Acts 27:30

September 20, 2010 Leave a comment

Act 27:30

In an attempt to escape from the ship, the sailors let the lifeboat down into the sea, pretending they were going to lower some anchors from the bow.

Note 77: Every man for himself

This verse is pretty clear and if you compare it with a modern day TV newscast this passage is quite believable.  Unfortunately, over the last decade reports of crews abandoning passengers during a ship’s sinking is very commonplace. It may be sickening to hear but it still happens today.   Remember the saying “Abandon ship, every man for himself.”  We think of these crew members as cowards, but to them their priority is save themselves first, while the responsibility of the passenger is to save themselves by any means possible.

In more modern times Bruce Ismay, the director of the White Star was aboard the Titanic the night she sank.  He survived, along with the other 705 survivors by getting into a lifeboat. For the rest of his life he was haunted by his actions.  He was harshly criticized for ‘abandoning’ the ship as she sank, which was done in an effort TO SAVE HIS LIFE.   We make heros of the band members who bravely stayed on deck, playing music for the remaining passengers and then went down with the ship.  Today we really have a different attitude toward crews who leave passengers, however it is what it is.

Personal Note 78: Look to your own soul

At 2:20 AM, on April 15, 1912, the Titanic sank and 1,517 souls were lost with her. The blame for this tragedy ranges from blaming Captain Edward Smith, to blaming Bruce Ismay, to the ship going too fast near icebergs, to the Irish steel used for building the hull, to man’s arrogance in thinking it was unsinkable. In the long run, it really doesn’t matter to the people who were lost that cold night. We believe the crew of the Titanic acted bravely. We often believe the crew in Acts 27:30 acted like cowards. They hatched a plan to save themselves in the small boat.

One thing I have learned from studying shipwrecks and life in general,  YOU are responsible for YOU – It is the decisions YOU make and the actions YOU take that ultimately determine whether you are numbered as a lost soul or a survivor.

Note 79: Using the small boat to lower anchors?

It was a common practice to use the ship’s boat to carry the anchor out away from the boat to give it wider spacing for an anchorage.  Remember, at this time the ship was now being held by the four anchors attached to the stern, however, in that postition means the ship it could still swing like a watch on a string. If they dropped one anchor from the right side of the bow and one off the left side of the bow then they could have a three point anchorage, which is more stable.  However, if they just dropped two anchors at the bow then those anchors would be side by side.  In this case a crew would lower the boat and move each anchor a distance away from the ship.  Once again Luke provides a key piece of nautical information that is accurate and key to our modern understanding.

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Acts 27:28-29

September 15, 2010 Leave a comment

Act 27:28

They took soundings and found that the water was a hundred and twenty feet deep. A short time later they took soundings again and found it was ninety feet deep.

Act 27:29

Fearing that we would be dashed against the rocks, they dropped four anchors from the stern and prayed for daylight.

Note 69: soundings

The next actions taken by the crew was They took soundings”. Sailing ships carried lead sounding weights tied to long lines used to find out how deep the water was.  A sailor would throw the weight in front of the ship and let it quickly sink to the bottom.  As he brought it back up, he would measure the line with his arms, one full arm span, measured from tip to tip, equals about six feet or one fathom. This procedure would tell the captain how much water was beneath the hull.  Sometimes they took multiple soundings, off each side of the ship.  Sir Francis Drake became stranded once on a reef in the Pacific. Sounding on one side revealed six feet of water, yet from the other side, only about 40 feet away, they were unable to find the bottom.  Completely stuck on this reef, he jettisoned eight Bronze cannon to lighten his ship in an attempt to free his ship.

Note 70: Mark Twain

Remember Mark Twain our national treasure of a writer?  His real name was Samuel Clemens.  He took the name Mark Twain from his early days on River Boats.  As the lead sounding line was thrown over the side, many times the sailor’s report shouted to the captain would be,  “Mark Twain”, meaning two fathoms of water under the boat.  Clemens adopted Mark Twain for his name.

Note 71: finding the bottom

“They sailors found that the water was a hundred and twenty feet deep.” The Greek term was twenty orguias (about 37 meters) and the KJV translation (English) named it 20 fathoms ( the Royal British Navy used the term fathom). But regardless of the term there was 120 of water under the vessel, so the ship was actually safe from grounding at that moment.  But remember, they are still drifting along, pushed by the wind.  So the text says “a short time later they took soundings again.” This time they found the water was only ninety feet deep.  The bottom is coming up fast, meaning they are approaching land and it is happening fast. Now everyone on the ship starts to move more quickly.

