Friday, August 3, 2012

Acts, Chapters 27 & 28: Lost at Sea

Chapter 27

The Israeli officials decide to wash their hands of Paul and send him to Rome for his trial in the custody of a friendly centurion named Julius. They cruise around the Mediterranean for until it's nearly winter, when Paul goes completely stir crazy and predicts the ship will be wrecked.  Julius sensibly prefers to believe the ship's owner and captain, who thinks they shouldn't winter where they are (someplace called Lasea in Crete), but rather they should go on to another port.

But of course, they run into a wind so strong they give up fighting it and just drift along until they come to an island and manage to drop an anchor. The storm continues for a few days, and the sailors lose their heads and start throwing valuable stuff overboard, like the cargo and tackle.

After another few days of being battered by the storm, Paul, with no sense whatsoever of what an appropriate time and place might be, stands up to say, 'I told you so!' Ironically, no one throws him overboard. He continues that although their lives will be spared, because god wants him to meet Caesar, the ship will be lost. They spend another two weeks floundering about, looking for a port, until they realise the water is getting shallower. They're not sure if it's an island or rocks, tough, so they put the anchors down and wait for day. Some of the sailors let down a lifeboat, pretending to check on the anchors, but Paul tells them god will only rescue the people who stay on board. Rather than putting him on the lifeboat and cutting the ropes, the sailors set the boat adrift.

As morning draws near, Paul urges everyone to eat, so they do, having fasted for 14 days. We are also told there are 276 people on board, which I am skeptical of, but not enough to go and look up the history of shipbuilding.

In the morning, they find an island and beach the boat. The soldiers debate killing the prisoners to prevent them escaping by swimming away. Julius convinces them not to, though, and those who can, swim to shore, while those who can't are towed in.

Chapter 28

Our little band of prisoners realises the island they've come to is the modern-day Malta. Although the people who live there are barbarous (v. 2), they build them a fire. Paul gathers some wood, and as he throws it on the pile, a viper jumps out and bites him. The Maltese people think he must be a murderer, to have survived the sea and yet be killed by a snake. However, when he fails to die, the decide he must be a god. This is what a lack of science education leads to, people.

After the welcome bonfire, Paul & co. are invited to stay at the headman's house. His name is Publius and his father is sick. No worries, though, Paul lays his hands on him and he's cured. Because they don't know anything about how illnesses work, everyone else who's sick shows up for the faith healing.

At the end of the winter, the Maltese people provision them again and they slowly make their way to Italy and on to Rome. On the way, they meet some fellow Christians, but that story doesn't really go anywhere. A few days later, they arrive in Rome. All of the prisoners except Paul are given over to the captain of the guards. Paul is handed over to another centurion.

Paul manages to send word out to the Jewish leaders of the city, to whom he puts his case. They say they haven't heard of him, though they have heard of his new cult. They arrange to meet again soon, and on the appointed day, Paul immediately sets to the hectoring. Some believe him, others are just bored stiff because he talks for an entire day. They all perk up when he announces he's converting gentiles. They go off to argue about what he said. Paul himself stays in his house for 2 years, harassing people constantly. 

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