The Initial Voyage As Far As Crete
When the time came, we set sail for Italy. Paul and several other prisoners were placed in the custody of a Roman office named Julius, a captain of the Imperial Regiment. Aristarchus, a Macedonian from Thessalonica, was also with us. We left on a ship whose home port was Adramyttium on the northwest coast of the province of Asia; it was scheduled to make several stops at ports along the coast of the province. The next day when we docked at Sidon, Julius was very kind to Paul and let him go ashore to visit with friends so they could provide for his needs. Putting out to sea from there, we encountered strong headwinds that made it difficult to keep the ship on course, so we sailed north of Cyprus between the island and the mainland. Keeping to the open sea, we passed along the coast of Cilicia and Pamphylia, landing at Myra, in the province of Lycia. There the commanding officer found an Egyptian ship from Alexandria that was bound for Italy, and he put us on board. We had several days of slow sailing, and after great difficulty we finally neared Cnidus. But the wind was against us, so we sailed across to Crete and along the sheltered coast of the island, past the cape of Salmone. We struggled along the coast with great difficulty and finally arrived at Fair Havens, near the town of Lasea. We had lost a lot of time. The weather was becoming dangerous for sea travel because it was so late in the fall, and Paul spoke to the ship’s officers about it. “Men,” he said, “I believe there is trouble ahead if we go on—shipwreck, loss of cargo, and danger to our lives as well.”
But the officer in charge of the prisoners listened more to the ship’s captain and the owner than to Paul. And since Fair Havens was an exposed harbour—a poor place to spend the winter—most of the crew wanted to go on to Phoenix, farther up the coast of Crete, and spend the winter there. Phoenix was a good harbour with only a southwest and northwest exposure.Acts 27:1-12
You will notice I have given you a different map. Why? Because I noticed the first map had a mistake in it. I chose the first map because it gave good detail for the rest of the journey. But when I began this morning to track the journey from Luke’s account in Acts 27, I found a mistake. If you compare the two maps you will see the first one from Carl Rasmussen’s Atlas of the Bible included an additional visit not included in other maps. Rasmussen depicts Paul stopped off at Seleucia, the Port of Antioch. But Luke makes no mention of that. It is purely conjecture on Rasmussen’s part. So I went in search of a more accurate map among the many atlas I have in my library, but one which showed the detail of the latter part of the journey. I found one in Nick Page’s One Stop Bible Atlas. You can compare the maps for yourself to see the difference both in accuracy on the early part of the journey and the detail included in the latter half. Let’s see how these atlases stack up as we follow Paul’s journey. In this Gem I will give you both maps so you can compare them. In following Gems I will stick with Page’s map.
Given the conditions of the sea at this time of year, they set sail hugging the coast of the Eastern Mediterranean. Luke tells us (27:4) that they charted a course on the leeward side of Cyprus. From Caesarea they sailed north and stopped at Sidon, which was located 112 kms north of Caesarea on the coast of Phoenicia. This appears to be a scheduled stop on the journey. Yet Luke adds a little personal touch related to Julius kindness to Paul at Sidon. Clearly on this voyage the ship was not a specialized prison vessel. Paul is allowed to disembark and visit his “friends”. Paul has visited this area before on his journeys to Antioch. It was more than likely that Luke’s reference to Paul’s “friends” signified the Christians in the area. There was a church in Sidon which was planted by those fleeing Jerusalem following the death of Stephen, sanctioned by Paul. Ironic isn’t it, that the Christians there should become friends of Paul?
“Then, indeed, they who were scattered by the oppression taking place over Stephen’s death, passed through to Phoenicia and Cyprus and Antioch, speaking the Word to no one except only to Jews.” (Acts 11:19)
Luke tells us (27:5) they kept to the open sea off the coast of Cilicia and Pamphylia. He does not say they stopped there, only that they passed that coast, likely as not tacking or zigzagging their way along the coast to negotiate the strong opposing winds.
They disembarked in Myra, a city of Lycia about 4 km from the coast up a river. Here, Julius, the centurion, found a grain ship from Alexandria. Myra was a prominent port for ships trading between Egypt and Syria. This was the hub for trading ships. It was the place grain ships used to transfer their shipment. So when Luke tells us that Julius (the commanding officer) put them on board the Alexandrian ship bound for Italy, it would not have been a brief stop while the passengers transferred. The ship would have been carrying the corn for Rome. Likely as not they would have had to wait several days while the grain was transferred. Since the time of Joseph, huge ships were built to carry large shipments of grain from Egypt to Rome. Rome was dependant on the grain from its empire. In fact there were outposts stationed at Puteoli to act as look-outs for the grain fleets. There were times when grain supplies ran low in Rome and there was great rejoicing when ships appeared at sea some distance from Puteoli with more grain to enable the Romans to make bread. News would travel back to Rome faster than the carts could make the overland journey to let the citizens of Rome know grain was on the way.
You will notice from the detail Page gives us that Paul and his companions changed ships several times. Detail which Rasmussen’s map did not give us. Grain supplies were regularly changed from one ship to another. As Luke tells us, the next stage of our journey is going to be a slow one (27:7). So we will spend some time in Myra before we head on while they transfer the corn. Spend some time looking around Myra. It was also famed as the seat of worship of an Asiatic deity whose name is no longer known. Dembre is the modern name of the ruins of Myra, which are among the most imposing in that part of Asia Minor. The city of Myra was located on a hill formed by the openings of two valleys. You will get a good view from the top of the hill if you walk up there. But make sure you don’t wander far. Don’t be left behind. Be careful to avoid the dangers of the city, I am sure I don’t have to spell them out to those of you who have been this way before or are familiar with port cities.
As we grow older we don’t lose friends, we just learn who the real ones are!Anon
Happiness is when what you think, what you say and what you do are in Harmony.Benjamin Franklin
It’s possible that your heart is in the wrong place when you can’t make up your mind.Louis Martin Jr.
The worst part of life is waiting. The best part of life is having someone worth waiting for.Anon
There’s nothing more precious in this world than the feeling of being wanted.Anon