Philip the Apostle

Phil'ip The Apostle

(Φίλιππος ὁ ἀποστολος), one of the twelve originally appointed by Jesus. SEE APOSTLE.

1. Authentic History. — The Gospels contain comparatively scanty notices of this disciple. A.D. 25-28. He is mentioned as being of Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter (Joh 1:44), and apparently was among the Galilaean peasants of that district who flocked to hear the preaching of the Baptist. The manner in which John speaks of him, the repetition by him of the selfsame words with which Andrew had brought to Peter the good news that the Christ had at last appeared, all indicate a previous friendship with the sons of Jonah and of Zebedee, and a consequent participation in their Messianic hopes. The close union of the two in John vi and xii suggests that he may hlave owed to Andrew the first tidings that the hope had been fulfilled. The statement that Jesus found him (Joh 1:43) implies a previous seeking. To him first in the whole circle of the disciples were spoken the words so full of meaning, "Follow me" (ibid.). Philip was thus the fourth of the apostles who attached themselves to the person of Jesus — of those who "left all and followed him." As soon as he has learned to know his Master, he is eager to communicate his discovery to another who had also shared the same expectations. He speaks to Nathanael, probably on his arrival in Cana (see Joh 21:2; comp. Ewald, Gesch. 5:251), as if they had not seldom communed together of the intimations of a better time, of a divine kingdom, which they found in their sacred books. We may well believe that he, like his friend, was an "Israelite indeed in whom there was no guile." In the lists of the twelve apostles in the synoptic Gospels, his name is as uniformly at the head of the second group of four as the name of Peter is at that of the first (Mt 10:3; Mr 3:18; Lu 6:14); and the facts recorded by John give the reason of this priority. In those lists again we find his name uniformly coupled with that of Bartholomew, and this has led to the hypothesis that the latter is identical with the Nathanael of Joh 1:45, the one being the personal name, the other, like Barjonah or Bartimaeus, a patronymic. Donaldson (Jashmar, page 9) looks on the two as brothers, but the precise mention of τὸν ἴδιον ἄδελφον) in 5:41, and its omission here, is, as Alford remarks (on Mt 10:3), against this hypothesis.

Philip apparently was among the first company of disciples who were with the Lord at the commencement of his ministry, at the marriage of Cana, on his first appearance as a prophet in Jerusalem (John 2). When John was cast into prison, and the work of declaring the glad tidings of the kingdom required a new company of preachers, we may believe that he, like his companions and friends, received a new call to a more constant discipleship (Mt 4:18-22). When the Twelve were specially set apart to their office, he was numbered among them. The first three Gospels tell us nothing more of him individually. John, with his characteristic fulness of personal reminiscences, records a few significant utterances. The earnest, simple-hearted faith which showed itself in his first conversion, required, it would seem, an education; one stage of this may be traced, according to Clement of Alexandria (Strom. 3:25), in the history of Mt 8:21. That Church father assumes that Philip was the disciple who urged the plea, "Suffer me first to go and bury my father," and who was reminded of a higher duty by the command, "Let the dead bury their. dead; follow thou me." When the Galilaean crowds had halted on their way to Jerusalem to hear the preaching of Jesus (Joh 6:5-9), and were faint with hunger, it was to Philip that the question was put, "Whence shall we buy bread that these may eat?" "And this he said," John adds, "to prove him, for he himself knew what he would do." The answer, "Two hundred pennyworth of bread is not sufficient for them that every one may take a little," shows how little he was prepared for the work of divine power that followed. It is noticeable that here, as in John 1, he appears in close connection with Andrew. Bengel and others suppose that this was because the charge of providing food had been committed to Philip, while Chrysostom and Theodore of Mopsuestia rather suppose it was because this apostle was weak in faith.

Another incident is brought before us in Joh 12:20-22. Among the pilgrims who had come to keep the Passover at Jerusalem were some Gentile proselytes (Hellenes) who had heard of Jesus, and desired to see him. The Greek name of Philip may have attracted them. The zealous love which he had shown in the case of Nathanael may have. made him prompt to offer himself as their guide. But it is characteristic of him that he does not take them at once to the presence of his Master. "Philip cometh and telleth Andrew, and again Andrew and Philip tell Jesus." The friend and fellow-townsman to whom probably he owed his own introduction to Jesus of Nazareth is to introduce these strangers also.

