Category Archives: Acts

Paul’s Shipwreck on Malta — Casting The Anchors and Dinghy

Acts 27:27 . . . about midnight the sailors began to surmise that 1they were approaching some land. 28 And they took soundings, and found it to be twenty fathoms; and a little farther on they took another sounding and found it to be fifteen fathoms. 29 And fearing that we might run aground somewhere on the rocks, they cast four anchors from the stern and wished for daybreak.

The captain and sailors on Paul’s ship found themselves in a very dangerous situation that called for a desperate measure—the casting of the “storm anchors” into the raging sea.

Please note, that under normal circumstances (relatively calm harbors) they would use “composed anchors” to secure the ship.

Two Composed Anchors on display in the Hecht Archaeological Museum in Haifa, Israel. Click on image to Enlarge and/or Download.

A “Composed Anchor” is made out of a large chiseled stone and has at least three holes in it. A rope was tied in the upper hole—to lower and hoist the anchor—and wooden stakes were inserted into the two lower holes in order to grip the sea bottom. These anchors weighed between 45 and 170 pounds and could be lowered and hoisted by one or two seamen.  This type of anchor was used from the late second millennium BC on.  Please note that this type of anchor would not be able to secure the large Alexandrian Grain Ship in a raging sea!

Acts 27:40 “And casting off the anchors, they left them in the sea.

These four anchors were very large and were “storm anchors.”  The “Isis – Sarapis” anchor stock found by Mark Gatt would be an example of this (as would the 3.5-ton anchor stock discovered in the same general area).

A replica of the “Isis – Sarapis” anchor discovered by Mark Gatt.

In this area please note that five “storm anchor” stocks were found that weighed 200, 489, 117, 500 pounds and the 3.5-ton stock plus the massive “Isis Sarapis” stock (Gatt p. 98 citing Scicluna).  These types of anchors were very heavy and were the last hope of securing a ship during a storm—both because of their weight and especially being fastened to the sea bottom.  But, once the storm anchors were cast overboard, and they were once secured on the seabed, they could not be lifted back on board, so they had to be abandoned!  As Acts 27:40 says, “And casting off the anchors, they left them in the sea.

On the map note “Ancient Anchors.” This is where Scicluna noted all the relevant anchor stocks.  They had been abandoned as described above.

Acts 27:29 “they cast four anchors from the stern

The bow of a cargo ship with two “storm anchors” secured in place.

On this model the huge storm anchors are lashed onto the bow of the boat, ready to be deployed in a storm.  Under normal circumstances, the anchors would be lowered from the bow (see photo above) to secure the ship.  This would mean that the bow would be facing the oncoming waves because that would be the best way to deflect the waves and to ride out the storm.

But Acts 27:29 says they were lowered from the stern!  Gatt graphically describes how he thinks they were lowered and then the sailor had to quickly run, with ropes in hand, to secure them to the stern of the boat.  Gatt credits the wisdom of the captain in doing this, for this meant that the bow of the boat was facing the shore and it would be much easier to run it aground—once the time had come to abandon the storm anchors!

Acts 27:29 And fearing that we might run aground somewhere on the 1rocks, they cast four anchors from the stern and wished for daybreak. 30 And as the sailors were trying to escape from the ship, and had let down the ship’s boat into the sea, on the pretense of intending to lay out anchors from the bow, 31 Paul said to the centurion and to the soldiers, “Unless these men remain in the ship, you yourselves cannot be saved.” 32 Then the soldiers cut away the aropes of the ship’s boat, and let it fall away

A sarcophagus that has a sailing ship and its “dinghy” engraved in bas relief.  The projection on the bow of the boat, on the left, may be a SSS sail, OR it might be a representation of a “storm anchor” with its anchor stock.

In the archaeological museum in Sinope Turkey, on the Black Sea, is a sarcophagus that has a sailing ship and its “dinghy” engraved in bas relief.  Behind it there is a small vessel, with a sail, that may be in tow.  Might this be a “dinghy” like the one described in Acts 27:30?

The Apostle Paul, and companions, may have sailed on such vessels. Note the steering oars at the stern of the ship, the billowing mainsail and what looks like a jib (Gatt, p. 18 calls this an “artemon”) near the bow of the boat—or could this represent a storm anchor with its anchor stock? Even the guy-lines are visible in the image.  An inscription on the sarcophagus reads: “Cornelius Arrianus is lying here. His age is 60.”

A line drawing of the bas relief on the sarcophagus in the museum in Sinope.

Alternatively, note that the “dinghy” has a  billowing sail and thus might be a second ship that is being depicted as being in the distance—and thus is smaller than the nearer vessel.

 

For a complete discussion of the shipwreck of Paul see Mark GattPaulus The Shipwreck 60 A.D.  Second edition, 2017.  Malta: Allied Publications.

For a good discussion of the shipwreck, ancient anchors, etc.,  and a vigorous interaction with the views of Robert Cornuke, see Gordon Franz “Does the ‘Lost Shipwreck of Paul’ Hold Water?  Or, Have the Anchors from the Apostle Paul’s Shipwreck Been discovered on Malta?”

