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Book of Acts Chapter 27 - Christogenea Internet Radio 01-17-2014
In Acts chapter 26, Paul was afforded the opportunity to address a rather large crowd, at what Luke depicted as a rather festive gathering, concerning his Christian profession. As we discussed at length while presenting that chapter, Paul did not necessarily speak for the benefit of Herod Agrippa, who was an Edomite and certainly not a candidate for the Christian profession. Rather, Paul addressed Herod as a matter of protocol, and used the occasion in order to witness to the many hundreds of others who must have been present. We pointed out that Paul himself explained his philosophy in these matters in the first chapter of his epistle to the Philippians, where he attested “... that those things concerning me have gone still more to the advancement of the good message, so that my bonds in Christ have become manifest to the whole Praetorium and to all the rest; and most of the brethren among the number of the Prince, trusting in my bonds, venture more exceedingly to speak the word of Yahweh fearlessly. Some indeed even because of envy and strife, but some also by approval are proclaiming the Christ. Surely these out of love, knowing that I am set for a defense of the good message, but those out of contention are declaring the Christ not purely, supposing to stir up tribulation in my bonds. What then? That in every way, whether in pretext or in truth, Christ is declared, and in this I rejoice. And surely I will rejoice.”
Luke's record of Paul's defense of the faith in Acts chapter 26 most likely did not represent everything that Paul had said that day. Rather, it is evident that each time such an episode is related in Scripture, only particular points are recalled by the writer. We see this style throughout the Gospels, where Christ had spoken and where His words were recorded by more than one apostle, often one apostle recorded His words somewhat differently than the others, while all are clearly recalling the same account. One may have more or different details than the other, and having two or three accounts and compounding them we may see a fuller picture of what Christ had done or said. In the same manner, a fuller account of Paul's actions prior to his conversion, and the road to Damascus event itself, is brought to light once all three of the descriptions of those things which are found in Acts are compounded. Yet while we have only this one account of Paul's final address in Judaea, we do have a comprehensive witness of his Christian profession to the Judaeans, meaning of course, the Israelites of Judaea, and we have it in the epistle to the Hebrews. Here it may be appropriate to discuss that epistle.
The main points of the Epistle to the Hebrews, if I may summarize them briefly, are these: That there is a new priesthood in Christ, and that priesthood gets its authority from the ancient priesthood of Melchizedek, which is the “church of the firstborn” in Christ, and that since Abraham himself was subservient to that priesthood, all of Israel should also be subservient to Christ. It asserts that the New Covenant promised in Jeremiah is fulfilled in Christ and is binding to the same house of Israel and house of Judah that the Old Covenant had bound, and that – according to Scripture – with this New Covenant the Old Covenant is thereby dissolved. Therefore the Levitical priesthood is eclipsed by a higher authority which had actually preceded it, and the rituals and ordinances which it enforced are also eclipsed, being replaced by a new high priest, which is Christ, and a temple which is in the heavens, which is in that Spirit that God had bestowed upon Adamic man from the beginning. The Epistle to the Hebrews seeks to demonstrate that the faith in Christ is the same faith which the patriarchs and heroes of ancient Israel had in Yahweh God, and that faith transcends the Levitical priesthood and its ordinances and rituals because it actually preceded them. The epistle to the Hebrews is not looking to convince the naysayers that Yahshua is the Christ, and there are no arguments in that regard. Rather, it is written to give a perspective on the new Christian faith to those who have already accepted Christ. The intended audience therefore must have been those who were later known as Ebionite Christians. Also, and quite importantly because many of the people of Israel at this time are actually Edomite bastards, a thorough repudiation of bastards and of Esau, the ancestor of the Edomites, is found towards the end of the epistle, in Hebrews chapter 12.
While the epistle to the Hebrews is unlike any of Paul's other letters, in content and in style it certainly seems to be Paul's work. Yet he does not introduce himself, and there seems to have been specific reasons for that. From the last chapter of the epistle, it is evident that Paul was indeed its author [discounting the interpolation of the word “my” found in the Majority Text at Hebrews 10:34]. Of course, the writing itself was not Paul's, but he had others do the actual writing of his letters for him, for which there are examples in Romans and Galatians.