There is a connection not difficult to be traced between this fact and that which follows on the last recurrence of Philip's name in the history of the Gospels. The desire to see Jesus gave occasion to the utterance of words in which the Lord spoke more distinctly than ever of the presence of his Father with him, in the voice from heaven which manifested the Father's will (verse 28). The words appear to have sunk into the heart of at least one of the disciples, and he brooded over them. The strong cravings of a passionate but unenlightened faith led him to feel that one thing was vet wanting. They heard their Lord speak of his Father and their Father. He was going to his Father's house. They were to follow him there. But why should they not have even now a vision of the divine glory? It was part of the childlike simplicity of his nature that no reserve should hinder the expression of the craving, "Lord, show us the Father, and it sufficeth us" (14:8). And the answer to that desire belonged also specially to him. He had all along been eager to lead others to see Jesus. He had been with him, looking on him from the very commencement of his ministry, and yet he had not known him. He had thought of the glory of the Father as consisting in something else than the Truth, Righteousness, Love that he had witnessed in the Son. "Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known me, Philip? He that hath seen me hath seen the Father; and how sayest thou, then, Show us the Father?" (Joh 14:9). No other fact connected with the name of Philip is recorded in the Gospels. The close relation in which we have seen him standing to the sons of Zebedee and Nathanael might lead us to think of him as one of the two unnamed disciples in the list of fishermen on the Sea of Tiberias who meet us in John 21. He is among the company of disciples at Jerusalem after the asdension (Ac 1:13) and on the day of Pentecost.

2. Traditionary Notices. — Besides the above all is uncertain and apocryphal. Philip is mentioned by Clement of Alexandria as having had a wife and children, and as having sanctioned the marriage of his daughters instead of binding them to vows of chastity (Strom. 3:52; Euseb. H.E. 3:30); and he is included in the list of those who had borne witness of Christ in their lives, but had not died what was commonly looked on as a martyr's death (Strovm. 4:73). There is nothing improbable in the statement that he preached the Gospel in Phrygia (Theodoret, in Psalm 116; Niceph. H.E. 2:36). Polycrates (in Euseb. H.E. 3:31), bishop of Ephesus, speaks of him as having fallen asleep in the Phrygian Hierapolis, as having had two daughters who had grown old unmarried, and a third, with special gifts of inspiration (ἐν Α῾γίῳ Πνεύματι πολιτευσαμένη), who had died at Ephesus. There seems, however, in this mention of the daughters of Philip, to be some confusion between the apostle and the evangelist. Eusebius in the same chapter quotes a passage from Caius, in which the four daughters of Philip, prophetesses, are mentioned as living with their father at Hierapolis, and as buried there with him, and himself connects this fact with Ac 21:8, as if they referred to one and the same person. Polycrates in like manner refers to him in the Easter Controversy, as an authority for the Quartodeciman practice (Euseb. H.E. 5:24). It is noticeable that even Augustine (Serm. 266) speaks with some uncertainty as to the distinctness of the two Philips.

Epiphanius (26:13) mentions a Gospel of Philip as in use among the Gnostics. SEE GOSPELS, SPURIOUS.The apocryphal "Acta Pilippi" are utterly wild and fantastic, and if there is any grain of truth in them, it is probably the bare fact that the apostle or the evangelist labored in Phrygia, and died at Hierapolis. He arrives in that city with his sister Mariamne and his friend Bartholomew. The wife of the proconsul is converted. The people are drawn away from the worship of a great serpent. The priests and the proconsul seize on the apostles and put them to the torture. John suddenly appears with words of counsel and encouragement. Philip, in spite of the warning of the Apostle of Love reminding him that he should return good for evil, curses the city, and the earth opens and swallows it up. Then his Lord appears and reproves him for his vindictive anger, and those who had descended to the abyss are raised out of it again. The tortures which Philip had suffered end in his death, but, as a punishment for his offence, he is to remain for forty days excluded from Paradise. After his death a vine springs ulp on the spot where his blood had fallen, and the juice of the grapes is used for the Eucharistic cup (Tischendorf, Acta Apocrypha, pages 75-94). The book which contains this narrative is apparently only the last chapter of a larger history, and it fixes the journey and the death as after the eighth year of Trajan. It is uncertain whether the other apocryphal fragment professing to give an account of his labors in Greece is part of the same work, but it is at least equally legendary. He arrives in Athens clothed, like the other apostles, as Christ had commanded, in an outer cloak and a linen tunic. Three hundred philosophers dispute with him. They find themselves baffled, and send for assistance to Ananias, the high-priest at Jerusalem. He puts on his pontifical robes, and goes to Athens at the head of five hundred warriors. They attempt to seize on the apostle, and are all smitten with blindness. The heavens open; the form of the Son of Man appears, and all the idols of Athens fall to the ground; and so on through a succession of marvels, ending with his remaining two years in the city, establishing a Church there, and then going to preach the Gospel in Parthia (ibid. pages 95-104).

Another tradition represents Scythia as the scene of his labors (Abdias, list. Apost. in Fabricius, Cod. Apoc. N.T. 1:739), and throws the guilt of his death upon the Ebionites (Acta Sanctortum, May 1).

In pictorial art Philip is represented as a man of middle age, scanty beard, and benevolent face. His attribute is a cross which varies in form — sometimes a small cross in his hand; again, a high cross in the form of a T, or a staff with a small cross at the top. It has three significations: it may represent the power of the cross which he held before the dragon; or his martyrdom; or his mission as preacher of the cross of Christ. He is the patron-saint of Brabant and Luxembourg. His anniversary is May 1.

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