Skip to content

Skip to table of contents

Jehovah’s Witnesses

Select language English
New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures (Study Edition)

Acts of Apostles 27:1-44

27  Now as it was decided for us to sail away to Italy,+ they handed Paul and some other prisoners over to an army officer named Julius, of the unit of Au·gusʹtus.  Going aboard a ship from Ad·ra·mytʹti·um that was about to sail to ports along the coast of the province of Asia, we set sail; Ar·is·tarʹchus,+ a Mac·e·doʹni·an from Thes·sa·lo·niʹca, was with us.  The next day we landed at Siʹdon, and Julius treated Paul with kindness and permitted him to go to his friends and enjoy their care.  And putting out to sea from there, we sailed under the shelter of Cyʹprus, because the winds were against us.  Then we navigated through the open sea along Ci·liʹcia and Pam·phylʹi·a and put into port at Myʹra in Lyʹci·a.  There the army officer found a ship from Alexandria that was sailing for Italy, and he made us board it.  Then after sailing on slowly quite a number of days, we came to Cniʹdus with difficulty. Because the wind did not let us make headway, we sailed under the shelter of Crete off Sal·moʹne.  And sailing with difficulty along the coast, we came to a place called Fair Havens, which was near the city of La·seʹa.  A considerable time had passed and by now it was hazardous to navigate, because even the fast of Atonement Day+ was already over, so Paul made a recommendation 10  to them: “Men, I can see that this voyage is going to result in damage and great loss not only of the cargo and the ship but also of our lives.” 11  However, the army officer listened to the pilot and the shipowner rather than to what Paul was saying. 12  Since the harbor was unsuitable for wintering, the majority advised setting sail from there to see if they could somehow make it to spend the winter in Phoenix, a harbor of Crete that opens toward the northeast and toward the southeast. 13  When the south wind blew softly, they thought they had achieved their purpose, and they lifted anchor and began sailing along Crete close to the shore. 14  After a short time, however, a violent wind called Eu·ro·aqʹui·lo rushed down on it. 15  As the ship was violently seized and was not able to keep its head against the wind, we gave way to it and were driven along. 16  Then we ran under the shelter of a small island called Cauʹda, and yet we were hardly able to get the skiff at the stern of the ship under control. 17  But after hoisting it aboard, they used supports to undergird the ship, and fearing that they would run aground on the Syrʹtis, they lowered the gear and so were driven along. 18  Because we were being violently tossed by the storm, they began to lighten the ship+ the following day. 19  And on the third day, they threw away the tackling of the ship with their own hands. 20  When neither sun nor stars appeared for many days and a violent storm was battering us, all hope of our being saved finally began to fade. 21  After they had gone a long time without food, Paul stood up in their midst and said: “Men, you certainly should have taken my advice and not have put out to sea from Crete and as a result suffered this damage and loss.+ 22  Still, I now urge you to take courage, for not one of you will be lost, only the ship will. 23  This night an angel+ of the God to whom I belong and to whom I render sacred service stood by me 24  and said: ‘Have no fear, Paul. You must stand before Caesar,+ and look! God has granted to you all those sailing with you.’ 25  So take courage, men, for I believe God that it will be exactly as I was told. 26  However, we must be cast ashore on some island.”+ 27  Now when the 14th night fell and we were being tossed about on the Sea of Aʹdri·a, at midnight the sailors began to suspect that they were getting near to some land. 28  They sounded the depth and found it 20 fathoms, so they proceeded a short distance and again made a sounding and found it 15 fathoms. 29  And fearing that we might run aground on the rocks, they cast out four anchors from the stern and began wishing for it to become day. 30  But when the sailors began trying to escape from the ship and were lowering the skiff into the sea under the pretense of intending to let down anchors from the bow, 31  Paul said to the army officer and the soldiers: “Unless these men remain in the ship, you cannot be saved.”+ 32  Then the soldiers cut away the ropes of the skiff and let it fall off. 33  Now close to daybreak, Paul encouraged them all to take some food, saying: “Today is the 14th day you have been waiting anxiously, and you have gone without taking any food at all. 34  So I encourage you to eat some food; this is in the interests of your safety, for not a hair of the head of any one of you will perish.” 35  After he said this, he took bread, gave thanks to God before them all, broke it, and started eating. 36  So they all took courage and began taking some food themselves. 37  In all we were 276 persons in the ship. 38  When they had eaten enough food to be satisfied, they lightened the ship by throwing the wheat overboard into the sea.+ 39  When daylight came, they could not recognize the land,+ but they saw a bay with a beach and were determined to beach the ship there if they could. 40  So they cut away the anchors and let them fall into the sea, at the same time loosening the lashings of the rudder oars; and after hoisting the foresail to the wind, they made for the beach. 41  When they struck a shoal washed on each side by the sea, they ran the ship aground and the bow got stuck and stayed immovable, but the stern began to be violently broken to pieces by the waves.+ 42  At this the soldiers decided to kill the prisoners so that no one might swim away and escape. 43  But the army officer was determined to bring Paul safely through and prevented them from carrying out their plan. He commanded those able to swim to jump into the sea and make it to land first, 44  and the rest were to follow, some on planks and some on pieces of the ship. So all were brought safely to land.+


