Confraternity Bible: New Testament and Supplemental Commentary

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ACTS - Chapter 27

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Acts 27

Supplemental Commentary:

THE MISSIONARY JOURNEYS OF ST. PAUL  13, 1 -- 28, 31 (continued)

5.  Imprisonment in Rome  27, 1 -- 28, 31

27, 1-13:  Departure for Rome.  They sailed about the middle of August on a ship bound for Adrumythium, a port on the west coast of Asia Minor not far from Troy.  From there they could have crossed to Macedonia and proceeded along the Egnatian Way to Dyrrachium and then across the Adriatic to Brundisium.  The prevalent summer winds being from the west, they sailed close to the east coast of Cyprus and then coasted along Asia Minor till they reached Myra, a quiet port used by Egyptian grain ships when westerly gales prevented them from sailing directly across the Mediterranean to Italy.  From Myra they could creep along the coast, from island to island, and make Italy in about ten days.  A ship from Alexandria happened to be about to sail for Italy, and the centurion decided to take it and so save the long journey by land across Macedonia.

27, 14-26:  A Storm.  After passing Cnidus they were beyond the shelter of the land and were caught by winds from the north which drove them in a southwesterly direction toward Crete.  It was only with difficulty that they managed to get past the headlands of Crete, but, this danger over, they found shelter in the port of Good Havens on the southern side of the island.  Progress had been slow, they were already off their course, and the season for navigation was almost closed.  St. Paul's suggestion that they be content to winter there was overruled, and with a favorable breeze they set out for Phoenix, a more commodious harbor about a day's sail along the Cretan coast.  But soon they were caught by a gale from the east-northeast.  After a fearful run over twenty miles they got a little respite under the lee of Cauda and took advantage of it to haul in the long boat and to undergird the ship by passing cables under the hull and drawing them tight with a windlass, a custom said to be still in use among sailors caught in a storm that threatens to tear the ship asunder.  With all sails lowered, the ship simply drifted before the storm and they feared they would be carried toward the Syrtis of Africa, the terror of ancient seamen, consisting of shifting sandbanks with strong currents that made destruction almost certain.

27, 27-44:  Shipwreck.  Breakers ahead gave warning of land, and they cast anchors from the stern for fear of running on the rocks.  They were off the northeastern shore of Malta and directly before them they saw a small bay with a stretch of sandy beach on the far end on which they hoped to run the ship.  But at the northeast corner of the bay there was a strip of land separated from the mainland by a channel about a hundred yards wide, and the current of this channel caught them on the starboard as they tried to sail into the bay.  The ship struck a shoal of clay, and the prow stuck fast while the stern was buffeted by the waves.  Those who could swim were ordered to leap off and, once ashore, to help rescue the others who were to save themselves as best they could by clinging to the wreckage of the ship.

Confraternity Bible:

Departure for Rome  1 Now when it was decided that he should sail to Italy, and that Paul, with the other prisoners, should be turned over to a centurion named Julius, of the Augustan cohort, 2 we went on board a ship of Adrumythium which was bound for the ports of the province of Asia, and set sail; Aristarchus, a Macedonian from Thessalonica, being one of our party.

3 The next day we reached Sidon and Julius treated Paul kindly, allowing him to go to his friends and receive attention.  4 And putting to sea from there, we passed under the lee of Cyprus, as the winds were against us, 5 and sailing over the sea that lies off Cilicia and Pamphylia, we reached Myra in Lycia.  6 There the centurion found a ship of Alexandria bound for Italy and put us on board her.

7 For many days we made slow progress and had difficulty in arriving off Cnidus.  Then as the wind kept us from going on, we sailed under the lee of Crete off Salmone, 8 and coasting along it with difficulty we came to a place called Fair Havens, near the town of Thalassa.

9* But as much time had been spent and navigation was now unsafe, for the Fast was already over, Paul began to admonish them, 10 saying to them, "Men, I see that this voyage is threatening to bring disaster and heavy loss, not only to the cargo and the ship, but to our lives also."  11 But the centurion gave more heed to the pilot and the captain than to what Paul had to say; 12 and as the harbor was unsuitable for wintering in, the majority favored sailing from there to try whether they could get to Phoenis, a harbor in Crete facing southwest and northwest, to winter there.  13 So when a light south wind sprang up, thinking they had secured their object, they weighed anchor and ran close along the coast of Crete.

A Storm  14 But not long afterwards a violent wind called Euroaquilo burst against it; and when the ship was caught in it and could not face the wind, we gave way and were driven along.  16 We ran under the lee of a small island called Cauda, where we managed with difficulty to secure the boat; 17 after hoisting it on board, they used supports to undergird the ship, and as they were afraid of being driven on the Syrtis quicksands, they lowered the mainsail and so were driven along.  18 As we were being tossed about by the violence of the storm, the next day they threw some of the cargo overboard; 19 and on the third day with their own hands they threw the ship's gear overboard.  20 As neither sun nor stars were visible for many days and no small storm was raging, all hope of our being saved was in consequence given up.

21 Then, when they had eaten nothing for a long time, Paul got up in the midst of them and said, "Men, you should indeed have listened to me and not have sailed from Crete, thus sparing yourselves this disaster and loss.  22 And now I beg you to be of good cheer, for there will be no loss of life among you, but only of the ship.  23 For last night an angel of the God I belong to and serve, stood by me, 24 saying, 'Do not be afraid, Paul; thou must stand before Caesar; and behold, God has granted thee all who are sailing with thee.'  25 So, men, be of good cheer; for I have faith in God that it will be as it has been told me.  26 But we are to reach a certain island."

Shipwreck  27 It was the fourteenth night, and we were sailing in the Adria, when about midnight the sailors began to suspect that they were drawing near to some land.  28 On taking soundings, they found twenty fathoms, and a little further on they found fifteen; 29 then fearing that we might go on the rocks, they dropped four anchors from the stern and longed for daylight.  30 But as the sailors were trying to escape from the ship and had lowered the boat into the sea, pretending that they were going to cast anchors from the bow, 31 Paul said to the centurion and the soldiers, "Unless these men remain in the ship, you cannot be saved."  32 Then the soldiers cut away the ropes of the boat and let her drift off.

33 And when it began to grow light, Paul begged them all to take food, saying, "This is the fourteenth day that you have been constantly on the watch and fasting, without taking anything to eat.  34 So I beg you to take some food for your safety; for not a hair from the head of any one of you shall perish."  35 With these words he took bread and gave thanks to God before them all and broke it and began to eat.  36 Then all became more cheerful and took food themselves.  37 Now, we were in all two hundred and seventy-six souls on board.  38 And after eating their fill, they proceeded to lighten the ship by throwing the wheat into the sea.

39 When day broke they could not make out the land; but they noticed a bay with a beach, and they proposed to run the ship ashore there if they could.  40 So they slipped the anchors and committed themselves to the sea, at the same time unlashing the fastenings of the rudders; and hoisting the foresail to the breeze, they made for the beach.  41 But we struck a place open to two seas, and they ran the ship aground.  The prow stuck fast and remained immovable, but the stern began to break up under the violence of the sea.  42 Now the soldiers planned to kill the prisoners lest any of them should swim ashore and escape, 43 but the centurion, wishing to save Paul, put a stop to their plan.  He ordered those who could swim to jump overboard first and get to land, 44 and they brought the rest in, some on planks and others on various pieces from the ship.  And so it came to pass that all got safely to land.


9: The Fast: of the Day of Atonement, about September 15.  Navigation was considered dangerous after the middle of September.