Follow Paul’s Steps to Beroea
The work of the two missionaries was very successful, and a great multitude became believers. Then a mob rose up against them. So a decision was made. For the sake of the fledgling congregation and for the missionaries’ own safety, the two would leave immediately, in the middle of the night. Thus, Paul and Silas fled the Macedonian seaport of Thessalonica in about 50 C.E. They made a journey to their next preaching destination—Beroea.
FROM a distance, the modern-day visitor, like the ancient traveler, can see Beroea (Véroia) lying at the eastern foot of verdant Mount Bermios. Beroea is about 40 miles [65 km] southwest of Thessalonica and some 25 miles [40 km] inland from the Aegean Sea. Mount Olympus, the mythical abode of the principal gods of the ancient Hellenic pantheon, lies to the south.
Beroea is of interest to Bible students as a place where Paul preached and converted many to Christianity. (Acts 17:10-15) Let us retrace Paul’s steps and delve into the city’s past.
No one is sure when Beroea was founded. Its first inhabitants, probably Phrygian tribes, were driven out by the Macedonians about the seventh century B.C.E. Three centuries later, Macedonia was enriched, following conquests by Alexander the Great. Imposing buildings and walls were constructed, as were sanctuaries of Zeus, Artemis, Apollo, Athena, and other Greek deities.
One history book notes that over the centuries, Beroea “played an important role both in its immediate vital area and in the rest of northern Greece.” The city reached particular prominence during the reign of the last Macedonian dynasty, the Antigonids (306-168 B.C.E.), who were eventually overthrown by Rome.
When the Romans defeated King Philip V in 197 B.C.E., “the old balance of power was upset and Rome became the decisive power in the eastern Mediterranean,” observes the Encyclopædia Britannica. In 168 B.C.E., at Pydna, some miles south of Beroea, a Roman general won a decisive victory over the last ancient Macedonian ruler, Perseus. As foretold in Bible prophecy, the Greek world power had been supplanted by Rome. (Daniel 7:6, 7, 23) After that battle, Beroea was one of the first Macedonian cities to surrender to Rome.
In the first century B.C.E., Macedonia became a battleground during the conflict between Pompey and Julius Caesar. In fact, Pompey located his headquarters and army in the vicinity of Beroea.
Thriving Under the Romans
During the Pax Romana, or Roman Peace, visitors to Beroea found stone-paved streets flanked by colonnades. The city had public baths, theaters, libraries, and facilities for gladiatorial contests. Drinking water flowed through pipes, and the city was equipped with a subterranean drainage system. Beroea grew famous as a commercial center visited by merchants, artists, and athletes, while spectators came to attend athletic and other events. Foreigners could find places of worship where they might engage in the rituals of their own religions. Yes, in this city, cults of the whole Roman world met and mingled.
Posthumously deified Roman emperors were among the gods worshipped in Beroea. That might not have seemed strange to the Beroeans because a precursor of emperor worship was the worship of Alexander the Great, who was venerated as a god. One Greek source says: “Accustomed as they were to according divine honours to a king during his lifetime, the Hellenes [Greeks] of the eastern Empire happily accorded cultic honours to the Roman emperors too . . . On their coins the emperor was represented as deified, wearing the radiate crown. They would acclaim him with the same invocations as for a god, with hymns and songs.” Altars and temples were erected, and sacrifices to him were offered. Even emperors came to attend imperial cult festivities, which included athletic, artistic, and literary contests.
Why was Beroea a center of pagan worship? Because it was the seat of the Koinon of Macedonia. This was an assembly of delegates from Macedonian cities. These delegates convened regularly in Beroea to discuss city and provincial matters and to handle them under Roman supervision. One of the main functions of the Koinon was to oversee imperial cult observances.
So this was the environment of the city to which Paul and Silas journeyed after fleeing Thessalonica. By that time, Beroea had been under Roman occupation for two centuries.
The Good News Reaches Beroea
Paul began his preaching in Beroea in the city’s synagogue. How was he received? The inspired account reports that the Jews there “were more noble-minded than those in Thessalonica, for they received the word with the greatest eagerness of mind, carefully examining the Scriptures daily as to whether these things were so.” (Acts 17:10, 11) Being “noble-minded,” they did not stubbornly cling to their traditions. Although they were hearing something new, they were not suspicious or ill-tempered. Instead of rejecting Paul’s message, they were attentive, giving it a fair hearing and doing so free of partiality.
How could those Jews recognize the ring of truth in Paul’s teaching? They tested what they heard by using the most trustworthy touchstone. They carefully and diligently searched the Scriptures. Bible scholar Matthew Henry concluded: “Since Paul reasoned out of the scriptures, and referred them to the Old Testament for the proof of what he said, they had recourse to their Bibles, turned to the places to which he referred them, read the context, considered the scope and drift of them, compared them with other places of scripture, examined whether Paul’s inferences from them were natural and genuine and his arguments upon them cogent, and determined accordingly.”
This was no one-time casual look. The Beroeans applied themselves to a diligent, ongoing study, taking the time to do this daily, not just on the Sabbath.
And think about the result. Many Jews in Beroea accepted the message and became believers. A number of Greeks, perhaps including some who were Jewish proselytes, also believed. But this did not go unnoticed. When the Thessalonian Jews heard of it, they hurried to Beroea “to incite and agitate the masses.”—Acts 17:4, 12, 13.
Paul was forced to leave Beroea, but he continued his preaching elsewhere. This time he boarded a ship bound for Athens. (Acts 17:14, 15) Nonetheless, he could rejoice that as a result of his work in Beroea, Christianity took root there. And it is bearing fruit today.
Yes, there are still people in Beroea (Véroia) who carefully examine the Scriptures to “make sure of all things” and “hold fast” to what is well-founded and true. (1 Thessalonians 5:21) Two flourishing congregations of Jehovah’s Witnesses in the city engage in the preaching work, as Paul did, sharing the Bible’s message with others. They search out honesthearted ones and reason with them from the Scriptures, allowing the motivating force of the Bible to help all those who want to know Jehovah, the true God.—Hebrews 4:12.
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Part of Paul’s second missionary journey
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Silver coin with Alexander the Great depicted as a Greek deity
Coin: Pictorial Archive (Near Eastern History) Est.
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A gate to the Jewish quarter in Beroea (Véroia)
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An old synagogue in modern-day Beroea (Véroia)