THE ACTS OF APOSTLES
Lesson 12: Chapters 26-28
St. Paul's Journey to Rome
Beloved Lord and Savior,
You call all Christians to take up their cross of suffering for the sake of the Kingdom and to follow you. We have no better example of this kind of self-sacrificial discipleship then in the ministry of St. Paul, your apostle to the Gentiles. We may not be called to give our testimony of Christ before governors and kings like St. Paul, but help us be ready daily to submit ourselves to the prompting of the Holy Spirit to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ with those we meet; sharing the Gospel in our actions as well as in our words. We humbly pray in the name of God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
+ + +
St. Paul speaking
of his physical and emotional sufferings for the sake of the Gospel: Five
times at the hands of the Jews I received forty lashes minus one.* Three times
I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, I
passed a night and a day on the deep; on frequent journeys, in dangers from
rivers, dangers from robbers, dangers from my own race, dangers from Gentiles,
dangers in the city, dangers in the wilderness, dangers at sea, dangers among
false brothers; in toil and hardship, through many sleepless nights, through
hunger and thirst, through frequent fastings, through cold and exposure. And
apart from these things, there is the daily pressure upon me of my anxiety for
all the churches.
2 Corinthians 11:25-28
*Dt 25:3 records that forty stripes are the maximum under the Law. When Paul speaks of "false brothers" in verse 26 he is speaking not of Jews but of some professing Christians.
St. Paul has been imprisoned in Caesarea for two years from c. 58-60 AD. We have a good idea of the year at the end of his imprisonment since we know from ancient sources that Marcus Antonius Felix was recalled in 60 AD and Porcius Festus took his place. Felix there were many accusations made against Felix by the Jews; however, he was not charged with any crimes because of his brother's position as Nero's secretary and confidant (Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, 20.8.9 ).
And what was St. Paul doing for those two years being held under house arrest in Caesarea where he was allowed to receive visitors (Acts 24:23)? He was not alone; he had Luke and other members of his missionary team with him (Acts 27:2), and he probably continued to receive Christians from faith communities across the region as well as Jews from the synagogue in Caesarea. He taught Christians the theology of Christ (Christology) that is present in all his letters, and to the Jews he taught how the Old Covenant was fulfilled in Jesus the Messiah. His teaching continued to have an impact on the Jews by convincing them to give up the old ritual law and to fully embrace the New Covenant in Christ Jesus whose one perfect blood sacrifice made all other blood rituals and purification rituals null and void (i.e., Rom 3:21-26; Heb 8:6-7, 13; 9:11-14, 28; 10:1-18). This had to have been the case since the Jewish hierarchy in Jerusalem still desired to kill him even after his physical absence for the past two years (Acts 25:3).
St. Paul has also been experiencing the kind of suffering Jesus prophesied for His disciples and Apostles when He told them: Behold, I am sending you like sheep in the midst of wolves; so be as shrewd as serpents and as simple as doves. But beware of people. For they will hand you over to courts and scourge you in their synagogues, and you will be led before governors and kings for my sake as a witness before them and the pagans (Mt 10:16-18). But Jesus also promised: When they hand you over, do not worry about how you are to speak or what you are to say. You will be given at that moment what you are to say. For it will not be you who speak but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you (Mt 10:19-20). Paul has shrewdly refused to allow himself to be placed under the jurisdiction of the High Priest Ananias, who Paul does not acknowledge as "a ruler" over him, nor will he submit to being tried by the Sanhedrin in Jerusalem. He has instead called upon the rights due him as a Roman citizen and has placed himself under the jurisdiction of the Roman Emperor. Governor Festus will send Paul to Rome, but before he leaves Festus invites King Herod Agrippa II and his sister to hear Paul speak. This is St. Paul's fifth and last long speech in Acts.
ST. PAUL'S FOURTH JOURNEY: TO ROME
Approximate date: 60/61 AD
Companions: Luke, Aristarchus, Roman officer & soldiers, others
By way of Lebanon, Turkey, Crete, Malta, Sicily, Rome
Approximate miles traveled: 2,250 miles
Sent by Roman Governor Festus
|Sidon, Myra, Cnidus||Acts 27:4-7|
|Fair Havens (Crete)||Acts 27:8|
|Clauda (Cauda)||Acts 27:15|
|Malta (Melita)||Acts 28:1-10|
|Syracuse, Rhegium, Puteoli||Acts 28:11-13|
|Forum of Appius and Three Taverns||Acts 28:15|
|Michal Hunt Copyright © 1998|
Macedonia to Illyricum (1 Tim 1:3)
Troas and Miletus (2 Tim 4:13, 20)
Crete (Tit 1:5)
Mission to Spain circa 63-66 AD (Rom 15:28)
Nicopolis (Tit 3:12)
Return to Rome and martyrdom (2 Tim 1); death by decapitation June 29, 67 AD (the same day St. Peter was martyred).
Chapter 26: St. Paul's Testimony to Governor Festus and King Agrippa II
Jesus told His disciples:
... they will seize and persecute you, they will hand you over to the
synagogues and to prisons, and they will have you led before kings and
governors because of my name. It will lead to your giving testimony.
Remember, you are not to prepare your defense beforehand, for I myself shall
give you wisdom in speaking that all your adversaries will be powerless to
resist or refute.
Jesus to Ananias the Jewish-Christian prophet concerning St. Paul: But the
Lord said to him, "Go, for this man is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my
name before Gentiles, kings, and Israelites, and I will show him what he will
have to suffer for my name."
Acts 26:1-11 ~ St. Paul's Final Defense Testimony
1 Then Agrippa said to Paul, "You may now speak on your behalf." So Paul stretched out his hand and began his defense. 2 "I count myself fortunate, King Agrippa, that I am to defend myself before you today against all the charges made against me by the Jews, 3 especially since you are an expert in all the Jewish customs and controversies. And therefore I beg you to listen patiently. 4 My manner of living from my youth, a life spent from the beginning among my people and in Jerusalem, all the Jews know. 5 They have known about me from the start, if they are willing to testify, that I have lived my life as a Pharisee, the strictest party of our religion. 6 But now I am standing trial because of my hope in the promise made by God to our ancestors. 7 Our twelve tribes hope to attain to that promise as they fervently worship God day and night; and on account of this hope I am accused by the Jews, O king. 8 Why is it thought unbelievable among you that God raises the dead? 9 I myself once thought that I had to do many things against the name of Jesus the Nazorean, 10 and I did so in Jerusalem. I imprisoned many of the holy ones with the authorization I received from the chief priests, and when they were to be put to death I cast my vote against them. 11 Many times, in synagogue after synagogue, I punished them in an attempt to force them to blaspheme; I was so enraged against them that I pursued them even to foreign cities.
King Agrippa invites Paul to speak So Paul stretched out his hand and began his defense. Raising and stretching out one's hand about head high with the back of the hand facing the audience and the palm facing the speaker was the Greek gesture of an orator ready to speak. Paul may have used this same gesture in Acts 13:16; 19:33 and 21:40. Paul opens with a statement meant to flatter Agrippa in verse 3 who claimed to follow the Jewish religion before beginning his defense.
Acts 26:4-5 ~ 4 My
manner of living from my youth, a life spent from the beginning among my people
and in Jerusalem, all the Jews know. 5 They
have known about me from the start, if they are willing to testify, that I have
lived my life as a Pharisee, the strictest party of our religion.
