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When Paul is shipwrecked on Melita, or Malta as we now call it, he is made welcome by the local people, and later that evening a group of them are sitting around the fire built to keep the survivors warm. Paul picks up a bunch of twigs to burn, and as he throws them on the fire a snake slithers out from the bundle and coiling round his arm bites him very badly.
The islanders are rather superstitious and take this as a sign that he is a murderer being punished for his sins; he is fully expected to die, but everyone is amazed to see that his arm is not even swollen where the fangs went in, and before long it becomes quite apparent that Paul has survived the venomous attack. News spreads of this seemingly miraculous event, and Paul is made welcome and stays for a few weeks with the island’s “chief man” or governor, Publius, whose father is suffering from dysentry and fever. St Paul’s reputation is further enhanced when he cures this old man, and after healing several other islanders, he and his guard at last set sail again for Rome and his impending trial. Publius later converts the entire island to Christianity, the first albeit small Christian nation in the world, and is venerated on that island of saints and churches as St Publius, first Bishop of Malta.
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