Philip the Apostle

Saint Philip of Bethsaida, the Apostle

Icon of the Apostle Phillip

Philip the Apostle was one of the Twelve Apostles chosen and invested (ordained, see Mark 3:14) by Jesus. It is worth noting that Philip is a Greek name (and no Hebrew or Aramaic name for him is known), which again indicates the level to which Hellenization had penetrated the region of Galilee. The Gospel of John recounts Philip’s calling as a disciple of Jesus (John 1:43). He also was among those surrounding John the Baptist when the latter first pointed out Jesus as the Lamb of God. It was Philip who first introduced Nathanael (sometimes identified with Bartholomew) to Jesus. It is likely that Philip was fluent in Greek and may have been known to the Greek pilgrims in Jerusalem. He advises Andrew that certain Greeks wish to meet Jesus, and together they inform Jesus of this (John 12:21).

Early Christian oral tradition describes Philip as the apostle who preached in Greece, Syria, and Phrygia (modern day Turkey). Philip is described as a disciple from the village of Bethsaida (on the northern shore of the lake of Galilee). He is one of the twelve Apostles chosen and invested (ordained, see Mark 3:14) by Jesus. This is the same home town as the apostles Andrew, Peter, John and James the sons of Zebedee came from.

Oral tradition (which was written down around A.D. 320) about Saint Philip’s life can be found in the anonymous and non-canonical Acts of Philip, probably written by a contemporary of Eusebius of Caesarea. This book recounts the preaching and miracles of Philip. Following the resurrection of Jesus, Philip was sent with his sister Mariamne and Bartholomew to preach in Greece, Phrygia, and Syria. Included in the Acts of Philip is an appendix, entitled “Of the Journey of Philip the Apostle: From the Fifteenth Act Until the End, and Among Them the Martyrdom.” This appendix gives an account of Philip’s travels and evangelism in Hierapolis (in Western Anatolia, modern day Turkey) where he established a church and seated the early Christian bishop Papias of Hierapolis (c. 100–140 CE) and of Philip’s martyrdom in that city. According to this account, through a miraculous healing and his preaching Philip converted the wife of the Roman proconsul of the city to the Christian faith. This enraged the proconsul, and he had Philip, Bartholomew, and Mariamne all tortured. Philip and Bartholomew were then crucified upside-down, and Philip preached from his cross. As a result of Philip’s preaching the crowd released Bartholomew from his cross, but Philip insisted that they not release him, and Philip died on the cross. Another legend is that he was martyred by beheading in the city of Hierapolis.

Philip is commonly associated with the symbol of the Latin cross. Other symbols assigned to Philip include: the cross with the two loaves (because of his answer to the Lord in John 6:7), a basket filled with bread, a spear with the patriarchal cross, and a cross with a carpenter’s square.

The Tomb of Saint Philip the Apostle found in Hierapolis, Turkey.

On Wednesday, 27 July 2011, the Turkish news agency Anadolu reported that archaeologists had unearthed a tomb that the project leader claims to be the Tomb of Saint Philip during excavations in Hierapolis close to the Turkish city Denizli. The Italian archaeologist, Professor Francesco D’Andria stated that scientists had discovered the tomb within a newly revealed church. He stated that the design of the Tomb, and writings on its walls, definitively prove it belonged to Saint Phillip, the martyred Apostle of Jesus.

Note: Philip the Apostle should not be confused with Philip the Evangelist, who was appointed as a deacon with Stephen to oversee charitable distributions (Acts 6:5).