Paul begins by testifying that his entire life has been lived as a Jew who is a member of the Pharisees, the Jewish sect that is the most vigilant concerning the observances of the Law.
Question: For what reason does Paul claim that he
is being tried?
Answer: He is on trial for his hope in the promise God made to the Patriarchs that is the belief in the resurrection of the dead.
This is not the first time Paul has claimed to be on
trial for his belief in the resurrection of the dead. He made the same claim
in Acts 23:6; 24:15 and 25:19.
Question: What is different about his claim this time? See verses 6-8.
Answer: Now he is explicitly testifying that the resurrection of Jesus and the sending of the Spirit is the fulfillment of "the promise made by God to our ancestors."
This is a clear statement of the theme of prophecy and fulfillment found in the Gospels and the connection between the belief in Jesus the Messiah's resurrection from the dead and the claim of those who accept Jesus as the Messiah as the children of the promise God made to Abraham in Genesis 12:1-3 of land/a kingdom, descendants, and a worldwide blessing that was repeated in Genesis 22:17-18: I will bless you abundantly and make your descendants as countless as the stars of the sky and the sands of the seashore; your descendants shall take possession of the gates of their enemies, and in your descendants all the nations of the earth shall find blessing... It is what St. Paul taught in his letter to the Galatian Christians: And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham's descendants, heirs according to the promise (Gal 3:29) and what he wrote to the Roman Christians: This means that it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as descendants ... For the Scripture says, "No one who believes in him will be put to shame." For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; the same Lord is Lord of all, enriching all who call upon him. "For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved" (Rom 9:8; 10:11-13 quoting Is 28:16 LXX and Joel 3:5 LXX).
Question: How is the promise made to the
patriarchs fulfilled in Jesus?
Answer: The promise is fulfilled in the Kingdom of Jesus Christ, in those saved by faith in Jesus Christ in all generations past and future who are as many as the stars in the sky and sand on the seashore, and in the worldwide blessing of salvation in Christ Jesus that is extended to Jews and Gentiles.
In verses 9-11 Paul then speaks about how misguided he was in persecuting Christians. This is an opening for his conversion story.
Acts 26:12-23 ~ Paul's Third Conversion Account
12 On one such occasion I was traveling to Damascus with the authorization and commission of the chief priests. 13 At midday, along the way, O king, I saw a light from the sky, brighter than the sun, shining around me and my traveling companions. 14 We all fell to the ground and I heard a voice saying to me in Hebrew, 'Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me? It is hard for you to kick against the goad.' 15 And I said, 'Who are you, sir [Kyrios = Lord]?' And the Lord [Kyrios] replied, 'I am Jesus whom you are persecuting. 16 Get up now, and stand on your feet. I have appeared to you for this purpose, to appoint you as a servant and witness of what you have seen of me and what you will be shown. 17 I shall deliver you from this people and from the Gentiles to whom I send you, 18 to open their eyes that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may obtain forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who have been consecrated by faith in me.' 19 And so, King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision. 20 On the contrary, first to those in Damascus and in Jerusalem and throughout the whole country of Judea, and then to the Gentiles, I preached the need to repent and turn to God, and to do works giving evidence of repentance. 21 That is why the Jews seized me when I was in the Temple and tried to kill me. 22 But I have enjoyed God's help to this very day, and so I stand here testifying to small and great alike, saying nothing different from what the prophets and Moses foretold, 23 that the Messiah must suffer and that, as the first to rise from the dead, he would proclaim light both to our people and to the Gentiles."
Question: How many times have we heard Paul's conversion
story in Acts?
Answer: This is the third time.
St. Paul's conversion story is very similar to the other accounts (Acts 9:1-19 and 22:5-21). One difference is Jesus telling him: 'It is hard for you to kick against the goad.' The saying "it is hard to kick against the goad" is found in secular Greek literature of the times and points to the senselessness and wasted effort of working against divine will. A goad was a prod or stick that was used to direct yoked oxen to move or turn according to the will of their master.
Question: What is the point of the saying for
Answer: Jesus was telling Paul it was a waste of effort to try to work against God's will for the direction of his life.
Acts 26:22-23 ~ 22 But
I have enjoyed God's help to this very day, and so I stand here testifying to
small and great alike, saying nothing different from what the prophets and
Moses foretold, 23 that the Messiah
must suffer and that, as the first to rise from the dead, he would proclaim
light both to our people and to the Gentiles."
Paul testifies that nothing he preaches is new or different from what was spoken by Israel's holy prophets and by Moses in the Torah. Then he refers to the "suffering servant" passages in Isaiah as being fulfilled in Jesus' suffering and death and well as Isaiah's prophecy in 9:1-6 that begins The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light... an image Jesus applied to Himself when He said I AM the Light of the world (Jn 8:12). Before the coming of the Messiah (and Jews today) did not see Isaiah's suffering servant passages as a prophecy of the Messiah but rather as the suffering of Israel collectively, even though the references to the "suffering servant" are in the singular and not in the plural. St. Luke is the only New Testament writer to explicitly link the "suffering servant" to Jesus the Messiah (see Lk 24:26, 46; Acts 3:18; 17:3 and here in 26:23).
Acts 26:24-32 ~ The Reaction to Paul's Testimony
24 While Paul was so speaking in his defense, Festus said in a loud voice, "You are mad, Paul; much learning is driving you mad." 25 But Paul replied, "I am not mad, most excellent Festus; I am speaking words of truth and reason. 26 The king knows about these matters and to him I speak boldly, for I cannot believe that any of this has escaped his notice; this was not done in a corner. 27 King Agrippa, do you believe the prophets? I know you believe." 28 Then Agrippa said to Paul, "You will soon persuade me to play the Christian." 29 Paul replied, "I would pray to God that sooner or later not only you but all who listen to me today might become as I am except for these chains." 30 Then the king rose, and with him the governor and Bernice and the others who sat with them. 31 And after they had withdrawn they said to one another, "This man is doing nothing at all that deserves death or imprisonment." 32 And Agrippa said to Festus, "This man could have been set free if he had not appealed to Caesar."
The concept of a bodily resurrection of the dead was completely foreign to the Greeks and the Romans, and therefore Festus calls what Paul teaches the talk of a madman. Paul however insists that the king knows about these things if he is a religious Jew and has read the Scriptures. The little saying: "this was not done in a corner" means Paul is presenting a story about Jesus and Christians that is by this time, three decades after the events, public knowledge.
Question: What is St. Paul's argument in verses
Answer: Since Christian missionaries like Paul proclaim nothing different from what the Old Testament prophets proclaimed, then the logical response for a believing Jew is to accept Jesus the Messiah and become a Christian.
Acts 26:28-29 ~ Then
Agrippa said to Paul, "You will soon persuade me to play the Christian." 29 Paul replied, "I would pray to God that
sooner or later not only you but all who listen to me today might become as I
am except for these chains."
Agrippa is moved by the Spirit through Paul's discourse, but resists and appears to have missed out on the opportunity of an eternally glorious lifetime.
Acts 26:30-32 ~ 30 Then
the king rose, and with him the governor and Bernice and the others who sat
with them. 31 And after they had
withdrawn they said to one another, "This man is doing nothing at all that
deserved death or imprisonment." 32 And
Agrippa said to Festus, "This man could have been set free if he had not
appealed to Caesar."
Question: How many times has Paul been pronounced innocent of the charges made against him by the authorities? How is this similar to Jesus' trial?
