Acts of Apostles 28:1-31
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.—See App. B13.
Malta: The Greek text uses the term Me·liʹte, which for centuries has been identified with the modern-day island of Malta. The ship on which Paul traveled was forced southward by strong winds, from Cnidus on the SW tip of Asia Minor to below Crete. (Ac 27:7, 12, 13, 21) At Ac 27:27, the record says that the ship was “being tossed about on the Sea of Adria,” which in Paul’s day applied to an area larger than the present-day Adriatic Sea. It included the Ionian Sea and waters E of Sicily and W of Crete, thus encompassing the sea near modern-day Malta. (See study note on Ac 27:27.) In view of the prevailing winds of the storm called Euroaquilo (Ac 27:14), it is likely that the ship was driven W and shipwrecked on the island of Malta, S of Sicily. Over the years, some scholars have suggested other islands as the Biblical Me·liʹte. One theory singled out an island near Corfu, off the western coast of Greece. Another suggestion is based on the Greek word Me·liʹte and points to Melite Illyrica, now known as Mljet, located off the coast of Croatia in the present-day Adriatic Sea. However, in view of the Bible’s description of the route, it is unlikely that the ship turned and sailed as far northward as Corfu or Mljet.—See App. B13.
foreigners: Or “non-Greeks.” Some older Bible translations render the Greek word barʹba·ros used here “Barbarians.” The repetition of “bar bar” in this Greek word conveyed the idea of stammering, babble, or unintelligible speech, so the Greeks originally used the term to refer to a foreigner who spoke a different language. At that time, the term did not denote lack of civilization, refinement, or good manners; nor did it convey contempt. The word barʹba·ros simply distinguished non-Greeks from Greeks. Some Jewish writers, including Josephus, recognized themselves as being designated by the term. In fact, Romans called themselves barbarians until they adopted Greek culture. It is in this neutral sense, then, that Paul used the Greek term barʹba·ros in an expression including all people: “Both to Greeks and to foreigners.”
the foreign-speaking people: Or “the local inhabitants.” Some older Bible translations render the Greek word barʹba·ros used here as “Barbarians.” The repetition of “bar bar” in this Greek word conveyed the idea of stammering, babble, or unintelligible speech, so the Greeks originally used the term to refer to a foreigner who spoke a different language. At that time, the term did not denote lack of civilization, refinement, or good manners; nor did it convey contempt. The word barʹba·ros simply distinguished non-Greeks from Greeks. Some Jewish writers, including Josephus, recognized themselves as being designated by the term. (Jewish Antiquities, XIV, 187 [x, 1]; Against Apion, I, 58 ) In fact, Romans called themselves barbarians until they adopted Greek culture. So the term was applied here to the inhabitants of Malta, who apparently spoke their native, unrelated language, likely Punic.—See study note on Ro 1:14.
kindness: Or “human kindness.” The Greek word phi·lan·thro·piʹa literally means “affection (love) for mankind.” Such kindness could include the idea of having genuine interest in others and showing hospitality in caring for human needs and comforts. As shown here, people may display this godly quality even before they come to know Jehovah. A similar example is recorded at Ac 27:3, where the related word phi·lan·throʹpos is used to describe the way that the army officer Julius treated Paul. At Tit 3:4, the Greek word phi·lan·thro·piʹa is used to describe Jehovah’s feelings and is rendered “love for mankind.”
a viper: In modern times, vipers are not found on the island of Malta. But as this account shows, the first-century inhabitants knew of these snakes. Over the centuries, environmental changes or the increase in human population may have eradicated this species from Malta.
Justice: The Greek term for “Justice” here is diʹke. It may refer to a goddess who personifies avenging justice or to the concept of justice. In Greek mythology, Dike was the name of the goddess of justice. It was thought that she had oversight of human affairs and reported undisclosed injustices to Zeus so that the guilty would be punished. The inhabitants of Malta may have thought that, although he had survived the shipwreck, Paul was now overtaken by some sort of divine justice and punished by means of a snake.
