The Apostle Philip of Hierapolis

by COGwriter

Philip was one of the original apostles and is mentioned in all of the gospel accounts (Matthew 10:3; Mark 3:18; Luke 3:1; 6:14; John 12:21-22), with John's account of the gospel mentioning him the most. It may be that one of the reasons that John mentions Philip more than Matthew, Mark, or Luke is because Philip and John may have spent more time together than with the other apostles after the two of them moved to Asia Minor.

Here is a link to a related sermonette: The Apostle Philip.

Philip's Calling

Here is the first account the Apostle John was inspired to write about Philip's calling:

35 Again, the next day, John stood with two of his disciples. 36 And looking at Jesus as He walked, he said, "Behold the Lamb of God!"

37 The two disciples heard him speak, and they followed Jesus. 38 Then Jesus turned, and seeing them following, said to them, "What do you seek?"

They said to Him, "Rabbi" (which is to say, when translated, Teacher), "where are You staying?"

39 He said to them, "Come and see." They came and saw where He was staying, and remained with Him that day (now it was about the tenth hour).

40 One of the two who heard John speak, and followed Him, was Andrew, Simon Peter's brother. 41 He first found his own brother Simon, and said to him, "We have found the Messiah" (which is translated, the Christ). 42 And he brought him to Jesus.

Now when Jesus looked at him, He said, "You are Simon the son of Jonah. You shall be called Cephas" (which is translated, A Stone).

43 The following day Jesus wanted to go to Galilee, and He found Philip and said to him, "Follow Me." 44 Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter. 45 Philip found Nathanael and said to him, "We have found Him of whom Moses in the law, and also the prophets, wrote — Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph."

46 And Nathanael said to him, "Can anything good come out of Nazareth?"

Philip said to him, "Come and see."

47 Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward Him, and said of him, "Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom is no deceit!"

48 Nathanael said to Him, "How do You know me?"

Jesus answered and said to him, "Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you." (John 1:35-48)

The above account shows that after Andrew heard John the Baptist (who is the John in verse 35), he told Peter about Jesus. And the next day, Jesus found Philip and called him. It also shows that Philip took immediate steps and informed Nathanael who also became one of the twelve apostles (and is often identified with the name Bartholomew, eg. Luke 6:14).

Doubting Philip?

While most of us have heard of the expression "doubting Thomas" based upon Thomas' disbelief in Jesus' resurrection until he got to see and touch him (John 20:24-29), there is an earlier account of a "doubting disciple" and that was Philip:

4 Now the Passover, a feast of the Jews, was near. 5 Then Jesus lifted up His eyes, and seeing a great multitude coming toward Him, He said to Philip, "Where shall we buy bread, that these may eat?" 6 But this He said to test him, for He Himself knew what He would do.

7 Philip answered Him, "Two hundred denarii worth of bread is not sufficient for them, that every one of them may have a little."

8 One of His disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter's brother, said to Him, 9 "There is a lad here who has five barley loaves and two small fish, but what are they among so many?"

10 Then Jesus said, "Make the people sit down." Now there was much grass in the place. So the men sat down, in number about five thousand. 11 And Jesus took the loaves, and when He had given thanks He distributed them to the disciples, and the disciples to those sitting down; and likewise of the fish, as much as they wanted. 12 So when they were filled, He said to His disciples, "Gather up the fragments that remain, so that nothing is lost." 13 Therefore they gathered them up, and filled twelve baskets with the fragments of the five barley loaves which were left over by those who had eaten. 14 Then those men, when they had seen the sign that Jesus did, said, "This is truly the Prophet who is to come into the world." (John 6:4-14)

Perhaps partially because of his somewhat carnal thinking, this miracle helped Philip realize that Jesus can do anything according to the will of His Father.

But Philip still apparently had some type of doubts as the following account hints:

8 Philip said to Him, "Lord, show us the Father, and it is sufficient for us."

9 Jesus said to him, "Have I been with you so long, and yet you have not known Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; so how can you say, 'Show us the Father'? 10 Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father in Me? The words that I speak to you I do not speak on My own authority; but the Father who dwells in Me does the works. 11 Believe Me that I am in the Father and the Father in Me, or else believe Me for the sake of the works themselves. (John 14:8-11)

So, like the other disciples, Philip had to see a lot and have a lot explained to him. Kind of like the rest of us today?

Philip and the Book of Acts

Now, Philip is mentioned in the Book of Acts:

9 Now when He had spoken these things, while they watched, He was taken up, and a cloud received Him out of their sight. 10 And while they looked steadfastly toward heaven as He went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel, 11 who also said, "Men of Galilee, why do you stand gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven."