Answer: This is the third time Paul has been pronounced innocent of the charges against him. This is an echo of Pilate's three time pronouncement of Jesus' innocence.
|Jesus Pronounced Innocent Three Times||Paul Pronounced Innocent Three Times|
|Pilate then addressed the chief priests and the crowds, "I find this man not guilty" (Lk 23:4).||Tribune Claudius Lycias in his letter to the governor: I discovered that he was accused in matters of controversial questions of their law and not of any charge deserving death or imprisonment (Acts 23:29).|
|Pilate said: "I have conducted my investigation in your presence and have not found this man guilty of the charges you have brought against him, nor did Herod, for he sent him back to us. So not capital crime has been committed by him" (Lk 23:14-15).||Governor Festus: "I found, however, that he had done nothing deserving death, and so when he appealed to the emperor, I decided to send him" (Acts 25:25).|
|Pilate addressed them a third time, "What evil has this man done? I found him guilty of no capital crime" (Lk 23:22).||Festus and King Agrippa: And when they had withdrawn they said to one another, "This man is doing nothing at all that deserved death or imprisonment" (Acts 26:31).|
Chapter 27: Departure for Rome
night the Lord stood by him and said, "Take courage. For just as you have
borne witness to my cause in Jerusalem, so you must also bear witness in Rome."
Notice that St. Luke's "we" passages pick up again and continue to the end of Acts. This is the last of the "we" passages. In these last chapters, St. Luke provides a vivid eyewitness description of the journey to Rome by sea and the adventures they encountered along the way. In their journey, by way of Lebanon, Turkey, Crete, Malta, Sicily to reach the Italian Peninsula and Rome, St. Paul and his companions covered approximate 2,250 miles. It is the late fall of 60 AD.
Acts 27:1-5 ~ Paul and his Companions Begin the
Journey to Rome
1 When it was decided that we should sail to Italy, they handed Paul and some other prisoners over to a centurion named Julius of the Cohort Augusta. 2 We went on board a ship from Adramyttium bound for ports in the province of Asia and set sail. Aristarchus, a Macedonian from Thessalonica, was with us. 3 On the following day we put in at Sidon where Julius was kind enough to allow Paul to visit his friends who took care of him. 4 From there we put out to sea and sailed around the sheltered side of Cyprus because of the headwinds, 5 and crossing the open sea off the coast of Cilicia and Pamphylia we came to Myra in Lycia.
This section begins St. Luke's stirring and detailed eyewitness account of St. Paul's adventures on his journey to Rome. Luke's purpose is to show Paul's gentle nature in times of difficulty that endeared him to his captors and his prophetic gift that helped to save the lives of everyone on board the ship. The centurion Julius was a member of the Cohort Augusta (verse 1). The presence of Cohort Augusta in Syria during the first century AD is attested in numerous inscriptions, but it is also possible that the Cohort "Augustus" [Sebaste] refers to the cohort which was under King Herod Agrippa's command. Josephus mentions cohorts called sebastenoi whose name was derived from the city of Sebaste in Samaria (Antiquities of the Jews, 19.9.2 [365-366]; Jewish War, 2.3.4 ).
Question: How would you characterize most of the
Romans Paul has met up to this point?
Answer: With the possible exception of Gallio and Felix, most of the Romans Paul has met have been honorable men.
Acts 27:2 ~ We
went on board a ship from Adramyttium bound for ports in the province of Asia
and set sail. Aristarchus, a Macedonian from Thessalonica, was with us.
Adramyttium is modern day Edremit, a port on the northwest coast of Turkey opposite the island of Lesbos. In Roman times it was considered to be in the Roman province of Asia.
Question: Who is Aristarchus? See Acts 19:29;
20:4-5; Col 4:10 and Philem 24.
Answer: Aristarchus is a native of Thessalonica in Macedonia who, after his conversion, joined Paul's third missionary team (Acts 20:4-5). He was attacked in the silversmiths riot at Ephesus (Acts 19:29). He is evidently devoted to Paul and continued to stay with him in Rome. Paul speaks of him being a "fellow prisoner" (Col 4:10; Philem 24).
Acts 27:6-8 ~ Difficulties of the Voyage
6 There the centurion found an Alexandrian ship that was sailing to Italy and put us on board. 7 For many days we made little headway, arriving at Cnidus only with difficulty, and because the wind would not permit us to continue our course we sailed for the sheltered side of Crete off Salmone. 8 We sailed past it with difficulty and reached a place called Fair Havens, near which was the city of Lasea.
It is likely that ship from Alexandria, Egypt was a very large cargo ship carrying grain to Rome. Egypt was the "bread-basket" of the ancient world and the Romans depended on the grain from the Roman province of Egypt to feed her armies and to supply the free grain ration of 880 lbs. per month to every male citizen of Rome over the age of ten (Nigel Rodgers, Roman Empire, page 488 ). Food shortages in the city of Rome meant riots that could endanger to rule of an emperor.
Almost immediately, the weather became an enemy of the voyage. Notice Luke's detailed account of the route and the cities that they made port or sailed passed. Consult a map and located the route Paul's ship took through the Mediterranean:
The danger of proceeding by sea increased beyond the point of Lasea especially in the fall and winter. The coast turns sharply north, bringing open sea winds to bear full force against any ship and heightening the danger. For the most part all shipping ceased in the winter months, and because of its exposure Fair Havens was not a good port to wait out the winter storms.
Acts 27:9-15 ~ Paul's Prophecy and his Prophecy
Fulfilled in the Great Storm
9 Much time had now passed and sailing had become hazardous because the time of the fast had already gone by, so Paul warned them, 10 "Men, I can see that this voyage will result in severe damage and heavy loss not only to the cargo and the ship, but also to our lives." 11 The centurion, however, paid more attention to the pilot and to the owner of the ship than to what Paul said. 12 Since the harbor was unfavorably situated for spending the winter, the majority planned to put out to sea from there in the hope of reaching Phoenix, a port in Crete facing west-northwest, there to spend the winter. 13 A south wind blew gently, and thinking they had attained their objective, they weighed anchor and sailed along close to the coast of Crete. 14 Before long an offshore wind of hurricane force called a "Northeaster" struck. 15 Since the ship was caught up in it and could not head into the wind we gave way and let ourselves be driven.
Verse 9 established the time of the year as late fall or early winter. Luke's reference to the "time of the fast" refers to the Jewish Feast of Atonement (Yom Kippur) that occurred in the fall on the 10th of Tishri in late September/early October (Lev 16). Ships did not usually sail on the Mediterranean during the months from November to March because of the severe weather conditions; however, the Roman historian Suetonius mentions that the Roman government guaranteed insurance coverage for the loss of ships and offered large bonuses to ship owners who delivered grain during these dangerous months (Life of Claudius, 18.1). This may be the reason the ship's owner was prepared to make the journey at this hazardous time of the year.
Acts 27:10-11 ~ so Paul warned them, 10 "Men, I can see that this voyage will result
in severe damage and heavy loss not only to the cargo and the ship, but also to
our lives." 11 The centurion,
however, paid more attention to the pilot and to the owner of the ship than to
what Paul said.
St. Paul warns the centurion and the ship owner that it is too dangerous to continue the journey and they should turn back to a safe harbor. This is not a prophetic warning but is instead a practical warning. A prophetic message will come later that promises salvation for all aboard (Acts 27:22-23). They are at the port of Fair Havens in Crete. Weighing anchor against Paul's advice, the ship made a run for the safer harbor of Phoenix. It was a better port to winter over since it faced to the west and most of the fall and winter storms came from the northeast. The plan failed, however, as the ship was driven off course by a sudden northeast wind. They could not control the ship and were driven by the wind.
