• Cracked Pot Archaeology, Paul's Shipwreck on Malta Comments Off on CORNUKE’S FAULTY COMPUTER MODEL OF PAUL’S SHIPWRECK ON MALTA: An Exercise in Digital Guesswork
    CORNUKE’S FAULTY COMPUTER MODEL
    OF PAUL’S SHIPWRECK ON MALTA: An Exercise in Digital Guesswork
    Gordon Franz
    This article is dedicated to my Maltese and American
    friends searching for the Apostle Paul’s shipwreck on Malta.
    St. Paul’s Day – February 10, 2013
    Introduction
    Have you ever watched a news broadcast where the meteorologist says that the next day there would be clear blue skies and it would be sunny all day? The presenter shows the radar screen, the forecast, and boasts how accurate their equipment is, so you plan a picnic at your favorite park for that day. Halfway through the picnic, however, the weather turns nasty with thunder and lightning and a torrential downpour! Forecasting weather is very unpredictable, more an art than science, even with sophisticated equipment.
    Robert Cornuke presents a weather-related computer model of Paul’s shipwreck on Malta in his book, The Lost Shipwreck of Paul (2003: 184-193). I offer this objective critique of this model because of the serious nature of the issues involved.
    During a Parliamentary debate on Malta in 2005, the Honorable Gavin Gulia asked the Prime Minister of Malta a Public Question (PQ 14720) about an affidavit that was sent to the United States Federal District Court in the state of Colorado for a trial between the former US Ambassador to Malta, Kathryn Proffitt, and Robert Cornuke. The reply to the Public Question states that:
    “[The] Honourable Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi said that he is informed that the affidavit was sent to safe-guard the reputation of the Armed Forces of Malta and of its officers because these had been misquoted in Bob Cornuke’s publication.“ (emphasis and highlight mine).
    Since the issue has required the involvement of the government of Malta, let me add some additional analysis to the discussion that I hope will be helpful to interested parties.
    The Computer Model on Malta
    On Robert Cornuke’s third trip to Malta he gained access to “a very expensive and sophisticated computer program” at the Rescue Coordination Center of the Armed Forces of Malta on May 29, 2002. It was his hope that the data from this specialized computer model would “objectively speak to us across the millennia and trace the, until now, uncertain path of the biblical event of Paul’s journey from Crete to Malta” (2003: 184, plates 14-15; cf. Acts 27:8-28:1).
    After the computer model was run on the hypothetical Alexandrian grain ship that carried the Apostle Paul and Dr. Luke, the course was shown approaching Malta more from the southeast, rather than directly from the east, the normal approach from Crete. The ship’s path line on the computer screen then intersected the East side of Malta, supposedly at the Munxar Reef and St. Thomas’ Bay preferred by Cornuke, not the traditional site for Paul’s shipwreck on the North side of the main Malta island, in the St. Paul’s Bay area. The model, it seemed, had overthrown tradition.
    But Cornuke claimed the computer supported the Bible because Major Manuel Mallia, the Maltese officer in charge of the model, had agreed “that only St. Thomas Bay possessed all the physical, nautical, and geographical conditions that aligned perfectly with the Bible’s description [of Paul’s shipwreck]” (Cornuke 2003: 192-193; bracketed material and emphasis mine). Was this one of the misquotations by Cornuke in his book that required the involvement of the Maltese government? If this computer model is correct, however, it would help confirm Cornuke’s idea that the traditional location of Paul’s shipwreck was wrong.
    Biblical Conflict with Cornuke’s Ideas
    But there is a problem and it is a bigger one than tradition, it is a Biblical conflict: The East side of Malta, with the Munxar Reef and St. Thomas’ Bay, was familiar to Alexandrian ship captains as the side of the island they always saw on approach to Malta coming from the east. If sea captains could not make it back to Rome before the sea-lanes closed for the winter, the Alexandrian grain ships would dock in the Marsa Port on Malta (within the Grand Harbor of Valletta), off-load the grain and store it in granaries for the winter (Gambin 2005: 122-132; cf. Acts 28:11).
    In Paul’s case they shipwrecked on a part of the island the crew did “not recognize” in fact so unfamiliar they did not even know they were on Malta until a native told them so (Acts 27:39; 28:1-2a, NKJV, emphasis added). So they had to have landed on some other part of Malta, not the familiar and recognizable East side. The traditional location on the unfamiliar North side of Malta makes sense in light of the puzzlement of the sailors on Paul’s wrecked ship. Computer or not, shipwrecking on the familiar East side makes no sense. This has always been a fundamental Biblical and logical stumbling block for Cornuke’s theory of Paul’s shipwreck because the seamen would have recognized the Munxar Reef and St. Thomas Bay, contrary to the Biblical text which states they did not recognize the island (Acts 27:39)! A computer model cannot overcome this fatal defect without simply throwing the whole Biblical account overboard in the process.
    Two Principles of Computer Modeling
    Even if we set aside the contradiction to the Biblical account for the moment, there are still major problems with the computer model and Cornuke’s use of it.
    Two principles are important here:
    1. The computer model’s output will only be as good as the data inputted. There is a widely known axiom in the computer world, “Garbage In = Garbage Out,” which simply means that the computer results that come out are only as good as the data put in. If bad or mistaken data are put in, then the results will be bad or mistaken.
    2. Using a computer model beyond its design limitations and for purposes not intended will not produce trustworthy results. This could result in totally spurious results or results that can be easily manipulated to say almost anything, even unintentionally.
    A computer model designed to assist search and rescue missions in the recent past hours or days of a modern-day storm causing a ship to go astray in AD 2002 (the year the model was run for Cornuke) obviously is not designed to reconstruct historical events from some 2,000 years ago – when there were no meteorological data from satellites and scientific instruments to plot shifting winds and currents. Even the ocean bottom can, and has, changed in two thousand years due to earthquakes and deposited silt.
    The first step in understanding the design limitations of a computer model is to find out what model it is and what instructions it has for inputting data. Even better would be to have the developers’ design statement. Unfortunately, Cornuke did not even identify what computer model was used by the United States Coast Guard and the Maltese military!
    Was the program purposely designed to recreate an actual past historical event and if so, what weather data were used for input? Cornuke does not provide the specific weather data inputs nor does he inform us where the input data came from. It would be impossible to know, for example, exactly what time the ship left Fair Haven on Crete, or precisely when and where the ship got caught in the Euroclydon (Northeaster storm) on its way to Phoenix on Crete (Acts 27:14) because the Bible does not state this information. Did the storm strike as soon as they left Fair Haven, or several hours later, right before they were to dock at Phoenix? Or, was it somewhere in between the two places? Each of these unknown variables would affect the geographic location of where the ship ended up in the output of the computer model.
    Data Input for the Computer Model
    According to Cornuke, the modelers used five types of input data for the model (Cornuke 2003: 187-188). These included:
    (1) The “general parameters of a grain freighter”
    One nautical archaeologist has pointed out, however, that “the precise appearance of great grain ships like those mentioned in the Book of Acts and the writings of Lucian” are unknown (Fitzgerald 1990: 31) because nautical archaeologists have never recovered an actual first century AD Alexandrian grain ship in an underwater archaeological excavation. Was the grain ship a two-mast or a three-mast ship? What was its draft? How much did it actually weigh? Cornuke said they put in “the approximate size of the ship” (2003: 187, emphasis mine), yet a variation in size and weight would affect the outcome of the calculations for the computer model.
    (2) Wooden hull was a factor entered into the software
    But was only wood exposed on the hull of Paul’s ship or was there lead sheathing on the hull? Ancient lead sheathing has been found on the seabed of Malta. If there was lead sheathing on the grain ship that would affect the outcome of the calculations.
    Also, the ship was undergirded, probably with heavy rope or cable (Hirschfeld 1990: 26-27), to secure it during the storm (Acts 27:17). What affect would the rope or cable have on the drag of the ship and thus on the computer calculations?
    (3) The “veering characteristics of a northeaster”
    Cornuke suggested the drag of the windsock affected the speed and direction of the ship (Cornuke 2003: 190). What ancient sources describe – or archaeological remains show – that a windsock sail was part of a rigging for an Alexandrian grain ship and used as a sea anchor in an emergency? I am not aware of any. Perhaps Cornuke can enlighten us with this information.
    (4) The “leeway of time”
    What margin of error or maximum variation (leeway) in the “time” is meant – and is it maximum variation in the time of day or the time of year? It is unclear. How was the possible variation of time factored in? Did they run the computer with every possible choice of time? What were the results?
    Cornuke had the rescue software run on May 29, 2002. The question is then: Did they run the software model with the current date of May 29, or did they think to change the date to the Fall season? (Shipwreck occurred at least 14 days after Yom Kippur and before winter, thus most probably October-November: cp. Acts 27:9, 27, 33; 28:11.) In fact, does the computer model even differentiate a year as well as the day of the year, and if so, was the year AD 2002 run or a year around ca. AD 60 when Paul’s ship wrecked?
    The ocean currents in the Fall were programmed into the computer model (see item 5 below) but it is unclear whether a Fall date was also entered for wind speeds and directions. If they did change the computer model date to the Fall, what date in the Fall did they choose? There is no explanation given to clarify any of this.
    (5) The currents during the Fall season for that part of the Mediterranean Sea
    Although Cornuke listed five types of data inputted into the computer model including ocean currents, he strangely failed to list winds even though powerful storm winds are far more important than ocean currents. Wind directions and speeds are the critical factors in a storm of this apparent magnitude. The exact wind speeds and directions are unknown and any increase or decrease in speed, or change of wind direction, from hour to hour and day to day, would affect the outcome of the computer model over the 14 days the grain ship was adrift.
    Unfortunately, the specific information that was put into the computer was not given in the book, perhaps because it is a popular-level book. But the specific input data were not provided on Cornuke’s websites or in any peer-reviewed scholarly article either (none have been published). Researchers who would like to follow up or try to duplicate this computer exercise would need the specific information inputted into the computer software, such as the wind speeds and directions and ocean currents hour by hour, what alternative dates, times, winds and currents were used and with what results, etc.
    The Computer Model’s “Line of Drift”
    Plates 14 and 15 of The Lost Shipwreck of Paul display photographs of the computer experiment at the Rescue Coordination Center of the Armed Forces of Malta. On the bottom of Plate 14, the line of drift for Paul’s Alexandrian grain ship is drawn. I enlarged the photograph on a photocopy machine to 200% and examined the “line of drift.” It appears to be drawn by human hand with a felt tip pen or magic marker, not by computer. The thickness of the line seems to vary slightly and at one point the line seems to be redrawn over a short segment where it is a bit thicker. At another point the line does not have an even, smooth flow to it. This seems to suggest that the line is hand-drawn and not computer generated.
    I also observed that the line of drift was not drawn through the last datum point but rather above it. Why was this? This last datum point also seems to fall far short of reaching the Malta area so it would be interesting to know, if the computer had generated one more datum point, just where that last point would have been located. When I redrew the line (see chart below) through the last datum point that is shown, and not above it as represented in the book, the line of drift misses Malta entirely, by about 5 miles to the south of the island! Thus it does not hit the Munxar Reef and St. Thomas’ Bay as Cornuke claims.
    [Insert map]
    Technical, Peer-Reviewed Article is Needed
    For Cornuke’s research to be evaluated by scholars, it must be published in a peer-reviewed scientific publication, perhaps a meteorological journal, identifying the software program that was used and the specific input information used to simulate the storm. An explanation is also in order as to why the “line of drift” did not go through the last datum point and if there was one more computer-generated datum point.
    If independent researchers could replicate his research using the same or similar software then Cornuke’s research would have added credibility and congratulations would be in order. Or, perhaps with slight variations in the different variables, the computer model might have the grain ship run aground in the traditional St. Paul’s Bay area or completely miss the island, as presently appears to be the case!
    It would also be helpful if Cornuke could have Major (now Colonel) Manuel Mallia of the Rescue Coordination Center, who ran the model for Cornuke, provide a letter indicating the model’s appropriateness for the task, some of the key data input, and stating whether he agreed or disagreed with the conclusions Cornuke drew from the output.
    The Conclusion of the Matter
    A word of caution is in order. Computer models are great tools for predicting the outcome of various data sets entered into the model. But while they are excellent modeling tools, they are simply that – tools to generate possible outcomes. They are seldom the final word on what will certainly happen in the future, and for sure, not the final word on what did happen in the unknown past.
    The weather prediction by the meteorologist is based on a large volume of recently obtained weather data from instruments put into a computer model. The U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) explains the procedure on its official website:
    The [computer weather-prediction] models, using many millions of numbers that represent weather [observation] parameters such as temperature, pressure, wind, etc., attempt to represent current weather conditions and then make a prediction of the future state of the atmosphere….
    Data Assimilation is the process whereby weather observations are incorporated into a computer model that predicts the weather. After billions of calculations, the supercomputers that are now used to run weather models, project how the current weather conditions are expected to change.
    http://www.research.noaa.gov/weather/t_modeling.html
    But for Paul’s shipwreck, we have zero weather instrument data, there were no weather instruments in that era and only fragmentary records of human events and occasional weather events such as major once-a-century type storms.  Any “data” is invented by extrapolating current conditions and data back in time 2,000 years and assuming that past weather was exactly the same as today.  Needless to say this is highly speculative at best and non-verifiable.
    Consider how many computer weather models have predicted hurricanes that never materialized or missed significant weather events that actually took place. How often have you noticed that your local weather forecast has been right?! (Or wrong, and it ruined your picnic!). Today’s weather forecasts attempt to project a few hours or days into the future. In this scenario, a meteorologist’s forecast has everything in its favor, yet sometimes it is still incorrect. By contrast, a computer model of the possible location of Paul’s shipwreck attempts to project conditions back nearly 2,000 years into the past. It is far from definitive given so many unknown variables and factors. Thus, we should not put too much stock in such fantastic extrapolations!
    Also, depending on the input, the same model could have easily produced a completely different location for the shipwreck, including even the traditional location of the St. Paul’s Bay area. Perhaps the most difficult data to input for this, or any model, is the sovereign Hand of God controlling the speed and direction of the wind and thus, the precise, final destination of the Alexandrian grain ship!
    For links to other critiques of Cornuke’s ideas, see:
    https://www.lifeandland.org/2012/06/how-accurate-are-bob-cornuke%e2%80%99s-claims-2/
    Bibliography
    Cornuke, Robert
    2003 The Lost Shipwreck of Paul.  Bend, OR: Global Publishing Services.
    Fitzgerald, Michael
    1990 The Ship of Saint Paul.  Comparative Archaeology.  Biblical Archaeologist 53/1: 31-39.
    Gambin, Timothy
    2005 The Maritime Landscapes of Malta from the Roman Period to the Middle Ages. Unpublished Ph.D. Dissertation University of Bristol [England].
    Hirschfeld, Nicolle
    1990 The Ship of Saint Paul. Historical Background. Biblical Archaeologist 53/1: 25-30.
    About the author
    Gordon Franz is a Bible teacher who holds an MA in Biblical Studies from Columbia Biblical Seminary, SC. Since 1978, he has engaged in extensive research in Biblical geography and archaeology and has participated in a number of excavations in and around Jerusalem, including Ketef Hinnom and Ramat Rachel as well as the excavations at Lachish, Jezreel, Hazor, and Tel Zayit. He has taught the geography of the Bible and led field trips in Israel for the Jerusalem Center for Biblical Studies, the Institute of Holy Land Studies, and the IBEX program of The Master’s College. He also co-teaches the Talbot School of Theology’s Bible Lands Program. He has also visited Malta on a number of occasions since January 1997 doing research on the history, geography, and archaeology of the island, as well as the location of Paul’s shipwreck. Gordon is on the staff of the Associates for Biblical Research.

    by Gordon Franz

    This article is dedicated to my Maltese and American friends searching for the Apostle Paul’s shipwreck on Malta.

    St. Paul’s Day – February 10, 2013

    Introduction
    Have you ever watched a news broadcast where the meteorologist says that the next day there would be clear blue skies and it would be sunny all day? The presenter shows the radar screen, the forecast, and boasts how accurate their equipment is, so you plan a picnic at your favorite park for that day. Halfway through the picnic, however, the weather turns nasty with thunder and lightning and a torrential downpour! Forecasting weather is very unpredictable, more an art than science, even with sophisticated equipment.

    Robert Cornuke presents a weather-related computer model of Paul’s shipwreck on Malta in his book, The Lost Shipwreck of Paul (2003: 184-193). I offer this objective critique of this model because of the serious nature of the issues involved.

