Let’s get some Jewish and historical balance to my notes on Paul’s shipwreck. Paul was not the only Jew sailing to Rome who suffered shipwreck. Compare historian Josephus’s description of his own voyage, from his Vita (Life):
But when I was in the twenty-sixth year of my age, it happened that I took a voyage to Rome, and this on the occasion which I shall now describe. At the time when Felix was procurator of Judea there were certain priests of my acquaintance, and very excellent persons they were, whom on a small and trifling occasion he had put into bonds, and sent to Rome to plead their cause before Caesar. These I was desirous to procure deliverance for, and that especially because I was informed that they were not unmindful of piety towards God, even under their afflictions, but supported themselves with figs and nuts. Accordingly I came to Rome, though it were through a great number of hazards by sea; for as our ship was drowned in the Adriatic Sea, we that were in it, being about six hundred in number, swam for our lives all the night; when, upon the first appearance of the day, and upon our sight of a ship of Cyrene, I and some others, eighty in all, by God’s providence, prevented the rest, and were taken up into the other ship. And when I had thus escaped, and was come to Dieearchia, which the Italians call Puteoli . . . .
Interesting to compare the length and style of the two accounts. The historian’s account makes the Acts story read like something straight out of a Hellenistic novel by comparison 😉 But enough has been said on that for now.
Robert Gnuse listed 12 coincidences of content between the two. His article is “Vita Apologetica: The Lives of Josephus and Paul in Apologetic Historiography” [JSP 13.2 (2002) 151-169]. The main difference is that Josephus is travelling to Rome on behalf of god-fearing priests who have been unjustly accused and forced to plead their case before Caesar.
- A Roman procurator, Felix, is involved in both accounts (cf Acts 24.1-27)
- Jewish religious leaders are involved in both accounts (priests in Vita and Paul in Acts)
- Felix causes Jewish religious leaders to be imprisoned (cf Acts 24.1-27)
- Felix’s actions result in prisoners going to Rome (cf Acts 25.10-11)
- The Jewish religious leaders are unjustly accused (cf Acts 24-26)
- Journey to Rome is by ship (cf Acts 27.1-44)
- The sea journey to Rome seeks to effect justice at the imperial level to undo injustice done at the provincial level (cf Acts 24-27)
- The ship not only sinks (cf Acts 27.41-44)
- But chooses to sink in the Adriatic Sea (cf Acts 27.27)
- The heroes, Josephus or Paul, act with courage and provide leadership (cf Acts 27.31-38)
- All passengers survive (presumably in Josephus’s account) (cf Acts 27.44)
- Both heroes pass through Puteoli (cf Acts 28.13-14)
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