A Question I Was Asked:

Who Were the Bereans, who are Mentioned in the New Testament?

Who were the Bereans, who are mentioned in the New Testament? Can you tell me more?

UK Apologetics Reply:

The Bereans were simply the residents of the town or city of Berea. Paul and Silas preached to them during Paul's second missionary journey. The account of Paul and Silas is recorded for us in Acts 17, where we read this,

These were not the sort of people who were prepared to 'jump on the bandwagon' of the latest sensationalist loud preacher to come to town...

As soon as it was night, the believers sent Paul and Silas away to Berea. On arriving there, they went to the Jewish synagogue. Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true. As a result, many of them believed, as did also a number of prominent Greek women and many Greek men.

But when the Jews in Thessalonica learned that Paul was preaching the word of God at Berea, some of them went there too, agitating the crowds and stirring them up. The believers immediately sent Paul to the coast, but Silas and Timothy stayed at Berea. Those who escorted Paul brought him to Athens and then left with instructions for Silas and Timothy to join him as soon as possible. (Acts 17:10-15, NIV).

These Bereans had a much more positive response to the gospel message than some that Paul had encountered. They were "more noble" because of their willing reception of the Word of God. Unlike the unbelieving Thessalonian Jews, these hearers were eager to hear the teaching of Paul and Silas. They were not quick to condemn, but keen to listen and to learn. To quote the very modern saying, they were ready and prepared to 'think outside the box.'

Certainly, the Bereans examined what they heard by comparing it to the Old Testament Scriptures. The fact that they honestly listened and conducted further personal research led many Bereans to faith in Jesus as the Messiah. It seems that this positive attitude also extended beyond the Jewish community to many Greek men and women in Berea who came to commit themselves to Christ.

A further point is that the Bereans were prepared to guard Paul's safety, they weren't 'all talk, but no action' (like a few) but very prepared to act decisively on what they had come to believe. When Paul's enemies arrived from nearby Thessalonica, the Berean believers protected Paul by craftily getting him out of the region. They did not turn him over to his enemies or disown him as the Jews from Thessalonica might have expected. Obviously there were people of real character at Berea!

It appears that the Bereans continued to grow in their faith. After Paul's departure, Silas and Timothy remained in Berea. Why? Probably to give more intensive instruction to one or two potential leaders; such was the wonderful attitude of these people of Berea, it could well be that there were one or two very strong candidates for future eldership there, though we must remember that most of the first elders were simply the leaders of a family who became converted to Christianity and were men of fine character. The concept of a Christian minister - usually a single man - going to seminary, or religious college was obviously many years into the future. The original elders were simply the men who led their families into the Christian Faith. Such men, from about middle age onwards and with well-disciplined children, were always preferred.

Later on, we learn about the ongoing faithfulness of at least one Berean man. When Paul decides to return for additional ministry in Macedonia despite the tremendous persecution he had recently faced, one of the men who chose to accompany him was from Berea:

When the uproar had ended, Paul sent for the disciples and, after encouraging them, said goodbye and set out for Macedonia. He traveled through that area, speaking many words of encouragement to the people, and finally arrived in Greece, where he stayed three months. Because some Jews had plotted against him just as he was about to sail for Syria, he decided to go back through Macedonia. He was accompanied by Sopater son of Pyrrhus from Berea, Aristarchus and Secundus from Thessalonica, Gaius from Derbe, Timothy also, and Tychicus and Trophimus from the province of Asia. These men went on ahead and waited for us at Troas. (Acts 20:1-5).

So it appears that Sopater, probably a Gentile, continued to assist Paul in ministry long after Paul's first visit to Berea. We don't know the further details but, very likely, this Sopater eventually became a most important leader in the early church.

In short, the Bereans have long been seen as a positive and inspiring example of how a person or community should respond to biblical teaching. We are called to eagerly learn from God's Word and, no matter who the teacher is, to investigate new teaching in comparison with the Bible. The practice of the ancient Bereans is a model for all Christians in our day. These were not the sort of people who were prepared to 'jump on the bandwagon' of the latest sensationalist loud preacher to come to town. These were people who prayed and researched and unquestionably will have looked for fruits of true sincerity and conversion. What an example!

Robin A. Brace. June 26th, 2015.