Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature
(Φίλλιπποι, plur. of Philip), a celebrated city of Macedonia, visited by the apostle Paul, and the seat of the earliest Christian Church formally established in Europe. The double miracle wrought there, and the fact that "to the saints in Philippi" the great apostle of the Gentiles addressed one of his epistles, must ever make this city holy groulnd. The following account of it combines the ancient notices with modern investigations.
1. Apostolic Associations. — St. Paul, when, on his first visit to Macedonia in company with Silas, he embarked at Troas, made a straight run to Samothrace, and from thence to Neapolis, which he reached on the second day (Acts 16:11). The Philippi of Paul's day was situated in a plain, on the banks of a deep and rapid stream called Gangites (now Angista). The ancient walls followed the course of the stream for some distance; and in this section of the wall the site of a gate is seen, with the ruins of a bridge nearly opposite. In the narrative of Paul's visit it is said: "On the Sabbath we went out of the gate by the river (ἐξήλθομεν τῆς πὐλης παρὰ ποταμόν),where a meeting for prayer was accustomed to be" (Acts 16:13). It was doubtless by this gate they went out, and by the side of this river the prayer-meeting was held. As Philippi was a military colony, it is probable that the Jews had no synagogue, and were not permitted to hold their worship within the walls. Behind the city, on the north-east, rose lofty mountains; but on the opposite side a vast and rich plain stretched out, reaching on the south-west to the sea, and on the north-west far away among the ranges of Macedonia. On the south-east a rocky ridge, some sixteen hundred feet in height, separated the plain from the bay and town of Neapolis. Over it ran a paved road connecting Philippi with Neapolis. Though the distance between the two was nine miles, yet Neapolis was to Philippi what the Piroeus was to Athens; and hence Paul is said, when journeying from Greece to Syria, to have "sailed away from Philippi;" that is, from Neapolis, its port (Acts 20:6).
Philippi was in the province of Macedonia, while Neapolis was in Thrace. Paul, on his first journey, landed at the latter, and proceeded across the mountainroad to the former, which Luke calls "the first city of the division of Macedonia" (πρώτη τῆς μερίδος τῆς Μακεδονίας πόλις , Acts 16:12). The word πρώτη does not, as represented in the A.V., signify "chief." Thessalonica was the chief city of all Macedonia, and Amphipolis of that division (μερίς) of it in which Philippi was situated (see Wieseler, Chron. des Apost. Zeit. page 37). Πρώτη simply means that Philippi was the "first" city of Macedonia to which Paul came (Alford, ad loc.; Conybeare and Howson, Life of St. Paul, 1:311, note). In descending the mountain-path towards Philippi the apostle had before him a vast and beautiful panorama. The whole plain, with its green meadows, and clumps of trees, and wide reaches of marsh, and winding streams, lay at his feet; and away beyond it the dark ridges of Macedonia.
The missionary visit of Paul and Silas to Philippi was successful. They found an eager audience in the few Jews and proselytes who frequented the prayerplace on the banks of the Gangites. Lydia, a trader from Thyatira, was the first convert. Her whole house followed her example. It was when going and returning from Lydia's house that "the damsel possessed with a spirit of divination" met the apostles. Paul cast out the spirit, and then those who had made a trade of the poor girl's misfortune rose against them, and took them before the magistrates, who, with all the haste and roughness of martial law, ordered them to be scourged and thrown into prison. Even this gross act of injustice redounded in the end to the glory of God: for the jailer and his whole house were converted, and the very magistrates were compelled to make a public apology to the apostles, and to set them at liberty, thus declaring theit innocence. The scene in the prison of Philippi was one of the most cheering, as it was one of the most remarkable incidents in the history of the apostolic Church.
Paul visited Philippi twice more, once immediately after the disturbances which arose at Ephesus out of the jealousy of the manufacturers of silver shrines for Artemis. By this time the hostile relation in which the Christian doctrine necessarily stood to all purely ceremonial religions was perfectly manifest; and wherever its teachers appeared, popular tumults were to be expected, and the jealousy of the Roman authorities, who dreaded civil disorder above everything else, to be feared. It seems. not unlikely that the second visit of the apostle to Philippi was made specially with the view of counteracting this particular danger. He appears to have remained in the city and surrounding country a considerable time (Acts 20:1-2).