Note 72: Fear is very motivating

Verse 29 says “Fearing that we would be dashed against the rocks,” . It is still shortly after midnight and before daylight so the sailors would be unable to see any rocks.  I am unsure if the crew even knew there were actually rocks.  Perhaps they could hear the waves crashing on rocks but Luke’s writing says it was rocks they faced.  He says they were afraid of being dashed against the rocks.  This is the most common terminology used by sailors to state their fears, even if it does not describe the exact hazard they might be facing.   In this case, rocks are exactly the hazard these sailors are facing.

Note 73: Hit the brakes

Every person knows when driving a car and faced with a fast approaching danger, HIT THE BRAKES. That’s exactly what this crew did when “they dropped four anchors”. Sailing ships carry multiple anchors. We know this ship carried at least six and probably more. At this point they drop four anchors to stop the forward progress of the ship.  They would not have dropped all four at the same moment, so the ship would not have stopped immediately. I estimate they would also have to have had a minimum of 300 feet (probably 400 feet) of rope attached to each of these anchors. There is a ratio of line length to water depth required to get the anchors to hold the bottom.

Note 74: From the stern

Luke continues to help us understand events in Verse 29 when he states the anchors were dropped “from the stern”.  This is not the usual position for dropping anchors. Remember these ships are pointed on both ends. The bow was aiming north northwest (NNW) due to the tackle they have been dragging as a sea anchor giving the ship this heading (verse 17). They could drop the anchors in a manner that would catch and hold the ship and cause the bow of the ship to swing around from NNW to a westerly direction.  They would then be facing the land they have been rapidly approaching.  By actually facing the island, they would gain more control for steering the ship.  But for now at least the anchors have caused the ship to stop it’s rush toward the rocks of the island.

Note 75: alone in the dark

Luke finishes his narration about the sudden flurry of movement by the crew to save the ship saying “they prayed for daylight”. Sooner or later everybody prays.  Christian, Jew, pagan or atheist, sooner or later everybody prays.

Note 76: Details

Notice the details that Luke could have left out of the narrative and still told a complete account. How deep the water was, how many anchors were dropped, from which part of the ship they were dropped. He continues to add details that help us understand the fullness of the events and actions of the crew.  Through his choice of words we can verify not only what happened, but figure out why they reacted as they did.

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Acts 27: 27

September 7, 2010 Leave a comment

Act 27:27

On the fourteenth night we were still being driven across the Adriatic Sea, when about midnight the sailors sensed they were approaching land.

Note 63: Time Gap

“On the fourteenth night…” Luke’s narrative now skips to the fourteenth night of the journey.  This ‘fast forward’ of the account is not unusual to this story or other eyewitness accounts.  Often eyewitness accounts will skip across long time periods where nothing dramatic changed in their circumstances.  The length of time is also credible since it is more than 460 nautical miles from Caudia to the shores of Malta.

Note 64: Adriatic Sea:

“…we were still being driven across the Adriatic Sea,” Some debate has occurred over the years about the location of the Adriatic Sea. In the first century the Adriatic Sea extended all the way down to Malta and over to Sicily back across to Crete. The map shows the modern area meant by the term.

Note 65: Land

“when about midnight the sailors sensed they were approaching land. My parents always told me that nothing good ever happens after midnight.  I have passed that wisdom on to my kids as well.  Well it’s now midnight.  This is a good news and bad news situation. Yeah! land… Oh no! land.  Land is really their only rescue, but at midnight land is also the biggest threat to their lives. Wooden ships on rocks are not a good combination, and the darkness gives them no time to react to hidden dangers.

Note 66: the sailors sensed danger

Here once again Luke’s narration is invaluable to understanding what is really happening.  First notice he has distinguished who is involved, the sailors.  Only the sailors notice or sense something has changed.  The sailors sense danger.  Notice he did not say they heard something, but they sensed something. Presumably they sensed some unknown danger of rocks or surf or something they could not yet identify.  I Personally have seen sailors do this very thing. It is remarkable when you see it happen. But, notice Luke did not sense anything nor did anyone else.  From this we can deduce that it was not a noise that alerted the sailors (or else Luke and the others on the boat would have been aware of the danger) but rather something else sensed only by the sailors.

