Acts 25 – Paul Tried Before Festus & Paul’s Fourth Journey

Finger Pointing Up

1 Antonius Felix Antonius Felix
Antonius Felix from Guillaume Rouillé’s Promptuarii Iconum Insigniorum.
Felix married three times. His first wife was princess Drusilla of Mauretania, a maternal second cousin of Emperor Claudius.

Drusilla was an only child to Claudius’ late maternal cousin King Ptolemy of Mauretania and his wife Queen of Mauretania Julia Urania.

Claudius arranged for Felix and Drusilla to marry around 53 in Rome. Like Felix, Drusilla was partly of Greek descent.

Felix and Drusilla had no children. Felix between 54-56, divorced Drusilla to marry another woman.

We know what is going to happen to Paul at the end of the Book of Acts, but tomorrow we’ll look into…

Acts 25
Paul Tried Before Festus

1 Now when Festus was come into the province, after three days he ascended from Caesarea to Jerusalem.

“From Cesarea to Jerusalem” – sixty miles, a two day trip.  Festus was anxious to go immediately to the center of Jewish rule and worship.

2 Then the high priest and the chief of the Jews informed him against Paul, and besought him,

3 And desired favor against him, that he would send for him to Jerusalem, laying wait in the way to kill him.

4 But Festus answered, that Paul should be kept at Caesarea, and that he himself would depart shortly thither.

5 Let them therefore, said he, which among you are able, go down with me, and accuse this man, if there be any wickedness in him.

6 And when he had tarried among them more than ten days, he went down unto Caesarea; and the next day sitting on the judgment seat commanded Paul to be brought.

7 And when he was come, the Jews which came down from Jerusalem stood round about, and laid many and grievous complaints against Paul, which they could not prove.

2 Herod Agrippa II 1
Herod Agrippa II, officially named Marcus Julius Agrippa and sometimes just called Agrippa, was the seventh and last king of the family of Herod the Great, the Herodians.

He was the son of the first and better-known Herod Agrippa, the brother of Berenice, Mariamne, and Drusilla (second wife of the Roman procurator Antonius Felix.

8 While he answered for himself, Neither against the law of the Jews, neither against the temple, nor yet against Caesar, have I offended anything at all.

9 But Festus, willing to do the Jews a pleasure, answered Paul, and said, Wilt thou go up to Jerusalem, and there be judged of these things before me?

10 Then said Paul, I stand at Caesar’s judgment seat, where I ought to be judged: to the Jews have I done no wrong, as thou very well knowest.

11 For if I be an offender, or have committed anything worthy of death, I refuse not to die: but if there be none of these things whereof these accuse me, no man may deliver me unto them. I appeal unto Caesar.

“I appeal unto Cesar” – Nero had become the emperor by this time.  It was the right of every Roman citizen to have his case heard before Caesar himself (or his representative) in Rome. 

This was the highest court of appeal, and winning such a case could have led to more than just Paul’s acquittal.  It could have resulted in official recognition of Christianity as distinct from Judaism.

12 Then Festus, when he had conferred with the council, answered, Hast thou appealed unto Caesar? unto Caesar shalt thou go.

13 And after certain days king Agrippa and Bernice came unto Caesarea to salute Festus.

3 Berenice depicted
Berenice depicted with her brother Agrippa II during the trial of St. Paul. From a stained glass window in St Paul’s Cathedral, Melbourne.

Berenice of Cilicia, also known as Julia Berenice and sometimes spelled Bernice (28 AD – ?), was a Jewish client queen of the Roman Empire during the second half of the 1st century.

Berenice was a member of the Herodian Dynasty that ruled the Roman province of Judaea between 39 B.C. and 92 AD.

She was the daughter of King Herod Agrippa I and a sister of King Herod Agrippa II.

“King Agrippa” – Herod Agrippa II.  He was 17 years old at the death of his father in 44 A.D.  Being too young to succeed his father, he was replaced by Roman procurators.  Eight years later, however, a gradual extension or territorial authority began.

Ultimately he ruled over territory north and northeast of the Sea of Galilee, over several Galilean cities and over some cities in Perea.  At the Jewish revolt, when Jerusalem fell, he was on the side of the Roman’s he died 100 A.D. – the last of the Herods.

“Bernice” – the oldest daughter of Agrippa I, she was 16 years old at his death.  When only 13, she married her uncle, Herod of Chalcis, and had two sons.  When Herod died, she lived with her brother, Agrippa II. 

To silence rumors that she was living in incest with her brother, she married Polemon, king of Cilicia, but left him soon to return to Agrippa.  She became the mistress of the emperor Vespasian’s son Titus but was later ignored by him.

14 And when they had been there many days, Festus declared Paul’s cause unto the king, saying, There is a certain man left in bonds by Felix:

15 About whom, when I was at Jerusalem, the chief priests and the elders of the Jews informed me, desiring to have judgment against him.

16 To whom I answered, It is not the manner of the Romans to deliver any man to die, before that he which is accused have the accusers face to face, and have license to answer for himself concerning the crime laid against him.

4 Augustus
Augustus 23 September 63 B.C. – 19 August 14 A.D.) was the founder of the Roman Empire and its first Emperor, ruling from 27 B.C. until his death in 14 AD.

Born Gaius Octavius into an old and wealthy equestrian branch of the plebeian Octavii family, in 44 B.C. he was adopted posthumously by his maternal great-uncle Gaius Julius Caesar following Caesar’s assassination.

Together with Mark Antony and Marcus Lepidus, he formed the Second Triumvirate to defeat the assassins of Caesar.

17 Therefore, when they were come hither, without any delay on the morrow I sat on the judgment seat, and commanded the man to be brought forth.

18 Against whom when the accusers stood up, they brought none accusation of such things as I supposed:

19 But had certain questions against him of their own superstition, and of one Jesus, which was dead, whom Paul affirmed to be alive.

20 And because I doubted of such manner of questions, I asked him whether he would go to Jerusalem, and there be judged of these matters.

21 But when Paul had appealed to be reserved unto the hearing of Augustus, I commanded him to be kept till I might send him to Caesar.

22 Then Agrippa said unto Festus, I would also hear the man myself. Tomorrow, said he, thou shalt hear him.

23 And on the morrow, when Agrippa was come, and Bernice, with great pomp, and was entered into the place of hearing, with the chief captains, and principal men of the city, at Festus’ commandment Paul was brought forth.

“Place of hearing” – not the judgment hall, for this was not a court trial.  It was in an auditorium appropriate for the pomp of the occasion with a king, his sister, the Roman governor and the Outstanding leaders of both the Jews and the Roman government present.

24 And Festus said, King Agrippa, and all men which are here present with us, ye see this man, about whom all the multitude of the Jews have dealt with me, both at Jerusalem, and also here, crying that he ought not to live any longer.

25 But when I found that he had committed nothing worthy of death, and that he himself hath appealed to Augustus, I have determined to send him.

26 Of whom I have no certain thing to write unto my lord. Wherefore I have brought him forth before you, and specially before thee, O king Agrippa, that, after examination had, I might have somewhat to write.

