“Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea” (2 Corinthians 11:25 ESV).
A person facing a maritime emergency in the 21st century can often benefit from the use of modern-day telecommunication and rescue technologies. However, the Apostle Paul held no such advantages during his seafaring journeys. Instead, Paul traveled in hand-built wooden ships that were pushed along by the wind or driven by human oarsmen.
If these ships were caught in a storm and subsequently scuttled, there were no life jackets or other emergency lifesaving equipment available for use by the passengers or crew. The only means of surviving a shipwreck usually involved finding a piece of wreckage that would enable one to float in the water while he or she waited for a passing ship.
Incredibly, the only Biblical record of a shipwreck involving the Apostle Paul occurred after he had written this letter to the Corinthians (see Acts 27). This means that Paul was shipwrecked at least four different times. One of those wrecks was so severe that he spent a day and a night in the open sea. Even the most unspiritual observer might have to admit that the chances of surviving multiple shipwrecks without the aid of divine intervention were very poor.
“in journeys often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils of my own countrymen, in perils of the Gentiles, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; in weariness and toil, in sleeplessness often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness—” (2 Corinthians 11:26-27).
Paul then went on to list eight imperilments he faced, the first of which involved his land journeys. In some respects, land travel in the first century was just as dangerous as sea travel. For instance, one had to be alert to the threat of thieves along the way. In addition, travelers were sometimes forced to cross fast moving waterways during their journeys. A traveler who was swept away in this manner could easily drown or be dashed against a rock.
If a traveler successfully navigated these hazards, there were further threats from the Gentile population (who might hold little respect for a Hebrew traveler) and the Jewish community (who might hold little respect for a Christian traveler). Unpopulated wilderness areas also posed a threat from wild animals as well. There was always the possibility that Paul might end his final day of life on the dinner menu of a hungry animal during one of his journeys.