Tag Archives: Philip

The Further Adventures of the Disciple with “Horse” in His Name

Philip According to Tradition

Clement of Alexandria, in passing, claims that Philip is the man who asked for time to go bury his dead father, and to whom Jesus said, “Let the dead bury their dead.”1

The Acts of Saint Philip the Apostle When He Went to Upper Hellas(2)

This writing gives the tradition that Philip went around wearing the clothes “of a recluse” and that the philosophers of Athens thought he was one of them because of it.  After hearing Philip preach, the philosophers requested three days to research about this Jesus.  Instead, they wrote a letter to the Jewish high priest Ananias, describing the miracles that Philip was doing, and asking for help.  Ananias, enraged, took an army of five hundred men and went to Athens, joined with the philosophers, and went to kill Philip, whom they said was called “the son of thunder.”3

Ananias then gives a speech, saying that Jesus caused people to leave the Law of Moses, and so they crucified Him to keep His teaching from being fulfilled, after which the disciples stole the body and performed fake miracles, claiming it was by the power of the risen Jesus.  As Ananias ran to grab Philip to scourge him, he was suddenly blinded and his hand withered.  The five hundred soldiers were blinded as well.  And after Philip uttered a prayer that these men might believe, Jesus descended from heaven, causing all the idols of Athens to fall to the ground, demons to cry out, and people to flee.  Yet the high priest refused to recognize Jesus.  Philip restored the high priest’s sight, but still he refused to believe, so the 500 soldiers requested to be healed as well so they could “cut off this unbelieving high priest.”4

Instead, Philip caused the ground to open up and swallow the high priest to the knees, then the stomach, then the neck, each time giving him the opportunity to repent.  Finally, when he refused, the ground swallowed him whole, leaving nothing but the high priest’s garment.

It is then said that Philip founded a church there in Athens, where he remained for two years, appointing elders, before going to preach in Parthia.5

The Journeyings of Philip the Apostle
(aka “The Acts of Philip”)

This writing places Philip in Hierapolis with Bartholomew (Nathanael), Stachys (possibly a reference to a man mentioned in Romans 16:9) and Philip’s sister, Mariam.6 The focus of his preaching there dealt with snake-worship that was prominent in that city.7  After converting the wife of the proconsul, Philip and company were arrested, beaten, scourged, and then drug through the streets.  The next day, the proconsul prepared to put Philip and Bartholomew to death.  Philip, according to the story, was stripped of his clothing, and iron hooks were driven through his ankles and heels, and he was hung upside-down in a tree, while Bartholomew was stretched out and nailed to the gate of the temple of the serpent.  Philip said to John, who had just then arrived, “I shall not endure it any longer; but I will accomplish upon them my threat, and will destroy them all [with fire from heaven]!”8

After Bartholomew, John, and Philip’s sister begged him to remember Jesus’ attitude on the cross, Philip responds by saying, “Go away and do not mollify [attempt to soothe] me; for I will not bear they that hanged me head-down and pierced my ankles and heels with irons.  And John…Go away from me, and I will curse them, and they shall be destroyed utterly to a man.”  Then Philip utters a curse, “Let the great Hades open its mouth; let the great abyss swallow up these the ungodly, who have not been willing to receive the word of truth in this city.”  And then it happened, the ground opened up, and over 7,000 people fell into the abyss—alive.  Then the people cried out to God, asking for forgiveness.  It’s then that Jesus appears.

Jesus chastises Philip for returning evil for evil, but Philip responds with “Why are you angry with me, Lord?  Because I have cursed my enemies?  For why do you not tread them underfoot, because they are yet alive in the abyss?  And do you know, Lord, that because of you I came into this city, and in your name I have persecuted all the error of the idols, and all the demons?  The dragons have withered away, and the serpents.  And since these men have not received your light, therefore I have cursed them, and they have done down to Hades alive.”

Jesus responds by saying that when Philip dies, he will have to spend 40 days outside of Paradise, in terror under the flaming and turning sword before he will be allowed in.  After Jesus returned the people up from the abyss, Philip gave them a final message before finally dying,9

Other Traditions

Polycrates (AD 130-196), bishop in Ephesus, records as accepted fact that Philip died in Hierapolis,10 and an inscription has been discovered there showing that their church building was dedicated to the memory “of the holy and glorious apostle and theologian Philip.”11

Hippolytus says, “Philip preached in Phrygia, and was crucified in Hierapolis with his head downward in the time of Domitian, and was buried there.”12

One ancient writing says that Philip was of the tribe of Zebulon.13  Later writings mention Galatia (Gaul) as his area of mission work.