12 Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a Sabbath day's journey. 13 And when they had entered, they went up into the upper room where they were staying: Peter, James, John, and Andrew; Philip and Thomas; Bartholomew and Matthew; James the son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot; and Judas the son of James. 14 These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with His brothers. (Acts 1:9-14)

1 When the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. 2 And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. 3 Then there appeared to them divided tongues, as of fire, and one sat upon each of them. (Acts 2:1-4)

So, Philip saw Jesus ascend to heaven, spent time with the other Apostles in Jerusalem, and received the Holy Spirit while gathered with the other apostles on the Day of Pentecost.

There are other references to a Philip in the Book of Acts, but they are not clearly the same Philip. The "Philip" in Acts 21:8 is referred to as an evangelist, not an apostle. And the "Philip" in Acts 8 is not believed to be the Apostle Philip because he had did not apparently have the same power that the apostles in Acts 8 had. Because there were apparently two Philips, there is some confusion as to which one records after the New Testament accounts refer to.

Philip After the Book of Acts

There are no direct, by name, references to the Apostle Philip after the Book of Acts in the Bible.

It is generally believed that he, like the Apostle John, stayed in Jerusalem for some time until prior to its destruction in 70 A.D.

Shortly after the deaths of Peter (circa 64-69 A.D.) and Paul (circa 64-68 A.D.), major changes happened in Jerusalem and elsewhere.  Sometime thereafter, the Apostle Philip settled in Asia Minor. 

Around 67, or no later than 69 A.D., John apparently was in Ephesus and led the churches in Asia Minor (Ruffin C.B.  The Twelve: The Lives of the Apostles After Calvary.  Our Sunday Visitor, Huntington (IN), 1997, p. 94).

It is generally believed that John and any remaining apostles, like possibly Philip, placed in charge a leader named Symeon, who is generally believed to have fled prior to the 70 A.D. destruction of Jerusalem (Fortescue A. Transcribed by Donald J. Boon. (Jerusalem (A.D. 71-1099). The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume VIII Copyright © 1910 by Robert Appleton Company, NY. Nihil Obstat, October 1, 1910. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York, pp. 355-361). The was also a Philip who was the leader of the Church of God in Jerusalem who apparently died around 124, but this would not have been the apostle (Ibid; Eusebius. The History of the Church, 2005 Book III, Chapter V, Verses 2,3.& Book IV, Chapter 5, Verses 2-4 . Translated by A. Cushman McGiffert. Publishing, Stilwell (KS), pp. 45, 71).

It has been suggested that the Apostle Philip possibly ordained Joseph of Arimathea (Matthew 27:57-60, Mark 15:42-46, Luke 23:50-51, John 19:38-42) and sent him to the British Isles (Wall JC. The first Christians of Britain. Talbot & Co., 1927. Original from the University of California, Digitized Sep 25, 2007, p. 168), but this is not certain. "Legends...record that Joseph was sent by Philip from Gaul to Britain along with 11 other disciples in 63 A.D." (Kerr CM. Joseph of Arimathaea. International Standard Bible Encyclopedia. viewed 12/03/2012).

Most believe that the Apostle Philip knew (and likely helped ordain) Polycarp of Smyrna. Here is one Catholic comment acknowledging some connection:

St. Polycarp, who was the disciple of the Apostle John himself (as well as an associate of the Apostle Philip). (Bonocore MJ. Infant Baptism.  Apolonio’s Catholic Apologetics. viewed 10/06/08)

The most reliable information that we have about the Apostle Philip after the Book of Acts appears to be from a letter written by Polycrates of Ephesus to Victor Bishop of Rome:

We observe the exact day; neither adding, nor taking away. For in Asia also great lights have fallen asleep, which shall rise again on the day of the Lord's coming, when he shall come with glory from heaven, and shall seek out all the saints. Among these are Philip, one of the twelve apostles, who fell asleep in Hierapolis; and his two aged virgin daughters, and another daughter, who lived in the Holy Spirit and now rests at Ephesus; and, moreover, John, who was both a witness and a teacher, who reclined upon the bosom of the Lord, and, being a priest, wore the sacerdotal plate. He fell asleep at Ephesus. And Polycarp in Smyrna, who was a bishop and martyr; and Thraseas, bishop and martyr from Eumenia, who fell asleep in Smyrna. Why need I mention the bishop and martyr Sagaris who fell asleep in Laodicea, or the blessed Papirius, or Melito, the Eunuch who lived altogether in the Holy Spirit, and who lies in Sardis, awaiting the episcopate from heaven, when he shall rise from the dead ? All these observed the fourteenth day of the passover according to the Gospel, deviating in no respect, but following the rule of faith. And I also, Polycrates, the least of you all, do according to the tradition of my relatives, some of whom I have closely followed. For seven of my relatives were bishops; and I am the eighth. And my relatives always observed the day when the people put away the leaven. I, therefore, brethren, who have lived sixty-five years in the Lord, and have met with the brethren throughout the world, and have gone through every Holy Scripture, am not affrighted by terrifying words. For those greater than I have said ' We ought to obey God rather than man'...I could mention the bishops who were present, whom I summoned at your desire; whose names, should I write them, would constitute a great multitude. And they, beholding my littleness, gave their consent to the letter, knowing that I did not bear my gray hairs in vain, but had always governed my life by the Lord Jesus (Eusebius. The History of the Church, Book V, Chapter XXIV, Verses 2-7 . Translated by A. Cushman McGiffert. Publishing, Stilwell (KS), 2005, p. 114).

