21. THE VOYAGE TO ROME
The decision being made to send Paul to Rome (probably in the fall of a.d. 60), he, with other prisoners scheduled for the same journey, was placed in the custody of a centurion named Julius, who was charged with taking them to the capital (Acts 27:1).
27:1 And when it was decided that we should sail to Italy, they delivered Paul and some other prisoners to one named Julius, a centurion of the Augustan Regiment.
During this trip Paul had at least 2 Christian companions, Aristarchus (v 2), and Luke, the writer of Acts, as is shown by Luke’s frequent use of “we” in the narrative.
27:2 So, entering a ship of Adramyttium, we put to sea, meaning to sail along the coasts of Asia. Aristarchus, a Macedonian of Thessalonica, was with us.
Soon after departure the vessel stopped at Sidon (Paul’s First Missionary Tour). There Paul, who was well treated by the centurion, was permitted to visit the believers.
From Sidon the ship sailed between the island of Cyprus and the mainland (Paul’s First Missionary Tour) and finally reached Myra in Lycia (vs 3–5), where the whole company boarded another ship bound for Italy (v 6).
27:3 And the next day we landed at Sidon. And Julius treated Paul kindly and gave him liberty to go to his friends and receive care.
27:4 When we had put to sea from there, we sailed under the shelter of Cyprus, because the winds were contrary.
27:5 And when we had sailed over the sea which is off Cilicia and Pamphylia, we came to Myra, a city of Lycia.
27:6 There the centurion found an Alexandrian ship sailing to Italy, and he put us on board.
This ship then had 276 people aboard (v 37).
27:37 And in all we were two hundred and seventy-six persons on the ship.
Putting out to sea from Myra, they evidently encountered strong head winds so that it took several days to sail the less than 200 mi. (c. 320 km.) to Cnidus (see Paul’s First Missionary Tour).
At length the ship reached the island of Crete (B-3/4) and with difficulty sailed to a place called Fair Havens (vs 7, 8).
27:7 When we had sailed slowly many days, and arrived with difficulty off Cnidus, the wind not permitting us to proceed, we sailed under the shelter of Crete off Salmone.
27:8 Passing it with difficulty, we came to a place called Fair Havens, near the city of Lasea.
There they spent some time, debating whether, because of the lateness of the season, the voyage should be continued. Paul counseled against doing so, but the shipowner and the captain spoke in favor of it, and the centurion was influenced by the latter.
Because Fair Havens was not suitable to winter in, they decided to try to reach Phoenix (Phenice), farther along the coast of Crete (vs 9–12).
27:9 Now when much time had been spent, and sailing was now dangerous because the Fast was already over, Paul advised them,
27:10 saying, “Men, I perceive that this voyage will end with disaster and much loss, not only of the cargo and ship, but also our lives.”
27:11 Nevertheless the centurion was more persuaded by the helmsman and the owner of the ship than by the things spoken by Paul.
27:12 And because the harbor was not suitable to winter in, the majority advised to set sail from there also, if by any means they could reach Phoenix, a harbor of Crete opening toward the southwest and northwest, and winter there.
Consequently, as soon as a suitable wind arose they left Fair Havens and headed toward Phoenix.
Shortly afterward, however, a great tempest arose, blowing from the east or east-northeast, which drove the ship before it.
When they found temporary shelter under the lee of a small island named Cauda (Clauda), they succeeded in hoisting aboard the ship’s boat, which had heretofore been towed. At the same time the sailors, fearing that the ship would founder, fastened ropes completely around its hull for undergirding.
They also lowered the gear to check the speed of their drift, for they feared that the ship would be driven upon the Syrtis (KJV “quicksands”), the treacherous sandbanks off the northern coast of Africa (Acts 27:13–17).
27:13 When the south wind blew softly, supposing that they had obtained their desire, putting out to sea, they sailed close by Crete.
27:14 But not long after, a tempestuous head wind arose, called Euroclydon.
27:15 So when the ship was caught, and could not head into the wind, we let her drive.