27 For it seemeth to me unreasonable to send a prisoner, and not withal to signify the crimes laid against him.

Paul’s Fourth Journey
Conflict in Jerusalem

His third missionary journey completed, Paul arrived in Jerusalem for the feast of Pentecost and was greeted warmly by James and the Jerusalem brethren.

5 Pauls 4th Journey

Below, Jerusalem’s Old City from the Mount of Olives.

6 Jerusalem old city from the northeast

Jerusalem old city from the northeast

Paul turned over the relief aid he had collected from the Asian and European churches and told the leaders about the many Gentiles who had been converted.

The leaders were thrilled by his account. They, too, told Paul of the thousands of Jewish converts in Palestine.

But among the group were some legalistic members (called “Judaizers” in Acts) who still carried on their campaign against Paul.

They accused him of forsaking the law of Moses by not requiring new converts to be circumcised.

The church leaders knew the matter had been settled before Paul set out on his second missionary journey.

But, to appease them, they asked Paul to pay for the Temple sacrifices of four Jewish Christians who had taken a Nazarite vow (see right column and Numbers 6) and purify himself with them.

Below, model of the Temple in the 1st century at the Israel Museum; square towers of the Antonia Fortress (“barracks” in Acts) beyond.

Paul diplomatically agreed. But, when he had nearly completed the week-long ritual, disaster struck.

A group of Jewish pilgrims from Ephesus recognized Paul in the Temple courts and publicly accused him of attacking the Jews, the Law and the Temple.

Paul, they said, had defiled the Temple by bringing Greeks into the inner courts of the Temple, an offense punishable by death.

This was prominently stated on thirteen stone slabs around the Temple courts, some with inscriptions in Hebrew, some in Greek (below, the only intact stone, in Greek).

7 First Century Jerusalem Temple
First Century Jerusalem Temple
8 Warning Inscription from Jerusalem Temple
Warning Inscription from Jerusalem Temple

“Let no Gentile enter within the balustrade and enclosure surrounding the sanctuary. Whoever is caught will be personally responsible for his consequent death.”

The accusation against Paul was false. His accusers had previously seen him in the city with Trophimus, an Ephesian Gentile, and only assumed Paul had accompanied him beyond the Court of Gentiles where non-Jews were not allowed.

But mob mentality drove them and they were well on their way to stoning Paul when the disturbance was overheard by Roman troops stationed in the Antonia Fortress (structure with square towers, photo above) overlooking the Temple from its northwest corner.

The commander and his troops ran out of the Antonia, seized Paul and carried him up the fortress’ steps.

Just inside the fortress gate, Paul addressed the commander in Greek, surprising the him, since he had assumed Paul was the same troublesome pseudo-prophet from Egypt who earlier had gathered 4,000 followers in the desert and marched on Jerusalem.

Paul set the commander straight and asked permission to address the crowd. Permission was granted.

With the stairs of the Antonia as his pulpit, Paul recounted his background as a Jew growing up in Tarsus and his education under the rabbi Gamaliel.

He also detailed his conversion on the road to Damascus and related how Jesus had told him to leave Jerusalem and testify “to the Gentiles.”

“The crowd listened to Paul until he said this. Then they raised their voices and shouted, ‘Rid the earth of him! He’s not fit to live!'”

Below, view from above of the Temple courts. Non-Jews were not permitted to enter these enclosed areas, each progressively more restrictive: Court of the Women (all Jews, male and female, were permitted), Court of Israelites (exclusively for Jewish men), Court of Priests (reserved for Levite priests who performed sacrifices).

9 Jerusalem Temple Model
Jerusalem Temple Model

The Roman commander ordered Paul inside the Antonia for scourging. Paul then pulled out his trump card, the “passport” or papers he carried verifying his Roman citizenship. He said to the commander standing there,

“Is it legal for you to flog a Roman citizen who hasn’t even been found guilty?”

The alarmed commander confirmed Paul’s claim of citizenship. The next day he released Paul and ordered the chief priests and the Sanhedrin to assemble.

Then he brought Paul before them. A violent uproar ensued. The commander, fearing for Paul’s life, sent him with an armed escort to Caesarea, 60 miles to the north, a two-day trip, for a hearing before the Roman governor Felix.

Journey to Caesarea

The 60-mile trip northward from Jerusalem to Caesarea took two days. The first night the army contingent (numbering 470!) took Paul on the mountainous descent to Antipatras, 40 miles to the northwest. 


Antipatris was situated in the fertile Plain of Sharon, 10 miles northeast of Joppa and 25 miles south of Caesarea.

Originally called Capharsabare, it was rebuilt by Herod the Great who renamed it for his father Antipater.

The city served as a Roman military relay station and marked the border between Judea and Samaria.

Below, Cardo Maximus, the main road of Roman Antipatris.

10 Main Roman road at site of Antipatris
Main Roman road at site of Antipatris

Below, Ras al-Ayn, a 16th century  Ottoman fortress at the head of the river Awja, built to protect a vulnerable stretch of the Via Maris, the ancient trade route between Cairo and Damascus.

11 The next day the 400 soldiers

The next day the 400 soldiers of Paul’s escort returned to Jerusalem while the seventy cavalry took Paul the rest of the way to Caesarea.

At the time of Paul, Caesarea was the headquarters of Roman rule and it may have had a population of about 100,000.


The site of Caesarea lies about 35 miles north of Tel Aviv. The capital of Palestine for almost 600 years and later a Crusader port, it was renowned for the splendor of its public buildings.

It was later known as Caesarea Maritima (“Caesarea by the sea”) to distinguish it from Caesarea Philippi in northern Palestine.

Below, artist’s rendition from the visitor center booklet of Caesarea as it appeared in the 1st century (image source: National Geographic and Caesarea visitor guide).

12 Ancient port
Ancient port

The Roman 10th legion was stationed in Caesarea and a succession of appointed prefects (their proper title; later “procurators”) resided there, including the three mentioned in the Bible — Pontius Pilate (26-36 AD), Felix (52-59/60 AD) and Festus (60-62 AD).

Below, replica of an inscription with the name “Pontius Pilatus,” discovered in 1961. The block had been reused in a stairway of the theater.

The Roman prefect (governor) had his official residence in Caesarea and is best known for his part in the trial of Jesus.

The inscription records Pilate’s dedication of a temple to emperor Tiberias around 26-36 AD. Part is missing, but a suggested restoration reads:

“Pontius Pilate, Prefect of Judaea, made and dedicated the Tiberieum to the Divine Augustus.”

13 Pontius Pilate inscription

As their official residence, the governors took over the former palace of Herod the Great.

This elegant structure, near the theater in the southern part of the city, was built at a unique location — on a rock promontory jutting out into the sea (hence the modern designation “Promontory Palace”).

15 Partial restoration of Herods palace
Partial restoration of Herod’s palace

Excavations have revealed a large complex, measuring 360 x 196 feet, with a nearly Olympic-size fresh-water pool that jutted out into the Mediterranean from the shoreline. 

The palace was in use throughout the Roman period, as attested to by two columns with Greek and Latin inscriptions naming governors of the province of Judea. The palace has been partially restored for visitors (below).

14 Herod palace reconstruction
Herod palace reconstruction

Below, remains of an aqueduct that carried water from springs at the base of Mount Carmel nearly ten miles away.

