Is Luke’s Account of the Journey to Malta in Acts 27 Historically Accurate?

One way we can have confidence that the documents of the New Testament are historically accurate is to check any factual claims against the historical and archaeological evidence we have from the same period of time. This is exactly what classical scholar and historian Colin Hemer did in his The Book of Acts in the Setting of Hellenistic History. Hemer was able to confirm 84 facts in the last sixteen chapters of the Book of Acts.

Below I will only document the sixteen facts he confirmed from Acts 27. Norman Geisler and Frank Turek, in , remind us that “Luke did not have access to modern-day maps or nautical charts,” which makes his accuracy all the more impressive. The sixteen facts below are taken from Geisler and Turek’s book, where they cite Colin Hemer. Luke knew about and accurately recorded:

Fact 1: the best shipping lanes at the time (27:5).

Fact 2: the common bonding of Cilicia and Pamphylia (27:5).

Fact 3: the principal port to find a ship sailing to Italy (27:5-6).

Fact 4: the slow passage to Cnidus, in the face of the typical northwest wind (27:7).

Fact 5:  the right route to sail, in view of the winds (27:7)

Fact 6: the locations of Fair Havens and the neighboring site of Lasea (27:8).

Fact 7: Fair Havens as a poorly sheltered roadstead (27:12).

Fact 8: a noted tendency of a south wind in these climes to back suddenly to a violent northeaster, the well-known gregale (27:13-14).

Fact 9: the nature of a square-rigged ancient ship, having no option but to be driven before a gale (27:15).

Fact 10: the precise place and name of this island (27:16).

Fact 11: the appropriate maneuvers for the safety of the ship in its particular plight (27:16-18).

Fact 12: the fourteenth night—a remarkable calculation, based inevitably on a compounding of estimates and probabilities, confirmed in the judgment of experienced Mediterranean navigators (27:27).

Fact 13: the proper term of the time for the Adriatic (27:27).

Fact 14: the precise term (Bolisantes) for taking soundings, and the correct depth of the water near Malta (27:28).

Fact 15: a position that suits the probable line of approach of a ship released to run before an easterly wind (27:39).

Fact 16: the severe liability on guards who permitted a prisoner to escape (27:42).

These facts seem to strongly indicate that the author of Acts is an eyewitness to the events of chapter 27. If we have an eyewitness, we have much greater confidence in the reliability of the events recorded in chapter 27 and also the rest of the book.