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Acts 27:6

Acts 27:6 (NIV)  – “There the centurion found an Alexandrian ship sailing for Italy and put us on board.”

Note 17:

Think back to verse 2 where Luke refers to the first ship they boarded as a ship from Adramyttium. The term of reference ‘a ship from’ simply means that the first ship came from a particular place, Adramyttium.  This was a common expression for ships.  In this verse, however, there is a subtle difference in Luke’s term of reference for the next ship mentioned in verse 6.  Luke refers to the second ship as “an Alexandrian ship”. Rather than referring the ships place of origin, this terminology describes a unique ‘type’ of ship – one with a special purpose and involved in a special trade.

Alexandrian ships were a very specific type of ship.  They were the supertankers of their day and just like supertankers they were involved in the trading system for the most critical product to the Roman World, the delivery of grain to Rome.

Let me use an example:

This morning, Matt and I drove to Decatur in his pickup truck. In Decatur, we saw a Fed-Ex truck bound for Moulton and we climbed aboard.

In this example, both vehicles are trucks.  However, the Fed-Ex truck is involved in a very specific type of work (i.e. the delivery of packages), it is owned by a large company, and that company has a fleet of delivery vehicles to run their business.

When I mentioned a Fed-Ex truck, you instantly had an image in your mind of what I was referring to, what it looks like and certainly what it does.  Two thousand years from now, will people know who Fed-EX was and what their vehicles looked like but most people will probably not have a clue what Matt’s truck looked like.

It is the same with us today looking back 2,000 years at the two ships mentioned in these passages.  An Alexandrian grain ship was a specific description to the people of that time.  They knew what it was, what it did and probably knew what one looked like. Luke knew when he used ‘an Alexandrian ship’ everyone would know what it was AND what it did.  There was a great article written by Dr. Nicolle Hirschfield for The Biblical Archaeologist in 1990, which did an excellent job of bringing together various sources to give us a good description of these ships and their role in antiquity and the Roman world.

The descriptions of these  ships are the first MAJOR building block in the search for this shipwreck.  This gives us our first clue of what went to the bottom of the ocean and what might lie there today.

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