Most Christian churches teach the shallowest of lessons on the Bereans. They simply state how great it is that they verified what was being taught to them with what was written in the Bible, and that we should do the same. Just a touch deeper inspection of the situation yields some facts that most pastors never preach. Let’s look at the Scripture in question.
But as soon as night fell, the brothers sent Sha’ul and Sila off to Berea. As soon as they arrived, they went to the synagogue. Now the people here were of nobler character than the ones in Thessalonica; they eagerly welcomed the message, checking the Tanakh every day to see if the things Sha’ul was saying were true. Many of them came to trust, as did a number of prominent Greek women and not a few Greek men. ~~ Acts 17: 10-12 (Complete Jewish Bible)
As usual, I’m using the Complete Jewish Bible in the text above. Unless otherwise noted, that is the Bible version used on this blog. Other versions will have some different wording. Here’s the New International Version:
As soon as it was night, the believers sent Paul and Silas away to Berea. On arriving there, they went to the Jewish synagogue. Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true. As a result, many of them believed, as did also a number of prominent Greek women and many Greek men. ~~ Acts 17: 10-12 (New International Version)
Regardless of the version, we must realize some important truths. First, the Bereans (at least those mentioned in this passage as “more noble”) were Jews who worshipped in a synagogue. Second, the Scriptures that they checked Paul’s teaching against, to ensure he was speaking Biblical truth, were the OLD TESTAMENT, or what the Jews call the Tanakh. There was no “new testament” when Paul went to Berea. So, they were confirming that Paul did not teach against the Torah and the Prophets. Remember what Peter said about Paul’s teachings:
And think of our Lord’s patience as deliverance, just as our dear brother Sha’ul also wrote you, following the wisdom God gave him. Indeed, he speaks about these things in all his letters. They contain some things that are hard to understand, things which the uninstructed and unstable distort, to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures. ~~ 2 Peter 3: 15-16
Third, see how the NIV translation of Acts says that they believed “as a result” of their comparing the Old Testament to what Paul said. They verified Paul was speaking truth by comparing his words to Adonai’s written Word, given to Moses and the prophets. Understanding these three basic things leads to the conclusion: if Paul had been teaching against the Torah, the Bereans would not have listened to him. Recently, Mark Biltz from El Shaddai Ministries commented on this topic saying,
The Bereans knew that Moses trumped Paul every time!
This is another example of why we must diligently examine the doctrines of men against the yardstick of Biblical truth, the Torah. If man’s words, doctrines and traditions don’t measure up to Adonai’s Word, then we must utterly discard what man claims and solely cling to YHWH’s true and holy Word.