Acts 17:10-11 And the brethren immediately sent away Paul and Silas by night unto Berea: who coming thither went into the synagogue of the Jews. These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so.
Acts 17:10-11 is a text colored by reading through the lens of modern glasses. Many probably picture diligent Berean church members in the privacy of their homes poring over the bound printed editions of the Holy Bible. Only these weren’t church members; and they weren’t in their homes; and they didn’t have print editions of the Bible.
In context we find Paul’s custom (17:2). When he arrived in town, he first went to the synagogue of the Jews. There he opened up the scriptures with them and showed them that Jesus was the promised Messiah. In Thessalonica he spent three weeks sharing the truth. Though some Jews believed (17:4),[i] the unbelieving majority stirred up major trouble. They gathered a company of lowlifes to go around town getting folks in an uproar. A man named Jason had received Paul and his fellows into his house. So the crowd assaulted the home of Jason hoping to capture them. When they did not, they hauled Jason and other new believers before the authorities – charging them with aiding treasonous men who said there was another king than Caesar, named Jesus.
The brethren in Thessalonica dispatched the preaching disciples by night, and they made their way to Berea. Undeterred by his experience in Thessalonica, Paul set about, as was his custom, preaching in the synagogue of the Jews at Berea. The Berean Jews “were more noble than those in Thessalonica.” Unlike the Jews in Thessalonica, rather than move with envy and stir trouble, they set about to compare the reasoning of Paul with the scriptures. The result was that, unlike the Jews in Thessalonica, many of them believed.[ii]
The Jews in Berea were more noble than those in Thessalonica.[iii]
- Because the Jews in Berea received the word with all readiness of mind
- The Bereans received the word with an eager inclination to know what was true, rather than be skeptical fault-finders.
- Because the Jews in Berea searched the scriptures daily, whether the alleged things were so
- The Bereans investigated the apostle, searching the very scriptures Paul opened and alleged Jesus is Christ, comparing scripture with scripture daily (not haphazardly or nonchalantly), to ascertain whether the words of the apostle matched the words of God.
As a result the Jews in Berea – many of them – believed. “Therefore” in verse 12 looks back to their nobility, their readiness, their inquiry – preferring that disposition and its results above that of the Thessalonians.
The truth of God asks not that people suspend their disbelief to robotically receive a word they have never heard. Like Jesus, it dares them to “search the scriptures,” in which they may or may not think they have eternal life, in which they may find that truly Jesus is God’s Messiah.
[i] “…and of the devout Greeks a great multitude, and of the chief women not a few.”
[ii] “…also of honourable women which were Greeks, and of men, not a few.”
[iii] eugenesteroi/ευγενεστεροι/well born/of a noble family/noble minded – distinguished, here not by rank or title, but distinguished by good character or superior qualities