    During a Parliamentary debate on Malta in 2005, the Honorable Gavin Gulia asked the Prime Minister of Malta a Public Question (PQ 14720) about an affidavit that was sent to the United States Federal District Court in the state of Colorado for a trial between the former US Ambassador to Malta, Kathryn Proffitt, and Robert Cornuke. The reply to the Public Question states that:

    “[The] Honourable Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi said that he is informed that the affidavit was sent to safe-guard the reputation of the Armed Forces of Malta and of its officers because these had been misquoted in Bob Cornuke’s publication.“ (emphasis and highlight mine).

    Since the issue has required the involvement of the government of Malta, let me add some additional analysis to the discussion that I hope will be helpful to interested parties.

    The Computer Model on Malta
    On Robert Cornuke’s third trip to Malta he gained access to “a very expensive and sophisticated computer program” at the Rescue Coordination Center of the Armed Forces of Malta on May 29, 2002. It was his hope that the data from this specialized computer model would “objectively speak to us across the millennia and trace the, until now, uncertain path of the biblical event of Paul’s journey from Crete to Malta” (2003: 184, plates 14-15; cf. Acts 27:8-28:1).

    After the computer model was run on the hypothetical Alexandrian grain ship that carried the Apostle Paul and Dr. Luke, the course was shown approaching Malta more from the southeast, rather than directly from the east, the normal approach from Crete. The ship’s path line on the computer screen then intersected the East side of Malta, supposedly at the Munxar Reef and St. Thomas’ Bay preferred by Cornuke, not the traditional site for Paul’s shipwreck on the North side of the main Malta island, in the St. Paul’s Bay area. The model, it seemed, had overthrown tradition.

    But Cornuke claimed the computer supported the Bible because Major Manuel Mallia, the Maltese officer in charge of the model, had agreed “that only St. Thomas Bay possessed all the physical, nautical, and geographical conditions that aligned perfectly with the Bible’s description [of Paul’s shipwreck]” (Cornuke 2003: 192-193; bracketed material and emphasis mine). Was this one of the misquotations by Cornuke in his book that required the involvement of the Maltese government? If this computer model is correct, however, it would help confirm Cornuke’s idea that the traditional location of Paul’s shipwreck was wrong.

    Biblical Conflict with Cornuke’s Ideas
    But there is a problem and it is a bigger one than tradition, it is a Biblical conflict: The East side of Malta, with the Munxar Reef and St. Thomas’ Bay, was familiar to Alexandrian ship captains as the side of the island they always saw on approach to Malta coming from the east. If sea captains could not make it back to Rome before the sea-lanes closed for the winter, the Alexandrian grain ships would dock in the Marsa Port on Malta (within the Grand Harbor of Valletta), off-load the grain and store it in granaries for the winter (Gambin 2005: 122-132; cf. Acts 28:11).

    In Paul’s case they shipwrecked on a part of the island the crew did “not recognize” in fact so unfamiliar they did not even know they were on Malta until a native told them so (Acts 27:39; 28:1-2a, NKJV, emphasis added). So they had to have landed on some other part of Malta, not the familiar and recognizable East side. The traditional location on the unfamiliar North side of Malta makes sense in light of the puzzlement of the sailors on Paul’s wrecked ship. Computer or not, shipwrecking on the familiar East side makes no sense. This has always been a fundamental Biblical and logical stumbling block for Cornuke’s theory of Paul’s shipwreck because the seamen would have recognized the Munxar Reef and St. Thomas Bay, contrary to the Biblical text which states they did not recognize the island (Acts 27:39)! A computer model cannot overcome this fatal defect without simply throwing the whole Biblical account overboard in the process.

    Two Principles of Computer Modeling
    Even if we set aside the contradiction to the Biblical account for the moment, there are still major problems with the computer model and Cornuke’s use of it.

    Two principles are important here:

    1. The computer model’s output will only be as good as the data inputted. There is a widely known axiom in the computer world, “Garbage In = Garbage Out,” which simply means that the computer results that come out are only as good as the data put in. If bad or mistaken data are put in, then the results will be bad or mistaken.
    2. Using a computer model beyond its design limitations and for purposes not intended will not produce trustworthy results. This could result in totally spurious results or results that can be easily manipulated to say almost anything, even unintentionally.

    A computer model designed to assist search and rescue missions in the recent past hours or days of a modern-day storm causing a ship to go astray in AD 2002 (the year the model was run for Cornuke) obviously is not designed to reconstruct historical events from some 2,000 years ago – when there were no meteorological data from satellites and scientific instruments to plot shifting winds and currents. Even the ocean bottom can, and has, changed in two thousand years due to earthquakes and deposited silt.

    The first step in understanding the design limitations of a computer model is to find out what model it is and what instructions it has for inputting data. Even better would be to have the developers’ design statement. Unfortunately, Cornuke did not even identify what computer model was used by the United States Coast Guard and the Maltese military!

    Was the program purposely designed to recreate an actual past historical event and if so, what weather data were used for input? Cornuke does not provide the specific weather data inputs nor does he inform us where the input data came from. It would be impossible to know, for example, exactly what time the ship left Fair Haven on Crete, or precisely when and where the ship got caught in the Euroclydon (Northeaster storm) on its way to Phoenix on Crete (Acts 27:14) because the Bible does not state this information. Did the storm strike as soon as they left Fair Haven, or several hours later, right before they were to dock at Phoenix? Or, was it somewhere in between the two places? Each of these unknown variables would affect the geographic location of where the ship ended up in the output of the computer model.


    Data Input for the Computer Model
    According to Cornuke, the modelers used five types of input data for the model (Cornuke 2003: 187-188). These included:

    1. The “general parameters of a grain freighter”

    One nautical archaeologist has pointed out, however, that “the precise appearance of great grain ships like those mentioned in the Book of Acts and the writings of Lucian” are unknown (Fitzgerald 1990: 31) because nautical archaeologists have never recovered an actual first century AD Alexandrian grain ship in an underwater archaeological excavation. Was the grain ship a two-mast or a three-mast ship? What was its draft? How much did it actually weigh? Cornuke said they put in “the approximate size of the ship” (2003: 187, emphasis mine), yet a variation in size and weight would affect the outcome of the calculations for the computer model.

    2.  Wooden hull was a factor entered into the software

    But was only wood exposed on the hull of Paul’s ship or was there lead sheathing on the hull? Ancient lead sheathing has been found on the seabed of Malta. If there was lead sheathing on the grain ship that would affect the outcome of the calculations.

    Also, the ship was undergirded, probably with heavy rope or cable (Hirschfeld 1990: 26-27), to secure it during the storm (Acts 27:17). What effect would the rope or cable have on the drag of the ship and thus on the computer calculations?

    3.   The “veering characteristics of a northeaster”

    Cornuke suggested the drag of the windsock affected the speed and direction of the ship (Cornuke 2003: 190). What ancient sources describe – or archaeological remains show – that a windsock sail was part of a rigging for an Alexandrian grain ship and used as a sea anchor in an emergency? I am not aware of any. Perhaps Cornuke can enlighten us with this information.

    4.  The “leeway of time”

    What margin of error or maximum variation (leeway) in the “time” is meant – and is it maximum variation in the time of day or the time of year? It is unclear. How was the possible variation of time factored in? Did they run the computer with every possible choice of time? What were the results?

    Cornuke had the rescue software run on May 29, 2002. The question is then: Did they run the software model with the current date of May 29, or did they think to change the date to the Fall season? (Shipwreck occurred at least 14 days after Yom Kippur and before winter, thus most probably October-November: cp. Acts 27:9, 27, 33; 28:11.) In fact, does the computer model even differentiate a year as well as the day of the year, and if so, was the year AD 2002 run or a year around ca. AD 60 when Paul’s ship wrecked?

    The ocean currents in the Fall were programmed into the computer model (see item 5 below) but it is unclear whether a Fall date was also entered for wind speeds and directions. If they did change the computer model date to the Fall, what date in the Fall did they choose? There is no explanation given to clarify any of this.

    5.  The currents during the Fall season for that part of the Mediterranean Sea

    Although Cornuke listed five types of data inputted into the computer model including ocean currents, he strangely failed to list winds even though powerful storm winds are far more important than ocean currents. Wind directions and speeds are the critical factors in a storm of this apparent magnitude. The exact wind speeds and directions are unknown and any increase or decrease in speed, or change of wind direction, from hour to hour and day to day, would affect the outcome of the computer model over the 14 days the grain ship was adrift.

    Unfortunately, the specific information that was put into the computer was not given in the book, perhaps because it is a popular-level book. But the specific input data were not provided on Cornuke’s websites or in any peer-reviewed scholarly article either (none have been published). Researchers who would like to follow up or try to duplicate this computer exercise would need the specific information inputted into the computer software, such as the wind speeds and directions and ocean currents hour by hour, what alternative dates, times, winds and currents were used and with what results, etc.

    The Computer Model’s “Line of Drift”
    Plates 14 and 15 of The Lost Shipwreck of Paul display photographs of the computer experiment at the Rescue Coordination Center of the Armed Forces of Malta. On the bottom of Plate 14, the line of drift for Paul’s Alexandrian grain ship is drawn. I enlarged the photograph on a photocopy machine to 200% and examined the “line of drift.” It appears to be drawn by human hand with a felt tip pen or magic marker, not by computer. The thickness of the line seems to vary slightly and at one point the line seems to be redrawn over a short segment where it is a bit thicker. At another point the line does not have an even, smooth flow to it. This seems to suggest that the line is hand-drawn and not computer generated.

    I also observed that the line of drift was not drawn through the last datum point but rather above it. Why was this? This last datum point also seems to fall far short of reaching the Malta area so it would be interesting to know, if the computer had generated one more datum point, just where that last point would have been located. When I redrew the line (see chart below) through the last datum point that is shown, and not above it as represented in the book, the line of drift misses Malta entirely, by about 5 miles to the south of the island! Thus it does not hit the Munxar Reef and St. Thomas’ Bay as Cornuke claims.

    CORNUKE 2003 Paul's Shipwreck-Computer Maps COMPARED-2

    Technical, Peer-Reviewed Article is Needed
    For Cornuke’s research to be evaluated by scholars, it must be published in a peer-reviewed scientific publication, perhaps a meteorological journal, identifying the software program that was used and the specific input information used to simulate the storm. An explanation is also in order as to why the “line of drift” did not go through the last datum point and if there was one more computer-generated datum point. If there was another datum point, where was it?

    If independent researchers could replicate his research using the same or similar software then Cornuke’s research would have added credibility and congratulations would be in order. Or, perhaps with slight variations in the different variables, the computer model might have the grain ship run aground in the traditional St. Paul’s Bay area or completely miss the island, as presently appears to be the case!

    It would also be helpful if Cornuke could have Major (now Colonel) Manuel Mallia of the Rescue Coordination Center, who ran the model for Cornuke, provide a letter indicating the model’s appropriateness for the task, some of the key data input, and stating whether he agreed or disagreed with the conclusions Cornuke drew from the output.

    The Conclusion of the Matter
    A word of caution is in order. Computer models are great tools for predicting the outcome of various data sets entered into the model. But while they are excellent modeling tools, they are simply that – tools to generate possible outcomes. They are seldom the final word on what will certainly happen in the future, and for sure, not the final word on what did happen in the unknown past.

    The weather prediction by the meteorologist is based on a large volume of recently obtained weather data from instruments put into a computer model. The U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) explains the procedure on its official website:

    The [computer weather-prediction] models, using many millions of numbers that represent weather [observation] parameters such as temperature, pressure, wind, etc., attempt to represent current weather conditions and then make a prediction of the future state of the atmosphere….

    Data Assimilation is the process whereby weather observations are incorporated into a computer model that predicts the weather. After billions of calculations, the supercomputers that are now used to run weather models, project how the current weather conditions are expected to change.

    http://www.research.noaa.gov/weather/t_modeling.html

    But for Paul’s shipwreck, we have zero weather instrument data, there were no weather instruments in that era and only fragmentary records of human events and occasional weather events such as major once-a-century type storms.  Any “data” is invented by extrapolating current conditions and data back in time 2,000 years and assuming that past weather was exactly the same as today.  Needless to say this is highly speculative at best and non-verifiable.

    Consider how many computer weather models have predicted hurricanes that never materialized or missed significant weather events that actually took place. How often have you noticed that your local weather forecast has been right?! (Or wrong, and it ruined your picnic!). Today’s weather forecasts attempt to project a few hours or days into the future. In this scenario, a meteorologist’s forecast has everything in its favor, yet sometimes it is still incorrect. By contrast, a computer model of the possible location of Paul’s shipwreck attempts to project conditions back nearly 2,000 years into the past. It is far from definitive given so many unknown variables and factors. Thus, we should not put too much stock in such fantastic extrapolations!

    Also, depending on the input, the same model could have easily produced a completely different location for the shipwreck, including even the traditional location of the St. Paul’s Bay area. Perhaps the most difficult data to input for this, or any model, is the sovereign Hand of God controlling the speed and direction of the wind and thus, the precise, final destination of the Alexandrian grain ship!

    For links to other critiques of Cornuke’s ideas, see:

    How Accurate Are Bob Cornuke’s Claims?

    Bibliography

    Cornuke, Robert

    2003 The Lost Shipwreck of Paul.  Bend, OR: Global Publishing Services.

    Fitzgerald, Michael

    1990 The Ship of Saint Paul.  Comparative Archaeology.  Biblical Archaeologist 53/1: 31-39.

    Gambin, Timothy

    2005 The Maritime Landscapes of Malta from the Roman Period to the Middle Ages. Unpublished Ph.D. Dissertation University of Bristol [England].

    Hirschfeld, Nicolle

    1990 The Ship of Saint Paul. Historical Background. Biblical Archaeologist 53/1: 25-30.

    About the author

    Gordon Franz is a Bible teacher who holds an MA in Biblical Studies from Columbia Biblical Seminary, SC. Since 1978, he has engaged in extensive research in Biblical geography and archaeology and has participated in a number of excavations in and around Jerusalem, including Ketef Hinnom and Ramat Rachel as well as the excavations at Lachish, Jezreel, Hazor, and Tel Zayit. He has taught the geography of the Bible and led field trips in Israel for the Jerusalem Center for Biblical Studies, the Institute of Holy Land Studies, and the IBEX program of The Master’s College. He also co-teaches the Talbot School of Theology’s Bible Lands Program. He has also visited Malta on a number of occasions since January 1997 doing research on the history, geography, and archaeology of the island, as well as the location of Paul’s shipwreck. Gordon is on the staff of the Associates for Biblical Research.