Note 67: Personal Note, the Flower Gardens

Once when I was a younger man I was on a trip in Texas and was invited to dive a place called the Flower Gardens in the Gulf of Mexico with a dive shop from Houston.  The Flower Gardens are over 110 miles off the Texas coast and the northern most coral reef in the US.  One of the most unusual places on Earth to dive, but it requires a long boat ride to get there.  The overnight trip is generally made on larger dive boats, which leave at night for the long voyage so everyone can sleep.  In those days we did not have GPS, and it wasn’t that long ago.  We do have a depth finder, and there is no danger of hitting the bottom, but there is a chance of missing the dive spot entirely. There are no land marks, and we are traveling at night. On this trip the first mate was running the boat and I was talking to him when suddenly the captain who had been sleeping suddenly burst into the wheel house hollering “didn’t you feel that?” I had no clue and from the look on his face neither did the first mate, who was dumb enough to answer with “what?” The old captain responded “the bottom came up”.  Sure enough in just a moment we could see on the depth finder the bottom rise sharply.  The sleeping captain was awakened by something he sensed. Maybe tiny change in vibrations, sounds, or pressure, or the rolling of the waves I’m not sure what he sensed, he just sensed there was a change and it was time to act.

Note 68: Luke

The sailors on Paul’s ship knew something was changing and in Luke’s narrative his word choice describes the scene perfectly, PERFECTLY.  I can’t say it enough – Luke’s eyewitness account tells us far more than meets the eye or any ordinary writer could provide us with.  The next few verses tell us what the crew did next and how things progress from here.  Things are about to hit the fan!

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Acts 27:21-26

September 2, 2010 2 comments

Acts 27:21- (NIV)

After the men had gone a long time without food, Paul stood up before them and said: “Men, you should have taken my advice not to sail from Crete; then you would have spared yourselves this damage and loss.

Acts 27:22 – (NIV)

But now I urge you to keep up your courage, because not one of you will be lost; only the ship will be destroyed.

Acts 27:23 – (NIV)

Last night an angel of the God whose I am and whom I serve stood beside me

Acts 27:24 – (NIV)

and said, “Do not be afraid, Paul. You must stand trial before Caesar; and God has graciously given you the lives of all who sail with you.”

Acts 27:25 – (NIV)

So keep up your courage, men, for I have faith in God that it will happen just as he told me.

Acts 27:26 – (NIV)

Nevertheless, we must run aground on some island.”

Note 56: It’s been a long trip

The sequence starts by telling us “After the men had gone a long time without food, Paul stood up before them and said”. This brief opening sentence is packed with a great deal of unstated facts.  Everyone on board has been beat up, they are fatigued and afraid they are going to die.  Many are seasick! Once you experience the onset of seasickness, everything deteriorates very quickly.  If the condition last for more than an hour, you think you are going to die and are thinking that is a good alternative. You will not eat! You will revisit what you have eaten, often multiple times.  It is politely called feeding the fish.  If you have never experienced seasickness for an extended time you need to, at least once but only once. I am using humor to tell those unacquainted with this when you get it, you really want to die, I mean REALLY WANT TO.  The other problem created by extended seasickness is fatigue and loss of strength.

Note 57: “You should have listened to me the first time”

During this voyage Luke records Paul speaking to the others on the ship several times. In verse 21 he addresses everyone for the second recorded time during this voyage. Back in verse 10, Paul warned them not to sail, which they summarily ignored.  In that verse he said they would lose ship, cargo and life. It is important that Paul reminds them here they should have listened to him earlier.  His comment here (besides being irritating to those who overruled him the first time) serves to strengthen what he is

about to say and gives it more weight for their consideration.   The reminder here only helps build his credibility.

Note 58: Paul’s bold statements

Paul’s comments contain four major points. He tells them WHAT they should do, next WHY they should do it, he tells them what AUTHORITY is behind his comments, and finally he declares to them the logical CONCLUSION they should make based on the facts he has just given them, “so keep up your courage.”

