4. Gospel expansion into Greece, 15:36-20:38

iv] The mission to Thessalonica and Berea


Paul and Silas leave Philippi and journey to Thessalonica where, as usual, they attend the local synagogue. The gospel is warmly received by Gentile God-fearers / proselytes, but rejected by the more traditional members of the congregation. The traditionalists stir up the towns riff-raff, forcing Paul and Silas to flee to Berea. The synagogue at Berea is much more welcoming, but when the traditionalists at Thessalonica get to hear of Paul's success, they send a delegation to Berea to again stir up the local population, forcing Paul to flee to Athens.


Troubles cannot hinder the progress of the gospel.


i] Context: See 15:36-41.


ii] Background:

iThe theological structure of the gospel; 3:11-26;



iii] Structure: The mission to Thessalonica and Berea:

The troubles in Thessalonica, v1-9;

The troubles in Berea, v10-15


iv] Interpretation:

Leaving Philippi, Paul and Silas travel West into Macedonia along the Via Egnatia to the provincial capital, Thessalonica, where, on the first Sabbath, as is Paul's normal practice, they visit the local synagogue to present the gospel.

In this passage, Luke gives us an insight into Paul's preaching - he dielexato, "preached", a word used of a philosophical discussion, dianoigwn, "opening up = explaining", and paratiqemenoV, "setting before = proving", the gospel to his audience, ie., he presents the gospel in the form of a reasoned argument. Given that his audience is made up of Jews and God-fearers / proselytes, Paul's presentation of the gospel focuses on the fulfilment of Israel's prophetic expectations, pointing out the divine necessity (edei, "it was necessary") for Christ to suffer ("the time is fulfilled") and to rise again ("the kingdom of God is at hand").

Only some Jews epeisqhsan, "are persuaded, are convinced, believe", the gospel, but on the other hand, those with a Gentile background warmly receive the gospel, particularly the women. They end up meeting in Jason's home, but of course, this infuriates the traditional Jewish members of the synagogue, and trouble ensues. It is interesting how Luke singles out female converts, cf., 16:15, 40; 17:12, 34; 18:2, 18, 26.

The issue of public order is front and centre under Roman governance and so the agitators charge the believers with anastatwsanteV, "agitating, subverting, overthrowing" good order, not just in Thessalonica, but throughout the known world. And worse, they charge Paul and Silas with sedition, claiming they undermine the authority of Caesar. The rabble-rousers can't find Paul, so they drag Jason before the politarcaV, "civil magistrates." These are non-Roman magistrates appointed under Roman authority - some 5 or so officiated in Thessalonica. Luke well illustrates the absurdity of the charge - the missionaries and their converts are not the lawless ones, nor are they seditious. No conviction is recorded against Paul and Silas, with Jason and his friends released on bail. Luke makes sure that the reader understands that the church of the Way is not a threat to Roman authority.

Given the troubles in Thessalonica, Paul and Silas make a surreptitious move to Berea where, as usual, they present the gospel to the local synagogue before reaching out to the wider community. It is interesting how Luke underlines Paul's Jews first strategy. Even in Philippi, Paul was searching out the synagogue before he engaged with Lydia beside the river. As Johnson puts it, Paul is first of all the "Teacher of Israel." At the same time, we need to note that chapter 17 has to be viewed as a whole, a whole which culminates in an important presentation of the gospel, not to Jews, but to Gentiles, a speech that "confronts people with the God of the Bible and his claim on their lives, and points them to the resurrection of Jesus and the one in whom they can find a true and lasting relationship with God", Peterson Gk.

Luke makes the point that the congregation in Berea is more eugenesteroi, "noble minded", more "open-minded", than the synagogue at Thessalonica - they are willing to search out the truth of Paul's argument, confirming it from the Scriptures. As Barrett puts it, "the Berean Jews allowed no prejudice to prevent them from giving Paul a fair hearing." Many believe and form the nucleus of the founding church in Berea.