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Saint Paul’s Islands — Shipwreck on Malta Part 2

View looking north at Saint Paul’s Islands that are located at the entrance to Saint Paul’s Bay that is located on the northwest coast of Malta.

Saint Paul’s Islands have been suggested by some to be the place where the ship that the Apostle Paul was on ran aground (Acts 27:6–28:1; see a brief evaluation of some of the evidence at the end of this post).

On the left (west) side of the map, note the location of St. Paul’s Bay and St. Paul’s Islands.  Click on image to Enlarge and/or Download.

The tip of this peninsula has been suggested by some to be the place where the “two seas met,” near which was the reef on which Paul’s ship ran aground (Acts 27:41).

Acts 27:41 But striking a reef where two seas met, they ran the vessel aground; and the prow stuck fast and remained immovable, but the stern began to be broken up by the force of the waves. NASB

View looking north at the rocky cliffs of the northern tip of Saint Paul’s Island. A statue of the Apostle Paul is on the left.

 

View of the modern “dock” on Saint Paul’s Island.

Trekking up to the “summit” of Saint Paul’s Island. On the right is a large statue of the Apostle Paul.

View a large statue of the Apostle Paul on the northern tip of Saint Paul’s Islands that are located at the entrance to Saint Paul’s Bay.

Evaluation of some of the evidence:

Acts 27:39 states:

Acts 27:39 And when day came, they could not recognize the land; but they did observe a certain bay with a beach, and they resolved to drive the ship onto it if they could.

Saint Paul’s Bay would qualify as “they could not recognize the land”—for Alexandrian grain ships did not frequent this part of the island of Malta and thus the captain and crew would not have recognized this area.  The captains of grain ships heading from Alexandria (Egypt) to Rome would have headed north for Sicily and the Straits of Messina before reaching the east end of Malta, or in some cases would have wintered in what today is the “Grand Harbor” of Valletta, Malta.

BUT, Saint Paul’s Bay’s shoreline is basically rock scarp, and it lacks sandy beaches, and thus would NOT qualify as  “a certain bay with a beach” where the captain attempted to steer his ship.  Thus, Saint Paul’s Bay was probably not the place of the shipwreck.  (see Gatt pp. 107-109).

An example of the rocky shoreline of Saint Paul’s Bay. The Bay actually lacks beaches! Click on Image to Enlarge and/or Download.

In our next post, we will examine the “Isis/Sarapis” anchor stock that Mark Gatt discovered.


For a complete discussion of the shipwreck of Paul see Mark Gatt, Paulus The Shipwreck 60 A.D.  Second edition, 2017.  Malta: Allied Publications.

For a good discussion of the shipwreck, ancient anchors, etc.,  and a vigorous interaction with the views of Robert Cornuke, see Gordon Franz “Does the ‘Lost Shipwreck of Paul’ Hold Water?  Or, Have the Anchors from the Apostle Paul’s Shipwreck Been discovered on Malta?”

The Shipwreck of Paul on Malta — Part 1

On a recent trip in which we followed in the Footsteps of Paul from His Shipwreck on Malta to His Martyrdom in Rome, we were able to do something very special.  We were able to prevail upon Mark Gatt not only to lecture to us about his discovery of the “Isis/Sarapis” lead anchor stock to the north of Salina Bay (map below), but we were also fortunate enough to have him lead us on a boat trip out on to the waters in and around St. Paul’s Bay and the Salina Bay—two prime candidates for the location of the Shipwreck of Paul (Acts 27:26–28:1).

Mary and Carl with researcher/diver Mark Gatt (center) next to our Luzzu.

To do this, we boarded a traditional Maltese boat called a “Luzzu.”

Our group boarding the Luzzu.

Our nautical adventure took us to two of the places that are candidates as being the site of Paul’s Shipwreck: namely to St. Paul’s Islands and Salina Bay (favored by Gatt).

Who is Mark Gatt?

Mark is a man on a mission. His PAVLVS The Shipwreck 60 AD is the result of a wondrous underwater discovery while scuba diving just off Qawra Point – the remains of a huge Roman-period lead anchor stock embossed with the names of the Egyptian gods ISIS and SARAPI(S). He has been scuba diving for the past 30 years and has been an active volunteer in Civil Protection for the same number of years. For most of this time, Mark was commanding and coordinating a group of rescue divers and was involved in many underwater search and recovery operations for missing persons at sea.

In our next post, we will take a look at St. Paul’s Islands.

Paul’s Shipwreck on Malta: Anchor Stocks—Part 1

During a stay on the Island of Malta where Paul was shipwrecked and then spent 3 months on the island before being transported to Rome for trial (Acts 28:1, 11).  One of the highlights of our stay was a visit to the Malta Maritime Museum.

View looking northeast at the exterior of the Malta Maritime Museum.

The museum is housed in the former Royal Naval Bakery that was built in the 1840. The bakery supplied naval personnel of the British Mediterranean Fleet. The main part of the collection (97%+) includes boats, models of ships, anchors, amphorae, cannons, etc.  But I had come to see the Roman Anchors that figure so prominently in the discussion of where exactly Paul’s ship ran aground and was broken up (see Franz below for a discussion).