16 High level aqueduct
High level aqueduct

Below, Site of Herod’s harbor, built using volcanic ash that allowed the concrete to harden underwater. The forty-acre harbor could accommodate 300 ships.

Today, divers can explore the remains of the breakwaters built by Herod.

17 Modern harbor on site of ancient harbor
Modern harbor on site of ancient harbor

Below, partially reconstructed Byzantine-era bathhouse complex.

18 Bathhouse
Modern harbor on site of ancient harbor

Below, part of the seating area of a hippodrome (chariot racing track). 

Below, theater built by Herod in 22-10 BC, the first of its kind in Israel, with a seating capacity of 3,500-4,000. Originally, there was a large stage building that blocked the view of the sea.

According to Flavius Josephus this was where Herod Agrippa I was struck by a fatal illness, as recounted in Acts 12.

19 Ceasrea hippodrome
Ceasrea hippodrome
20 Theater at the southern end of the city
Theater at the southern end of the city

Paul placed on trial in Caesarea (twice)

At Caesarea, the cavalry escort turned Paul over to Felix, the Roman provincial governor, along with a letter detailing the circumstances of Paul’s arrest.

Felix read the letter and asked what province Paul was from. Upon learning that he was from Cilicia, he said,

“I will hear your case when your accusers get here.”

During the five days between Paul’s arrival and that of his accusers, he was kept under guard in the palace built by Herod the Great, where the Roman governors resided, including the three named in the Bible: Pontius Pilate, Felix and Festus.

Five days later, a delegation of Jews, headed by the high priest Ananias, appeared before the Roman governor Felix and accused Paul of blasphemy and treason and demanded his execution.

Before Felix and his wife Drusilla Paul reasoned about righteousness, self-control, and the judgment to come.

Anxious to avoid trouble, refused to pass sentence, all the while hoping that Paul would bribe him for his release.

As a concession to his Jewish subjects he kept Paul under guard for two years (possibly in the palace or a building nearby), but with enough freedom to “permit his friends to take care of his needs.” 

Felix recalled to Rome, replaced by Festus

During Paul’s detainment Felix faced a major outbreak of violence when the Jews attempted to drive the Greek-speaking citizens out of Caesarea.

Felix’s soldiers slaughtered hundreds and the Jews petitioned the new emperor, Nero, who recalled Felix (about 59 AD) and replaced him with Porcius Festus.

The new governor was an improvement compared to Felix. Quite diplomatically, Festus spent his first days in Jerusalem.

When the Jewish leaders mentioned Paul’s case to him, he invited them to Caesarea to renew their charges. They accepted and, several days later, Paul was given another hearing.

The leaders presented many serious charges against him, but none could be proven. If Festus had been in office longer he no doubt would have released Paul.

The perfect solution, he thought, would be to ask Paul if he were willing to go up to Jerusalem to stand trial on these charges. In response, Paul said:

“I am now standing before Caesar’s court, where I ought to be tried. I have not done any wrong to the Jews, as you yourself know very well … no one has the right to hand me over to them.”

Paul then invoked his legal right as a Roman citizen to stand trial before the emperor. After Festus had conferred with his council, he looked at Paul and declared:

“You have appealed to Caesar. To Caesar you will go!”

Paul’s appeal presented Festus with another problem. The governor could not ship him to Rome without a list of acceptable charges.

As a courtesy to the Jews, he raised the problem before Herod Agrippa II who, with his sister Bernice, had just arrived in Caesarea to pay their respects to the new governor.

Felix did this not just out of courtesy to the Jewish ruler, he wanted his advise on what seemed to him to be a religious matter.

Interested in hearing Paul speak, the king and his sister came with great pomp and entered the audience room of the one-time palace of their father and grandfather.

Also in attendance were the high ranking officers and the leading men of the city, and Paul used this as an opportunity to witness his faith.

In the end it was concluded that Paul was not guilty, and that if not for his appeal to be tried before Emperor Nero, he could have been set free.

So arrangements were made to ship him some 2,000 miles away to Rome.

Paul sets sail for Rome

“When it was decided that we would sail for Italy, Paul and some other prisoners were handed over to a centurion named Julius, who belonged to the Imperial Regiment” (Acts 27:1).

This was no two-week cruise on an ocean liner, where everyone ate and danced every night and shopped to their hearts’ content in different ports of call.

The six-month voyage, from September of 59 through March of 60 AD, was filled with danger and adventure.

Luke’s description of the voyage in Acts has been called a masterpiece of vivid narrative and one of the most instructive documents on ancient seamanship and the perils faced by those traveling by sea in the 1st century.

A cargo ship from Adramyttium (modern Edremit, Turkey) bound for ports along the coast of Asia Minor had just put in at the Caesarea harbor (below).

21 Theater at the southern end of the city
Caesarea Harbor

Since it was not a military vessel, Paul was allowed to take Luke, the physician and author, and Aristarchus from Thessaloniki with him.

On board this 140-foot grain ship, fitted with one mast and one square sail, were a captain, pilot and some 270 soldiers, sailors and prisoners — 276 persons, in all.

22 Ancient Grain Ship
Ancient Grain Ship

The ship first set sail northwards for the Phoenician port of Sidon.

Apparently, Julius, the Roman centurion placed in charge of the detail, had come to know and trust Paul over the past months in Caesarea, for when the ship docked he allowed him to go ashore and visit some fellow Christians there.

Sidon (modern Saida)

23 Modern Saida Ancient Sidon
Modern Saida – Ancient Sidon

Sea Castle (below) – A fortress built by the Crusaders in the early 13th century on a small island connected to the mainland by a causeway. Today the castle consists primarily of two towers connected by a wall.

24 Sea Castle at Saida
Sea Castle at Saida

Souk (Arab market) (below) –  Situated in the old town near the Sea Castle.

25 Sidon Souk market
Sidon Souk (market)

Below, Khan el Franj (khan or inn of the Franks), one of the many khans built in the 17th century by Fakhr-al-Din II (or Fakhreddine II) to accommodate merchants and goods.

26 From Sidon in Phoenicia to Crete
From Sidon in Phoenicia to Crete

From Sidon, the ship would normally have taken a direct northwesterly route across the Aegean Sea, but stiff winds forced its crew to sail between the island of Cyprus and the coast of Asia Minor.

27 Map Caesarea to Myra
Map: Caesarea to Myra

The ship stayed along the coast of Cilicia and Pamphylia until it landed at Myra on the southwestern coast of Asia Minor. This leg of the voyage probably took 10 to 15 days.


Myra was an important city in Lycia, on the southwest coast of Asia Minor; the most important of the 23 cities in the democratic Lycian Federation, which elected its own officials and rulers.

The most widespread relics of the Lycians are their rock tombs carved into the mountainsides.

Often they are very elaborate, with pillars made to resemble temples; but they can also look very much like Lycian dwellings in order to make the dead feel at home.

Below, Lycian tombs at Myra, near the theater.

28 Lycian tombs at Myra
Lycian tombs at Myra

Below, Myra theater

29 Theater in Myra Turkey
Theater in Myra Turkey

Below, Church of St. Nicholas, remembering Myra’s most famous resident,

30 Church of St. Nicholas in Myra

Myra was located on the river Andriacus, 2.5 miles from its mouth. Its port, with a good harbor, was Andriaca; but common usage included it with Myra.