When Paul passed through Philippi a third time hie does not appear to have made any considerable stay there (Acts 20:6). He and his companion are somewhat loosely spoken of as sailing from Philippi; but this is because in the common apprehension of travellers the city and its port were regarded as one. Whoever embarked at the Piraeus might in the same way be said to set out on a voyage from Athens. On this occasion the voyage to Troas took the apostle five days, the vessel being probably obliged to coast in order to avoid the contrary wind, until coming off the headland of Sarpedon, whence she would be able to stand across to Troas with an E. or E.N.E. breeze, which at that time of year (after Easter) might be looked for.
The Christian community at Philippi distinguished itself in liberality. On the apostle's first visit he was hospitably entertained by Lydia, and when he afterwards went to Thessalonica, where his reception appears to have been of a very mixed character, the Philippians sent him supplies more than once. and were the only Christian community that did so (Philippians 4:15). They also contributed readily to the collection made for the relief of the poor at Jerusalem, which Paul conveyed to them at his last visit (2 Corinthians 8:1-6). It would seem as if they sent further supplies to the apostle after his arrival at Rome. The necessity for these appears to have been urgent, and some delay to have taken place in collecting the requisite funds; so that Epaphroditus, who carried them, risked his life in the endeavor to make tup for lost time (μέχρι θανάτου ἤγγισεν παραβουλευσάμενος τῇ ψυχῇ, ἵνα ἀναπληρώσῃ τὸ ὑμῶν ὑστέρημα τῆς προς μὲ λειτουργίας , Philippians 2:30). The delay, however, seems to have somewhat stung the apostle at the time, who fancied his beloved flock had forgotten him (see 4:10-17). Epaphroditus fell ill with fever from his efforts, and nearly died. On recovering he became homesick, and wandering in mind (ἀδημονῶν) from the weakness which is the sequel of fever; and Paul although intending soon to send Timothy to the Philippian Church, thought it desirable to let Epaphroditus go without delay to them, who had already heard of his sickness. and carry with him the letter which is included in the canon — one which was written after the apostle's imprisonment at Rome had lasted a considerable time. Some domestic troubles connected with religion had already broken out in the community. Euodias and Svntyche, who appear to be husband and wife, are exhorted to agree with one another in the matter of their common faith; and the former is implored to extend his sympathy to certain females (obviously familiar both to Paul and to him) who did good service to the apostle in his trials at Philippi, and who in some way or other appear to be the occasion of the disagreement between the pair. Possibly a claim on the part of these females to superior insight in spiritual matters may have caused some irritation; for the apostle immediately goes on to remind his readers that the peace of God is something superior to the highest intelligence (ὑπερέχουσα πάντα νοῦν ).
It would seem, as Alford says, that the cruel treatment of the apostle at Philippi had combined with the charm of his personal fervor of affection to knit up a bond of more than ordinary love between him and the Philippian Church. They alone, of all churches, sent subsidies to relieve his temporal necessities" (Philippians 4:10; Philippians 4:15; Philippians 4:18; 2 Corinthians 11:9; 1 Thessalonians 2:2; Alford, Greek Test., Prol. 3:29). The apostle felt their kindness; and during his imprisonment at Rome wrote to them that epistle which is still in our canon. This epistle indicates that at that time some of the Christians there were in the custody of the military authorities as seditious persons, through some proceedings or other connected with their faith (ὑμῖν ἐχαρίσθη τὸ ὑπὲρ Χριστοῦ, οὐ μόνον τὸ εἰς αὐτὸν πιστεύειν ἀλλὰ καὶ τὸ ὑπὲρ αὐτοῦ πάσχειν· τὸν αὐτὸν ἀγῶνα ἔχνοτες οιον εἴδετε ἐν ἐμοὶ καὶ νῦν ἀκούετε ἐν ἐμοί , Philippians 1:29). The reports of the provincial magistrates to Rome would of course describe Paul's first visit to Philippi as the origin of the troubles there; and if this were believed, it would be put together with the charge against him by the Jews at Jerusalem which induced him to appeal to Caesar, and with the disturbances at Ephesus and elsewhere; and the general conclusion at which the government would arrive might not improbably be that he was a dangerous person and should be got rid of. This will explain the strong exhortation of the first eighteen verses of chapter 2, and the peculiar way in which it winds up. The Philippian Christians, who are at the same time suffering for their profession, are exhorted in the most earnest manner, not to firmness (as one might have expected), but to moderationi, to abstinence from all provocation and ostentation of their own sentiments (μηδὲν κατὰ ἐριθείαν μηδὲ κενοδοξίαν, Philippians 1:3), to humility, and consideration for the interests of others. They are to achieve their salvation with fear and trembling, and without quarrelling and disputing, in order to escape all