1). The WHAT;  “I urge you to keep up your courage”

2). The WHY;  “because not one of you will be lost”

3). The AUTHORITY;  “Last night an angel of the God whose I am and whom I serve stood beside me and said, ‘Do not be afraid, Paul. You must stand trial before Caesar; and God has graciously given you the lives of all who sail with you.’

Notice, Paul starts the statement with the same instructions given to him personally that he now passes on to the others, “do not be afraid.”.  I’m sure the  reason it was addressed to him personally, because he was afraid.

Next Paul continues to quote this angel messenger, (this is my paraphrase) Paul, your fate has been decided and you MUST stand trial.  This declaration has nothing to do with anyone else on the vessel, including Luke. It reminds Paul he will be saved so he can go before Caesar. Then the angel adds this (again my paraphrase) God, who will deliver Paul to stand trial, also has given the lives of everyone else on this vessel to Paul.

4). The CONCLUSION:   “So keep up your courage, men, for I have faith in God that it will happen just as he told me.”  Notice Paul started his address to everyone in verse 22, with “I urge you…” a personal request.  This time he starts by saying “SO (after hearing what My God says) take courage.”  By using the term “So” this time he is basing the request on the evidence he was shown and the conclusion they should now draw from that evidence.

Paul’s encouraging words are meant to change their minds, their attitudes and their future actions.  These people are in a desperate situation where loss of their life is probable.  They have given up ALL HOPE of surviving.  These words are meant to encourage them and tell them they will survive.

Note 59: Paul’s Leadership

Paul shows real leadership by speaking to these people at this time. These statements are made so those around him can regain their hope and courage, and he gives them a reason for hope. He tells them they will not die. He tells them to take courage, DON’T BE AFRAID. Whether or not one is a Christian or believes that Paul was an inspired Apostle, he must be given credit as a leader. This statement is exactly what these folks needed at that moment.

If this were John Paul Jones, David Farragut, Sir Francis Drake or Admiral Nelson, or any other heroic figure from history, we would accept the testimony at face value. Why would we do that?.   Because we believe the testimony of the witnesses of their events. But because this testimony is recorded in the Bible some people refuse to believe this as credible testimony.

Note 60: Luke as a witness.

Let’s examine what we know about Luke as an eyewitness. So far our every sentence recorded by Luke has been detailed and believable. Luke has proven to be accurate and precise in his language and his observations. He is as consistent with his writing as other survivor accounts from recorded history.  In this dialog as well, Luke appears to be simply recording what Paul said.  There is no need to doubt whether Luke actually heard Paul say these things.  Since Luke has already stated that he had given up all hope, along with everyone else, he probably paid very close attention to what Paul said.  I can find no reason to doubt Luke’s eyewitness account of this portion of events.

Note 61: Do you believe Paul?

Believing that Luke wrote of what Paul said is an easy conclusion.  Believing Paul said it is also an easy decision since it is quite consistent with Paul’s testimony about God in other circumstances during his lifetime.  Believing Paul is the part where people have difficulty.  Aside from the tremendous leadership Paul provides to this situation he has made some pretty bold claims.  He said there is a God, to whom Paul belongs (a slave term) and that he serves (Paul does as his God commands him to do).  Paul’s God sent an angel (a messenger), who stood beside Paul the night before to confirm to Paul that the mission was from God, and that in order to fulfill God’s mission for Paul to stand trial, Paul must survive. This Messenger then tells Paul that the lives of everyone else on the ship have been (graciously) granted to Paul. Paul must have specifically asked God (through prayer) that they all be rescued.

Remember back in verse 10, Paul actually said “I can see that our voyage is going to be disastrous and bring great loss to ship and cargo, and to our own lives also. Here, he reverses his earlier comment and now informs them that God would spare their lives.

Some people doubt what Paul said is factual.  Some people doubt because the account appears in the Bible and they have made up their minds that the Bible can’t possibly be true.  The claims Paul made were apparently made in front of everyone.  One thing is certain, no one on this ship will have to wait very long to see if Paul’s words are true or false.  He said that no one on the ship will die, but the ship itself will be wrecked on some island.  I’m sure they were all clinging to the hope that his words and the God he declares are true.