Sons of Zeus: According to Greek and Roman mythology, the “Sons of Zeus” (Greek, Di·oʹskou·roi) were Castor and Pollux, twin sons of the god Zeus (Jupiter) and the Spartan Queen Leda. Among other things, they were regarded as the protectors of mariners, able to save sailors imperiled at sea. This detail regarding the ship’s figurehead is another testimony that the account was written by an eyewitness.
Syracuse: A city with a fine harbor, located on the SE coast of the island of Sicily, today called Siracusa. According to Greek historian Thucydides, it was founded by the Corinthians in 734 B.C.E. Syracuse was the birthplace of some well-known figures of ancient times. For example, the mathematician Archimedes was born there. In 212 B.C.E., the Romans conquered Syracuse.—See App. B13.
Puteoli: Now called Pozzuoli, this chief port SE of Rome was located about 10 km (6 mi) WSW of Naples. Extensive ruins of an ancient breakwater, or mole, are still visible. Josephus calls the site by its older name, Dicaearchia, and says that a Jewish colony was located there. (Jewish Antiquities, XVII, 328, xii, 1) Paul, on his way to stand before Caesar in Rome, arrived at Puteoli about the year 59 C.E. The ship arrived from Rhegium (now called Reggio di Calabria), a port city at the southern tip of Italy across from Sicily, some 320 km (200 mi) to the SSE of Puteoli. Christian brothers in Puteoli entreated Paul and those accompanying him to spend a week with them. (Ac 28:14) This indicates that, although he was a prisoner, Paul enjoyed some freedom.—See App. B13.
so we went toward Rome: It would have taken up to a week to make the journey from Puteoli to Rome, which was 245 km (152 mi) away. Paul and his companions likely went from Puteoli to Capua and from there traveled 212 km (132 mi) to Rome on the Appian Way (Latin, Via Appia). The Appian Way was named after Appius Claudius Caecus, the Roman statesman who began building it in 312 B.C.E. It eventually linked Rome with the port of Brundisium (modern-day Brindisi), a gateway to the E. Much of the road was paved with large blocks of volcanic rock. The road varied greatly in width—some portions were less than 3 m (10 ft) wide and other portions were more than 6 m (20 ft) wide. The general criterion was that two vehicles traveling in opposite directions could pass at the same time without hindering each other. At certain points, the Mediterranean Sea was visible. The road crossed the Pontine Marshes, a swampy area that caused one Roman writer to complain about the mosquitoes and foul smell. A canal was built along the road, so when the road was flooded, travelers used canal boats to travel through the area. Located just N of those marshes were the Marketplace of Appius, about 65 km (40 mi) from Rome, and Three Taverns, a rest stop some 50 km (30 mi) from the city.
the Marketplace of Appius: Or “Forum of Appius.” Latin, Appii Forum. A marketplace about 65 km (40 mi) SE of Rome. It was a well-known station on the famous Roman highway Via Appia, running from Rome to Brundisium (now Brindisi) by way of Capua. Both the road and the marketplace draw their names from the founder, Appius Claudius Caecus, of the fourth century B.C.E. As the usual point at which travelers halted at the close of the first day’s journey out of Rome, this post station became a busy trading center and market town. Adding to its importance was its location on a canal that ran alongside the road, traversing the Pontine Marshes. Travelers reportedly were conveyed over this canal by night in barges pulled by mules. The Roman poet Horace describes the discomforts of the journey, complaining of the frogs and gnats and depicting the Marketplace of Appius as “crammed with boatmen and stingy tavern-keepers.” (Satires, I, V, 1-6) Despite all the discomforts, however, the delegation from Rome happily waited for Paul and his companions in order to escort them safely along the final leg of their journey. Today the site of the Foro Appio, or Forum of Appius, is marked by the small village of Borgo Faiti, located on the Appian Way.—See App. B13.
Three Taverns: Or “Tres Tabernae.” Latin, Tres Tabernas. This place, which is also mentioned in other ancient writings, was situated on the Appian Way. The site is some 50 km (31 mi) SE of Rome, about 15 km (9.5 mi) from the Marketplace of Appius. Today, a few Roman ruins remain at this site.—See App. B13.
