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Bible Commentaries

Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges
Acts 27

 

 

Verse 1

1. ὡς δὲ ἐκρίθη τοῦ ἀποπλεῖν ἡμᾶς, and when it was determined that we should sail. No other instance of this infinitive with τοῦ prefixed is found after κρίνω except in the Text. recept. of 1 Corinthians 2:2, where it is rejected by Lachmann, Tischendorf and Tregelles. But in the LXX. the construction is common enough after verbs of kindred signification, e.g. βουλεύομαι. Cf. 1 Maccabees 3:31, ἐβουλεύσατο τοῦ πορευθῆναι εἰς τὴν Περσίδα, ‘he determined to go into Persia’ (A.V.). See also 1 Maccabees 5:2, ἐβουλεύσαντο τοῦ ἆραι τὸ γένος Ἰακώβ. So 1 Maccabees 9:69; 1 Maccabees 12:35.

παρεδίδουν, they delivered, i.e. the soldiers who had the care of Paul did so by order of Festus.

ἑκατοντάρχῃ, to a centurion. This was generally the rank of the officers appointed to such a charge. Cf. Acts 21:32, Acts 24:23, &c.

σπείρης Σεβαστῆς, of the Augustan band. The word σπεῖρα might be rendered ‘cohort’ as in the marg. of R.V., and it is said that in the time of Octavianus Augustus there were some legions to which the title Σεβαστός = Augustus was given, as being specially the Imperial troops, and that perhaps among the soldiers in Cæsarea there was a detachment of these legions. But as Cæsarea was itself called ‘Sebaste’ it seems more likely that the soldiers were Samaritan troops belonging to Cæsarea itself. And Josephus (Wars, II. 12. 5) makes mention of troops which had their name, Sebasteni, from this city Cæsarea Sebaste.


Verses 1-44

1–44. ST PAUL’S VOYAGE AND SHIPWRECK


Verse 2

2. ἐπιβάντες δέ, and embarking in. This verb is the technical term for ‘going on board ship.’

Ἀδραμυττηνῷ, of Adramyttium. This was a seaport on the coast of that district of Asia Minor called Mysia, and in early times Aeolis. It appears to have been in St Paul’s time a place of considerable trade, and Pliny (Acts 27:30) mentions it as an assize town. The reason why the Apostle and his companions embarked on board a vessel from this port was that it was probably the easiest way of getting into the line of vessels going from Asia to the West. The isle of Lesbos lay off the gulf on which Adramyttium was situated, and to which it gave name, and the town was in close connexion with Ephesus, Miletus, Pergamos and Troas, and so was a considerable centre of commerce.

μέλλοντι πλεῖν κ.τ.λ., which was about to sail unto the places on the coast of Asia. The centurion and his party when they had reached the Asiatic coast would be very likely to find in some of the ports there a vessel which would carry them across to Italy.

Ἀριστάρχου, Aristarchus. Mentioned before (Acts 19:29) as one of those whom the mob in Ephesus seized in their fury against St Paul. He went, as it seems, with the Apostle into Europe, for he is enumerated amongst those who accompanied St Paul (Acts 20:4) on his return. After the present notice of him, we learn nothing more of his history except that from Colossians 4:10 and Philemon 1:24 we can gather that he remained with the Apostle during his first Roman imprisonment.


Verse 3

3. κατήχθημεν εἰς Σιδῶνα, we touched at Sidon. This is the well-known seaport on the coast of Phœnicia. κατάγειν here is a technical term for ‘putting in a ship to shore,’ as ἀνάγειν just before is for ‘setting sail.’

φιλανθρώπως χρησάμενος, treating kindly. φιλανθρώπως is only found here in N.T., and only once in LXX. (2 Maccabees 9:27).

ἐπιμελείας τυχεῖν, to refresh himself. Literally, ‘to receive attention.’ The Apostle no doubt knew some of the residents in Sidon, and at his request the centurion allowed him, while the vessel stayed there, to enjoy their company and kind offices. Sidon was on the road between Jerusalem and Antioch, a journey which St Paul had frequently made.


Verse 4

4. ὑπεπλεύσαμεν τὴν Κύπρον, we sailed under Cyprus, i.e. between Cyprus and the mainland, so as to have the shelter of the island on their left to protect them from the contrary winds. Rev. Ver. ‘under the lee of Cyprus.’


Verse 5

5. τό τε πέλαγος τὸ κατὰ τὴν Κιλικίαν καὶ Παμφυλίαν, the sea which is off Cilicia and Pamphylia. These two countries formed the coast of Asia Minor in that portion which is opposite to Cyprus.

εἰς ΄ύρρα, to Myrrha, which lies about 20 stadia (2½ miles) from the coast on the river Andriacus.