Ostensibly, Paul did not reveal his identity as its author at the beginning of the epistle because he was reviled by the Christians of Judaea, who had disdained Paul, as the elders at Jerusalem had explained in Acts chapter 21, because he was teaching that Christians should not follow the works of the Law. It is therefore evident that if Paul wanted his epistle to be distributed as a doctrinal dissertation in teaching Christians why they should depart from the Levitical priesthood and the rituals and works of the law, he would not introduce himself because he would want his dissertation to be read. Considering all of the statements about these things in the Book of Acts, the differences between Paul and James, the vacillation of Peter, and Paul's remarks concerning these differences in Galatians chapter 2, the epistle to the Hebrews seems to be perhaps the most perfect answer in regard to all of these things which Paul could have made. In the history of Christendom, the epistle to the Hebrews certainly prevailed in practice, until the Roman Catholic Church slipped back into Pharisaism and developed its own rituals, which it calls sacraments, and man simply cannot seem to escape the fallacious belief in a works-based salvation.
The epistle to the Hebrews, eloquent in style, seems to have been written by Luke. From the end of the epistle, it is evident that Paul is the subject of the salutation, and that he was personally familiar with the Hebrews to whom he addressed this epistle. It is unlikely at any point after his arrest that Paul would have desired to return to Jerusalem, with the hostility and the many threats against his life that faced him there. The Hebrews at Antioch, where Paul had spent considerable time and which was the center of Christianity at the time, are much more likely to have been the intended audience for the epistle.
Here we shall read the salutation at the end, from Hebrews chapter 13: “18 Pray for us, for we have confidence that we have a good conscience, in all things wishing to conduct ourselves well. 19 And more exceedingly I encourage to do this, that more quickly I would be restored to you. 20 And Yahweh of peace, who led up the Great Shepherd of the sheep from among the dead, in the blood of the eternal covenant, our Prince Yahshua, 21 may He restore you in all good for which to do His will, making in us that which is well pleasing before him, through Yahshua Christ to whom is honor for the ages. Truly. 22 Now I encourage you, brethren, uphold the Word of encouragement, for also in humbleness I have written to you. 23 You know that Timotheos our brother has been released, with whom - if he would come sooner - I will see you. 24 Greet all of your leaders, and all the saints. They from Italy greet you. 25 Favor is with you all.”
There are several challenges in calculating when, to whom and from where this epistle may have been written. Paul is in bonds, which is evident in verse 19 where he expresses the hope of being restored to the people he is addressing. Timothy was also in bonds, and here Paul announces his release. Reading verse 24, it is easy to assert that Hebrews was written from Rome, but it is not necessarily true. Where Paul explicitly says “they from Italy” in his epistle to the Hebrews, he does is not by necessity referring to people in Italy. While the popular wisdom has it that Paul wrote the epistle to the Hebrews from Italy, and sent it to them with the just-released Timothy, I would not be so quick to agree. Rather, it is evident that the epistle to the Hebrews was written from Caesareia, before Paul went to Rome.
In Acts 20:4 it is evident that several people are accompanying Paul on his way to Jerusalem, the very trip which would lead to his arrest. Among those people are Timothy, Aristarchus the Makedonian, and Trophimus the Ephesian. Much later, writing Timothy from Rome, Paul recounts all of those people associated with his ministry, and that he had left Trophimus behind in Miletus, since he was sick. It seems that Paul wrote that, although Timothy certainly should have known it, because the epistle being to Timothy was nevertheless written for a wider audience than Timothy alone.
Timothy was with Paul in Rome, and he is mentioned in three letters which Paul wrote from Rome: Philippians, Colossians and Philemon. But there is no explicit indication from Paul that Timothy was actually a prisoner with him in Rome while he was writing those letters, and certain sentences are worded in a manner which indicates otherwise, such as the opening to the epistle to Philemon. The language in Philippians 2:19-23 shows that Timothy was a free man, although he was in Paul's company, when Paul wrote that epistle. Paul, staying in his own hired house while he was in bonds in Rome, Timothy must have only been visiting him when he wrote these epistles, and this is made manifest when we inspect them.