Myra was the chief port for ships transporting grain from Egypt to Rome. According to tradition the city’s name is derived from “myrrh,” a plant resin used to make incense.

However, some scholars say that myrrh was never grown in the area.

This was not the first time Paul had been in this region. On his previous missionary journeys he utilized the ports of Attalia and Patara.

Today, the region is known as the Turkish Riviera, and the word “turkuaz” was created in the Turkish language to describe the color of the Mediterranean and Aegean seas there.

This color was adopted into English as “turquoise,” and nowhere can you appreciate the intensity of the Mediterranean’s blues than at the cities along the southern Turkish coast (also called the “Turquoise Coast”).

At Myra, Paul and his traveling companions could have remained on the first ship and continued up the coast to Macedonia, then taken the land route along the Via Egnatia across Greece (through Philippi and Thessaloniki) and on to Rome via Brundisium.

But Julius found a large grain ship bound for Rome from Alexandria and transferred the party aboard it.

Normally the ship had to make its way against the prevailing west winds.

But this time the winds were particularly contrary, and the ship made slow headway along the south coast of Asia Minor until it arrived off Cnidus.

Cnidus or Knidos

A narrow peninsula (and a city with the same name) situated at the extreme southwestern part of Asia Minor.

Now known as the Datca peninsula, it projects between the islands of Cos and Rhodes.

The distance from Myra to Cnidus was about 170 miles. This leg probably took another 10 to 15 days.

At the time of Paul, the city of Cnidus, at the extreme western tip of the peninsula, had a population of some 30,000 with many temples, two amphitheaters, a hospital running water and a communal sewer system.

Below, two harbors at Cnidos.

31 Two harbors at Knidos
Two harbors at Knidos

No longer protected by the land, the ship’s crew opted to sail around the south side of Crete (“to the lee of Crete”) for shelter from the northwest winds.

Rounding Salmone on the east point of Crete, they kept close to the shore with great difficulty until they dropped anchor at a small bay called “Fair Havens,” near the town of Lasea, on the south central coast of Crete.

32 Satellite view of Crete with route of Pauls ship
Satellite view of Crete with route of Paul’s ship


A bold promontory, now called Akrotiri Plakos, on the east point of the island of Crete. The nearest modern cities are Palekastro and Zakros. 

Fair Havens

Fair Havens, now the tiny (100 inhabitants) village of Kali Liménes, was on a small sheltered bay about midway on the southern coast of Crete, immediately east of Akrotiri Lithino (Cape Lithino), the most southern point of Crete.

Today, there are beautiful beaches to the east and west of the village, also a church to the west dedicated to Paul. Also nearby is the ancient city of Levin, famous for its Asclepion (healing center).

Below, Kali Liménes/Fair Havens on the south coast of Crete.

33 Fair Havens modern Kali Limenes on the island of Crete
Fair Havens, modern Kali Limenes on the island of Crete

Much time had been lost, and sailing had already become dangerous because by now “it was after the Fast,” meaning that it was after the Day of Atonement or Yom Kippur, a fast day observed in early October to atone for the sins of the past year.

Thus, the dangerous sailing season was upon them. During this time, from November 10th to March 10th, all shipping was suspended (this is true, at least for cruise ships, even today).

From experience, as well as growing up on the sea at Tarsus, Paul knew the Mediterranean and the dangers of sailing at this time. As he wrote in 2 Cor11:25:

“Three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea.”

So he warned them:

“Men, I can see that our voyage is going to be disastrous and bring great loss to ship and cargo, and to our own lives also” (Acts 27:10).

Instead of heeding Paul’s advice, the centurion Julius listened to the pilot and the owner of the ship who chose to sail on, gambling that they could reach the more sheltered harbor at Phoenix, forty miles farther west, and spend the winter there.

Below, Phoenix, the harbor Paul’s ship was attempting to reach before the start of winter.

34 Pheonix on the island of Crete
Pheonix on the island of Crete

Phoenix or Phenice

Phoenix or Phoenice (modern Phinix) was an important port in antiquity. Acts 27:12 describes it as “facing both southwest and northwest” (Acts 27:12), meaning it formed a semicircle, which denotes a secure anchoring place against the winter storms.

It was still a port of consequence up until the early 19th century; now the modern village of Loutró.

Crete to Malta

As the ship left Fair Havens, the wind changed, and it appeared that they might make it to Phoenix, the winter quarters they had in mind.

35 Crete
Map of Crete

The gentle wind took it along the southern shore of Crete. To their right the ship’s company and passengers may have noted the myth-encrusted mountain range called Mt. Ida, where legend says Zeus, father of the gods, grew up in a cave.

Below, Mt. Ida, the highest mountain range on Crete; its principle peak, Mt. Psiloritis, rises to a height of 8058 feet above sea level.

36 Mount Ida on Crete
Mount Ida on Crete

But, they scarcely rounded Cape Matala than the wind changed again. A hurricane-force “northeaster,” known to sailors as Euraquilo, blew the ship off course and out to sea.

Since the ship could not be steered before the strong winds, the captain gave up and let the ship be driven along.

Twenty-three miles south of Phoenix, Paul’s ship passed to the south of the small island of Cauda (below), now known as Gavdos, about 23 miles due south of Phoenix.

It is the southern-most border of Greece and Europe.

 37 Gavdos Island


Cauda or Clauda

Sheltered by Cauda, the crew did everything it could in preparation against the storm. A small boat was being towed behind the ship and it was interfering with the steering.

It was brought on board, and ropes were tied around the ship to keep it from being broken apart.

38 Boat caught in hurricane force winds
Boat caught in hurricane force winds

As they drove into the gale-force winds, they feared they would be blown onto the Syrtis, a stretch of sandbanks and quick sands off the north African coast (ancient Tripolitania and Cyrenaica; modern Libya).

39 Syrtis sand banks satellite view

The western Syrtis was called Syrtis minor, the eastern was called Syrtis major; The latter must be the one referred to in Acts 27:17.

Although Paul’s ship was  still far away, such a severe storm could drive the ship a long distance.

To lighten the ship they threw the cargo overboard, retaining some bags of grain. To keep from being pushed farther off course, they lowered the sea anchor*

* The original Greek, translated as “sea anchor” in the NIV, should perhaps be rendered “mainsail.”

For many days the clouds were so thick that they could not see the sun or stars, making navigation impossible.

Finally, after all hope of being saved was lost and after many days without food, Paul stood up before them and said:

“Men, you should have taken my advice not to sail from Crete; then you would have spared yourselves this damage and loss.

But now I urge you to keep up your courage, because not one of you will be lost; only the ship will be destroyed.

Last night an angel of the God whose I am and whom I serve stood beside me and said, ‘Do not be afraid, Paul.

You must stand trial before Caesar; and God has graciously given you the lives of all who sail with you.’

So keep up your courage, men, for I have faith in God that it will happen just as he told me. Nevertheless, we must run aground on some island.”

After two weeks of being driven before the storm, the sailors began to sense they were approaching land. They took soundings and found that the water was one hundred and twenty feet deep.

