Acts 27 Bible Study
Why were they to "sail to Italy" (Acts 27:1)?
Paul had requested a trial before the Caesar, so he was being transported from Caesarea to Rome by ship.
Who were being transported with Paul?
Apparently, "we" (Acts 27:1) included Luke, who wrote Acts and "Aristarchus" (Acts 27:2). Also sailing were "some other prisoners" (Acts 27:1) to be tried before Caesar and/or already tried, found guilty and sentenced to fight (to their death) in the coliseum of Rome.
Who was "Aristarchus" (Acts 27:2)?
Aristarchus was a "Macedonian of Thessalonica" (Acts 27:2) who was with Paul in Ephesus during the riot - "So the whole city was filled with confusion, and rushed into the theater with one accord, having seized Gaius and Aristarchus, Macedonians, Paul’s travel companions" (Acts 19:29) - and apparently accompanied him to Greece, and from there to Jerusalem: "After the uproar had ceased, Paul called the disciples to himself, embraced them, and departed to go to Macedonia. Now when he had gone over that region and encouraged them with many words, he came to Greece and stayed three months. And when the Jews plotted against him as he was about to sail to Syria, he decided to return through Macedonia. And Sopater of Berea accompanied him to Asia - also Aristarchus and Secundus of the Thessalonians, and Gaius of Derbe, and Timothy, and Tychicus and Trophimus of Asia." (Acts 20:1-4) Two years later, Aristarchus, who may have spent those two years tending to Paul in Caesarea, was now accompanying him from Caesarea to Rome. Aristarchus was a Jew and remained with Paul during his imprisonment in Rome: "Aristarchus my fellow prisoner greets you, with Mark the cousin of Barnabas (about whom you received instructions: if he comes to you, welcome him), and Jesus who is called Justus. These are my only fellow workers for the kingdom of God who are of the circumcision; they have proved to be a comfort to me." (Colossians 4:10-11)
Where are "Adramyttium ... and ... Sidon" (Acts 27:2-3)?
Adramyttium was a port on the northwest corner of modern day Turkey. The ship was from Adramyttium and started its journey northward from Caesarea, arriving the next day at Sidon, 75 miles to the north in modern day Lebanon.
Who was "Julius" (Acts 27:1) and why did he "Paul kindly" (Acts 27:3)?
"A centurion of the Augustan Regiment" (Acts 27:1) - one of five Roman regiments stationed at Caesarea - Julius bore the responsibility of delivering all of the prisoners to Rome without loss. If any prisoner escaped, he would be tried for a crime punishable by death. Yet he gave Paul the "liberty to go to his friends and receive care" (Acts 27:3) in Sidon, probably because Paul wasn't well physically and also because he trusted Paul.
Why would a Roman centurion trust Paul?
Julius most likely knew about his character either from knowing or hearing about Paul, who had been at the Roman Praetorium in Caesarea for 2 years. Julius also may have heard Paul's testimony before Agrippa and Festus (see Acts 26).
What did the "contrary" (Acts 27:4) winds require the ship to do?
Instead of sailing westward and passing to the south of "Cyprus" (Acts 27:4), the ship continued northward along the Syrian coast and then along the Asia Minor (modern Turkey) coastal provinces of "Cilicia ... Pamphylia ... Lycia" (Acts 27:5), passing north of Cyprus, which provided "shelter" (Acts 27:4) against the headwind. It docked at the port of "Myra" (Acts 27:5), where "the centurion found an Alexandrian ship sailing to Italy, and he put us on board". (Acts 27:6)
Where is "Cnidus" (Acts 27:7)?
It's a port at the southwestern tip of modern day Turkey, about 140 miles west of Myra. While that distance could have been sailed in 2 days with favorable winds, the ship took "many days" (Acts 27:7) because of the headwind.
What happened at Cnides?
"The wind not permitting" (Acts 27:7) any westward progress, they sailed southwest to the island of "Crete" (Acts 27:7), passed south of Cape "Salmone" (Acts 27:7), its eastern tip "with difficulty" (Acts 27:8), and then sailed along Crete's southern coast until they reached a "place called Fair Havens, near the city of Lasea". (Acts 27:8)
Why didn't they want to stay in Fair Havens?