When we compare 2 Timothy 4:9-12 with Colossians 4:10, it is evident that 2 Timothy was written before Colossians. While writing Colossians, Timothy (Colossians 1:1), Mark and Luke (Colossians 4:10, 14) are all with Paul in Rome. Writing 2 Timothy, Paul had asked Timothy to come to him in Rome, and to bring Mark along with him. From the KJV, 2 Timothy 4:9-13, in part: “ 9 Do thy diligence to come shortly unto me: 10 For Demas hath forsaken me, having loved this present world, and is departed unto Thessalonica; Crescens to Galatia, Titus unto Dalmatia. 11 Only Luke is with me. Take Mark, and bring him with thee: for he is profitable to me for the ministry. 12 And Tychicus have I sent to Ephesus. 13 The cloke that I left at Troas with Carpus, when thou comest, bring with thee, and the books, but especially the parchments.” Therefore when Paul wrote Colossians, and all of these men are together as Paul had asked, we see that Timothy was not his fellow-prisoner.
If Timothy was a free man when Paul wrote his epistles from Rome, then Timothy was released from being a prisoner before Paul got to Rome, and that is why Paul is writing Timothy to come to him while he is in Rome, and before he wrote those epistles! This is more evident in this next chapter of Acts. Here in Acts chapter 27, with Paul in bonds and boarding a ship for Rome, Luke going with him mentions that they are accompanied by “Aristarchos, a Makedonian of Thessalonikea”. This must be that same Aristarchus who accompanied Paul to Jerusalem with Timothy and the others who are with him in Acts chapter 20. Yet if Timothy were in bonds with Paul when he is sent to Rome, it seems odd that Luke does not mention Timothy here, but that he does mention Aristarchus. In Colossians, written later from Rome, Paul mentions that Timothy is with him, and we see in 2 Timothy that Timothy was a free man who then came to be with him, as Paul had requested. Then in the salutation at the end of the epistle, Paul again mentions Aristarchus, and explicitly calls Aristarchus his “fellow-prisoner”. Luke, Mark and others are also mentioned, but they are not called “fellow prisoners” with Paul. Timothy had come to Rome to see Paul, and he brought Mark along with him.
We know of none of the details which relate to why Aristarchus is being sent to Rome along with Paul here, but Aristarchus is still in bonds with Paul when he wrote the epistle to the Colossians some time later. Was Aristarchus also a Roman citizen? Did Aristarchus also appeal to Caesar? That appears to be the only circumstances which fit his predicament. It is evident throughout his writing that Luke generally only followed the central character in the narrative, which was indeed Paul.
However if Timothy is not here, and if he is not a prisoner with Paul in Rome, then he may have also been arrested with Paul in Jerusalem, but released from bonds while they were still in Caesareia. If this is true, we must consider that the epistle to the Hebrews was written while Paul was in bonds in Caesareia, and that the reference to Italians is a reference to some visitors from Italy. While Paul had not yet been to Italy before this time, he did know Christians who had resided in Rome previously, such as Priscilla and Aquila. In any event, the conventional wisdom is wrong once again. The epistle to the Hebrews, written here in Caesareia, is therefore the eighth of Paul's surviving epistles, since he had actually written more than those which we now have.
XXVII 1 And as it was decided for us to sail off to Italy, they turned Paul and some other prisoners over to a centurion named Ioulios of the cohort of Sebastos.
Sebastos, the Greek equivalent of Augustus, is a reference to Nero Caesar. Julius, being a centurion of the “cohort of Sebastos”, or “Augustus' band” as the King James Version has it, was ostensibly a member of the imperial guard. Some commentators imagine that Luke is referring to Caesareia where he says Sebastos here, intending the city itself. However that is not how Luke had just used the term, twice towards the end of Acts chapter 25, where it is also a reference to Nero. The city, named Caesareia in honor of Octavian, was known as Caesarea Maritima or Caesarea Palestinae, and Sebastos, also after the emperor, was only the name of its harbor and never of the city.
