Important figure in the apostolic Church and frequent companion of St. Paul. The two names, Silas (used throughout Acts) and Silvanus (found in the Epistles: 2 Cor 1.19; 1 Thes 1.1; 2 Thes 1.1; 1 Pt 5.12), assuredly belonged to the same man. Either he had two names, as Paul (who is also called Saul), or Silas is a Greek form of the Latin Silvanus.
Silas enjoyed Roman citizenship (Acts 16.37). He is first mentioned as one of the "leading men" of the Church at Jerusalem (15.22). After the Council of Jerusalem he was selected, together with Judas Barsabbas, as the bearer of the decree of the Council to Antioch (15.27). At Antioch they encouraged the Christians in their faith and exercised the office of "prophets" (15.32). Silas remained there, while Judas returned to Jerusalem (15.34–35). Some time later, Silas was chosen to accompany Paul on his second missionary journey, after the disagreement between Paul and Barnabas over John Mark (15.40). At Philippi, because they exorcised a girl possessed by a divining spirit, Paul and Silas were treated badly by the citizens and beaten with rods. They were imprisoned, but a midnight earthquake opened the doors of the jail. Instead of escaping, they calmed the jailer and converted his whole family. When the magistrates of the city wanted to release them secretly, Paul and Silas demanded redress for the unjust treatment accorded them even though they were Roman citizens (16.19–40). They went on to preach the gospel in Thessalonica, but soon the jealousy of the Jews forced them to go on to Beroea (Acts 17.4, 10). Silas stayed there with Timothy while Paul went on to Athens (17.14). Later they joined Paul in Corinth and were with him when he wrote the two letters to the Thessalonians (1 Thes 1.1; 2 Thes 1.1). There is no record of Silas's further activity with Paul. He must have joined St. Peter at some later time, however, for he served as St. Peter's secretary or even as coauthor of 1 Peter (1 Pt 5.12).
Legend says Silas was the first bishop of Corinth and died in Macedonia.
Feast: July 13.
Bibliography: a. stegmann, Silvanus als Missionar und "Hagiograph" (Rottenburg 1917). l. radermacher, "Der erste Petrusbrief und Silvanus," Zeitschrift für die neutestamentliche Wissenschaft und die Kunde der ärlteren Kirche 25 (1926) 287–299.