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  • Cracked Pot Archaeology, Paul's Shipwreck on Malta Comments Off on BOB CORNUKE: THE “CSI INVESTIGATOR” OF PAUL’S SHIPWRECK ON MALTA
    BOB CORNUKE: THE “CSI INVESTIGATOR” OF PAUL’S SHIPWRECK ON MALTA
    Gordon Franz
    Robert Cornuke is promoted as a “CSI Investigator” of the Bible; but did he do a careful and meticulous scholarly investigation of Paul’s shipwreck on Malta?
    Introduction
    Bob Cornuke often references his background as a former police detective and is sometimes introduced to audiences as a “CSI Investigator” (Crime Scene Investigation) of the Bible. He claims to use his investigative skills in his search for the real Mount Sinai in Saudi Arabia, the real mountains of Ararat in Iran and what he thinks might be the remains of Noah’s Ark, the Ark of the Covenant in Ethiopia, and the anchor stocks from Paul’s shipwreck on Malta. He also promotes an inscribed stone object that he claims has the name of the Lord, “Yahweh,” on it from Jebel al-Lawz where he locates Mount Sinai, but this has turned out to be a modern-day forgery.
    For links to other critiques of Cornuke’s ideas, see:
    https://www.lifeandland.org/2012/06/how-accurate-are-bob-cornuke%e2%80%99s-claims-2/
    Archaeology is the scientific study of the material evidence of human civilization of the past. Archaeology is a completely separate discipline from police investigation and it involves its own methodology and training. Cornuke’s CSI training may not be sufficient to equip him for scholarly archaeological interpretation.
    In his book on the search for Paul’s shipwreck on Malta he makes a very curious statement: “I began my research, as always, in university libraries and moved quickly to archaeological websites, nautical maps, bathymetric charts, specialty books, and encyclopedias on sailing” (2003:25). After reading this book, I concluded that he would have been better served had he spent more time in those university libraries. After reading this statement I was disappointed to find his research seriously lacking scholarship as I did not find any interaction with, or even mention of, some very important and basic works in English on the subject of Paul’s shipwreck. And those basic works are not listed in his bibliography. These missing works would have helped provide him information that would have led him to a different conclusion.
    Investigating Paul’s Shipwreck on Malta
    The classic work on this subject is James Smith’s The Voyage and Shipwreck of St. Paul. The noted New Testament and classical scholar, Professor F. F. Bruce said Smith’s book was “an indispensable handbook to the study of this chapter [Acts 27]” (1981:499); and elsewhere, “This work remains of unsurpassed value for its stage-by-stage annotation of the narrative of the voyage” (1995:370, footnote 9). Cornuke must have encountered this footnote because he cites the two pages before the page with this footnote in the 1977 edition of Bruce’s book (Cornuke 2003:36, 230, footnotes 7 and 8). The footnote in Bruce’s book should have alerted Cornuke that Smith’s book would be an invaluable research tool for his investigation. Cornuke has also failed to mention George Musgrave’s, Friendly Refuge (1979), or W. Burridge’s, Seeking the Site of St. Paul’s Shipwreck (1952). Also, there are some scholars who do not believe the Apostle Paul was even shipwrecked on the island of Malta. Nowhere in Cornuke’s Lost Shipwreck is there acknowledgment or discussion of alternative sites in Dalmatia or Greece (Meinardus 1976; Warnecke and Schirrmacher 1992).
    Challenging Tradition
    While scholars often challenge traditional thinking and traditional interpretations, a scholarly approach to introducing a new position or hypothesis must discuss as many of the scholarly alternatives as appropriate to build a solid case. A writing scholar, in cases where there are more than one or two views, must not give the reader an impression that there are only two positions to consider – the traditional, and in his opinion, weak position; or his newly proposed, strong position. Scholars should not count on readers knowing the options, such as the seven locations that have been suggested in the scholarly literature for Paul’s shipwreck. But even if the readership is unaware of the discussion, the writing scholar must introduce the reader to the other research and conclusions and properly document them.
    In terms of Paul’s shipwreck, Cornuke has not shown that he has considered the other proposed sites for the shipwreck. There are at least seven different sites that have been proposed by various scholars, and Cornuke’s site now becomes the eighth site. Cornuke’s book makes a blanket dismissal of the St. Paul’s Bay area on the island of Malta with very little interaction with the volume of the available material (2003:31-32, 229-230, footnotes 1-4). The reader would have been better served had the author discussed the opposing views in detail, and then documented why St. Paul’s Bay on Malta and the other six sites proposed for the shipwreck should not be considered the preferred location. Interestingly, Cornuke included an irrelevant chapter in this book describing his Afghan adventures (2003:141-152). The space from this chapter could have been better used to critique the other locations for Paul’s shipwreck.
    Investigative Skills
    Cornuke references being “elbow-deep in maps, charts, and musty old history books about Malta” (2003: 26). His bibliography at the end of the book includes 21 books cited. Of the 21 books, 9 pertained to Malta and the oldest one was from 1985! The subject, even when written for popular consumption, requires more thorough investigation in university libraries and greater archaeological research than this book contained.
    Bibliography
    Bruce, F. F.
    1981 The Book of the Acts (NICNT).  Grand Rapids: Eerdmans.
    1995 Paul.  Apostle of the Heart Set Free.  Grand Rapids: Eerdmans.
    Burridge, W.
    1952 Seeking the Site of St. Paul’s Shipwreck.  Valletta, Malta: Progress Press.
    Cornuke, Robert
    2003 The Lost Shipwreck of Paul. Bend, OR: Global Publishing Services.
    Meinardus, Otto
    1976 St. Paul Shipwrecked in Dalmatia.  Biblical Archaeologist 39/4: 145-147.
    Musgrave, George
    1979 Friendly Refuge.  Heathfield, Sussex.  Heathfield.
    Smith, James
    1978 The Voyage and Shipwreck of St. Paul.  Grand Rapids: Baker. Reprint from the 1880 edition.
    Warnecke, Heinz, and Schirrmacher, Thomas
    1992 War Paulus wirklick auf Malta?  Neuhausen-Stuttgart: Hanssler-Verlag.
    For further study on Cornuke’s claim to have found the anchor stocks from Paul’s shipwreck on Malta, see:
    Does “The Lost Shipwreck of Paul” Hold Water?
    https://www.lifeandland.org/2009/04/does-the-%e2%80%9cthe-lost-shipwreck-of-paul%e2%80%9d-hold-water-or-have-the-anchors-from-the-apostle-paul%e2%80%99s-shipwreck-been-discovered-on-malta/
    Searching for Paul’s Shipwreck on Malta”: A Critique of the 700 Club’s February 26, 2010 Program
    https://www.lifeandland.org/2010/03/%e2%80%9csearching-for-paul%e2%80%99s-shipwreck-on-malta%e2%80%9d-a-critique-of-the-700-club%e2%80%99s-february-26-2010-program/
    “The Lost Shipwreck of Paul”: A Critique of the Video
    https://www.lifeandland.org/2011/09/1008/
    About the Author
    Gordon Franz is an archaeologist on the staff of the Associates for Biblical Research in Pennsylvania and has worked on numerous archaeological excavations in Israel since 1979, including Ketef Hinnom and the Temple Mount Sifting Project in Jerusalem, Ramat Rachel, Lachish, Jezreel, Kh Nisya (Ai), Hazor, and Tel Zayit. He has also visited Malta on a number of occasions doing research on the history, geography, and archaeology of the island, as well as the location of Paul’s shipwreck. He holds and M.A. in Biblical Studies from Columbia Biblical Seminary in SC.

    by Gordon Franz

    Robert Cornuke is promoted as a “CSI Investigator” of the Bible; but did he do a careful and meticulous scholarly investigation of Paul’s shipwreck on Malta?

    Introduction
    Bob Cornuke often references his background as a former police detective and is sometimes introduced to audiences as a “CSI Investigator” (Crime Scene Investigation) of the Bible. He claims to use his investigative skills in his search for the real Mount Sinai in Saudi Arabia, the real mountains of Ararat in Iran and what he thinks might be the remains of Noah’s Ark, the Ark of the Covenant in Ethiopia, and the anchor stocks from Paul’s shipwreck on Malta. He also promotes an inscribed stone object that he claims has the name of the Lord, “Yahweh,” on it from Jebel al-Lawz where he locates Mount Sinai, but this has turned out to be a modern-day forgery.

    For links to other critiques of Cornuke’s ideas, see:

    How Accurate are Bob Cornuke’s claims?

    Archaeology is the scientific study of the material evidence of human civilization of the past. Archaeology is a completely separate discipline from police investigation and it involves its own methodology and training. Cornuke’s CSI training may not be sufficient to equip him for scholarly archaeological interpretation.

    In his book on the search for Paul’s shipwreck on Malta he makes a very curious statement: “I began my research, as always, in university libraries and moved quickly to archaeological websites, nautical maps, bathymetric charts, specialty books, and encyclopedias on sailing” (2003:25). After reading this book, I concluded that he would have been better served had he spent more time in those university libraries. After reading this statement I was disappointed to find his research seriously lacking scholarship as I did not find any interaction with, or even mention of, some very important and basic works in English on the subject of Paul’s shipwreck. And those basic works are not listed in his bibliography. These missing works would have helped provide him information that would have led him to a different conclusion.

    Investigating Paul’s Shipwreck on Malta
    The classic work on this subject is James Smith’s The Voyage and Shipwreck of St. Paul. The noted New Testament and classical scholar, Professor F. F. Bruce said Smith’s book was “an indispensable handbook to the study of this chapter [Acts 27]” (1981:499); and elsewhere, “This work remains of unsurpassed value for its stage-by-stage annotation of the narrative of the voyage” (1995:370, footnote 9). Cornuke must have encountered this footnote because he cites the two pages before the page with this footnote in the 1977 edition of Bruce’s book (Cornuke 2003:36, 230, footnotes 7 and 8). The footnote in Bruce’s book should have alerted Cornuke that Smith’s book would be an invaluable research tool for his investigation. Cornuke has also failed to mention George Musgrave’s, Friendly Refuge (1979), or W. Burridge’s, Seeking the Site of St. Paul’s Shipwreck (1952). Also, there are some scholars who do not believe the Apostle Paul was even shipwrecked on the island of Malta. Nowhere in Cornuke’s Lost Shipwreck is there acknowledgment or discussion of alternative sites in Dalmatia or Greece (Meinardus 1976; Warnecke and Schirrmacher 1992).

    Challenging Tradition
    While scholars often challenge traditional thinking and traditional interpretations, a scholarly approach to introducing a new position or hypothesis must discuss as many of the scholarly alternatives as appropriate to build a solid case. A writing scholar, in cases where there are more than one or two views, must not give the reader an impression that there are only two positions to consider – the traditional, and in his opinion, weak position; or his newly proposed, strong position. Scholars should not count on readers knowing the options, such as the seven locations that have been suggested in the scholarly literature for Paul’s shipwreck. But even if the readership is unaware of the discussion, the writing scholar must introduce the reader to the other research and conclusions and properly document them.

    In terms of Paul’s shipwreck, Cornuke has not shown that he has considered the other proposed sites for the shipwreck. There are at least seven different sites that have been proposed by various scholars, and Cornuke’s site now becomes the eighth site. Cornuke’s book makes a blanket dismissal of the St. Paul’s Bay area on the island of Malta with very little interaction with the volume of the available material (2003:31-32, 229-230, footnotes 1-4). The reader would have been better served had the author discussed the opposing views in detail, and then documented why St. Paul’s Bay on Malta and the other six sites proposed for the shipwreck should not be considered the preferred location. Interestingly, Cornuke included an irrelevant chapter in this book describing his Afghan adventures (2003:141-152). The space from this chapter could have been better used to critique the other locations for Paul’s shipwreck.

    Investigative Skills
    Cornuke references being “elbow-deep in maps, charts, and musty old history books about Malta” (2003: 26). His bibliography at the end of the book includes 21 books cited. Of the 21 books, 9 pertained to Malta and the oldest one was from 1985! The subject, even when written for popular consumption, requires more thorough investigation in university libraries and greater archaeological research than this book contained.

    Bibliography

    Bruce, F. F.

    1981 The Book of the Acts (NICNT).  Grand Rapids: Eerdmans.

    1995 Paul.  Apostle of the Heart Set Free.  Grand Rapids: Eerdmans.

    Burridge, W.

    1952 Seeking the Site of St. Paul’s Shipwreck.  Valletta, Malta: Progress Press.

    Cornuke, Robert

    2003 The Lost Shipwreck of Paul. Bend, OR: Global Publishing Services.

    Meinardus, Otto

    1976 St. Paul Shipwrecked in Dalmatia.  Biblical Archaeologist 39/4: 145-147.

    Musgrave, George

    1979 Friendly Refuge. Heathfield, Sussex.  Heathfield.

    Smith, James

    1978 The Voyage and Shipwreck of St. Paul.  Grand Rapids: Baker. Reprint from the 1880 edition.

    Warnecke, Heinz, and Schirrmacher, Thomas

    1992 War Paulus wirklick auf Malta? Neuhausen-Stuttgart: Hanssler-Verlag.

    For further study on Cornuke’s claim to have found the anchor stocks from Paul’s shipwreck on Malta, see:

    Does “The Lost Shipwreck of Paul” Hold Water?

    Searching for Paul’s Shipwreck on Malta”: A Critique of the 700 Club’s February 26, 2010 Program

    “The Lost Shipwreck of Paul”: A Critique of the Video

    About the Author

    Gordon Franz is an archaeologist on the staff of the Associates for Biblical Research in Pennsylvania and has worked on numerous archaeological excavations in Israel since 1979, including Ketef Hinnom and the Temple Mount Sifting Project in Jerusalem, Ramat Rachel, Lachish, Jezreel, Kh Nisya (Ai), Hazor, and Tel Zayit. He has also visited Malta on a number of occasions doing research on the history, geography, and archaeology of the island, as well as the location of Paul’s shipwreck. He holds an M.A. in Biblical Studies from Columbia Biblical Seminary in SC.

  • Cracked Pot Archaeology, Paul's Shipwreck on Malta Comments Off on “THE LOST SHIP WRECK OF PAUL”: A Critique of the Video

    by Gordon Franz

    Introduction
    Robert Cornuke, a retired police officer and now president of the BASE Institute, has recently released a video (August 2011) about his adventures on the island of Malta. In the video he located old divers and spear fisherman on the island who claimed they found four lead anchor stocks off the Munxar Reef of St. Thomas Bay in 90 feet of water during the 1960’s and 70’s. Cornuke surmises that these anchors were from the shipwreck mentioned in the Book of Acts (27:29, 40; Cornuke 2003), but these were found on the east side of Malta not the traditional sites on the north side. In fact, the cover of the video case said that this was: “Possibly the Biblical find of this century”!

    In the video, Cornuke is bold enough to claim: “This evidence is just overwhelming, in fact, I believe you have to force feed your mind past reason and logic, not to accept this site. It’s like Luke was leaving us a treasure map for someone to follow.” Elsewhere he states: “So really, the only candidate that makes sense, this is Archaeology 101, that it should be the Munxar Reef on St. Thomas’ Bay. Clearly, clearly this is the place it should be according to all the facts the Bible gives us.”
    In this critique, we will examine the “overwhelming evidence” that Cornuke presents and see if it stands the scrutiny of scientific examination and verification. Is it really the Biblical find of this century? Is this the only site that fits all the Biblical requirements?

    I have personally visited Malta multiple times and am very familiar with the history, archaeology, and geography of this wonderful island, and will offer my on-the-scene assessment of the data in the video and its conclusions.

    Cornuke’s Arguments for the Location of the Shipwreck
    Cornuke enlists the services of a local Maltese, James Mulholland, identified in the video as an “amateur historian,” to defend his thesis that the Munxar Reef was where the shipwreck occurred and the beach in St. Thomas Bay was where the foundered passengers and crew came ashore. Mulholland attempts to set forth four arguments in defense of this idea and I will single out the third as the most important.

    First, Mulholland correctly states that just off the Munxar Reef there is an area where the depth of the sea is 120 feet (20 fathoms) and 90 feet (15 fathoms) in accordance with the depth recorded by the sounding weights (Acts 27:28). Then he makes a very deceptive statement: “The west coast is out of the question, all [the depths] are over 200 feet. On the east coast is a must!” While it is certainly true that the depth off the coast of the west side of the island is over 200 feet, this is a straw man because nobody is claiming the shipwreck occurred on the west side of the island. On the other hand, there are several bays on the north side of the island where there is a 120/90 feet depth that would fit the Biblical requirement.

    The second argument Mulholland sets forth is that St. Thomas Bay has the “bay with a beach” (Acts 27:39). He then identifies five bays on the island of Malta that might be candidates: Mellieha Bay, Salina Bay, Balluta Bay, St. George’s Bay [also known as Marsaslokk Bay], and St. Thomas’s Bay. There are three other bays that might have contained beaches in antiquity as well; St. Paul’s Bay, Marsamxett Bay within the Grand Harbor of Valletta, and Marsascala Bay. You see, St. Thomas Bay is not the only bay with a beach. On the north side of the island there are several bays that have beaches within them as well.

    The third argument set forth by Mulholland and Cornuke, and I think the most important one, is that the sea captain and sailors did not recognize where they were when the dawn broke (Acts 27:39). Cornuke correctly states that Malta was like O’Hare Airport in Chicago and the island was well visited by sailors. However, unlike several bays on the north side of the island, he incorrectly claims that the south-east side of the island would be the part of the island that the Alexandrian grain ship sailors had never seen. Cornuke’s statement is factually inaccurate.

    On the contrary, the south-eastern part of the island, between the Marsaslokk Bay and the Grand Harbor of Vallette would be the best known part of the island for any sea captain and seasoned sailors of an Alexandrian grain ship. This one point alone completely disproves Cornuke’s ideas.

    Any ancient Mediterranean Sea captain, or seasoned sailor on the deck of a ship anchored off the Munxar Reef, immediately would recognize the eastern shoreline of Malta because Malta was the landmark for sailors traveling westward from Crete and about to turn north to Sicily. In essence, Malta was the “Turn Right to Sicily” sign in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea! The eastern end of the island would be what they saw first and it would be a welcomed sight.

