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Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature


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(for the original term, see below). Under this head we propose to bring together all the important information extant relating to ancient and especially Biblical naval operations. These latter, although somewhat late historically, and not very scientific, have nevertheless a peculiar interest,

I. Extent of Navigation. The Jews cannot be said to have been a seafaring people; yet their position on the map of the world is such as to lead us to feel that they could not have been ignorant of ships and the business which relates thereunto Phoenicia, the northwestern part of Palestine, was unquestionably among, if not at the head of, the earliest cultivators of maritime affairs. Then the Holy Land itself lay with one side coasting a sea which was anciently the great, highway of navigation, and the center of social and commercial enterprise. Within its own borders it had a navigable lake. The Nile, with which river the fathers of the nation had become acquainted in their bondage, was another great thoroughfare for ships. The Red Sea itself, which conducted towards the remote east, was at no great distance even from the capital of the land. Then at different points in its long line of sea coast there were harbors of no mean repute. Let the reader call to mind Tyre and Sidon in Phoenicia, and Acre (Acco) and Jaffa (Joppa) in Palestine. Yet the decidedly agricultural bearing of the Israelitish constitution checked such a development of power, activity, and wealth as these favorable opportunities might have called forth on behalf of seafaring pursuits. There can, however, be no doubt that the arts of ship building and of navigation came to Greece and Italy from the East, and immediately from the Levant; whence we may justifiably infer that these arts, so far as they were cultivated in Palestine, were there in a higher state of perfection at an early period, at least, than in the more western parts of the world (Ezekiel 27; Strabo, bk. 16 Comenz, De Nave Tyria).

In the early periods of their history the Israelites themselves would partake to a small extent of this skill and of its advantages, since it was only by degrees that they gained possession of the entire land, and for a long time were obliged to give up the sovereignty of very much of their seaboard to the Philistines and other hostile tribes. The earliest history of Palestinian ships lies in impenetrable darkness, so far as individual facts are concerned. In Genesis 49:13 there is, however a prophecy, the fulfilment of which would connect the Israelites with shipping at an early period: "Zebulun shall dwell at the haven of the sea, and he shall be for a haven of ships, and his border shall be unto Zidon" (comp. Deuteronomy 33:19; Joshua 19:10 sq.) words which seem more fitly to describe the position of Asher in the actual division of the land. These local advantages, however, could have been only partially improved, since we find Hiram, king of Tyre, acting as carrier by sea for Solomon, engaging to convey in floats to Joppa the timber cut in Lebanon for the Temple, and leaving to the Hebrew prince the duty of transporting the wood from the coast to Jerusalem.

When after having conquered Elath and Ezion-geber on the farther arm of the Red Sea, Solomon proceeded to convert them into naval stations for his own purposes, he was still, whatever he did himself, indebted to Hiram for "shipmen that had knowledge of the sea" (1 Kings 9:26; 1 Kings 10:22). The effort, however, to form and keep a navy in connection with the East was not lastingly successful; it soon began to decline, and Jehoshaphat failed when at a later day he tried to give new life and energy to the enterprise (1 Kings 22:49-50). In the time of the Maccabees Joppa was a Jewish seaport (1 Maccabees 14:5). Herod the Great availed himself of the opportunities naturally afforded to form a more capacious port at Caesarea (Josephus, War, 3, 9, 3),. Nevertheless, no purely Jewish trade by sea was hence even now called into being. Caesarea was the place whence Paul embarked in order to proceed as a prisoner to Rome (Acts 27:2). His voyage on that occasion, as described most graphically in the Acts of the Apostles (Acts 27, 28), if it requires some knowledge of ancient maritime affairs in order to be rightly understood, affords also rich and valuable materials towards a history of the subject, and might, we feel convinced, be so treated as of itself to supply many irresistible evidences of the certainty of the events therein recorded, and, by warrantable inferences, of the credibility of the evangelical history in general. No one but an eye witness could have written the minute, exact, true, and graphic account which these two chapters give The vessels connected with Biblical history were, with the exception of those used on the Sea of Galilee (for which see below), for, the most part ships of burden, al, most indeed exclusively so, at least within the period of known historical facts, though in a remote antiquity the Phoenician states can hardly fail to have supported a navy for warlike, as it is known they did for predatory, purposes. This peculiarity, however, of the Biblical ships exonerates us from entering into the general subject of the construction of ancient ships and their several subdivisions. A good general summary, on that head may be found in Smith's Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities, s.v. A few details chiefly respecting ships of burden may be of service to the scriptural student.

II. Sources of Information. Ancient literature is singularly deficient in everything which relates to ships or navigation. No work written expressly on the subject has come down to us and we are dependent for our knowledge on the subject upon the incidental notices in poets and historians, or upon the figures on coins, marbles, or paintings, often the works of ignorant artists, which are calculated to mislead. Recent discoveries have, however, added much to our knowledge of the subject, especially in the marbles and pictures exhumed at Herculaneum and Pompeii. No one writer in the whole range of Greek and Roman literature has supplied us (it may be doubted whether all put together have supplied us) with so much information concerning the merchant ships of the ancients as Luke in the narrative of Paul's voyage to Rome (Acts 27:28). There was also dug up at the Piraeus, in 1834 a series of marble slabs, on which were inscribed the inventories of the ships of the Athenian fleet. They have been published by Prof. Bockh, of Berlin, under the title of Urkunden uber das Seewesen? des attischen Staates (Berlin, 1840, fol. and 8vo). The pictorial representations on the Egyptian and Assyrian monuments supply us some additional information. Julius Pollux, in his Onomasticon, has given a long list of nautical terms which, although not often accompanied b, explanations, puts us in possession of the terminology of ancient seamanship, and is satisfactory as agreeing in a remarkable manner with that of Luke Isidore of Seville, in his Origines, also gives many nautical terms with explanations. For other literature, see at the end of this article.