When the traditionalists in Thessalonica get news of fellow Jews converting to the new faith in Berea, they set out to apply similar tactics to those used in Thessalonica. Again, Luke shows us that the enemies of God's message of salvation are the ones who disturb good order within society. The church of the Way, by necessity, has to traverse the danger of antisemitism (an element in the troubles at Philippi), and the charge of being antisocial, of disturbing the good order of society. To stop matters getting out of hand, Paul makes a strategic move to Athens, and leaves Silas to order the life of the fledgling Borean church.


v] Homiletics: Hoarding

[crown] Collecting, or should I say hoarding, is a disease which affects many of us. We are like bower birds decorating our life with baubles, although in our case, they are not necessary blue.

Given the constant moving of Parish life, I have often had to let some of the baubles go, but one that has remained, because it is easy to transport, is stamps. I have saved Angolan stamps for over 60 years, and even manage a web page dedicated to the stamps of Angola. OK, yes I know, mad! Silly bits of sticky paper. And it's actually a dying hoppy because we increasingly don't use stamps to post a letter these days, and anyway, who posts letters? And Jesus did warn us about the hobby; He did! "Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth where moth and rust doth corrupt and thieves break in and steal." Yes, thieves love stamp collections; they are much easier to carry off than a TV. And bugs love eating stamp; the gum arabica is very tasty. And yes rust, the curse of fungus turning a precious stamp into a brown stained mess, totally destroying its value. Stamp collecting! What more can I say? [Reminder - personal illustrations like this are nothing more than a model for the preacher's own personal illustration].

It's not necessarily a good idea to hang on to things that are greatly cherished, although it is probably a good idea to hang onto you wife, unless of course, you are being chased by a bear and you can outrun her!!! [It's a great old joke, but beware, it won't sit well with some congregations].

The traditionalists in the synagogue at Thessalonica were not willing to be open-minded like their compatriots in Berea. They were not willing to search the scriptures to test the truth of what Paul was saying. They were set in their ways, hanging on to comfortable ideas and unwilling to shift. And as is so often the case for a person who feels threatened when their cherished ideas are challenged, they reacted violently.

I put it to you, that to acquire the mind of Christ you have to be flexible, you have to allow yourself to be challenged by new ideas, hear them out and test them by Scripture, and only then, reject the proposition, or accept it. As Paul puts it when he writes to the Corinthian believers, "Brethren, be not children in understanding, infants of wickedness, but in understanding be men" - "think maturely" (Berkely), flexibly.

[A comment on exposition. Many of these sermon-models in Acts work on the principle that, although a description is not a prescription, the description can serve to illustrate a prescription / Biblical proposition, as here. The description of the Thessalonian Jews is used to illustrate 1Corinthians 14:20].

Text - 17:1

The mission to Thessalonica and Berea, 17:1-15. i] Trouble in Thessalonica, v1-9. The towns of Amphipolis and Apollonia are on the via Egnatia, on the way to the free city of Thessalonica, with the Western text telling us that Paul stopped there rather than "passed through."

de "-" - but/and. Transitional, indicating a step in the narrative; "Now when they had passed through Amphipolis", ESV.

diodeusanteV (dioduw) aor. part. "when [Paul and his companions] had passed through" - having passed through [amphpolis and apollonia they came into thessalonica]. The participle is adverbial, best treated as temporal, as NIV.

twn Ioudaiwn (oV) gen. "a Jewish [synagogue]" - [where there was a synagogue] of the jews. The genitive is adjectival, best treated as possessive, "belonging to the Jews"; "where the Jews had a synagogue", Berkeley. "Jewish synagogue", as NIV, Barclay, Moffatt, .... etc., is technically attributive in form, but with a possessive sense - all synagogues are Jewish!


As noted above, v2-3 indicate that Paul presents the gospel in the form of a reasoned argument. Again, Luke tells us that Paul visits the local synagogue kata to eiwqoV, "according to the custom", a term constantly used by Luke of Paul, and even of Jesus, Lk.4:16.

kata + acc. "as was"- [but/and] according to [the custom]. Expressing a standard, "in a accordance with, corresponding to."

tw Paulw/ (oV) dat. "his [custom]" - to paul. Dative of reference / respect, "with respect to Paul."

epi + acc. "on [three Sabbath days]" - [he came toward them, and] upon [three sabbaths]. Temporal use of the preposition.

autoiV dat. pro. "[he reasoned with] them" - [he reasoned, disputed, discussed with] them. Dative of direct object after the dia prefix verb "to reason with."

apo gen. "from" - from [the scriptures]. Expressing source / origin; "he argued with them on the basis of the Scriptures", Barclay.