Acts 27:29 Fearing that we would be dashed against the rocks, they dropped four anchors from the stern and prayed for daylight. 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.

Acts 27:40 Cutting loose the anchors, they left them in the sea and at the same time untied the ropes that held the rudders. Then they hoisted the foresail to the wind and made for the beach.

After spending over an hour looking at interesting, but not too relevant displays, I had not found the anchors that I was looking for.  So I asked the attendants at the entrance about these anchors.  Well, it turned out that the display of the ancient anchors was in transition and they were collected in a rather small corridor near the entrance to the museum. The plan being executed will eventually display these precious artifacts in a wonderful display. However, when I was at the museum, they were not on “public” display so please, cut the museum a bit of slack for how the anchor stocks look in these pictures! But I had traveled 4,000+ miles and was thrilled just to be able to see these anchors—and they were kind enough to allow me to take pictures (without flash of course).

Temporary “home” for the Roman Anchor Stocks that are in the Malta Maritime Museum.

In this temporary “home” 11 Anchor Stocks were collected.  Ok, so what is an anchor stock?

A modern reconstruction of an anchor from the Roman Period.

In the above (from the Museum) all the parts of this “ancient anchor” are modern except the lead “Stock.”

The “Flukes” are the parts of the anchor, usually wooden and sometimes tipped with copper, that dig into the bottom of the sea. At the top of the wooden shank (right) a rope connects the anchor to the ship. The “stock” is made out of lead and often has a wood core,. It helps the anchor to sink and helps to position the anchor so that the “flukes” dig into the sea bottom.

This is a reconstruction of a typical anchor from the Roman Period. All the parts of this “ancient anchor” are modern except the lead “Stock.”

Ok, are any of these Anchor Stocks from Paul’s wrecked ship?  See the following blog posts.


For a good discussion of the shipwreck, ancient anchors, etc.,  and a vigorous interaction with the views of Robert Cornuke, see Gordon Franz “Does the ‘Lost Shipwreck of Paul’ Hold Water?  Or, Have the Anchors from the Apostle Paul’s Shipwreck Been discovered on Malta?”

Pictures of Acts — And a Short Survey

Our friend, Todd Bolen, has released the latest in his ongoing series A Photo Companion to the Bible — ActsIt consists of 28 PowerPoints—one for each chapter of the book of Acts.  Over 4,000 photos.  Right now it is available for $60 off normal price.


In addition, my friend, Wayne Stiles, is putting together a video series to help pilgrims better prepare for a Holy Land tour. If you have been to Israel before, will you give your advice by answering a few quick questions? Thanks in advance for your help! Click here: http://bit.ly/israel-tour-questions

Syracuse, Sicily — Acts 28:12

Syracuse was a Greek and Roman city on the southern portion of the east coast of Sicily. Paul spent three days here when the ship that carried him from Malta to Puteoli docked here. (Acts 28:12).

Acts 28:11    After three months [on Malta] we put out to sea in a ship that had wintered in the island. It was an Alexandrian ship with the figurehead of the twin gods Castor and Pollux. 12 We put in at Syracuse and stayed there three days. 13 From there we set sail and arrived at Rhegium. The next day the south wind came up, and on the following day we reached Puteoli.

This probably happened in the spring of A.D. 60.  All of the structures shown below were over 100 years old by the time that the Apostle Paul passed through Syracuse—as a prisoner—on his way to Rome.

The Theater of Syracuse originally built in the fifth century BC. The blue in the distance is part of the harbor of ancient Syracuse—where Paul’s ship probably landed.

Syracuse was founded in 734 B.C. and reached its zenith in the sixth and fifth centuries B.C. The Athenians laid siege to it (415–413 B.C.) but were seriously defeated and this defeat helped lead to the decline of the Golden Age of Athens. Syracuse, along with the whole of Sicily, was fought over by the Romans and the Carthaginians.

View of the huge altar that was constructed by Hieron II, ruler of Syracuse, in the third century B.C. It is the largest known altar from antiquity.

In 212 B.C. Rome conquered the city. It carried off many Greek captives and many pieces of Greek artwork to Rome. This influx led to the Romans turning their cultural “tastes” towards things Greek. Unfortunately, the great mathematician and inventor, Archimedes, was killed by a Roman soldier, in spite of the order that he was to be spared.

View of the Amphitheater of Syracuse. It was constructed in the late first century BC—and was about 100 years old when Paul passed through Syracuse.

Archaeological remains of the Roman city include an altar, theater, an amphitheater, etc.

Additional images can be viewed Here.

Would YOU like to follow Paul from Shipwreck on Malta to Martyrdom in Rome?  We are doing just that in June, 2019!  Check out the link above or see Here.

Royal Procession at Ephesus

Did you ever wonder what the Roman Elite of Ephesus looked like?  What their body guards and dancing girls looked like?  Well, here are some pictures of all of the people that I took at Ephesus!

The Elite of the Elite.

Those lower on the Social Register! But not too far down the “food chain!”

Paying homage to the Elite.

The Elite on Display.