Crete, Cyrene, and Syrtis

Though the Old Testament never directly mentions Crete (shown in inset), this island had a significant impact on the history of Israel. Crete was home to the ancient city of Knossos and the great Minoan civilization, the first advanced society in Europe, which flourished from before the time of Abraham until around the time of Moses. As this civilization declined, many people from Crete and mainland Greece began to migrate in vast numbers to new lands further east, including Israel. This is likely how the Philistines came to inhabit the Mediterranean coast of southern Israel. In the centuries that followed, various world powers gained control over Crete until finally it came under the rule of Rome, which grouped it together with the area around Cyrene on the North African coast to form a single province. (Cyrene was the home of a man named Simon, who carried Jesus’ cross for him after Jesus was no longer able to carry it.) As Paul was on his way to stand trial in Rome (Acts 27), he sailed along the southern coast of Crete, and there the captain lost control of the ship in a storm while attempting to reach safe harbor at Phoenix. The sailors became terrified that they would run aground on the sandbars of Syrtis, but instead they were driven by the storm to the island of Malta much further west, and the crew was saved.

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