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Bible Dictionaries

Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible


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PHILIPPI was a city situated E. of Mt. Pangæus, on the E. border of Macedonia, about 10 miles from the coast. It was originally (under the name of Crenides) a settlement of Thasians, who mined the gold of Mt. Pangæus; but one of the early acts of Philip of Macedon was to assure himself of revenue by seizing these mines and strongly fortifying the city, to which he gave his own name. The mines are said to have yielded him 1000 talents a year. Philippi passed with the rest of Macedonia to the Romans in b.c. 168. Until b.c. 146 Macedonia was divided into four regions, with separate governments, and so divided that a member of one could not marry or hold property in another. But in 146 it received the more regular organization of a province. The great Eastern road of the Roman Empire, the Via Egnatia, after crossing the Strymon at Amphipolis, kept N. of Mt. Pangæus to Philippi and then turned S.E. to Neapolis, which was the port of Philippi. Philippi stood on the steep side of a bill, and immediately S. of it lay a large marshy lake.

The Church at Philippi was founded by St. Paul on his second missionary journey. With Silas, Timothy, and Luke he landed at Neapolis, and proceeded to Philippi, which St. Luke describes as ‘a city of Macedonia, the first of the district, a Roman colony.’ Philippi was not the capital city of either of the regions into which Macedonia had been divided in 168, but the most natural explanation of the phrase ‘first of the district’ is that the province had at this time a division for official purposes of which we do not know. Other explanations are that it means ‘the first city we arrived at’ (which the Greek could scarcely mean), or that Philippi claimed a pre-eminence in much the same way that Pergamus, Smyrna, Ephesus all claimed to be the ‘first city’ of Asia. It had become a Roman colony after the battle of Philippi, b.c. 42, when Octavian and Antony, having vanquished Brutus and Cassius, settled a number of their veterans there. Another body of veterans was settled there after Actium, b.c. 31. As a colony its constitution was modelled on the ancient one of Rome, and its two chief magistrates had not only lictors (EV [Note: English Version.] Serjeants ), but also a jurisdiction independent of that of the governor of the province. It was the first essentially Roman town in which St. Paul preached. There was no synagogue, but on the Sabbath, says St. Luke, ‘we went forth without the gate by a river-side where we supposed there was a place of prayer.’ At this place, therefore, St. Paul found a number of women assembled, Jewesses or proselytes, one of whom named Lydia (wh. see), a merchant in purple from Thyatira, was immediately converted and baptized. For the subsequent Incidents see Python, Magistrate, etc.

It is probable that the Church at Philippi was left in charge of St. Luke, for at this point in the narrative of the Acts the first person is dropped until St. Paul passes through Macedonia on his return from the third missionary journey (Luke 20:5 ). The Church flourished, and always remained on terms of peculiar affection with St. Paul, being allowed to minister to his needs more than once. See art. Philippians [Epistle to], which was probably written during his first imprisonment at Rome. From 1 Timothy 1:3 we assume at least one later visit of the Apostle to Philippi.

Before a.d. 117 Ignatius passed through Philippi on his journey from Antioch to his martyrdom in Rome. He was welcomed by the Church, and they wrote a letter of consolation to the Church of Antioch and another to Polycarp of Smyrna, asking for copies of any letters that Ignatius had written in Asia. Polycarp wrote his Epistle to the Philippians in answer. In the 4th and 5th centuries we read of the bishop of Philippi as present at Councils, but apart from this the Church passes out of history.

A. E. Hillard.

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Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Philippi'. Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible. 1909.

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