Luke presents us with a concise gospel presentation to Jews. Drawing from the Scriptures, Paul presents a reasoned argument to show that edei, "it was of divine necessity" oJti, "that" the messiah should suffer and rise again. Having established this fact, Paul progresses his argument by drawing the conclusion "that since Jesus is the only one in whom these things came to pass, He must therefore be the Messiah", Bruce Gk., ie., the second oJti is causal, introducing a syllogism, "because of all this it is obvious that, this one is the Messiah, namely, the Jesus whom I am announcing to you."

dianoigwn (dianoigw) pres. part. "explaining" - explaining [and proving]. This participle, as well as "proving", is adverbial, modal, expressing the manner of Paul's reasoning with the congregation.

oJti "that" - that. Introducing an object clause / dependent statement of indirect speech expressing what Paul is explaining and proving.

paqein (pascw) aor. inf. "[had] to suffer" - [the christ] to suffer [and to rise from (ek = source) the dead was necessary]. The conjoined infinitives, "to rise" and "to suffer", form a nominal phrase subject of the impersonal verb "it was necessary"; for a complementary classification see plhrwqhnai, 1:16. The accusative subject of the infinitives is "the Messiah."

oJti "-" - that. Often treated as introducing direct speech, as NIV, ESV, REB, ...., or indirect speech, CEV. It seems more likely that it is introducing a causal clause which serves as a syllogism, a clause that draws a conclusion from the previous presentation of facts.

oJ IhsouV "[this] Jesus" - [this one is the christ,] the jesus. Predicate nominative standing in apposition to "the Christ"; "this one is the Christ, namely Jesus ...." The unnecessary use of the article for "Jesus" is unusual, which is probably why it is not found in some manuscripts, but Zerwick notes that it is used in such constructions "when the sense demands it."

uJmin dat. pro. "[proclaiming] to you" - [whom i am proclaiming to] you. Dative of direct object after the kata prefix verb "to proclaim to."


Luke identifies three groups in the congregation who respond positively to Paul's message (arranged with a te ... te coordinating construction): "some of the Jews were persuaded (passive, so "allowed themselves to be persuaded")" and were proseklhrwqhsan - an unknown single-use word. The root sense is "to allot", here as a passive, so possibly a divine passive, "and so as a result were allotted / assigned to Paul by God"; "as well as devout Greeks" - presumably Gentile proselytes and/or God-fearers, and possibly even some attendees loosely associated with the synagogue; "and also, a large number of women", many of whom were the wives of prominent men in Thessalonica (this sense is drawn out by the Western text, so usually translated, "quite a few were leading women").

ex (ek) + gen. "of [the Jews]" - [and certain] from [them were persuaded]. The preposition serves in the place of a partitive genitive.

tw/ Paulw/ (oV) dat. "[joined] Paul" - [and were assigned to] paul [and silas]. Dative of direct object after the proV prefix verb "to be assigned by lot to."

twn ... Ellhnwn (hv hnoV) gen. "of [God-fearing] Greeks" - [and, both = along with many multitudes] of [devout] greeks. The genitive is adjectival, probably again partitive, so, a large segment of the Greek attenders are also persuaded and are allocated to Paul and Silas, or better, with an active sense, "threw in their lot with Paul and Silas", Cassirer.

ouk oligai adj. "quite a few" - [and, both = and also] not a few. Again, Luke uses a litotes construction to emphasise the fact that many women respond positively to Paul's message.

gunaikwn (h aikoV) gen. "women" - of women [of the first]. The genitive is adjectival, again probably partitive, limiting "not a few." The articular genitive adjective twn prowtwn, "the first", may be viewed as a substantive, also partitive, referring to "the first men", "prominent men", so "wives of the leading men in the community", Barclay, but it is usually taken as attributive, limiting "women", so "prominent women", "and a good many influential women", REB.