Note 62: Luke’s reliability

Remember, the purpose of this analysis is to examine the reliability of Luke as an eyewitness of this voyage and shipwreck.  In that regard, once again his narration about the voyage continues to follow a logical sequence of events and Paul’s speaking to everyone seems perfectly plausible.  From this point forward, the account will quickly move to the ultimate fate of the ship and those on board who will test  the hope offered by Paul.

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New Map Section

August 27, 2010 3 comments

We have added a new menu on the right side of the site labeled Maps. It contains some maps about the journey of Luke and Paul.  We use Google Earth and I highly recommend this product, it is one of those things that is great about the Internet.  I hope you enjoy them.

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Acts 27: 18-20

August 20, 2010 Leave a comment

Acts 27: 18 (NIV)

We took such a violent battering from the storm that the next day they began to throw the cargo overboard.

Note 50:  “WE” took such a violent battering

Again, Luke’s precise choice of words paints such a clear mental picture of what these people enduring at this moment.  First he chose the term “we took”, instead of “the ship took”, which I believe shows the personal nature of their suffering.  Quite often in shipwreck survival accounts you will see that during the process of long storms, many survivors internalize the struggle and it becomes about them personally and no longer just about the ship.  Thus, Luke’s choice of words is yet another indication that this text is indeed a true first-hand account of the events.

Next he chooses the words “violent battering”.  This description gives us a double dose of inflicted punishment on people and vessel, but then as if not enough he completes the verbal picture by making the phrase “such a violent battering”.  Keep in mind that verse 27:17 seemed to have a ray of hope hidden in the words; however, the words used here are certainly losing that positive tone.

Note 51:  (a Personal Note)  The psychology of personalizing the storm

The concept of personalizing catastrophic events is not uncommon. One of the worse times in my life was from 2000 – 2002, otherwise known as the “tech bubble burst”.  I was riding pretty high before the burst but when the recession hit, I felt as if the “burst”, the recession and the downward trend in the economy were personally directed at me.  It was a financially devastating time for me during which I often, OFTEN wondered if I had done something wrong.  Had I failed to be a good steward with the money God had given me?  Was God angry with me for some other failure on my part?  I know now that these thoughts weren’t logical.  God did not bankrupt entire industries and send the world into recession just because he was mad at me.  I know how ridiculous it must sound to someone to hear that these thoughts ran through my head.  I really do know in my brain that these were all silly thoughts of a man during a moment of weakness.  But, silly though they may be, even thinking about those times now makes me shake inside.  And to think, I wasn’t even facing eminent death by drowning.  The men in these verses were.

Note 52: The things people throw overboard in a storm.

Luke tells us that they take additional action in any attempt to improve the situation.  He states “…they begin to throw the cargo overboard”.  The reason for undertaking the voyage in the first place was to make money by moving the cargo of grain from Egypt to Rome.  There is no indication that the grain was in any way ruined at this point.  It is possible that the grain was wet and may have been unsalvageable at this point, but the text does not indicate that as fact.  As far as we know the cargo was still in perfect condition.  Jettisoning cargo was a common act among crews during this type of event.  It helped lighten the load on the ship and gave it some extra buoyancy to stay afloat.  It is amazing what people are willing to part with during times of crisis.

I believe he is referring to the crew when he says “they” in this case.  The order to dump cargo would have come from the owner or captain directly to the crew.

Acts 27:19 – (NIV)

On the third day, they threw the ship’s tackle overboard with their own hands.

Note 53:

I believe that Luke is again referring to the crew when he says “they threw” because the order to throw tackle overboard would have come from the owner or captain and would have been directed toward the crew.  This theory is reinforced when he adds ” ‘with’ their own hands” at the end.

There are various theories as to what tackle this might refer to.  It could be broken equipment, spare equipment, or gear that is not in use at that moment.  Basically it could be anything not vital to this ship making it to the next port.  The equipment thrown overboard may very well have been in good condition but was also extra weight.  On the other hand, the dumping of the ship’s tackle may also indicate deterioration in the overall condition of the ship.  The more the ship deteriorates, the more items can be removed from it.  Regardless of whether the items thrown overboard were in good condition or bad, this statement CLEARLY indicates that the crew is continuing to do anything that might help them survive.

Actions such as this are quite common during shipwrecks throughout history, especially those of ships embarked on a long journey.  This fact lends credence, yet again, to the assertion that this chapter of Acts is indeed an accurate and first-hand account of these events.