The rest of Acts chapter 27 contains mostly a description of the journey which Luke and Paul had made to Rome, a journey which would take many months to complete, ostensibly because of what must have been a somewhat earlier-than-expected onset of winter weather. At the end of Acts 27, the journey is not even finished.
On the surface of his writing, it seems that Luke was fascinated with travel, since his travels with Paul are among the most detailed portions of Acts. In truth, however, we do not know what other writings were made which may have filled in many other details, writings such as those epistles which are now lost. It is difficult to imagine that Paul, having traveled through so many cities with the gospel message for perhaps 25 years, only wrote those fourteen epistles which we have, and the two which we can be certain are missing. If Paul never wrote an epistle until after the events of Acts chapter 15, circa 47 AD, and now it is 59 AD, with 8 of his known epistles and one of his missing epistles written by this time (the mentioned at 1 Corinthians 5:9), did Paul only write an average of less than one epistle each year? That is difficult to imagine, and especially since there was no television in those days.
2 And boarding into a ship of Adramuttios being about to sail to places throughout Asia we set sail, there being with us Aristarchos, a Makedonian of Thessalonikea.
The Codices Alexandrinus (A) and Vaticanus (B) have “Adramuntios”, a name which does not seem to describe any place known to have existed. The text follows the Codex Sinaiticus (א) and the Majority Text.
Adramuttios (or Adramyttium, as it is commonly written), a city near Mount Ida and ancient Troy, just south of the Troad, according to Strabo was “a city colonised by the Athenians, which has both a harbour and a naval station” (13.1.51). This ship must have been from there and was probably headed there. The centurion must have planned ahead on a connection with another ship at one of the stopping points, in order to get to Rome.
The reference to Aristarchos, a Makedonian of Thessalonica, is a reference to Paul's traveling companion (Acts 19:29 and 20:4), and as Paul had written later his fellow-worker (Philemon 24), and also his fellow prisoner in Christ (Colossians 4:10). Luke's mention of him here is revealing, since we see that Paul was not arrested alone. However this is the first and only explicit mention in Acts of anyone having been arrested along with Paul, since throughout the narrative Luke follows only the central character. While Luke and Paul and Aristarchus are together for quite some time, Luke's writing style in this regard is also very impersonal.
3 And on the next day we landed in Sidon, and Ioulios [A has Ioulianos here, but Ioulios at verse 1] treating Paul friendlily permitted him going to his friends to obtain care.
In earlier chapters of Acts we considered the harsh penalty, perhaps even death, which men in authority had to face for the loss of a prisoner. This was seen in Acts chapter 12 where Peter escaped the guards of Herod, and in Acts chapter 16 where the jailer in Philippi almost slew himself rather than face the consequences, imagining his prisoners to have escaped after an earthquake over which he had no control. Here we see this Julius must have been a man of great faith, since he allows Paul, a prisoner, such freedom in spite of the possible penalties he could face if Paul had chosen to escape.
4 And setting sail from there we sailed beneath Kupros on account of there being opposing winds [literally “on account of the winds being opposing”], 5 and sailing through the sea by Kilikia and Pamphulia we landed in Mura of Lukia.
Roman merchant vessels typically had one large sail, and depending on their size perhaps a second smaller sail on the bow which was also used for steering. They had rudders, but no oars, so they were at the mercy of the winds. This vessel, probably accepting or discharging freight at each port it stopped in, would have sailed along the coasts. The common smaller Roman merchant vessels, engaged mostly in the grain trade and trade in general goods, typically had a displacement of about 75 tons.
Strangely, the Codices Sinaiticus (א) and Alexandrinus have Lustra here, rather than Mura, where the Codex Vaticanus has Murra. Paul visited Lystra earlier in Acts, which is described in chapters 14 and 16, however Lystra was in Lycaonia, far inland from the coast. Strabo mentions Mura (or Myra) twice in his Geography in his description of Lukia (or Lycia) in Book 14 (14.3.3 and 14.3.7), where there is no mention of a Lustra (or Lystra), and so the text here follows the Majority Text and other medieval manuscripts, which spell Mura with a single 'r', as the Codex Vaticanus spells it with a double 'r'.