Legends of a later origin record that Joseph [of Arimathaea] was sent by Philip from Gaul to Britain along with 11 other disciples in 63 AD, and built an oratory at Glastonbury, that he brought the Holy Grail to England, and that he freed Ireland from snakes.14

-Bradley S. Cobb

1 Matthew 8:21-22. Clement of Alexandria, Strata, or Miscellanies, 3.4.25.  Found in The Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 2. Page 385.  Note: The editors of The Ante-Nicene Fathers, for some reason, published book three (from which this information comes) in Latin instead of English (like the rest of the volumes).  The Latin quote is: Quod si usurpent vocem Domini, qui dicit Philippo: “Sine mortuos sepelire mortuos suos, tu autem sequere me:” at illud considerent, quod similem carnis formationem fert quoque Philippus, non habens cadaver pollutum.  Translated, it reads: If they quote the Lord’s words to Philip, “Let the dead bury their dead, but you do follow me,” they ought to consider that Philip’s flesh is also formed in the same way; [the] body is not a polluted corpse.  This was written in opposition to the heresies of Marcion.

2 Hellas was “the city of Athens” (The Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 8, page 503).

3 This name was given by Jesus to James and John, not to Philip.  The Journeyings of Philip the Apostle also attributes this name to Philip.

4 The Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 8, page 506.

5 The Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 8, page 507.  It is worth pointing out that the biblical record refutes the idea of Philip first bringing the gospel to Athens.  The apostle Paul stated clearly in Romans 15:20 that he did not build on another man’s foundation (that is, labor where another apostle had begun the work); yet Paul preached in Athens (Acts 18).  Thus the “Acts of Saint Philip the Apostle when He went to Upper Hellas” is clearly a work of fiction.

6 The Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 8, page 497. Philip’s family was never discussed in the biblical record, so there is no way of knowing if he had a sister and what her name really was.

7 The Journeyings of Philip the Apostle says that Hierapolis was called “Ophioryma,” which means “Serpent Town.”

8 The Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 8, pages 499-500.

9 The Journeyings of Philip the Apostle was apparently written by Christians in Hierapolis, possibly seeking to elevate their standing in the universal church by claiming apostolic origins.  The book relates that Philip commanded a church building (which they call a “church,” proving its late date of composition) to be built by Bartholomew on the site where Philip died.  It is important to note that there are multiple sources (some earlier than this work) which place the death of Andrew in Hierapolis.  This work also seems to argue that Christians must live in complete chastity.

10 See The Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 8, pages 773, 748.  This information also appears in Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History, 5.24.  However, Clement of Alexandria appears to claim that Philip did not die a martyr’s death (see his The Stromata, or Miscellanies, book 4, chapter 9).  It should be pointed out, though, that Clement also views Levi and Matthew as two different people in this same sentence, when they were in fact the same man.

11 Sir William Ramsay, Cities and Bishoprics of Phrygia, Vol. 1, part 2: West and West-Central Phrygia, pages 552-553.  Ramsey gives the inscription in Greek.

12 Hippolytus on the Twelve Apostles.  See The Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 5, page 255.

13 Genealogies of the Twelve Apostles, see Sir E.A. Wallis Budge’s Contendings of the Apostles, Book 2, page 50.  See also, International Standard Bible Encyclopedia entry on Philip.

14 International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, “Joseph of Arimataea.”  See also Fausset’s Bible Dictionary, “Joseph,” 9.

A Disciple with “Horse” in His Name (Part 2)

Philip the Apostle

One night, the Lord spent hours alone with the Father in prayer; and afterwards, He called His disciples to Him.  From among those disciples, He selected twelve men to be His apostles.  Philip was certainly humbled and excited as he was selected to this important position.1

Following Jesus next to the Sea of Galilee shortly before the Passover feast, Philip looked around at a crowd of thousands who were gathering around.  Then Jesus looked at Philip and asked him a question in order to test him.  “Where shall we buy bread so that these people may eat?”  Philip, taking the Lord literally, answered, “Two hundred denarii of bread2 is not enough for them, that every one of them might take a little.”3  Philip trusted in his Lord, but didn’t realize that Jesus was testing his level of confidence in just how much power Jesus truly had.  When Jesus asked “Where will we buy bread,” Philip’s response was basically, “Forget about where to buy the bread, where are we supposed to come up with that much money?”  Andrew as well, bringing a boy with a very small amount of food, showed a similar lack of awareness of the immense power Jesus had.