Acts 27:16-26 ~ Paul's Promise of Salvation
16 We passed along the sheltered side of an island named Cauda and managed only with difficulty to get the dinghy under control. 17 They hoisted it aboard, then used cables to undergird the ship. Because of their fear that they would run aground on the shoal of Syrtis, they lowered the drift anchor and were carried along in this way. 18 We were being pounded by the storm so violently that the next day they jettisoned some cargo, 19 and on the third day with their own hands they threw even the ship's tackle overboard. 20 Neither the sun nor the stars were visible for many days, and no small storm raged. Finally, all hope of our surviving was taken away. 21 When many would no longer eat, Paul stood among them and said, "Men, you should have taken my advice and not have set sail from Crete and you would have avoided this disastrous loss. 22 I urge you now to keep up your courage; not one of you will be lost, only the ship. 23 For last night an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I serve stood by me 24 and said, 'Do not be afraid, Paul. You are destined to stand before Caesar; and behold, for your sake, God has granted safety to all who are sailing with you.' 25 Therefore, keep up your courage, men: I trust in God that it will turn out as I have been told. 26 We are destined to run aground on some island.
Cauda is probably the modern Gavdos, a small island southwest of Crete. They were able to drift under the shelter offered by the island but did not make land. The carried out emergency measures to prepare the ship for reemerging into the full force of the storm. They hoisted the dingy that was in the water aboard and secured it to the ship. It was common for a dingy to be towed behind a ship but that was not practical in a big storm. They then used cables to wrap or undergird the ship to help it hold together as additional support for the planks of the ship in the pounding of the waves.
Acts 27:17b ~ Because of their fear that they
would run aground on the shoal of Syrtis, they lowered the drift anchor and
were carried along in this way.
The shoal of Syrtis refers to a zone of shallow water and quicksand off the coast of Cyrenaica (the Gulf of Sidra) was well known hazard for ships and is mentioned by Dio Chrysostom (Oration, 5.8-11), Pliny the Elder (Natural History, 5.26), and Josephus who wrote that its very name struck terror: "a place terrible to such as barely hear it described" (Jewish War, 2.16.4 ). Their situation is so critical that they begin to lighten the ship by throwing what wasn't essential overboard including some of the cargo. On the third day driven by the storm, they even threw some of the ship's gear overboard. They were progressively lightening the ship.
Acts 27:20 ~ Neither
the sun nor the stars were visible for many days, and no small storm raged.
Finally, all hope of our surviving was taken away.
The storm was so ferocious that they cannot even see the sun or stars as the ship is driven many days by the storm.
Acts 27:21-22 ~ 21 When
many would no longer eat, Paul stood among them and said, "Men, you should have
taken my advice and not have set sail from Crete and you would have avoided
this disastrous loss. 22 I urge
you now to keep up your courage; not one of you will be lost, only the ship.
St. Paul reminds them that he had warned them not to sail out from Crete (verse 10), but he urges them to keep up their courage with the promise that no lives will be lost; the only loss will be the ship.
Question: He reminds them that his former advice was sound for what reason? For your answer see verses 23-26.
Answer: He reminds them of his former advice not because he wants to say "I told you so" but so they will take seriously his prophecy of their salvation which he received from an angel. What he is telling them now is not advice but he is giving them encouragement.
Paul's message of faith is that their destiny is guided by the divine hand of God. Notice that he gives the words of encouragement first and saves the bad news for last: the ship will be lost and they will all be cast ashore upon an island.
Acts 27:27-44 ~ The Shipwreck
27 On the fourteenth night, as we were still being driven about on the Adriatic Sea, toward midnight the sailors began to suspect that they were nearing land. 28 They took soundings and found twenty fathoms; a little farther on, they again took soundings and found fifteen fathoms. 29 Fearing that we would run aground on a rocky coast, they dropped four anchors from the stern and prayed for day to come. 30 The sailors then tried to abandon ship they lowered the dinghy to the sea on the pretext of going to lay out anchors from the bow. 31 But Paul said to the centurion and the soldiers, "unless these men stay with the ship, you cannot be saved." 32 So the soldiers cut the ropes of the dinghy and set it adrift. 33 Until the day began to dawn, Paul kept urging all to take some food. He said, "Today is the fourteenth day that you have been waiting, going hungry and eating nothing. 34 I urge you, therefore, to take some food; it will help you survive. Not a hair of the head of anyone of you will be lost." 35 When he said this, he took bread, gave thanks to God in front of them all, broke it, and began to eat. 36 They were all encouraged, and took some food themselves. 37 In all, there were two hundred seventy-six of us on the ship. After they had eaten enough, they lightened the ship by throwing the wheat into the sea. 39 When day came they did not recognize the land, but made out a bay with a beach. They planned to run the ship ashore on it, if they could. 40 So they cast off the anchors and abandoned them to the sea, and at the same time they unfastened the lines of the rudders, and hoisting the foresail into the wind, they made for the beach. 41 But they struck a sandbar and ran the ship aground. The bow was wedged in and could not be moved, but the stern began to break up under the pounding of the waves. 42 The soldiers planned to kill the prisoners so that none might swim away and escape, 43 but the centurion wanted to save Paul and so kept them from carrying out their plan. He ordered those who could swim to jump overboard first and get to the shore, 44 and then the rest, some on planks, others on debris from the ship. In this way, all reached shore safely.
Luke determines that it is the fourteenth night since the storm began and they are adrift in the section of the Mediterranean that was called the Gulf of Adria, which we now call the southern end of the Adriatic Sea. They are between the islands of Crete and Malta, with Sicily and the foot of the Italian Peninsula to the northwest. The sailors suspect that they are approaching land and begin to throw a line weighted with a lead weight overboard in order to measure the depth of the water.
Question: What two factors make their situation
Answer: The situation is made more dangerous by the fact that the depth of the water is rapidly decreasing and it is night; they cannot see the land they are approaching.
Acts 27:29 ~ Fearing
that we would run aground on a rocky coast, they dropped four anchors from the
stern and prayed for day to come.
They threw the anchors overboard to slow the progress of the ship toward the land and prayed for daylight. That they used four anchors suggests it was a large ship.
Acts 27:30-32 ~ 30 The
sailors then tried to abandon ship they lowered the dinghy to the sea on the
pretext of going to lay out anchors from the bow. 31 But Paul said to the centurion and the
soldiers, "unless these men stay with the ship, you cannot be saved." 32 So the soldiers cut the ropes of the dinghy
and set it adrift.
Some of the sailors contrive to save themselves by taking the dinghy.
Question: Why does Paul warn the Roman officer to stop them and why does he heed Paul's advice?
Answer: Paul's prophecy promised a miracle in which the whole of the company is destined for salvation; therefore they must all stay together. The officer and his soldiers have already had proof of Paul's wisdom and believe in his prophetic gift, and so they eliminate the temptation by setting the dingy adrift.
Question: How might the divine intention of saving
the entire crew and passengers be seen symbolically in God's plan for mankind's
Answer: Symbolically this is also God's plan for humanity. It is God's desire that all come to salvation in Christ Jesus and that none be cast "adrift." But God also respects mankind's free-will choice to accept or reject His divine gift of grace.
