(Siʹlas), Silvanus (Sil·vaʹnus) [from Lat., meaning “Forest; Woods”].
A leading member of the first-century Christian congregation in Jerusalem, a prophet, and a companion of Paul on his second missionary journey. He was apparently a Roman citizen. (Ac 15:22, 26, 27, 32, 40; 16:19, 25, 37, 38) Likely the name Silvanus, found in the letters of Paul and Peter, was the Latinized form of the Greek name Silas, used by Luke in Acts.
Whether Silas remained in the vicinity of Antioch or returned to Jerusalem is uncertain. Some manuscripts contain Acts 15:34, which reads: “But it seemed good to Silas to remain there further.” But the most prominent manuscripts omit this verse. (See NW ftn.) At any rate Silas was in Antioch at the start of Paul’s second missionary tour. Beginning there, he and Paul traveled N and W through Syria, then Cilicia and other regions of Asia Minor. Timothy joined them at Lystra and Luke at Troas.
Being invited into Macedonia in a dream given to Paul, they first stayed in Philippi. In the marketplace there, Silas and Paul were beaten with rods by order of the civil magistrates and were put in prison stocks, but during the night, while they were praying and singing songs, an earthquake loosened their prison bonds and the prison doors were opened. The jailer was much frightened and, listening to Paul and Silas, became a Christian, caring for their injuries suffered from the beating.—Ac 15:41–16:40.
Their ministry found success in Thessalonica and Beroea, where Silas and Timothy remained behind temporarily while Paul went on to Athens and Corinth. (Ac 17:1, 10, 14-16; 18:1) When Silas and Timothy finally caught up with Paul in Corinth, they continued to assist Paul. While there they joined with Paul in writing the two letters to the Thessalonians. (1Th 1:1; 2Th 1:1) Silas is not mentioned again in the historical narrative of Paul’s travels.
Some years later, around 62-64 C.E., Peter wrote his first letter from Babylon “through Silvanus,” evidently meaning that Silvanus acted as Peter’s secretary. He was there described as “a faithful brother,” and he was likely the Silvanus earlier associated with Paul.—1Pe 5:12.