It seems very interesting to me that actual city of “Berea” and by extension, its people, are only mentioned three times in two chapters of Acts, and yet it is the main defense for the somewhat destructive practice of what some call “heresy hunting”. To that end, I feel I must explain my understanding of correct doctrine regarding this small piece of scripture.
Then the brethren immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea. When they arrived, they went into the synagogue of the Jews. These were more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so. Therefore many of them believed, and also not a few of the Greeks, prominent women as well as men. Acts 17:10-12
Okay, the first thing in understanding doctrine is to decide what the passage is actually talking about. The context here is that Paul and Silas had basically just started a riot in Thessalonica because many people were converted in the teaching of the Gospel. According to the author of Acts, the riot started because the Jews who did not believe the words of Paul became jealous of all the converts to Paul’s religion. So those Jews began a riot. The brethren who had just been converted are the ones who sent Paul and Silas away to Berea… specifically to escape the persecution in Thessalonica.
Now the Bereans themselves are called being “more fair-minded” according to the NKJV and “more noble” according to the KJV than those at Thessalonica. We must ask why this term is applied. I believe the answer is a simple one. They were more fair-minded because “they recieved the word with all readiness”. They did not riot or feel threatened, but they were open to hearing the message presented to them by Paul.
They searched the scriptures. This is important to note because they didn’t just take whatever they heard and tuck it away in their doctrinal cabinets to be used later. However, they were searching the scripture to see if these things they were being taught were true. It was not done cynically in a “thou must prove thyself” attitude of haughtiness, but it was an attitude of “this is new…I wonder if it says what they say it does”. The searching was not from a place of trying to disprove Paul, but rather to see if the Scripture proved his words. On the one hand, it would seem to be a small difference in wording, but in reality that makes a huge difference in “searching the scriptures”.
The thing that I find interesting about the mentioning of the Bereans is that these were Jews, checking the Old Testament to see if what Paul was telling them was truth. This was not Paul delivering new forms of doctrine to an already established church, but this was Paul preaching to people of a different faith altogether. So not only can we establish that it should be possible to lead someone to the Gospel knowledge of Jesus Christ through the Old Testament alone, but that the Bereans did not feel a need to run off and start a riot because of their findings that Paul was correct. For all of our doctrinal understandings related to Berea, it is the least mentioned topic in the Bible. The only other time the city is mentioned is when Luke gives account in Acts 20 of who was traveling with Paul. Perhaps we focus too much on the Scotch Pine and miss the forrest that tree is in?