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Bible Commentaries

John Dummelow's Commentary on the Bible
Acts 27

 

 

Verses 1-44


The Voyage and Shipwreck

Acts 27:1 to Acts 28:16. The Journey to Rome.

This narrative is the most detailed account of an ancient voyage which we possess, and is our principal source of knowledge of the art of navigation as practised by the ancients. St. Luke describes the voyage at length, because it exhibits his hero in a very favourable light. The details of the voyage are clearly authentic (see Intro.).

1. Julius] a person otherwise unknown. The narrative reveals him as courteous and humane, open to religious impressions, and able to appreciate, a great character. Augustus' band] rather, 'the Augustan cohort.' This cohort has been generally regarded as one of the five cohorts which, Josephus tells us, were stationed at Cæsarea. Prof. Mommsen, however, thinks that it belonged to a body of troops called frumentarii (lit. 'victuallers'), whose headquarters were at Rome on the Coelian hill. They not only superintended the provisioning of the imperial armies, but were continually going to and fro on the Emperor's business.

2. A ship of Adramyttium] i.e. a ship owned at Adramyttium, which was about to undertake its homeward voyage. Adramyttium was an important seaport of Mysia. We launched, meaning to sail by the coasts of Asia] RV 'which was about to sail unto the places on the coast of Asia, we put to sea.' Aristarchus] see Acts 19:29; Acts 20:4.

3. Sidon] an important seaport situated about 20 m. N. of its great commercial rival, Tyre. To refresh himself] rather, 'to receive attention.'

4. Under Cyprus] RV 'under the lee of Cyprus'; i.e. to the E. of the island, as was usual with ships westward bound, to avoid the prevalent W. winds.

5. Myra] see Acts 21:1. This town was important as one of the great harbours in the corn trade between Egypt and Rome.

6. A ship of Alexandria] At this time Rome was almost entirely dependent upon foreign corn, obtained mainly from Egypt. This vessel was one of the great cornships (Acts 27:38) employed to convey wheat from Alexandria to Puteoli or Ostia. The arrival of these cornships in Italy was a signal for great rejoicings.

7. Scarce] i.e. with difficulty. Cnidus] a seaport of Caria. Not suffering us] viz. to pursue a direct course to Italy S. of Cape Malea. Under Crete] i.e. under the lee of Crete (to the E. and S. of it). Salmone] the NE. promontory of Crete. Upon it stood a temple of Athena.

8. Fair havens] where St. Paul waited for a considerable time (Acts 27:9), still preserves its ancient name. It is a small bay situated about 6 m. E. of Cape Litino. It is secure only against N. and NW. winds, whereas the harbour of Phoenix (Acts 27:12) is secure against all winds. Lasea] has been identified by its ruins. It is mentioned by no other ancient writer.

9. The fast] i.e. the Day of Atonement, falling about the autumnal equinox. Ancient mariners reckoned the dangerous season of navigation from September 14th to November 11th. From November 11th till March 5th all navigation was suspended.

10. No revelation is to be assumed here.

12. Phenice] RV 'Phoenix,' i.e. either the modern Loutro, or the neighbouring town of Phineka. Toward the south west and north west] i.e. the bay or harbour formed a semicircle, of which one half looked SW. and the other half NW.

14. Translate, 'But after no long time there beat down from it' (i.e. from Crete) 'a tempestuous wind which is called Euraquilo.'

Euroclydon] The best reading is 'Euraquilo,' i.e. an E.N.E. wind.

16. RV 'and running under the lee of a small island, called Cauda, we were able, with difficulty, to secure the boat.' Clauda] or (RV) 'Cauda' (now Gavdo or Gozzo), is 23 m. S. of Phoenix. To come by the boat] RV 'to secure the boat.' This was a small rowingboat towed from the stern of the ship. The storm having come on suddenly, there had been no time to haul it aboard. This was now done, but with difficulty, for it was full of water.

17. Helps] i.e. means of protection against foundering. Undergirding] Broad girths were passed under the ship, and strained tight, to hold the timbers together. Modern seamen sometimes resort to the practice, which is called 'frapping.' Lest they should fall into the quicksands] RV 'lest they should be cast upon the Syrtis.' The 'Greater Syrtis,' 'the Goodwin Sands of the Mediterranean' (Farrar), lay to the SW. of Cauda. Strake sail] better, 'reduced sail.' They probably lowered the mainsail more than half-way, but left the small 'artemon' or stormsail extended.

18. Lightened the ship] by throwing part of the cargo overboard.

19. We.. our] RV 'they.. their.' The tackling] i.e. spars, ropes, etc. But a better translation is 'the ship's furniture,' i.e. beds, tables, benches, cooking utensils, chests, boxes, etc.

23. The angel] rather, 'an angel.' For other visions of Paul see Acts 18:9; Acts 22:18; Acts 23:11.

26. St. Paul here speaks as a prophet, and accurately predicts the future.

27. The fourteenth night] viz. from their departure from Fair Havens. In Adria] RV 'in the sea of Adria,' which lay between Malta, Italy, Greece and Crete.

28. They sounded] 'J. Smith shows how exactly the geographical details in the traditional St. Paul's Bay (on the NE. coast of Malta) correspond with the description here' (Knowling).

34. For your health] RV 'for your safety.' Unless they were strengthened by food they might be drowned in the attempt to get ashore.

35. All pious Jews gave thanks to God before taking food.

37. The number of persons on board is large, but not unusually so. The vessel on which Josephus was wrecked carried about 600 persons.

39. To thrust in the ship] rather, 'to run the ship aground.'

40. RV 'and casting off the anchors, they left them in the sea, at the same time loosing the bands of the rudders; and hoisting up the foresail to the wind, they made for the beach.'

Rudder bands] RV 'the rudders.' Ancient vessels had two rudders (in the form of a huge oar or paddle), one on each quarter. While drifting, the sailors had raised the blades of the rudders out of the water, to prevent them from being broken. Now that steering had to be done, they unlashed the rudders, and let them down into the water.

41. A place where two seas met] This may either mean, (1) a strait (i.e., in this case, the narrow strait which separates Selmun Island from the mainland); or, (2) a tongue of land (or spit of sand) washed on both sides by the sea.

42. To kill the prisoners] cp. Acts 12:19; Acts 16:27.

 


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Bibliography Information
Dummelow, John. "Commentary on Acts 27:4". "John Dummelow's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/dcb/acts-27.html. 1909.

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Sunday, January 19th, 2020
Second Sunday after Epiphany
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