By Mary Jane Chaignot

Categories: Early Church Workers

  • Silas and Silvanus are one and the same person.  The author of Acts refers to him as Silas, whereas Paul and Peter use Silvanus.
  • Silas is a Jewish name; Silvanus is the Latin form.
  • Silas is first mentioned in Acts as a companion to Judas Barsabbas.  (See Acts 15:22)  Judas and Silas are referred to as prophets, but Judas plays no additional role outside this story.
  • Silas and Judas were the two individuals chosen by the apostles from Jerusalem to accompany Barnabas and Paul back to Antioch.
  • Both Silas and Judas are described as “leaders among the brothers.”
  • They carried with them the letter delineating the decision that was the result of the Jerusalem Council.
  • Their role was to orally confirm the contents of the letter.
  • In addition, they comforted the brothers and “strengthened” them in Antioch.
  • Eventually, they returned to Jerusalem.  (Some manuscripts read that Silas remained behind.)
  • Shortly thereafter, however, Barnabas had a falling out with Paul, and Paul chose Silas to accompany him on another missionary journey.
  • Being that Silas was a leader from Jerusalem, he was well qualified to speak with authority on Jerusalem policy matters.
  • Silas was also a Roman citizen, and could, like Paul, claim the privileges accorded to such citizens throughout the empire.
  • He also seemed to be fluent in Greek.
  • The Antioch church sent them out with their blessings.
  • Silas and Paul began by revisiting churches in Syria and Cilicia.
  • From there, they made their way to Derbe and Lystra where Timothy was added to their group.
  • They continued from there throughout the regions of Phrygia and Galatia, but then the spirit beckoned Paul into Macedonia and they immediately went there.
  • Silas and Paul were both dragged into the marketplace in Philippi to face the authorities.
  • They were ordered to be stripped and beaten; those orders were carried out.  (Apparently, Timothy and any other companions were not involved.  Some see this as an example of anti-Semitism since Timothy, and possibly the others, were half Greek.)
  • Even though they were imprisoned, Silas joined Paul in singing hymns past midnight.
  • When the earthquake loosed all their chains, the jailer fell before Paul and Silas, asking what he needed to do to be saved.
  • Paul and Silas both instructed him; eventually the jailer took them home to wash their wounds.
  • The jailer and all his family were baptized that night.
  • When the magistrates officially released them the following morning, Paul announced that he and Silas were Roman citizens (and therefore should not have been either imprisoned or flogged).
  • The magistrates were alarmed and tried to appease them, eventually escorting them out of the prison.
  • Before Paul and Silas left town, they spent some time with Lydia.
  • Paul and Silas moved into Thessalonica, where they also preached.
  • Some “jealous” Jews stormed the home of their host, Jason, and dragged him off to the authorities.
  • The authorities made Jason post bond, which meant there would be no repeat of the troubles that had occurred in Philippi.
  • Paul and Silas left quietly, not wanting to get Jason into trouble.
  • Their next stop was Berea, where they again preached in the synagogue.
  • The Bereans were very receptive until the Jews from Thessalonica heard about it and stirred up the crowd.
  • Paul left for the coast, but Timothy and Silas stayed behind. (Perhaps Silas wasn’t as forceful as Paul.)
  • Eventually, Silas rejoined Paul in Athens, and then apparently went back to Philippi.
  • Silas was given their gift of money for the collection for the poor in Jerusalem.
  • Sometime later, Silas (and Timothy) rejoined Paul in Corinth.  His arrival meant Paul was able to devote himself completely to preaching (suggesting that Silas brought money from the Philippians in order to support Paul).
  • It was in response to Timothy’s good report that Paul wrote I Thessalonians, giving gratitude for their growth and acknowledging the threefold witness of Paul, Silas, and Timothy.
  • Because Paul frequently used “we” in that letter, some have speculated that Silas might have been a contributing author.
  • Even though Pauline authorship of II Thessalonians is disputed, it is noteworthy that it also includes a threefold greeting from Paul, Silas, and Timothy.
  • Some scholars believe that Silas might have helped Peter write I Peter, since the author claimed to have written the letter “through Silas”.  (Arguments that claim this is a gentle way of saying he was the real author have yet to be fully accepted.)
  • Most scholars, however, think the quality of Greek in I Peter exceeded that which would be expected of a fisherman, whereas Silas was no doubt well educated.
  • In either event, most scholars suppose that Silas and Paul parted company after Corinth.  It is possible that Silas continued his ministry, hooking up at some point with Peter, since they were both leaders of the Jerusalem church at one point.
  • It is also possible that Peter and Silas, then, continued to minister into those areas that Paul had neglected.
  • No additional information is available about his death.


Barclay, William. "Acts." Daily Study Bible. Philadelphia, PA: Westminster Press. 1975.

Gaebelein, Frank. "Acts; II Corinthians; I & II Thessalonians; I Peter." Expositor's Bible Commentary. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing. 1981.

Gaventa, Beverly Roberts. "Acts." Abingdon New Testament Commentaries. Nashville, TN, Abingdon Press. 2003.

Hillyer, Norman. "1 and 2 Peter, Jude." New International Biblical Commentary. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers. 1992.

Johnson, Luke Timothy. "The Acts of the Apostles." Sacra Pagina. Collegeville, MN: The Liturgical Press. 1992.

Witherington, Ben III. Conflict and Community in Corinth; A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary on 1 and 2 Corinthians. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm B Eerdmans. 1995.

Bible Characters