"Its harbor was not suitable to winter in". (Acts 27:12)
Why didn't they wait a bit?
They already had: "much time had been spent". (Acts 27:9)
What types of advices were provided to "the centurion" (Acts 27:11)?
"The majority advised to set sail" (Acts 27:12), as did "the helmsman and the owner of the ship" (Acts 27:11), who obviously had the seafaring expertise. Only Paul, a man of God, warned that "this voyage will end with disaster and much loss, not only of the cargo and ship, but also our lives." (Acts 27:10)
When confronted with a dilemma, do you rely on the
majority, experience or the Word of God?
Did they "put out to sea" (Acts 27:13) to try to reach Italy?
No, they just wanted to inch 50 miles west along Crete's coast to "reach Phoenix" (Acts 27:12), whose harbor would better protect the ship during the winter gales.
How "tempestuous" (Acts 27:14) was Euroclydon?
The original Greek word translated "tempestuous" is tuphonikos, from which the English word, "typhoon" is derived. "Euroclydon" (Acts 27:14), the name given to a violent wind that blow across the Mediterranean Sea from the northeast, "caught" (Acts 27:15) the ship so suddenly that that they couldn't even turn the ship around and "head into the wind" (Acts 27:15), let alone prepare the ship to ride out the storm. So they just let the ship be driven southwest by the wind.
Where is the "island called Clauda" (Acts 27:16)?
Clauda is a small island 40 miles southwest of Fair Havens. While the ship was south of it, Clauda provided enough "shelter" (Acts 27:16) against the wind for the ship's crew to pull the "skiff" (Acts 27:16) - the ship's small dinghy - onboard and to undergird the ship.
How did they "undergird the ship" (Acts 27:17)?
They passed ropes under the ship's hull and tightened them to strengthen the hull.
What were "Syrtis Sands" (Acts 27:17)?
Syrtis Sands were the sandbars, behind which lay quicksands, and rocky shores that lined most of the northern coast of today's Libya and Tunisia. Had they let the Euroclydon continue to drive them southwest, the ship would have wrecked on the Syrtis Sands, so they "struck sail" (Acts 27:17) to veer more westerly in the Mediterranean Sea.
What did they do over the two subsequent days?
"The next day they lightened the ship" (Acts 27:18), probably by throwing its cargo overboard. "On the third day" (Acts 27:18), they threw overboard "the ship's tackle" (Acts 27:19) - the equipment used to load and unload cargo.
What then happened for "many days" (Acts 27.20)?
The "tempest beat on" (Acts 27-20) them and was so fierce that "neither sun nor stars appeared" (Acts 27:20).
What was the condition of those onboard?
They had given up "all hope" (Acts 27:20) and were so destitute that they couldn't even eat "food" (Acts 27:21).
What made Paul speak up?
He received some good news from an angel: "I urge you to take heart, for there will be no loss of life among you, but only of the ship. For there stood by me this night an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I serve, saying, ‘Do not be afraid, Paul; you must be brought before Caesar; and indeed God has granted you all those who sail with you.’ Therefore take heart, men, for I believe God that it will be just as it was told me." (Acts 22:25)
What had Paul warned before they left Fair Havens?
"Men, I perceive that this voyage will end with disaster and much loss, not only of the cargo and ship, but also our lives." (Acts 27:10)
Since their lives would be spared, had Paul's
perception in Fair Havens been wrong?
It's more likely that Paul, along with Luke and Aristarchus, had been praying throughout the tempest for the the Lord to spare the lives of those onboard, and in response to those prayers, the Lord had changed His mind and told the angel to tell Paul, "God has granted you all those who sail with you." (Acts 27:24)
Then why did God say, "For I am the LORD, I do not
change" (Malachi 3:6)?
