sı̄´las (Σίλας , Sı́las, contraction for Σιλουανός, Silouanós, Silvanus), was a leader of the church at Jerusalem, a prophet (Acts 15:22-32), a fellow missionary with Paul, and a “faithful brother” (1 Peter 5:12). His name from the Latin Sylva , “a wood,” implies he was a Hellenistic Jew. He was (Acts 16:37) a Roman citizen.

Delegated by the Jerusalem council to accompany Paul and Barnabas with the decree for Antioch. Then he returned to Jerusalem (Acts 15:33), for ( Acts 15:34) “notwithstanding it pleased Silas to abide there still” is an interpolation to account for  Acts 15:40. He doubtless revisited Antioch soon after his return to Jerusalem, so he was there chosen by Paul to be companion of his second missionary tour ( Acts 15:40-17; Acts 15:14). He stayed behind with Timothy at Berea when Paul went on to Athens, but was charged to join him there with all speed ( Acts 17:15).

Silas, when he and Timothy (Apparently Together) came from Macedonia, found Paul at Corinth ( Acts 18:5). Whether in the meantime he had joined Paul at Athens, and been sent thence to Thessalonica with Timothy ( 1 Thessalonians 3:2), and joined him again at Corinth, is not recorded. Paul notices his preaching at Corinth and associates his name with his own in the heading of the two epistles to the Thessalonians ( 2 Corinthians 1:19;  1 Thessalonians 1:1;  2 Thessalonians 1:1).

Silas was the bearer of the first epistle of Peter ( 1 Peter 5:12) who designates him “a faithful brother unto you as I suppose.” The uncertainty is not as to Silas’s faithfulness to them, but as to whether he or some other would prove to be the bearer of the epistle, addressed as it was to five provinces, all of which Silas might not reach.

“By Silas that faithful brother, as I expect, I have written to you.” Silas probably stood in a close relation to the churches of Asia, having taken the oversight after Paul’s departure, and afterward went to Peter. Silas was a suitable messenger by whom to confirm Paul’s doctrine of “the true grace of God” in the stone churches ( 2 Peter 3:16).

After Paul’s last journey to Jerusalem Silas no more appears as his companion. His connection with Peter began after that. “Exhorting and confirming the brethren” seems to have been Silas’ forte ( Acts 15:32).

In the public witness for Christ confirmed by the Pythoness at Philippi, and in the scourging for His name’s sake, and the prayers and praises sung in the prison to God, and in the jailer’s conversion, Silas bore a part second only to Paul ( Acts 16:19;  Acts 16:25;  Acts 16:29). So also at Thessalonica and Berea ( Acts 17:4;  Acts 17:10).

Name and etymologies

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, 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.

Compiled from BiblePortal Wiki