A city situated on a peninsula extending out from the SW corner of Asia Minor into the Aegean Sea, between the islands of Rhodes and Cos. Part of the city was built on a small island connected to the mainland by a causeway and bridge. According to Greek geographer Strabo (of the first century C.E.), the waters on each side of the causeway served the city as twin harbors, and this made Cnidus’ location of great commercial importance, a fact further indicated by impressive ruins found there in the last century.
Though Cnidus is not named on either occasion, the apostle Paul likely passed the city when returning from his second missionary journey, in the spring of 52 C.E. (Acts 18:21, 22), and again toward the close of his third trip, in 56 C.E., when his ship came to Rhodes and Cos. (Acts 21:1) However, it is specifically mentioned in Acts chapter 27 in connection with Paul’s voyage in 58 C.E. to appear before Emperor Nero in Rome. Leaving Myra (vss. 5, 6), the ship on which Paul and other prisoners were traveling came to Cnidus (vs. 7). With favorable winds this trip of about 130 geographical miles (209.2 kilometers) might be only a day’s voyage, but the adverse wind mentioned in the account explains why “quite a number of days” were involved for that particular run. The “boat from Alexandria” on which they were sailing was a grain boat (vs. 38), perhaps one of many that regularly brought agricultural products from Egypt to Rome and which may have ordinarily sailed on a more direct route from Alexandria across the Mediterranean Sea to Rome. However, the strong wind mentioned in verses four and seven may have obliged this boat to alter course and put in at Myra. A large unwieldy craft loaded with grain would make slow progress against the wind and, understandably, would finally arrive at Cnidus “with difficulty.”
After referring to the arrival at Cnidus the record states that “because the wind did not let us get on, we sailed under the shelter of Crete at Salmone.” (Vs. 7) Some have understood this to mean that the wind did not allow the boat to make harbor and anchor at one of Cnidus’ well-equipped harbors, obliging them to continue on. However, the meaning may rather be that they could not “get on” with their proposed route of crossing the Aegean Sea past the southern tip of Greece and then on to Rome, being forced by the adverse winds to take a southerly route to Crete and sail under lee of its shores. At any rate, as verse nine shows, it was the fall of the year and those in charge of the vessel doubtless felt the need of urgency to make as much progress as possible before seasonal conditions made sailing even more hazardous.
Cnidus was, like Chios, a free city in Paul’s day. Jewish settlers are said to have been there in the second century B.C.E.