Verse 6

6. πλοῖον Ἀλεξανδρινόν, a ship of Alexandria. They found a means of transport into Italy sooner perhaps than they had expected. It may be that the same strong contrary winds from the west, which had altered already the course of their own voyage from Sidon, had carried this vessel across the Mediterranean to the Asiatic coast. Myrrha was certainly out of the way for persons sailing from N. Africa to Italy.


Verse 7

7. ἐν ἱκαναῖς δὲ ἡμέραις βραδυπλοοῦντες, and sailing slowly for many days, kept back by the same head-winds.

καὶ μόλις γενόμενοι κατὰ τὴν Κνίδον, and with difficulty being come over against Cnidus. They had been forced to hug the coast all the way from Myrrha, and when off Cnidus they were only opposite to the S.W. extremity of Asia Minor. Cnidus was, as its remains demonstrate, a famous seaport town in ancient times, and we find that Jews dwelt there in the days of the Maccabees (1 Maccabees 15:23). It was a notable seat of the worship of Aphrodite.

μὴ προσεῶντος ἡμᾶς τοῦ ἀνέμου, the wind not further suffering us, i.e. not allowing us to make further progress. The word προσεάω is not found elsewhere.

ὑπεπλεύσαμεν τὴν Κρήτην κατὰ Σαλμώνην, we sailed under Crete over against Salmone. Rev. Ver. (as in Acts 27:4) ‘under the lee of.’ Crete is the modern island of Candia. Salmone was the eastern extremity of the island, off which when they came they sheltered themselves under the island, and sailed to the south of it, to avoid the wind as much as might be.


Verse 8

8. μόλις τε παραλεγόμενοι αὐτήν, and with difficulty coasting along it. παραλέγεσθαι describes a voyage made by keeping close to the shore of the island. Against a wind N.W., or nearly so, the island of Crete would afford them some protection.

ἤλθομεν εἰς τόπον τινά, we came to a place, i.e. on the coast of Crete.

καλούμενον Καλοὺς λιμένας, called Fair Havens. This place, though mentioned nowhere else in literature, is known by the same name still. It is on the south of Crete, four or five miles east of Cape Matala, which is the largest headland on that side of the island.

Λασαία, Lasæa. This city has also been identified very recently. Its ruins were discovered in 1856, a few miles east of Fair Havens. See Smith’s Voyage and Shipwreck of St Paul, App. III. pp. 262, 263.


Verse 9

9. ἱκανοῦ δὲ χρόνου διαγενομένου, now when much time had been spent, i.e. waiting for a change of wind, and in debating what course should next be taken.

καὶ ὄντος ἤδη ἐπισφαλοῦς τοῦ πλοός, and when the voyage was now dangerous. It had come to be dangerous by the late season of the year. In St Paul’s day navigation, both among the Jews and other nations, could only be attempted for a limited portion of the year, when the weather permitted the stars to be seen.

διὰ τὸ καὶ τὴν νηστείαν ἤδη παρεληλυθέναι, because the fast was now already past. The fast here meant is that on the great Day of Atonement. This is the Fast par excellence of the Jews, being the only one definitely appointed in the Old Testament. It falls on the tenth day of Tishri, the seventh month of the Jewish year. This corresponds to a part of September and October of our calendar; so that a stormy season was to be expected.


Verse 10

10. ἄνδρες, θεωρῶζημίας, Sirs, I perceive that the voyage will be with injury and much loss. Evidently the character of the Apostle had won him the regard and respect of those in charge of the vessel as well as of the centurion. He must have had some experience of sailing in the Mediterranean, and so was fitted to speak on the question which was now being debated. We should bear in mind too that he had seen more of perils by sea already than we gather from the Acts; for some time before this voyage to Rome, he wrote to the Corinthians (2 Corinthians 11:25), ‘Thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep.’

θεωρῶ implies the result of observation and does not refer to any supernatural communication which the Apostle had received. This is clear from the end of the verse, where St Paul speaks of hurt to the lives of those on board, which did not come to pass (Acts 27:44).

For ὕβρις used of material damage by a storm, cf. Joseph. Ant. III. 6. 4, σινδόνεςτὴν ἀπὸ τῶν ὄμβρων ὕβριν ἀπομαχόμεναι.


Verse 11

11. τῷ κυβερνήτῃ, to the pilot. By ‘master’ the A.V. means ‘sailing master,’ the officer who had charge of the vessel’s navigation.

καὶ τῷ ναυκλήρῳ, and to the owner of the ship, who was probably owner of the cargo too, and if, as is most likely, this was corn, he would be sailing with it, that he might dispose of it to the best advantage when they reached Italy.