Caesar: Or “the Emperor.” The Roman emperor at this time was Nero, who ruled from 54 to 68 C.E. when he committed suicide at about the age of 31. All references to Caesar in Acts chapters 25 through 28 apply to Nero.—See study notes on Mt 22:17; Ac 17:7 and Glossary.
Caesar: See study note on Ac 26:32.
sect: The Greek word here rendered “sect,” haiʹre·sis (from which the English word “heresy” is derived), apparently had the original meaning “a choice.” That is how the word is used at Le 22:18 in the Septuagint, which speaks about Israelites offering gifts “according to all their choice.” As used in the Christian Greek Scriptures, this term refers to a group of people holding to distinctive views or doctrines. It is used to describe the two prominent branches of Judaism—the Pharisees and the Sadducees. (Ac 5:17; 15:5; 26:5) Non-Christians called Christianity “a sect” or “the sect of the Nazarenes,” possibly viewing it as a breakaway group from Judaism. (Ac 24:5, 14; 28:22) The Greek word haiʹre·sis was also applied to groups that developed within the Christian congregation. Jesus emphasized and prayed that unity would prevail among his followers (Joh 17:21), and the apostles sought to preserve the oneness of the Christian congregation (1Co 1:10; Jude 17-19). If the members of the congregation separated into groups or factions, this would disrupt the unity. Therefore, in describing such groups, the Greek word haiʹre·sis came to be used in the negative sense of a faction or a divisive group, a sect. Disunity in belief could give rise to fierce disputing, dissension, and even enmity. (Compare Ac 23:7-10.) So sects were to be avoided and were considered a manifestation of “the works of the flesh.”—Ga 5:19-21; 1Co 11:19; 2Pe 2:1.
this sect: See study note on Ac 24:5.
as a witness: Or “for a witness.” The Greek noun for “witness” (mar·ty·riʹa) appears more than twice as often in John’s Gospel as in the other three Gospels combined. The related verb, rendered to bear witness (mar·ty·reʹo), appears 39 times in John’s Gospel—compared to 2 times in the other Gospel accounts. (Mt 23:31; Lu 4:22) This Greek verb is used so often in connection with John the Baptist that some have suggested that he be called “John the Witness.” (Joh 1:8, 15, 32, 34; 3:26; 5:33; see study note on Joh 1:19.) In John’s Gospel, this verb is also frequently used in connection with Jesus’ ministry. Jesus is often said to “bear witness.” (Joh 8:14, 17, 18) Particularly noteworthy are Jesus’ words to Pontius Pilate: “For this I have been born, and for this I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth.” (Joh 18:37) In the Revelation given to John, Jesus is referred to as “the Faithful Witness” and “the faithful and true witness.”—Re 1:5; 3:14.
witnesses of me: As faithful Jews, Jesus’ early disciples were already witnesses of Jehovah, and they testified that Jehovah is the only true God. (Isa 43:10-12; 44:8) Now, though, the disciples were to be witnesses of both Jehovah and Jesus. They were to make known Jesus’ vital role in sanctifying Jehovah’s name by means of His Messianic Kingdom, a new feature of Jehovah’s purpose. With the exception of John’s Gospel, Acts uses the Greek terms for “witness” (marʹtys), “to bear witness” (mar·ty·reʹo), “to bear thorough witness” (di·a·mar·tyʹro·mai), and related words more times than any other Bible book. (See study note on Joh 1:7.) The idea of being a witness and bearing thorough witness about God’s purposes—including his Kingdom and Jesus’ vital role—is a theme that runs through the book of Acts. (Ac 2:32, 40; 3:15; 4:33; 5:32; 8:25; 10:39; 13:31; 18:5; 20:21, 24; 22:20; 23:11; 26:16; 28:23) Some first-century Christians bore witness to, or confirmed, historical facts about Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection from their firsthand knowledge. (Ac 1:21, 22; 10:40, 41) Those who later put faith in Jesus bore witness by proclaiming the significance of his life, death, and resurrection.—Ac 22:15; see study note on Joh 18:37.
