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What Ever Happened to the Apostles? – The Philips


What Ever Happened to the Apostles? – Philip the Apostle


Philip is said to have come from the city of Bethsaida (John 1.44).[1] Tradition, according to Polycrates and Eusebius mentions Philip as having three daughters.[2] But this tradition might be a little confused (see below).

The New Testament

The NT presents, Philip initially as a follower of John the Baptist before being called by Christ (John 1.43-44). [3] The NT also, pairs Philip up with Andrew, in the listing of the Twelve (Mark 3.18; Acts 1.13) and in several of the incidents involving him (John 6.8; 12.22).[4]

As an aside, Clement of Alexandria, identity Philip as the disciple who Jesus said to follow him instead of burying his father (Matt. 8.21; Luke 9.56).[5] “If they quote the Lord’s words to Philip, ‘Let dead bury their dead, but do thou follow me,’” [6]

John’s Gospel, gives evidence of that he had  “a clear understanding of OT expectations concerning Messiah” (John 1.43-46) and it also presents him with a “missionary heart” (John 12.21-22).[7] Philip helped to persuade Nathaniel to come to Jesus (John 1.43-51). This should be combined with his having stumbled in some other areas (John 6.5-7; 14.7-9).[8]

Post New Testament

What happened to the Apostle following the NT is unclear.  Polycrates of Ephesus points him toward a mission in Asia, where he said to have died peacefully at Hierapolis.[9] Other traditions, however, state that he suffered crucifixion.[10] He is often depicted with one of two symbols, either loaves (cf. John 6) or a tall cross.[11]

He is quickly confused with Philip the Evangelist, however. So that things get some what murky. Some, like Lightfoot, however, see Philip the Apostle as the one who is mentioned at living in Hierapolis and who Eusebius talks about, while others such as the Translator of Eusebius in NPNF sees it as the Evangelist.[i]

So that in this regards, the apocryphal Acts of Philip is of little use, as both are completely mingled.[12]

Later Traditions (East and West)

What Ever Happened to the Apostles? – Philip the Evangelist 21

The New Testament provides little detail, concerning his family, except to say that by the time of Paul’s meeting with him, he had four daughters who prophesied (Acts 21.9).[13]

The New Testament

From the New Testament account, Philip the Evangelist is seen as one of the seven men who are given the task to help the poor and widows (Acts 6.1-6).[14] He is later seen preaching a successful ministry in Samaria, where he confronts Simon Magus (Acts 8.5-13).[15] Philip also witnessed to the Ethiopian Eunucn and Baptized him, before heading toward Caesarea (Acts 8.26-40).[16] We seen lastly at Caesarea when Paul stays with him.[17]

Post New Testament

As G.L. Knapp pointed, “Later traditions often confused Philip the evangelist with Philip The Apostle, but in Acts 21:8 Luke makes a special attempt to distinguish this Philip as “the evangelist, who was one of the seven”[18]

Like Philip the Apostle, there is a bit of uncertainly, over his later years. [19] One tradition places him as the bishop of Tralles in Lydia.[20] As noted, above, both Philips were confused relatively early, so that Post NT traditions, are somewhat murky.

Philip according to Eusebius

It would appear then, according to Eusebius, Polycrates wrote:

““For in Asia also great lights have fallen asleep, which shall rise again on the last day, at the coming of the Lord, 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 sleeps 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 also sleeps at Ephesus.””[21]

To this can be added the Papias’ miraculous story.

“9 That Philip the apostle dwelt at Hierapolis with his daughters has been already stated. But it must be noted here that Papias, their contemporary, says that he heard a wonderful tale from the daughters of Philip. For he relates that in his time one rose from the dead. And he tells another wonderful story of Justus, surnamed Barsabbas: that he drank a deadly poison, and yet, by the grace of the Lord, suffered no harm.

10 The Book of Acts records that the holy apostles after the ascension of the Saviour, put forward this Justus, together with Matthias, and prayed that one might be chosen in place of the traitor Judas, to fill up their number. The account is as follows: “And they put forward two, Joseph, called Barsabbas, who was surnamed Justus, and Matthias; and they prayed and said.””[22]

[1] M.J. Wilkins, “Disciples,” DJD, (Downers Grover, Ill: Intervaristy Press, 1992), 180.

[2] D.E. Garland “Philip the Apostle,” ISEB, 3:833

[3] Wilkins, 180.

[4] Wilkins, 180.

[5] Garland, 3:833

[6] Clement of Alexandria, Stomata, Book 3, Chapter 4, Section 25.

[7] Wilkins, 180.

[8] Wilkins, 180

[9] ODCC, s.v. “Philips in the New Testament.”

[10] ODCC, s.v. “Philips in the New Testament.”

[11] ODCC, s.v. “Philips in the New Testament.”

[12] Garland, 3:833

[13] ODCC, s.v. “Philips in the New Testament.”

[14] ODCC, s.v. “Philips in the New Testament.”

[15] ODCC, s.v. “Philips in the New Testament.”

