Paul's Epic Journey to Rome - - a book review

 

Paul’s journey to Rome by ship is a dramatic story. It is recorded in considerable detail by Luke, who shared this voyage with Paul. As an historian, Luke’s style tends to be rather brief and compact, so the fact that this particular episode is covered in such detail in Acts 27 and 28 suggests that it is of significant value to those for whom Luke wrote.

 

Brother Tom Barling

From 2007 to 2011, Brother Tom Barling contributed, to The Testimony, a lengthy series of articles on this remarkable journey, articles which bore all the hallmarks of this highly regarded Bible student. The author had a life-long fascination with the life and writings of Paul. Many readers will be familiar with his expositions of Philippians and of Colossians, published by The Christadelphian in 1958 and 1972 respectively. In 2008, The Christadelphian Tidings magazine completed an eighteen-part series of articles by Brother Barling on Ephesians.

 

Brother Barling was born in 1912, so he was well into his nineties when he wrote these articles on Paul’s journey from Caesarea to Rome. Indeed, the final article in the series was published just two months before Brother Barling fell asleep at the age of 99, so readers of this material benefited from his lifetime of Bible study.

 

In 2013, The Testimony magazine compiled Brother Barling’s articles into a 137-page paperback book under the title Paul’s Epic Journey to Rome. The opportunity was taken to complement the original series with three appendices, one of which reproduces articles Brother Barling wrote about a journey he made across the Aegean Sea in 1980, which had been published in The Christadelphian in 1981. The other two appendices are two articles originally published in The Testimony in 2008, one by Brother Tony Benson about the site of Paul’s shipwreck in Malta and one by Brother Ed Wright on Paul’s encounter with a snake while on Malta.

 

Many Informative Comments and Insights

In this very readable book, the Scripture record of Paul and Luke’s trip is brought vividly to life. The book covers the text of the relevant sections of Acts comprehensively but that is only part of what it offers readers. Somewhat discursive in style, the book includes informative comments on a host of related issues such as shipping, travel and commerce in the Roman Empire, meteorological, geographical and topographical data about the Mediterranean region, legal issues relating to Paul’s trials, observations on factors that contributed to the rapid spread of the gospel in the first century, and insights into some of the personalities involved in the record, in particular Luke and the centurion who conveyed Paul to Rome. A number of very clear maps, diagrams and photos complement the text, making the book very approachable and enlightening.

 

There are a few very minor flaws in the book: there is an unfortunate inconsistency in the measurement of a typical ancient grain vessel, with the correct measurements being given on page 30 and incorrect measurements found on pages 109-110; on page 93 the author inadvertently says that Jesus was born in Galilee, when of course he meant to say he grew up in Galilee; while in the final chapter an end note appears to have been omitted from the text. But these minor flaws do not detract materially from the value of Paul’s Epic Journey to Rome, which is available from The Testimony (http://testimonymagazine.com/) and from the Christadelphian Scripture Study Service (http://www.csss.org.au/). It is heartily recommended to readers and Bible students of all ages.

Geoff Henstock, Happy Valley Ecclesia, South Australia

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