Acts 27

The Word Made Fresh

1When the decision was reached that we were to sail for Italy, Paul and some other prisoners were transferred to a centurion of the Augustan Regiment. The centurion’s name was Julius. 2We embarked on a ship of Adramyttium which was sailing to ports along the coast of Asia. We put to sea accompanied by Aristarchus of Thessalonica, a Macedonian. 3The next day we landed at Sidon. Julius treated Paul kindly, and allowed him to go to his friends there to provide for his needs. 4We sailed from there and passed leeward under Cyprus because the winds were against us. 5Then we sailed across the sea off Cilicia and Pamphylia and came to Myra in Lycia. 6The centurion found an Alexandrian ship there that was bound for Italy, and we went on board. 7For several days we made slow progress. We passed by Cnidus with some difficulty, and because the wind was against us we sailed under the shelter of Crete off Salmone, 8and passed it with difficulty until we reached a place called Fair Havens near the city of Lasea.

9The Fast had now passed, and since we had lost a lot of time already and the sea had become dangerous, Paul said to them, 10“I can see that our voyage will be very difficult and we may have heavy losses, both of cargo and ship, but also of lives.” 11But the centurion agreed with the pilot and the ship’s owner rather than Paul. 12And since the harbor was not a good place to spend the winter, most of them were in favor of sailing away from there, hoping they could reach Phoenix where they could spend the winter. Phoenix was a harbor of Crete, facing southwest and northwest.

13A gentle south wind began to blow, and they thought their purpose could be fulfilled, so they weighed anchor and began to sail close to the shore around Crete. 14But it wasn’t long before a strong, violent wind blew over them from Crete. 15They weren’t able to turn the ship head-on into the wind, and we wound up giving way to it and being driven. 16We sailed under the shelter of a small island called Cauda and were barely able to get control of the ship’s lifeboat. 17They hoisted it aboard and then tried to undergird the ship. They were afraid of running onto the sandbars off Syrtis, and lowered the sea anchor and allowed the wind to drive us. 18But the storm was pounding us so strongly that the next day they began to throw the cargo overboard. 19On the third day they took the ship’s tackle in hand and threw it overboard. 20We didn’t see the sun or the stars for many days and nights. The tempest raged day after day, until we had abandoned all hope of being saved.

21They had gone without food for a long time, and Paul finally stood up and said, “Men, you shouldn’t have sailed from Crete as I advised you. We could have avoided all this damage and loss. 22I beg you to be brave now because there will be no loss of life among us even if the ship is lost. 23Last night an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I worship came and stood beside me and said, 24‘Don’t be afraid, Paul. You must stand before the emperor, and God has granted safety to all these who are sailing with you.’ 25So, courage, men! I have faith in God that it will be exactly as I was told. 26But we will have to run aground on some island.”

27On the fourteenth night we were drifting across the sea of Adria, and around midnight the sailors suspected that we were nearing land. 28They took soundings and measured twenty fathoms. A little later they took soundings again and measured fifteen fathoms. 29Then they were afraid that we might run on the rocks, and they let down four anchors from the stern of the ship and prayed for day to come. 30But then the sailors lowered the boat into the sea, and on the pretext of putting out anchors from the bow they tried to escape the ship. 31But Paul said to the centurion and the soldiers, “If these men leave the ship, you cannot be saved.” 32Then the soldiers cut the ropes of the boat and let it drift away.

33Just before day dawned, Paul urged them all to eat. He said, “Today is the fourteenth day you have been in suspense, and have scarcely eaten anything. 34I urge you to eat something – it will help you survive; none of you need lose a single hair from your heads.” 35Having said this he took up some bread, gave thanks to God in front of them, and began to eat. 36They were encouraged then to eat something themselves. 37In all, there were two hundred seventy-six of us on the ship. 38After they had all eaten something, they lightened the ship further by throwing the sacks of grain into the sea.

39The next morning they didn’t recognize the land, but saw a bay with a beach on which they could attempt to run the ship. 40They cut the anchors loose and left them in the sea, and loosened the ropes that tied the steering oars. Then they lifted the foresail to the wind and headed for the beach. 41But the ship ran aground and became immovable, and the stern was being broken up by the waves.

42The soldiers had decided to kill the prisoners to keep them from swimming away, 43but the centurion wanted to save Paul and kept them from carrying out their plan. He ordered those who could swim to jump overboard first and head to land, 44and the rest to follow on planks and pieces of the ship. And that is how all were brought safely to shore.


1-8: Paul and other prisoners are placed in the custody of a centurion named Julius, of the Augustan Regiment, probably a section of the Roman military charged with the responsibility of escorting prisoners. The word “we” in verse 1 again makes us wonder if perhaps Luke is accompanying Paul. Aristarchus, whom we met before in Macedonia, is also with him. Julius takes a liking to Paul and treats him with some deference, allowing him to stay with friends in Sidon when the ship puts into port. From that point they have some difficulty navigating across the Mediterranean. They pass south of Cyprus and turn north to Myra on the southern coast of Asia Minor where they change ships. Cnidus is the next port of call, on the southeastern end of Asia Minor. Then they turn south and sail underneath Crete to Fair Havens.

9-12: There Paul urges them to stay the winter, but the ship’s owner and the pilot persuade Julius that Fair Havens is not a good place to winter, and they decide to sail on to the west end of Crete to the port of Phoenix about 100 miles away.

13-20: Of course, they should have listened to Paul. That’s a no-brainer. They get caught in a storm and are driven further off course below Cauda (also called Klauda, or Clauda), a small island 20 miles south of Phoenix. There they are out of the worst of the wind for a while and are able to secure the lifeboat which they have been towing. They pass ropes around the hull of the ship to hold it together. They throw the cargo and ship’s tackle overboard and so are at the mercy of the storm and are afraid of entering a wide stretch of treacherous shoals off the coast of North Africa called “the Syrtis,” so they throw out anchors to impede the ship’s progress. (An ancient account, “The Argonautica” by Apollonius of Rhodes, describes the Syrtis as a gulf where ships become stranded because the ocean foam hides the shallows and thick seaweed that can stop a ship’s progress.) The storm continues unabated for days, and the passengers and crew of the ship lose all hope.

21-26: Paul announces that an angel has appeared to him and assured him that they will run aground somewhere, but that none of them will be lost. He also can’t help saying “I told you so.”

27-32: At night, fourteen days out, they are adrift across the sea of Adria (the Adriatic Sea), between Greece and Italy, considerably farther north than where they were before. Luke may be giving a misplaced reference here. If they are still in the storm it was probably difficult to get a good sighting of the stars to determine their exact location. They will land at Malta (28:1), just south of Sicily, and it is possible that in ancient times the Sea of Adria reached much further than generally accepted today. At night they take soundings which indicate they are approaching land, and the sailors try to escape, but Paul thwarts their plan by appealing to his friend Julius.

33-38: The next morning before daylight Paul urges them to eat something and has a little communion service on board with 76 or 276 others (depending on which ancient text of Acts you read). After they eat they throw the rest of the food overboard to further lighten the ship.

39-44: The ship runs aground just off Malta. Paul’s friend Julius refuses to let the soldiers kill the prisoners, and they all make it to shore safely, some swimming, others floating on debris from the ship. Luke doesn’t say whether he and Paul swam or floated.


This chapter can be read as a kind of summary of our lives. We choose what direction to take, sometimes foolishly. We seek safe places to settle. We have to deal with the problems our choices often create. We should learn to pray first; then act.