by bearing thorough witness concerning the Kingdom of God: With the exception of the book of John, Acts contains the Greek words rendered “witness” (marʹtys), “to bear witness” (mar·ty·reʹo), “to bear thorough witness” (di·a·mar·tyʹro·mai), and related words more times than any other Bible book. (See study notes on Joh 1:7; Ac 1:8.) The idea of being a witness and bearing thorough witness about God’s purposes, including his Kingdom and Jesus’ vital role, is the theme that runs through the book of Acts.—Ac 2:32, 40; 3:15; 4:33; 5:32; 8:25; 10:39; 13:31; 18:5; 20:21, 24; 22:20; 23:11; 26:16.
this salvation from God: Or “this, the means by which God saves.” The Greek word so·teʹri·on may refer not only to salvation but also to the means by which salvation or deliverance is brought about. (Lu 2:30; 3:6; ftns.) By extension, it may include the message about how God will save mankind.
Some later Greek manuscripts and some ancient translations into other languages add: “And when he had said this, the Jews went away, having a great deal of disputing among themselves.” However, these words do not appear in the earliest and most reliable manuscripts and are apparently not part of the original text of Acts.—See App. A3.
he remained there for an entire two years: During this two-year period, Paul wrote his letter to the Ephesians (Eph 4:1; 6:20), to the Philippians (Php 1:7, 12-14), to the Colossians (Col 4:18), to Philemon (Phm 9), and apparently also to the Hebrews. His house arrest seems to have ended in about the year 61 C.E. when he apparently was tried—perhaps before Emperor Nero or one of his representatives—and pronounced innocent. After his release, Paul characteristically remained active. It could have been during this period that he made his planned trip to Spain. (Ro 15:28) According to Clement of Rome, who wrote in about the year 95 C.E., Paul traveled “to the extreme limit of the W[est],” that is, of the Roman Empire. Paul’s three letters dated to the years after his release (1 and 2 Timothy and Titus) reveal that he probably visited Crete, Ephesus, Macedonia, Miletus, Nicopolis, and Troas. (1Ti 1:3; 2Ti 4:13; Tit 1:5; 3:12) Some suggest that it was in Nicopolis, Greece, that Paul was again arrested and that he was back in prison in Rome in about the year 65 C.E. This time, it seems that Nero showed no mercy. A fire had devastated Rome the year before, and according to Roman historian Tacitus, Nero falsely blamed the Christians. Nero then initiated a brutal campaign of persecution against them. When Paul wrote his second and final letter to Timothy, he expected to be executed soon, so he asked Timothy and Mark to come quickly. During this time, Luke and Onesiphorus showed great courage and risked their lives to visit Paul and comfort him. (2Ti 1:16, 17; 4:6-9, 11) It was likely in about the year 65 C.E. that Paul was executed. In both life and death, Paul was an outstanding witness to “all the things Jesus started to do and to teach.”—Ac 1:1.
preaching: The Greek word basically means “to make proclamation as a public messenger.” It stresses the manner of the proclamation: usually an open, public declaration rather than a sermon to a group. The theme of this preaching was the Kingdom of God. In the book of Acts, the expression “the Kingdom of God” occurs six times. The first occurrence is at Ac 1:3, describing Jesus’ speaking about this Kingdom during the 40 days between his resurrection and his ascension. The Kingdom of God continued to be the theme that dominated the preaching of the apostles.—Ac 8:12; 14:22; 19:8; 28:23.
with the greatest freeness of speech: Or “with all boldness (fearlessness).” The Greek word par·re·siʹa has also been rendered “outspokenness.” (Ac 4:13) This noun and the related verb par·re·si·aʹzo·mai, often rendered “speak boldly [with boldness],” occur several times in the book of Acts. Boldness was, from the beginning of Luke’s account to the end, an identifying mark of the preaching done by the early Christians.—Ac 4:29, 31; 9:27, 28; 13:46; 14:3; 18:26; 19:8; 26:26.
without hindrance: Or “freely.” The book of Acts ends on this positive note. Although under house arrest, Paul continued to preach and teach openly. Nothing could stop the spread of the Kingdom message in Rome. This is an appropriate finish to the book of Acts. It describes how the holy spirit empowered first-century Christians to begin the greatest preaching campaign in history, spreading the good news of God’s Kingdom “to the most distant part of the earth.”—Ac 1:8.