Acts 27:33-34 ~ 33 Until
the day began to dawn, Paul kept urging all to take some food. He said, "Today
is the fourteenth day that you have been waiting, going hungry and eating
nothing. 34 I urge you, therefore,
to take some food; it will help you survive. Not a hair of the head of anyone
of you will be lost."
As they wait for daylight, Paul continues to encourage his shipmates. He urges them to eat to preserve their strength and also promises that they will survive and without injury.
Question: St. Paul's words that "not a hair of the
head of anyone of you will be lost" echoes what words of Jesus from the Gospel
of Luke? Where is this same expression found in the Old Testament and what
does the expression mean? See Lk 12:4-7; 21:17-19 and 1 Sam 14:45; 2 Sam 14:11
and 1 Kng 1:52.
The Gospel of Luke:
In each case the words are used as a solemn oath of protection that calls upon God's divine intervention in fulfilling the oath to protect.
It is the "fourteenth day" that began the night before as
the Jews count the days from sunset to sunset (see verses 27 and 33). It was
night as they were pushed toward the shore by the storm (verse 29), now day is
about to arrive (verse 33) and finally day arrives (verse 39). In verses
33-34 St. Paul urges his companions on the ship to eat something and again
promises their deliverance.
Question: Since the voyage began, how many times has St. Paul intervened to warn or encourage his shipmates? What is their reaction to the interventions?
Answer: Paul makes four interventions:
Acts 27:35-36 ~ When he said this, he took bread,
gave thanks to God in front of them all, broke it, and began to eat. 36 They were all encouraged, and took some food
In the midst of the storm, Paul gives thanks to God in front of all of them. Paul's words and actions recall the language and actions of the Eucharist, but he is not offering the ship's company the Eucharistic bread. That gift is limited only to members of the New Covenant in Christ (Lk 22:20) just as the sacred meal of the Passover was limited to members of the covenant community (Ex 12:43-45). Paul's action in giving a blessing reflects the how all Jewish meals began with the saying of a blessing (1 Tim 4:4); but the sequence does repeat the same actions of the Eucharist (Lk 22:19-20). Paul, standing before them is presenting an example of what is possible for them if they come to belief, just as their salvation from the storm prefigures what is possible for each of them if they want to receive the gift of God's salvation to be delivered from the storms of life.
Acts 27:37 ~ In all, there were two hundred seventy-six of us on the ship. After they had eaten enough, they lightened the ship by throwing the wheat into the sea.br /> That there are 267 people aboard the ship is not an unreasonably large number for a ship in this period. Alexandrian grain ships and Roman ships meant to transport soldiers and their supplies could be very large. Paul's sea adventure happened in the fall/winter of 60 AD. Josephus records that perhaps a year earlier or less, when Felix was still governor of Judea (52-60 AD), that he survived a shipwreck in the Adriatic Sea and there were 600 people aboard his ship (Life, 15). They had already abandoned some of the cargo to the sea (verse 19). The grain in this passage may be the provisions for the passengers and crew will they will no longer need and/or the rest of the grain that was the cargo. Their plan is to lighten the ship as much as possible so that the ship can ride as high as possible reach the shore.
Acts 27:39-40 ~ When
day came they did not recognize the land, but made out a bay with a beach.
They planned to run the ship ashore on it, if they could. 40 So they cast off the anchors and abandoned
them to the sea, and at the same time they unfastened the lines of the rudders,
and hoisting the foresail into the wind, they made for the beach.
Question: What three maneuvers do they make to give themselves the best chance of making it to the shore?
Acts 27:41-43a ~ But
they struck a sandbar and ran the ship aground. The bow was wedged in and
could not be moved, but the stern began to break up under the pounding of the
waves. 42 The soldiers planned to
kill the prisoners so that none might swim away and escape, 43 but the centurion wanted to save Paul and so
kept them from carrying out their plan.
Their precautions were to no avail. When the bow of the ship struck the sandbar the bounding waves began to break the ship apart.
Question: When it became clear that they would have to abandon ship, what did the soldiers plan to do and why did the centurion stop them? What is the connection to Paul's prophecy?
Answer: The soldiers prepared to kill the prisoners, but their officer stopped them because he had come to value Paul and wanted to save his life. In stopping the soldiers from killing the prisoners, the centurion was also cooperating with God's plan by fulfilling Paul's prophecy that no lives would be lost.
The soldiers were only acting out of self-preservation. If a soldier lost a prisoner, he could forfeit his own life (see Acts 12:19; 16:27), making the centurion's decision an even more courageous and selfless act.
Acts 27:43b-44 ~ He ordered those who could swim to
jump overboard first and get to the shore, 44
and then the rest, some on planks, others on debris from the ship. In
this way, all reached shore safely.
The centurion does everything he can to ensure that as many lives are saved as possible. Verse 44 makes it clear that Paul's prophecy was fulfilled.
Chapter 28: The End of the Journey
Acts 28:1-10 ~ Shipwrecked on Malta
1 Once we had reached safety we learned that the island was called Malta [Melita]. 2 The natives showed us extraordinary hospitality; they lit a fire and welcomed all of us because it had begun to rain and was cold. 3 Paul had gathered a bundle of brushwood and was putting it on the fire when a viper, escaping from the heat, fastened on his hand. 4 When the natives saw the snake hanging from his hand, they said to one another, "This man must certainly be a murderer; though he escaped the sea, Justice has not let him remain alive." 5 But he shook the snake off into the fire and suffered no harm. 6 They were expecting him to swell up or suddenly to fall down dead but, after waiting a long time and seeing nothing unusual happen to him, they changed their minds and began to say that he was a god. 7 In the vicinity of that place were lands belonging to a man named Publius, the chief of the island. He welcomed us and received us cordially as his guests for three days. 8 It so happened that the father of Publius was sick with a fever and dysentery. Paul visited him and, after praying, laid his hands on him and healed him. 9 After this had taken place, the rest of the sick on the island came to Paul and were cured. 10 They paid us great honor and when we eventually set sail they brought us the provisions we needed.
The traditional site where Paul and his shipmates landed is called "St. Paul's Bay" on the island of Malta. The ancient name was Melita. The native peoples are not Greek, and in the Greek text St. Luke uses the words "the barbarians" [hoi barbaroi] for the natives of the island. Luke is a typical Greek in regarding anyone who cannot speak Greek or who does not practice Greek customs as culturally inferior. Yet, Luke is quick to admit that the people showed them unusually humane treatment.
Question: What does Paul's action in gathering
firewood in verse 3 demonstrate about his character?
See Acts 18:3; 20:34;
1 Cor 4:12;
1 Thes 2:9;
2 Thes 3:7-8 and
Answer: Paul did not expect people to serve or wait on him. He was willing to work with his hands in order to serve the needs of others. He demonstrates the true character a servant of Christ as expressed by Jesus in Luke 22:24-27.
Acts 28:4 ~ When
the natives saw the snake hanging form his hand, they said to one another,
"This man must certainly be a murderer; though he escaped the sea, Justice has
not let him remain alive."
When the viper attached itself to Paul's hand, the local people expected him to die and rationalized that he must have deserved death. According to mythology, "Justice" was the goddess of vengeance who punished the wicked and saved the innocent. It was not uncommon to attribute a misfortune or someone's suffering to past wrongdoings/sins in the person's live. It is an attitude that is not uncommon today.
Acts 28:5 ~ But
he shook the snake off into the fire and suffered no harm. 6 They were expecting him to swell up or
suddenly to fall down dead but, after waiting a long time and seeing nothing
unusual happen to him, they changed their minds and began to say that he was a
He didn't die because God promised Paul his destiny was to go to Rome and preached the Gospel.