Having described the positive response to Paul's message, Luke goes on to describe the negative response. He does so in two main clauses, each controlled by an imperfect verb, with the first clause containing a separate element of background information. The separate constructions are indicated by a coordinating kai: "The Jews, [because they were jealous (part.), kai and after marshalling some troublemakers (part.) from town], kai formed a mob (part.) and threw the city into an uproar (imperf.). kai They then besieged (part.) Jason's home and sought to drag Paul and Silas out (imperf.).

zhlwsanteV (zhlow) aor. part. "were jealous" - [but/and] having become jealous. The participle is adverbial, best treated as causal; "because they were jealous".

proslabomenoi (proslambanw) aor. part. "they rounded up" - [and] having increased = gathered together. The participle is adverbial, best treated as temporal, "and after marshalling together, organising, ......"

twn agoraiwn (oV) gen. "from the marketplace" - of the market place day-labourers [some evil men]. The genitive is adjectival, partitive. Low-life, riff-raff, and petty criminals circulate within this group, and so it is from the day-labourers that the traditionalists formed the core of their riotous mob.

oclopoihsanteV (oclopoiew) aor. part. "formed a mob" - [and, the jews] having gathered a crowd [were stirring up the city]. A rare word. Attendant circumstance participle expressing action accompanying the imperfect verb "to stir up"; "the Jews ........ formed a mob and threw the city into an uproar."

epistanteV (efisthmi) aor. part. "they rushed to [Jason's home]" - [and] having attended, set over, stood beside. Attendant circumstance participle expressing action accompanying the verb "to seek"; "They then besieged Jason's home and sought to drag Paul and Silas out."

th/ oikia/ (oV) dat. "house" - the house [of jason]. Dative of direct object after the epi prefix participle "setting over against."

proagagein (proagw) aor. inf. "in order to bring them out" - [they were seeking] to bring out [them into the crowd]. The infinitive is usually classified as complementary, but it may also be classified as introducing an object clause / dependent statement of perception / cause expressing what they were seeking to do.


Luke carefully defines the Roman officials present in Thessalonica and the improper behaviour of the mob. The language expressed in "are present here" = "they are here now", refers to Paul and Silas, not Jason and his friends. It expresses an agitated form of xenophobia, identifying Paul and Silas as evil foreigners who are presently invading civilised society and causing catastrophic troubles throughout the empire - they represent the barbarian hoards at the gates of Rome. Of course, the reader is able to easily recognise the stupidity of the charge. "Jason is hiding barbarians in his home, men who are out to destroy everything we hold dear."

mh euVronteV (euJriskw) aor. part. "when they didn't find [them]" - [but/and] not having found [them, they were dragging jason and certain brothers upon = up to the politarchai (city authorities)]. The participle is adverbial, best treated as temporal, as NIV.

bownteV (boaw) pres. part. "shouting" - crying out. The participle is adverbial, probably modal, expressing the manner of their approach to the politarchai.

oJti "-" - that. Introducing an object clause / dependent statement of direct speech expressing what they shouted out.

oiJ .... anastatwsanteV (anastatow) aor. part. "these men who have caused trouble all over [the world]" - [these ones] the ones having subverted, overthrown [the world, are present here and = also]. The sentence is somewhat complex and prompts different approaches to translation, but it is likely that the participle is adjectival, attributive, limiting the subject ou|toi, "these ones", with the accusative noun thn oikoumenhn, "the world", serving as the direct object of the participle, as NIV. The coordinating kai is best read as adverbial, adjunctive, "also". See Culy for a different approach. "The barbarians are at the gates and Jason has welcomed some of them into his home."


Xenophobia moves quickly to the charge of sedition. It is interesting that Luke has the crowd call Caesar a king, when of course he is an Emperor, and is known as such throughout the Empire. Luke would know this. It seems overly subtle, but Luke does seem to create in Acts an interplay between two kings, Caesar and Christ. In the foreground, they are not in competition; Christians are loyal to Caesar - "give unto Caesar the things that are Caesars ......." In the background, there is only one king that requires our submission.