    There are two geological landmarks that the sea captains would be very familiar with on the eastern end of the island. The first would be the “conspicuous white cliffs” to the south of the Munxar Reef (British Admiralty chart 2628, Malta Island South East Portion) and the second, the Munxar Reef itself. Every sea captain would know the hazardous Munxar Reef because of its inherent maritime danger.

    Diodorus Siculus, a Greek historian who lived in the First Century BC, states that the island of Malta had many harbors for safety in bad weather (Library of History 5:12:1-2; LCL 3: 129). Today, maritime archaeologists might sub-divide Diodorus’ “harbors” into ports, harbors, and anchorages. Recent scholarly archaeological research has shown that there were two Roman ports on the island of Malta. The first was in Marsaslokk Bay (south of St. Thomas Bay, also known as St. George’s Bay). The second was within the ancient Valletta harbor, much further inland in antiquity and called Marsa today. It is at the foot of Corradino Hill (Bonanno 1992: 25). Roman storehouses with amphorae were discovered in this region in 1766-68 (Ashby 1915: 27-30). When Alexandrian grain ships could not make it to Rome before the sea-lanes closed for the winter, they wintered on Malta (see Acts 28:11). They would offload their grain and store them in the storehouses of Marsa (Gambin 2005), and probably did the same thing in the port at Marsaslokk Bay, although the storehouses have not been found archaeologically because today there is a living town over the structures of the ancient port. Marsascala Bay, just to the north of St. Thomas Bay, had a Roman harbor that the sea captain would recognize if he were anchored off the Munxar Reef.

    There was also a shallow harbor at Salina Bay on the north side of the island but this was for the local shipping of oil and wine, thus a deep-draft Alexandrian grain ship would not dock at this harbor and it would be unknown to those on such a ship.

    But let us hypothetically assume for a minute that the 276 passengers and crew of the ill-fated grain ship did, in fact, make it safely to the beach on St. Thomas’ Bay. Where would they go? The Bible says they were taken to the estate of Publius, the leading citizen of the island (Acts 28:7). Cornuke has never ventured an identification for the location of Publius’ estate.

    But if the sea captain, sailors, and Roman soldiers, were washed up on the beach in St. Thomas’ Bay, they would all know of the famous landmark just up the hill from the beach. It was the Punic/Roman period temple dedicated to one goddess known by different names by the various ethnic groups visiting the island. She was Tanit to the Phoenicians, Hera to the Greeks, Juno to the Romans, and Isis to the Egyptians (Trump 1997: 80, 81; Bonanno 1992: Plate 2 with a view of St. Thomas Bay in the background). They would have made a bee-line to this temple, today called the Tas-Silg temple, in order to get food, water, shelter, and warmth. But also to offer sacrifices to the deity for sparing their lives in the shipwreck! This temple is only a 10-15 minute walk from the St. Thomas Bay beach and well-known by sea captains and sailors.

    The last argument that Mulholland sets forth concerns the place where two seas meet (Acts 27:41). He and Cornuke identify the place where the two seas meet as the Munxar Reef. While this location may fit this possible interpretation of this phrase, there are several other places on the north side of the island that would fit this description as well.

    There is, however, a major problem with the Munxar Reef being the location of the shipwreck. The book of Acts records: “But striking a place where two seas meet, they ran the ship aground; and the prow struck fast and remained unmovable, but the stern was being broken up by the violence of the waves” (27:41). Notice, it is the prow (front) of the ship that does not break up, only the stern (back). If an Alexandrian grain ship hit the solid limestone of the Munxar Reef, the prow of the ship would have broken up. Thus, it could not be a reef that was struck. It is clear, the Munxar Reef cannot be reconciled with the Biblical account.

    The Four Anchors Off the Munxar Reef
    Cornuke found old divers and spear fishermen that claimed they brought up four lead anchor stocks from the depth of 90 feet just outside an underwater cave on the south side of the Munxar Reef. Based on Map 3 in Cornuke’s book (2003), the GPS for this location (calculated from the British Admiralty chart #2628, Malta Island / Southeast Portion) is:

    “Dropped Anchors 15 Fathoms” point between “1” and “5” in the “15”
    35*50’59.2878″ N      14*35’42.1061″ E      (dd*mm’ss.ssss”)
    35.8498143594* N    14.5950300716* E    (dd.dddddddd*)
    35*50.98886′ N         14*35.70180′ E         (dd*mm.mmmmm’)

    In the video, the first anchor that is discussed is called “Tony’s anchor” in the book (2003:125). [This is actually anchor #2 in the book]. It is described by different people as a “large anchor stock” (2003: 106), a “huge anchor” (2003: 114), as a “large slab of lead” (2003: 126), and a “massive Roman anchor stock” (2003: 126).  Unfortunately, like the other anchor stocks shown in the video or pictured in the book, there are no measurements given for this one.  The only size indicators are the adjectives “large”, “huge”, and “massive.”

    I have visited the Malta Maritime Museum in Vittoriosa on several occasions where “Tony’s anchor” is now prominently displayed along with other Roman anchors on the first floor of the museum. It is tagged “NMA Unp. #7/2 Q’mangia 19.11.2002.” This anchor stock came from the village of Q’mangia and was handed over to the museum on November 19, 2002.

    The anchor stock was one of the smallest on display, measuring about 3 feet, 8 inches in length. Large Alexandrian grain ships would have had for the stern much larger anchors than this one. Cornuke’s lack of quantifiable measurements regarding the anchor stock keeps the viewer and reader uninformed about its actual size. As we shall see, this anchor stock is a lead toothpick compared to “huge, lead-and-wooden Roman-style anchors” that Cornuke surmised would be on the ship (Cornuke 2002: 15).

    The curators of the museum had a keen sense of humor placing “Tony’s anchor” close to the largest anchor ever discovered in the Mediterranean Sea. This anchor stock measured 13 feet, 6 inches long, and weighed 2,500 kilograms, which is two and a half metric tons, and most likely came from an Alexandrian grain ship (Guillaumier 1992: 88; a picture of this anchor stock can be seen in Bonanno 1992: 158, plate 66). The size contrast between these two anchor stocks is striking!

    The second anchor stock discussed in the video was also found by Tony Micallef-Borg, but was melted down to make lead weights. It was only half an anchor that was either “pulled apart like a piece of taffy” (2003: 121) or sawn in half with a hacksaw (2003: 231, footnote 18), depending on which eyewitness is most reliable. [This is actually anchor #1 in the book (2003: 101-105)]. Since it has been melted down, it cannot be examined. The third and fourth anchor stocks are not discussed in the video. But a clip of Cornuke examining the fourth anchor stock is given in the video. The third anchor stock is also prominently displayed in the Maritime Museum and the tag on the anchor says, “NMA Unp. # 7/1 Naxxar.”

    Cornuke secured legal amnesty from prosecution, with the aid of the US ambassador, for any of the divers, or their families, that would turn their anchor stocks over to the Maritime Museum. Two of the three anchor stocks were turned over. As far as I am aware, the fourth anchor stock is still in a private collection and has not been turned over to the archaeological authorities, or confiscated by the police.

    In November 2010, I met a young diver in St. Thomas Bay that said he brought up an anchor stock from just outside the cave off of the Munxar Reef, but it was confiscated by the police. This would be a fifth anchor stock found near the cave off the Munxar Reef. But the Bible clearly states that there were only four anchors that were left in the sea. The recent discoveries of more anchor stocks near the Munxar Reef at 90 feet would negate any of these being from the Alexandrian grain ship that Paul was sailing on in AD 60.

    Two Maltese divers, independent of each other, informed me that there have been about 150 lead anchor stocks that were found around the island of Malta. Twenty-five to thirty anchor stocks are in the possession of the Malta Maritime Museum, but most anchor stocks are in private collections on the island. How many more anchor stocks were found off the Munxar Reef near the cave at 90 feet? It is known that there is at least one other anchor stock found in this area. Why would the four located by Cornuke be anything special? These four anchor stocks identified by Cornuke cannot be from the shipwreck of Paul and Luke off the coast of Malta around AD 60.

    The Quality of the Video is Poor, the Content Inaccurate and Deceptive
    This video does not have the quality of previous BASE videos. One gets the impression that this video was hastily thrown together under pressure. I found it odd that there was no FBI warning at the beginning of the video against duplicating it, and no credits or acknowledgements at the end of the video.

    There are poor graphics. For example, a ship is seen sailing across the land on the island of Crete rather than on the water below the island.

    There is poor editing. James Mulholland is cut off in mid sentence when he said there are two places on the island where “two seas meet together,” but the viewer is never told the location of the second place. “Ellena Micallefif [sic] Borg’s” name is misspelled.

    There are historical mistakes. Paul’s journey to Rome and the shipwreck is dated in the video to AD 65. Most New Testament scholars would place the journey either in the year AD 59 or 60 (Bruce 1995: 475).

    There are geographical mistakes. The Syrtis [Sands] (Acts 27:17) is labeled on the map as the desert on the eastern part of present day Libya and Cornuke points to the sands of North Africa on the computer monitor. Graham Hutt, does however, properly identify it as the Bay of Syrtis in the Mediterranean Sea. Also, the map of the bays on Malta misidentified Salina Bay with the arrow actually pointing to St. Paul’s Bay!

    There are deceptive parts. The scene where an anchor stock is being raised with two oil drums was actually a recent reenactment, sometime between 2000 and 2003, yet the viewer is not informed of this (see Cornuke 2003: Plate 10 bottom). The anchor stock being used in the reenactment is much larger than the anchor being discussed. The footage is also made to look like vintage movie footage by computer software but the viewer is given a false impression that this was from the time the original anchor stock was being raised.

    There are misleading parts as well. It is stated that the two anchors that were turned over to the museum are on display in a dusty corner of the Maritime Museum in Valletta. This is misleading because they are prominently displayed, as the video shows, on the first floor of the Malta Maritime Museum located in Vittoriosa, across the harbor from Valletta.

    The video was produced by Vapor Digital Media in cooperation with the BASE Institute. When I tried to access the website (www.vapordigitalmedia.com) on September 5, 2011, I got a “godaddy.com” webpage!

    The video does not give credit where credit is due. There is no acknowledgement of permission from the Maritime Museum to film the two scenes inside the museum. This is standard procedure with museums. Also, the scene where four anchors are dropped into water was done by The Bigger Picture on Malta, but there is no acknowledgment of this fact. In fact, there are no credits or acknowledgements at the end of the video, just the lists of the American and Maltese Advisory Teams.

    It is surprising to see Tony Micallef-Borg’s name listed on the Malta Advisory Team at the end of the video. The viewer deserves an explanation for this inclusion. According to Cornuke, Tony was diver “numero uno [number one], he was the top guy” on Malta, but he died in 1978, long before Cornuke began any of his investigations on the island. Tony’s name does not even appear in the acknowledgement of Cornuke’s book (2003:225-227), so why is it listed on the advisory team in this video? It begs for an explanation!

    The Conclusion of the Matter
    This is a brief critique refuting the ideas set forth in this video that the ship Paul and Luke were on was wrecked on the Munxar Reef off the coast of St. Thomas Bay and that four anchors from this shipwreck have been located. For a thorough critique of the book, The Lost Shipwreck of Paul (2003), and Cornuke’s appearance on the 700 Club on February 26, 2010, see the “Paul’s Shipwreck on Malta” section of my website: www.lifeandland.org

    I have plans, after my next study trip to Malta, to co-author with a Maltese colleague, a lengthier, more detailed, and thoroughly documented critique of Cornuke’s adventures on Malta and his ideas on the shipwreck of Paul.

    In summary, it has been observed that the depth of 120 feet and 90 feet recorded by the sounding weight, the bay with the beach, and the place where two seas meet is not unique to the Munxar Reef and St. Thomas Bay. There are several bays on the north of the island where these criteria are satisfied as well.

    The most devastating argument against Conuke’s idea that the shipwreck was on the Munxar Reef is that the sea captain and crew of an Alexandrian grain ship would clearly recognize the eastern shore of the island of Malta and especially the Munxar Reef and the St. Thomas Bay area. This goes totally contrary to the Biblical account of which Cornuke claims to believe. Cornuke’s whole thesis collapses on this one point. This is the one point Cornuke has to defend, everything else is trivial.

    It has been demonstrated that there were more than four anchor stocks found near the cave off the Munxar Reef at 90 feet. At least one of those anchor stocks would be too small to be from an Alexandrian grain ship.

    The ideas found in this video have been found wanting. There is no need to “force feed your mind past reason or logic” to accept this thesis because the archaeological, geographical, and Biblical evidence dictates that the ideas in this video should be abandoned. These so-called discoveries are not the Biblical find of the 21st century.

    Critique and Refutation of Other Cornuke Theories
    For a thorough refutation of the other so-called discoveries by Mr. Cornuke, please visit the “Cracked Pot Archaeology” section of my website: www.lifeandland.org

    Brackets
    My additional comments within quotes are in brackets […].

    Bibliography

    Ashby, Thomas
    1915    Roman Malta.  Journal of Roman Studies 5: 23-80.

    Bonanno, Anthony
    1992    Roman Malta.  The Archaeological Heritage of the Maltese Islands. Formia, Malta: Giuseppe Castelli and Charles Cini / Bank of Valletta.

    Bruce, Frederick F.
    1995    Paul. Apostle of the Heart Set Free. Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans.

    Cornuke, Robert
    2002    Paul’s “Miracle on Malta.”  Personal Update (April) 14-16.

    2003    The Lost Shipwreck of Paul. Bend, OR: Global Publishing Services.

    Diodorus Siculus
    1993    The Library of History.  Books IV.59-VIII. Vol. 3.  Translated by C. Oldfather.  Cambridge, MA: Harvard University.  Loeb Classical Library 340.

    Gambin, Timothy
    2005    Ports and Port Structures for Ancient Malta.  Forthcoming.

    Trump, David
    1997    Malta: An Archaeological Guide.  Valetta, Malta: Progress.

    About the Author
    Gordon Franz is an archaeologist on the staff of the Associates for Biblical Research in Pennsylvania and has worked on numerous archaeological excavations in Israel over the past 32 years, including Ketef Hinnom and the Temple Mount Sifting Project in Jerusalem, Ramat Rachel, Lachish, Jezreel, Kh Nisya (Ai), Hazor, and Tel Zayit. He has also visited Malta on a number of occasions doing research on the history, geography, and archaeology of the island, as well as the location of Paul’s shipwreck.

  • Paul's Shipwreck on Malta Comments Off on “BENEDICT’S ANCHOR”: WAS IT FROM THE SHIPWRECK OF THE APOSTLE PAUL ON MALTA?

    by Gordon Franz

    Introduction

    On Saturday, April 17, 2010, Pope Benedict XVI visited the island of Malta in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea. On his stop at the Church of St. Paul’s Grotto in the city of Rabat, he was shown an inscribed lead Roman anchor stock that had been discovered five years earlier off the coast of Malta.

    My good friend Mark Gatt, a Maltese diver, reports to me that this anchor stock has been nicknamed “Benedict’s anchor” because it was discovered on April 24, 2005, on the same day that Pope Benedict XVI celebrated his inaugural papal mass after being elevated to the papacy. Was this a coincidence? When this discovery and the date of its find were reported to the pope, he said it was, “Divine providence.”

    The anchor stock is now on permanent display at the Malta Maritime Museum in Vittoriosa. Is this anchor stock from one of the four anchors that was jettisoned from the stern of the Alexandrian grain ship carrying the Apostle Paul and Dr. Luke to Rome in AD 60 (Acts 27:29)? Let us examine this possibility.

    Description and Importance of “Benedict’s Anchor”
    Mark Gatt gives a very descriptive account of the dive in which he discovered his now-famous anchor in his gripping and well written book PAVLVS The Shipwreck 60 A.D. (2010: 46-63). This anchor was retrieved off the coast of the Ghallis Tower near Salina Bay.

    What Gatt discovered was actually a lead anchor stock. This was the heaviest portion of the anchor that brought the anchor to the sea floor and allowed one of the wooden flukes, possibly tipped by a copper “tooth”, to bury itself into the sea bottom or snag a rock. This stock made of lead measured 2.3 meters long (about 7 ½ feet; 2010: 59, 69, 111) and weighed about 700 kilograms (1,540 pounds; 2010: 59). It was found at a depth of 36 meters (118 feet; 2010: 55, 94). There are a number of lead anchor stocks that have been found off the coast of Malta, but this is the first reported one that had an inscription on it.