μᾶλλον ἐπείθετο, gave more heed to. As the centurion was in charge of prisoners for the Imperial tribunal, his wish would be much regarded by both owner and sailing-master; and it was natural when they recommended the attempt to proceed that he should not listen to Paul’s advice and remain where they were.


Verse 12

12. ἀνευθέτου δὲπρὸς παραχειμασίαν, and the haven not being commodious to winter in. And to tarry through the winter was what they were most likely to have to do, wherever they stopped. The season for sailing was now nearly over.

ἀνεύθετος is found only here. But εὔθετος = convenient is common in classical literature and in the LXX.

παραχειμάζειν occurs in this verse and in Acts 28:11, also in 1 Corinthians 16:6; Titus 3:12, but the noun nowhere else in N.T.

ἔθεντο βουλήν, advised. For the expression cf. LXX. Judges 19:30, θέσθε δὴ ἑαυτοῖς περὶ αὐτῆς βουλήν.

ἀναχθῆναι ἐκεῖθεν, to put to sea from thence. On the verb, see above, Acts 27:3.

καταντήσαντες εἰς Φοίνικα, having reached Phœnix. Phœnix is no doubt the correct orthography of the name. The place is mentioned both by Strabo and Ptolemy, and has been identified with the modern port of Lutro (Spratt’s Crete II. 250 seqq.).

βλέποντα κατὰ λίβα καὶ κατὰ χῶρον, looking north-east and south-east. Literally ‘looking down the south-west wind and down the north-west wind.’ To look down a wind is to look in the direction in which it blows. So as a south-west wind would blow towards N.E., the Rev. Ver. appears to give the correct sense, and the haven of Lutro answers these conditions, being open towards the east.

χῶρος is a Greek representation of the Latin Caurus, one of the names given to the N. W. wind.


Verse 13

13. ὑποπνεύσαντος δὲ νότου, and when the south wind blew softly. The storm appeared to have in some degree abated, and the change of wind must have been very complete, for (see Acts 27:7-8) they had previously sailed under the lee of Crete to get shelter from the north wind.

For ὑπὸ in composition having this sense of ‘slightly,’ ‘in a less degree,’ cf. ὑποκινέω = to move slightly, ὑπόλευκος, somewhat white, &c.

ἄραντες ἆσσον παρελέγοντο τὴν Κρήτην, having weighed anchor, they sailed along Crete, close in shore. In this verse ἆσσον has been taken by some for a proper name, and endeavours been made to discover traces of some place so named in Crete. But though the translation ‘when they had loosed from Assos’ is as old as the Vulgate, there can be little doubt that the word is really the comparative degree of ἄγχι, ‘near.’ So it literally means ‘nearer,’ and is probably used to indicate that the coasting voyage now being made was one in which the coast was hugged more closely than usual. This is intended by Rev. Ver. ‘close in shore.’


Verse 14

14. ἔβαλεν κατ' αὐτῆς, there beat down from it. αὐτῆς can only here refer to Κρήτη. And whatever sense is to be given to the preposition must be determined by the context. The effect of the wind described in this verse was to carry the vessel to the island of Cauda. And they were sailing on the south of and close under Crete. Therefore they were driven still more southward. This could only be by a wind from the north, a wind therefore blowing over Crete. Hence κατά must be taken = down from. Cf. such phrases as ῥίπτειν κατὰ τῆς πέτρας which are common enough.

What happened was that the wind suddenly changed from south to north, and coming over the land carried the vessel southward away from Crete. Such changes are not unusual in the Mediterranean (Smith’s Voyage of St Paul, p. 99).

ἄνεμος τυφωνικός, a tempestuous wind. The adjective is not found elsewhere in this sense, but the noun τυφώς for ‘a whirlwind’ is frequent, and is represented in the English ‘typhoon.’

εὐρακύλων, Euraquilo. This reading has the support of the oldest MSS., and has also the Vulgate ‘Euroaquilo’ in its favour, and it exactly describes the wind which would carry the vessel in the direction indicated. It is known in Greek by the name ‘Coecias’ and is a north-east wind. Some have thought that the reading of the A.V. Εὐροκλύδων, which has the support of many MSS., arose from a corruption in the mouths of sailors. For the word ‘Euraquilo’ is a hybrid, the first portion being Greek, the latter Latin. The form in the Text. recept. gives it a look of being all Greek, and the words ὁ καλούμενος seem to intimate that the name was one known to the sailors, rather than a word of general use, whereas ‘Euraquilo’ would have needed no such introductory expression, but have been understood at once by its etymology.