Study Notes

we: Up to Ac 16:9, the book of Acts is narrated strictly in the third person, that is, the writer Luke reports only what others said and did. Here at Ac 16:10, however, there is a change in that style, and Luke includes himself in the narrative. From this point on, he uses the pronouns “we” and “us” in sections of the book where he was apparently accompanying Paul and his traveling companions. (See study note on Ac 1:1 and “Introduction to Acts.”) Luke first accompanied Paul from Troas to Philippi in about 50 C.E., but when Paul left Philippi, Luke was no longer with him.—Ac 16:10-17, 40; see study notes on Ac 20:5; 27:1.

us: Luke’s use of the first person pronoun “us” indicates that he rejoined Paul at Philippi; the two men had parted company at Philippi some time earlier. (Ac 16:10-17, 40) They now traveled together from Philippi to Jerusalem, where Paul was later arrested. (Ac 20:5–21:18, 33) This is the second section of the book of Acts where Luke includes himself in the narrative.—See study notes on Ac 16:10; 27:1.

us: As mentioned in the study notes on Ac 16:10 and 20:5, the book of Acts contains sections where Luke, the writer of the book, uses first person pronouns such as “we,” “us,” and “our” (Ac 27:20) when describing what happened. This indicates that Luke accompanied Paul for portions of some of his many journeys. The section of Acts that starts here and continues to Ac 28:16 includes such references, showing that Luke traveled with Paul to Rome.

an army officer: Or “a centurion.” A centurion was in command of about 100 soldiers in the Roman army.

with kindness: Or “with human kindness (affection).” The Greek word phi·lan·throʹpos and the related word phi·lan·thro·piʹa denote showing an affectionate concern for and interest in humans. After spending one day at sea and traveling about 110 km (70 mi) N, the ship docked at Sidon, on the Syrian coast. Apparently, the army officer Julius did not treat Paul as an ordinary criminal, possibly because Paul was a Roman citizen who had not been proved guilty.—Ac 22:27, 28; 26:31, 32.

a ship: A grain ship. (Ac 27:37, 38) In those days, Egypt was the chief granary for Rome. Egyptian grain ships docked at Myra, a major city situated near the coast of SW Asia Minor. The army officer Julius located such a ship and had the soldiers and prisoners board. This vessel must have been much larger than the ship that carried them on the first part of the journey. (Ac 27:1-3) It carried a valuable cargo of wheat as well as 276 people—the crew, the soldiers, the prisoners, and likely others heading to Rome. Myra was due N of Alexandria and may therefore have been on the regular route of ships from that Egyptian city. Or it may be that contrary winds (Ac 27:4, 7) forced the Alexandrian vessel to change its course and drop anchor at Myra.—See App. B13.

the fast of Atonement Day: Or “the autumn fast.” Lit., “the fast.” The Greek term for “the fast” refers to the only fast commanded under the Mosaic Law, that is, the fast in connection with the yearly Atonement Day, also called Yom Kippur (Hebrew, yohm hak·kip·pu·rimʹ, “day of the coverings”). (Le 16:29-31; 23:26-32; Nu 29:7; see Glossary, “Day of Atonement.”) The expression “to afflict oneself,” used in connection with the Atonement Day, is generally understood to mean to engage in various forms of self-denial, including fasting. (Le 16:29, ftn.) The use of the term “the fast” at Ac 27:9 supports the idea that a primary form of self-denial practiced on Atonement Day involved fasting. The Atonement Day fast fell in late September or early October.

lives: Or “souls.” The Greek word psy·kheʹ used here refers to a person or the life that a person has.—See Glossary, “Soul,” and App. A2.

Euroaquilo: Greek, Eu·ra·kyʹlon; Latin, euroaquilo. That is, a NE wind known to Maltese mariners as the gregale. It is the most violent wind on the Mediterranean. It would be extremely dangerous to a ship with large sails, which could easily capsize during such a storm.

the skiff: The Greek word skaʹphe refers to a small auxiliary boat that was pulled behind a ship or kept aboard a larger ship. It could be used to get to shore when the ship was anchored near a coast, to unload cargo, or to pull the ship in order to turn it. In an emergency, it could also be used as a lifeboat. To prevent the skiff from being swamped or crushed during storms, it was hauled up out of the water and secured to the ship.

the Syrtis: The Greek name Syrʹtis comes from a root meaning “to drag.” Syrtis was the name of two gulfs located within the large indentation on the coast of northern Africa (on the coast of modern-day Libya). The western gulf (between Tunis and Tripoli) was called Syrtis Minor (now the Gulf of Gabès). Just to the E was Syrtis Major, the modern-day Gulf of Sidra. Ancient sailors dreaded both gulfs because of the treacherous sandbanks that were constantly being shifted by the tides. Strabo, a first-century C.E. Greek geographer, said regarding vessels that got caught in the shoals: “The safe escape of a boat is rare.” (Geography, 17, III, 20) Josephus (Jewish Wars 2.16.4 [2.381]) says that the name Syrtis alone caused terror in those who heard it.

