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​Acts 17

Part III

It was only a fifty mile walk to Berea from Thessalonica, with all the miles Paul and his companions have been walking this was barely enough to work up a sweat. They have covered nearly a thousand miles since leaving Antioch in Syria and very little has been by ship. Their physical fitness must have been amazing and their need for new sandals must have been constant, especially Silas and Timothy as they covered the same distances a few times.

Acts 17:10
And the brethren immediately sent away Paul and Silas by night unto Berea: who coming thither went into the synagogue of the Jews.

Emotions were running too high in Thessalonica for Paul to stay any longer. Staying would just add more pressure to the lives of those who had already believed. No doubt the mood was somber as they left for Berea on the Via Egnatia because Paul wanted to stay and in leaving, he wanted to return.

Acts 17:11
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.

The first thing this verse offers is confusion. How can one group of believers be “more noble” than another group of believers? The confusion comes from the translation.

Galatians 3:28
There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.

Colossians 3:11
Where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, Barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free: but Christ is all, and in all.

1 Corinthians 12:13
For by one Spirit [God] are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit [God’s gift of holy spirit].

Spiritually, all believers in the Administration of Grace are equal. Each of us has God in Christ within. We have different ways of functioning, but it is the same gift from God in each of us.

Acts 17:11
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.

The Greek word translated “more noble” is the compound Greek word eugenes. It comes from the prefix eu, which means good or well, and the Greek word geno, which means family or race. You could translate this word noble birth, or aristocrat, or good pedigree. All of those would be a literal understanding of this word. When it is not used literally it is used figuratively to speak of people as having the qualities, the character of an aristocrat.

Noble is an adjective modifying the noun Thessalonica. It is a comparative adjective in this verse and so the word “more” is added to show the comparison. This same Greek word is used three times in New Testament. First, it is used literally, of a man of noble birth, an aristocrat.

Luke 19:12
He said therefore, A certain nobleman went into a far country to receive for himself a kingdom, and to return.

Here eugenes is an adjective that modifies the noun man. Since it is not used to compare something in this verse noble does not have a degree of comparison. The next occurrence we will look at is in 1 Corinthians.

1 Corinthians 1:26
For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called:

The verse opens with, “you see your calling.” Not many wise men after the flesh called you. Not many mighty men after the flesh called you. Not many noble men after the flesh called you. Ellipsis will put “after the flesh” behind each statement. This verse is not about how many of each group are called, but rather who is doing the calling. The last two words “are called” are not in the text nor should it be supplied by ellipsis.

Apollos was eloquent and mighty in the scriptures, but he was nothing in the world (Acts 18:24). Paul was rude in speech, meaning he was not trained or educated in the art of preaching (2 Corinthians 11:6a), but he was knowledgeable of the scriptures. Timothy began to travel with Paul while he was still a teenager (1 Timothy 4:12) but he knew the scriptures from his youth. Their pedigrees were lacking according to a worldly standard. Peter and the other apostles, in their relationship to Israel, were called ignorant and unlearned by the Sanhedrin (Acts 4:13). 

1 Corinthians 1:26 is speaking of the people that are issuing the call from God. The context continues with, “God has chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise…” The conclusion of the thought is verse 29.

1 Corinthians 1:29
That no flesh should glory in his presence.

Remember one of the problems Paul is handling in Corinth. Division over which man is the better teacher or preacher (1 Corinthians 1:12). They are looking at the man who issued God’s call. It is not about the man who issues God’s call to you, it is about God who is calling you. Then, it is about whom God has chosen.

Then look at verse thirty.

1 Corinthians 1:30
But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption:

Because of God we are in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, redemption, so that no believer is missed or lacking. Then verse 31, if you glory, or boast, boast about God, the goodness of God. 

God has just laid out who we were before Christ entered our lives in verses 27 and 28. We were foolish, despised, weak. We have nothing to boast about in the flesh! We have much to boast about in Christ. (Romans 12:3)

The third place eugenes is used is in our verse in Acts 17:11.

Acts 17:11
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

A comparison is being made as seen with the use of the words “these” and “those.” Robertson’s Word Pictures, says the Greek words used for “more noble than these” is in the Ablative case, an ablative of comparison. This is also shown by the phrase, “readiness of mind” being in the genitive case, it is the genitive of partition. 

Dr. E.W. Bullinger defines the genitive of partition in this manner, “Separation, where this denotes a part taken from the whole; the “of” being equivalent to such expressions as “share in,” “part of,” or “from among.”1  

At first glance what appears to be getting compared is the nobles of Berea and the nobles of Thessalonica. But the Greek word eugenes is not used to describe anyone in Thessalonica. The closest we come to nobles in Thessalonica is with the “chief women.”

Acts 17:4
And some of them believed, and consorted with Paul and Silas; and of the devout Greeks a great multitude, and of the chief women not a few.

The only thing we have to go on for aristocrats in Thessalonica is the “chief women.” When the Greeks used this word, they were speaking of an aristocrat by birth, as in nobility like what we saw from the Gospel of Luke. Or they used it figuratively which considers the refinements, the character, or the education of the nobility.

Since we do not have aristocrats to compare, eugenes is being used in Acts 17:11 in a figurative sense. Some translators saw this and tried to translate this verse accordingly.