About a year later, just days before Jesus died, a group of Greeks approached Philip, and said, “Sir, we want to see Jesus.”  Why they came to Philip instead of one of the other apostles is a matter of speculation,4 but it might just be that they saw him, knowing he was one of Jesus disciples and went to him—just like they might have done regardless of which disciple it was.  Philip probably remembered that Jesus had told the apostles not to go to the Gentiles, but only the house of Israel,5 and that Jesus Himself was only sent “to the lost sheep of the house of Israel,”6 and was hesitant about bringing a group of Gentiles to Him.  Instead, he conferred with Andrew, and the two of them together went to Jesus with the Greek’s request.  In response, Jesus gave a prophecy of His impending death.7

A few days later, after being with Jesus and the other apostles for the Last Supper, Philip heard Jesus again announced His departure (death).  Peter and Thomas both were confused about where Jesus was going and how they were going to go to where He was;8 and then Jesus responded with “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man comes unto the Father except through me.  If you had known me, you should have known my Father also: and from henceforth you know Him and have seen Him.”9

It is at this point that Philip is confused.  Jesus has just told the disciples that they’d already seen the Father, and Philip’s response is, “Lord, show us the Father, and we are content.”10  In other words, “We’ve already seen the Father?  When?  Point Him out for us so we don’t miss Him.”  Some people have bad-mouthed Philip for being “ignorant” and “spiritually incapable”11 for not grasping the truth Jesus was teaching.  But how many among us can truly grasp the concept of the triune nature of the Godhead—three separate minds, yet still all one?  How many among us truly can grasp the idea of a member of the Godhead emptying Himself to live as a human?

That evening, Philip, along with ten other men, ran out of fear for his life, abandoning Jesus as the Jewish leaders, led by Judas, arrested Him.  After the resurrection of Jesus, Philip believed once more, repented of forsaking Jesus, and became a powerful force for the Kingdom of God.

The last time Philip’s name is mentioned is just before Pentecost, in Acts 1, where he was gathered with the rest of the apostles and disciples of Jesus.  He preached and baptized many people on the Day of Pentecost; was arrested and beaten some time later for preaching in the name of Jesus; and remained in Jerusalem during Saul’s rounds of persecution.  After the gathering in Jerusalem to discuss the issue of circumcision among the Gentile converts, Philip completely disappears from the biblical narrative.  But you can guarantee that God knows what happened.

The Character of Philip

Though there is not much evidence to go by, what little we have paints for us a picture of a man who was well-versed in the Scriptures and who had a very strong belief in the inspired words of God.  How else could Philip know that Jesus was the one “of whom Moses in the Law, and the prophets, did write”?

Philip was decisive.  He became a fully-dedicated disciple after hearing Jesus say “follow me.”  It’s probable that he asked Jesus some questions or sought more information (if he didn’t already know Jesus before that moment), but his decision was made the same day he was called.  In fact, the decision was made quick enough that he had time to go search out his friend Nathanael and bring him to Jesus as well.12

Philip wasn’t perfect.  Jesus tested him, asking how they were going to feed the 5,000 men, and Philip basically told Jesus, “We can’t afford to feed all these men.”  Philip didn’t yet have the confidence and full knowledge of the power of Jesus.  Later on, Philip told Jesus, “show us the Father, and it will suffice us,” and was told by the Lord, “When you’ve seen me, you’ve seen the Father.”  Like the other apostles, their knowledge and understanding of Jesus was not complete until the Day of Pentecost recorded in Acts 2.13

Philip was faithful.  He endured persecution as an apostle, yet rejoiced in the face of it.  Even years later, all the living apostles were held up by Paul as an example worthy of following.  His name is indeed inscribed on the holy city of God, the church!14

-Bradley S. Cobb

1 Luke 6:12-16.

2 This is the equivalent of 8 months’ wages.

3 John 6:5-7.  Some have suggested that this is how much money Jesus and the apostles had on hand, though it is much more likely this was simply Philip’s way of saying to Jesus, “How are we supposed to get that much money?”