Verse 15

15. ἀντοφθαλμεῖν τῷ ἀνέμῳ, to face the wind. Literally, ‘to look the wind in the eye.’ The verb is found Wisdom of Solomon 12:14, οὔτε βασιλεὺς ἢ τύραννος ἀντοφθαλμῆσαι δυνήσεταί σοι.

ἐπιδόντες ἐφερόμεθα, we gave way to it and were driven. The verb ἐπιδίδωμι has constantly the sense of yielding to a superior force. That force here is the wind. The A.V. makes the sense to be ‘we yielded up the vessel,’ which has not so much support, though it is not unexampled.


Verse 16

16. νησίον δέ τι ὑποδραμόντες καλούμενον Καῦδα, and running under the lee of a small island named Cauda. For the verb cf. above on Acts 27:4; Acts 27:7. νησίον is a rare word, found only here and in Strabo. The name ‘Cauda’ which has the best MS. support agrees well with the form which the name has assumed in modern times, ‘Gozzo’ and ‘Gaudo.’ But the form in A.V. is warranted by the orthography of Ptolemy (Claudos) and Pliny (Glaudos).

ἰσχύσαμεν μόλις περικρατεῖς γενέσθαι τῆς σκάφης, we were able with difficulty to secure the boat. The boats in old times were not as in modern ships made fast round about the vessel, but were carried on in tow. In stormy weather, there was of course much danger that the boat would be washed away. This was the case here, and as soon as ever they had gained the shelter of the island, they set about making sure of its safety by hauling it on board, but this they were not able to do without much difficulty, probably because it had been already filled with water.

For περικρατεῖς γενέσθαι, cf. Susanna 39 (Codex Alex.).


Verse 17

17. ἥν ἄραντες, and when they had hoisted it up, i.e. from the sea and on board the vessel.

βοηθείαις ἐχρῶντο, they used helps. These were strong cables, which were drawn several times round the hulls of vessels, to help in keeping the timbers from parting. The technical term for the operation is ‘to frap’ a vessel, and it is only in modern times that the process has been abandoned.

μὴ εἰς τὴν σύρτιν ἐκπέσωσιν, lest they should be cast upon the Syrtis. The Syrtis Major and Syrtis Minor are two quicksands on the north coast of Africa, of which the Syrtis Major lies most to the east, between Tripoli and Barca, and was the shoal on to which the sailors at this time were afraid of being driven.

χαλάσαντες τὸ σκεῦος, having lowered the gear. The noun σκεῦος is a very general one, signifying ‘tackling’ or ‘implements’ of any kind. What was done was to lower everything from aloft that could be dispensed with. They could not have struck sail (as A.V.), because to do so would be to give up all the chance which remained of using the wind to avoid the Syrtis, which was what they desired to do.

χαλάω is used for the management of the rigging of a ship in LXX. (Isaiah 33:23), οὐ χαλάσει τὰ ἱστία.


Verse 18

18. σφοδρῶς δὲ χειμαζομένων ἡμῶν, and as we laboured exceedingly with the storm, i.e. because it continually increased in violence.

ἐκβολὴν ἐποιοῦντο, they lightened the ship. Literally ‘they made a casting overboard.’

For the expression see LXX. Jonah 1:5 ἐκβολὴν ἐποιήσαντο τῶν σκευῶν τῶν ἐν τῷ πλοίῳ.

The verb ἐποιοῦντο, being imperfect, probably has the force of ‘they set about lightening.’ The Latin phrase for the operation is very similar, jacturum facere. The ship was probably carrying corn from Alexandria to Italy, and if so the load would be a heavy one and its removal a great relief to the struggling vessel. On the African supply of corn to Italy cp. Juv. Sat. v. 118 seqq.


Verse 19

19. αὐτόχειρεςἔρριψαν, they cast out with their own hands. This reading, supported by the oldest MSS., is much more probable than the first person of the Text. recept. It is not likely that the writer of the narrative, even if he were a fellow-traveller with St Paul in this voyage, was employed in such a work, which is preeminently that which the sailors alone would undertake.

τὴν σκευήν, the tackling. As σκεῦος in 17 meant all that could be spared from aloft, so σκευή seems to mean all that could be removed from the deck or the hull of the vessel.


Verse 20

20. μήτε ἄστρων ἐπιφαινόντων ἐπὶ πλείονας ἡμέρας, nor stars shone upon us for many days. This does not imply a continuous darkness like night, but that the mist and spray made the whole sky obscure both by day and night. In such a state of things we can understand how hopeless seemed the case of the Apostle and his fellows. They were at the mercy of the storm, and could neither know the direction in which they were carried, nor see if they were nearing any danger.

λοιπόν, at length. The word thus used adverbially is common in classical Greek.