blame from such charges, that is, as the Roman colonists would bring against them. If with all this prudence and temperance in the profession of their faith, their religion is still made a penal offence, the apostle is well content to take the consequence — to precede them in martyrdom for it — to be the libation poured out upon them the victims (εἰ καὶ σπένδομαι ἐπὶ τῇ θυσίᾷ καὶ λειτουργίᾷ τῆς πίστεως ὑμῶν χαίρω καὶ συγχαίρω πᾶσιν ὑμῖν , Philippians 1:17). Of course the Jewish formalists in Philippi were the parties most likely to misrepresent the conduct of the new converts; and hence (after a digression on the subject of Epaphroditus) the apostle reverts to cautions against them, such precisely as he had given before-consequently by word of mouth: "Beware of those dogs" — (for they will not be children at the table, but eat the crumbs underneath) — "those doers (and bad doers too) of the law-those flesh-manglers (for circumcised I won't call them, we being the true circumcision, etc.") (3:2, 3). Some of these enemies Paul found at Rome, who "told the story of Christ insincerely" (κατήγγειλαν οὐχ ἁγνῶς, 1:17) in the hope of increasing the severity of his imprisonment by exciting the jealousy of the court. These he opposes to such as "preached Christ" (ἐκήρυξαν) loyally, and consoles himself with the reflection that, at all events, the story circulated, whatever the motives of those who circulated it. See Walch, Acta Pruli Philippensia (Jen. 1726); Todd, The Church at Philippi (Lond. 1864). (See PHILIPPIANS, EPISTLE TO)
2. Ancient History. — Strabo tells us that the old name of Philippi was Krenides (7:331); and Appian adds that it was so called from the number of "little fountains" (κρηνίδες) around the site. He also says that it had another name, Datus; but that Philip of Macedon, having taken it from the Thracians, made it a frontier fortress, and gave it his own name (De Bell. Civ. 4:105). Philip's city stood upon a hill, probably that seen a little to the south of the present ruins, which may have always formed the citadel, but was in all probability in its origin a factory of the Phoenicians, who were the first that worked the gold-mines in the mountains here, as iin the neighboring Thasos. Appian says that those were in a hill (λόφος ) not far from Phiiippi, that the hill was sacred to Dionysus, and that the mines went by the name of "the sanctuary" (τὰ ἄσυλα). But he shows himself quite ignorant of the locality, to the extent of believing the plain of Philippi to be open to the river Strymon, whereas the massive wall of Pangseus is really interposed..between them. In all probability the "hill of Dionysus" and the "sanctuary" are the temple of Dionysus high up the mountains among the Satrie, who preserved their independence against all invaders down to the time of Herodotus at least. It is more likely that the gold-mines coveted by Philip were the same as those at Scapte Hyle, which was certainly in this immediate neighborhood. Before the great expedition of Xerxes, the Thasians had a number of settlements on the main, and this among the number, which produced them eighty talents a year as rent to the state. In the year B.C. 463 they ceded their possessions on the continent to the Athenians: but the colonists, 10,000 in number, who had settled on the Strymon and pushed their encroachments eastward as far as this point, were crushed by a simultaneous effort of the Thracian tribes (Thucydides, 1:100; 4:102; Herodotus, 9:75; Pausanias, 1:29, 4). From that time until the rise of the Macedonian power, the mines seem to have remained in the hands of native chiefs; but when the affairs of Southern Greece became thoroughly embroiled by the policy of Philip, the Thasians made an attempt to repossess themselves of this valuable territory, and sent a colony to the site, then going by the name of "the Springs" (Κρηνίδες ). Philip, however, aware of the importance of the position, expelled them and founded Philippi, the last of all his creations. The mines at that time, as was not wonderfil under the circumstances, had become, almost insignificant in their produce; but their new owner contrived to extract more than a thousand talents a year from them, with which he minted the gold coinage called by his name. The proximity of the gold-mines was of course the origin,of so large a city as Philippi, but the plain in which it lies is one of extraordinary fertility. The position too was on the main road from Rome to Asia, the Via Egnatia, which from Thessalonica to Constantinople followed the same course as the existing post-road. The usual course was to take ship at Brundisium and land at Dyrrachium, from whence a route led across Epirus to Thessalonica. Ignatius was carried to Italy by this route, when sent to Rome to be cast to wild beasts. See Strabo, Fragnment. lib. 7; Thucyd. 1:100; 4:102; Herod. 9:75; Diod. Sic. 16:3 sq.; Appian, Bell. Civ. 4:101 sq.; Pausan. 1:28, 4.
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McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Philippi'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/eng/tce/p/philippi.html. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.