Philip the Evangelist
Phil'ip The Evangelist
(Φίλιππος ὁ εὐαγγελιστής), one of the original seven deacons in the Christian Church. A.D. 29. The first mention of this name occurs in the account of the dispute between the Hebrew and Hellenistic disciples in Acts vi. He was one of the seven appointed to superintend the daily distribution of food and alms, and so to remove all suspicion of partiality. The fact that all the seven names are Greek, makes it at least very probable that they were chosen as belonging to the Hellenistic section of the Church, representatives of the class which had appeared before the apostles in the attitude of complaint. The name of Philip stands next to that of Stephen ; and this, together with the fact that these are the only two names (unless Nicolas be an exception; comp. NICOLAS) of which we hear again, tends to the conclusion that he was among the most prominent of those so chosen. He was, at ally rate, well reported of as "full of the Holy Ghost, and wisdom," and had so won the affections of the great body of believers as to be among the objects of their free election, possibly (assuming the votes of the congregation to have been taken for the different candidates) gaining all but the highest number of suffrages. Whether the office to which he was thus appointed gave him the position and the title of a deacon of the Church, or was special and extraordinary in its character, must remain uncertain (Goulburn, Acts of the Deacon, Lond. 1866). SEE DEACON.
The after-history of Philip warrants the belief, in any case, that his office was not simply that of the later Diaconate. It is no great presumption to think of him as contributing hardly less than Stephen to the great increase of disciples which followed on this fresh organization, as sharing in that wider, more expansive teaching which shows itself for the first time in the oration of the protomartyr, and in which he was the forerunner of Paul. We should expect the man who had been his companion and fellow-worker to go on with the work which he had left unfinished, and to break through the barriers of a simply national Judaism. So accordingly we find him in the next stage of his history. The persecution of which Saul was the leader must have stopped the "daily ministrations" of the Church. The teachers who had been most prominent were compelled to take to flight, and Philip was among them. The cessation of one form of activity, however, only threw him forward into another. It is noticeable that the city of Samaria is the first scene of his activity (Acts 8). He is the precursor of Paul in his work, as Stephen had been in his teaching. It falls to his lot, rather than to that of an apostle, to take that first step in the victory over Jewish prejudice and the expansion of the Church, according to its Lord's command. As a preparation for that work there may have been the Messianic hopes which were cherished by the Samaritans no less than by the Jews (Joh 4:25), the recollection of the two days which had witnessed the presence there of Christ and his disciples (verse 40), even perhaps the craving for spiritual powers which had been roused by the strange influence of Simon the Sorcerer. The scene which brings the two into contact with each other, in which the magician has to acknowledge a power over nature greater than his own, is interesting rather as belonging to the life of the heresiarch than to that of the evangelist. SEE SIMON MAGUS. It suggests the inquiry whether we can trace through the distortions and perversions of the "hero of the romance of heresy," the influence of that phase of Christian truth which was likely to be presented by the preaching of the Hellenistic evangelist.
This step is followed by another. He is directed by an angel of the Lord to take the road that led down from Jerusalem to Gaza on the way to Egypt. SEE GAZA. A chariot passes by in which there is a man of another race, whose complexion or whose dress showed him to be a native of Ethiopia. From the time of Psammetichus there had been a large body of Jews settled in that region, and the eunuch or chamberlain at the court of Candace might easily have come across them and their sacred books, might have embraced their faith, and become by circumcision a proselyte of righteousness. He had been on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. He may have heard there of the new sect. The history that follows is interesting as one of the few records in the N.T. of the process of individual conversion, and orie which we may believe Luke obtained, during his residence at Coesarea, from the evangelist himself. The devout proselyte reciting the prophecy which he does not understand — the evangelist-preacher running at full speed till he overtakes the chariot — the abrupt question — the simple-hearted answer — the unfolding, from the starting-point of the prophecy, of the glad tidings of Jesus — the craving for the means of admission to the blessing of fellowship with the new society — the simple baptism in the first stream or spring — the instantaneous, abrupt departure of the missionary-preacher, as of one carried away by a divine impulse — these help us to represent to ourselves much of the life and work of that remote past. On the hypothesis which has just been suggested, we may think of it as being the incident to which the mind of Philip himself recurred with most satisfaction. A brief sentence tells us that he continued his work as a preacher at Azotus (Ashdod), and among the other cities which had formerly belonged to the Philistines, and, following the coast-line, came to Caesarea.
Here for a long period we lose sight of him. He may have been there when the new convert Saul passed through on his way to Tarsus (Ac 9:30). He may have contributed by his labors to the eager desire to be guided farther into the Truth which led to the conversion of Cornelius. We can hardly think of him as giving utp all at once the missionary habits of his life. Csesarea, however, appears to have been the centre of his activity. The last glimpse of him in the N.T. is in the account of Paul's journey to Jerusalem. It is to his house, as to one well known to them, that Paul and his companions turn for shelter. He is still known as "one of the Seven." His work has gained for him the yet higher title of Evangelist. SEE EVANGELIST. He has four daughters, who possess the gift of prophetic utterance. and who apparently give themselves to the work of teaching instead of entering on the life of home (21:8, 9). He is visited by the prophets and elders of Jerusalem. At such a place as Ciesarea the work of such a man must have helped to bridge over the everwidening gap which threatened to separate the Jewish and the Gentile churches. One who had preached Christ to the hated Samaritan, the swarthy African, the despised Philistine. the men of all nations who passed through the seaport of Palestine. mnight well welcome the arrival of the apostle of the Gentiles. A.D. 55.
The traditions in which the evangelist and the apostle who bore the same name are more or less confounded have been given under PHILIP THE APOSTLE. According to another, relating more distinctly to him, he died bishop of Tralles (Acta Sunc. June 6). The house in which he and his daughters had lived was pointed out to travellers in the time of Jerome (Epit. Paulce, § 8). (Comp. Ewald, Geschichte, 6:175, 208-214; Baumgarten, Apostelgeschichte, § 15, 16.) The later martvrologies, on the contrary, make him end his days in Caesarea (Acta Sanct. June 6).