Verse 21

21. πολλῆς τε ἀσιτίας ὑπαρχούσης, and when they had been long without food. This was in consequence of the excitement which made it impossible to eat, as well as the condition of the vessel which made the preparation of food very difficult. They had been living on anything that happened to be attainable, and that had been very little.

ἀσιτία is used Joseph. Ant. XII. 7. 1 of the want of food which made soldiers unwilling to fight.

μὴ ἀνάγεσθαι ἀπὸ τῆς Κρήτης, not to have set sail from Crete. His exhortation had been that they should stay at Fair Havens, even though it was not so very commodious as a harbour.

κερδῆσαί τε τὴν ὕβριν ταύτην καὶ τὴν ζημίαν, and to have gotten (lit. gained) this harm and loss, i.e. and by so doing to have incurred this harm and loss. But κερδαίνειν is also used in the sense of ‘avoiding’ or ‘saving oneself from’ anything. Thus Joseph. Ant. II. 3. 2 says of Reuben’s desire to save Joseph’s life, καὶ τό γε μὴ μιανθῆναι τὰς χεῖρας αὐτοὺς κερδαίνειν = and that they would save themselves from having their hands defiled. So in this we may take κερδῆσαι, without a repetition of the μή from the previous clause, as meaning ‘to have saved ourselves this harm &c.’ The sense is the same in either case.


Verse 22

22. καὶ τὰ νῦν, and now, i.e. though my advice was rejected before I offer it again.

ἀποβολὴ γὰρ ψυχῆς οὐδεμία ἔσται ἐξ ὑμῶν, πλὴν τοῦ πλοίου, for there shall be no loss of life among you, but only of the ship. The Apostle now speaks in the confidence of a revelation. Before (Acts 27:10) he had reasoned from the probabilities of the case.


Verse 23

23. τοῦ θεοῦ οὗ εἰμὶ ἐγώ, ᾧ καὶ λατρεύω, ἄγγελος, an angel of the God whose I am, whom also I serve. In speaking to heathens this would be the sense which the Apostle designed to convey. They had their own gods. But St Paul stood in a different relation to his God from any which they would acknowledge towards their divinities. To him God was a Father, and therefore all obedience and service were His due. Cf. the language of Jonah when he was among the heathen sailors (Jonah 1:9).


Verse 24

24. Καίσαρί σε δεῖ παραστῆναι, thou must stand before Cæsar, and that this may come to pass thou shalt be saved from the present danger.

For παρίστημι with a dative, in this sense, cf. LXX. Proverbs 22:29, ὁρατικὸν ἄνδρα καὶ ὀξὺν ἐν τοῖς ἔργοις αὐτοῦ βασιλεῦσι δεῖ παρεστάναι, καὶ μὴ παρεστάναι ἀνδράσι νωθροῖς.

κεχάρισταί σοι ὁ θεός, God hath granted thee. This must be understood as in answer to prayer on the part of St Paul. In the midst of such peril, though no mention is made of the fact, we cannot doubt that the Apostle cried unto the Lord in his distress, and the gracious answer was vouchsafed that all should be preserved. It is not with any thought of boastfulness that he speaks thus to the heathen captain and centurion. All the praise is ascribed to God, and thus the heathen would learn that St Paul had God very near unto him.


Verse 25

25. πιστεύω γὰρ τῷ θεῷ, for I believe God. And he implies ‘I would have you do so too, that you may be of good cheer.’ In the midst of danger, few things could be more inspiriting than such an address. And by this time all in the ship must have learnt that they had no common prisoner in the Jew who had appealed from his own people to the Roman emperor.


Verse 26

26. εἰς νῆσον δέ τινα δεῖ ἡμᾶς ἐκπεσεῖν, but we must be cast upon a certain island. Hence it appears that in the vision some details of the manner of their preservation had been made known to St Paul by the divine messenger; and more evidence of this is seen in the remainder of the narrative.


Verse 27

27. τεσσαρεσκαιδεκάτη νύξ, the fourteenth night, i.e. from the time when they set sail from Fair Havens. Since that time they had been constantly driven to and fro.

ἐν τῷ Ἀδρίᾳ, in the sea of Adria. That part of the Mediterranean which lies between Greece, Italy and Africa is so called. The name embraced a much wider extent of sea than the present Gulf of Venice, which is called ‘the Adriatic’ Cf. Strabo, II. 123. See also Josephi Vita 3, for an account of a voyage made in the same sea about the same period.

ὑπενόουν οἱ ναῦται, the shipmen surmised. Their knowledge of the sea would enable them to form an opinion from things which others would hardly notice. It may be they observed some alteration in the currents, or a different character or sound of the waves, dashed against the land as they would be, if land were near.