    Inscriptions and symbols on anchors had several functions. The symbols may have been for “good luck (dolphins, caduceus), or related to the sea (shells) or apotropaic (Medusa head).” Also, on some anchors there were found “numbers, names of divinities (= names of ships), e.g. Isis, Hera, Hercules, and rarely, names of men … [that] may provide evidence for senatorial involvement in trade” (Gianfrotta 1980: 103, English abstract).

    “Benedict’s anchor” had two inscriptions on the anchor stock. On the left side of the stock was inscribed in Latin, the word ISIS, the name of an Egyptian goddess.  On the right side was the word SARAPIS, the name of an Egyptian god (Gatt 2010: 64-68). When it was first recovered from the ocean floor the right hand inscription read SARAPI, it was only after cleaning in the museum labs that the final “S” was revealed.

    It is always an archaeologist’s dream to find an inscription because this is how the ancients communicate with us in the present. This simple, two word inscription, tells us much about the ship it had been on. First, it tells us that the owner of the ship, who most likely commissioned the casting of the anchor, was a superstitious devotee of the divine couple, Isis and Sarapis. Second, it suggests that the anchor stock was originally cast in Egypt, most likely the port city of Alexandria.

    Biblical Account of the Shipwreck
    Dr. Luke gives a very detailed account of the voyage and shipwreck of the Alexandrian grain ship that he and the Apostle Paul were on when it foundered off the northern coast of Malta (Acts 27:6-28:11).

    At about midnight, when it was pitched black, on the fourteenth day of their ordeal in a nor’easter storm, the sailors sensed they were near land. A crew member cast out a sounding weight to determine the depth of the sea. It measured 20 fathoms (120 feet; about 36 meters). When the sounding weight was cast out again, it measured 15 fathoms (90 feet; about 27 meters). Fearing they would run aground on rocks, they dropped four anchors off the stern of the ship (27:27-29).

    Would all four anchors be found at a depth of 15 fathoms? If the crew was standing by with four teams, each holding an anchor, and if all four anchors could have been dropped immediately and simultaneously, they would be found at about 15 fathoms. Dr. Luke, however, does not indicate that the anchors were immediately dropped. He uses three different words translated for “immediately” in his gospel and in the book of Acts, each indicating when something was done immediately. But he does not use any of those words here in reference to dropping the anchors. The implication is that it took a bit of time to deploy the anchors after the ship reached the 15-fathom depth and therefore it may be unlikely that the anchors were dropped at that depth.

    Mark Gatt calculated that the ship was moving at approximately 2.5 knots (about 3 miles/hour; 5 km/hour) as it was blown by the wind. If, for example, it took the crew five minutes to throw the anchors overboard, the ship would have moved 1,300 feet or ¼ mile (400 meters) from when the crew member called out 15 fathoms. If the crew took ten minutes, then the ship would have moved 2,526 feet or about ½ mile (800 meters); fifteen minutes, 3,790 feet or about ¾ mile (1.2 kilometers).  If the ship was heading toward shore, the longer it took to deploy the anchors, the shallower the depth the anchor stocks would be found. If they were running parallel to the shore, as in the case of Saline Bay, the depth might remain the same. Some have calculated the ship was moving a bit faster, thus the distances would be even larger!

    Location of the Find
    “Benedict’s anchor” was not an isolated anchor discovery off of Qawra Point outside of Salina Bay. In fact, a concentration of at least five other anchor stocks and one collar has been retrieved from this area.

    The largest lead anchor ever found in the Mediterranean Sea, known as a “sacred anchor,” was first reported some 300 yards off of Qawra Point in 120 or 130 feet of water in 1962. The next year it was raised by the British Royal Air Force Sub-Aqua Club and the Royal Navy Boom Defense. This anchor stock measured 13 feet, 6 inches and weighted 3 ½ tons. Twenty five feet away was found an 80 pound lead collar that was 84 centimeters long (MAR 1962: 7; MAR 1963: 7; Scicluna 1985: 3). Both objects are on permanent display in the Malta Maritime Museum in Vittoriosa.

    Also in 1963, another lead anchor stock was recovered from a depth of 50 to 60 feet of water about 400 yards off Qawra Point. This medium sized anchor stock weighed about 500 pounds (MAR 1963: 7). This anchor stock was found by Tony Micallef-Borg at an approximate depth of 100 feet. He could not shift it, so he asked the Royal Navy to help lift the stock to the surface (Musgrave 1979:29, 117).

    Commodore Scicluna records three other anchors that were brought up from off the entrance to Salina Bay: one 117 pounds, another 489 pounds and the last, 200 pounds, but their precise location off Qawra Point and depth of discovery are unknown (1985: 10; Guillaumier 1995: 97; MAR 1967: 7-8). There may be other anchor stocks that have not been discovered, or some that were secretly recovered and have gone unreported because they are in private collections.

    There was also a lead Roman sounding bell that was found off of Qawra Point and donated to the archaeological museum by Kenneth Riley (MAR 1969: 6; Kapitan 1971: 59-60; Oleson 2008: 162, #109). This would have been similar to the one used by the sailors to determine the depth of the sea (Acts 27:28).

    Professor A. J. Parker, a leading maritime archaeologist, suggests a date in the 3rd century AD, based on the pottery found in the area, for the fragmentary remains of this ship that sank just south of Qawra Point (1992: 363).

    Conclusions
    Mark Gatt follows the theory, first set forth by Commodore Salvino Scicluna (1985:1-5), and also held by George Musgrave (1979), Paul Guillaumier (1992), and Howard Vos (1999: 579-583), that the Apostle Paul’s ship ran aground and broke up off the coast of Qawra Point and outside Salina Bay on the northern shores of Malta. This is a valid theory that should be carefully examined and considered.

    Gatt does, however, express caution about his discovery and the theory when he states: “Archaeologically, we have no definitive proof that the anchors and artifacts discovered outside of Salina Bay belong to Paul’s ship. What we have so far is the lack of such evidence for St Paul’s Bay. But, if we had to gather and analyze all the facts as a whole – the artifacts, the rich tradition, Maltese history, Chapter 27 of the Acts of the Apostles – then we have a very strong case for arguing that St Paul was shipwrecked on the northern Maltese shores” (2010: 205).

    In other words, “Benedict’s anchor” being on the ship that Paul and Luke were on is a possibility, but not a certainty. Unfortunately the six anchors found off Qawra Point were not found during a systematic underwater survey and properly recorded by nautical archaeologists. Questions still remain and some questions will never be answered: Are there more anchor stocks and collars to be discovered of Qawra Point? Have other anchors stocks been discovered but are unreported because they are in private collections? Were all six anchors deployed from the same ship? Were these anchors from an Alexandrian grain ship? Was the pottery found on the sea floor associated with the anchors? If so, what was the connection? What was the precise depth and location of each anchor that was found? What was the directional position of each anchor stock? From this, one could determine the direction the ship was heading when the anchors were deployed. Did the sea floor change depths due to seismic activity?

    The Alexandrian grain ship that the Apostle Paul was on could also have foundered elsewhere on the northern coast of Malta and the wreck still remains to be discovered. Only time will tell.

    Bibliography

    Gatt, Mark
    2010   PAVLVS  The Shipwreck 60 A.D. Valletta, Malta: Allied.

    His website is: www.stpaulshipwreck.com

    Gianfrotta, Piero
    1980    Ancore “Romane”.  Nuovi Materiali Per Lo Studio Dei Traffici Maritrimi.  Pp. 103-116 in The Seaborne Commerce of Ancient Rome: Studies in Archaeology and History.  Edited by J. H. D’Arms and E. C. Kopff.  Memoirs of the American Academy in Rome 36.  Rome: American Academy in Rome.

    Guillaumier, Paul
    1992    New Perspective on the Historicity of St. Paul’s Shipwreck on Melite.  Pp. 53-114 in St. Paul in Malta.  A Compendium of Pauline Studies. Edited by M. Galea and J. Ciarlo.  Zabbar, Malta: Veritas.

    Kapitan, Gerhard
    1971    Ancient Anchors and Lead Plummets.  Pp. 51-61 in Sefunim (Bulletin) The National Maritime Museum Haifa.  Edited by A. L. Ben-Ali.  Haifa: Israel Maritime League.

    M. A. R.
    1959-1969    Report on the Workings of the Museum Department.  Malta: Department of Information.

    Musgrave, George
    1979    Friendly Refuge. Heathfield, Sussex: Heathfield.

    Oleson, John Peter
    2008    Testing the Waters: The Role of Sounding Weights in Ancient Mediterranean Navigation.  Pp. 119-176 in The Maritime World of Ancient Rome. Edited by Robert Hohlfelder.  Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan for the American Academy in Rome.

    Parker, A. J.
    1992   Ancient Shipwrecks of the Mediterranean and the Roman Provinces.  Oxford: Tempvs Reparatvm.  BAR International Series 580.

    Scicluna, Salvino
    1985    The Shipwreck of St. Paul.  Conclusions of Underwater Researches by the Malta Underwater Archaeological Branch of the International Institute of Mediterranean Underwater Archaeology, Teams from the Royal Navy, the Royal Air Force and the Army. 1961-1985. Unpublished manuscript.

    Vos, Howard
    1999    Nelson’s New Illustrated Bible Manners and Customs: How the People of the Bible Really Lived. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson.

  • Paul's Shipwreck on Malta Comments Off on WHY WERE THE SAILORS AFRAID OF THE SYRTIS SANDS (Acts 27:17)?

    by Gordon Franz

    Introduction
    On the Apostle Paul’s ill-fated journey to Rome, the ship he traveled on was blown off course soon after leaving the Cretan anchorage of Fair Haven (Acts 27:8-12). Dr. Luke, who accompanied the Apostle Paul on this voyage, records the details of the storm that hit during their voyage.

    “But not long after, a tempestuous head wind arose, called Euroclydon.  So when the ship was caught, and could not head into the wind, we let her drive.  And running under the shelter of an island called Claudia, we secured the skiff with difficulty.  When they had taken it on board, they used cables to undergird the ship; and fearing lest they should run aground on the Syrtis Sands, they struck sail and so were driven” (Acts 27:14-17, NKJV).

    Luke makes it clear that they are afraid of being run aground on the Syrtis Sands. But why would they be afraid of being run aground? In order to answer that question, this essay will ask the questions: Where and what are the Syrtis Sands? The ancient sources will show that the Syrtis was not a dry desert but two bodies of water, the “name of two dangerous, shallow gulfs off the coast of North Africa” (Olson 1992:4: 286).

    The Ancient Sources
    There is a long history of ancient accounts that give descriptions of the Syrtis Sands. One description of the sands is from Apollonius of Rhodes (mid-3rd century BC). In his legendary book, the Argonautica, also known as Jason and the Golden Fleece, he describes a ship that was near the land of Pelops [present day Peloponnesus] that was hit with a “deadly blast of the north wind [that] seized them in mid-course and carried them toward the Libyan sea for nine whole nights and as many days, until they came far into Syrtis [The legendary shoals and desert coast of Libya where ships become stranded], where there is no getting out again for ships, once they are forced to enter that gulf. For everywhere are shallows, everywhere thickets of seaweed from the depths, and over them silently washes the foam of the water” (4.1231-1235; LCL 429, the footnotes are in brackets. For a full discussion of the Syrtis episode, see: Clare 2002: 150-160, 222-224; Williams 1991: 163-173).

    Strabo, an ancient Greek geographer from Pontus who lived at the end of the First Century BC and beginning of the First Century AD, describes the location and dimensions of the Greater and Lesser Syrtis in his Geography (2:5:20; LCL 1: 473, 475).  Olson observed that “he Greater Syrtis covered an area approximately 450-570 miles in circumference, and 170-180 miles in breadth” (1992:4:286). The Lesser Syrtis is the western of the two bodies of water and he writes: “Of the Syrtes, the lesser is about 1,600 stadia in circumference; and the islands Meninx [also known as Girba] and Cercina lie at either side of its mouth.”  Today, it is called the Gulf of Gabes, located off the south eastern coast of Tunisia.

    Elsewhere he describes these two bodies of water in these terms: “The difficulty with both [the Greater] Syrtis and the Little Syrtis is that in many places their deep waters contain shallows, and the result is, at the ebb and the flow of the tides, that sailors sometimes fall into the shallows and stick there, and that the safe escape of a boat is rare.  On this account sailors keep at a distance when voyaging along the coast, taking precautions not to be caught off their guard and driven by winds into these gulfs” (Geography 17:3:20; LCL 8: 197).

    Dio Chrysostom, a rhetorician and traveler who lived from about AD 40 to about AD 120, described the Syrtis in these terms: “The Syrtis is an arm of the Mediterranean extending far inland, a three days’ voyage, they say, for a boat unhindered in its course.  But for those who have once sailed into it find egress impossible; for shoals, cross-currents, and long sand-bars extending a great distance out make the sea utterly impassable or troublesome.  For the bed of the sea in these parts is not clean, but as the bottom is porous and sandy it lets the sea seep in, there being no solidity to it.  This, I presume, explains the existence there of the great sand-bars and dunes, which remind one of the similar condition created inland by the winds, though here, of course, it is due to the surf” (Discourse 5:8-10; LCL I: 239). Is it any wonder the sailors on the ship the Apostle Paul was on were in fear of the Syrtis because there was no escape (Acts 27:17)?

    Strabo and Dio Chrysostom were both near contemporaries with Dr. Luke and the Book of Acts.  Luke was chronologically sandwiched between these two writers and his understanding of the Syrtis would have been the same as their understanding.  Today, the Greater Syrtis is the Gulf of Sirte off the coast of Libya.  The Lesser Syrtis is the Gulf of Gabes off the coast of Tunisia (Talbert 2000: I: 552-557, maps 1, 35, 37).

    Later, around AD 560, Procopius gives a possible meaning of the name Syrtis when he wrote in his book Buildings: “When a ship driven by wind or wave gets inside the opening [of the Gulf] … it is then impossible for it to return, but from that moment it seems ‘to be drawn’ (suresthai) and appears distinctly to be dragged steadily forward.  From this fact, I suppose, the men of ancient times named the place Syrtis, because of the fate of the ships.  On the other hand, it is not possible for the ships to make their way to shore, for submerged rocks scattered over the greater part of the gulf do not permit sailing there, since they destroy the ships in the shoals.  Only in small boats are the sailors of such ships able to save themselves, with good luck, by picking their way amid perils through the outlets” (Buildings 6.2. 3-8; LCL 7:371-373; see also 6.4.14-23; LCL 7:377-379).

    The Conclusion of the Matter
    Why were the sailors afraid of the Syrtis Sands? The Syrtis is two bodies of water in the Mediterranean Sea off the coast of North Africa. Even with “good luck” (Procopius’ words), the sailors on the Alexandrian grain ship carrying the Apostle Paul and Dr. Luke were terrified because they knew they were doomed if they hit the Syrtis Sands. The grain ships were the largest ships plying the Mediterranean Sea at that time, with a deep draft, and they would easily have gotten grounded on a sandbar in the middle of no-where and many miles from any shoreline! The old sailor’s axiom would hold true: “Water, water everywhere, but not a drop to drink!” They would have had plenty of grain to eat on the ship, but not a drop of water to go with it. They were afraid of a slow and painful death by dehydration.

    Bibliography

    Apollonius Rhodius
    2008    Argonautica.  Trans. William Race.  Cambridge, MA: Harvard University.  Loeb Classical Library 1.

    Clare, R. J.
    2002    The Path of the Argo. Language, Imagery and Narrative in the Argonautica of Apollomius Rhodius. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University.

    Dio Chrysostom
    1971    Discourses I – IX.  Vol. 1.  Translated by J. W. Cohoon.  Cambridge, MA: Harvard University.  Loeb Classical Library 257.

    Olson, Mark
    1992    Syrtis.  P. 286 in Anchor Bible Dictionary.  Vol. 6.  Edited by D. Freedman.  New York: Doubleday.

    Procopius of Caesarea
    1996    Buildings.  Trans. by H. B. Dewing.  Vol. 7.  Cambridge, MA: Harvard University.  Loeb Classical Library 343.

    Strabo
    1989    The Geography of Strabo.  Vol. 1.  Translated by H. L. Jones.  Cambridge, MA: Harvard University.  Loeb Classical Library 49.

    1982    The Geography of Strabo.  Vol. 8.  Translated by H. L. Jones.  Cambridge, MA: Harvard University.  Loeb Classical Library 267.