4 Some say they came to him because he was known as a Gentile sympathizer, others because he had a Greek name, while others suggest that he had a Greek haircut and wore Greek clothing (see College Press NIV Commentary, New Testament).

5 Matthew 10:1-6.

6 Matthew 15:24

7 These events are recorded in John 12:20-33.

8 John 13:36-38; 14:1-5.  There are those (Lockyer, specifically) who want to accuse Philip of being “stupid” and “slow-witted” for his statement in 14:8, yet they won’t level the same charges against Peter and Thomas for their lack of understanding.  If Philip was “stupid,” then so were the other apostles.  The fact is, none of the apostles had complete knowledge until it was given to them from on high beginning at Pentecost.

9 John 14:6-7.

10 John 14:8.

11 Lockyer, All the Apostles of the Bible, page 160.

12 Herbert Lockyer horribly besmirches the name of this inspired servant of God by calling him, among other things, “a slow-witted plodder,” and “slow in arriving at a decision, reluctant to act on his own initiative” (All the Apostles of the Bible, page 157).

13 See their misunderstanding of the nature of the Kingdom of God in Acts 1, for instance.

14 Revelation 21:14.

A Disciple with “Horse” in His Name (part 1)

We hope you have been enjoying reading these sections of our upcoming book, “Who Were The Apostles?”  Today, we begin talking about a man named “Philip,” whose name in Greek literally means “Lover of Horses.”

Philip the Disciple

Like Andrew, Philip is known by a Greek name, which means “Lover of Horses.”1  Philip was a Jew,2 a native of the fishing village of Bethsaida like Andrew and Peter,3 which possibly means that these men were already acquainted with each other before they were called.  He was one of the earliest disciples of Jesus, joining the band of followers just one day after Andrew and Peter.4

That day, Jesus planned to go to Galilee, and He searched for Philip.  The Greek word used by John (from which we get our word eureka!) indicates that Jesus found him after searching for him.5  When He found Philip, He said, “follow me.”6  What kind of a man must Philip have been that Jesus would actively search him out to be one of His disciples! Since Philip was from the same city as Andrew and Peter, it’s quite possible that they were the ones who suggested that Jesus find him. 7  Given the quickness with which Philip followed Jesus, and the fact that he knew where He was from and who His earthly father was, it is possible that Philip already knew Jesus, or at least knew of Him.8

Philip’s immediate response was two-fold.  First, he accepted the call to be one of Jesus’ disciples.  Second, he searched out his friend Nathanael9 and told Him they had found “Him, of whom Moses in the Law and the Prophets did write.”10  This shows that Philip had a very high regard for the inspired word of God, and that he was awaiting the advent of the Prophet like Moses.11  After Nathanael expressed doubt because of Jesus’ hometown (“can anything good come out of Nazareth?”), Philip encouraged him to “come and see” for himself, showing that Philip had confidence in who Jesus was.12  Philip then led Nathanael to Jesus, where the Lord convinced the doubter with His greeting.13

The day after he was called by Jesus, Philip accompanied Him to the wedding feast in Cana where Jesus turned water into wine, increasing his faith in Jesus as the Messiah.14  Afterwards, Philip accompanied Jesus into Jerusalem, where the Lord overturned the tables in the temple, sending animals and greedy money-exchangers running.15  Philip watched in awe as Jesus performed miracles on the Passover in Jerusalem.16  Some time afterwards, they went out of Jerusalem, and Philip began to baptize many people.17

After returning with Jesus to Galilee, Philip apparently resumed his regular occupation while the Lord traveled around the area, preaching.18  But after Jesus returned to Capernaum, calling Andrew, Peter, James, and John, Philip must have re-joined Him, for it is thereafter that Jesus and “His disciples” ate with a tax collector named Levi, causing consternation among the Pharisees and scribes.19  Some time later, Philip and the other disciples walked with Jesus through some fields, picked some wheat, and ate some of it—all on the Sabbath—again causing the Pharisees to be very upset.20

-Bradley S. Cobb

1 Philip was a common name both then and now.  The popularity of the name likely originated with Philip of Macedon, the father of Alexander the Great.  As Alexander conquered cities and areas, new names were occasionally given, which led to the city called “Philippi” (in Macedonia), the city of Caesarea Philippi, etc.  There were three men mentioned in the Bible who had this name: (1) Herod’s brother, whose wife had been stolen from him by Herod (Matthew 14:3-4); (2) Philip the evangelist, “one of the seven” who was chosen to assist the widows in Jerusalem (Acts 6:1-6; 8:5-40; 21:8), and (3) Philip the apostle, one of “the twelve” chosen by Jesus (Luke 6:13-16).  As such, it is unlikely that we can gain any insight into the character of Philip or his family through the name he was given.

