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Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament

Philip the Evangelist

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‘Philip the Evangelist,’ or ‘Philip one of the Seven,’ or ‘Philip the Deacon’-these are the three names by which Philip is called, each of them intended to distinguish him from Philip the Apostle, with whom in both ancient and modern times he has often been confounded. As in Stephen’s case, so in Philip’s-we have no previous mention of him till he was elected to be one of the Seven (Acts 6:5). In the list of the Seven he comes second, next to Stephen. The same emphatic praise is not accorded to him by the author of the Acts as to Stephen, and probably while Stephen lived Philip was overshadowed by his more striking personality. It seems, however, probable that the account we have of the appointment of the Seven, of the trial of Stephen (though not his speech, which was more probably derived from the reminiscences of St. Paul), and of Philip’s own subsequent doings, was derived from Philip himself, who may well have communicated it to St. Luke during one of his two visits to Caesarea (Acts 21:8-14; Acts 27:1). As with respect to Stephen so with respect to Philip we should infer that he was a Hellenist, and therefore a suitable agent for extending the gospel to those who were not strictly Jews; but the inference is not certain in either case. Philip belonged to a band who were scattered from Jerusalem in consequence of the persecution which followed on the death of Stephen (Acts 8:4). He began his preaching among the Samaritans apparently in the principal city of the district, in Sebaste or Samaria itself. Here he encountered a famous magician resident in the city, named Simon. This Simon subsequently became the founder of one of those religio-philosophical sects, resulting partly from the break-up of the old religions, partly from the contact of the older religious faiths or philosophies with Judaism, which are known by the general name of Gnosticism. The object of all these systems was to suggest some intelligible scheme through which the God of philosophy might be brought into relations with the God of the OT and the God who was active in creation. This they generally effected by imagining some arbitrary hierarchy of emanations, among which, and by the help of which, a place might be found for the God of the OT, the Giver of the Mosaic Law, and for the Creator of the universe, and generally also for our Lord Jesus Christ. In his system he assigned to himself and the prophetess Helena, whom he associated with himself, a high position; he described himself as the power of or emanation from God which is called ‘Great.’ But at the moment he seems to have been completely over-awed by the spiritual energy of Philip, received baptism at his hands, and joined the band of his disciples and associates.

The conversions of Simon and his fellow-Samaritans represented a great step in advance in the widening of the Christian Church. True, our Lord had made converts among the Samaritans partly through the testimony of the Samaritan woman, partly by His own teaching and influence (John 4:39-42), but it is not clear that they were actually admitted to baptism, and they were directly excluded from those to whom during the continuance of His ministry the disciples were to address themselves (Matthew 10:5). Though partially akin to the Jews in blood and in religious faith, the Jews would have no dealings with them (John 4:9) and used the name ‘Samaritan’ as a term of the deepest reproach (John 8:48), so that to proclaim that they too were to be included within the Kingdom of God was an innovation of the most startling kind. How startling the innovation was we may gather from the fact that St. Peter and St. John were dispatched by the Church of Jerusalem to inquire into the matter, and it was only when, in answer to the apostles’ prayers and the laying on of their hands, the Holy Ghost had descended on them, that Philip’s action was regarded as fully ratified (Acts 8:17; Acts 8:25).

The next step was taken under the direct prompting of the Spirit. Philip was moved by the Spirit to take the southern route to Jerusalem, which led to Gaza, then, in consequence of its overthrow by the Maccabees, ‘deserted’ (cf. G. A. Smith, HGHL_, 1897, p. 186 f.). In this neighbourhood he fell in with an Ethiopian eunuch of Queen Candace, whom he converted by explaining to him part of Isaiah 53, and received at once to baptism (perhaps also to confirmation). From Gaza, Philip was snatched away by the Spirit and carried off to Ashdod, from which he passed through the various coast towns and villages till he reached Caesarea, where he settled down, and is found still living some twenty years later.

It is on the occasion of St. Paul’s last visit to Jerusalem that Philip is brought before us once more in the Acts. At his house, St. Paul, and apparently St. Luke also, stayed on their way from Ptolemais to the capital (Acts 21:8). Philip had now ‘four daughters, virgins, which did prophesy,’ and they, along with Agabus, the prophet who came down from Jerusalem, attempted to divert St. Paul from continuing his journey thitherward, but unavailingly (Acts 21:10-14). St. Luke collected, probably partly during this visit, and partly at a later date, the details of Philip’s earlier life contained in the passage in Acts already considered. At this point Philip disappears from the Acts. What little more we know about him is derived from ecclesiastical tradition; but this tradition is rendered uncertain from a tendency there is among ecclesiastical writers to identify Philip the Apostle with Philip the Evangelist. This was due to their having the same name, to both having daughters, and to both having settled in later years in Asia Minor, possibly both at Hierapolis. Yet there can be no doubt that the author of the Acts distinguishes the two, and the tradition does not really confound them, but distinguishes the three daughters of Philip the Apostle (one of whom was married and settled at Ephesus) from the four daughters of Philip the Evangelist, who were all virgins (see Polycrates, quoted in Eusebius, HE_ iii. 31). And then tradition makes Philip the Evangelist settle not at Hierapolis but at Tralles (AS_, June 6).

Literature.-W. M. Ramsay, St. Paul the Traveller, 1895; R. B. Rackham, Acts of the Apostles, 1901; J. B. Lightfoot, Colossians and Philemon3, 1879; A. Harnack, The Acts of the Apostles, Eng. tr._, 1909.

W. A. Spooner.

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Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Philip the Evangelist'. Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament. 1906-1918.

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Friday, May 29th, 2020
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