6 And the centurion finding there an Alexandrian ship sailing to Italy he boarded us into it.
While Luke never tells us anything about the fates of the other men who were with Paul, except his brief mention of Aristarchus here, the language that he uses reveals to us the possibility that that he himself was not traveling along with Paul freely, but perhaps he too was arrested in the temple in Jerusalem. This would explain why he could provide such detailed accounts concerning many things which happened to Paul while he was detained, such as the exchanges between Paul and the Roman commander, or Paul and his nephew, which are described in Acts chapters 22 and 23. That Aristarchus was a prisoner along with Paul is evidenced at Colossians 4:10, yet Luke only gives him one brief mention here in Acts chapter 27. While Luke is not explicitly called a prisoner, he too is mentioned as being present in that epistle, and he very well may have been a prisoner with Paul throughout all of this time.
7 And with considerable days sailing slowly and hardly coming by Knidos, the wind not allowing us to approach we sailed beneath Krete by Salmone, 8 and barely sailing by it we came to a certain place called Fair Havens which was near to a city, Lasaia.
The Codex Sinaiticus (א) has “Lassaia”, the Alexandrinus (A) “Alassa”, and the Vaticanus (B) “Lasea”; the text here follows the spelling of the Majority Text, where it is close enough to either the Sinaiticus or Vaticanus.
Knidos, or Cnidus, is on the tip of a long peninsula which juts out from the southwest coast of Anatolia, and is just south of the island of Kos, or Cos. The exact location of Salmone is uncertain, but Fair Havens is just east of Lasaia, a town on the southern coast of Crete. Modern maps place Fair Havens, or Kaloi Limenes, near the center of the southern coast of Crete, which comprises the southernmost part of the island.
9 And passing considerable time and already it being dangerous for the voyage, because the fast had already passed,
The reference to the “fast” could only intend the Day of Atonement (Lev. 16:29-31 and 23:27-32) which occurred in late September or early October. It was considered unsafe to sail in the fall and winter months, the winds and sea being quite dangerous in the cold seasons. With this it may also be evident that Paul most likely sailed for Rome the same year Festus became procurator of Judaea, which was 59 AD. The events described in Acts chapters 25 and 26 may easily have transpired over a period of a few months. Paul would not reach Rome until 60 AD.
Paul recommended, 10 speaking to them “Men, I perceive that the voyage is going to be with injury and much damage not only of the freight and the ship but even of our lives!”
Paul's concern here is based upon common sense, and shipwrecks in the Mediterranean were very common, especially at this time of the year. Only later, recorded in verse 23, does Paul relate a vision he had which more clearly reveals the fate of the ship and its passengers.
11 But the centurion was rather persuaded by the pilot and the ship-owner than by the things spoken by Paul.
Evidently, the Roman centurion had some degree of authority over the actions of the pilot and ship-owner, who simply persuaded him to allow them to continue with the voyage. The concerns of the pilot and ship-owner would have been centered on the freight and its value, and also probably on whether they would spend the winter in the comfort of Rome, or in some strange foreign port.
12 And the haven being inconvenient for spending the winter, the majority voted counsel to set sail from there, if somehow they would be able arriving to winter in Phoinix, a harbor of Krete looking towards the southwest and towards the northwest.
The directions here, “southwest” and “northwest”, are literally the names of certain winds, Λίψ and Χῶρος respectively. It is difficult to determine exactly what Luke meant by the directions, since the harbor itself and its precise location cannot be accurately reconstructed. Cutting Crete in half, Phoenix – which is a park and tourist attraction today – was a port near a peninsula which juts out about midway along the western half of the island's southern coast. Being in an inlet at the western side of the peninsula, it was sheltered from the open sea. Strabo mentions Phoenix in passing in the tenth book of his Geography (10.4.3). Of course, the name is a remnant of the ancient Greek accounts of the Phoenician settlement of Europe.