[16] ODCC, s.v. “Philips in the New Testament.”

[17] ODCC, s.v. “Philips in the New Testament.”

[18] G.L. Knapp, “Philip the Evangelist,” ISBE, 3:834.

[19] ODCC, s.v. “Philips in the New Testament.”

[20] ODCC, s.v. “Philips in the New Testament.”

[21] Eusebius, Church History, 3.31, in NPNF 2, 1.

[22] Eusebius, Church History, 3.39.9,10, in NPNF 2, 1.

[i] End Note

For ease of the Read below is a quote from Lightfoot’s Commentary on the Colossians and to Philemon, page 46.

“My reasons for believing that the Philip who lived at Hierapolis was not the Evangelist, but the Apostle, are as follows, (1) This is distinctly stated by the earliest witness, Polycrates, who was bishop of Ephesus at the close of the second century, and who besides claimed to have and probably had special opportunities of knowing early traditions. It is confirmed moreover by the notice in Clement of Alexandria, who is the next in order of time, and whose means of information also were good, for one of his earliest teachers was an Ionian Greek (Strom. I. I, p. 311).

(2) The other view depends solely on the authority of the Dialogue of Gaius and Proclus. I have given reasons elsewhere for questioning the separate existence of the Roman presbyter Gaius, and for supposing that this dialogue was written by Hippolytus bishop of Portus (Journal of Philology I. p. 98 sq., Cambridge, 1868). But however this may be, its author was a Roman ecclesiastic, and probably wrote some quarter of a century at least after Polycrates. In all respects therefore his authority is inferior. Moreover it is suspicions in form. It mentions four daughters instead of three, makes them all virgins, and represents them as prophetesses, thus showing a distinct aim of reproducing the particulars as given in Acts xxi. 9; whereas the account of Polycrates is divergent in all three respects.

(3) A life-long friendship would naturally draw Philip the Apostle of Bethsaida after John, as it also drew Andrew. And, when we turn to St John’s Gospel, we can hardly resist the impression that incidents relating to Andrew and Philip had a special interest, not only for the writer of the Gospel, but also for his hearers (John i. 40, 43—46, vi. 5—8, xii. 20—22, xiv. 8, 9). Moreover the Apostles Andrew and Philip appear in this Gospel as inseparable companions.

(4) Lastly; when Papias mentions collecting the sayings of the Twelve and of other early disciples from those who heard them, he gives a prominent place to these two Apostles …, but there is no reference to Philip the Evangelist. When therefore we read later that he conversed with the daughters of Philip, it seems natural to infer that the Philip intended is the same person whom he has mentioned previously. It should be added, though no great value can be assigned to such channels of information, that the Acts of Philip place the Apostle at Hierapolis; Tischondorf, Act. Apott. Apocr. p. 75 sq.

On the other hand, those who suppose that the Evangelist, and not the Apostle, resided at Hierapolis, account for the other form of the tradition by the natural desire of the Asiatic Churches to trace their spiritual descent directly from the Twelve. This solution of the phenomenon might have been accepted, if the authorities in favour of Philip the Evangelist had been prior in time and superior in quality. There is no improbability in supposing that both the Philips were married and had daughters.”

However counter argument for this appears in one of the Footnotes of the Eusebius translation in the NPNF

Philip the apostle and Philip the evangelist are here confounded. That they were really two different men is clear enough from Luke’s account in the Acts (cf. Acts vi. 2–5, Acts viii. 14–17, and Acts xxi. 8). That it was the evangelist, and not the apostle, that was buried in Hierapolis may be assumed upon the following grounds: (1) The evangelist (according to Acts xxi. 8) had four daughters, who were virgins and prophetesses. Polycrates speaks here of three daughters, at least two of whom were virgins, and Proclus, just below, speaks of four daughters who were prophetesses. (2) Eusebius, just below, expressly identifies the apostle and evangelist, showing that in his time there was no separate tradition of the two men. Lightfoot (Colossians, p. 45) maintains that Polycrates is correct, and that it was the apostle, not the evangelist, that was buried in Hierapolis; but the reasons which he gives are trivial and will hardly convince scbolars in general. Certainly we need strong grounds to justify the separation of two men so remarkably similar so far as their families are concerned. But the truth is, there is nothing more natural than that later generations should identify the evangelist with the apostle of the same name, and should assume the presence of the latter wherever the former was known to have been. This identification would in itself be a welcome one to the inhabitants of Hierapolis, and hence it would be assumed there more readily than anywhere else. Of course it is not impossible that Philip the apostle also had daughters who were virgins and prophetesses, but it is far more probable that Polycrates (and possibly Clement too; see the previous chapter) confounded him with the evangelist,—as every one may have done for some generations before them. Eusebius at any rate, historian though he was, saw no difficulty in making the identification, and certainly it was just as easy for Polycrates and Clement to do the same. Lightfoot makes something of the fact that Polycrates mentions only three daughters, instead of four. But the latter’s words by no means imply that there had not been a fourth daughter (see note 8, below).


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