Friday, November 10, 2017

Take a Tip from the Bereans – Part I

Although scientists and scholars often appear to have impressive credentials we must check all claims (including ours) against the Scriptures. In fact, Paul wrote to the Thessalonians “Do not quench the Spirit; do not despise prophetic utterances. But examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good” (1 Thessalonians 5:10-21). That is, we are told to test everything. And what do we test it against? The scriptures, that which God has revealed to man.  
   We have not been left alone, we have his word on all matters, including the age of the Earth and the process by which it was organized, filled, and peopled. If Science makes a claim, we need to test that claim against the scriptural record. If it agrees, then we can accept it. If it does not agree, then we should reject it as being untruthful.
In ancient times, the Bereans were the inhabitants of the city of Berea, also known in the Bible as Beroea, and now known as Veria in what is today Greek Macedonia, northern Greece. The scripture confirms that a Jewish community—large enough to have built a synagogue—lived within the city, even though it was within a Gentile nation. On his second “missionary” journey, following the council in Jerusalem, the apostle Paul came to Berea to preach, after proclaiming the gospel in places like Pillippi and Thessalonica.
    The Bereans had a freer thought than most of their day, were willing to hear reason, and admit the force of it, and to subscribe to that which appeared to them to be truth, though it was contrary to their former sentiments, which made them more noble. They had a better temper, were not so sour, and morose, and ill conditioned towards all that were not of their mid. As they were ready to come into a unity with those that by the power of truth they were brought to concur with, so they continued in charity with those that they saw cause to differ from. This, of course, was more noble than many of their day. They neither prejudged the cause, nor were moved with envy at the managers of it, as the Jews at Thessalolnica were, but very generously gave both it and them a fair hearing, without passion of partiality (Matthew Henry, six-volume Exposition of the Old and New Testaments (1708–10); originally published in 1706, Commentary on the Whole Bible, p2141).
    Of these Bereans, it was said “These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so” (Acts 17:11). In fact, Paul and Silas preached at Berea during Paul’s second missionary journey, “and many of them believed” (Acts 17:11). Why did they believe, because what Paul said was exactly what was in the scriptures of their day—and they were diligent in searching the scriptures and comparing Paul’s words against what had been written.
    It should be noted that Paul did not change what was written, alter its meaning, add his own separate meaning to words, phrases and descriptions, but read from the scriptural record and preached about what was actually written, not his own personal opinion.
    Unfortunately, when the “Jews from Thessalonica learned that the word of God was proclaimed by Paul at Berea also, they came there too, agitating and stirring up the crowds. Then the brothers immediately sent Paul off on his way to the sea, but Silas and Timothy remained there. Those who conducted Paul brought him as far as Athens, and after receiving a command for Silas and Timothy to come to him as soon as possible, they departed.”
    These Bereans exhibited several positive characteristics that marked their response to the gospel message. First and foremost, the Bereans were “more noble” because of their willing reception of the Word of God. Unlike the unbelieving Thessalonian Jews, the Bereans were eager to hear the teaching of Paul and Silas. 
    Second, the Bereans examined what they heard by comparing it to the Old Testament Scriptures. The fact that they honestly listened and conducted further personal research led many Bereans to faith in Jesus as the Messiah. This expansion of Christianity was not limited to those within the synagogue, but also extended to many Greek men and women in Berea. 
    Third, the Bereans guarded Paul’s safety. When Paul’s enemies arrived from nearby Thessalonica, the Berean believers protected Paul by getting him out of the region. They did not turn him over to his enemies or disassociate from him as the Jews from Thessalonica might have expected.
    Fourth, the Bereans continued to grow in their faith. After Paul’s departure, Silas and Timothy remained in Berea. Why? The Bible does not explicitly say, but one reason was probably to give the Berean Christians a chance to obtain further instruction in the Christian faith.
    Later in the book of Acts, we are given further insight into the faithfulness of at least one Berean man. When Paul decided to return for additional ministry in Macedonia despite the tremendous persecution he had recently faced, one of the men who chose to accompany him was from Berea: “There he spent three months, and when a plot was made against him by the Jews as he was about to set sail for Syria, he decided to return through Macedonia. Sopater the Berean, son of Pyrrhus, accompanied him” (Acts 20:3-4). Sopater, likely a Gentile Christian, continued to assist Paul (and Timothy) in ministry long after Paul’s first visit to Berea.
    In summary, the Bereans have long been seen as a positive example of how a person or community should respond to scriptural teaching. We are called to eagerly learn from God’s Word and, no matter who the teacher is, to investigate new teaching in comparison with the Bible. The practice of the ancient Bereans is a model for all who desire to grow spiritually today, and who have a sincere desire to understand what was written anciently by men of God.
    Once again, their model is to test everything spoken (from any source) against the scriptures and compare it to the truth of the gospel and the scriptural record. This is certainly an ideal instruction for us today! Where the Bereans examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true—we can test everything a scientist, politician, or scholar says against the Book of Mormon scriptural record, as well as the Biblical record, to see if what they say is true. We can do this with complete faith because we know that His word is true.
    Thus, when scientists claim the Earth is 4.55 billion years old, we can simply compare that with the scriptural record where Moses, writing what the Lord instructed, gave us a series of dates and ages of the birth of the Patriarchs from father to son, generation to generation. This is verified as a second witness in the Book of Moses in the Pearl of Great Price. The nobleness of such action is summed up by Paul who tells us, “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.”
    We first see that they were more fair-minded than the Jews of Thessalonica—consequently, what does it mean to be fair-minded or noble? The Greek word used in Acts is eugenesteroi, which comes from eugenes, from which we derive the personal name "Eugene." Originally, it meant "wellborn" and implied nobility. Later, it described those of a generous spirit, who are open-minded toward truth, not prejudiced, hostile or suspicious of others, but give others a fair hearing. The Bereans are considered as noble because they listened to the preaching of the gospel with open hearts as they pursued God and His whole truth.
    We also see that they received the Word with "readiness" or eagerness. The Greek word, prothumos, suggests that they looked into the Scriptures with enthusiasm, eagerness, and zeal. The Greek paints a word-picture of a ravenously hungry man who devours the food set before him or an extremely thirsty man who is finally given something to drink. The Bereans were full of enthusiasm, readiness, and zeal for God's Word.
    The important point here is that the Bereans searched the Scriptures to see if what they were being taught was correct. We need to remember that the only Scripture available to them was the Old Testament. The things that Paul and Silas taught them were regarding Jesus Christ and the New Covenant, mentioned in the Old Testament. Most of these people were of Jewish heritage and knew of the Old Testament promises of a Messiah.
(See the next post, “Take a Tip from the Bereans – Part II,” for more information on how the Bereans discerned in all things that which was true and that which was not)


