Paul’s Centurion, Julius

Acts 27:1 names the centurion who was placed in charge of Paul for his voyage to Rome as “Julius.” Perhaps the fact that he is named is an indicator that he was a follower of Jesus. At any rate, an interesting inscription, pictured above, was discovered at Caesarea, the port from which Paul and Julius set sail for Rome. What makes it interesting is that it has four similarities to the centurion mentioned in Acts 27:1.

1) The personal name is the same. In Latin, it is spelled “IVLIVS,” the exact equivalent of the Greek “Ιουλιος.” This was a very common name in the first century, due in part to the popularity of the former Roman emperor Julius Caesar.

2) Both the Julius of Acts 27:1 and the Julius of this inscription were centurions. In the Greek text of Acts this position is referred to as a hekatontarchos (ἑκατοντάρχος), “ruler of a hundred.” In the inscription the title is abbreviated, as was usual for such a title. The abbreviation, or siglum, looks something like a greater-than sign, >. Both this title and the name “Julius” are highlighted on this photo of the inscription. The inscription also goes on to indicate that this centurion belonged to the Twelfth Roman Legion Fulminata.

3) The date of the inscription is approximately the same as when Paul and Julius the centurion were in Caesarea. The archaeologists who found this inscription date it to the first century AD.

4) Finally, the location is the same. This inscription was set up in Caesarea, the very location where Paul spent two years in prison and from which he and Julius set sail for Rome. It seems at least possible that Paul’s centurion, Julius, was stationed at Caesarea, although we have no way of knowing for how long.

While the chance is slim that the biblical Julius is the same person as the one mentioned on the inscription, it is still a great illustration that brings together several aspects of a person mentioned in the New Testament.

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