From the above account we can see that Philip must have been married, had children who were faithful, and that he kept Passover on the 14th, and apparently the Days of Unleavened Bread.

It may be of interest to note that the British Isles kept Passover on the 14th prior to the arrival of missionaries attached to the Church of Rome (Bede (Monk). Edited by Judith McClure and Roger Collins.  The Ecclesiastical History of the English People.  Oxford University Press, NY, 1999). Because there are reports that Philip sent to the British Isles, this would possibly be the reason.

Catholic tradition, possibly from the Catholic theologian Hippolytus in the third century (that may or may not be completely valid and may not actually have been written by him as some attribute it to “pseudo-Hippolytus”), makes the following claims about the death of the Apostle Philip:

Philip preached in Phrygia, and was crucified in Hierapolis with his head downward in the time of Domitian, and was buried there. (Hippolytus. On the Twelve Apostles.  In Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume V by Robert & Donaldson.  1885 Hendrickson Publishers, Peabody (MA), printing 1999, pp. 254-255)

While his tomb seems to have been recently found (Tomb of St. Philip the Apostle Discovered in Turkey. Newscore, July 27, 2011, some believe that his remains were moved centuries ago:

The remains of the Philip who was interred in Hieropolis were later translated (as those of the Apostle) to Constantinople and thence to the church of the Dodici Apostoli in Rome. (Kirsch, J.P. (1911). St. Philip the Apostle. In The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. Retrieved July 28, 2011 from New Advent:

The above account has the remains of both biblical Philips in Rome, though that does not seem to be certain.

A Successor in Hierapolis Also Kept Passover on the 14th

In the area of Hierapolis, well over a century after the Apostle Philip died, one of the leaders there, Apollinaris of Hierapolis, continued the Apostle Philip's practice of observing Passover on the 14th.

The Protestant scholars Roberts and Donaldson wrote this:

Apollinaris was bishop of Hierapolis on the Maeander, and, Lightfoot thinks, was probably with Melito and Polycrates, known to Polycarp, and influenced by his example and doctrine." (Roberts and Donaldson pp. 772-773).

Like the Apostle John, Apostle Philip, Melito, Polycrates, and Polycarp, Apollinaris would be considered a Quartodeciman (one who held that the date of Passover must remain the 14th of Nisan).

Anyway, here is nearly all of what is available from what Apollinaris wrote:

There are, then, some who through ignorance raise disputes about these things (though their conduct is pardonable: for ignorance is no subject for blame -- it rather needs further instruction), and say that on the fourteenth day the Lord ate the lamb with the disciples, and that on the great day of the feast of unleavened bread He Himself suffered; and they quote Matthew as speaking in accordance with their view. Wherefore their opinion is contrary to the law, and the Gospels seem to be at variance with them...The fourteenth day, the true Passover of the Lord; the great sacrifice, the Son of God instead of the lamb, who was bound, who bound the strong, and who was judged, though Judge of living and dead, and who was delivered into the hands of sinners to be crucified, who was lifted up on the horns of the unicorn, and who was pierced in His holy side, who poured forth from His side the two purifying elements, water and blood, word and spirit, and who was buried on the day of the passover, the stone being placed upon the tomb (Apollinaris. From the Book Concerning Passover. Translated by Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson. Excerpted from Volume I of The Ante-Nicene Fathers. Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson, editors; American Edition copyright © 1885. Copyright © 2001 Peter Kirby).

Apollinaris is showing then the Passover is (Nisan 14) and that it signifies the sacrifice of Christ, both of which are the positions of the Churches of God.

One Anglican scholar commented;

... there is no doubt that Apollinarius was a Quartodeciman ... Those who kept Passover in the evening understood it to be a repetition of the Lord's Supper (Stewart-Sykes A. Melito of Sardis On Pascha. St. Vladimir's Seminary Press, Crestwood (NY), 2001, p. 81).

