“The next day Jesus decided to leave for Galilee. Finding Philip, he said to him, ‘Follow me.’” (John 1:43) Not much is known about Philips origins other than he came from Bethsaida in Galilee, the same place as Andrew and Peter. Having a Greek name, Philippos, suggests Philip may have originally come from Greece. Although there is no evidence to support this, when a group of Greeks wanted to visit Jesus, it was Philip they approached. “They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, with a request. ‘Sir,’ they said, ‘we would like to see Jesus.’” (John 12:21)
Philip only gets a brief mention in the Synoptic Gospels and it is only in the Gospel of John that his presence is recorded at certain events. Not only was Philip present at the feeding of the 5000, but it was also Philip Jesus turned to ask, “Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?” (John 6:5) Philip thought the task was impossible, replying “It would take more than half a year’s wages to buy enough bread for each one to have a bite!” (6:6) John’s Gospel, however, reveals Jesus already had a plan and was testing Philip’s faith.
At the last supper, Philip said to Jesus, “Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.” (John 14:8) Jesus’ response suggests he was not pleased with Philip’s request: “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time?” (14:9) This, however, prompted Jesus to teach his disciples about the unity of the Father and the Son: “Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the works themselves.” (John 14:11)
The final time Philip is mentioned in the Bible is in the Acts of the Apostles shortly after Jesus had been taken up to heaven. The apostles met up to talk, pray and decide who would replace Judas Iscariot as the twelfth disciple. After this, Philip is never mentioned again by name, however, in Acts 6 “the twelve” came together to appoint seven men to help spread the ministry of the word of God. Whenever the apostles are referred to as “the twelve” it is safe to assume Philip was amongst them. Confusingly, one of the men chosen was also called Philip (the Evangelist), who continues to be mentioned in the Book of Acts.
Some extra-canonical texts mention Philip, however, scholars have had difficulty differentiating between Philip the Apostle and Philip the Evangelist. Some historians have even suggested they were the same person; therefore, many texts cannot be fully trusted. The non-canonical Acts of Philip is believed to be an account of the preaching and miracles of Philip after the resurrection of Jesus. The text claims Philip and Bartholomew, one of the other twelve, were sent to preach in Greece, Phrygia and Syria. It also says Philip’s sister Mariamne went with them, however, Mariamne was a name commonly used in the Herodian royal house, therefore, the author may have confused Philip the Apostle with Philip the Tetrarch (26 BC-34 AD).
Whilst Philip was preaching in Hierapolis in Phrygia, he converted the wife of the proconsul. This, however, angered the proconsul who ordered Philip to be tortured and killed. There are two versions of his death, one being that he was beheaded. The other, according to the Acts of Philip, claims Philip was crucified upside-down. He continued preaching whilst nailed to the cross, which converted a few more people who tried to release him; however, Philip insisted they leave him and eventually died. His year of death is recorded as 80 AD.
Due to his crucifixion, Philip is associated with the symbol of the Latin Cross. He is also symbolised by two loaves of bread or a basket filled with bread due to his part in the feeding of the 5000.
Another extra-biblical text, known as the Letter from Peter to Philip, suggests Philip had departed on a solo mission at some point between Jesus’ resurrection and being taken up into heaven. The letter from Peter asks Philip to re-join the disciples at the Mount of Olives, presumably so they could appoint a new disciple.
In 2011, Turkish archaeologists claimed to have discovered the tomb of Saint Philip in the ancient town of Hierapolis, near the modern town of Denizli. Writings on the wall of the tomb have provided enough evidence for other archaeologists to agree that it was the final resting place of the apostle. Saint Philip’s relics, however, are kept in the crypt of the Basilica Santi Apostoli in Rome.
The Roman Church venerated Philip and 1st May was designated as his feast day, although this has now changed to 3rd May. Eastern Orthodox churches, however, celebrate Saint Philip on 14th November. Just for fun, here are the few things that claim Saint Philip as their patron:
· Cape Verde
· Pastry Chefs
· San Felipe Pueblo in New Mexico, USA
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Rev'd Martin Wheadon