Question: This isn't the first time the local pagans what attributed divinity to Paul. When did this happen previously?
Answer: Their reaction is similar to that of the Laodiceans in Acts 14:8-13.
Question: What happened may also be connection to
what power Jesus' promised His disciples in Luke 10:19?
Answer: Jesus told His disciples: Behold, I have given you the power to tread upon serpents and scorpions and upon the full force of the enemy and nothing will harm you.
Question: This isn't the only miracle the people
of Malta will witness. What is Paul's second miracle? See 28:7-8.
Answer: Paul lays hands upon the sick father of the host and heals him as well as other people who come to him for healing.
Paul's act of healing Publius' father is somewhat similar to Jesus' healing of St. Peter's mother-in-law in Luke 4:38. As in the case of the healing of Peter's mother-in-law, the act of healing leads to many people coming forward to be healed (Lk 4:40).
Paul and his shipmates spent the three winter months on the island of Malta, and in the spring the grateful people of the island gave them provisions for the remainder of their voyage.
Acts 28:11-16 ~ Arrival in Rome
11 Three months later we set sail on a ship that had wintered at the island. It was an Alexandrian ship with the Dioscuri as its figurehead. 12 We put in at Syracuse and stayed there three days, 13 and from there we sailed round the coast and arrived at Rhegium. After a day, a south wind came up and in two days we reached Puteoli. 14 There we found some brothers and were urged to stay with them for seven days. And thus we came to Rome. 15 The brothers from there heard about us and came as far as the Forum of Appius and Three Taverns to meet us. 16 On seeing them, Paul gave thanks to God and took courage. When he entered Rome, Paul was allowed to live by himself, with the soldier who was guarding him.
This is their second Alexandrian ship (see 27:6). The Dioscuri figurehead on the ship was an image of the "Twin Brothers," Castor and Pollux, the mythological sons of Zeus and the patron protector of sailors.
Acts 28:12-13 ~ We
put in at Syracuse and stayed there three days, 13 and from there we sailed round the coast and arrived at
Rhegium. After a day, a south wind came up and in two days we reached Puteoli.
Syracuse in verse 12 is located northeast of Malta. It was the main city of Sicily and an important center of trade and Greek culture. They are sailing to Rome via the straits of Messina. Rhegium was a Greek colony at the toe of the Italian Peninsula. It was strategically located for a ship to pass through the straits of Messina. Puteoli was located on the Bay of Naples near the city of Naples and the resort towns of Pompeii and Herculaneum (famous for being destroyed in the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius in 79 AD). It had been the most important port city in Italy until the Emperor Claudius built the new harbor of Portus at Ostia on the Tiber less than a decade earlier (Suetonius, Life of Claudius, 20.1)
Acts 28:14 ~ 14 There
we found some brothers and were urged to stay with them for seven days. And
thus we came to Rome.
Paul, Luke and their companions found Christians living in Puteoli who they visited and probably celebrated the Eucharist during their seven day stay before completing the journey and arriving in Rome. They could only have delayed their journey with the approval of Julius the centurion.
Acts 28:15 ~ The
brothers from there heard about us and came as far as the Forum of Appius and
Three Taverns to meet us.
The Christians at Puteoli must have sent word to the Christians in Rome who immediately came to meet Paul and his companions. They knew him from his letter to the Christians at Rome that he wrote when he was in Corinth at the end of his third missionary journey. The Forum of Appius and the Three Taverns are locations on the road that led into the city of Rome, the famous the Appian Way. The Forum of Appius was 43 miles from the city (Johnson, page 465) and had a bad reputation (Horace, Satires 1, 5, 3-4). The town of Three Taverns was about 33 miles from Rome.
Acts 28:16 ~ On
seeing them, Paul gave thanks to God and took courage. When he entered Rome,
Paul was allowed to live by himself, with the soldier who was guarding him.
It is a comment on his character that after all he had suffered that Paul publically expressed his gratitude to God. In the trying days of the storm, Paul had given his courage and strength to his companions in peril and also, even in the midst of those terrifying events, had given thanks to God (27:35). Now in safety, he again gives thanks to God and takes courage from the presence of his Christian brethren.
Paul was allowed to live by himself, with the soldier
who was guarding him.
Paul was to be kept with minimum security, chained to one soldier (Acts 28:20), under "house arrest," but free to visit with anyone who wanted to see him. What an opportunity Paul's solider had to come to belief in Christ! He was present at all Paul's teachings and was able to speak with Paul privately concerning the Gospel of salvation. The salvation of God has been sent to the Gentiles (Acts 28:28)!
Acts 28:17-29 ~ St. Paul's Testimony to the Jews in
17 Three days later he called together the leaders of the Jews. When they had gathered he said to them, "My brothers, although I had done nothing against our people or our ancestral customs, I was handed over to the Romans as a prisoner from Jerusalem. 18 After trying my case the Romans wanted to release me, because they found nothing against me deserving the death penalty. 19 But when the Jews objected, I was obliged to appeal to Caesar, even though I had no accusation to make against my own nation. 20 This is the reason, then, I have requested to see you and to speak with you, for it is on account of the hope of Israel that I wear these chains." 21 They answered him, "We have received no letters from Judea about you, nor has any of the brothers arrived with a damaging report or rumor about you. 22 But we should like to hear you present your views, for we know that this sect is denounced everywhere." 23 So they arranged a day with him and came to his lodgings in great numbers. From early morning until evening, he expounded his position to them, bearing witness to the kingdom of God and trying to convince them about Jesus from the law of Moses and the prophets. 24 Some were convinced by what he had said, while others did not believe. 25 Without reaching any agreement among themselves they began to leave; then Paul made one final statement. "Well did the Holy Spirit speak to your ancestors through the prophet Isaiah, saying:
26 'Go to this people and say:
You shall indeed hear but not understand.
You shall indeed look but never see.
27 Gross is the heart of this people;
they will not hear with their ears;
they have closed their eyes,
so they may not see with their eyes
and hear with their ears and understand
with their heart and be converted,
and I heal them.'
28 Let it be known to you that this salvation of God has been sent to the Gentiles; they will listen." 29 [And when he had said this, the Jews left, seriously arguing among themselves].*
*Verse 29 is not found in the best Greek manuscripts but is included in the Western text.
Acts 28:17 ~ Three
days later he called together the leaders of the Jews.
Luke has given a series of three days or months in chapter 28 (28:7, 11 [months], 12, 15, 17).
As has always been Paul's practice, he goes to the Jews to first offer the Gospel message of salvation that had been promised to them by God from the time of Abraham. He is completely open with them concerning his arrest and current situation in Rome. The Jewish community in Rome has heard about the Christian movement, but they have had no letters from the Jews of Jerusalem about Paul and are therefore willing to come to his lodgings and listen to him.
Question: How is Paul's short discourse different from his last discourses? What is his theme?
Answer: Paul speaks not about his own salvation but about how the Gospel of Jesus Christ fulfills the promises of the prophets.
Paul preaches in the tradition of Jesus in Luke's account
of Jesus' discourse to His Jewish disciples and Apostles on Resurrection Sunday,
teaching from the Torah, the Psalms, and the books of the prophets all that
Jesus has fulfilled to redeem and restore Israel.
Question: What are those significant passages from Luke chapter 24
Acts 28:24 ~ Some
were convinced by what he had said, while others did not believe.
