I wonder if Frans Said (‘Falsities about the shipwreck’, February 12) actually read my article properly before writing his critique.
Nowhere did I mention the discovery of a Roman anchor. At the end of the article, the editor’s note correctly referred to the discovery of a ‘Roman-period lead anchor stock’. This does not mean that the anchor belonged to a Roman ship. In my article I stated (and even the captions under the pictures show) that the ship was Egyptian in origin.
Said is referring to the discovery of a Roman-period anchor with the names of the Egyptian gods ISIS and SARAPIS embossed on the lead stock. Although I did not mention this discovery, he states that “a lot of fuss has been made about a Roman anchor”.
His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI thought that this discovery merited further study. He was informed of it by Biblical scholar and bestselling author Michael Hesemann and on his trip to Malta in 2010, he asked to inspect the anchor.
What caught these two theologians’ attention is the fact that Egyptian gods are embossed on this anchor and that the Apostle Paul was travelling on an Egyptian grain ship.
Said even has the name of the shipwreck site he is defending wrong. It is not Tal-Għażżenin but Tal-Għasselejn (see Prof. Mario Buhagiar, The St Paul Shipwreck, controversy an assessment of the source material). But the late John A. Mizzi had pointed this out to him in his article ‘The real meaning behind the name’ (Times of Malta, March 15, 2012). Said remains obstinate, even when proven wrong!
His claim for this site stems from the fact that there was a chapel where now stands the Wignacourt Tower dating back a couple of centuries before it was moved during Grandmaster Wignacourt’s leadership. Said’s scientific proof is based on a chapel built at least 1,300 years after the shipwreck!
Said claims the shipwreck site is false, based on what a Biblical scholar told him! Maybe he would like to direct us to documents to back his argument and not just hearsay. Maybe he could also refer us to underwater artefacts discovered close to Tal-Għasselejn.
Comm. Salvino Scicluna documented discoveries made outside Salina Bay when scuba diving was still in its infancy. The Scicluna map for Salina shows a concentration of artefacts discovered on the seabed, including the largest anchor ever discovered, but it does not include the ISIS-SARAPIS anchor. Whereas the chart for St Paul’s Bay does not show any Roman-period artefacts. I repeat that his survey goes back to when few scuba divers ventured underwater in search of artefacts.
Most researchers refer to James Smith’s book The Voyage and Shipwreck of St Paul (1848). Smith claims that Koura (Qawra) point fits the Biblical narrative and St Paul’s Bay does not (p.79-80). George Musgrave in Friendly Refuge (1979) is a firm believer in Salina Bay (p.23). Comm. Scicluna in his notes and maps believed Salina Bay to be the shipwreck site.
Biblical scholar Mgr P.P. Saydon, the translator of the Holy Bible from Hebrew to Maltese, wrote in 1960: “In conclusion we may say that the tradition in favour of St Paul’s Bay and in particular of the islet of Selmunett as the site of St Paul’s shipwreck stops far from the date of the event which it records and consequently it has not such a demonstrative force as to compel the assent of scholars. A different identification of the site of the shipwreck is possible and probable.” That’s from one of Malta’s finest Biblical scholars and even before most of the artefacts were brought up from the seabed.
In order to claim “falsities about the shipwreck”, Said first has to give us a list of the underwater artefacts found at Tal-Għasselejn (if any were ever discovered). He will also have to quote publications based on academic research. Where he thinks the shipwreck site is, or what a Biblical scholar may or may not have told him, holds no water.
To us Christians, whether the shipwreck occured in Salina Bay or St Paul’s Bay is immaterial. The important truth is that the Apostle of the Gentiles was shipwrecked on our shores.
But if one had to study chapter 27 of the Acts of the Apostles, together with the artefacts discovered on our seabed, and the Roman-period buildings in our locality, then Salina Bay/Burmarrad is the only site that fits like a hand in a glove.
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