corner graphic   Hi,    
Finding the new version too difficult to understand? Go to

Bible Dictionaries

Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible


Resource Toolbox
Additional Links

MELITA. An island about sixty miles S. of Sicily, with an area of about ninety-five square miles. Its excellent position as a commercial station led to its early colonization by Phœnicians and Greeks. It became subject to Carthage, but was conquered by the Romans in b.c. 218, and became part of the province of Sicily. But the Carthaginian and Libyan element predominated, hence St. Luke’s use of the phrase ‘the barbarous people’ ( Acts 28:2 ). There can be no doubt that this Melita was the scene of St. Paul’s shipwreck. The use of the name Adria ( Acts 27:27 ) led to an attempt to identify it with Melita in the Adriatic, but the term ‘Adria’ was freely applied to the sea E. and S.E. of Sicily, and the wind ‘Euraquilo’ ( Acts 27:14 ) would drive them from Crete to Malta if the captain, realizing that his chief danger was the Syrtis quicksands ( Acts 27:17 ), took the natural precaution of bearing up into the wind as much as the weather permitted. The description is precise. On the 14th night of their drifting, by sounding they found they were getting into shallower water, and cast out anchors; but when day dawned they saw before them a bay with a shelving beach, on which they determined to run the vessel. Therefore they hastily cast off the anchors, unfastened the rudders, which had been lashed during their drifting, and with the aid of these and the foresail tried to steer the ship to the beach. But before they reached it they ran on a shoal ‘where two seas met,’ and reached the shore only by swimming or floating on spars. Every detail of the narrative is satisfied by assuming that they landed on the W. side of St. Paul’s Bay, eight miles from Valetta, five miles from the old capital Città-Vecchia. The tradition which gave this as the scene was already old when our earliest map of Malta (a Venetian one) was made about a.d. 1530. As it is scarcely likely that the spot was identified by special investigations in the Middle Ages, this is a remarkable instance of the permanence and correctness of some early traditions. Incidentally, it is also a proof of the remarkable impression made on the inhabitants by the three months St. Paul was compelled to spend in the island. St. Luke relates only two incidents. As they made a fire for the shipwrecked men, a snake, aroused from the wood by the heat, fastened on St. Paul’s hand, and, to the surprise of the onlookers, did him no harm. The word ‘venomous’ ( Acts 28:4 ) is not properly in the text, and St. Luke does not state that it was a miraculous deliverance. But the natives thought it was, and therefore there probably were venomous snakes in Malta then. There are none now, but in an island with 2000 inhabitants to the square mile they would be likely to become extinct. The other incident was the curing of dysentery of the father of Publius (wh. see). Naturally there are local traditions of St. Paul’s residence, and the map referred to above has a church of St. Paul’s near the bay, but on its E. side. The first known bishop of Malta was at the Council of Chalcedon in 451.

Malta has had a varied history since. Vandals, Normans, Turks all left their mark on it. In 1530, Charles v. gave it to the Knights of St. John who defended it three times against the desperate attacks of the Turks. In 1798, Napoleon seized it, but the English took it from him in 1800, and it has remained English hands since. But the population remains very mixed, the race and the native language retaining much of the Arabic element.

A. E. Hillard.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.

Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Melita'. Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible. 1909.

Lectionary Calendar
Thursday, December 12th, 2019
the Second Week of Advent
Search for…
Enter query in the box:
Choose a letter to browse:
A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M 
N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  Y  Z 

Prev Entry
Next Entry
To report dead links, typos, or html errors or suggestions about making these resources more useful use our convenient contact form
Powered by Lightspeed Technology