    Talbert, Richard, ed.
    1999    Barrington Atlas of the Greek and Roman World.  2 volumes and atlas.  Princeton, NJ: Princeton University.

    Williams, Mary
    1991    Landscape in the Argonautica of Apollonius Rhodius. Frankfurt: Peter Lang.

  • Cracked Pot Archaeology, Paul's Shipwreck on Malta Comments Off on “Searching for Paul’s Shipwreck on Malta”: A Critique of the 700 Club’s February 26, 2010 Program

    by Gordon Franz

    On Friday morning, February 26, 2010, Chuck Holton reported on CBN’s 700 Club program of a man who believes he found an “amazing Biblical discovery” on Malta.  This nine-minute video segment featured Robert Cornuke presenting his theory about the location of the Apostle Paul’s shipwreck on the island of Malta.


    http://www.cbn.com/cbnnews/world/2010/February/Searching-for-Pauls-Shipwreck-on-Malta/

    Cornuke, in his persona as a “former Los Angeles crime scene investigator,” approached the account of the shipwreck of Paul in Acts 27 and 28 as a “crime scene.”  As he read the Biblical text, he concluded there were four “clues” that needed to be found in order to solve the “crime.”  He identified these as: (1) a bay with a beach; (2) a reef or sandbar where “two seas meet”; (3) a seafloor with a depth of 90 feet; and (4) a place the sailors would not have recognized.  Cornuke concludes that the shipwreck occurred on the eastern shore of Malta, not on the northern side of the island as most scholars believe.

    Cornuke’s theory and investigations, as presented in this news segment, were already set forth in his 2003 book entitled, The Lost Shipwreck of Paul (Bend, OR: Global Publishing Service).  In the book his view is that the Alexandrian grain ship containing the Apostle Paul and Dr. Luke was shipwrecked on the Munxar Reef on the island’s eastern end.  Cornuke claims to have located, from among the local spear fishermen and divers, six anchor stocks which could have been from this shipwreck (cf. Acts 27:29, 40), four of which were located on the east side of the Munxar Reef in fifteen fathoms, or ninety feet of water (cf. Acts 27:28).  He identifies the “place where two seas meet” (cf. Acts 27:41) as the Munxar Reef and the “bay with the beach” as St. Thomas Bay (cf. Acts 27:39).  He concluded that neither the sea captain nor his crew would have recognized the eastern shoreline of the Maltese coast when it became light on the morning after they dropped anchor (cf. Acts 27:39).  Unfortunately Cornuke’s theory simply does not hold water.

    Experts and Computer Models
    Cornuke consulted Graham Hutt, an expert on Mediterranean storms, and Hutt concluded that the ship would have been driven by the winds to the southeast quadrant of the island, and that the more likely place of the shipwreck was the Bay of St. Thomas.

    In the book, Cornuke described a visit to the Rescue Coordination Center of the Armed Forces of Malta (2003:184-193).  Here he watched a computer model that plotted the possible course of a ship caught in a windstorm from Crete to Malta.  The ship landed, after 14 days in a severe windstorm, in the St. Thomas Bay!

    The limitations of storm experts and computer models were well illustrated by the recent Nor’easter that hit the Northeast United States on Feb. 25-26, 2010.  The storm was a prime example of what computer models and meteorologists could not predict.  The meteorologists on television said that this “monster storm” defied all the computer models and did not behave as any of the meteorologists predicted it should!

    Bay with a beach
    The beach in the St. Thomas Bay was identified as the “bay with the beach.”  The earliest maps of Malta show that the Munxar Reef, at one time, was actually a series of small islands.  Possibly in the first century AD, this location would have been a lengthy peninsula that has now eroded away.  If that is the case, the sea captain, in all probability, would not have been able to see the low-lying beach of St. Thomas Bay from the area where the four anchor stocks were found and almost certainly, he would not have dared to sail his ship through the dangerous islands or peninsula to reach the beach!  Thus, the Bay of St. Thomas could not be the beach that the captain saw or where the sailors and passengers swam to.

    Reef or Sandbar where the “two seas meet”
    Several times in the news segment the Munxar Reef is described as a “sandbar.”  A careful examination of a geological map would have identified the reef as being made of “Middle Globigerina Limestone.”  This soft limestone is rock not a sandbar.

    The identification of the “two seas meet” is based on two Greek words, “topos dithalasson”, that are translated different ways in different translations.  Professor Mario Buhagiar, of the University of Malta, cautions that this term “does not offer any real help because it can have several meanings and the way it is used in Acts 27:41, does not facilitate an interpretation.  A place where two seas meet (Authorized and Revised versions) and a cross sea (Knox Version) are the normally accepted translations but any beach off a headland (Liddell and Scott) or an isthmus whose extremity is covered by the waves (Grimms and Thayer), as indeed most water channels, can qualify as the place where the boat grounded.  The truth is that the Acts do not give us sufficient clues to help in the identification of the site” (see link at bottom for full bibliography).

    Anchors at 90 feet
    Mr.Cornuke interviewed people, primarily divers and spear fishermen, who claimed to have located four anchors on the south side of the Munxar Reef at 15 fathoms, or 90 feet of water.  Two other anchors were allegedly found near the Munxar Reef in 10 meters (ca. 33 feet) of water.  Cornuke implied in his book that these two anchors were the ones put in the skiff when the sailors tried to escape (Acts 27:30).  These interviews are the author’s primary evidence for Paul’s shipwreck.

    Unfortunately only two actual anchor stocks can be examined.  They are on display on the second floor of the Malta Maritime Museum in Vittoriosa.  The other four, however, are not available for scholarly consideration.  One of the anchor stocks was melted down, another is in a private collection, and two were allegedly sold on the antiquities market.

    Unfortunately the video clip of the anchors in the Malta Maritime Museum is very misleading.  It shows 6 or 7 anchors on display, but only two are from the Munxar Reef.  One of them, called “Tony’s anchor,” was one of the smallest of those on display.  It measured about 3 feet, 8 inches in length and would be too small for the stern of an Alexandrian grain ship.

    On the other hand, Professor Mario Buhagiar examined the other anchor and gave a cautious analysis, “It could have belonged to a cargo ship, possibly a grain cargo ship, and possibly one from Alexandria” (2003: 183).  He went on to conjecture, “This anchor stock would fit very well within the era of St. Paul” (2003: 184).  Although this anchor could have been from an Alexandrian grain ship, suggesting that it was from Paul’s shipwreck certainly goes beyond the available evidence.

    Did not recognize the land
    In the 1st century AD, the island of Malta was, in essence, the “Turn Right to Sicily” sign in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea.  Malta was the landmark for sailors sailing west from Crete who were about to turn north to Sicily.  The eastern end of the island was what they saw first and it was a welcomed and recognizable sight.

    It seems that capable sea captains, piloting an Alexandrian grain ship between Egypt and Rome, would have recognized the landmarks on the eastern coastline of Malta, including the St. Thomas Bay and the hazardous Munxar Reef which every sea captain would know about because of its inherent maritime danger.
    Dr. Luke, however, testifies the sailors did not recognize the land.  This suggests that the shipwreck occurred at a different place on the island.

    Can We Know for Sure?
    At the end of the 700 Club news segment, Holton stated that it was “impossible to know for sure if this is where the shipwreck occurred.”  I would strongly disagree with that statement because my work leads to the inevitable conclusion that the St. Thomas Bay theory is contrary to the Biblical and geographic evidence, the alleged anchors are not verifiable, and thus it is surely possible to know that Paul’s shipwreck did not occur on the Munxar Reef.  One must look elsewhere for this shipwreck.

    For a detailed and documented critique of the St. Thomas Bay theory as presented in Cornuke’s book, see:
    http://www.biblearchaeology.org/post/2010/02/26/Has-Pauls-Shipwreck-Been-Found.aspx

    For another devastating critique by a Maltese diver based on his local knowledge of the waters around Malta, see pages 162-174 of the just released PAVLVS, The Shipwreck 60 A.D. by Mark Gatt (2010, Valletta, Malta: Allied Publications).

    A Documentary Coming
    On Tuesday, February 16, 2010, it was announced on Maltese television that Mr. Cornuke’s documentary about the location for the shipwreck of the Apostle Paul would be released by the BASE Institute in April, 2010.

    If Cornuke has any new evidence that supports his theory and that responds to the significant problems that have been previously noted, his discussion is welcomed.  If it is merely another way to sensationalize an old theory that has already been refuted then this documentary will not be about an “amazing Biblical discovery.”

  • Cracked Pot Archaeology, Paul's Shipwreck on Malta Comments Off on DOES THE “THE LOST SHIPWRECK OF PAUL” HOLD WATER? Or, Have the Anchors from the Apostle Paul’s Shipwreck Been Discovered on Malta?

    By Gordon Franz

    Book Review

    Robert Cornuke, The Lost Shipwreck of Paul (2003), Publisher: Global Publishing Service, Bend, OR, 232 pages.

    Introduction

    Mr. Robert Cornuke co-authored three books with David Halbrook and then authored a fourth book on his own in which he claimed to have used the Bible as a “treasure map” (2003: 78) in order to locate “lost” Biblical objects or places.

    In the first book he co-authored, In Search of the Mountain of God: The Discovery of the Real Mt. Sinai (Cornuke and Halbrook 2000), he followed the ideas of the late Ron Wyatt and claims to have found the real Mt. Sinai at Jebel al-Lawz in Saudi Arabia (ancient Midian).  Ron Wyatt was the originator of the idea and first explored the mountain with this hypothesis in mind, yet Wyatt is only mentioned in passing in Mr. Cornuke’s book (2000: 218).  The Bible clearly places Mt. Sinai outside the Land of Midian (Ex. 18:27; Num. 10:29, 30).  The archaeological finds observed by adventurers visiting the area were completely misidentified and misinterpreted.  The claims that Mt. Sinai is Jebel al-Lawz in Saudi Arabia have been carefully examined and refuted (Franz 2000: 101-113; Standish and Standish 1999).

    See also:

    www.ldolphin.org/franz-sinai.html

    www.ldolphin.org/franz-ellawz.html

    www.ldolphin.org/cornukequestions.html

    www.ldolphin.org/sinai.html

    In the second book he co-authored, In Search of the Lost Mountains of Noah: The Discovery of the Real Mts. Of Ararat (Cornuke and Halbrook 2001), he examines Ed Davis’s claim to have seen Noah’s Ark while he was stationed in Iran during World War II.  Mr. Cornuke concluded that Mr. Davis saw Noah’s Ark on Mt. Savalon in Iran based on the suggestion of his Iranian tour guide.  Mr. Cornuke visited the country several times in order to locate the ark, but has not seen, verified, or documented, the ark on any of his trips to Iran.  It seems that Mr. Cornuke has abandoned this idea and now is searching for the ark on Mount Suleiman in the Alborz Range of Iran.

    See: www.noahsarksearch.com/iran.htm

    In the third book he co-authored, In Search of the Lost Ark of the Covenant, (Cornuke and Halbrook 2002), he suggested that the Ark of the Covenant is located in the stone chapel of St. Mary of Zion Church in Aksum, Ethiopia.  This is a revisiting of Graham Hancock’s idea in the book, The Sign and the Seal (1992).  Professor Edward Ullendorff, formerly of the University of London, visited the church in 1941 and was given access to the “ark.”  As an eyewitness, he reported that it was an empty wooden box!  (Hiltzik 1992: 1H).  The claims that the ark is in Ethiopia have been examined and refuted by Dr. Randall Price (2005: 101-115, 167-177).

    Mr. Cornuke has not set forth any credible historical, geographic, archaeological or Biblical evidence for the claims he makes in his first three books when one examines them closely.

    Most recently, Mr. Cornuke has developed a new idea regarding the shipwreck of the Apostle Paul.  In his fourth book, The Lost Shipwreck of Paul (2003), Mr. Cornuke claims to have found the only tangible remains from the shipwreck of the Apostle Paul on Malta, six lead anchor stocks.  Josh McDowell’s prominent endorsement on the dust jacket says, “The Lost Shipwreck of Paul is evidence that demands a verdict,” a play on the title of McDowell’s famous book, Evidence that Demands a Verdict.  This article will examine the claims set forth in the book and will render a verdict based on the evidence.

    I began my research on Malta in January 1997 in preparation for a study tour with a graduate school.  Two follow-up trips were made in May 2001 and January 2005.  In addition to research visits, I have amassed a large collection of books, journal articles and maps over the past few years.  While on Malta, I was able to use several libraries for research.  I visited the St. Thomas Bay region on three occasions and examined the two anchor stocks discussed in the book.  These had been anchors that were turned over to the authorities, and displayed on the second floor of the Malta Maritime Museum in Vittoriosa along with other anchor stocks that likewise were not from controlled archaeological excavations.

    Malta – A Great Place to Visit!

    Malta is an island, rich in archaeological remains, fascinating history, natural beauty, and has Biblical significance.  This island is a jewel of Europe and well worth a visit.  A tourist can still experience the “unusual kindness” and hospitality that Paul and Luke experienced when they unexpectedly visited the island in AD 59/60 (cf. Acts 28:2 NKJV).

    Examining the Evidence for the Shipwreck on the Munxar Reef

    Mr. Cornuke’s investigations on the island of Malta led to the conclusion that the shipwreck occurred on the eastern end of the island of Malta, rather than the traditional site at St. Paul’s Bay on the northern side of the island.  His view is that the Alexandrian grain ship containing the Apostle Paul and his traveling companion, Luke, was shipwrecked on the Munxar Reef near St. Thomas Bay on the eastern side of the island.  Mr. Cornuke claims that he located local spear fishermen and divers who told him about six anchor stocks that were located near or on the Munxar Reef.  Mr. Cornuke has suggested that these six anchor stocks came from the shipwreck of Paul (Acts 27:29, 40).  Four of the anchor stocks were found at fifteen fathoms, or ninety feet of water (Acts 27:28), these would have been the ones the crew threw over first.  The other two were found at a shallower depth and he thinks these were the anchors the sailors were pretending to put out from the prow (Acts 27:30).  He identifies the “place where two seas meet” (Acts 27:41) as the Munxar Reef and the “bay with the beach” as St. Thomas Bay (Acts 27:39).  He concluded that neither the sea captain, nor his crew, would have recognized the eastern shoreline of the Maltese coast.

    Mr. Cornuke made four trips to Malta in order to develop this theory.  On his first trip in September 2000 (2003: 26-73), he scouted out the traditional site at St. Paul’s Bay and concluded that it did not line up with the Biblical account.  Then he investigated Marsaxlokk Bay and decided that it did not fit the description either.  He settled on the Munxar Reef as the place where the ship foundered and St. Thomas Bay as the beach where the people came ashore.

    On his second trip in September 2001 (2003: 75-130), he took a team of people that included Jean Francois La Archevec, a diver; David Laddell, a sailing specialist; Mark Phillips, his liaison with the scholarly community; Mark’s wife; and Mitch Yellen (2003: 75, 76, plate 8, bottom).  On this trip, the group met Ray Ciancio, the owner of the Aqua Bubbles Diving School (2003: 77).  Mr. Ciancio told the research team that two anchors had been found off the outer Munxar Reef in front of a large underwater cave.  The team scuba dived to the cave and confirmed that the depth was 90 feet, or 15 fathoms.

    The third trip to Malta in May of 2002 was prompted by a phone call from Mr. Ciancio claiming he located somebody who had brought up a third anchor (2003: 163-200).  This time the research / film team consisted of Jim and Jay Fitzgerald, Edgar, Yvonne and Jeremy Miles, Jerry and Gail Nordskog, Bryan Boorujy, David Stotts and Darrell Scott (2003: Plate 12 top).  They met Charles Grech, a (now) retired restaurant owner, who found the third anchor in front of the same underwater cave.  Mr. Grech led them to a fourth anchor that might have been found off the Munxar Reef, but this was not certain.  Prof. Anthony Bonanno, of the University of Malta, examined the third anchor stock in Mr. Grech’s home.  The team also visited the Rescue Coordination Center of the Armed Forces of Malta and watched a computer program plot the course of a ship caught in a windstorm from Crete to Malta.  Mr. Nordskog recounted his adventures and made the first official announcement of the new theory in a magazine that he published (2002: 4, 113).

    A fourth trip to Malta was in November 2002 (2003: 201-220).  Mr. Cornuke teamed up with Ray Ardizzone to meet Wilfred Perotta, the “grandfather of Malta divers.”  Mr. Perotta was able to confirm that the fourth anchor was found off the Munxar Reef and introduced the author to a mystery man who informed him of a fifth anchor and a sixth anchor found off the Munxar Reef.