Acts 17:11
Now the Bereans were more noble-minded than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if these teachings were true.
Berean Study Bible

Actually, the Thessalonians were more open minded since they heard the message and believed it! While the Bereans wanted the message verified before they believed. However, with that said, you can see that the translators understand that eugenes is used figuratively in this verse, and they are trying to communicate that insight.

Acts 17:11
The people here were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, since they received the word with eagerness and examined the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so.
Christian Standard Bible

Here the translators brought in the character aspect and recognized that what made these believers different was how they received God’s Word and then their examination of God’s Word to see the authority with which Paul had spoken.

Both of these examples replaced “readiness of mind” with the word eagerness. Although eagerness is a good choice of a translation for thymia, for me it somewhat misses the heart of the Greek word. The prefix pro means before and thymia coming from thymos means passion, ardor, enthusiastic, or eagerness. You could translate prothymia as predisposed, ready before hand, meaning before Paul opened his mouth these guys were anxious, enthusiastic, eager to hear and receive God’s Word. But the word eagerness alone ignores the prefix pro.

A good translation should also recognize the genitive of partition of “readiness of mind.” We have seen Dr. Bullinger’s definition of this genitive. It separates out a part of the whole, meaning some of the Bereans, not all the Bereans had this mind-set and this attitude.

The essence, or a rude literal, could go something like this; “Some of the Bereans demonstrated more aristocratic character not seen in Thessalonica, in that they were eagerly predisposed to receiving God’s Word and minutely examined scriptures every day for the authority of God.”

Why this choice of words?

The word “some” was added to show the influence of the genitive of partition. Bereans was added by ellipsis from verse 10. “Demonstrated more aristocratic character” is endeavoring to use eugenes in its figurative sense while showing the comparative aspect of the adjective. “Eagerly predisposed;” eagerness is fine to express thymia, but we also have a prefix to consider in prothymia. “Minutely examined” for the intensity of the study involved in the word anakrino. “Authority of God’s Word” because graphee is used for the word scripture.

Is this the one and only accurate translation? No, it is not. It is the best I can do to incorporate the different elements of grammar and the definitions provided either from lexicon’s or simply reading a Greek word in context.

How did the Thessalonians receive God’s Word?

1 Thessalonians 2:13
For this cause also thank we God without ceasing, because, when ye received the word of God which ye heard of us, ye received it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which effectually worketh also in you that believe.

Therefore, the comparison is in how each group received God’s Word. In Thessalonica, they heard it, believed it, and received it into manifestation. In Berea, they heard it, proved it, believed it, and received it into manifestation.

Acts 17:12
Therefore, many of them believed; also, of honourable women which were Greeks, and of men, not a few.

Later, in the Epistle to the Thessalonians, Paul adds these instructions.

1 Thessalonians 5:21
Prove all things; hold fast that which is good.

Both the Thessalonians and the Bereans received God’s Word, but they received it in different ways. It does not matter how you arrive at believing the message of the Gospel of Grace, it matters that you believe.

There is also an addition to Paul’s manner once he is in a city. We have read how that Paul is in the synagogue on the Sabbath and I have implied he continues to hold conversations throughout the week, but here in Berea we can see it.

Acts 17:11b
…and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so.

They searched daily because Paul continued in conversations daily. How long? Daily, while Paul was there. How long did Paul stay in Berea? We do not know that answer, but each day the conversations continued and each day the Bereans examined the scriptures. What did the Bereans see?

John 5:39
Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me.

Had the leadership of the Temple examined, anakrino, the scriptures, they also would have seen that Jesus is the Christ, like the Bereans. The Law was the shadow of the image. 

Acts 17:13
But when the Jews of Thessalonica had knowledge that the word of God was preached of Paul at Berea, they came thither also, and stirred up the people.

Once again, who is “stirring up the people?” The Judaizes! The legalists! The unbelievers!

Paul and those in conversations with him are sitting and peacefully looking at God’s Word, day after day. It took the unbelievers, from out of town, to disturb a peaceful setting. 

Why, because they wanted to be part of the conversation? 
No, because they wanted to end the conversation! 
Why, because they had truthphobia!

The Greek word for “stirred up” is saleuo and it means to irritate, to agitate, to incite. God uses this word in Second Thessalonians.

2 Thessalonians 2:2
That ye be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us, as that the day of Christ is at hand.

In Acts 16 God uses saleuo to open the cell doors and free Paul and Silas from the stocks as the prison is shaken by an earthquake.

These unbelievers were like a sudden earthquake, shaking the minds of some in the city of Berea. Like Elymas, their goal was to turn people away from the right way of believing.

Acts 17:14-15
And then immediately the brethren sent away Paul to go as it were to the sea: but Silas and Timotheus abode there still. And they that conducted Paul brought him unto Athens: and receiving a commandment unto Silas and Timotheus for to come to him with all speed, they departed.

Paul moves on to Athens, but there is another fellowship of men and women who have seen the goodness of God and heard His message of justification and righteousness through Christ Jesus. 

We are God’s inheritance; we are God’s reward. Not because of the accolades the world has heaped upon us, but because we believed His words. We put our trust in God and what He has told us of eternity.

Hebrews 11:6
But without faith [pistis = believing] it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe [pisteuo = verb, believing] that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.


1.  Companion Bible, Appendix 17, Dr. E.W. Bullinger

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A Journey through the Book of Acts