A short time later they again took soundings and found it was ninety feet deep. Fearing they would run aground, they dropped four anchors from the stern.

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.

Paul said to the centurion and the soldiers,

“Unless these men stay with the ship, you cannot be saved.”

So the soldiers cut the ropes that held the lifeboat and let it fall away.

Then, just before dawn, Paul urged everyone to eat in order to give themselves strength. Presumably some of the remaining grain was made into flour and baked.

When all of the 276 on board had eaten, the rest of the grain was tossed overboard to further lighten the ship.

At dawn the next day, the sailors cut loose the anchors and untied the ropes holding the rudders. Then they hoisted the foresail and made for the beach.

But the ship struck a sand-bar and ran aground.

We next read that the soldiers planned to kill the prisoners, for they knew they would executed in their place if any escaped. But the centurion, wanting “to spare Paul’s life,” kept them from carrying out their plan.

He ordered those who could swim to jump overboard first and get to land. The rest floated on planks or pieces of the ship, and all made it to shore safely.

As Paul had promised, no one died, but the ship broke apart on the shore on the island of Melite, now known as Malta (below), 60 miles south of Sicily. In two weeks the storm had carried them 600 miles.

40 From Malta to the port of Puteoli
From Malta to the port of Puteoli

The experience with the storm convinced the ship’s captain and its owner that they should not venture out to sea again until the spring. So Paul spent the next thee months on Malta.

Below, satellite view of Malta showing the location of the bay where Paul is believed to have been shipwrecked; now named St. Paul’s Bay in the apostle’s honor.

41 Map of malta

Malta, known to the Romans and Greeks as Melite, was located 58 miles south of the much larger island of Sicily (below) and it possessed one of the finest harbors in southern Europe.

With the defeat of Carthage in 218 BC, it became part of the Roman Empire.

42 Map showing Malta Sicily and the toe of the Italian boot.
Map showing Malta, Sicily and the toe of the Italian boot.

Below, St. Paul’s Bay, Malta

43 Luke relates two miraculous incidents

 Luke relates two miraculous incidents that occurred on Malta. The first happened when the islanders* built a fire for the shipwreck survivors to warm them against the rain and cold.

As Paul placed a pile of brushwood he had gathered on the fire, a viper, driven out by the heat, fastened itself on his hand.

The islanders saw the poisonous snake hanging from his hand and assumed Paul was murderer.

But when Paul shook the snake off into the fire, suffering no ill effects, the Maltese changed their minds and said he was a god.

* “Islanders,” literally “barbarians,” the Greek name for all non-Greek speaking people.

Far from being uncivilized, they were of Phoenician ancestry and spoke a Phoenician dialect, but were thoroughly Romanized.

The second incident occurred when Publius (Greek protos “first in any succession of things”), the island’s chief official, invited everyone to his home. Publius’ father was sick in bed, suffering from fever and dysentery.

“Paul went in to see him and, after prayer, placed his hands on him and healed him.” Afterward, the rest of the sick on the island came and were cured.”

Paul Finally Reaches Rome

When spring came, another Alexandrian grain ship, with a wooden figurehead of the twin gods Castor and Pollux, arrived on the island.

In gratitude to Paul, the Maltese provided him and his companions with food for the rest of their voyage to Rome. Once on board their new ship they set sail, first, for Syracuse where they stayed three days. 

Syracuse (Greek Surakousai)

Syracuse was a large maritime city on the island of Sicily, the “football” west of the “toe” of the Italian “boot.” It had an excellent harbor and was surrounded by a 14 mile wall.

44 Modern Syracuse
Modern Syracuse

Below, Temple of Apollo

45 Syracuse Theater
Syracuse Theater

Below, ancient theater at Syracuse

46 Syracuse Theater
Syracuse Theater

From Syracuse Paul sailed to Rhegium

Rhegium  (“breach,” modern Reggio) was at the toe of the Italian “boot,” just at the southern entrance of the Straits of Messina (ancient Fretum Siculum), which separates the southern tip of Italy from the island of Sicily.

By a curious coincidence, the figures on its coins are the twin gods Castor and Pollux that appeared as figureheads on Paul’s ship.

Like Syracuse, it was originally founded by Greeks (about 750 B.C.). Because of its position on the Straits of Messina, Rhegium soon became the leading city of Calabria and by 433 BC, a very prosperous city and a busy port on the Greek trade routes.

The next day, a reliable south wind came up to take them through the Straits of Messina without foundering on the rock of Scylla and the dangerous whirlpool of Charybdis located around the promontory north of Rhegium.

Gliding past the island of Capri, near the southern entrance of the Bay of Naples, they could seen Mt.Vesuvius dominating the eastern shore of the Bay of Naples.

Below, the still-active volcano Mt. Vesuvius (4,199′) looming over the Bay of Naples. Ash and lava from a catastrophic eruption in 79 A.D., about 19 years after Paul came here, buried the towns of Herculaneum, Pompeii and Stabiae at its base.

47 Bay of Naples and Mt. Vesuvius
Bay of Naples and Mt. Vesuvius

After nine or ten days of sailing from Malta, the ship docked at Puteoli. 


Puteoli was located almost 200 miles from Rhegium on the northern shore of the celebrated bay called “Sinus Puteolanus,” now the Bay of Naples.

It was founded in the 6th century BC and, in 338 BC, it fell into Roman hands. It was the great landing-place for travelers to Italy from the East and the harbor to which the Alexandrian grain-ships brought their cargoes.

The name Puteoli, meaning “sulfurous springs,” was derived from the strong mineral springs in the area. It was a favorite watering place of the Romans who believed its hot springs cured various diseases.

Although 75 miles from Rome, ships usually discharged their passengers and cargoes there because it was the closest large harbor to the capital of Empire.

48 Modern Puzzuoli
Modern Puzzuoli

 In the fifth century AD, Puteoli was ravaged by both Alaric and Genseric, and it never recovered its former prominence.

Now called Pozzuoli, the remains of the baths, a huge amphitheater, the temple of Serapis (below), and the quay at which Paul landed may still be seen there.

49 Temple of Serapis at Anceint Puteoli
Temple of Serapis at Anceint Puteoli

At Puteoli, Paul and his companions were met by some fellow Christians. As at Sidon months earlier, the centurion Julius allowed Paul to spend a week with them, undoubtedly as a favor to Paul for his services during the perilous voyage.

Arrival in Rome and House Arrest

c. 60 AD – From Puteoli, Paul presumably went to Copua, twenty miles away, to take the Via Appia (below), the main highway to Rome.

Called “the queen of the long roads,” it was built by Appius Claudius Caecus in 312 BC from Rome to Copua; by around 244 BC, it was extended to reach the port of Brandisium.

Below, Paul’s route following the Via Appia from Puteol.

50 Via Appia

Below, the section of the Via Appia

51 Below the section of the Via Appia
Via Appia

Forum of Appius

Forty-three miles from Rome, Paul, Luke, Aristarchus and Julius came to the Forum (market) of Appius, described by the Roman poet Horace as being “full of stingy tavern keepers.”

Alerted by the small church at Puteoli, members of Rome’s Christian community met the foursome there. Below, view of the surrounding area.