    After his investigations, the author had a problem.  He had no tangible proof of the anchor stocks to show the world.  The first of the anchor stocks was melted down; the second, third and fourth were in private collections; and the fifth and six had been sold.  According to the Maltese antiquities law, it was illegal for the private citizens to have the anchor stocks in their possession, a fear expressed by each diver/family that told their stories about the anchor stocks in his or its possession (Cornuke 2003: 108, 112, 126).  A strategy, however, was devised that would get those who possessed the anchor stocks to reveal them to the public.  The aid of the US ambassador to Malta, Kathy Proffitt, was enlisted to convince the President and Prime Minister of Malta to offer an amnesty to anyone who would turn over antiquities found off the Munxar Reef (2003: 221-223).  The pardons were issued on September 23, 2002.  This resulted in two anchor stocks being turned over to the authorities.  Now the book could be written.

    Thorough Research?

    When I first read the book, I was disappointed to find that Mr. Cornuke does not interact with, or mention, some very important works on the subject of Paul’s shipwreck; nor are they listed in his bibliography.  The classic work on this subject is James Smith’s The Voyage and Shipwreck of St. Paul. In fact, the noted New Testament and classical scholar, F. F. Bruce said this book was “an indispensable handbook to the study of this chapter [Acts 27]” (1981: 499), and elsewhere, “This work remains of unsurpassed value for its stage-by-stage annotation of the narrative of the voyage” (1995: 370, footnote 9).  Yet nowhere in his book does Mr. Cornuke mention Smith’s work or even discuss the information contained therein.  Nor is there any mention of George Musgrave’s, Friendly Refuge (1979), or W. Burridge’s, Seeking the Site of St. Paul’s Shipwreck (1952).  There are some scholars who do not believe Paul even was shipwrecked on the island of Malta.  Nowhere in Mr. Cornukes’ “Lost Shipwreck” is there an acknowledgment or even a discussion of the Dalmatia or Greek sites.

    James Smith identifies the place of landing as St. Paul’s Bay; others suggest different beaches within the bay.  Musgrave suggested the landing was at Qawra Point at the entrance to Salina Bay.  Burridge places the shipwreck in Mellieha Bay.  Those who reject the island of Malta as the place of the shipwreck point out that the Book of Acts uses the Greek word “Melite” (Acts 28:1).  There were two “Melite’s” in the Roman world: Melite Africana, the modern island of Malta, and Melite Illyrica, an island in the Adriatic Sea called Mljet in Dalmatia (Meinardus 1976: 145-147).  A recent suggestion for the shipwreck was the island of Cephallenia in Greece (Warnecke and Schirrmacher 1992).

    Did the sea captain and crew recognize the land? (Acts 27:39)

    Luke states, “When it was day, they did not recognize the land; but they observed a bay with a beach” (Acts 27:39a).  The sea captain and the sailors could see the shoreline, but did not recognize the shoreline and where they were.  It was only after they had gotten to land that they found out they were on the island of Malta (Acts 28:1).

    Lionel Casson, one of the world’s leading experts on ancient nautical archaeology and seafaring, describes the route of the Alexandrian grain ships from Alexandria in Egypt to Rome.  In a careful study of the wind patterns on the Mediterranean Sea and the account of Lucian’s Navigation that gives the account of the voyage of the grain ship Isis, he has demonstrated that the ship left Alexandria and headed in a northward direction.  It went to the west of Cyprus and then along the southern coast of Asia Minor (modern day Turkey) and headed for Knidos or Rhodes.  The normal route was under (south of) the island of Crete and then west toward Malta.  Thus the eastern shoreline of Malta was the recognizable landmark for them to turn north and head for Syracuse, Sicily and on to Puteoli or Rome (1950: 43-51; Lucian, The Ship or the Wishes; LCL 6: 431-487).

    Mr. Cornuke correctly states: “Malta itself was well visited as a hub of trade during the time of the Roman occupation and would have been known to any seasoned sailor plying the Mediterranean” (2003: 31).  Any seasoned sailor coming from Alexandria would clearly recognize the eastern shoreline of Malta.

    He also properly identified two of the many ancient harbors on Malta as being at Valletta and Salina Bay (2003: 32).  The ancient Valletta harbor was much further inland in antiquity and is called Marsa today, and is at the foot of Corradino Hill (Bonanno 1992: 25).  Roman storehouses with amphorae were discovered in this region in 1766-68 (Ashby 1915: 27-30).  When Alexandrian grain ships could not make it to Rome before the sea-lanes closed for the winter, they wintered on Malta (see Acts 28:11).  They would off load their grain and store them in the storehouses of Marsa (Gambin 2005).  Sea captains coming from Alexandria would be very familiar with the eastern shoreline of Malta before they entered the harbor of Valletta.

    The city of Melite was the only major city on Roman Malta, there were however, villas and temples scattered throughout the countryside.  Today Melite lies under the modern city of Mdina / Rabat.  The main harbor for Melite was Marsa, not Salina Bay (Said-Zammit 1997: 43,44,132; Said 1992: 1-22).

    Diodorus Siculus, a Greek historian who lived in the First Century BC, states regarding Malta: “For off the south of Sicily three islands lie out in the sea, and each of them possesses a city and harbours which can offer safety to ships which are in stress of weather.  The first one is that called Melite [Malta], which lies about eight hundred stades from Syracuse, and it possesses many harbours which offer exceptional advantages.” (Library of History 5:12:1-2; LCL 3: 129).  Note his description, “many harbors.”  Many includes more than just two; so where are the rest?

    Knowledge of Arabic can give us a clue.  The word “marsa” is the Arabic word for harbor (Busuttil 1971: 305-307).  There are at least three more harbors that can be added to the list.  The Marsamxett harbor within the Grand Harbor of Valletta; Marsascala Bay just north of St. Thomas Bay; and Marsaxlokk Bay in the southeast portion of Malta all would be Roman harbors.  The last bay was a major Roman harbor / port that served the famous Temple of Juno on the hill above it and was also a place for ships to winter.

    Any ancient Mediterranean Sea captain, or seasoned sailor on the deck of a ship anchored off the Munxar Reef, immediately would recognize the eastern shoreline of Malta with these Roman harbors and anchorages.  Malta was the landmark for sailors traveling from Crete and about to turn north to Sicily.  The eastern end of the island would be what they saw first and it would be a welcome sight.

    There are at least four recognizable points that could be seen from the outer Munxar Reef had this been the exact spot of the shipwreck of Paul as Mr. Cornuke argues.  The first was the entrance to Marsaxlokk Bay where a Roman harbor / port was, the second, the entrance to Marsascala Bay where another Roman harbor was located.  The third point would be the dangerous Munxar Reef (or small islands or peninsula in the 1st century AD) that any sea captain worth his salt would recognize because of its inherent danger.  The final point, and most important, was the site known today as Tas-Silg.  This was a famous temple from the Punic / Roman period dedicated to one goddess known by different names by the various ethnic groups visiting the island.  She was Tanit to the Phoenicians, Hera to the Greeks, Juno to the Romans, and Isis to the Egyptians (Trump 1997: 80, 81; Bonanno 1992: Plate 2 with a view of St. Thomas Bay in the background).

    In preparation for my January 2005 trip to Malta I studied this important temple.  It was a landmark for sailors coming from the east.  Could this temple be seen from the outer Munxar Reef?  On the first day I arrived in Malta, Tuesday, January 11, a fellow traveler and I went to visit the excavations.  Unfortunately they were closed, but we could get a clear feel for the terrain around the excavations.  Near the enclosure for the excavations was the Church of Tas-Silg, a very prominent building in the region.  On Friday, January 14, we walked around the point where St. Thomas Tower is located and then along the edge of the low cliffs to St. Thomas Bay.  There was no wind so the sea was flat and no waves were breaking on the Munxar Reef.  On Sunday, January 16, however, a very strong windstorm hit Malta.  I returned to St. Thomas Bay and walked out to the point overlooking the Munxar Reef.  The waves clearly indicated the line of the Munxar Reef.  After watching the waves, I turned around to observe the terrain behind me.  Up the slopes of the hill the Church of Tas-Silg and the enclosure wall of the Tas-Silg excavations were clearly visible.  Just to confirm the visibility from Tas-Silg, I walked along dirt paths and through fields up to the enclosure wall.  As I stood on the outside of the wall, just opposite the Roman temple, I looked down and could see the waves breaking on the Munxar Reef.  There was eye contact between the outer Munxar Reef and this important shrine with no apparent obstruction in the line of view.  If I could see the Munxar Reef then someone at the Munxar Reef could have seen me and the elevated terrain landmarks around me such as the prominent Temple of Juno.

    If the Apostle Paul’s ship was anchored near the Munxar Reef, when it was morning, the sea captain and the sailors immediately would have recognized where they were.  Luke, who was on board the ship, testifies that they did not recognize where they were (Acts 27:39).  Thus the Munxar Reef does not meet the Biblical criteria for the shipwreck of Paul.

    Is the “Meeting of two seas” at the Munxar Reef? (Acts 27:41)

    When the sea captain gave the orders for the ropes of the four anchors to be cut, Luke says they struck “a place where two seas meet” (Acts 27:41).  The Greek words for “two seas meet” is transliterated, “topon dithalasson.”  The meaning of these two Greek words, “two seas meet,” has been translated in the book as “place of two seas” (2003: 71), “a place where two seas meet” (2003: 217), “two seas meet” (2003: 29, 73, 194), and “a place between waters” (2003: 29).

    Mr. Cornuke gives three possible meanings for this Greek phrase on page 82 of his book and footnotes it as his #16.  Footnote 16 is page 148 of Joseph Thayer’s Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament (1893).  When one examines Thayer’s definition of topon dithalasson, he gives more definitions than Mr. Cornuke gives in his book.  Thayer starts off by saying it means, “resembling [or forming] two seas.”  Also “lying between two seas, i.e. washed by the sea on both sides … an isthmus.”  If we take these omitted meanings into consideration, it opens up other possibilities on the island for the location of the shipwreck.

    There have been other studies done on the Greek phrase topon dithalasson which appears only once in the Greek New Testament (Gilchrist 1996: 42-46).  Professor Mario Buhagiar, of the University of Malta, cautions that this term “does not offer any real help because it can have several meanings and the way it is used in Acts 27:41, does not facilitate an interpretation.  A place where two seas meet (Authorized and Revised versions) and a cross sea (Knox Version) are the normally accepted translations but any beach off a headland (Liddell and Scott) or an isthmus whose extremity is covered by the waves (Grimms and Thayer), as indeed most water channels, can qualify as the place where the boat grounded.  The truth is that the Acts do not give us sufficient clues to help in the identification of the site” (Buhagiar 1997: 200).

    There are other locations on the island that fit the description of the lying between two seas and an isthmus.

    Is the “bay with a beach” at St. Thomas Bay? (Acts 27:39)

    In introducing this passage, Mr. Cornuke remarks, “The Bible states that sailors aboard Paul’s ship, having anchored off the coast of Malta in a near hurricane, peered out at the horizon at midnight on the fourteenth night, and … observed a bay with a beach” (2003: 27).  Actually, verse 39 states, “Now when it was day …” (NKJV), “And when day came …” (NASB), “And when it was day…” (KJV).  It was not midnight as stated in the book.  If it were at midnight, and especially during a gragale, it would be pitch black and they would not have been able to see anything.

    There is a second problem with Mr. Cornuke’s identification.  According to Map 3, the ship was anchored on the south side of the Munxar Reef before the ropes were cut.  More than likely in the First Century AD, the sea captain would not have been able to see the low-level beach of St. Thomas Bay from where he was anchored though the elevated landmarks would have been visible and recognizable.

    Geographers who study land forms are well aware that coastlines change over time.  This could be a result of silting, as in the case of Marsa and the Marsascala Bay.  Erosion by the sea is always going on.  Seismic activity could change coastlines as well.  Malta has many fault lines on or around it that could move land mass up, down or sideways.  A certain depth in the sea, or elevation on land, today might not necessarily be what it was 1,000 or 2,000 years ago.  Tsunamis are known in the Mediterranean Sea, and several have been recorded in the history of Malta.  In 1693 a tsunami hit the island of Gozo.  The water receded a mile and then returned with a vengeance (Azzopardi 2002: 60).  Shifting sand moved by a tsunami could have changed the contour of the seabed.

    A careful look at Map 2 with a magnifying glass reveals that the Munxar Reef is above the waterline and has what appeared to be three small islands.  Unfortunately this map is not identified; nor is there a date given for when or by whom it was produced.

    The D’Aleccio map of the siege of Malta in 1565 was produced and published in 1582.  On that map, the Munxar Reef appears as a series of small islands or a peninsula (Ganado 1984: Plate 18).

    An Internet search revealed the Boisgelin Map of Malta produced in 1805, but I have not examined this map first hand.  The Munxar Reef looked like the horn of a unicorn.  Geographically, it could be a peninsula or a series of small islands.

    The earliest known map of Malta was produced in 1536 (Vella 1980).  Map 2 must be later than this one, as are the D’Aleccio and Boisgelin maps.  They tell us that at least in the 16th century there were three small islands, or a peninsula, above the Munxar Reef.  The question is, what was the reef like in the First Century AD?  According to the “Geological Map of the Maltese Islands” (Map 1, 1993) the cliff overlooking the Munxar Reef is made of Middle Globigerina Limestone.  It is described as “a planktonic foraminifera-rich sequence of massive, white, soft carbonate mudstones locally passing into pale-grey marly mudstone.”  Assuming the small islands and/or peninsula were made of the same material, over 2,000 years this soft limestone would have eroded away by the constant wave action and occasional tsunamis.  If this is the case, it raises some interesting questions: Were the small islands bigger, or was it a peninsula in the First Century AD?  If so, how high was the land and how far out did it go?  If it were higher than the grain ship, then it would lead to serious questions as to whether the captain could see the beach at all.  It might have even been impossible to cross over it by sea in order to reach the beach.

    The Six Anchors (Acts 27: 28-30, 40)

    Mr. Cornuke interviewed people, primarily old divers and spear fishermen, who claimed to have located four anchors on the south side of the Munxar Reef at 15 fathoms, or 90 feet of water.  These interviews are the author’s prime evidence for Paul’s shipwreck.  To be more precise, Mr. Cornuke located four anchor stocks, a stock being one part of a whole anchor.

    Before discussing the six anchor stocks that allegedly were discovered, a description of a wooden Roman anchor is necessary.  Roman anchors were made of wood and lead, as opposed to stone anchors of earlier periods.  Douglas Haldane, a nautical archaeologist, has divided the wooden-anchor stocks into eight types (Haldane 1984: 1-13; 1990: 19-24, see diagram on page 21).  Five of the types were used in the first century AD, Type IIIA, IIIB, IIIC, IVA and IVB  (Haldane 1984: 3,13).

    The Type III anchors are made up of five parts (for pictures, see Bonanno 1992: Plate 67; Cornuke 2003: Plate 7, bottom).  The main part is the wooden shank, usually made of oak, which has a lead stock across the upper part.  Haldane subdivides the Type III anchors into three parts based on the design of lead stock.  Type IIIA is made of “solid lead with no internal junction with the shank.”  Type IIIB is made of “solid lead with lead tenon through [the] shank.”  Type IIIC is made of “lead with [a] wooden core” (1984: 3).  This core of wood, called a “soul,” goes though the shank in order to pin the stock to the shank (Kapitan 1969-71: 51).  On the bottom of the anchor are two wooden flukes, sometimes tipped with metal (usually copper and called a “tooth”), perpendicular to the anchor stock.  A “collar” made of lead, sometimes called an “assembly piece,” secures the flukes to the shank (Kapitan 1969-71: 52; Cornuke 2003: Plate 6, bottom; in the picture the collar is below the anchor stock).

    When an anchor is dropped into the sea, the heavy lead stock brings the anchor to the bottom of the sea.  One fluke then digs into the sea bottom.  The stock also keeps “the anchor cable pulling at the correct angle to the fluke” (Throckmorton 1972: 78).

    Mr. Cornuke concluded from his research that the anchors from an Alexandrian grain ship “would have been huge, lead-and-wooden Roman-style anchors common on huge freighters like the one Paul sailed on” (2002: 15).