As is always the case, the reaction to the Gospel message of salvation is divided (Acts 2:12-13; 4:1-4; 5:12-17; 6:8-14; 9:21-25; 13:42-45; 14:1-2; 17:1-5; 18:4, 12-17; 19:8-10), just as Jesus prophesied (Lk 12:51-53).
Acts 28:24b-25 ~ then Paul made one
final statement. "Well did the Holy Spirit speak to your ancestors through the
Then, as the Jews are about to leave, Paul makes one final attempt to reach them; he quotes to them from Isaiah 6:9-10. It is the same passage quoted in the Gospels and by Paul in his letter to the Romans (Mt 13:14-15; Mk 4:12; Lk 8:10; Jn 12:40; Rom 11:8). Jesus quoted from this same passage to explain the reason He taught in parables which only some could understand (Mt 13:13; Mk 4:12; Lk 8:9-10). When Paul quoted from this passage in his letter to the Christians of Rome (Rom 11:8) he used it as a proof text that although Israel has been blind to the prophetic message of the Gospel just as they were often blind to the prophetic message of the prophets (Rom 10:14-21), that God remains faithful to Israel. Proof of God's divine fidelity is in the existence of Jewish-Christians like the Apostles and himself. The Jews' stubborn refuse to accept their Messiah, Paul says, is because they have been blinded by the Gospel message, but their rejection was part of God divine plan to open salvation to the Gentiles.
Question: Why does Paul quote the Isaiah passage
to the Jews of Rome? Hint: What was the condition of the Israelites in
Isaiah's time compared to the Jews of Jesus' and Paul's generation? See Is 1:2-4, 11-16 and Lk 19:41-44.
Answer: Like the people of Isaiah's time who were unrepentant in their sins and had lost their spiritual ability to perceive the truth spoken by God's holy prophets, the Jews who refused to receive Jesus and St. Paul's Gospel of salvation are now lost in their hardness of hearts with ears and eyes closed to the truth.
The prophet Isaiah preached the inevitability of God's
divine judgment on an unrepentant people. That judgment was the destruction of
the Northern Kingdom by the Assyrians and the Southern Kingdom of Judah with
the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple by the Babylonians.
Question: When did Jesus prophesy that the same divine judgment would fall upon His generation after they rejected Jesus' prophets? See Mt 23:31-39 and quote what you consider the most significant part of the passage.
Answer: It is the same divine judgment that Jesus prophesied would eventually fall upon His generation after they rejected Jesus' prophets, wise men, and scribes: Therefore, behold, I send to you prophets and wise men and scribes; some of them you will kill and crucify, some of them you will scourge in your synagogues and pursue from town to town, so that there may come upon you all the righteous blood shed upon earth, from the righteous blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah, the son of Barachiah, whom you murdered between the Sanctuary and the altar. Amen, I say to you, all these things will come upon this generation (Mt 23:34-36).
Jesus' prophecy of divine judgment was fulfilled in the Jewish Revolt against Rome that began in 66 AD and reached its climax when the Roman legions destroyed Jerusalem and the Temple in 70 AD. It was as Paul had warned the church of Jerusalem in his address to them concerning the letting go of the old rituals, animal sacrifice and Temple worship that probably occurred his last week in Jerusalem: By this the Holy Spirit means us to see that as long as the old tent stands, the way into the holy place is not opened up; it is a symbol for this present time. None of the gifts and sacrifices offered under these regulations can possibly bring any worshipper to perfection in his conscience. They are rules about outward life, connected with food and drink and washing at various times, which are in force only until the time comes to set things right (Heb 9:8-11). The time of "setting things right" came about through the Roman army's destruction of the Temple in 70 AD. The Old Covenant was fulfilled and ended; only the New Covenant in Christ's single sacrifice offered forgiveness of sin and the hope of eternal salvation by opening the way into the Heavenly Tabernacle.
Acts 28:29 ~ Let
it be known to you that this salvation of God has been sent to the Gentiles; they
will listen." 29 [And when
he had said this, the Jews left, seriously arguing among themselves].
Paul has made his last effort to reach the Jews. He words suggest that he now is free of his self-imposed obligation to proclaim the Gospel first to the Jews. It is the Gentiles who have understood and embraced Jesus' message of salvation and to them he will continue his mission.
Acts 28:30-31 ~ Conclusion
He remained for two full years in his lodgings. He received all who came to him, and with complete assurance and without hindrance he proclaimed the kingdom of God and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ.
Acts ends with Paul's arrival in Rome as a captive without giving an account of what became of Paul there. Paul is now nearing the completion of his commissioning to preach the Gospel of salvation in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and the "ends of the earth." Rome is the jumping off point to fulfill the last part of his mission. We know that while Paul was in prison he constantly received visitors and taught the Church of Rome during his incarceration; he continued to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ to everyone who came into contact with him (Acts 28:30). Paul described himself as an "ambassador in chains" in his letter to the Ephesians (Eph 6:20, also see Phil 1:7, 13). This is the reason he is given credit along with St. Peter for founding the Church in Rome. He also wrote a number of letters during either his imprisonment in Caesarea or during his first Roman captivity. Those letters that survived and are included in the New Testament canon are called his "Prison Epistles." They include letters to the Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians and Philemon. In 2 Timothy 4:16-17 he wrote about his first imprisonment and how he was rescued from "the lion's mouth," which Paul probably meant literally as well as figuratively since condemned prisoners were often fed to wild beasts in the Roman coliseum.
It is possible from his last letters and the testimony of the early Church Fathers to reconstruct some of St. Paul's life between his two Roman imprisonments. The letters sent during his last Roman imprisonment to Sts. Timothy and Titus contains several references to places Paul visited that are not recorded in Acts. He apparently had a mission to Crete (Tit 1:5) and traveled to Nicopolis (Greece), and revisited Troas and Miletus in Asia Minor (2 Tim 4:13, 20; Tit 3:12). He wrote to the church in Rome before his final journey to Jerusalem (Letter to the Romans) that he intended on visiting the Roman province of Spain (Rom 15:24, 28). He may have made the journey after being released from his first imprisonment in Rome. Spain was heavily settled by Romans in the first century. Corduba (modern Cordoba) was the home of the philosopher Seneca and his brother Gallio, the proconsul of Achaia who Paul met in Acts 18:12 and several later emperors came from the province of Spain. Gades (modern Cadiz, Spain) was called in ancient literature "the ends of the earth" (Strabo, Geography 3.1.8). Paul may have been called to evangelize there by the Lord Jesus (Acts 23:11) because of Jesus' commissioning of the Apostles in disciples in Matthew 28:19 and Acts 1:8 that the Gospel was to be carried "to the ends of the earth," and the prophecy of the prophet Isaiah in 49:6: I will also make you a light for the Gentiles, that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth. Commissioned as God's apostle to the Gentiles (Acts 13:47 and 22:21), Paul would have felt compelled to fulfill Jesus' command and the Isaiah prophecy.
