The Initial Voyage As Far As Crete
When the time came, we set sail for Italy. Paul and several other prisoners were placed in the custody of a Roman officer named Julius, a captain of the Imperial Regiment. Aristarchus, a Macedonian from Thessalonica, was also with us. We left on a ship whose home port was Adramyttium on the northwest coast of the province of Asia; it was scheduled to make several stops at ports along the coast of the province. The next day when we docked at Sidon, Julius was very kind to Paul and let him go ashore to visit with friends so they could provide for his needs. Putting out to sea from there, we encountered strong headwinds that made it difficult to keep the ship on course, so we sailed north of Cyprus between the island and the mainland. Keeping to the open sea, we passed along the coast of Cilicia and Pamphylia, landing at Myra, in the province of Lycia. There the commanding officer found an Egyptian ship from Alexandria that was bound for Italy, and he put us on board.
We had several days of slow sailing, and after great difficulty we finally neared Cnidus. But the wind was against us, so we sailed across to Crete and along the sheltered coast of the island, past the cape of Salmone. We struggled along the coast with great difficulty and finally arrived at Fair Havens, near the town of Lasea. We had lost a lot of time. The weather was becoming dangerous for sea travel because it was so late in the fall, and Paul spoke to the ship’s officers about it. “Men,” he said, “I believe there is trouble ahead if we go on—shipwreck, loss of cargo, and danger to our lives as well.”
But the officer in charge of the prisoners listened more to the ship’s captain and the owner than to Paul. And since Fair Havens was an exposed harbour—a poor place to spend the winter—most of the crew wanted to go on to Phoenix, farther up the coast of Crete, and spend the winter there. Phoenix was a good harbour with only a southwest and northwest exposure.Acts 27:1-12
A couple of you have asked why Adramyttium was not included in the line of the voyage. Simply because the ship’s home port was Adramyttium, meaning it was registered or made there but they did not go through Adramyttium on this voyage for obvious reasons. It was too far north on the enclosed portion of the Aegean Sea on the coast of the Roman province of Asia.
The introductory words “When the time came” indicate there was some time needed to arrange this voyage. Likely as not it was because there were a number of prisoners included as passengers to be shipped to Rome. It can hardly be that they delayed waiting for calm weather. The sooner they could leave the better. The later they left, the more they were likely to strike the bad winter weather. They could have been waiting for Festus to make the decision as to when they should leave. The text literally reads “When it was decided for us to sail to Italy”. The one most likely to have made that decision was Festus after he had a response from Rome. It is clear that Luke accompanied Paul to Rome as we have the royal “we” used in this passage. Perhaps he went on the voyage as the ship’s medic.
Before we set sail, let’s just check the manifest to see who we have on board and the nature of this voyage. Literally our text reads:
“And when it was decided for us to sail to Italy, they delivered up both Paul and certain other prisoners to a centurion named Julius, of a cohort of Augustus. And boarding a ship of Adramyttium which was about to sail alongside Asian places, we set sail, Aristarchus a Macedonian of Thessalonica being with us.”
The one in charge was Julius, a centurion from the Augustan cohort. It is possible this cohort of troops was on board to guard the prisoners but more likely they were part of the Frumentarii which Ramsay argues were a specialist cargo unit associated with supplying corn to the provinces of Rome. Later on they became a military policing unit. Ramsay claims at this early stage it was likely that Paul was shipped on a voyage supplying produce to the provinces. Thus it was laid back and not strictly (or solely) a shipment of prisoners. After all there were 276 people on board. Not all were likely to be prisoners. Julius was a name linked to the Frumentarii, but Julius was also a common Roman name.
Specific mention is also made of “Aristarchus, a Macedonian from Thessalonica”. Why would Luke single out this Aristarchus unless he were well known? It is possible that he was traveling home to Thessalonica intending to disembark along the way. But this is likely to be the same Aristarchus as mentioned in:
Aristarchus, my fellow prisoner, greets you, also Mark the cousin of Barnabas, about whom you received orders. If he comes to you, receive him.Colossians 4:10
also my fellow-workers Mark, Aristarchus, Demas, and Luke.Philemon 1:24
That being the case it is clear that Aristarchus was not free to go home but was a fellow prisoner with Paul headed for Rome and that he stayed with Paul as a fellow worker. The fact that Aristarchus is included here in the book of Acts suggests he accompanied Paul to Rome and worked with him there. But that is far from certain.
The phrase “other prisoners” has been debated in the literature as to whether other meant “not believers” or prisoners of another category separate from Paul and Aristarchus? Some think that the other prisoners were to be used for sport and entertainment in the Coliseum.
Now is the time for you to get your gear together and embark on the ship with us. You won’t have to worry about bringing food supplies with you. We have corn to eat. Corn soup, chowder, fritters and any other way you can think that corn can be served. It might be advisable to bring any good corn recipes you know. Corn served the same way for months gets old a bit quick.
It seemed appropriate to include some corny jokes this time around:
Grandchildren don’t make a man feel old; what does is the realization that he’s married to a grandmother.Anon
You don’t walk into love, you fall in. That’s why it’s so hard to get out.Anon
A man’s health can be judged by which he takes two at a time – pills or stairs.Anon
In looking for “Mr. Right”, make sure his first name is not “Always!”Anon
When a thief kisses you, count your teeth.Yiddish Proverb
The late worm misses the early bird.Anon