13 Then with the south wind blowing gently, supposing the proposal to have prevailed, taking off they sailed by close to Krete.
By the phrase “supposing the proposal to have prevailed” Luke describes the hope which the crew had that their plan would be successful.
14 But not much later there cast against her a tempestuous wind, which is called eurakulon, 15 and upon the ship’s being seized and carried and not able to face the wind giving up we were borne along.
The Majority Text has “eurokludon”; the text follows the Codices Sinaiticus (א), Alexandrinus (A), and Vaticanus (B). Thayer defines εὐρακύλων (which has no Strong’s #) as simply a North East wind, and εὐροκλύδων (2148) as a South East wind raising mighty waves. The word εὖρος is “the East wind, or more exactly East South East” (Liddell & Scott). Strabo discusses many of the names which the Greeks gave to the winds in the first book of his Geography (at 1.2.21), but mentions neither eurakulon nor eurokludon. As with Mura in v. 5, it may be that the Majority Text is the more accurate of the manuscripts here also, the description and the name of the wind, εὐροκλύδων, fitting the account since a κλύδων is a wave. While neither is this wind which is called the εὐροκλύδων mentioned by Strabo, it is further possible, that many of these names were regional, the weather being somewhat different in various parts of the Mediterranean.
16 And being run below a certain island called Kauda we were barely able to attain full control of the skiff, 17 which taking up they used supports undergirding the boat, and fearing lest they should run aground in the Surtis, lowering the vessel thusly they were borne along.
The word translated “run aground” here is ἐκπίπτω (1601) which is literally to fall out, meaning to fall out of the sea in this context. It appears also in verses 26 and 29, and in verse 32 where it is to fall away in a different context.
While Liddell & Scott define Surtis as “the name of two large sand banks (Major and Minor) on the coast of Libya”, and the King James Version renders the word as “quicksands”, the Surtis, or Syrtis, actually refers to one of two large gulfs along the coast of northern Africa, the Syrtis Major and the Syrtis Minor. They are identified today as the Gulf of Sidra on the coast of modern Libya, and the Gulf of Gabès on the coast of what is now called Tunisia, much of which is shallow and contains many hazards to shipping.
The Codices Sinaiticus (א) and Alexandrinus (A) have “Klauda”; the Majority Text “Klaude”; the text here follows the Codex Vaticanus. The island which Luke called Kauda is the modern Gavdos, a small island (not 13 square miles) nearly 30 miles south of the coast of Crete.
The skiff is a small boat on board the larger merchant vessel. The King James translation seems to lose all of Luke's intended meaning in this regard, since they evidently did not understand the difference between the small boat, or skiff, which was mounted aboard the ship, and the ship itself. While the ship itself is called a πλοῖον (4143) except later at verse 41 where on one occasion it is called a ναῦς (3491), here in verses 16 and 17 three different words are used which all must refer to the skiff, which was a small boat carried aboard the ship, which is even more evident in verses 30 through 32. Those three words are σκάφη (4627), or skiff, πλοῖον (4143), which is boat here where it refers to the skiff, and σκεῦος (4632), or vessel. The King James Version misinterpreted the word σκεῦος to refer to the sail, and therefore has the end of this verse 17 to read “strake [struck] sail, and so were driven” where the text here has “lowering the vessel [referring to the boat, or skiff] thusly they were borne along”.
18 And upon our being driven violently by the storm the next day they made a discharge of cargo,
The word “discharge” here is from the Greek word ἐκβολή (1546), which is literally “a throwing out...” and also “2. a throwing the cargo overboard” (Liddell & Scott) and therefore the words “of cargo” have been added to the text. The King James Version renders the words which are literally “they made a discharge” metaphorically, to read “they lightened the ship”.
19 and on the third day by hand they [the MT has “we”] cast out the implements of the ship, 20 and neither the sun nor stars shining forth for many days, and no small winter storm laying upon us, all hope remaining of us being preserved was taken away.
