Merchant Ships
Roman Merchanr Ship Illustration

The main ships in the Roman world were merchant ships and war-ships.

Merchant ships were sometimes called cargo ships or trading vessels and could be as long as 300 feet and held 300 passengers. Some had 20-30 oarsmen with long oars on each side of the ship, big sails, rudders, anchors, and ropes. The best time for travel was the summer months, yet a journey from Israel to Rome could take 100 days which sometimes put the crew in danger. The Bible mentions that Paul traveled by ship 13 times on his missionary journeys, and it also mentions his shipwreck on his way to Rome and the 276 passengers on board. The Jewish historian Josephus was also involved in a shipwreck on his way to Rome and there were 600 people on board his ship. Paul spent several years in Ephesus, one of the most famous ports and trade centers in the Roman Empire and its temple was one of the seven wonders of the world. In the book of Ephesians Paul said that believers in Jesus were "sealed" with the Holy Spirit. Paul was using the imagery of a merchant marking his packages with a seal of ownership. When the ship arrived the merchant could claim what was his. The seal was also used as a guarantee of payment. Paul also said in Ephesians that believers in Jesus had formerly "walked according to the course of this world". The course was like a flag on a ship that marked the direction the wind was blowing.

Relevant Bible Verses The New Testament mentions the "ship":

Acts 20:13 - But we, going ahead to the ship, set sail for Assos, intending from there to take Paul on board; for thus he had arranged it, intending himself to go by land.

Acts 20:38 - grieving especially over the word which he had spoken, that they should see his face no more. And they were accompanying him to the ship.

Acts 21:2 - and having found a ship crossing over to Phoenicia, we went aboard and set sail.

Acts 21:3 - And when we had come in sight of Cyprus, leaving it on the left, we kept sailing to Syria and landed at Tyre; for there the ship was to unload its cargo.

Acts 21:6 - Then we went on board the ship, and they returned home again.

Acts 27:2 - And embarking in an Adramyttian ship, which was about to sail to the regions along the coast of Asia, we put out to sea, accompanied by Aristarchus, a Macedonian of Thessalonica.

Acts 27:6 - And there the centurion found an Alexandrian ship sailing for Italy, and he put us aboard it.

Acts 27:10 - and said to them, "Men, I perceive that the voyage will certainly be [attended] with damage and great loss, not only of the cargo and the ship, but also of our lives."

Acts 27:11 - But the centurion was more persuaded by the pilot and the captain of the ship, than by what was being said by Paul.

Acts 27:15 - and when the ship was caught [in it], and could not face the wind, we gave way [to it], and let ourselves be driven along.

Acts 27:16 - And running under the shelter of a small island called Clauda, we were scarcely able to get the [ship's] boat under control.

Acts 27:17 - And after they had hoisted it up, they used supporting cables in undergirding the ship; and fearing that they might run aground on [the shallows] of Syrtis, they let down the sea anchor, and so let themselves be driven along.

Acts 27:19 - and on the third day they threw the ship's tackle overboard with their own hands.

Acts 27:22 - "And [yet] now I urge you to keep up your courage, for there shall be no loss of life among you, but [only] of the ship.

Acts 27:30 - And as the sailors were trying to escape from the ship, and had let down the [ship's] boat into the sea, on the pretense of intending to lay out anchors from the bow,

Acts 27:31 - Paul said to the centurion and to the soldiers, "Unless these men remain in the ship, you yourselves cannot be saved."

Acts 27:32 - Then the soldiers cut away the ropes of the [ship's] boat, and let it fall away.

Acts 27:37 - And all of us in the ship were two hundred and seventy-six persons.

Acts 27:38 - And when they had eaten enough, they [began] to lighten the ship by throwing out the wheat into the sea.

Acts 27:39 - And when day came, they could not recognize the land; but they did observe a certain bay with a beach, and they resolved to drive the ship onto it if they could.

Acts 27:44 - and the rest [should follow], some on planks, and others on various things from the ship. And thus it happened that they all were brought safely to land.

Acts 28:11 - And at the end of three months we set sail on an Alexandrian ship which had wintered at the island, and which had the Twin Brothers for its figurehead.

 

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