52 Below view of the surrounding area.

Three Taverns

Ten miles further (about thirty-three miles south of Rome) was the village of Three Taverns or “Tres Tabernae” (remains below).

It was the first halting-place for relays from Rome, or the last on the way to the city. The term “tavern” designated any kind of shop, and three were located there: a general store, a blacksmith, and a refreshment house.

Thus, it should more properly called “three shops.” Other Roman Christians, possibly some of those listed in Romans 16, came out to Three Taverns to great Paul, including a number of his relatives living in the city.

At the sight of them he thanked God and was greatly encouraged, a show of support that must have astonished the centurion Julius.

53 Three Taverns along the Appian Way
Three Taverns along the Appian Way

Continuing on the Via Appia, Paul crossed the low plain surrounding the city.

The plain was dotted with villas, houses and gardens. Nearing the city the houses were smaller and built closer together.

Paul probably entered Rome through the Porta Capena (Capena Gate) (below).

The Porta Capua was one of sixteen gates in the old Servian Wall (remnant below), a defensive barrier constructed around Rome in the early 4th century BC by the Roman senate and allegedly named for the sixth Roman king, Servius (6th century B.C.).

55 Servian Wall Remnant
Servian Wall Remnant

Nearby ran the Claudia aqueduct (below), with its 110 feet-high arches, completed in 50 AD by Emperor Claudius, about a decade before Paul’s arrival.

56 Claudia Aqueduct
Claudia Aqueduct


In New Testament times, Augustus Caesar rebuilt Rome, claiming to have found “the city built of brick” and “left it built of marble.”

With an estimated population of 1,200,000, Rome was alternately described as the glorious crowning achievement of mankind or, as the aristocratic historian Sallust stated, “the common cesspool of the world.” T

he city had reasons for both civic pride in its architecture and shame for staggering social problems, not unlike cities today.

Once inside the Servian Wall Julius took his group past the Circus Maximus and the nearby Palatine (below), adorned with imperial palaces.

57 Paletine Hill with remains of palaces2
Paletine Hill with remains of palaces

The group then followed the Via Sacra (Sacred Way) through the Roman Forum (below), the symbolic center of the city. Center: Curia Julia (Senate house), lower left corner:

Three columns of the Temple of Castor and Pollux, twin sons of Jupiter; left center, triple triumphal arch of Septimius Severus, erected 203 AD.

58 Roman Forum today
Roman Forum today

Finally Julius brought his entourage to the Castra Praetoria (below, extant remains), the barracks (castra) of the Praetorian Guard built during the rule of emperor Tiberius on the northeastern fringe of Rome.

59 Castra Praetoria
Castra Praetoria

Here Julius reported to the commandant of the camp of the Praetorian Guard, delivering Paul and the other prisoners with the documents spelling out the indictments against them.

He may have said a few things in Paul’s favor to the commandant.

Since Paul had committed no serious crime and was not politically dangerous he was allowed to live in his own rented house, possibly in one of the apartments (below) called insulae (“islands”) interspersed throughout the city, “with a soldier to guard him” (in other words, he was placed under house arrest).

Although the exact place where Paul lived is unknown, it must have been in the vicinity of the Castra Praetoria, in a house roomy enough to accommodate the “large numbers” mentioned in Acts 28:23.

60 Ancient Roman apartments
Ancient Roman apartments

 Paul in Rome (c. 59-62 AD)

Three days after his arrival in Rome, Paul resumed his mission. He sent a message to leaders of the Jewish community to meet with him.

The expulsion decree of Tiberius had been allowed to lapse, and the Jews had since returned to the city with their leaders. Paul said to them:

“My brothers, although I have done nothing against our people or against the customs of our ancestors, I was arrested in Jerusalem and handed over to the Romans.

They examined me and wanted to release me, because I was not guilty of any crime deserving death.

But when the Jews objected, I was compelled to appeal to Caesar–not that I had any charge to bring against my own people.

For this reason I have asked to see you and talk with you. It is because of the hope of Israel that I am bound with this chain.”

They replied, “We have not received any letters from Judea concerning you, and none of the brothers who have come from there has reported or said anything bad about you.

But we want to hear what your views are, for we know that people everywhere are talking against this sect.”

With open minds the leaders of the Roman synagogues made an appointment to bring their members to hear him.

On the appointed day, large numbers came and Paul spoke all day on Jesus as fulfillment of the Law and that he was the Messiah foretold by the Prophets.

However, with some exceptions, the Jews were not convinced. Paul then told them:

“I want you to know that God’s salvation has been sent to the Gentiles, and they will listen!”

Paul’s “rented house” was a busy place. Men came and went, bringing news from distant churches and returning with news from their founder, including: Timothy, Onesimus, Tychicus, Luke, Demas, Epaphras, Aristarchus and John Mark.

Luke, Paul’s traveling companion on the hazardous voyage from Caesarea, began writing his gospel and Paul received word of troubles in the church at Colossae, including divisions among the believers and acceptance of false teachers who undermine the gospel.

Epaphras traveled to Rome to get instruction from Paul on how to address these issues. Along the way he stopped at Philippi to check out some troubles they are having as well.

He also ran into Onesimus, a slave from Colossae, who run away from his owner, Philemon, and stole money from him. Epaphras brought him to Rome with him.

Epaphraditus arrived from Philippi and Epaphras, who started the churches at Colossae, Laodicea and Hierapolis in the Lycus River valley, some 100 miles east of Ephesus, came to see him.

Yet another guest was the slave Onesimus, who had run away from his master Philemon of Colossae.

Possibly he had heard of Paul in his master’s home, or met him during his long stay in Ephesus. Paul grew to love him and wanted to keep him.

Instead, he wrote a very personal letter asking that Philemon forgive Onisemus and take him back, not “as a slave, but better than a slave, as a dear brother.”

Paul wrote a letter to the Colossian church as well and asked Onisemus and Tychicus to carry both back to Colossae.

61 Paul writing one of his letters
Paul writing one of his letters

Spring of 62 AD – Although he planned on traveling to Philippi upon his release, Paul felt he must address continuing issues there — persecution by pagans, agitation by Jewish missionaries and infighting.

Therefore he wrote his letter to the Philippians. In it he expressed his attitude on his imprisonment:

And I want you to know, dear brothers and sisters, that everything that has happened to me here has helped to spread the Good News.

For everyone here, including all the soldiers in the palace guard, knows that I am in chains because of Christ.

And because of my imprisonment, many of the Christians here have gained confidence and become more bold in telling others about Christ (Phil 1:12-14).

The letter to the church in Philippi also gives the best summary of the success of Paul’s Rome ministry:

“Now I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel.

As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ.

Because of my chains, most of the brothers in the Lord have been encouraged to speak the word of God more courageously and fearlessly.”

In his closing for Philippians Paul stated there was even a growing group of Christians in Nero’s palace, the Domus Transitoria:

“All the saints send you greetings, especially those who belong to Caesar’s household.”

Other visitors to Paul’s home included Demas, a Gentile Christian, and Jesus, called Justus, a Jewish Christian. John Mark also came and made his peace with Paul.

The two talked about Barnabas and Mark’s mother Mary, in whose Jerusalem home the Christians met. Mark also must have told Paul of the gospel he had written, or was about to write.