Verse 28

28. βολίσαντες, having sounded. In ancient times this must have been the only means of feeling their way in dark and stormy weather. The lead must have been in constant use.

εὗρον ὀργυιὰς εἴκοσι, they found it twenty fathoms. Literally ‘they found twenty fathoms,’ i.e. depth of water.

βραχὺ δὲ διαστήσαντες, and after a little space. The verb may apply either to lapse of time or progress in space. As here the ship was at the mercy of the waves it is better to take the phrase in reference to time. Cf. Luke 22:59. The movement of the vessel meanwhile is understood.

ὀργυιὰς δεκαπέντε, fifteen fathoms. Such a rapid decrease in the depth of the water shewed that they would soon be aground.


Verse 29

29. φοβούμενοί τε μήπου κατὰ τραχεῖς τόπους ἐκπέσωμεν, and fearing lest we should be cast ashore somewhere on rocky ground. That rocks were near was evident from the dashing of the waves. But the morning, even with the faint light which appeared through the dark clouds, might enable them to make for a part where the coast was not so full of danger.

ἐκ πρύμνης ῥίψαντες ἀγκύρας τέσσαρας, having cast four anchors out of the stern, thus trying as best they might to keep the head of the vessel towards the land and yet let her come no nearer to it, until they could make out what it was like.

εὔχοντο ἡμέραν γενέσθαι, they wished [or prayed] for the day. If ‘prayed’ be taken as the rendering, the similarity of the circumstances to those in Jonah’s voyage would be made still greater, for then the heathen sailors prayed to their own gods.


Verse 30

30. τῶν δὲ ναυτῶν ζητούντων φυγεῖν, and when the shipmen were seeking to flee. They had hit upon a device which they thought would enable them to have the first chance for safety, and now they set about to carry it out. Everybody would agree that it was the most important matter at the moment to hold the ship in her position. So they professed to be anxious to make her secure fore as well as aft, and to lay out anchors from the foreship. For doing this they made out that the boat must be lowered from the deck, and that having been done, they intended to avail themselves of it and to row towards the shore. Paul’s interference stopped them.


Verse 31

31. εἶπεν ὁ Παῦλος τῷ ἐκατοντάρχῃ καὶ τοῖς στρατιώταις, Paul said to the centurion and to the soldiers. These would probably be able to stop the intended desertion better than the captain of the vessel. At all events they were strong enough in numbers to take the matter into their own hands, and cut the boat adrift. It seems too (from Acts 27:11) that the centurion had much to do with the direction of the ship. Probably he had chartered her for the conveyance of his prisoners and so had the right to be consulted on all that was done.

ἐὰν μὴ οὗτοι μείνωσιν ἐν τῷ πλοίῳ, except these abide in the ship. We see from this that every human effort was still to be made, although God had revealed to Paul that they should all be saved. If the sailors had left, the ignorance of the soldiers and other passengers would not have availed to save them at such a time. The skill of the sailors was to be exerted to carry out what God had promised.


Verse 32

32. τότε ἀπέκοψαν οἱ στρατιῶται τὰ σχοινία τῆς σκάφης, then the soldiers cut away the ropes of the boat, i.e. cut asunder the ropes which attached the boat to the ship. Thus the boat was cast away.


Verse 33

33. ἄχρι δὲ οὗ ἡμέρα ἤμελλεν γίνεσθαι, and while the day was coming on, i.e. before it was light enough to see what had best be done. Here again we may notice how every means was to be employed for safety. Paul urges them to take now a proper meal that when the time for work arrives they may be in a condition to undertake it. The remaining clauses of the verse are not to be understood as implying that the fast had been entire for so long a time. Such a thing is impossible. But what the Apostle means is that the crew and passengers had taken during all that time no regular food, only snatching a morsel now and then when they were able, and that of something which had not been prepared.


Verse 34

34. τοῦτο γὰρ πρὸς τῆς ὑμετέρας σωτηρίας ὑπάρχει, for this is for your safety; because the men when they had been strengthened by a proper meal would be able to do more towards their own preservation.

For πρός with a genitive, meaning ‘in the interest of,’ ‘to the advantage of,’ cf. Thuc. II. 86, ἡ ἐν στενῷ ναυμαχία πρὸς Λακεδαιμονίων ἐστίν.

οὐδενὸς γὰρ ὑμῶν θρὶξ ἀπὸ τῆς κεφαλῆς ἀπολεῖται, for there shall not a hair perish from the head of any of you. The phrase (with a variation between πεσεῖται and ἀπολεῖται) is a proverbial one to express complete deliverance. See LXX. 1 Samuel 14:45, ζῇ κύριος, εἰ πεσεῖται τριχὸς τῆς κεφαλῆς αὐτοῦ ἐπὶ τὴν γῆν. So 2 Samuel 14:11; 1 Kings 1:52; and Luke 21:18.