Acts 27:20 – (NIV)

When neither sun nor stars appeared for many days and the storm continued raging, we finally gave up all hope of being saved.

Note 54:

Like many of the statements in this chapter, Acts 27:20 is one of those that could be taken from almost any storm related shipwreck account ever written by a survivor.  First, Luke will justify a decision that was made by first providing the reasoning behind it:

“When neither sun nor stars appeared for many days and the storm continued raging,”

Can you imagine what a desperate situation this must have been?  Pure misery with no end in sight.  Anyone that has ever been sea sick for hours on end (or, for that matter, sick with any illness that seemingly had no end) may be able to appreciate the way these passages read.  I personally have been so seasick on some dive trips that I have actually thought death was preferable to the condition I was enduring.

The next sentence is the worst mental state of all: “… we finally gave up all hope of being saved.”

Again, notice that by using the pronoun “we”, Luke is again including himself in the group he is describing (i.e. those who gave up all hope of being saved).  I do not know whether Paul had given up hope at this point; I don’t think so.  However, Luke certainly sounds like he includes himself as part of “we”.  By using the phrase “we finally gave up ALL hope of being saved”, Luke paints a complete visual and emotional picture of the conditions through which these men were suffering and the state of mind that had begun to take hold of them.  Again, comments and recorded testimony exactly like this are common to other shipwreck accounts of a long duration.  Survivors’ narrations often clearly indicate the very moment that people give up.  On an interesting note, experts who study and teach survival skills all agree that the moment a person gives up hope of rescue, the chance for survival drop dramatically.

Note 55:

One final note here, remember the tone of optimism we read in verse 27:17, after they made preparation to face the storm.  The events described in verses 18 – 20 seem to have zapped all such optimism from those on the ship.

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Acts 27:16-17

August 13, 2010 4 comments

Acts 27:16 (NIV)

As we passed to the lee of a small island called Cauda, we were hardly able to make the lifeboat secure.

Acts 27:17 (NIV)

When the men had hoisted it aboard, they passed ropes under the ship itself to hold it together. Fearing that they would run aground on the sandbars of Syrtis, they lowered the sea anchor and let the ship be driven along.

Once again I will analyze multiple translations to get a complete look at the full meaning of the text.

Act 27:16 (NAS)

Running under the shelter of a small island called Clauda, we were scarcely able to get the ship’s boat under control.

Acts 27:17 (NIV)

After they had hoisted it up, they used supporting cables in undergirding the ship; and fearing that they might run aground on the shallows of Syrtis, they let down the [fn] sea anchor and in this way let themselves be driven along.

Note 42:   Notice that now it’s “we” not “they”

Luke writes As we passed to the lee of a small island called Cauda, we were hardly able to make the lifeboat secure.” (NIV).  Notice how Luke now uses the inclusive pronoun “we”, as opposed to the use of “they”, which he used in verse 13.  The first “we” clearly refers to the ship and all the people on board. The second “we” may show that even Luke himself was part of a work force.

Note 43:   “…under the shelter of…”

Luke Writes, “As we passed to the lee of (under the shelter of – NAS) a small island called Cauda . . .” The Greek name for the island of Caude (spelled Clauda in the NAS and KJV) is Gávdhos.  It has also been known by a wide variety of other names as used by various historical writers.  The island is pretty small, only about 27 km² in area.  It is positioned  a short distance from Crete, about 26 nautical miles south.  It is nearly WSW (just a little south of due west) from the point where we think they were originally hit by the storm.  The lee side of the island provided enough shelter to give them a small window of time to get ready to ride out the storm.

Note 44:   “…secure the lifeboat…”

Luke writes, “…we were hardly able to make the lifeboat ( the ship’s boat – NAS) secure…” .  Virtually all sailing ships through out history used small boats (hence the name the ship’s boat) that were towed behind the ship. It was used to ferry crew and passengers from ship to shore while in port or as a lifeboat if the ship was sinking. This arrangement works fine while sailing in normal weather.    Since the wind was pushing them from behind they would be unable to control the boat and it would have been in danger of either sinking or damaging the stern of the ship or the steering oars.  As they came around behind Cauda (Gávdhos), they tried to bring it aboard and secure it.  Luke tells us this was a difficult task and “‘we’ were scarcely able” to get the job done.

