Berea, pronounced Ver-ee-a in Greek, is 73km WSW of Thessaloniki and 511km NNW from Athens. Situated at the foot of the Vermio Mountains overlooking the plain below, Berea is a very old city and is mentioned by Thucydides in 432BC, which makes it older than Thessaloniki.

The most surprising thing you will find when visiting Berea is the number of water fountains in the city. They appear about every 100 metres as you walk through the town and contribute to the river which passes through the city. Nearby the river is the old Jewish quarter, with its narrow pedestrian streets and a renovated Synagogue that is said to be about 2000 years old.

Before World War II, the Jewish population in Berea was about 650 but on 1 May 1943, the Nazis imprisoned the Jews in their own Synagogue and confiscated their possessions. Subsequently in the Holocaust, 460 perished whilst 136 managed to escape to the mountains. After the war, 123 of them returned but they found that their homes were occupied by newcomers and their belongings were all gone; so the majority immigrated to Israel or America.

Berea is mentioned in the Bible in Acts 17:10-14 on Paul’s second missionary journey. In Thessaloniki, the Jews caused an uproar forcing the brethren to send Paul and Silas to Berea, 73km away. The noble Jews in Berea are a good example of how to investigate and find the Truth: “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” (v11-12).

All the things we believe in have to be established by the Holy Scriptures (1 Thess 5:21; 2 Tim 3:15-17) and the people in Berea did this in a straightforward, logical way. One of the key converts was Sopater of Berea, who later accompanied Paul to Jerusalem (Acts 20:4). Luke records that due to their diligent enquiry, “Therefore many of them believed; also of honourable women which were Greeks, and of men, not a few.”

The Greek word translated “honourable” is euschemon which means “well formed” and by extension is used in the sense of being of good standing; decorous; noble in rank. It shows that women in the first century did think for themselves, understood and believed in their own right. It is interesting that the Jews stirred up some “honourable women” against the believers in Antioch in Acts 13:50.

The conversion of women is often mentioned in Luke’s writings. Lydia is mentioned by name in Philippi (Acts 16:14), as is Damaris in Athens (Acts 17:34). In Thessaloniki, Luke records that among those that believed were “of the chief women not a few” (Acts 17:4).

Close to Berea, 11km away on the other side of the Haliacmon river, is Vergina (pron. Ver-yeen-ah), famous for being the first capital of Macedonia. It was here that Philip II was assassinated in the theatre and his son, Alexander the Great, was proclaimed king in 336BC. Philip’s tomb was later found here in 1976, untouched, complete with a golden box containing his bones and the golden wreath of oak leaves and acorns. Other magnificent items include several gold-adorned suits of armour, weapons and bronze funeral utensils.

Today’s inhabitants of Berea are quite proud of their city being mentioned in the Bible, but sadly, cling to their Greek Orthodox beliefs. May we, however, take the lesson from their ancient citizens and examine the Scriptures to see what they really tell us.