III. Original Teams. As regards Paul's voyage, it is important to remember that he accomplished it in three ships first, the Adramyttian vessel (See ADRAMYTTIUM) which took him from Caesarea to Myra, and which was probably a coasting vessel of no great size (Acts 27:1-6); secondly, the large Alexandrian corn ship, in which he was wrecked "on the coast of Malta (Acts 27:6; Acts 28:1) (See MELITA); and, thirdly, another large Alexandrian corn ship, in which he sailed from Malta by Syracuse and Rhegilum to Puteoli (Acts 28:11-13). "The word employed by Luke of each of these ships is, with one single exception, when he uses ναῦς (Acts 27:41), the generic term πλοῖον (Acts 27:2; Acts 27:6; Acts 27:10; Acts 27:15; Acts 27:22; Acts 27:30; Acts 27:37-39; Acts 27:44; Acts 28:11). The same general usage prevails throughout. Elsewhere in the Acts (Acts 20:13; Acts 20:38; Acts 21:2-3; Acts 21:6) we have πλοῖον . So in James (James 3:4) and in the Revelation (Revelation 8:9; Revelation 18:17; Revelation 18:19), In the Gospels we have πλοῖον (passim) or πλοιάριον (Mark 4:36; John 21:8). In the Sept. we find πλοῖον used twenty- eight times and ναῦς nine times. Both words generally correspond to the Hebrew אַנַי, oni, or אַנַיָּה, oniyah. In Jonah 1:5, πλοῖον is used to represent the Heb. סְפַינָה, sephinah, which, from its etymology, appears to mean a vessel covered with a deck or with hatches, in opposition to an open boat. The senses in which σκάφος (2 Maccabees 12:3; 2 Maccabees 12:6) and ςκάφη (Acts 27:16; Acts 27:32) are employed we shall notice as we proceed. The use of τριήρης, or trireme (A.V. "galley"), is limited to a single passage in the Apocrypha (2 Maccabees 4:20). In four passages (Numbers 24:24; Isaiah 33:21; Ezekiel 30:9; Daniel 11:30) the Heb. term is צַי, tsi, so called from being set up or built. (See BOAT).

IV. Styles of Ancient Ships.


1. Their Size. The narrative which we take as our chief guide affords a good standard for estimating this. The ship in which Paul was wrecked had 276 persons on board (Acts 27:37), besides a cargo (φορτίον ) of wheat (Acts 27:10; Acts 27:38); and all these passengers seem to have been taken on to Puteoli in another ship (Acts 28:11) which had her own crew and her own cargo; nor is there a trace of any difficulty in the matter, though the emergency was unexpected. Now in English transport ships, prepared for carrying troops, it is a common estimate to allow a ton and a half per man; thus we see that it would be a mistake to suppose that these Alexandrian corn ships were very much smaller than modern trading vessels. What is here stated is quite in harmony with other instances. The ship in which Josephus was wrecked (Life, § 3), in the same part of the Levant, had 600 souls on board. The Alexandrian corn ship described by Lucian (Navig. s. vota) as driven into the Piraeus by stress of weather, and as exciting general attention from her great size, would appear (from a consideration of the measurements which are explicitly given) to have measured 1100 or 1200 tons. As to the ship of Ptolemy Philadelphus, described by Athenaeus (v. 204), this must have been much larger; but it would be no more fair to take that as a standard than to take the "Great Eastern" as a type of a modern steamer. On the whole, if we say that an ancient merchant ship might range from 500 to 1000 tons, we are clearly within the mark.

2. Merchant ships in the Old Test. The earliest passages where seafaring is alluded to in the Old Test, are the following in order: Genesis 49:13, in the prophecy of Jacob concerning Zebulun (Sept. κατοικγ῎σει παῤ ὅρμον πλοίων ); Numbers 24:24, in Balaam's prophecy (where, however, ships are not mentioned in the Sept.); Deuteronomy 28:68, in one of the warnings of Moses (ἀποστρέψει σε Κω῏ / ριος εἰς Αἴγυπτον ἐν πλοίοις ); Judges 5:17, in Deborah's Song (Δὰν εἰς τί παροικεῖ πλοίοις ). Next after these it is natural to mention the illustrations and descriptions connected with this subject in Job (Job 9:26, καί ἐστι ναυσὶν ἴχνος ὁδοῦ ) and in the Psalms (Psalms 47:7, Ev irvsfiaaVrL 3Stai:avvrpiEtc 7 ἐν πνεύματι βιαίῳ συ&

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Bibliography Information
McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Ship'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.

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