attention back to what had been happening before Philip arrived. There had been a man called Simon in the town who had claimed to be somebody great and gained credence by his magic powers. The people were sufficiently deceived by him to say that he was the great power of God.
- We have reliable information from Justin Martyr, himself a native of Samaria, that Simon lived there and later moved to Rome where he continued his mischief. 
10ᾧ προσεῖχον πάντες ἀπὸ μικροῦ ἕως μεγάλου λέγοντες· οὗτός ἐστιν ἡ δύναμις τοῦ θεοῦ ἡ καλουμένη μεγάλη.
Whom all were paying attention to from the least to the greatest saying, “this man is the power of God that is called great.”
- That power of God which is called Great (ἡ Δυναμις του θεου ἡ καλουμενη Μεγαλη [hē Dunamis tou theou hē kaloumenē Megalē]). Apparently here already the oriental doctrine of emanations or aeons so rampant in the second century. This “power” was considered a spark of God himself and Jerome (in Matt. c. 24) quotes Simon (Page) as saying: Ego sum sermo Dei, … ego omnipotens, ego omnia Dei. Simon claimed to impersonate God.
- There was a man named Simon, who had been practicing magic among the Samaritans and for a long time had astounded them with his tricks. Like Theudas (5:36) he had been somewhat pretentious, boasting “that he was someone great.” That his personal claims were considerably beyond the ordinary is indicated by the acclamation of the people that he was that divine power called “the Great Power” (v. 10). Whatever else might be said of Simon, he seems to have made some claim to at least embody the very power of God.
- Luke clearly depicted Simon as a worker of magic, a charlatan who made money from his bag of tricks. Had we only the account in Acts, there would never have been any question about whether he ever was anything more. The early church fathers, however, tell of a heretical Gnostic sect of Simonians in the second and third centuries who traced their beliefs back to the Simon of Acts. The earliest account is that of Justin Martyr from the middle of the second century. Justin was himself a Samaritan and wrote that Simon, a Samaritan from the village of Gitto, was worshiped by “almost all” of the Samaritans of his day as “the first god.” 
11προσεῖχον δὲ αὐτῷ διὰ τὸ ἱκανῷ χρόνῳ ταῖς μαγείαις ἐξεστακέναι αὐτούς.
And they were paying attention to him because for a long time he had astonished them with his magic
- Because that of long time he had amazed them with his sorceries (δια το ἱκανῳ χρονῳ ταις μαγιαις ἐξεστακεναι αὐτους [dia to hikanōi chronōi tais magiais exestakenai autous]). Causal use of δια [dia] with the accusative articular infinitive (perfect active Koiné form and transitive, ἐξεστακεναι [exestakenai]). Same verb as in verse 9 participle ἐξιστανων [existanōn] and in verse 13 imperfect passive ἐξιστατο [existato] (cf. also 2:7 already). Χρονῳ [Chronōi] is associative instrumental and μαγιαις [magiais] instrumental case.
12ὅτε δὲ ἐπίστευσαν τῷ Φιλίππῳ εὐαγγελιζομένῳ περὶ τῆς βασιλείας τοῦ θεοῦ καὶ τοῦ ὀνόματος Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ, ἐβαπτίζοντο ἄνδρες τε καὶ γυναῖκες.
But when they believed Philip as he was proclaiming the good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ were being baptized both men and women
- They were baptized (ἐβαπτιζοντο [ebaptizonto]). Imperfect passive (repetition, from time to time), while believed (ἐπιστευσαν [episteusan]) is constative aorist antecedent to the baptism. Note dative case of Philip with ἐπιστευσαν [episteusan]. Note the gospel of Philip “concerning the kingdom of God, and the name of Jesus Christ.”
- The effect of Philip’s preaching was that the people paid attention to him (verse 6) instead of to Simon (verse 11). They believed Philip as he preached the good news of the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus. This is an interesting combination of themes, showing how the early church saw the message of Jesus being continued in its own message, but at the same time increasingly spoke about the means by which God’s kingly power was being manifested in their own time, namely through the mighty name of Jesus. It has been thought significant that Luke says that the people believed Philip rather than that they believed in the gospel or in Jesus. The construction used is pisteuō with the dative, which is said by Dunn (Baptism, p. 65) to indicate intellectual assent rather than commitment of heart. The construction is used in 16:34 and 18:8, however, of genuine faith in God. The point is rather whether belief in Philip as he preached the gospel is to be understood as inadequate faith. The people proceeded to be baptized, and one would expect that Philip was satisfied of their sincerity in so doing; nothing in the story suggests that he was inadequate as an evangelist. On the whole, there is no clear evidence that the people were merely superficial in their belief.
- It has sometimes been argued that there was something incomplete about the Samaritans’ experience, that they only believed Philip and the rational content of his message without the sort of commitment that constitutes true faith. There is really nothing in the text, however, to indicate any deficiency on their part; and if Luke had wished to communicate this, he would have certainly made it more explicit. The Samaritans entrusted themselves to the gospel and were baptized en masse, men and women.
13ὁ δὲ Σίμων καὶ αὐτὸς ἐπίστευσεν καὶ βαπτισθεὶς ἦν προσκαρτερῶν τῷ Φιλίππῳ, θεωρῶν τε σημεῖα καὶ δυνάμεις μεγάλας γινομένας ἐξίστατο.
And Simon himself also believed, and after he was baptized he was attaching himself to Philip, and when he saw the signs and great miracles that were taking place he was astonished
- Incomplete for Simon? – based on what happens later it would indicate that he was not a believer
- He saw that the miracles wrought by Philip in the name of Christ were genuine while he knew that his own were frauds. He wanted this power that Philip had to add to his own pretensions. “He was probably half victim of self-delusion, half conscious impostor” (Furneaux). He was determined to get this new “power,” but had no sense of personal need of Jesus as Saviour for his sins.
- Simon also “believed” and was baptized (v. 13). Luke gave us more reason to question his commitment. There is no object given for his believing—no “kingdom of God,” no “name of Jesus Christ.” In fact, the only response connected with his baptism was his following Philip everywhere, totally entranced by his miraculous signs. Could this have been Luke’s way of indicating that Simon’s commitment was lacking, more based on Philip’s miracles than his preaching, more oriented toward the tricks of his own trade?
- But what about Simon? He too believed and was baptized. Thereafter he clung to Philip (cf. the lame man in 3:11), but his attachment to him was not free from superstition and amazement: the miraculous signs which Philip was able to perform filled him with wonder and (as we may surmise from verse 18f.) a longing to have the same ability. Was, then, Simon a genuine believer? His belief certainly left much to be desired; but we need to read the rest of the story before we can evaluate his profession fairly.