27:16 And running under the shelter of an island called Clauda, we secured the skiff with difficulty.
27:17 When they had taken it on board, they used cables to undergird the ship; and fearing lest they should run aground on the Syrtis Sands, they struck sail and so were driven.
Paul’s First Missionary Tour. On the following day, since the storm continued unabated, it was deemed necessary to lighten the ship by jettisoning some of the cargo (cf. v 38).
27:38 So when they had eaten enough, they lightened the ship and threw out the wheat into the sea.
The tempest persisted for several days until all hope was abandoned (Acts 27:20).
27:20 Now when neither sun nor stars appeared for many days, and no small tempest beat on us, all hope that we would be saved was finally given up.
At about this time Paul was given a vision, in which he was shown that no lives would be lost and that he would have the opportunity of standing before Caesar. He related this experience to his companions, exhorting them to be of good courage (vs 21–26).
27:21 But after long abstinence from food, then Paul stood in the midst of them and said, “Men, you should have listened to me, and not have sailed from Crete and incurred this disaster and loss.
27:22 And now I urge you to take heart, for there will be no loss of life among you, but only of the ship.
27:23 For there stood by me this night an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I serve,
27:24 saying, ‘Do not be afraid, Paul; you must be brought before Caesar; and indeed God has granted you all those who sail with you.’
27:25 Therefore take heart, men, for I believe God that it will be just as it was told me.
27:26 However, we must run aground on a certain island.”
At last, one night, 2 weeks after the storm struck, the sailors suspected that they were nearing land. Soundings of the depth of the water confirmed this, so that they began to fear that the ship would be driven upon the rocks and destroyed.
The sailors anchored the ship, then sought to leave the vessel secretly in the boat. Paul insisted that the crew must remain at their posts if all were to be saved; so the soldiers cut the boat adrift (vs 27–32).
27:27 Now when the fourteenth night had come, as we were driven up and down in the Adriatic Sea, about midnight the sailors sensed that they were drawing near some land.
27:28 And they took soundings and found it to be twenty fathoms; and when they had gone a little farther, they took soundings again and found it to be fifteen fathoms.
27:29 Then, fearing lest we should run aground on the rocks, they dropped four anchors from the stern, and prayed for day to come.
27:30 And as the sailors were seeking to escape from the ship, when they had let down the skiff into the sea, under pretense of putting out anchors from the prow,
27:31 Paul said to the centurion and the soldiers, “Unless these men stay in the ship, you cannot be saved.”
27:32 Then the soldiers cut away the ropes of the skiff and let it fall off.
While all aboard were waiting for the dawn to decide what further to do, Paul urged them to partake of food, pointing out that they had been “fasting” for 14 days (vs 33, 34).
27:33 And as day was about to dawn, Paul implored them all to take food, saying, “Today is the fourteenth day you have waited and continued without food, and eaten nothing.
27:34 Therefore I urge you to take nourishment, for this is for your survival, since not a hair will fall from the head of any of you.”
After all had eaten, the anchored ship was further lightened by jettisoning the wheat (v 38).
27:38 So when they had eaten enough, they lightened the ship and threw out the wheat into the sea.
Dawn revealed unfamiliar land with a bay. Into this they decided to try to run the ship. They raised the anchors and endeavored to steer into the bay.
Drawing close to land, they were caught by violent crosscurrents, which hurled the ship upon the rocks, where it grounded. The stern was then broken off by the pounding waves.
The soldiers, obviously considering that they were responsible for the prisoners with their own lives, now urged that the prisoners be killed lest they escape.
However, the centurion, wanting to save Paul, forbade this. Instead he commanded all to attempt to get ashore as best they could, and all on board reached land safely (vs 39–44).
27:39 When it was day, they did not recognize the land; but they observed a bay with a beach, onto which they planned to run the ship if possible.
27:40 And they let go the anchors and left them in the sea, meanwhile loosing the rudder ropes; and they hoisted the mainsail to the wind and made for shore.
