Jennie wrote: The Lord didn't GIVE us the church, we ARE the church. He gave us the Holy Spirit and His word and the Spirit gifts each of us in different ways, including men who can teach and lead others. We all have the Holy Spirit to teach and guide us, however, and have the responsibility to compare teachings to scripture, as those often cited Bereans did.
Barbara replied: Never mind that in the context of Acts 17 the Bereans were obviously comparing Paul's teachings to the Hebrew Scriptures (not the NT). Secondly the Bereans are being held up as nice guys because they are willing to listen to give Paul's story a fair chance instead of rising up against him like those in Thessalonica. Third, no where does it say that to be a like a Berean one must compare teachings to scripture on a regular basis to make sure they are true or that everyone should be like the Bereans to be a Christian.
If anything, the Berean story reflects fair-minded tolerance for listening to another's viewpoint and giving it fair consideration instead of just striking out at those who say things you don't want to hear.
I understand that "being a Berean" has become some sort of rallying cry for some sola scriptura Christians, but I think it has been blown way out of Biblical context.
Barbara reminded me privately of an article written by Steve Ray for Catholic apologetics magazine This Rock, back in 1997. It is available online here.
When Protestants use this passage as a proof text for the doctrine of sola scriptura, they should realize that those in question were not Christians; they were Hellenistic Jews. There was no doctrine of sola scriptura within Jewish communities, but the Scriptures were held as sacred. Although the Jews are frequently referred to as "the people of the book," in reality they had a strong oral tradition that accompanied their Scriptures, along with an authoritative teaching authority, as represented by the "seat of Moses" in the synagogues (Matt. 23:2). The Jews had no reason to accept Paul’s teaching as "divinely inspired," since they had just met him. When new teachings sprang up that claimed to be a development of Judaism, the rabbis researched to see if they could be verified from the Torah.
If one of the two groups could be tagged as believers in sola scriptura, who would it be, the Thessalonians or the Bereans? The Thessalonians, obviously. They, like the Bereans, examined the Scriptures with Paul in the synagogue, yet they rejected his teaching. They rejected the new teaching, deciding after three weeks of deliberation that Paul’s word contradicted the Torah. Their decision was not completely unjustified from their scriptural perspective. How could the Messiah of God be cursed by hanging on a tree like a common criminal, publicly displayed as one who bore the judgment of God? What kind of king and Messiah would that be? This seemed irreconcilable to them (see Simon J. Kistemaker, Acts [Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Books, 1990], 614).
When some of the Greeks and prominent citizens did accept Jesus as Messiah, the Jews became jealous—and rightfully so, from their perspective, since the new believers separated themselves from the synagogue and began meeting elsewhere, at Jason’s house. The Jews naturally considered themselves the authoritative interpreters of the Torah. Who were the Gentiles to interpret Scripture and decide important theological issues or accept additional revelation? They were the "dogs," not the chosen custodians of the oracles of God (see William Barclay, The Acts of the Apostles [Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: Westminster Press, 1976], 128).
We can see, then, that if anyone could be classified as adherents to sola scriptura it was the Thessalonian Jews. They reasoned from the Scriptures alone and concluded that Paul’s new teaching was "unbiblical."
The Bereans, on the other hand, were not adherents of sola scriptura, for they were willing to accept Paul’s new oral teaching as the word of God (as Paul claimed his oral teaching was; see 1 Thess. 2:13). The Bereans, before accepting the oral word of God from Paul, a tradition as even Paul himself refers to it (see 2 Thess. 2:15), examined the Scriptures to see if these things were so. They were noble-minded precisely because they "received the word with all eagerness." Were the Bereans commended primarily for searching the Scriptures? No. Their open-minded willingness to listen was the primary reason they are referred to as noble-minded—not that they searched the Scriptures. A perusal of grammars and commentaries makes it clear that they were "noble-minded" not for studying Scripture, but for treating Paul more civilly than did the Thessalonians—with an open mind and generous courtesy (see I. Howard Marshall, "The Acts of the Apostles" in the Tyndale New Testament Commentaries [Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans, 1981], 5:280).