There is evidence in the writings of the Church Fathers that Paul did fulfill his mission to evangelize in Spain. St. Clement of Rome, the Church's fourth Vicar of Christ from St. Peter (reigned 90-100 AD; see the chart the Early Popes of the Catholic Church.htm) wrote that St. Paul reached "the limits of the West" (1 Clement 5:7) which was considered to be the Roman province of Spain. In addition to St. Clement's testimony, the Muratorian Fragment, a list of the books considered canonical by the Roman church written in the mid second century, mentions that the Book of Acts of Apostles does not include "Paul's journey when he set out from Rome for Spain." But Paul's desire to take the Gospel west may have also included Britain, referred to as "the extreme west." Tertullian wrote: The extremities of Spain, the various parts of Gaul, the regions of Britain, which have never been penetrated by the Roman Arms, have received the religion of Christ (Tertullian, Def. Fidei, 179). Sts. Jerome and John Chrysostom, 4th century bishop of Constantinople, refer to Paul taking the Gospel to "the extreme West" and Theodore, Syrian bishop of the 5th century, relates that Paul "preached Christ's Gospel to the Britons and others in the West" (McBirnie, The Search for the Twelve Apostles, page 228).
After St. Paul's release from his first imprisonment in Rome in 62 AD, three-fourths of Rome was destroyed by fire in 64 AD. The Emperor Nero had petitioned the Senate to give him a portion of the city inhabited by the poor to build a pleasure palace. Nero's petition was denied by the Roman Senate because of the number of people who lived in that section of the city who would have to be relocated. Nero was suspected of starting the fire when it began in the very section of the city he desired to possess; afterward he took control of the devastated area and began to build his Golden Palace. To shield himself from the accusations that he had started the fire, Nero accused the Christians of setting the city of Rome on fire, even though the section most devastated by the fire was largely populated by Christians. This was the beginning of organized Roman persecution of Christians who were rounded up and crucified, burned alive, eaten by lions, or forced to fight wild animals. From this time forward, Christianity is no longer a religion under the shelter of Judaism which is recognized as an "authorized" religion by the Roman state. It became a crime to be a Christian.
According to Bishop Eusebius' Church History, St. Paul had already left Rome and was not martyred during this period of persecution. It was after he returned to Rome in c. 67 AD that he was imprisoned again. Paul writes about that second imprisonment in 2 Timothy 4:6-8. That summer both Sts. Paul and Peter were martyred: Tradition has it that after defending himself the Apostle was again sent on the ministry of preaching, and coming a second time to the same city suffered martyrdom under Nero (Church History, 2.22.2). Nero committed suicide in 68 AD and therefore 67 is accepted as the most likely date.
St. Paul's second letter to St. Timothy was written at the time of his second imprisonment in Rome. Since being a Christian is a criminal act, Paul realized that it was dangerous to be seen association with him and he feels abandoned (2 Tim 1:15ff; 4:10). In the letter Paul writes that only St. Luke is with him (2 Tim 4:11), and that members of the church still in Rome are in hiding because of the persecution (2 Tim 4:21). He hopes that Timothy may still come to see him and that he may bring John-Mark (2 Tim 4:11). He writes that he has suffered greatly from the cold and does not want to spend another winter in prison (2 Tim 4:13, 21). This time Paul is not under a relatively comfortable "house arrest"; even if he hasn't been tired and condemned since he is a hated Christian he is probably being kept in Rome's notorious Mamertine Prison.(2) He knows that he is going to die but he is not afraid to die; he also mentions that his Lord is standing by him (2 Tim 4:17-18). He writes to Timothy that his martyrdom is near: For I am already being poured out like a libation, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have competed well; I have finished the race; I have kept the faith. From now on the crown of righteousness awaits me, which the Lord, the just judge, will award to me on that day, and not only to me, but to all who have longed for his appearance. (2 Tim 4:6-8). Thanks to God's providence Paul's testimony of Christ and his apostolic legacy lives on in his surviving fourteen New Testament letters through which Paul continues to guide the faithful in every succeeding generation of the Church.
St. Peter was martyred by being crucified upside down by the Egyptian obelisk that now stands in front of St. Peter's Cathedral. St. Paul was beheaded outside the walls of the city on the Roman road called the Ostian way and was buried along the road (Eusebius, Church History, 3.1.2).(3) Later their bones were collected by Christians and were entombed. The church of St. Paul Outside-the-Walls was built over St. Paul's tomb. The account of Paul's martyrdom is in Eusebius' 4th century history where he cites the earlier testimonies of Tertullian, a Roman lawyer who converted to Christianity to become priest and Christian apologist (160-225), and Caius, a priest of the church in Rome during the times of Pope Victor and Pope Zephyrinus (early 3rd century): It is, therefore, recorded that Paul was beheaded in Rome itself, and that Peter likewise was crucified under Nero. This account of Peter and Paul is substantiated by the fact that their names are preserved in the cemeteries of that place even to the present day. It is confirmed likewise by Caius, a member of the Church who arose under Zephyrinus, bishop of Rome. [..] "But I can show the trophies of the apostles. For if you will go to the Vatican, or to the Ostian way, you will find the trophies of those who laid the foundations of this Church." And that they both suffered martyrdom at the same time is stated by Dionysius, bishop of Corinth, in his epistle to the Romans, in the following words: "You have thus by such an admonition bound together the planting of Peter and of Paul at Rome and Corinth. For both of them planted and likewise taught us in our Corinth. And they taught together in like manner in Italy, and suffered martyrdom at the same time." Eusebius continues, I have quoted these things in order that the truth of the history might be still more confirmed (Eusebius, Church History, 2.25.5-8).
We do not know what became of St. Luke. Some early Church Fathers testify to his martyrdom at the same time as Paul. Other Fathers, however, claim that he survived the Roman persecution of Christians to preach the Gospel in Greece (others say Gaul) and that he died in Boeotia, Greece in year 84 AD.
Question for reflection or group discussion:
In Acts of Apostles, St. Luke's main focus has been on the ministries of St. Peter and St. Paul. How were these two great men alike and how were they different? Consider their background, education, their commissioning by Christ, and their sense of mission. Why did Paul believe that he rightly deserved the title "apostle?" If you could go back in time, which of them would you have liked to travel with on their journeys that changed the world and the destiny of mankind? Why?
1. For an account of the voyage of a grain ship that left from the port of Sidon that is very similar to Luke's account see Lucian of Samosata, The Ship, 1-9.
2. Mamertine Prison: According to the Roman historian Livy, it was constructed in the 6th century BC at the bottom of the Capitoline Hill. Historian Sallust described the prison as 12 feet below ground and that "neglect, darkness and stench made it hideous and fearsome to behold." It was used as a prison by the Roman state until the 4th century AD. When Christianity became a state approved religion in 313 AD, it became a site of pilgrimage for Christians. Today the ancient prison is located beneath the 16th century church of St. Guiseppe dei Falegnomi.
3. Ostian Way: Road that led west from Rome to the seaport of Ostia Antica.
Michal Hunt, Copyright © 2013 Agape Bible Study. Permissions All Rights Reserved.
See pictures of the Mamertine prison below:
The exterior of the 16th century church of Saint Giuseppe dei Faleganami that is built over the site of the ancient Mamertine Prison.
The sign reads: "Prison of God's Saints, Apostles Peter and Paul."
The stairs leading from the upper level of the church to the lower area of the prison. When it was in use, access to the prison was through a hole in the ground with only one way in and out. A stone at the top of the stairs is said to bear the imprint of St. Peter's head as he was forced into the hole.
The lower level that is the ancient prison. The small altar has an upside cross as a reminder that St. Peter, at his request, was martyred by being crucified upside down.
The lower level has a spring that still flows and is attributed to a miracle that gave water to the thirsty Sts. Peter and Paul and the other captives. The spring is believed to have healing properties.
Plaque identifying the site where the Apostles Peter and Paul's were kept until they were martryed.
The chapel in what was once the prison.