    Nautical archaeologists and divers generally find only the anchor stocks and the collars and not the wooden parts because the wood rots in the sea.  However, that is not always the case.  Sometimes the wooden core, or “soul” still is found inside the stock.  Wood can also be found in the collar (Kapitan 1969-71: 51, 53).  In some cases the wood does not disintegrate.  A case in point is the wooden anchor from a 2,400 year-old shipwreck off the coast of Ma’agan Mikhael in Israel (Rosloff 2003: 140-146).

    Sometimes lead anchor stocks have inscriptions or symbols on them.  Symbols may be of “good luck (dolphins, caduceus), or related to the sea (shells) or apotropaic (Medusa head).”  Also are found “numbers, names of divinities (= names of ships), e.g. Isis, Hera, Hercules, and rarely, names of men … [that] may provide evidence for senatorial involvement in trade” (Gianfrotta 1980: 103, English abstract).

    One of the reasons antiquities laws are so tough is to prevent divers from looting sunken ships and removing, forever, valuable information such as the wood which could be used to carbon date the anchor and identify the type of wood used for making anchors.  Some Israeli nautical archaeologists have begun to use carbon dating to date some of their shipwrecks (Kahanov and Royal 2001: 257; Nor 2002-2003: 15-17; 2004: 23).  Archaeologists also work to maintain any inscriptional evidence on the anchor stock.

    For a brief survey of the recent developments in the maritime heritage of Malta, see Bonanno 1995: 105-110.

    The first anchor (#1) described in Mr. Cornuke’s book was found by Tony Micallef-Borg and Ray Ciancio in front of a big cave in the outer Munxar Reef at about 90 feet below the surface (2003: 101-105).  When it was discovered in the early 1970’s, it was only half an anchor that was either “pulled apart like a piece of taffy” (2003: 121) or sawn in half with a hacksaw (2003: 231, footnote 18), depending on which eyewitness is most reliable.  The recollection is that it was three or four feet long, with a large section cut off (2003: 102).  The discoverers melted it down for lead weights not knowing its historical and archaeological value.  One diver, Oliver Navarro, had two small weights with “MT” stamped on them for Tony Micallef-Borg.  (Actually “MT” is the reverse image of Tony’s initials, see Plate 6, top).  There is a drawing of the anchor at the top of Plate 7.

    Unfortunately, #1 was melted down.  If it had been found in a controlled archaeological excavation and it contained an inscription, it would have been helpful in identifying the ship or its date.

    In a reconstruction of how the anchor stock was ripped apart, the author surmises that this was the first anchor thrown from the Apostle Paul’s ship and then “ravaged by the reef and the waves” (2003: 122, 123).  The problem with this scenario is that a fluke goes into the seabed where it would serve to slow down the ship, not the anchor stock.  If anything had been torn apart like taffy it would have been the collar, not the anchor stock, assuming the wooden fluke did not break first.  More than likely, the anchor stock was sawn in half by means of a hacksaw by some unknown person in modern times..

    The second anchor (#2) was also found in the early 70’s and was a whole anchor stock found near anchor #1 (2003: 105-110).  It was brought to shore by Tony Micallef-Borg, Ray Ciancio, Joe Navarro and David Inglott and taken to Cresta Quay (Cornuke 2003: 105, 106).  It eventually came to rest in the courtyard of Tony Micallef-Borg’s villa.

    “Tony’s anchor” (2003: 125) is described by different people as a “large anchor stock” (2003: 106), a “huge anchor” (2003: 114), as a “large slab of lead” (2003: 126), and a “massive Roman anchor stock” (2003: 126).  Unfortunately, unlike anchor stocks #1, #3, and #4, there are no measurements given in the book for this one.  The only size indicators are the adjectives “large”, “huge”, and “massive.”

    The reader viewing the photographs of anchors #2 and #3 on Plate 5 might get the impression that anchor #2 (bottom) was much larger than anchor #3 (top).  The bottom picture was taken with the anchor on a bed sheet with nothing to indicate the actual size.  Anchor #3 has three men squatting behind the anchor to give some perspective of size.  The impression the reader would get is that anchor #2 is almost twice the size of anchor #3.  If these anchors were published in a proper excavation report both anchors would have the same scale in front of them and the photograph of each anchor would be published to the same scale.  It then would be seen that anchor #2 is considerably smaller than anchor #3.

    On Friday, January 14, 2005 and Monday, January 17, 2005 I visited the second floor of the Malta Maritime Museum in Vittoriosa.  “Tony’s anchor” was tagged “NMA Unp. #7/2 Q’mangia 19.11.2002.”  This anchor stock came from the village of Q’mangia and was handed over to the museum on November 19, 2002, only four days before the amnesty expired (2003: 223).

    The anchor stock was one of the smallest on display, measuring about 3 feet, 8 inches in length.  Large Alexandrian grain ships would have had for the stern much larger anchors than this one.  The author’s lack of quantifiable measurements regarding the anchor stock keeps the reader uninformed about its actual size.  This anchor stock is a lead toothpick compared to “huge, lead-and-wooden Roman-style anchors” that Mr. Cornuke surmised would be on the ship (Cornuke 2002: 15).

    The “Museum Archaeological Report” for 1963 describes an anchor stock found off the coast of Malta.  It was an “enormous Roman anchor stock lying on the sea bed 120 feet below the surface 300 yards off Qawra Point … its dimensions, 13 feet 6 inches long, were confirmed. … On the same occasion part of the same or another anchor, a collar of lead 84 cms. long, was retrieved from 25 feet away from the stock” (MAR 1963: 7; Fig. 6; Plate 3).  It weighed 2,500 kg, which is two and a half metric tons! (Guillaumier 1992: 88).  This anchor stock is the largest anchor stock ever found in the Mediterranean Sea and most likely came from an Alexandrian grain ship.  It is in storage in the National Archaeological Museum in Valletta.  A picture of it can be seen in Bonanno 1992: 158, plate 66.

    This anchor would be a Type IIIC anchor according to Haldane’s classification.   He dates this type of stock from the second half of the second century BC to the middle of the first century AD based on two secure archaeological contexts (1984: 8).

    If this anchor stock had been recovered in a controlled archaeological excavation there might have been some wood found in the “soul.”  If so, this could have been used for carbon dating and given us a clearer date for the casting of the anchor stock.

    According to Mr. Cornuke, on two occasions Professor Anthony Bonanno was shown a video of this anchor stock.  The first was during dinner with Mr. Cornuke, Dr. Phillips and his wife on their second trip to Malta.  Professor Bonanno was shown it on the screen of a tiny video (2003: 128).  The professor concluded, “Anchor stocks such as the one you are showing me in this video were used from approximately 100 B.C. to 100 A.D.  It could have come from any period within that range” (2003: 129).  The video was again shown to him on Mr. Cornuke’s third trip to Malta.  Again, it was viewed on the screen of a small video camera.  The professor states, “From what I can tell from these videos – again without the benefit of physical examination – these other two anchors also appear to be typical Roman anchor stocks, appropriate to the era of St. Paul’s shipwreck in Malta” (2003: 184).  Professor Bonanno qualifies his observation because he has not physically examined the anchor stock in person.  It is difficult to evaluate an archaeological find on a small video screen.  There is no mention in the book of the professor making a “physical examination” of this anchor stock in the Nautical Museum.

    The third anchor (#3) was found by Charles Grech and Tony Micallef-Borg on Feb. 10, 1972, the feast of St. Paul and Charles’ 33rd birthday.  It was found in front of the big cave at the Munxar Reef and brought up with the help of Tony Micallef-Borg soon after he had found the first two anchors.  Anchor #3 measured “a little over five feet long” (2003: 164).  It was taken to Charles’ house where it resided until he turned it over to the national museum.  The tag on the anchor says, “NMA unp # 7/1 Naxxar.”  A picture of it can be seen at the top of Plate 5.   From my observation of this anchor, it had the lead tenon through the shank, thus making it a Type IIIB anchor.  Haldane dates this type anchor stock from the mid-second-century BC to the mid-first century BC.  Recently, however, Roman legionary anchors were discovered that date to about AD 70 (Haldane 1984: 8).

    Professor Anthony Bonanno examined this anchor and very cautiously said, “It could have belonged to a cargo ship, possibly a grain cargo ship, and possibly one from Alexandria” (2003: 183, emphasis by the reviewer).  He went on to conjecture, “This anchor stock would fit very well within the era of St. Paul” (2003: 184).

    The fourth anchor (#4) was found by “Mario” (a pseudonym) in the late 60’s (2003: 176, 204) and was over 5 feet long (2003: 171).  It was taken to “Mario’s” house where it resides in his courtyard.  A picture of it can be seen at the bottom of Plate 6.  One can observe the lead tenon, making this a Type IIIB anchor as well.

    His widow was not sure whether it was found off the Munxar Reef or Camino, the island between Malta and Gozo (2003: 178).  Wilfred Perotta, however, was able to confirm that the anchor was found off the Munxar Reef (2003: 204).

    Anchor #4 supposedly is in a private collection and the holders are having “meaningful dialogue” with the authorities (Cornuke 2003: 221).  “Meaningful dialogue” is an interesting description as the antiquity laws are clear; all ancient artifacts must be turned over to the proper authorities.  A general amnesty was issued and the deadline passed.

    The other two anchors (#5 and #6), were found by a mystery diver who did not want his identity revealed (2003: 212).  In an account that reads like a cloak and dagger mystery, the author relates his conversation with this individual (2003: 210-215).  The diver claims he found the two anchors in 1994 in front of the “Munxar Pass” in about 10 meters (ca. 33 feet) of water (2003: 213).  The mystery man claims to have sold them (2003: 214).  The whereabouts of these two anchors are unknown.  There is no description of these anchors so the type cannot be determined.

    Mr. Cornuke implies that these are the anchors the sailors on the Alexandrian grain ship were trying to let down right before they were shipwrecked (2003: 208-210, see Acts 27:29,30).

    Computer model

    On his third trip to Malta, Mr. Cornuke gained access to a sophisticated computer at the Rescue Coordination Center of the Armed Forces of Malta with hope that it would “objectively speak to us across the millennia and trace the, until now, uncertain path of the biblical event of Paul’s journey from Crete to Malta” (2003:184).  Computer models are only as good as the information put into the program.

    The information put into the computer program included: (1) the “general parameters of a grain freighter,” (2) the type of wood from the wooden hull, (3) the “veering characteristics of a northeaster,” (4) the “leeway of time,” and (5) the currents during the fall season for that part of the Mediterranean Sea (2003: 188).  Unfortunately, the specific information that was put into the computer was not given in the book, perhaps to maintain a less technical approach for a popular-level book.  Researchers, however, who would like to follow up on this exercise, would need the specific information.

    It should be pointed out that “the precise appearance of great grain ships like those mentioned in the Book of Acts and the writings of Lucian” are unknown (Fitzgerald 1990: 31).  Was it a two-mast or a three-mast grain ship?  How much did it actually weigh?  How did the drag of the windsock, or sea anchors affect the speed and direction of the ship (Acts 27:17 NASB)?  What time did they leave Fair Haven on Crete?  Was it morning or mid-day?  Exactly what time did the wind begin to blow?  These are unknown variables that cannot be put into the computer calculations and would affect the outcome of the computer model.  Of course, the biggest unknown factor would be the sovereign Hand of God controlling the speed and direction of the wind.

    It is not accurate to conclude that “the computer program confirmed that the ship must have had [sic] come from the south and that its drift had completely eliminated St. Paul’s Bay and other bays closely associated with it as the possible landing site” (Cornuke 2003: 192).  To use a baseball analogy, the computer model can put you into the ballpark (Malta in fourteen days), but it cannot guarantee a hit, much less a home run (St. Thomas Bay)!

    Syrtis – Sandy beach or Shallow Bays with Sand bar?

    The reader should be cautious with some of the geographical positions taken in the book that are, at worst, not accurate and that at best, needing more discussion.  A case in point is that of the Syrtis mentioned in Acts 27:17.  The author identifies it as “an inescapable vast wasteland of sun-scorched sand where they would certainly suffer a slow, waterless death” (Cornuke 2003: 42).  According to the book, this sand was on the northern coast of Africa (2003: 190 and map 1).  Unfortunately we have no idea where this idea came from because it is not footnoted or documented.

    In actuality, the Syrtis was not dry desert but two bodies of water, the “name of two dangerous, shallow gulfs off the coast of North Africa” (Olson 1992:4: 286).

    Strabo, a Greek geographer, describes the location and dimensions of the Greater and Lesser Syrtis in his Geography (2:5:20; LCL 1: 473,745).  Elsewhere he describes these two bodies of water in these terms: “The difficulty with both [the Greater] Syrtis and the Little Syrtis is that in many places their deep waters contain shallows, and the result is, at the ebb and the flow of the tides, that sailors sometimes fall into the shallows and stick there, and that the safe escape of a boat is rare.  On this account sailors keep at a distance when voyaging along the coast, taking precautions not to be caught off their guard and driven by winds into these gulfs” (Geography 17:3:20; LCL 8: 197).  No wonder the sailors on the ship the Apostle Paul was on were in fear of the Syrtis, there was no escape (Acts 27:17).

    Dio Chrysostom describes the Syrtis in these terms: “The Syrtis is an arm of the Mediterranean extending far inland, a three days’ voyage, they say, for a boat unhindered in its course.  But for those who have once sailed into it find egress impossible; for shoals, cross-currents, and long sand-bars extending a great distance out make the sea utterly impassable or troublesome.  For the bed of the sea in these parts is not clean, but as the bottom is porous and sandy it lets the sea seep in, there being no solidity to it.  This, I presume, explains the existence there of the great sand-bars and dunes, which remind one of the similar condition created inland by the winds, though here, of course, it is due to the surf” (Discourse 5:8-10; LCL I: 239).

    Strabo was a geographer from Pontus who lived at the end of the First Century BC and beginning of the First Century AD.  Dio Chrysostom was a rhetorician and traveler who lived about AD 40 – ca. AD 120.  Both would be considered near contemporaries with Luke and the Book of Acts.  Luke was sandwiched between these two and his understanding of the Syrtis would have been the same as Strabos’ and Dio Chrysostoms’ understanding.  Today, the Greater Syrtis is the Gulf of Sirte off the coast of Libya.  The Lesser Syrtis is the Gulf of Gabes off the coast of Tunisia (Talbert 2000: I: 552-557, maps 1, 35, 37).

    The Syrtis is two bodies of water in the Mediterranean Sea, and not a “vast wasteland of sun-scorched sand” on the sandy beaches of North Africa.

    Rendering a Verdict

    Josh McDowell gives a prominent endorsement on the dust jacket of this book, “The Lost Shipwreck of Paul is evidence that demands a verdict.”  If the case of the six anchor stocks were brought before a court, how would an impartial jury reason the case as they evaluate the evidence and render a verdict?

    The first bit of evidence to be examined is the clear statement of the Book of Acts that the captain and his crew did not recognize the land when it became light (Acts 27:39).  If the ship anchored off the Munxar Reef, the captain and crew would have recognized the eastern shore of Malta because it was a familiar landmark for them.  Mr. Cornuke’s theory goes contrary to the clear statement in the Book of Acts.

    The next issue to consider is the “topon dithalasson,” the place where two seas meet (Acts 27:41).  We would concur with Prof. Buhagiar that the evidence here is inconclusive and that other sites on Malta are just as likely.

    The third issue to consider is the “bay with a beach” (Acts 27:39).  When confronted with the evidence from the maps of Malta from the last 500 years, we can recognize that more than likely the ship’s captain would not have seen the low-lying beach of St. Thomas’s Bay because the Munxar Reef was actually a series of small islands or a peninsula in the First Century AD which would have blocked their view of the beach.  Yet the Bible says the crew of Paul’s shipwreck saw a “bay with a beach.”

    The last bit of evidence is the anchors.  There are only two actual anchor stocks to consider, anchor stock #2 and anchor stock #3.  Anchor stocks #1, #4, #5, #6 cannot be produced and examined.  Anchor stock #1 was melted down, #4 is in a private collection, and #5 and #6 were sold on the antiquities market.

    One could conclude that anchor stock #2 could not belong to a large Alexandrian grain ship because it was too small to be used as an anchor in the stern of the ship.  The only anchor stock that might possibly be from a grain ship is #3.

    The “case” record here shows that credible historical, archaeological, geographic, and Biblical evidence contradict the claim that the anchors found off the Munxar Reef were from Paul’s shipwreck and that the landing took place at St. Thomas Bay.  The evidence demands a dismissal of this case!

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