KaisaroV (r roV) gen. "Caesar's [decrees]" - [jason has received whom, and all these ones are doing = violating the decrees] of caesar. The genitive is adjectival, probably verbal in intent, subjective, "the decrees enacted by Caesar." Thessalonica is a free city so the decrees of Caesar don't strictly apply, but the general point does.

legonteV (legw) pres. part. "saying that" - saying [jesus to be another king]. Technically the participle serves to introduce an object clause / dependent statement of indirect speech, expressing what the crowd charges Paul and Silas of saying, but it also serves an adverbial function, telling us how Paul and Silas are supposed to have violated Caesar's decrees, namely "by claiming there is another king - Jesus", ie., instrumental, expressing means.


A cry like "the Cossacks are coming", is enough to wind up any mob.

akouontaV (akouw) pres. part. "when they heard [this]" - [but/and they troubled the crowd and the politarchai] hearing [these things]. Although anarthrous, the participle is adjectival, attributive, agreeing with, and so limiting, the noun "Politarchai"; "The words aroused the emotions of the crowd and of the magistrates who heard what was said." Often translated temporally, as NIV.


It seems that the town's officials are less inclined to follow the whim of a lynch-mob than those in Philippi, and so they follow correct procedure, labonteV to iJkanon, "receiving sufficient" = "taking surety" for the attendance of Jason and his friends to appear later for a judicial hearing.

labonteV (lambanw) aor. mid. part. "made [Jason and the others] post bond" - [but/and] having received [the sufficient from beside jason and the rest, they released them]. The participle is adverbial, best treated as temporal; "they let Jason and the others go after binding them over to keep the peace", Moffatt.


ii] Troubles in Berea, v10-15. Paul is again forced to make a less than dignified exit from a town, having to again creep away at night. The town of Berea is some 60 miles from Thessalonica, situated on the Via Egnatia, the main road from Neopolis, via Philippi, Thessalonica to Dyrrachium.

dia + gen. "-" - [but/and the brothers immediately] through [the night sent out both paul and silas into berea]. The preposition is spatial, "through time or space", here with the temporal sense "during". "Paul" and "Silas" are coordinated by a te .... kai construction, "both .... and ....."

paragenomenoi (paraginomai) aor. part. "on arriving" - [who,] having arrived [was going into the synagogue of the jews]. The participle is adverbial, best treated as temporal, as NIV; "and when they arrived they went into the Jewish synagogue", ESV. For the genitive "of the Jews" see v1.


Luke has already provided us with a number of models of gospel presentations to Jews and so he doesn't bother repeating himself. Clearly "the time is fulfilled" motif applies, given that the synagogue congregation carefully examines the scriptures to confirm Paul's claim that Jesus has fulfilled Israel's messianic expectations of the coming Christ / messiah. Luke observes that the congregation is eugenhV, "of noble birth." Luke may be referring to their social status, even their breeding, but it is more likely a comment about their social graces; "more generous-minded", Phillips.

twn gen. "than those [in Thessalonica]" - [but/and these ones were more of noble birth = more noble minded] of the ones [in thessalonica]. The genitive is ablative, comparative, after the comparative adjective "more noble minded'; "than those in Thessalonica."

oiJtineV pro. "-" - who = these ones. Backward referencing to ouJtoi, "these ones"; "they received the word with eagerness", ESV.

meta + gen. "with [great eagerness]" - [received the word] with [all willingness, eagerness]. Adverbial use of the preposition, so "they eagerly received the word."

anakrinonteV (anakrinw) pres. part. "examined" - [according to the day] studying, examining [the scriptures]. The participle is adverbial, best treated as modal, expressing the manner of their examination of the scriptures. The prepositional phrase kaq hJmeran, "according to the day", is adverbial, modifying the participle "examining"; "made a daily study of the scriptures", Berkeley.

ei "to see if" - to find out if [these things are thus]. Serving to introduce an indirect question set, as usual, in the tense of the original question, "are these things thus?"; "whether these things were so", Berkeley.