Note 45: “Hypozomata” this is a BIG deal

After the boat was secured on board the ship they turned their attention to keeping the ship afloat.  Luke writes they passed ropes under the ship itself to hold it together.” (NIV). The term used in the text is “Hypozomata”. This equipment and the procedure are well documented from classical history, particularly with military ships.  These ropes would help hold the ship together and make it more water tight.  Being watertight, is a very important concept to a grain ship, because all types of Grain will swell dramatically when it gets wet.  So here we have a ship that is in danger of leaking, in danger of external pressure of a storm crushing from the outside, and also in danger of potential internal pressure created by swelling cargo which is pushing outward.

Note 46:   A Personal note**

From this shipwreck hunters perspective, this action of passing a rope under the ship may one day prove to be the key to identifying this shipwreck.

Note 47:   Quicksands of Syrtis…

Luke tells us what the greatest fear was among the crew: “ fearing that they might run aground on the shallows of Syrtis”. The varying translations refer to them as the “shallows of Syrtis” (NAS), the “sandbars of Syrtis” (NIV), and “the quicksands” (KJV).  (So was it shallows, sandbars, or quicksand?  Yes!)

The fear of running aground in these moving sand banks was quite real.  The shallows of Syrtis are great shallow areas located along the coast of North Africa near Tunis and Tripoli, Libia.  In fact, they are still dangerous today.  The real problem with the area is the large expanse of shallow water and the shifting of the sand, which changes where the danger is actually located and making it hard to sail near the area.

Note 48:   The Sea Anchor

The text tells us that these men took action to fix the problem of Syrtis:

“. . . they let down the  sea anchor (NIV)”

“ . . . they lowered the sea anchor (NAS)”

“ . . . strake sail, or struck sail (KJV)”

The KJV translation initially creates some confusion:  did they lower the sea anchor or the sail?  Personally, I do not believe the sail would still have been up at this point after “giving way” to the wind and being driven along as we discussed in 27:15.  So, if not the main sail, then what is a sea anchor?  A sea anchor, or sea brake as it is sometimes called, is equipment designed to slow the rush of the ship in a storm, thus giving the crew more control.  It can be made on the spot or can be purchased and stored on board as standard equipment.  Quite often, a sea anchor is made from sail material, so it looks like an underwater sail and, once deployed, works to slow the ship.

Depending on where it is attached to the ship, a sea anchor can also help steer the ship and make it change direction.  For example, in the event that an obstacle appeared in front of and to the left of a ship, the sea anchor could be used to slow the ship down and steer right away from such obstacle.  Thus, I believe they tied the sea anchor from at least midship on the starboard side (right side) to somewhere near the stern in an effort to help steer the ship to the right and away from the danger they feared most – the shallow sands of Sytris.

I never use Wikipedia as a reliable source. HOWEVER, there is a good write up about sea anchors, so check it out if you like.

Note 49: “…and in this way”

Remember the desperation in Luke’s words back in verse 15: “so we gave way to it and were driven along”.  Those words imply the lack of control over the wind, the ship or themselves that these men had on this ship.  The choice of words also conveys the hopelessness they likely felt at that point.  Then there is a quick reprieve by this small island.  This time Luke use different terms “. . . and in this way let themselves be driven along.” These words are missing the desperation.  These words show us how the actions taken by the crew somehow changed their spirits.

The phrase “in this way”, leads the reader to recap the recent turn of events:  they regained control of the skiff, brought it aboard, secured it to the deck of the ship, and under girded the ship with rope to help hold it together.  These actions reduced the dangers presented both from without and within the ship.  They made the ship more watertight and finally lowered a sea anchor which slowed the speed and changed the direction away from the danger they feared.  Now Luke writes “. . . in this way, they LET themselves be driven along”.  The word “let” as used here, seems to show that Luke has the impression they now had some measure of control over the situation.  In testimony from other shipwreck accounts, we find that people often feel an improvement in spirits when they or the crew take actions, especially if they believe the actions may help save them from sinking.  The shipwreck testimony from Luke appears to be no different.

In my personal opinion, Luke’s words imply a more optimistic tone as he continues his story.

We will soon find out whether things have turned around for our boys for good as they will soon pass from the protection of this small island into the open sea… again!

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