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Philip the Apostle

Philip the Apostle

Philip the Apostle

The Apostle Philip’s Background

Philip the Apostle was from Bethsaida, Galilee. (John 1:44). Philip is a Greek name ("lover of horses") which may signify Philip the Apostle had a Hellenistic background.   

The Anglican Calendar of Saints places his feast day on May 1 according to the Wikipedia article “Calendar of Saints, Church of England.”

Philip the Apostle was one of the Twelve Disciples of Jesus and named as an apostle in all the Gospels.  In addition, Acts 1:13 identifies Philip the Apostle as one of the apostles gathered in the upstairs room after the ascension of Christ.


The Apostle Philip in the Gospel of John

The Gospel of John is the only gospel which contains quotations from Philip the Apostle. 

  • Jesus words, "Follow me" were directed at Philip in the first chapter of John. Philip obeys.  He then proceeds to confidently encourage Nathaniel to “come and see.” (John 1:43-46)  “Philip found Nathanael and told him, ‘We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.’” ‘Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?’ Nathanael asked.  ‘Come and see,’ said Philip.”


  • The Apostle Philip provides us valuable insight about the miraculous nature of the feeding of the five thousand.  In Philip’s answer to Jesus’ question ‘Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?” he states with mathematical logic, “Eight months' wages would not buy enough bread for each one to have a bite!" (John 6:5-7).


  • During the Last Supper, after hearing Jesus speak of knowing the Father, Philip the apostle requests something that the others are all probably afraid to request: "Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.” Jesus answered, “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? (John 14:9)


  • During the time before Jesus’ crucifixion, Jesus had become a well-known public figure.  At that point in time, some Greeks, the Gospel of John tells us, engaged Philip in a conversation. They were likely Hellenistic Jews on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem to worship at the Temple. Given Philip’s likely Hellenistic background, the pilgrims may have found in Philip a comfortable person to speak to about their spiritual quest. After speaking with the Greeks, Philip informed Andrew that they wished to see Jesus.  Then both men brought the news to the Jesus: “They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, with a request. ‘Sir,’ they said, ‘we would like to see Jesus.’ Philip went to tell Andrew; Andrew and Philip in turn told Jesus.” (John 12:22) 


Are there one or two Philips in the New Testament?

Many people (myself among them) have presumed that Biblical references to a “Philip” refer to one person. Until coming to St. Philip’s, I had no awareness of more than one Philip. 

Philip is the name of two great people in the New Testament. In the Gospel of John, it is Philip the Apostle who is referred to by name.  Conversely, Philip the Deacon and Evangelist is the Philip referred to by name in the Book of Acts.  Philip the Apostle is mentioned by name in only the first chapter of Acts (Acts 1:12).  Later in the book of Acts, whenever the twelve are mentioned, Philip the Apostle would logically be recognized as part of that group.  For example, Acts chapter six refers to both Philips, but Philip the apostle is alluded to by referring to “the twelve” and Philip the Deacon and Evangelist is named specifically. 

This distinction is a little slippery to notice while reading. But when you identify the reference to “the twelve” then it follows that Philip was among those.   “The Twelve” chose the first deacons which included diaconal candidate Philip number two, who was soon to be known in the church as Philip the Deacon and later on, Philip (number two) becomes known to the church as Philip the Evangelist.   This would place the two Philips together at the same time.  They would have known one another and worked closely together.


After the deacon selection, when Christians began to be scattered during the early persecutions, Philip the Deacon (Philip number two) moved out of Jerusalem to become the first known evangelist. “Those who were scattered went everywhere preaching the word.” Philip the Deacon and Evangelist went to Samaria “preaching the word…” bringing with his powerful words and actions, “great joy” to the city, while at the same time, Philip the Apostle (our St. Philip), along with the other apostles, kept the light on in Jerusalem, in the center of the hottest persecution. (Acts 8)

Philip the Apostle’s Later Life

During the second century, the confusion about the two Philips is already apparent in the lack of trustworthy information about the Apostle Philip’s later life. The Encyclopedia Britannica states that in legends the Apostle Philip was often confused with Philip the Evangelist.  Likely, people converted under the preaching of either St. Philip, had no idea which Philip they were encountering and so could not record accurately the life story of their particular evangelist. 

There are legends about rest of the Apostle Philip’s life, but, as stated on Page 26 of A dictionary of Christian biography, literature, sects and doctrinesedited by Sir William Smith et al., “the church by A.D.170, no longer knew anything about the fate of the actual Apostle Philip.”

A dictionary of Christian biography, literature, sects and doctrinesbeing ... edited by Sir William Smith, William George Smith, et al. p 26, accessed March 26, 2011

http://www.britannica.com/facts/5/36362/Saint-Philip-the-Evangelist-as-discussed-in-Saint-Philip-the-Apostle-Christian-Apostle, Accessed March 26, 2011

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Calendar_of_saints_(Church_of_England)accessed March 26, 2011.

Art:  Georges de La Tour, Saint Philip, c. 1625, Oil on canvas, 25 x 21 inches, Chrysler Museum of Art, Norfolk, Virginia

Article researched by Ari Valdés Vincent, St. Philip’s the Apostle Episcopal Church, Scotts Valley, CA.