Verses about the Apostles'

Part 16
ACTS 27-28
Paul's Journey to Rome

Location Map

 Map - Paul’s Journey Under Arrest from Palestine to Rome c AD58-61

 Map Key: 1. Paul's Journey to Rome as recorded in the Acts f the Apostles. Also in text in [red square brackets]



Acts 27:1-44 - This part includes the last of Luke's four "We" sections (Acts 27:1-28:16). He also reveals something of his apparent sea-going experience with this vivid account of the voyage and shipwreck on Malta:

As soon as it was decided that we should sail away to Italy (two years after Paul's original arrest in Jerusalem [1] and his journey to Caesarea [2]), Paul and some other prisoners were put in charge of a centurion named Julius, of the emperor's own regiment (the Augustan cohort based near Caesarea, an army unit possibly assigned to special imperial duties). We embarked on a ship hailing from Adramyttium, bound for the Asian ports, and set sail. Among our company was Aristarchus, a Macedonian from Thessalonica. On the following day we put in at Sidon [3], where Julius treated Paul most considerately by allowing him to visit his friends and accept their hospitality. From Sidon we put to sea again and sailed to leeward of Cyprus [4], since the (northwest) wind was against us. Then, when we had crossed the gulf that lies off the coasts of Cilicia [5] and Pamphylia [6], we arrived at Myra [7] in Lycia. There the centurion found an Alexandrian ship bound for Italy and put us aboard her. For several days we beat slowly up to windward and only just succeeded in arriving off Cnidus [8]. Then, since the wind was still blowing against us, we sailed under the lee of Crete, and rounded Cape Salmone [9]. Coasting along with difficulty we came to a place called Fair Havens [10], near which is the city of Lasea. We had by now lost a great deal of time and sailing had already become dangerous as it was so late in the year (... the sailing season ended around the end of September).

Paul's warning is disregarded

So Paul warned them, and said, "Men, I can see that this voyage is likely to result in damage and considerable loss - not only to ship and cargo - but even of our lives as well."

But Julius paid more attention to the helmsman and the captain than to Paul's words of warning. Moreover, since the harbour is unsuitable for a ship to winter in, the majority were in favour of setting sail again in the hope of reaching Phoenix [11] and wintering there. Phoenix is a harbour in Crete, facing south-west and north-west. So, when a moderate breeze sprang up, thinking they had obtained just what they wanted, they weighed anchor, and coasted along, hugging the shores of Crete. But before long a terrific gale, which they called a north-easter, swept down upon us from the land. The ship was caught by it and since she could not be brought up into the wind we had to let her fall off and run before it. Then, running under the lee (sheltered from the wind) of a small island called Clauda [12], we managed with some difficulty to secure the ship's boat. After hoisting it aboard they used cables (passed under the hull) to brace the ship (and prevent it breaking up). To add to the difficulties they were afraid all the time of drifting (southwest) on to the Syrtis banks [13] (the Gulf of Sirte or Sidra off modern Libya), so they shortened sail and lay to, drifting. The next day, as we were still at the mercy of the violent storm, they began to throw cargo overboard. On the third day with their own hands they threw the ship's tackle over the side. Then, when for many days there was no glimpse of sun or stars and we were still in the grip of the gale, all hope of our being saved was given up. (Such storms may seem unlikely in the Mediterranean, but in March 1942 two Italian warships were overwhelmed and sunk in this same area.)

Paul's practical courage and faith

Nobody had eaten for some time, when Paul came forward among the men and said, "Men, you should have listened to me and not set sail from Crete and suffered this damage and loss. However, now I beg you to keep up your spirits for no one's life is going to be lost, though we shall lose the ship. I know this because last night, the angel of the God to whom I belong, and whom I serve, stood by me and said, 'Have no fear, Paul! You must stand before Caesar. And God, as a mark of his favour towards you, has granted you the lives of those who are sailing with you.' Take courage then, men, for I believe God, and I am certain that everything will happen exactly as I have been told. But we shall have to run the ship ashore on some island."

At last we near land

On the fourteenth night of the storm, as we were drifting in the Adriatic [14] (or Adria Sea. Not the modern Adriatic Sea, but the Ionian Sea between southern Italy and Greece), about midnight the sailors sensed that we were nearing land. Indeed, when they sounded they found twenty fathoms (120 feet or 35m), and then after sailing on only a little way they sounded again and found fifteen. So, for fear that we might be hurled on the rocks, they threw out four anchors from the stern and prayed for daylight. The sailors wanted to desert the ship and they got as far as letting down a boat into the sea, pretending that they were going to run out anchors from the bow. But Paul said to the centurion and the soldiers, "Unless these men stay aboard the ship there is no hope of your being saved."

At this the soldiers cut the ropes of the boat and let her fall away.

Paul's sturdy commonsense

Then while everyone waited for the day to break Paul urged them to take some food, saying, "For a fortnight now you've had no food - you haven't had a bite while you've been on watch. Now take some food, I beg of you - you need it for your own well-being, for not a hair of anyone's head will be lost."

