The final in the series about the life of Paul.
In this final blog about the Apostle Paul, he is being transported to Rome in order to make his case before Caesar. Leaving Caesarea by ship, they begin the trek to Crete. Luke tells of the difficulty of this trip in Acts 27. They were fighting headwinds throughout the trip. Acts 27: 9 reads, “Much time had been lost, and sailing had already become dangerous because by now it was after the Fast…” “The Fast” is the Jewish Day of Atonement. That places the voyage in late September or early October. Roman historians tell us that Romans believed sailing after September 15th was doubtful and after November 11 was suicidal. In Acts 27: 10, Paul gives his traveling companions a not too subtle warning, “Men, I can see that our voyage is going to be disastrous and bring great loss to ship and cargo, and to our own lives also.” A simple look at weather conditions today, confirm that Luke’s account and wind direction is 100% accurate.
It’s also interesting to note that many of the stops along the way mentioned by Luke are still there today, and still have the same name they had two thousand years ago! We can further support Luke’s account by looking at the sailing techniques he describes. Notice in verse 27: 6, when they reach Myra, Paul’s guards transfer him to an Alexandrian ship. I’m sure you can find a map in your Bible showing Paul’s route. Up to this point they were in a smaller coastal ship, skipping along the Asia Minor coast. They were now preparing to venture into open sea, so it makes perfect sense that they would transfer to an Alexandrian ship, a large cargo ship, to make this trip. As I alluded to earlier, ships were very reluctant to sail in open sea at this time of year. In Rome, this caused severe food shortages, so Caesar offered huge rewards for any ship willing to bring in grain during this season. Obviously, the captain of this ship was willing to face the dangers at sea for a big payoff.
After leaving Crete, they headed west toward Malta. As they approached Malta, their greatest fears were realized, and the ship was lost. It’s actually a pretty exciting account, which you can read starting with Acts 27: 13. Before continuing, I want to make two observations about the terrible danger this ship was in. First, an angel of God had assured Paul that he and all those aboard the ship would survive this ordeal. But notice Paul didn’t tell them to sit back and relax, “Let God take care of us.” What a good lesson for us. We have assurance of heaven and certainly God is fully in charge. That doesn’t mean we should kick back and do nothing to further the Kingdom. Secondly, as the end came near, Paul took a leadership role. (See Acts 27: 33-36) Remember Paul was a prisoner. He had no legal authority. He was acting under moral authority. I can’t think of a better example of moral courage.
Today, the bay where the ship went down, is called, “St. Paul’s Bay.” Paul and his companions were able to swim to shore and were rescued by the islanders. Luke mentions the kindness shown to the survivors by the islanders, but in the King James Version of the Bible, Luke refers to the islanders as “barbarous”. The meaning of barbarous has changed over the years. In Luke’s day, it simply meant they did not speak Greek. Months later, when the weather finally calmed down, Paul was finally taken to Rome where he was placed under house arrest. Paul will stay in Rome for two years, and it is at this point that Luke’s account comes to an end.
During the reign of Emperor Nero, in about 67 ad, Paul was be-headed by the Romans. There are those Bible critics that suggest Acts was written long after the events mentioned in the book, thus questioning its reliability. We should view it as strange that Luke, whom by everyone’s standard was a great historian and payed close attention to the smallest detail, would not mention the death of Paul. Nor did Luke mention the death of James at about the same time, nor does he mention the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem which occurred in 70 ad. Was the Book of Acts, in circulation before these events?
“The book of Acts cites at least eighty-four historical facts verified by later research and archeology. Luke’s accuracy regarding details, names, and places has been acknowledged by numerous historians.” –Alex McFarland
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Originally from Erie, Pennsylvania, Dan is a graduate of Otterbein College (now University). He graduated with a degree in education. From time to time Dan still substitute teaches. His interest in history led him to investigate the historical accuracy of the Bible. This, in turn, led to a full investigation of Apologetics.