Silas, also known as Silvanus, was a prominent member of the early church (see People or Place?) at Jerusalem. Silas and Silvanus were apparently the Greek and Latin versions of the same name, which were possibly themselves a derivative of the Hebrew name Saul. Silas and Judas (not to be confused with Judas Iscariot), also known as Barsabas (not to be confused with Barnabas or Barabbas), were chosen to accompany Paul and Barnabas on their return to Antioch from the Jerusalem council of the apostles and elders. Silas was later an assistant and traveling companion of Paul on his second missionary journey (see Paul's First Missionary Journey,
Paul's Second Missionary Journey and
Paul's Third Missionary Journey).
Silas and Barsabbas were chosen to accompany Paul to Antioch and deliver a letter which contained doctrinal instructions for the Gentiles there:
"Then it seemed good to the apostles and the elders, with the whole church, to choose men from among them and send them to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas. They sent Judas called Barsabbas, and Silas, leading men among the brethren, with the following letter:
"The brethren, both the apostles and the elders, to the brethren who are of the Gentiles in Antioch and Syria and Cilicia, greeting. Since we have heard that some persons from us have troubled you with words, unsettling your minds, although we gave them no instructions, it has seemed good to us, having come to one accord, to choose men and send them to you with our beloved Barnabas and Paul, men who have risked their lives for the sake of our Lord Jesus Christ. We have therefore sent Judas and Silas, who themselves will tell you the same things by word of mouth. For it has seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things: that you abstain from what has been sacrificed to idols and from blood and from what is strangled and from unchastity. If you keep yourselves from these, you will do well. Farewell."
"So when they were sent off, they went down to Antioch; and having gathered the congregation together, they delivered the letter." (Acts 15:22-30 RSV)
Silas accompanied Paul on his second missionary journey, and was brutally arrested along with him in Philippi after Paul cast a "spirit of divination" out of a slave girl, which enraged her owners. God miraculously saved Paul and Silas out of the prison however, an event that resulted in the Baptism of the jailer:
"As we were going to the place of prayer, we were met by a slave girl who had a spirit of divination and brought her owners much gain by soothsaying. She followed Paul and us, crying, "These men are servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to you the way of salvation." And this she did for many days. But Paul was annoyed, and turned and said to the spirit, "I charge you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her." And it came out that very hour."
"But when her owners saw that their hope of gain was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the market place before the rulers; and when they had brought them to the magistrates they said, "These men are Jews and they are disturbing our city. They advocate customs which it is not lawful for us Romans [see Ancient Empires - Rome] to accept or practice."
"The crowd joined in attacking them; and the magistrates tore the garments off them and gave orders to beat them with rods. And when they had inflicted many blows upon them, they threw them into Prison, charging the jailer to keep them safely. Having received this charge, he put them into the inner prison and fastened their feet in the stocks."
"But about midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them, and suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken; and immediately all the doors were opened and every one's fetters were unfastened. When the jailer woke and saw that the prison doors were open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself, supposing that the prisoners had escaped. But Paul cried with a loud voice, "Do not harm yourself, for we are all here."
"And he called for lights and rushed in, and trembling with fear he fell down before Paul and Silas, and brought them out and said, "Men, what must I do to be saved?"
"And they said, "Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household." And they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all that were in his house. And he took them the same hour of the night, and washed their wounds, and he was baptized at once, with all his family. Then he brought them up into his house, and set food before them; and he rejoiced with all his household that he had believed in God." (Acts 16:16-34 RSV)
Silas was also a close associate of the apostle Peter, with Silas doing the actual writing of at least one of Peter's epistles (unlike the apostle Paul, the formally-educated Pharisee, the apostle Peter, the fisherman, may not have been as experienced at writing, which is perhaps one of the reasons that the New Testament has 13 (or 14, if you count Hebrews) lengthy Epistles by Paul and only 2 relatively short epistles by Peter):
"By Silvanus [i.e. Silas], a faithful brother as I regard him, I [i.e. Peter] have written briefly to you [i.e. Silas wrote it as Peter dictated it to him], exhorting and declaring that this is the true grace of God; stand fast in it." (1 Peter 5:12 RSV)
Fact Finder: Did the apostle Paul mention Silas/Silvanus in the opening address of his Epistles to the Thessalonians?
1 Thessalonians 1:1, 2 Thessalonians 1:1