a violent storm: Lit., “no small storm.” The Greek expression refers to a severe storm. In Paul’s day, sailors navigated by using the sun or the stars as reference points, so cloudy weather would make navigation very difficult for them.

for not one of you will be lost: Or “for there will be no loss of life among you; not a single life (soul) will be lost.” The Greek word psy·kheʹ used in this phrase refers to a person or the life that a person has.—See Glossary, “Soul,” and App. A2.

rendering him sacred service: The Greek verb la·treuʹo basically denotes serving. As used in the Scriptures, it usually refers to rendering service to God or in connection with the worship of him (Mt 4:10; Lu 2:37; 4:8; Ac 7:7; Ro 1:9; Php 3:3; 2Ti 1:3; Heb 9:14; 12:28; Re 7:15; 22:3), including service at the sanctuary or temple (Heb 8:5; 9:9; 10:2; 13:10). Thus, in some contexts the expression can also be rendered “to worship.” In a few cases, it is used in connection with false worship—rendering service to, or worshipping, created things. (Ac 7:42; Ro 1:25) Some translations of the Christian Greek Scriptures into Hebrew (referred to as J13-17 in App. C4) read “serving (worshipping) Jehovah.”

to whom I render sacred service: Or “whom I serve (worship).”—See study note on Ac 26:7.

the Sea of Adria: In Paul’s day, this term applied to an area larger than the present Adriatic Sea. Greek geographer Strabo said that this name was derived from the city of Atria, located at the mouth of the Po River on what is now called the Gulf of Venice. (Geography, 5, I, 8) The present Italian city of Adria lies somewhat away from the coast. It appears that the name Adria came to apply to the waters in the vicinity of the ancient city and was progressively extended to include all the present Adriatic Sea, the Ionian Sea, and those waters of the Mediterranean E of Sicily (and Malta) and W of Crete.

20 fathoms: About 36 m (120 ft). A fathom is a unit for measuring the depth of water. The fathom is commonly viewed as being four cubits (c. 1.8 m; 6 ft) and approximately corresponds to the distance between the fingertips of a man’s two hands when his arms are stretched in opposite directions. Appropriately, the Greek word for “fathom” (or·gui·aʹ) comes from a word meaning “to stretch out; to reach.”—See App. B14.

15 fathoms: About 27 m (90 ft).—See study note on 20 fathoms in this verse and App. B14.

276: Although a few manuscripts give different numbers regarding how many people were on board, the number 276 has strong manuscript support and is accepted by most scholars. Ships of the period could carry that many passengers. Josephus recounts that a ship with about 600 people on board experienced shipwreck on its way to Rome.

persons: Or “souls.” The Greek word psy·kheʹ, traditionally rendered “soul,” here refers to a living person.—See Glossary, “Soul,” and App. A2.


First-Century Merchant Ship
First-Century Merchant Ship

In the first century C.E., numerous merchant ships of various types plied the waters of the Mediterranean Sea. Some of them were coastal vessels, such as the boat from Adramyttium in which Paul, as a prisoner, sailed from Caesarea to Myra. (Ac 27:2-5) However, the type of merchant ship that Paul boarded at Myra, similar to what is illustrated here, was a large vessel that carried a cargo of wheat and a crew and passengers totaling 276 persons. (Ac 27:37, 38) This ship likely had a mainsail and a foresail and would have been steered by two large oars located in the stern. Such ships often had a figurehead representing a god or goddess.

1. Merchant ship

2. Galilean fishing boat

An Anchor of Wood and Metal
An Anchor of Wood and Metal

1. Stock

2. Shank

3. Fluke

4. Arm

5. Collar

In the account of Paul’s voyage to Rome, the use of anchors is mentioned repeatedly. (Ac 27:13, 29, 30, 40) In ancient times, the first anchors seem to have been stone weights and other simple devices. By the time of Paul’s travels, however, more advanced anchors had been developed. Shown here is a drawing of a hook anchor that was common in Roman times. This kind of anchor was usually made of metal and wood. The heavy stock, typically made of lead, weighed the anchor down, and one of the anchor’s arms dug into the seafloor. Large boats often had a number of anchors. (Ac 27:29, 30) An anchor discovered near Cyrene, on the African coast, weighs about 545 kg (1,200 lb), giving added meaning to Paul’s statement that “we have this hope as an anchor for the soul.”—Heb 6:19.

Sounding Weights
Sounding Weights

These weights (1), which varied in shape and size, are among the oldest known nautical instruments. They were tied to a rope and thrown over the side of a ship. When the weight hit the seafloor, sailors used the rope to measure the depth beneath the ship’s hull (2). The bottom of some weights had a layer of tallow, a soft substance that would pick up fragments, such as pebbles and sand, from the seafloor. When the weight was retrieved, these fragments would be brought to the surface for the sailors to inspect. Though various materials were used, sounding weights were typically made of lead. Appropriately, the Greek verb for “to sound the depth; to make a sounding” used at Ac 27:28 literally means “to heave the lead.”

1. Sounding weight

2. Rope