Verse 35

35. εὐχαρίστησεν τῷ θεῷ, he gave thanks to God. As he had advised, so he set the example of taking food. But he did more than this. He made an Eucharist of this meal. In the sight of the heathen soldiers and sailors, he brake the bread in solemn thanksgiving, and thus converted the whole into a religious act, which can hardly have been without its influence on the minds of some, at all events, of those who had heard St Paul’s previous words about the revelation which God had made to him.


Verse 36

36. εὔθυμοι δὲ γενόμενοι πάντες, and all becoming of good cheer. Paul’s hopeful spirit had breathed hope into the whole company, and doubtless the religious character infused into the meal was not without a calming influence.

προσελάβοντο τροφῆς, took some food. The ‘some’ is due to the partitive genitive.


Verse 37

37. διακόσιαι ἑβδομήκοντα ἕξ, two hundred threescore and sixteen. As we do not know the number of prisoners and soldiers, it is impossible to form any conclusion about the manning of such a ship as this. The number here mentioned is very large, and we cannot suppose that a merchantman from Alexandria to Rome would carry a very large crew. But to accept the reading (supported by very little authority) which makes the whole company ‘about threescore and sixteen, has equal difficulty on the other side, and the way in which it arose can be easily explained from the use of letters for numerals among the Greeks. A vessel which could have four anchors cast from the stern, and still have more to spare for the foreship, must have been of large size and have needed many hands. The occasion of the numbering was probably the near expectation of coming ashore, and so it was needful to have all told, for the captain, in respect of the crew, and for the centurion, that of his prisoners and soldiers none might be allowed to escape or be missing. The mention of the number at this point of the history is one of the many very natural features of the narrative.


Verse 38

38. κορεσθέντες δὲ τροφῆς, and when they had eaten enough. Literally ‘having been satisfied with food.’ When they had satisfied their present need, there was no use in trying to save more of the food which they had. So they set about lightening the ship. This is implied by the tense of the verb (ἐκούφιζον), and the next clause tells us the way they did it. They cast into the sea the corn which had been the first cargo of the vessel from Alexandria. No doubt this was the heaviest part of the freight, and would relieve the vessel greatly.


Verse 39

39. τὴν γῆν οὐκ ἐπεγίνωσκον, they knew not the land. We need not from this suppose that none of the sailors were acquainted with the island of Malta, but that the point of the land, close to which they were, was unrecognised by them. When they were close in shore, and amid stormy weather, this could very well happen, as they were a long way distant from the usual harbour.

κόλπον δέ τινα κατενόουν ἔχοντα αἰγιαλόν, but they perceived a certain bay with a beach. αἰγιαλός is used to signify such a sandy beach as might allow a ship to be run aground upon it without the danger of her immediately coming to pieces.

εἰς ὃν ἑβουλεύοντο εἰ δύναιντο ἐξῶσαι τὸ πλοῖον, and they took counsel whether they could drive the ship upon it, i.e. they saw the beach to be such that they had a chance of landing there. They therefore discussed the best way of doing so in their present maimed condition.


Verse 40

40. καὶ τὰς ἀγκύρας περιελόντες, and casting off the anchors. περιαιρέω indicates that they now cast loose all the anchors round about the stern of the vessel, where they had before laid them out. When they had thrown overboard a load of corn, there was no likelihood that they would trouble themselves with the weight of four anchors and the labour of hauling them up. So ‘taken up’ (of A.V.) gives a wrong idea.

εἴων εἰς τὴν θάλασσαν, they left them in the sea, i.e. the anchors. They had now no use for them, so they let them go.

ἅμα ἀνέντες τὰς ζευκτηρίας τῶν πηδαλίων, at the same time loosing the rudder bands.

ζευκτηρία is found nowhere else but in this place. The rudders, of which the ancient ships had two (thus accounting for the plural number, πηδαλίων), had at first been made fast and raised out of the water, when the anchors were laid out in the stern. Now that an attempt is to be made to steer the ship toward the beach they are let down again into the sea.

καὶ ἐπάραντες τὸν ἀρτέμωνα, and having hoisted the foresail. ἀρτέμων was in old times the name given to the foresail. Cognate words are now employed as names of the larger sails of vessels in the Mediterranean. But here the foresail was all they had left. Cf. Smith’s Voyage and Shipwreck of St Paul, pp. 102, 153, seqq.

τῇ πνεούσῃ, to the wind. The noun to be supplied is αὔρᾳ.

εἰς τὸν αἰγιαλόν, towards the beach, where they had resolved after consultation to try to land.


