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Fausset's Bible Dictionary

Ship

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Among the earliest shipbuilders were the Phoenicians, whose commerce and voyages made them foremost in the maritime science of early ages, and traces of whose ships are frequently met with. (On PAUL'S voyage, see EUROCLYDON; MELITA; CNIDUS; CRETE; FAIR HAVENS.) Paul was first in the Adramyttian coasting vessel from Caesarea to Myra; then in the large Alexandrian grain ship wrecked at Malta; then in another Alexandrian grain ship from Malta by Syracuse and Rhegium to Purcell. Luke shows accurate nautical knowledge, yet not professional, but of an observer, telling what was done but not the how or the why.

Fourteen different verbs he uses of the progression of a ship, peculiar to himself and appropriate to each case: pleoo ; Luke 8:23; Acts 21:3; apopleo ; Acts 13:4; Acts 14:26; Acts 20:15; Acts 27:1; bradupleoo ; Acts 27:7; diapleoo ; Acts 27:5; ekpleoo ; Acts 15:39; katapleoo ; Luke 8:26; hupopleoo ; Acts 27:4; Acts 27:7; parapleoo ; Acts 20:16; euthudromeoo ; Acts 16:11; Acts 21:1; hupotrechoo ; Acts 27:16; paralegomai ; Acts 27:8; Acts 27:13; feromai ; Acts 27:15; diaferomai ; Acts 27:27; diaperaoo ; Acts 21:2. Paul's ship, besides cargo of wheat, carried 276 persons, so she would be of 600 tons. Lucian (Ploion e Euche) describes an Alexandrian wheat ship, 180 ft. long (including end projections) by 45 ft. broad, i.e. 1,300 tons.

The largest on record was Ptolemy Philopator's war galley, 420 ft. long by 57 ft. broad, under 5,000 tons. "The governor" in James 3:4 is the "helmsman" (kuberneetees ; the "owner" was naukleeros ). There were two paddle rudders, one on each quarter, acting in a rowlock or through a porthole. As the helmsman used only one at a time, "the helm" is in the singular in James 3:4. In Acts 27:29; Acts 27:40, after letting go the four anchors at the stern, they lashed up both the rudder paddles lest they should interfere with the ground tackle. When they wished to steer again and the anchor ropes were cut (margin), they unfastened the lashings or bands of the paddles. The ship's run from Rhegium to Puteoli, 180 miles in two days, the wind being full from the S., illustrates the rate of sailing. The bow and the stern were much alike, except that on each side of the bow was painted "the sign" (paraseemon ), as for instance "Castor and Pollux" (Acts 28:11).

An eye was painted on each side of the bow; so Luke's phrase (antofthalmein ), "bear up into," literally, "eye the wind" directly (Acts 27:15). The imperfect build of ships caused the need of "undergirders" to pass round the frame, at right angles to its length, when the planks were in danger of starting. The anchors resembled ours, but had no flukes. Spiritually they symbolize the Christian hope (Hebrews 6:19). The soul is the ship; the world the sea; the bliss beyond the distant coast; hope resting on faith the anchor which prevents the vessel being tossed to and fro; the consolation through God's promise and hope is the cable connecting the ship and anchor. The soul clings, as one in fear of shipwreck, to the anchor, and sees not where the cable runs, where it is fastened; she knows it is fastened behind the veil which hides the future glory; if only she hold on to the anchor, she shall in due time be drawn in where it is, into the holiest, by the Saviour.

Anchoring by the stern, the ancients were prepared to anchor in the gale such as Paul encountered; and Purdy (Sailing Directions, 180) says that the holding ground at Malta where Paul was wrecked is quite good enough to have secured the anchors and ship in spite of the severe night. In Acts 27:40, for "mainsail" translated "foresail," which was needed to put the ship about and to run it aground. Vessels were propelled by oars as well as by sails (Ezekiel 27:29; Isaiah 33:21; Jonah 1:13). Of the 32 parts or points of the compass card a modern ship will sail within six points of the wind. The clumsier ancient ship probably could sail within seven points. In a heavy gale the ship would lie to, with the right side to the storm, the object being not progress but safety; as under the lee of Clauda (Acts 27:14-17).

To anchor was impossible; to drift would have brought the ship to the fatal Syrtis off Africa. The wind was E.N.E. (Euraquilo); the direction of drift being W. by N., and the rate of drift one mile and a half an hour; the shipwreck must have been off Malta. Having no compass or charts, they seldom ventured voyaging in winter (Acts 27:9), and the absence of visible sun or stars seriously embarrassed them (Acts 27:20). In the intricate passages between islands and mainland they did not sail by night when the moon was dark (Acts 20:13-16; Acts 21:1). Thomson (Land and Book, 401-404) mentions seeing but one rickety boat on the sea of Galilee, which was once covered with fishermen's boats; contrast the fact that Josephus (B. J., 2:21, section 8-10) mentions his collecting here 280 boats, with four men in each.


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Bibliography Information
Fausset, Andrew R. Entry for 'Ship'. Fausset's Bible Dictionary. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/fbd/s/ship.html. 1949.

Lectionary Calendar
Thursday, December 12th, 2019
the Second Week of Advent
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