62 Paul writing letter while under house arrest
Paul writing letter while under house arrest

What happened then and what of Paul’s fate?

Luke concludes his account with:

Boldly and without hindrance he preached the kingdom of God and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ (Acts 28:31).

His purpose in his letter to “Theophilus” was to show how Paul (along with Peter, Philip and countless others, some named, many not) fulfilled Jesus’ call to spread the word of God from Jerusalem, “to all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

He did not tell us if Paul was convicted or executed. The truth is we just don’t know. We can only speculate.

Paul’s Fate After Two Years Under House Arrest?

Eusebius of Caesarea (c. 263–339) describes what happened to Paul after his first imprisonment:

“After defending himself, [Paul] was again sent on the ministry of preaching, and coming a second time to the same city suffered martyrdom under Nero.

During this imprisonment he wrote the second epistle to Timothy, indicating at the same time that his first defense had taken place and that his martyrdom was at hand.”

Surveying all the evidence and clues from various sources, including Paul’s writings, the following seems to have been his fate:

The long delay of his hearing before Nero was mainly due to the fact that emperor wandered through southern Italy for 18 months after he murdered his mother Agrippina.

He feared the Roman people would stone him for his part in the conspiracy. When he did return to Rome, there was undoubtedly a backlog of cases on the docket, including that of Paul.

Moreover, the trial had to wait until Paul’s accusers arrived from Judea. It’s likely that the Jewish officials realized their case was based on flimsy evidence and never bothered to travel to Rome.

Besides, by this time, the high priest, Ananias, who made the original charges, had been deposed and his successor, Ishmael, son of Phiabi III, was not interested in pursuing the case.

Paul’s opponents in Judea had accomplished their purpose by simply doing nothing. Paul was thousands of miles away.

Moreover, Christianity had not yet been declared illegal by the Roman State. Seneca, Nero’s chief advisor, may have helped decide the case.

The reports from governor Festus and the centurion, Julius, would certainly have been favorable.

There is strong (but not conclusive) evidence that Paul’s trial ended in a sentence of acquittal.

This assertion is supported by a passage in Paul’s second letter to his faithful companion and co-worker, Timothy:

“At my first defense no one supported me, but all deserted me; may it not be counted against them, but the Lord stood with me, and strengthened me, in order that through me the proclamation might be fully accomplished, and that all the Gentiles might hear, and I was delivered out of the lion’s mouth (2 Tim 4:17).

Fourth century AD church historian Eusebius believed that when Paul wrote this he was referring to a first appearance before Nero in which he was exonerated and released.

Another (fourth) Missionary Journey?(c. 62-67 A.D.)

Many scholars believe that Paul took at least one more journey not recorded by Dr. Luke.

Evidence for this comes from a number of references in Paul’s writings to places he visited that do not fit with the journeys recorded in Acts.

For example, several of Paul’s “Prison Letters” (Philippians, Colossians, Philemon and Ephesians) anticipate visits to specific places or meetings with certain people.

Plus, statements in early Christian literature state that he took the gospel as far as Spain. For example, the Muratorian Canon, a parchment fragment written in or around Rome c.180 – 200, states:

“Luke so comprised [Acts and the gospel of Luke] for the most excellent Theophilus because of the individual events that took place in his presence.

As he clearly shows by omitting the passion of Peter, as well as the departure of Paul, when Paul went from the city of Rome to Spain.”

Clement of Rome, also known as Pope Clement I (died about 99 A.D.), wrote:

Paul … taught righteousness unto the whole world and having reached the farthest bounds of the West; and when he had borne his testimony before the rulers, so he departed from the world and went unto the holy place… (1 Clement 5:5-6).

“West,” to Clement, a resident of Rome, meant Spain or even Britain. Although nothing is certain, it seems probable that Paul was released and made a fourth missionary journey (c. 62-67 AD). His possible itinerary:

c. 62-64 AD – Paul, with Timothy, Titus and other companions, headed west from Rome, across the Mediterranean Sea (sailing against the prevailing winds) to Spain.

Meanwhile the situation in Rome worsened. Seneca, Nero’s tutor and advisor, fell out of favor and retired in 62 AD. Afterward Nero ruled unrestrained.

Having divorced and murdered his first wife, Octavia, he married Poppaea Sabina, a beautiful woman who used intrigues to become empress.

According to Tacitus, Poppaea was ambitious and ruthless, and claimed that she was the reason Nero murdered his mother.

Then, during the night of July 18, 64 AD a fire broke out in the shops clustered around the Circus Maximus. Four of the fourteen districts of Rome escaped the fire; three districts were completely destroyed and another seven suffered serious damage.

In his final work, Annals (c. 116 AD), historian Tacitus (c. 55-c. 117 AD) tells us that Nero wasn’t in Rome at the time, but at his villa in Antium (modern Anzio) to the south. He hurried back to institute energetic relief efforts.

“Yet these measures, for all their popular character, earned no gratitude.

For a rumor had spread that, while the city was burning, Nero had gone on his private stage and, comparing modern calamities with ancient, had sung of the destruction of Troy.”

While the fire raged in Rome, Paul, Timothy and Titus sailed east from Spain (this time with the wind) to the island of Crete. There, Paul worked with Titus, addressed false teaching, appointed elders, then commissioned Titus to remain there as his representative:

For this reason I left you in Crete, that you might set in order what remains, and appoint elders in every city as I directed you (TitUS 1:5).

In the wake of the fire, Nero made a new urban development plan. New houses were to be spaced out and built of brick on wide roads.

Nero, whose own palace, Domus Transitoria, was destroyed by the fire, began construction on a new palace, the Domus Aurea (Latin “Golden House”), in an area cleared by the fire.

In the center of Domus Aurea was an octagonal room (reconstruction below) with smaller rooms radiating from it.

An ingenious mechanism, cranked by slaves, made the ceiling underneath the dome revolve like the heavens, while perfume was sprayed and rose petals were dropped on guests.

Below, ceiling fresco.

63 Domus Aurea octagonal room
Domus Aurea octagonal room

Below, another elaborately decorated room in the Domus Aurea

64 Domus Aurea ceiling
Domus Aurea ceiling
65 Domus Aurea room
Domus Aurea room

c. 65 AD – As construction continued on Nero’s Domus Aurea, Paul and his companions were possibly heading from Crete to Miletus (in modern Turkey, not far from Ephesus). From Miletus they journeyed inland some 112 miles east to Colossae (unexcavated mound, below).

66 Colossae mound
Colossae mound

Then Paul backtracked to Ephesus to revisit the important work he and his co-workers had done on his third missionary journey. He placed the spiritual well-being of this awe-inspiring city into the hands of Timothy.

Below, view west from the upper seats of the Ephesus theater toward the now silted harbor.

67 Colossae mound

c. 66 AD – From Ephesus Paul possibly returned to Macedonia by way of Alexandria Troas.

During his last visit to Troas Paul was compelled to leave Troas hastily without some personal items, because he requested that when Timothy came to see him in Rome he “bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas, and my scrolls, especially the parchments” (2 Tim 4:13).