When he had said this he took some bread and, after thanking God before them all, he broke it and began to eat. This raised everybody's spirits and they began to take food themselves. There were about two hundred and seventy-six of us all told aboard that ship. When they had eaten enough they lightened the ship by throwing the grain over the side.

Land at last - but we lose the ship

When daylight came no one recognised the land. But they made out a bay with a sandy shore where they planned to beach the ship if they could. So they cut away the anchors and left them in the sea, and at the same time cut the ropes which held the steering-oars. Then they hoisted the foresail to catch the wind and made for the beach. But they struck a shoal and the ship ran aground. The bow stuck fast, while the stern began to break up under the strain. The soldiers' plan had been to kill the prisoners in case any of them should try to swim to shore and escape. But the centurion, in his desire to save Paul, put a stop to this, and gave orders that all those who could swim should jump overboard first and get to land, while the rest should follow, some on planks and other on the wreckage of the ship. So it came true that everyone reached the shore (... now St. Paul's Bay, north east coast of Malta) in safety.



Acts 28:1-10 - After our escape we discovered that the island was called Melita [15] (Malta). The natives treated us with uncommon kindness. Because of the driving rain and cold they lit a fire and made us all welcome. Then when Paul had collected a large bundle of sticks and was about to put it on the fire, a viper driven out by the heat fastened itself on his hand. When the natives saw the creature hanging from his hand they said to each other, "This man is obviously a murderer. He has escaped from the sea but justice will not let him live." But Paul shook off the viper into the fire without suffering any ill effect . Naturally they expected him to swell up or suddenly fall down dead, but after waiting a long time and seeing nothing untoward happen to him, they changed their minds and kept saying he was a god.

Paul's acts of healing: the islanders' gratitude

In that part of the island were estates belonging to the governor, whose name was Publius. This man welcomed us and entertained us most kindly for three days. Now it happened that Publius' father was lying ill with fever and dysentery. Paul visited him and after prayer laid his hands on him and healed him. After that all the other sick people on the island came forward and were cured. Consequently they loaded us with presents, and when the time came for us to sail they provided us with everything we needed.


Acts 28:11-15 - It was no less than three months later (in the Spring) that we set sail in an Alexandrian ship which had wintered in the island, a ship that had the heavenly twins (Castor and Pollux) as her figurehead. We put in at Syracuse [16] and stayed there three days, and from there we tacked round to Rhegium [17] (modern Reggio). A day later the south wind sprang up and we sailed to Puteoli [18] (near modern Naples, then terminus of the grain and other ships arriving from the eastern Mediterranean), reaching it in only two days. There we found some of the brothers and they begged us to stay a week with them, and so we finally came to Rome.

A Christian welcome awaits us in the capital

The (Christian) brothers there had heard about us and came out from the city to meet us, as far as the Market of Appius [19] (or Appii Forum) and the Three Taverns [20] (both on the famous Appian Way, the road to Rome). When Paul saw them he thanked God and his spirits rose.


Acts 28:16-23a - When we reached Rome [21] Paul was given permission to live alone with the soldier who was guarding him (the end of the last "We" section).

Paul explains himself frankly to the Jews in Rome

Three days later Paul invited the leading Jews to meet him, and when they arrived he spoke to them, "Men and brothers, although I have done nothing against our people or the customs of our forefathers, I was handed over to the Romans as a prisoner in Jerusalem. They examined me and were prepared to release me, since they found me guilty of nothing deserving the death penalty. But the attacks of the Jews there forced me to appeal to Caesar - not that I had any charge to make against my own nation. But it is because of this accusation of the Jews that I have asked to see you and talk matters over with you. In actual fact it is on account of the hope of Israel that I am here in chains."

But they replied, "We have received no letters about you from Judea, nor have any of the brothers who have arrived here said anything, officially or unofficially, against you. We want to hear you state your views, although as far as this sect is concerned we do know that serious objections have been raised to it everywhere.

Paul's earnest and prolonged effort to win his own people for Christ

When they had arranged a day for him they came to his lodging in great numbers.

- Paul preaches to the Jews of Rome in Acts 28:23b-28 (Part 47.1). Having only limited success, he declares that the Gospel of Jesus Christ will continue to be taken to the Gentiles;

Some manuscripts include a verse 29 - "And when he had said these words, the Jews departed and had a great dispute among themselves." -

The last glimpse of Paul ...

Acts 28:29-31 - So Paul stayed for two full years in his own rented apartment welcoming all who came to see him. He proclaimed to them all the kingdom of God and gave them the teaching of the Lord Jesus Christ with the utmost freedom and without hindrance from anyone.


During these two years (c AD61-63, range AD59-63), Paul is believed to have written his four "prison" Letters - to the churches at Colossae and Ephesus, and to Philemon of Colossae all around the same time, as well as to the church in Philippi.  The four prison letters now follow:


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