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Bible Dictionaries

Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament

Pheoenix

(Φοίνιξ)

When the lateness of the season made it dangerous for an Alexandrian cornship, which had lain weather-bound for ‘much time’ in Fair Havens, to continue her voyage to Italy, the question of a wintering-place arose (Acts 27:12). Following the advice of the majority (οἱ πλείους), who had the experts-the captain and the ship-master (‘owner’ [RV_] conveys a wrong idea)-on their side, and disregarding that of St. Paul, who thought it would be more prudent to remain where they were, the centurion, who was the senior officer in an Imperial corn-ship, decided to make a run for the haven of PhCEnix in order to winter there. Taking advantage of a soft south wind, they set sail, but had no sooner rounded Cape Matala, and entered the Gulf of Messara, than they were caught by a hurricane, which drove them far out of their course and ultimately wrecked them on the coast of Malta. The harbour which they thus failed to reach has to be identified from data supplied by ancient geographers and modern navigators.

Strabo says: ‘Then there is an isthmus of about 100 stadia [the narrow part of Crete to the west of Mt. Ida], having the settlement of Amphimalia on the northern shore, and PhCEnix of the Lampeans on the southern’ (x. iv. 3). Ptolemy names a harbour, PhCEnikous, and a town, PhCEnix, on the S. coast (III. xvii. 3); and Hierocles (Synecdemus, 14) speaks of PhCEnix as near Aradena, which still retains its name, while Stephanus Byzantinus makes Aradena synonymous with Anopolis (‘Upper City’), a name which is now attached to ruins slightly farther north. As Aradena is a little over a mile, and Anopolis about 2 miles, from the harbour of Loutró, the latter is naturally identified with the haven of PhCEnix. It is on the east side of the neck of land which ends in Cape Muros. Captain Spratt maintains that it is ‘the only bay to the westward of Fair Havens in which a vessel of any size could find any shelter during the winter months’ (J. Smith, The Voyage and Shipwreck of St. Paul4, 1880, p. 92); and G. Brown, the discoverer of Lasea, also convinced himself that PhCEnix ‘is the only secure harbour in all winds on the south-coast of Crete’ (ib. p. 261). Brown found at Loutró an inscription of the time of Trajan, containing a record of some work done by the crew of a ship which evidently wintered in the haven. The inscription contains the words gubernator and parasemum, corresponding to κυβερνήτης and παράσημον, which are used by St. Luke (Acts 27:11; Acts 28:11).

But there is a serious objection to the proposed identification. St. Luke describes the harbour of PhCEnix as βλέποντα κατὰ λίβα καὶ κατὰ χῶρον (Acts 27:12). This is one of the most discussed phrases in Acts. If it is translated ‘looking toward the south-west and north-west’ (AV_), it is quite inapplicable to Loutró, which opens eastward. It would verbally fit the Bay of Phenika, on the other side of the promontory, facing the west; but navigators deny that this affords any shelter worthy of the name of haven. The RV_ translates the phrase ‘looking north-east and south-east,’ i.e. in the direction to which the S.W. and N.W. winds blow-looking down these winds. No satisfactory parallel to such an idiom is found in any ancient writer, and it is difficult to imagine an educated Greek expressing his meaning in that manner; still it is possible that St. Luke is faithfully reproducing the peculiar language of men of the sea. Conybeare and Howson (The Life and Epistles of St. Paul, new ed., 1877, ii. 400) note that ‘sailors speak of everything from their own point of view, and that such a harbour does “look”-from the water towards the land which encloses it-in the direction of “south-west and north-west.” ’ It is surmised by W. M. Ramsay (St. Paul the Traveller, 1895, p. 326) that as St. Luke never saw the harbour in question, but merely described it from hearsay, he may have received the wrong impression that it looked N.W. and S.W.

James Strahan.

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Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Pheoenix'. Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/eng/hdn/p/pheoenix.html. 1906-1918.

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