The most common medium-sized merchant vessels at the time held over 150 tons, and they could hold up to 3,000 amphorae, which were pottery bottles used to store wine or oil, and they typically held about 9 or 10 gallons each. Many larger freight ships were designed to hold 10,000 amphorae. Even larger vessels existed which could hold over 500 tons. One of the largest Roman ships excavated from under the sea was a wreck at Madrague de Giens, off the coast of southern France, where a ship with an estimated displacement of 550 tons was discovered. It is believed to have sunk about 75 BC. The Romans were said to have built even larger ships for special purposes, such as for transporting obelisks from Egypt. The obelisk which today stands in front of the Vatican was brought from Egypt by orders of the emperor Caligula.
21 And being long without food then Paul standing in the midst of them said: “Indeed it was necessary, O men, to have been obedient to me, not to set sail from Krete and to gain this injury and damage. 22 And the things I recommend to you now, be of good cheer, for there shall not be one loss of a life from among you, except of the ship.
The word ἀποβολή (580), is literally a throwing away, but is loss here. Luke seems to be making a play on words, since he used the word ἐκβολή to describe the discharge, or loss, of the freight, he is using the related word ἀποβολή to describe the loss of a life. This is actually a writing style that Luke frequently employed in his accounts, even if these words are attributed to Paul.
Here, more confidently asserting himself because he had a clear vision from God, Paul is virtually commanding that those in authority accept his counsel, warning that their initial rejection of him led to their present dire circumstances.
23 For there stood by me in this night from God, whose I am, whom also I serve, a messenger 24 saying ‘Do not fear, Paul! It is necessary for you to stand before Caesar. And behold, God has granted to you all of those sailing with you!’ 25 On which account you be of good cheer, men. For I believe in God, that thusly it shall be according to which manner He has spoken to me. 26 Now into a certain island it is necessary for us to run aground.”
Paul had a vision of what was to come, but did not know exactly which island it was where they would be run aground. He was assured that he would indeed reach Rome, and he was also assured that through this display of provenance, the men on the ship would be brought to the gospel of Christ. This is a model lesson: that we too should look for the strengthening of faith in the disasters of our lives, and not necessarily the strength of our own faith, but that we can find ways to strengthen the faith of others by our example.
Yet there is one more thing to note here. Paul had already had assurances that he would see Rome, which were mentioned several times before this voyage began. Therefore it seems that where Luke had written that “all hope remaining of us being preserved was taken away”, he included himself and his companions, and even Paul himself may have needed a reassurance from Yahweh that his mission would be completed.
27 Then as the fourteenth night of our being carried about in the Adriatic came, about the middle of the night the sailors suspected some land to be drawn near to them.
The Adriatic Sea as it was pictured by Luke included the Ionian Gulf and as much of the Mediterranean which stretched to Sicily. This is verified in the pages of Strabo's Geography, where he also called this the Adriatic Sea, but identified what we now consider the Adriatic Sea as the Adriatic Gulf. According to Sir William Smith's Dictionary of Greek and Roman Geography, Volume 1, pp. 27-28, Ptolemy also made these identifications. Strabo wrote in part “But the Ionian Gulf is part of what is now called the Adriatic Sea” [Geography, 2.5.20]. (The King James Version has only “we were driven up and down in Adria”.)
28 And casting a weighted line they found it twenty fathoms, but going a distance and again casting they found it fifteen fathoms.
The word βολίζω (1001) is “to heave the lead, take soundings” (L & S), to measure the depth of the water, where I have opted for a more descriptive rendering: “to cast a weighted line”, which fits the context. Later in the verse (“casting”) where the verb appears again, I did not repeat the words “a weighted line”. A fathom is about six feet, which is the approximate meaning of the Greek word it is used to translate here, ὀργυιά (3712). Twenty fathoms is indeed shallow in the Mediterranean, which according to the 2005 World Almanac, p. 496, has an average depth of 4,926 feet, or 821 fathoms.
29 And fearing lest somehow we should run aground upon rough places, casting four anchors from the stern they prayed for day to arrive. 30 And upon the sailors’ seeking to flee from the ship and lowering the skiff into the sea with the pretense as if from the bow they were going to extend anchors, 31 Paul said to the centurion and to the soldiers “If they do not remain in the ship, you shall not be able to be preserved!” 32 Then the soldiers cut loose the ropes of the skiff and allowed it to fall away.