The extensive Roman road system helped early Christians to spread the good news throughout the empire. The apostle Paul no doubt traveled many miles on these roads. (Col 1:23) The diagram shown here illustrates the typical construction of a stone-paved Roman road. First, the path was marked. Next, builders dug a trench for the road and filled the trench with layers of road base made of stones, cement, and sand. The workers paved the road with large stone slabs and installed curb stones that helped keep the paving in place. The materials used and the camber of the road allowed water to drain from its surface. Outlets placed at intervals along the curbs let water escape into ditches that ran beside the road. The builders did such excellent work that some of their roads are still in existence today. Most roads in the Roman Empire, however, were not this sophisticated. The most common types were made simply of packed gravel.
Rome, the capital city of the Roman Empire, was located on the Tiber River and was built on an area that has seven hills. As the empire flourished, the city expanded. By the middle of the first century C.E., Rome may have had a population of one million people, including a sizable Jewish community. The first Christians in Rome were likely Jews and proselytes who had been in Jerusalem at Pentecost 33 C.E. and had heard the apostle Peter and the other disciples preach. These new disciples would have brought the good news with them when they returned to Rome. (Ac 2:10) In his letter to the Romans, which was written about 56 C.E., the apostle Paul said that the faith of those disciples in Rome was “talked about throughout the whole world.” (Ro 1:7, 8) This video shows an artist’s rendering of some key features of Rome as they may have looked in Paul’s day.
1. Via Appia
2. Circus Maximus
3. Palatine Hill and Caesar’s Palace
4. Temple of Caesar
7. Tiber River
This photograph shows part of the Appian Way, or Via Appia, that can still be found in Italy. Although the road is not mentioned directly in the Bible, it was likely the highway that Paul used on his trek to Rome. The earliest portion of this road was built in 312 B.C.E. Construction continued, however, and by about 244 B.C.E., the Appian Way stretched from Rome to Brundisium. (See map.) Brothers from Rome traveled southward to Three Taverns and the Marketplace of Appius, both located along the Appian Way, to meet Paul. (Ac 28:15) The Marketplace of Appius was about 65 km (40 mi) from Rome. Three Taverns was about 50 km (30 mi) from Rome.
2. Three Taverns
3. Marketplace of Appius
4. Appian Way
5. Brundisium (now called Brindisi)
During his first imprisonment in Rome, the apostle Paul was permitted to live under guard in a rented house. (Ac 28:16, 30) Roman guards typically restrained prisoners with chains. The prisoner’s right wrist was usually chained to the guard’s left wrist. This kept the guard’s right hand free. Paul referred to his chains, bonds, and imprisonment in most of the inspired letters that he wrote during his house arrest in Rome.—Eph 3:1; 4:1; 6:20; Php 1:7, 13, 14, 17; Col 4:3, 18; Phm 1, 9, 10, 13.
This gold coin, minted about 56-57 C.E., shows a bust of Nero, who ruled the Roman Empire from 54 to 68 C.E. Nero was the Caesar to whom Paul appealed after his unjust arrest in Jerusalem and subsequent incarceration in Caesarea from about 56 to about 58 C.E. It appears that after Paul was first imprisoned in Rome, about 59 C.E., he was pronounced innocent and released about 61 C.E. However, in 64 C.E. a fire destroyed a quarter of the city of Rome, and some blamed Nero for the disaster. To deflect suspicion, Nero accused the Christians, prompting a wave of violent persecution by the government. It is likely that about this time (65 C.E.), Paul was imprisoned in Rome for the second time and was executed thereafter.