Paul and Silas in Berea
That very night the believers sent Paul and Silas to Berea. When they arrived there, they went to the Jewish synagogue. And the people of Berea were more open-minded than those in Thessalonica, and they listened eagerly to Paul’s message. They searched the Scriptures day after day to see if Paul and Silas were teaching the truth. As a result, many Jews believed, as did many of the prominent Greek women and men. But when some Jews in Thessalonica learned that Paul was preaching the word of God in Berea, they went there and stirred up trouble. The believers acted at once, sending Paul on to the coast, while Silas and Timothy remained behind. Those escorting Paul went with him all the way to Athens; then they returned to Berea with instructions for Silas and Timothy to hurry and join him.Acts 17:10-15
This is such a fascinating, tantalizing little segment. We are told much and yet we are told little. First, I will pick out some basic things from these few verses and then relate it to what we know of the people involved. Notice that the move from Thessalonica to Berea took place under the cover of darkness; in the night. To take a night journey was both dangerous and yet had some wisdom to it. Berea lay 80 kms from Thessalonica to the south. That’s a long walk. A slow walking pace for an older person is around 3.5 kph and faster brisk walk is about 7 kph. To cover 80 km at best would take about 11.5 hours at a faster pace and about 22 to 23 hours walking at a slower pace. Walking at night would allow for a faster pace as it would be cooler than walking in the heat of the full sun. You can estimate for yourself how long it would take Paul and his companions to reach Berea. Walking fast they would be walking through the night from let’s say 8.00 pm until 7.30 am. That is not factoring in breaks to drink or rest and not accounting for meeting band of brigands and thieves along the way. That is why you travel in a group for protection.
Notice something else Luke tells us: As soon as they arrived they went straight to the synagogue. Firstly, how courageous to do that. They have just left Thessalonica under the cover of darkness because of the Jewish opposition and the first thing they do is to head straight for the synagogue when they arrive in Berea. Impressive. Once a Jew, always a Jew. The other aspect to this is determined by when they arrived. If indeed they kept a fast walking pace throughout the journey with little time to rest they would have got to Berea in time for morning prayers. If not then the next time to pray at the synagogue was mid-afternoon. I opt for thinking that Paul and his companions kept up a good pace and arrived for morning prayers. After all Paul was used to walking long distances. Besides night fell around 6.00 pm the previous night that gives them two more hours on the plus side to make it in time for morning prayers. The inference in this small section is that when they arrived they immediately went to the synagogue and began to teach. On that first morning, Paul was not likely to be part of the formal teaching. No doubt that came later over following days. But on the first morning “teaching” or input would have happened during the informal time after morning prayers. Then it is safe for us to assume that Paul was invited back to teach some more over the following days. It almost appears as though this all took place within a short period of time – matter of days before they moved on again. However, I want you to notice something from the little snippets of information Luke gives us. But you will need to read between the lines because Luke doesn’t spell it out. To really study the Bible you have to be a detective at times.
Then the brothers immediately sent Paul away to the coast, but Silas and Timothy stayed there. The men who escorted Paul took him all the way to Athens and, after receiving instructions to have Silas and Timothy join him as soon as possible, they left.Acts 17:14-15
He was accompanied by Sopater (the son of Pyrrhus) from Berea, Aristarchus and Secundus from Thessalonica, Gaius from Derbe, Timothy, and Tychicus and Trophimus from Asia. These men went on ahead and were waiting for us in Troas.Acts 20:4-5
Timothy, my fellow worker, greets you, as do Lucius, Jason, and Sosipater, my fellow Jews.Rom 16:21
The implicit information is that this sequence of events with the team moving around Macedonia back and forth took some time. The time spent in Berea was not likely to be just a few nights before the Jews from Thessalonica caught up with Paul again – although it does remain unstated. Note the link between Jason of Thessalonica and Sopater of Berea. Yes, it is most probable that we are talking about the same person in Sopater and Sosipater. Sopater of Berea was one of the companions of Paul on his journey from Philippi after his 3rd missionary journey. He had clearly attached himself to Paul’s band since the visit to Berea. Having met with Paul in Berea, the two Macedonians, Sopater of Berea and Jason of Thessalonica join Paul’s traveling companions and stay with him. The name Sosipater is found on a list of politarchs of Thessalonica. His name may well be linked to either [sofia] wisdom or [sopher] scribe. Whatever his background he attaches himself to Paul, following him as his rabbi. Now where did that come from? That didn’t happen in matter of a couple days upon first meeting him in Berea. It must have taken weeks. Notice too the fluid nature of this band of followers, leaving and joining the group from time to time.
Just who was Luke was referring to when he wrote “And the people of Berea were more open-minded than those in Thessalonica, and they listened eagerly to Paul’s message. They searched the Scriptures day after day to see if Paul and Silas were teaching the truth.” I am going to leave you at this point, plugging in and out of the team in the manner of Silas and Timothy in order to leave you to ponder these things before we go on to look at the depth of what Luke has told in the one simple sentence above. Many people I have met over the years and talked with about this encounter with the Bereans miss one important point. In the early years of reading the Bible I missed it myself.
I will meet you back at Hotel Veria tomorrow to lead us further in pondering on these things.
God is so big that to communicate with men He chose to limit Himself to the language of men.Rabbinical Saying
The rabbis say every Scripture has 70 facets and four levels of application / interpretation.Rabbinical Saying
They say if we quote God’s words we had better say them in the tone He would have said it, called the “disposition of Messiah”.Ian Vail
The rabbis warn us to be careful of thinking the one way you have interpreted the verse is the only right way to see it.Ian Vail
Any word of prophecy (in the fullest sense of the meaning) was to be delivered in a manner consistent with the way and tone in which Messiah would have said it, then to be evaluated by a bench of three witnesses.Ian Vail