27:41 But striking a place where two seas met, they ran the ship aground; and the prow stuck fast and remained immovable, but the stern was being broken up by the violence of the waves.
27:42 And the soldiers’ plan was to kill the prisoners, lest any of them should swim away and escape.
27:43 But the centurion, wanting to save Paul, kept them from their purpose, and commanded that those who could swim should jump overboard first and get to land,
27:44 and the rest, some on boards and some on parts of the ship. And so it was that they all escaped safely to land.
The land proved to be the island of Malta (KJV “Melita”), about 560 mi. (c. 900 km.) from their last landfall, the island of Cauda.
(For a discussion of this voyage and shipwreck see SDACom 6:450–457.)
The people of Malta treated the castaway group hospitably, and endeavored to care for their needs. Paul, gathering fuel for the fire, was bitten by a viper, whereupon the superstitious Maltese concluded he was some great criminal being punished for this crimes.
However, when he suffered no ill effects they decided instead that he must be some god (Acts 28:1–6).
28:1 Now when they had escaped, they then found out that the island was called Malta.
28:2 And the natives showed us unusual kindness; for they kindled a fire and made us all welcome, because of the rain that was falling and because of the cold.
28:3 But when Paul had gathered a bundle of sticks and laid them on the fire, a viper came out because of the heat, and fastened on his hand.
28:4 So when the natives saw the creature hanging from his hand, they said to one another, “No doubt this man is a murderer, whom, though he has escaped the sea, yet justice does not allow to live.”
28:5 But he shook off the creature into the fire and suffered no harm.
28:6 However, they were expecting that he would swell up or suddenly fall down dead. But after they had looked for a long time and saw no harm come to him, they changed their minds and said that he was a god.
Paul and his company were invited to be guests of Publius, the “chief man” of Malta, and stayed with him 3 days (v 7).
28:7 In that region there was an estate of the leading citizen of the island, whose name was Publius, who received us and entertained us courteously for three days.
By the prayers of Paul, Publius’ father was healed of *dysentery. When the knowledge of this spread, many others who were sick came and were also healed.
These happenings prompted the islanders to heap many gifts upon Paul and those with him. Finally, after spending 3 months on the island (v 11), the shipwrecked company sailed for Rome, probably in the spring of a.d. 61 on an Alexandrian ship that had wintered there (vs 8–11).
28:8 And it happened that the father of Publius lay sick of a fever and dysentery. Paul went in to him and prayed, and he laid his hands on him and healed him.
28:9 So when this was done, the rest of those on the island who had diseases also came and were healed.
28:10 They also honored us in many ways; and when we departed, they provided such things as were necessary.
28:11 After three months we sailed in an Alexandrian ship whose figurehead was the Twin Brothers, which had wintered at the island.
After stopping for 3 days at Syracuse, on the island now known as Sicily, the ship sailed to Rhegium at the southern tip of Italy, and then continued on to Puteoli, which was about 230 mi. (c. 370 km.) farther northwest (Paul’s First Missionary Tour).
At Puteoli Paul found some Christians—an evidence of the spread of the gospel in Italy . After a week with them he, with the rest of the travelers, started for Rome. Meanwhile, the report of his arrival in the country had preceded him to that city, so that groups of believers set out to meet him.
These met Paul at the Forum of Appius (“Appii forum”) and Three Taverns , about 40 and 30 mi. (c. 64 and 48 km.), respectively, from Rome on the Appian Way. Paul was highly gratified and encouraged at this welcome (vs 12–15).
28:12 And landing at Syracuse, we stayed three days.
28:13 From there we circled round and reached Rhegium. And after one day the south wind blew; and the next day we came to Puteoli,
28:14 where we found brethren, and were invited to stay with them seven days. And so we went toward Rome.
28:15 And from there, when the brethren heard about us, they came to meet us as far as Appii Forum and Three Inns. When Paul saw them, he thanked God and took courage.
NEXT TIME: FIRST IMPRISONMENT IN ROME