The sense for this verse seems to be that many Jewish members of the synagogue believed, as did a large number (ouk oligoi, "not a few" = "many", ie., a litotes) Greek members (Gentiles - God-fearers / proselytes), both men and women who were euskhmwn, "respectful, graceful, presentable, well placed", Barclay suggests "wealthy", possibly "important", ie., of high social status.

men oun "as a result" - therefore, on the one hand. Transitional construction, indicating a step in the narrative which connects logically to the preceding section, while indicating another step in the narrative is about to follow, usually introduced by de, as here in v13.

ex (ek) + gen. "[many] of [them]" - [many] from [them believed, and = also (including) of the prominent greek women and men, not a few]. The preposition, as also the genitive "of the prominent Greek women and men", is partitive. "Many people of high social status believed Paul's message."


Luke continues to paint Jewish traditionalists in a negative light; the Thessalonian Jews oppose the gospel just like those in Antioch and Iconium.

wJV "[but] when" - [but/and] as [the jews from thessalonica came to know]. Temporal use of the conjunction serving to introduce a temporal clause, as NIV.

oJti "that" - that. Introducing an object clause / dependent statement of perception expressing what the Jews from Thessalonica came to know.

tou qeou (oV) gen. "[the word] of God" - [the word] of god [was proclaimed by paul in berea and = also (adjunctive)]. The genitive is adjectival, probably idiomatic / source. Luke is again using the phrase "the word of God" as a descriptive for the gospel, and by doing so, he gives the gospel a prophetic edge. So, the missionaries function as prophets. The preposition uJpo expresses agency, "by Paul."

saleuonteV (saleuw) pres. part. "agitating" - [they came also there] shaking up [and troubling the crowds]. As for "troubling", the participle is adverbial, best treated as final expressing the purpose of the coming, "they came in order to stir up trouble and turn the local community against the missionaries."


The church organises a hasty retreat for Paul - euqewV tote, "imediately then" (urgency is expressed by compounding two temporal adverbs). They escort him wJV epi, "toward" (Gk., idiom), the sea, probably the port of Pydna, and thence by ship to Athens. Bruce suggests that the sense may be "as if to conduct Paul by sea", and that the party actually travels by land to Athens - there is a Roman road from Pydna to Athens. Some members of the missionary team remain in Berea, including Timothy. As Haenchen notes, Timothy has probably been with the team all the way from Antioch, it's just that Luke tends to only name the key players.

poreuesqai (poreuomai) pres. inf. "-" - [but/and immediately then the brothers sent away paul] to go [toward (wJV epi) the sea]. The infinitive is adverbial, probably final, expressing purpose.

te ... te .... kai "[Silas] and [Timothy]" - and both [silas] and [timothy remained there]. Coordinative construction.


Members of the Berean church accompany Paul all the way to Athens - not a short journey. Luke tells us the Timothy and Silas catch up with Paul again in Corinth, although Paul's letter to the Thessalonians indicates that they do join him in Athens and that he then sends them back to Macedonia - when it comes to the recording of events, Luke is selective. The Western text tells us that as Paul passed through Thessaly on his journey to Athens, "he was prevented from preaching the word to them." The author of this addition to the text obviously missed the point that Paul probably travelled by sea, so the explanation is unnecessary, although it would agree with Bruce's reading of the journey south. Barrett makes the point that the willingness of someone to add to the text is down to the fact that it was not at that time "fully canonical,"

oiJ .. kaqistanonteV (kaqisthmi) pres. part. "those who escorted [Paul]" - [but/and] the ones bringing to = conducting, escorting [paul]. The participle serves as a substantive, subject of the verb "to bring."

eJwV "to" - [brought him] until [athens]. The conjunction expresses extension up to, temporal or spatial, here spatial, "up to, as far as."

labonteV (lambanw) aor. part. "-" - [and] having received [a command (instructions)]. The participle is adverbial, best treated as temporal; "after receiving instructions for Silas and Timothy ........... they departed."

proV + acc. "for" - toward [silas and timothy]. Used here to identify the recipient of the command; the command was given to Silas and Timothy, so "for Silas and Timothy."

iJna + subj. "-" - that [they may come toward him]. Epexegetic, specifying the command, so Culy, although Kellum suggests that it is adverbial, expressing purpose, ie., they received the command from Paul in order that Silas and Timothy may return to him.

wJV "as [soon as possible]" - as [quickly]. Used here to intensify the adverb of manner "quickly", so "as quickly as possible."


Acts Introduction

Exegetical Commentaries


[Pumpkin Cottage]