He never changes, just as He declared above. But what sometimes changes are His planned actions in response to the prayers of His faithful servants, invariably in their favor, and sometimes requiring His prophets to make 2 trips: "In those days Hezekiah was sick and near death. And Isaiah the prophet, the son of Amoz, went to him and said to him, “Thus says the LORD: ‘Set your house in order, for you shall die and not live.’” Then Hezekiah turned his face toward the wall, and prayed to the LORD, and said, “Remember now, O LORD, I pray, how I have walked before You in truth and with a loyal heart, and have done what is good in Your sight.” And Hezekiah wept bitterly. And the word of the LORD came to Isaiah, saying, “Go and tell Hezekiah, ‘Thus says the LORD, the God of David your father: "I have heard your prayer, I have seen your tears; surely I will add to your days fifteen years." (Isaiah 38:1-5) God is loving, compassionate, merciful, gracious, just, wonderful, holy, glorious and praiseworthy, and will always be.
Where is the "Adriatic Sea" (Acts 27:27)?
2000 years ago, "Adriatic Sea" referred to the entire body of water east of Italy down to its southern tip. Today, "Adriatic Sea" refers to only the upper portion of that body of water, with the lower portion - between Italy and Greece - being referred to as the "Ionian Sea". Therefore, according to the names of seas today, they were "driven up and down in the" (Acts 27:27) Ionian Sea, where the island of Malta is located.
What are "soundings" (Acts 27:28)?
Traditional soundings are measurements of depth made by lowering to the bottom a cord with a lead or another dead weight at the end and knots at regular intervals; the original Greek word, bolizo literally means "to heave the lead". When the dead weight reaches the bottom, the cord slackens, is pulled up, and the depth is measured from the waterline of the cord to the dead weight when the cord slackened. There is actually no sound involved in this measurement.
How deep is "twenty fathoms" (Acts 27:28)?
1 fathom is 6 feet, so 20 fathoms is 120 feet, and "fifteen fathoms" (Acts 27:28) is 90 feet, at which depth "they dropped four anchors from the stern, and prayed for day to come." (Acts 27:29)
Why were "the sailors seeking to escape from the ship" (Acts 27:30)?
They may have felt insecure about running "aground" (Acts 27:26) onto an unknown shore a battered ship whose passengers included condemned criminals, and may have feared a mutiny and/or a shipwreck.
Why did Paul tell "the centurion and the soldiers ... you
cannot be saved" (Acts 27:31) unless the sailors stay in the ship?
Perhaps the sailors' escape and betrayal would have triggered a chaos during which some of the the prisoners would have escaped, which would have been capital offenses for the centurion and his soldiers.
What did the soldiers' action demonstrate?
Had the daylight revealed the shore to be treacherous and unapproachable for the ship, the skiff would have been the only means for anyone to get to shore safely. But Paul had said that they cannot be saved unless the sailors stay in the ship. Paul had such credibility with the soldiers by this time that they decided not to take any risk of the sailors escaping, and "cut away the ropes of the skiff". (Acts 27:32)
How many people were aboard the ship?
"Two hundred and seventy-six persons." (Acts 27:37)
How many of them were going to be injured?
None: "Not a hair will fall from the head of any of you." (Acts 27:34)
Why was the ship "lightened" (Acts 27:38)?
Since the ship was going to "run aground" (Acts 27:26), the lighter the ship, the closer to the beach it will run aground.
Why did they throw "out the wheat into the sea"
(Acts 27:38) instead of taking some ashore?
Paul had conveyed that the entire ship will be lost: "there will be no loss of life among you, but only of the ship." (Acts 27:22)
What did the sailors do to maximize the ship's speed to shore?
"They let go the anchors ... [loosed] the rudder ropes and hoisted the mainsail to the wind and made for shore." (Acts 27:40).
Did the ship make it to the targeted "beach" (Acts 27:39)?
Not quite. It struck a sandbar or some other barrier below the waterline that created "two seas" (Acts 27:41) - one towards the ocean and the other towards the shore - where the bow "stuck fast and remained immovable, but the stern was being broken up by the violence of the waves." (Acts 27:41)
Why did the stern break up?
To provide floating "boards" (Acts 27:44) for those who couldn't swim.
Who saved Paul's life?
The Lord, by using the centurion.
What type of (attempted) actions did the storm draw from the various people?
Some stopped hoping and gave up. Others tried to escape. Still others tried to harm others to protect themselves. At least one trusted God and prayed for others.
How will you ride out your life's next storm?