Thus, a successor of the Apostle Philip continued to keep Passover on the 14th. While the Roman and Eastern Orthodox Catholics consider that the Apostle Philip was a saint, neither of those groups follow his practice related to Passover. We, however, in the Continuing Church of God, still do.

More on Apollinaris can be found in the article Apollinaris of Hierapolis.

Asia Minor Was the Focus of the Early Christian Church

Since the New Testament mentions a variety of places that most non-Greek speaking individuals know little about, very few people are aware that, after the four gospel accounts, the New Testament is mainly written to the church leadership in Asia Minor.

There are a total of 27 books in the New Testament.  At least 9 books of the New Testament were directly written to the church leaders in Asia Minor. The ones clearly written to those in Asia Minor include Galatians, Ephesians, Colossians, 1 & 2 Timothy (Timothy was in Ephesus), Philemon, 1 Peter, 3 John, and Revelation.  According to The Ryrie Study Bible John's Gospel, 1 Corinthians, 1 & 2 John, and possibly Philippians, were written from Ephesus.  In addition to these 14, there see to be more as 1 & 2 John and 2 Peter, and possibly Jude may have also been mainly directed to one or more of the churches in Asia Minor. 

So probably 14 to 20 New Testament books were written to or from Asia Minor (plus it has been claimed that all four gospel accounts were as well, though this is less certain, though one or more other than John may have been). 

There is only one book written to those in Rome (it never mentions any of the so-called Roman bishops), with 2 to Corinth, 2 to Thessalonica, and 1 to Crete (Titus), a total of 7 letters not sent from nor addressed to those in Asia Minor.

What this clearly shows, is that although there were Christians in various areas, the focus for the New Testament writers were the churches in Asia Minor. Interestingly, the last book of the Bible is specifically addressed to the churches of Asia Minor (Revelation 1:4,11).

Another scholar observed:

From the destruction of Jerusalem to the final passing away of the generation of immediate disciples of the Apostles, during the mysterious creative period of Christian history, Asia Minor was the chief centre of the Church's life. St. Paul and Timothy, St. John and St. Philip, Papias and Polycarp, Melito of Sardis and Apollinaris of Hierapolis, continue without a break the succession of leaders from the middle of the first to near the close of the second century of the Christian era.  It is true that in time the primacy, which had come to Asia Minor from the East, passed away…(Ramsay WM. The Church in the Roman Empire before A.D. 170. (London, 1893.) as cited/discussed in Studies in early church history: collected papers. C.H. Turner,editor, Clarendon Press, 1912, p. 166)

Of course, “the primacy” of Asia Minor seemed to continue until into the third century, and through its spiritual descendants, it has continued into the 21st century.

19th century church historian J.F. Hurst noted the following (bolding mine):

The school of Asia Minor consisted less in a formal educational centre than in a group of theological writers and teachers. The whole region had been a scene of active theological thought since Paul's day. In the second century it leaned towards a literal and Judaistic type of Christianity, but in the third it assumed a broader character. It opposed Gnosticism and suppressed Montanism. Polycarp, Papias, Melito of Sardis…were its leaders in its first period…(Hurst JF. Short history of the Christian church.  Harper, 1892.  Original from Harvard University. Digitized Oct 26, 2007, p. 37)

Thus, the influence of the Judeo-Christian region of Asia Minor has long been known (see Location of the Early Church: Another Look at Ephesus, Smyrna, and Rome). And the fact that the area changed/compromised in the third century is also known.

Concluding Thoughts

Philip was an original apostle directly chosen by Jesus Christ. He is believed to have been a faithful Christian leader and martyr.

The fact that he was married and had children should show all that pay attention to early Christian history that the early ordained leaders in the church clearly did not practice celibacy (for additional details, please see the article Was Celibacy Required for Early Bishops or Presbyters?).

The fact that he kept Passover on the 14th shows that this was an original practice of the faithful Christians (see also Passover and the Early Church). The fact that over a century after his death, this was still the practice of the leader in Hierapolis (see Apollinaris of Hierapolis) shows that this remained a practice of the faithful.

We in the Continuing Church of God have the same practices that the Apostle Philip had, including those that are not accepted by the Greco-Roman churches, who also claim him as one of their saints.

Most people do not realize that Asia Minor, and not Rome, was the focus of the early Church (see Location of the Early Church: Another Look at Ephesus, Smyrna, and Rome). Also, it may be of interest to note that even Roman Catholic scholars understand a lot of this (see What Do Roman Catholic Scholars Actually Teach About Early Church History? and/or the free booklet The Continuing History of the Church of God).

Here is a link to a related sermonette: The Apostle Philip.

Back to Early Christianity page

Back to COGwriter home page

Thiel B. The Apostle Philip of Hierapolis. (c) 2011/2012/2014 0/2020 1129