Spring 66 AD – First Jewish Revolt, chronicled by Flavius Josephus, began in Caesarea, provoked by Greeks sacrificing birds in front of a local synagogue.

The Roman garrison refused to intercede and the long-standing Greek and Jewish religious tensions took a downward spiral.

Retracing a portion his second missionary journey he headed west on the Via Egnatia for another pastoral call on the churches in Philippi and Thessaloniki.

From Thessaloniki, it was on to Berea, then Dyrrachium (modern Durres, Albania), the western terminus of the Via Egnatia.

c.66 or 67 AD – Paul then headed south to Nicopolis on the Adriatic coast in western Greece. During his stay he wrote his letter to Titus, who was currently overseeing the churches on the island of Crete:

“When I send Artemas or Tychicus to you, make every effort to come to me at Nicopolis, for I have decided to spend the winter there (Titus 3:12).

The letter was intended to encourage Titus and to give him further instruction for accomplishing his task.

The Cretans were particularly difficult to work with and life on Crete had sunk to a deplorable moral level.

The Cretan Christians were immature in their faith and required basic instruction concerning immorality and Christian conduct.

They were also troubled by false teaching (Titus 1:10-16). The letter was delivered by Zenas and Apollos who were on a journey that took them through Crete.

Below, Nicopolis city wall.

68 Below Nicopolis city wall

Below, Odeum of Augustus at Nicopolis.

69 Below Odeum of Augustus at Nicopolis

c. 67 AD – After spending the three winter months in Nicopolis, Paul sailed across the Adriatic Sea to Brundisium, the southern terminus of the famed Via Appia, about halfway down the heel of the Italian boot.

67 AD – Paul returned to Rome and again found himself under arrest. This time, though, he was not given the privilege of house arrest.

Legend says he was incarcerated in the dreaded Mamertine Prison (below) with no chance of escape. (the sign reads “prison of the Saints and Apostles Peter and Paul.”).

70 Mamertine Prison below

Paul now languished in a cold dungeon, chained like a common criminal. His friends even had difficulty finding out where he was being held.

Knowing that his work was done and that his life was nearly at an end, he wrote his farewell letter, Second Timothy.

“Recalling your tears, I long to see you, so that I may be filled with joy.

I have been reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also” (2 Tim 1:4-5).

67 or 68 AD – Paul was executed during a brief, but intense, persecution instituted by Nero to divert suspicion from himself for the devastating fire two years earlier, a persecution vividly described by Tacitus in his Annuls:

“No human effort … could make that infamous rumor disappear that Nero had somehow ordered the fire.

Therefore, in order to abolish that rumor, Nero falsely accused and executed with the most exquisite punishments those people called Christians, who were infamous for their abominations.

The originator of the name, Christ, was executed as a criminal by the procurator Pontius Pilate during the reign of Tiberius; and though repressed, this destructive superstition erupted again, not only through Judea, which was the origin of this evil, but also through the city of Rome … first those were seized who admitted their faith, and then, using the information they provided, a vast multitude were convicted, not so much for the crime of burning the city, but for hatred of the human race.

And perishing they were additionally made into sports: they were killed by dogs by having the hides of beasts attached to them, or they were nailed to crosses or set aflame, and, when the daylight passed away, they were used as nighttime lamps.

Nero gave his own gardens for this spectacle and performed a Circus game … Even though they were clearly guilty and merited being made the most recent example of the consequences of crime, people began to pity these sufferers, because they were consumed not for the public good but on account of the fierceness of one man.” Tacitus (c. 55 -117 AD) Annuls

According to tradition, Paul was taken 1-1/2 miles south of the city, near the third milestone of the Ostian Way, or Via Ostensis, and beheaded at a site with three springs known as Aquae Salviae (below), now the Trappist monastery of San Paolo alle Tre Fontane (Three Fountains).

71 Tre Fontane Three Fountains.

Below, the marble-covered Cestius pyramid, built before 12 BC as a tomb for Caius Cestius Epulo, still stands exactly as it did when Paul passed by on his way to the place of his execution. (The gate beyond was built later.).

72 Catholic tradition

Catholic tradition holds that after his execution Paul was buried on the Via Ostiensis and his followers erected a shrine (cella memoriae), over his grave.

In 258 AD, when Christian tombs in Rome were threatened with desecration in the persecution of Valerian, Paul’s remains were transferred to the Catacombs (underground burial chambers) on the Appian Way.

Later they were returned to their original resting place over which the emperor Constantine built small church in 324 AD. It fell victim to fire in 1823 and was subsequently rebuilt.

Below, basilica of San Paolo fuori le Mura or Saint Paul Outside-the-Walls, dedicated in 1854.

73 Saint Paul’s Tomb Found 

Saint Paul’s Tomb Found?

February 22, 2005 – A Vatican archeologist believes he has rediscovered the tomb of St. Paul, buried under the main altar of the Basilica of St. Paul Outside-the-Walls in Rome.

After three years of digging underneath the altar, a sarcophagus (below), more than six-feet long and three-feet tall, was found. It is now on public display.

74 The sarcophagus

The sarcophagus, which lay hidden for centuries, was found underneath a tombstone with an inscription, in Latin, “PAULO APOSTOLOMART” (“Paul, Apostle, Martyr”).75 Nobody ever thought to look behind that plaque

“Nobody ever thought to look behind that plaque,” said Giorgio Filippi, a archaeology specialist with the Vatican Museums, who indicated that he and his team were surprised when they found the tomb.

“I have no doubt this is the tomb of St. Paul, as revered by Christians in the fourth century.”

Presumably the inscription dates from the 4th century AD. The question the comes to mind: was the place of Paul’s burial preserved from the 1st century to the 4th, some 300 years?

“Absolute proof that it holds St. Paul’s bones is impossible,” says Leonard Rutgers, an archaeologist at the University of Utrecht who visited the excavation.

According to textual evidence, St. Paul’s remains were removed from the original burial site in 258 AD, reburied in another part of Rome, and then finally moved back to the site of the basilica when it was built in the late fourth century.

“So they were schlepping these bones around a lot,” says Rutgers. “It’s hard to say if the remains in the sarcophagus itself belong to the saint.”

(Information taken in part from an article, dated March/April 2007, in Archaeology, a publication of the Archaeological Institute of America.).

Pope: Bone Fragments Found in Tomb Are Paul’s 

Human remains found beneath the Vatican have been identified as belonging to St. Paul.

The discovery was revealed by Benedict XVI in his homily for vespers on June 28, in the basilica of St. Paul’s Outside-the-Walls in Rome:

“We are gathered at the tomb of the apostle, whose sarcophagus, kept under the papal altar, was recently made the object of a careful scientific analysis.

A tiny perforation was made in the sarcophagus, which had not been opened for many centuries, for a special probe that picked up traces of valuable linen cloth dyed purple, laminated with pure gold and a blue-colored cloth with linen thread.

It also detected grains of red incense and of substances containing protein and calcium.

Moreover, very tiny fragments of bone, subjected to Carbon-14 dating by experts who were unaware of their origin, were determined to belong to a person who lived between the first and second centuries.

This seems to confirm the unanimous and unopposed tradition that these are the mortal remains of the apostle Paul.”

…the Roman Army and the occupation of the Holy Land.

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