  1. Del- thank you for another wonderful post. Educational and thought provoking. I was just thinking the other day about how much untruth there is in the media, what is being taught in schools, etc. How would one ever know hat is true without being able to test it against the words of the scriptures and living prophets. I'm a convert to the church and consider it an incredible blessing to have the anchor of the gospel in my life.

  2. Del- I've been curious. How many hours per day or week do you put into this blog? Most blogs have an entry or two per week or perhaps per month. Maybe more if the blog is just the musings of what they cooked for breakfast that day. But you put up posts daily that are well thought out, scripturally accurate, often include many references that reflect significant research. Your work is incredibly impressive and much appreciated.

  3. Thank you David. You are very kind. About 30 years ago I began to research the physical location of the Land of Promise as a result of a conversation with a fellow member of our High Priest Group. He told me about South America, but being a Mesoamericanist (more or less) I didn't believe him. But I have always been interested in gaining knowledge and love history, so I embarked on what has become a life-long pursuit of the Book of Mormon--a book when I was a teenager I found almost embarrassing to admit I found important. I was a biblical and mostly a New Testament person in those days. But this many years later and untold hours of research, I find myself believing without a doubt on the location of Lehi’s landing, etc.
    As for time now. I have been writing this blog since January 2010, we just posted our 2,619th article (or blog post), and during that time we have had over 878,000 page views. I actually spend almost all my time on this, considering it my present mission in life, to support the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon, and every word in it and spread that word to as much of the world as will listen and find it interesting—we have hits every day from over ten countries. I refuse to be listed as an apologetic, since the word suggests apologizing (rather than its true meaning of defending—Greek apologia, meaning “speaking in defense”) and as far as I’m concerned, needs no human defense whatever since the Book stands on its own in every aspect of what is written within its pages. I find the book so fascinatingly accurate and interesting in every way and hard to put down once picked up, and love to write about it.
    Again, thank you for your kind words and interest.

  4. Article of Faith 9, D&C 121:26-31, John 16:12-13 and many other scriptures shows that God will YET reveal many more things. The point is, we cannot assume our present scriptural understanding of things will not be at least somewhat modified by what is revealed in the future. For example, think of how hard it has been for many Bible believers to accept the further revelations brought forth through the Prophet Joseph.

    Moses 3:5, after giving the seven day account of the creation and day of rest, says: “For I, the Lord God, CREATED ALL THINGS, OF WHICH I HAVE SPOKEN, SPIRITUALLY, before they were naturally upon the face of the earth.”

    Therefore, it is not clear how old the earth is because the seven day creation account is an account of the spirit creation – not an account of the temporal creation of our earth up to Adam.

    From the scriptures we do know fairly accurately how long ago Adam came into this “lone and dreary world”. But we cannot assume that the seven thousand year account of which God had just spoken happened just before Adam fell. Right?

  5. erichard, Interesting topic. Around 10 years ago the Institute for Creation research (ICR) conducted some scientific studies into the age of the earth. Their project was called Radioisotopes and the Age of the Earth (RATE). They used the leakage rate of helium from crystals to determine the age of the earth. The work was conducted by PhD's to perform rigorous science. They used as I recall 2-billion year old granite to conduct the age dating. Anyway, bottom line - they found that the earth was 7,000 years old. In other words Adam's creation occurred shortly after the creation of the earth. Of course the secular scientific community disputed the claims but I found their research very interesting. For the first time we have scientific proof of the age of the earth. The scriptures tell us the earth is young, Adam was the first man, AND the first flesh on the earth. That means there were no animals of any kind on this earth before Adam.