2 James Hastings, in his Dictionary of Christ in the Gospels, states that Bethsaida had a mixed Greek population, and suggests that this is possibly Andrew’s background.  While possible, such a background would almost certainly have been used as a reason by the Jews to reject the apostles, having a “half-breed” in their midst.  Since there is no hint of such an objection, this theory is highly unlikely.

3 John 1:44.  As seen in our chapter on Andrew, this verse does not necessarily mean that he still lived in Bethsaida, but that it is where he originally came from.  Andrew, according to Mark, lived in Capernaum with Peter, though John said they were from Bethsaida.

4 John 1:40-43, especially verse 43.  It seems probable that John, the son of Zebedee, was also called to follow Jesus the day before the Lord called Philip.  See John 1:35-40, and remember that John never mentions himself by name in his gospel account; the other unnamed disciple may well be the author himself.

5 Ευρισκει.  See Thayer’s definition.

6 John 1:43.  Vincent’s Word Studies points out that this word is often used when Jesus was calling disciples after Him.

7 A.T. Robertson, in his Word Pictures, makes this suggestion.  Herbert Lockyer, in his All the Apostles of the Bible, boldly jumps from suggestion to an all-out declaration, embellishing the gospel narrative by saying that Philip “owed his soul to Andrew…his father in the faith” (page 155).

8 It is not outside of the realm of possibility that these two religiously-minded men (Jesus and Philip), both growing up in Galilee, would have met each other.  If this is the case, then Philip would have known the impeccable character that Jesus had.  It is also possible that Philip’s quick acceptance of Jesus as the promised Messiah had to do with Jesus’ choice of words (saying “follow me” as a disciple) and the presence of Peter and Andrew, whom he apparently already knew well, saying they had already become His disciples.  If Philip was at all aware of the teachings of John the Baptizer, he would have been looking for the “greater” One that would come; and when Jesus called him to follow, he knew he’d found the One.

9 Lockyer, in All the Apostles of the Bible, states that “There are those expositors who suggest that Philip and Nathanael, or Bartholomew, were brothers” (page 156), though he does not state who.

10 John 1:45.  John uses the same word for Philip’s “finding” of Nathanael as he does for Jesus’ “finding” of Philip.

11 Deuteronomy 18:18.

12 John 1:45-46.

13 We will delve into this in more detail in the chapter on Nathanael/Bartholomew.

14 John 2:11.

15 John 2:13-17

16 John 2:23

17 John 3:22; 4:1-2.  There is no telling how many people were baptized at this point, and no names are given.  It has been suggested in the chapter on Andrew that it is perhaps at this time that Mary, Martha, Lazarus, and even Judas Iscariot were baptized and made disciples of Jesus.

18 There is no mention of the disciples in the travels of Jesus from John 4:43 through the end of chapter five.  It is after this preaching mission that He returned to Capernaum and called Peter, Andrew, James, and John—all of whom had resumed their fishing trade.  It is, therefore, logical to conclude that Philip would have resumed his trade as well during this time.

19 Luke 5:27-33.

20 Luke 6:1 (KJV) says that these events took place on the “second Sabbath after the first.”  The meaning of this phrase, and even its validity, is in question.  Some have suggested that it is a reference to the Sabbath after that which is described in Luke 4:31-41.  However, that ignores verse 44, which entails weeks, if not months of preaching after that event.  Others have suggested that this took place on the Sabbath of Pentecost, which was the second most important day on the Jewish calendar, thus literally in Greek, Luke would be calling it the “second-first” Sabbath.  Others relieve themselves of the difficulty by pointing to some of the ancient manuscripts which don’t contain the word at all, and simply record Luke saying “on a Sabbath.”  In short, there’s nothing from this passage which will give us a more exact idea of when Philip rejoined Jesus.