Paul Sails to Rome

29 Jan

It was determined that Paul should sail with other prisoners to Rome before winter. However, it was after the Jewish fall festivals (Acts 27:9) and the Mediterranean became dangerous for all ancient seafaring vessels near and during the winter season. They began having trouble when they neared the province of Asia and had to sail under Crete. Paul advised the centurion to winter at a haven there, but the ship’s captain preferred a better haven further north and west of their position but still on the island. The centurion agreed with the captain of the ship, but the weather turned against them, and were driven far off course (Acts 27:10-15).

Long-story-short, the ship was in great peril and all feared for their lives, but Paul encouraged them saying no life would be lost, for an angel of God appeared to him telling him he must go to Rome so those on the ship would be saved, but the ship and its cargo would be lost. After two weeks they landed on an island near Italy called Melita, though they did not know the name of the island at the time they discovered it. The ship had broken up when it hit aground, and the Roman guard would have killed the prisoners rather than risk them escaping on the way to shore, but the centurion prevented them, wanting to save Paul alive. So, everyone made it to shore unharmed, all 276 aboard, but the ship and its cargo was lost, as Paul had predicted (Acts 27:25-44).

They wintered on the island for three months, during which time Paul healed the sick father of the man who hosted his party. Word got out and many people brought their sick, which Paul healed in Jesus’ name. By the time they left, they were given all they needed for their journey by the grateful people Paul served (Acts 28:7-11).

Upon arriving at Rome, Paul was permitted to live by himself with a Roman guard (Acts 28:16), so he called for the local Jewish elders and told them that for the hope of Israel he came to Rome in chains. He asked if they would hear him. They told him they neither received letters against him from Jerusalem nor had anyone come from there said anything ill toward him, but of the sect they knew it was spoken against throughout the world. Nevertheless, they agreed to hear Paul (Acts 28:17-22).

On the day appointed the Jews met with Paul and for the whole day he explained about Jesus, answering all questions asked of him. However, when the day ended they could not agree among themselves that Jesus was the Messiah—some believed, but others would not. Paul witnessed to them out of Isaiah reminding them what the Holy Spirit said through the prophet “Seeing, they wouldn’t perceive and hearing they wouldn’t understand…” (Isaiah 6:9). However, Paul spent two more years preaching the Gospel from his own rented house to all who would come and no one hindered him (Acts 28:23-31).

Was this the end of Paul? I think it was. We have no sure word that he ever was released. The timeline of this portion of Acts is about the fall of 60 CE when he left Palestine. He arrived in Rome about spring of 61 CE and preached from the “prison” of his own rented house for the next two years—61 to 63 CE. In one more year Nero would blame the Christians for setting the fire of Rome and many were killed, some crucified and set on fire lighting the gardens of Nero during the night. Luke shows no release in sight for at least two years. There had to be a growing concern against this Jewish sect if Nero was able to blame them for the Roman fire one year after the internal date of Luke’s ending. I suspect Paul was never released, but even if he were released, why would he leave Rome immediately. His third missionary journey lasted three years, and there Paul was free. Once freed, if freedom was obtained, there is no reason to believe Paul would have left Rome and the vicinity of this new open door for the Gospel—one that he had a vision from Jesus showing he would preach the Gospel there.

Some scholars believe Acts ends abruptly and is probably incomplete. However, this could only be true if Theophilus, to whom Luke addresses his narrative (Acts 1:1), is not the high priest whose tenure was 37-41 CE or two decades earlier. Luke seems to go out of his way not to condemn or overly embarrass the priesthood at Jerusalem who were of the sect of the Sadducees. Why would he do this, knowing how evil Josephus shows their deeds were, and knowing also the part they played in Jesus’ death and that of James the Apostle, and most recently to the end of Acts, James the Lord’s brother? The sins of the sect of the Pharisees are exposed within the Gospel account, but the sins of the high priesthood, though implied, are not exposed for all to see. One must read between the lines in both of Luke’s works. I believe Luke would have done this only in an effort to witness to the leaders of his nation [and, yes, I do believe Luke was a Jew, one of the original evangelists of Antioch, in fact]. Luke’s works are an appeal to the leaders of his nation to repent of their deeds, before it was too late. But, alas, we know they did not heed his call, for the nation rebelled, turning away from God and their Roman rulers, and Jerusalem and its Temple were destroyed. May God have mercy on us all.

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Posted by on January 29, 2010 in New Testament History, Religion


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