Here we see contextual corroboration for the Christogenea translation of verses 16 and 17, where it is a skiff, a small boat carried on this larger ship, which is being described. We also see that this skiff, being mounted on the bow of this ship, informs us that this was perhaps a ship with only one main sail, and not with a foresail on the bow, unless both implements could somehow be affixed. Several of the sailors, wanting to escape danger, thought to use this skiff because land was believed to be nearby. On Paul's exhortation, the soldiers foiled their plan, releasing the empty skiff into the water. The King James Version translated verses 29 through 32 much better than it did verses 16 and 17.
33 And until when day was about to come, Paul encouraged all to take food, saying “Today is fourteen days you have continued waiting without food, taking nothing, 34 on which account I encourage you to partake of food [the MT has “to take food”]. Indeed this is for your preservation, for from not one of you [A has “us”] shall a hair of the head be lost [the MT has “fall”].” 35 And saying these things and taking wheat-bread he gave thanks to Yahweh before all and breaking it he began to eat. 36 And all being made cheerful then took food themselves.
Here is an example of a true Christian communion, while the word itself is not used, Paul encourages the men to partake of sustenance together, and does so giving thanks to Yahweh.
37 And we were all the souls in the ship two hundred seventy six. 38 And being filled of food they lightened the ship, casting out the grain into the sea.
The Codex Alexandrinus (A) has “two hundred seventy five”, and the Codex Vaticanus (B) has only “about seventy six”, wanting the “two hundred”. We have already discussed the large size of Roman merchant vessels, that such medium-sized vessels, which were quite common, held in excess of 150 tons. Since 300 men do not weigh 30 tons, it is entirely plausible that such a large vessel was being described here, and especially since it also boarded a skiff.
39 Then when day came, they did not recognize the land, but they observed a certain bay having a beach onto which they determined, if they should be able, to drive out the ship.
The Codices Vaticanus (B) and Ephraemi Syri (C) have “to preserve the ship”, and the difference is with two sound-alike words, where the other manuscripts have ἐξῶσαι, a verb from ἐξωθέω (1856) and the alternate reading in these manuscripts is ἐκσῶσαι, a verb from ἐκσώζω, which has no Strong’s #.
40 And stripping off the anchors letting them into the sea, while letting go the yokes of the rudder and raising the foresail for the blowing wind, they pressed for the beach.
The lighter the ship was, the higher it would sit in the water, and the closer it would make it to dry land.
41 And falling towards a place between two seas they ran the ship ashore, and while the bow being fixed firmly remained unwavering, yet the stern was broken up by the force [C and the MT interpolate “of the waves”].
The Greek word περιπίπτω (4045), is literally “to fall around” (Liddell & Scott) but here it is simply to fall, with another verb, ἐπικέλλω (in Strong’s it is listed under a variation, ἐποκέλλω, 2027) which appears only here in the N.T. and is “to run aground” or “to run ashore”.
The phrase “a place between two seas” must refer to either the southern, or maybe the northern, tip of Malta, where the Adriatic Sea met the Ausonian, or perhaps Tyrrhenian Sea.
42 And there was a plan by the soldiers that they should slay the prisoners, lest any swimming away would escape.
The soldiers would rather account for the death of the prisoners, than face the penalty themselves if they did escape.
43 But the centurion, wishing to save Paul, prevented them from the plan, and ordered those who were able to swim to be thrown off first to get to land, 44 and the rest while some were upon planks, yet others were upon things from the ship. And thusly it came to pass that all arrived safe upon the land.
That the ship, even without its freight and most of its equipment, was still not able to reach the shore is an indication of its great size.
The centurion must have been a somewhat devout man, and had great faith in Paul, as we have seen from the beginning of this account. Ostensibly, the next several months would be afforded to the conversion of the soldiers and the others, as they are forced to winter on Malta. We see that their conversion was related to Paul in the vision that he described, at verse 24.
This concludes our presentation of Acts chapter 27.