Paul and Silas in Berea
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 17:12-15
Luke does not tell us how long Paul and Silas and the team were in Berea but it was long enough to plant a significant church. What is interesting in this case is that many Jews believed. The impression one gains from this account is that there were more Jews than Gentiles in the church in Berea. That is remarkable. The Jews in Berea had some internal integrity to recognize truth when they were told it and to respond accordingly, after checking what Paul and Silas told them against the TANAKH – The Law, the Prophets and the Writings – the Old Testament Scriptures. Once they verified that what Paul and Silas said aligned with the Word of God they were on board. Along with these Jews of integrity, a group of prominent Greek women and men joined them. From the “law of first mention” we can assume that there were more women than men initially in the church at Berea.
In verse 12 Luke singles out the women. It is not just a case of women being mentioned first. We would normally say in English men and women; not women and men. That is the case here in what Luke wrote. But in this case the women are emphasized further in that he repeats women twice. He uses the word [Hellenis] which means Greek women, but then adds [gune] women and [andron] men. For some reason Luke paid very particular attention to the women in the church in the Berea. It is a curious construction. Luke tells us they were very prominent women, women of high standing. The inference is that the men in the church at Berea were not of such high standing. So the church in Berea was made up of Jews of integrity who based their decision on the truth of the Word of God, not a few women of high standing and Greek men.
Now that we know the nature of the church at Berea Luke tells us the Berean church didn’t escape the attention of the Jews who opposed them. This time the opposition didn’t come the Jews of Berea. Rather it came from the Jews back in Thessalonica. It was not enough for the Jews in Thessalonica to drive Paul and Silas out of their area, once they heard that they had gone on to Berea they went over there to stir up trouble. Notice that Paul was singled out. Silas is not mentioned. Seemingly the Jews of Thessalonica were targeting Paul. He was the one in their sights.
The Jews from Thessalonica stirred up [saleuo] and incited [tarasso] the crowds. What a strange thing to say. They didn’t go to the believers. They didn’t appear at a church meeting either on the Sabbath or on the first day of the week and talk to those who followed Paul’s teaching. Rather they spoke to the crowds of Jews and Gentiles outside the church. The Jews from Thessalonica were without scruples. I sense they knew they wouldn’t make any headway with those believers in the Berean Church. They had checked out the teaching and were in agreement. So these Jewish rabble rousers spoke to the people who had not joined the church. Just like any town, there were those who had embraced this new message of Christ being the Messiah and those who hadn’t. These foreign Jews from another town went to the crowds and stirred them up. Isn’t it interesting that like-spirit seeks like-spirit. The first word above [saleuo] is a word used to stir a crowd, to incite a mob. The second word [tarasso] ls to whip up like a tornado – to unsettle and create confusion. To stir up the minds of the mob. Just how they did it we are not told but clearly it was subversive. I won’t speculate what was said but clearly it set the mob against the followers of Yeshua Ha Meshiach.
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.
These are rather curious verses. The believers in Berea acted immediately to get Paul out of there. Another little piece of evidence which suggests the rabble rousers were targeting Paul. They sent Paul off to the coast and from there down to Athens. But Silas and Timothy remained behind. Why? Why didn’t they accompany Paul too? They didn’t go immediately south toward Athens but took the time to go out to the coast and down. I assume it must have been safer. This is the first time we have been told that Timothy was with them in Berea. Luke doesn’t tell us specifically when he joined the team but he tells us when he left Paul to accompany Silas.
Some of the Berean believers accompany Paul all the way to Athens. The journey out to the coast was 32 kms and then they were faced with a journey of 400 kms down to Athens. That is a significant journey and a significant commitment on the part of those believers from Berea who went with Paul to ensure his safety. As soon as they had delivered Paul safely to Athens they turned around and made the trip back again to Berea. I wonder if the Jews stirrers were still there when they got back. Somehow I doubt it. Rabble rousers don’t hang around too long. Silas and Timothy were then told to follow Paul to Athens. I will leave you to work how long it takes to walk to Athens. I went down with Paul in the first batch and am now waiting for you all in Athens. I will pick up the story again when you get here.
The world is not dangerous because of those who do harm but because of those who look at it without doing anything.Albert Einstein
If no one ever took risks Michaelangelo would have painted the Sistine floor.Neil Simon
Just because life isn’t to our liking doesn’t mean it’s without purpose.Deron Spoo
Challenge not comfort is the lifestyle of those who wish to follow God.Anon
Some people make headlines while others make history.Philip Elmer-De Witt
The wishful thinking that following Christ automatically makes the rest of life convenient is a cultural concept not a biblical one.Anon