(contracted form of Silvanus, woody
), an eminent member of the early Christian Church, described under that name in the Acts but as Silvanus in St. Paul?s epistles. He first appears as one of the leaders of the church at Jerusalem (Acts 15:22
) holding the office of an inspired teacher. (Acts 15:32
) His name, derived from the Latin silva
, "wood," betokens him a Hellenistic Jew, and he appears to have been a Roman citizen. (Acts 16:37
) He was appointed as a delegate to accompany Paul and Barnabas on their return to Antioch with the decree of the Council of Jerusalem. (Acts 15:22,32
) Having accomplished this mission, he returned to Jerusalem. (Acts 15:33
) He must, however, have immediately revisited Antioch, for we find him selected by St. Paul as the companion of his second missionary journey. (Acts 15:40
; Acts 17:10
) At Berea he was left behind with Timothy while St. Paul proceeded to Athens, (Acts 17:14
) and we hear nothing more of his movements until he rejoined the apostle at Corinth. (Acts 18:5
) His presence at Corinth is several times noticed. (2Ã‚Â Corinthians 1:19
; 1Ã‚Â Thessalonians 1:1
; 2Ã‚Â Thessalonians 1:1
) Whether he was the Silvanus who conveyed St. Peter?s first epistle to Asia Minor, (1Ã‚Â Peter 5:12
) is doubtful the probabilities are in favor of the identity. A tradition of very slight authority represents Silas to have become bishop of Corinth.
- si'-las (Silas, probably contraction for Silouanos; the Hebrew equivalents suggested are shalish, "Tertius," or shelach (Gen 10:24
) (Knowling), or sha'ul = "asked" (Zahn)): The Silas of Acts is generally identified with the Silvaus of the Epistles. His identification with Titus has also been suggested, based on 2 Cor 1:19
, but this is very improbable (compare Knowling, Expositor's Greek Test., II, 326). Silas, who was probably a Roman citizen (compare Acts 16:37
), accompanied Paul during the greater part of his 2nd missionary journey (Acts 15
through 18). At the meeting of the Christian community under James at Jerusalem, which decided that circumcision should not be obligatory in the case of Gentile believers, Silas and Judas Barsabas were appointed along with Paul and Barnabas to convey to the churches in Antioch and Syria and Cilicia the epistle informing them of this decision. As "leading men among the brethren" at Jerusalem, and therefore more officially representative of the Jerusalem church than Paul and Barnabas, Silas and Judas were further commissioned to confirm the contents of the letter by "word of mouth." On arrival at Antioch, the epistle was delivered, and Judas and Silas, "being themselves also prophets, exhorted the brethren with many words, and confirmed them." Their mission being thus completed, the four were "dismissed in peace from the brethren unto those that had sent them forth" (Revised Version), or "unto the apostles" (the King James Version) (Acts 15:22-33
Different readings now render the immediate movements of Silas somewhat obscure; Acts 15:33 would imply that he returned to Jerusalem. But some texts proceed in 15:34, "Notwithstanding it pleased Silas to abide there still," and others add "and Judas alone proceeded." Of this, the first half is accepted by the King James Version. The principal texts however reject the whole verse and are followed in this by the Revised Version (British and American). It is held by some that he remained in Antioch till chosen by Paul (Acts 15:40). Others maintain that he returned to Jerusalem where John Mark then was (compare Acts 13:13); and that either during the interval of "some days" (Acts 15:36), when the events described in Gal 2:11 ff took place (Wendt), he returned to Antioch along with Peter, or that he and John Mark were summoned thither by Paul and Barnabas, subsequent to their dispute regarding Mark. (For fuller discussion, see Knowling, Expositor's Greek Test., II, 330, 332-35.)
Upon Barnabas' separation from Paul, Silas was chosen by Paul in his place, and the two missionaries, "after being commended by the brethren (at Antioch) to the grace of the Lord," proceeded on their journey (Acts 15:33 margin through 40). Passing through Syria, Cilicia, Galatia, Phrygia and Mysia, where they delivered the decree of the Jerusalem council and strengthened the churches, and were joined by Timothy, they eventually reached Troas (Acts 15:41 through 16:8). Indications are given that at this city Luke also became one of their party (compare also the apocryphal "Acts of Paul," where this is definitely stated; Budge, Contendings of the Apostles, II, 544).
Upon the call of the Macedonian, the missionary band set sail for Greece, and after touching at Samothrace, they landed at Neapolis (Acts 16:9-11). At Philippi, Lydia, a seller of purple, was converted, and with her they made their abode; but the exorcism of an evil spirit from a sorceress brought upon Silas and Paul the enmity of her masters, whose source of gain was thus destroyed. On being charged before the magistrates with causing a breach of the peace and preaching false doctrine, their garments were rent off them and they were scourged and imprisoned. In no way dismayed, they prayed and sang hymns to God, and an earthquake in the middle of the night secured them a miraculous release. The magistrates, on learning that the two prisoners whom they had so maltreated were Roman citizens, came in person and besought them to depart out of the city (Acts 16:12-39). After a short visit to the house of Lydia, where they held an interview with the brethren, they departed for Thessalonica, leaving Luke behind (compare Knowling, op. cit., 354-55). There they made many converts, especially among the Greeks, but upon the house of Jason, their host, being attacked by hostile Jews, they were compelled to escape by night to Berea (Acts 16:40 through 17:10). There they received a better hearing from the Jews, but the enmity of the Thessalonian Jews still pursued them, and Paul was conducted for safety to Athens, Silas and Timothy being left behind. On his arrival, he dispatched an urgent message back to Bercea for Silas and Timothy to rejoin him at that city (Acts 17:11-15). The narrative of Acts implies, however, that Paul had left Athens and had reached Corinth before he was overtaken by his two followers (18:5). Knowling (op. cit., 363-64) suggests that they may have actually met at Athens, and that Timothy was then sent to Thessalonica (compare 1 Thess 3:1,2), and Silas to Philippi (compare Phil 4:15), and that the three came together again at Corinth. The arrival of Silas and Timothy at that city is probably referred to in 2 Cor 11:9. It is implied in Acts 18:18 that Silas did not leave Corinth at the same time as Paul, but no further definite reference is made to him in the narrative of the 2nd missionary journey.
Assuming his identity with Silvanus, he is mentioned along with Paul and Timothy in 2 Cor 1:19 as having preached Christ among the Corinthians (compare Acts 18:5). In 1 Thess 1:1, and 2 Thess 1:1, the same three send greetings to the church at Thessalonica (compare Acts 17:1-9). In 1 Pet 5:12 he is mentioned as a "faithful brother" and the bearer of that letter to the churches of the Dispersion (compare on this last Knowling, op. cit., 331-32). The theory which assigns He to the authorship of Silas is untenable.
C. M. Kerr