Verse 41

41. περιπεσόντες δὲ εἰς τόπον διθάλασσον, but lighting upon a place where two seas met. This is one of the features of the narrative by which the locality can almost certainly be identified. The little island of Salmonetta forms with the Maltese coast near St Paul’s Bay exactly such a position as is here described. From the sea at a little distance it appears as though the land were all continuous, and the current between the island and the mainland is only discovered on a nearer approach. This current by its deposits has raised a mudbank where its force is broken by the opposing sea, and into this bank, just at the place where the current meets the sea-waves, was the ship driven, the force of the water preventing the vessel from reaching the beach just beyond. So it came to pass that though they got much nearer to the shore than at first, yet after all they had to swim for their lives.

ἐπέκειλαν τὴν ναῦν, they ran the ship aground. ἐπικέλλω is found in Homer and Apoll. Rhodius, but ἐποκέλλω is a more common word, and so in time came to be substituted for the text of the oldest MSS.

ἡ δὲ πρύμνα ἐλύετο, but the stern began to break up. This is the force of the imperfect tense. When the foreship was immoveable, the stern would also be held fast, and so be acted on by the waves with great violence and begin to go to pieces.


Verse 42

42. ἵνα τοὺς δεσμώτας ἀποκτείνωσιν, that they should kill the prisoners. This advice was given because, by the Roman law, the soldiers were answerable with their own lives for the prisoners placed under their charge.

For ἵνα after a word or phrase signifying ‘to counsel’ or ‘decree’ cf. John 9:22. Also Sirach 44:18, διαθῆκαι αἰῶνος ἐτέθησαν πρὸς αὐτὸν ἵνα μὴ ἐξαλειφθῇ κατακλυσμῷ πᾶσα σάρξ.


Verse 43

43. ὁ δὲ ἑκατοντάρχης βουλόμενος διασῶσαι, but the centurion, desiring to save. The centurion could not fail to see that it was to the Apostle that the safety of the whole party was due, and he could hardly help feeling admiration for the prisoner, after all he had seen of him. From the first (see Acts 27:3) he had been well disposed toward Paul, and the after events would not have lessened his regard. So, to save him, he stops the design of his men, and saves the whole number of the prisoners.

ἐκώλυσεν αὐτούς, hindered them (Rev. Vers. stayed them). The verb is a forcible word, and shews that the centurion was in full command of his men, and had not in the confusion lost his thoughtfulness and presence of mind.

τοὺς δυναμένους κολυμβᾷν, those who could swim. This was the wisest course to adopt. Thus there would be a body ready on the shore to help those who only could float thither by the aid of something to which they were clinging. As St Paul had already been thrice shipwrecked and had been in the deep a night and a day (2 Corinthians 11:25) we may be sure that he was among those who were told off to swim ashore.

ἀπορρίψαντας πρώτους ἐπὶ τὴν γῆν ἐξιέναι, should cast themselves overboard [lit. off] and get first to land. The swimmers were to get into safety first of all, that then they might be in readiness to succour those who drifted to the land on the floating spars and planks.

For the active participle in this reflexive sense cf. Arrian Exped. Alex. lib. II. 4. 7, οἱ δὲ εἰς τὸν Κύδνον ποταμὸν λέγουσι ῥίψαντα νήξασθαι.


Verse 44

44. καὶ τοὺς λοιπούς, and that the rest. The case is left pendent, because of the long apposition which immediately follows. Some needful words = ‘should get to the land’ are readily supplied in thought.

οὓς μὲν ἐπὶ σανίσιν, οὕς δὲ ἐπί τινων τῶν ἀπὸ τοῦ πλοίου, some on planks, some on broken pieces of the ship. The last clause is literally ‘on some of the parts of the ship.’ The things on which they were saved were pieces which on the stranding of the vessel would be broken away from the main timbers. Everything that was needless to be kept on board they had already thrown over, and so we cannot think here of loose furniture of the vessel, but only of the framework itself.

There seems in this verse to be no appreciable difference of sense between ἐπί with a dative and with a genitive. Krüger (p. 340) is quoted in a note to Winer-Moulton (p. 488) to the effect that ἐπί with a genitive denotes a merely accidental, free connexion; ἐπί with the dative denotes rather belonging to. There is no trace of such distinction here.

πάντας διασωθῆναι, all escaped safe. This is better than A.V.; for ‘all safe’ may mean no more than ‘quite safe.’

 


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Bibliography Information
"Commentary on Acts 27:4". "Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/cgt/acts-27.html. 1896.

Lectionary Calendar
Thursday, November 14th, 2019
the Week of Proper 27 / Ordinary 32
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