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Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible


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SILAS (Acts) and SILVANUS (Epistles). There can be little doubt that the Silvanus of the Pauline Epistles ( 2 Corinthians 1:19 , 1 Thessalonians 1:1 , 2 Thessalonians 1:1 ) is the same as the Silas of Acts.

Probably Silas is an abbreviation, like Lucas (Luke), Hermas, Amplias, Epaphras, Nymphas . etc. In Acts we find many such familiar names (cf. esp. Priscilla in Acts = Prisca Romans 16:3 RV [Note: Revised Version.] , Sopater Acts 20:4 = Sosipater Romans 16:21 ). We might indeed have expected ‘Silvas’ not ‘Silas,’ but these abbreviations are very irregular. It has been suggested that Silas was the real name, and of Semitic origin, while Silvanus was adopted for a Roman name as being similar in sound; but then we should have expected for the latter ‘Silanus,’ not Silvanus.

Silas was a Christian prophet (Acts 15:32 ), one of the ‘chief men among the brethren’ (therefore doubtless of Jewish birth), who with ‘Judas called Barsabbas’ was sent as a delegate from the Apostolic Council with Paul and Barnabas, to convey the decision of the Council ( Acts 15:22 ff.). He was also probably a Roman citizen ( Acts 16:37 ), though this inference is denied by some. It is uncertain if he returned from Antioch to Jerusalem ( Acts 15:34 is of doubtful authenticity), but in any case he was soon after chosen by Paul to go with him on the Second Journey, taking Barnabas’ place, while Timothy afterwards took John Mark’s. For this work Silas’ double qualification as a leading Jewish Christian and a Roman citizen would eminently fit him. He accompanied Paul through S. Galatia to Troas, Philippi (where he was imprisoned), Thessalonica, and Berœa. When Paul went to Athens, Silas and Timothy were left behind, perhaps to bring the latest news from Thessalonica (in case it was possible for the Apostle to return thither), with injunctions to follow at once; and this they probably did. But they seem to have been sent back on a mission to Macedonia ( 1 Thessalonians 3:1 : Paul was ‘left behind at Athens alone ’), Timothy to Thessalonica, Silas perhaps to Philippi; they rejoined Paul at Corinth, and are associated with him in the letters, probably written thence, to the Thessalonians. Here Silas disappears from the Pauline history. But there is no reason for suspecting a defection like that of Mark; the cordial reference to his former preaching in 2 Corinthians 1:19 (written on the Third Journey) contradicts this. We afterwards find him attending on St. Peter, acting as bearer and perhaps scribe of his First Epistle ( 1 Peter 5:12 ); for there is no reason to suppose that the Petrine Mark and Silvanus were other than those connected with St. Paul. Whether this attendance was before or after the death of St. Paul depends on the date we give to 1Peter ; see a full Excursus in Dr. Bigg’s edition of that Epistle.

A. J. Maclean.

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Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Silas'. Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible. 1909.

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