Did You Know?

What road did the apostle Paul travel during his first journey to Rome?

Acts 28:13-16 states that the ship on which Paul sailed to Italy arrived at Puteoli (modern-day Pozzuoli), on the Bay of Naples. He then traveled to Rome on the Via Appia, the city’s main highway.

The Via Appia was named after Appius Claudius Caecus, the Roman statesman who began building it in 312 B.C.E. This road, some 18 to 20 feet [5-6 m] wide and paved with large blocks of volcanic rock, eventually extended 362 miles [583 km] southeast from Rome. It linked Rome with the port of Brundisium (modern Brindisi), the gateway to the East. Wayfarers broke their journey at stopover points​—spaced 15 or so miles [24 km] apart—​to buy supplies, to sleep, or to change horses or vehicles.

Paul, however, was probably walking. The section of the Via Appia he traveled was 132 miles [212 km] long. Part of this stretch crossed the Pontine Marshes, a swampy area that caused one Roman writer to complain about the mosquitoes and foul smell. Just north of those marshes were the Marketplace of Appius​—about 40 miles [65 km] from Rome—​and Three Taverns, a rest stop some 30 miles [50 km] from the city. At these two stops, Christians from Rome were waiting for Paul. Upon seeing them, “Paul thanked God and took courage.”​—Acts 28:15.

What kind of writing tablet is referred to at Luke 1:63?

Luke’s Gospel records that friends of Zechariah inquired of him what his newborn son was to be named. Zechariah “asked for a tablet and wrote: ‘John is its name.’” (Luke 1:63) According to one scholarly work, the Greek term here rendered “tablet” refers to “a small writing tablet normally made of wood with a prepared wax surface.” Shallow recesses in hinged wooden panels were overlaid with smooth beeswax. Using a stylus, a writer could make notes on this surface. The writing could thereafter be erased and the newly smoothed surface be reused.

The book Reading and Writing in the Time of Jesus says: “Paintings from Pompeii, sculptures from various parts of the Roman Empire and actual examples dug up at many sites scattered from Egypt to Hadrian’s Wall [Northern Britain] display the widespread use of the tablets.” A variety of individuals may have had such tablets at hand​—traders, government officials, and perhaps even some of the first-century Christians.

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Via Appia

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Schoolboy’s wax tablet, 2nd century C.E.

[Credit Line]

By permission of the British Library