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St. Philip the Apostle

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Like the brothers, Peter and Andrew, Philip was a native of Bethsaida on Lake Genesareth ( John 1:44 ). He also was among those surrounding the Baptist when the latter first pointed out Jesus as the Lamb of God. On the day after Peter's call, when about to set out for Galilee, Jesus met Philip and called him to the Apostolate with the words, "Follow me". Philip obeyed the call, and a little later brought Nathaniel as a new disciple ( John 1:43-45 ). On the occasion of the selection and sending out of the twelve, Philip is included among the Apostles proper. His name stands in the fifth place in the three lists ( Matthew 10:2-4 ; Mark 3:14-19 ; Luke 6:13-16 ) after the two pairs of brothers, Peter and Andrew, James and John. The Fourth Gospel records three episodes concerning Philip which occurred during the epoch of the public teaching of the Saviour:

  • Before the miraculous feeding of the multitude, Christ turns towards Philip with the question: "Whence shall we buy bread, that these may eat?" to which the Apostle answers: "Two hundred penny-worth of bread is not sufficient for them, that every one may take a little" (vi, 5-7).
  • When some heathens in Jerusalem came to Philip and expressed their desire to see Jesus, Philip reported the fact to Andrew and then both brought the news to the Saviour (xii, 21-23).
  • When Philip, after Christ had spoken to His Apostles of knowing and seeing the Father, said to Him: "Lord, shew us the Father, and it is enough for us", he received the answer: "He that seeth me, seeth the Father also" (xiv, 8-9).
These three episodes furnish a consistent character-sketch of Philip as a naïve, somewhat shy, sober-minded man. No additional characteristics are given in the Gospels or the Acts, although he is mentioned in the latter work (i, 13) as belonging to the Apostolic College.

The second-century tradition concerning him is uncertain, inasmuch as a similar tradition is recorded concerning Philip the Deacon and Evangelist -- a phenomenon which must be the result of confusion caused by the existence of the two Philips. In his letter to St. Victor, written about 189-98, bishop Polycrates of Ephesus mentions among the "great lights ", whom the Lord will seek on the "last day", "Philip, one of the Twelve Apostles, who is buried in Hieropolis with his two daughters, who grew old as virgins ", and a third daughter, who "led a life in the Holy Ghost and rests in Ephesus." On the other hand, according to the Dialogue of Caius, directed against a Montanist named Proclus, the latter declared that "there were four prophetesses, the daughters of Philip, at Hieropolis in Asia where their and their father's grave is still situated." The Acts (xxi, 8-9) does indeed mention four prophetesses, the daughters of the deacon and "Evangelist" Philip, as then living in Caesarea with their father, and Eusebius who gives the above-mentioned excerpts (Hist. Eccl., III, xxxii), refers Proclus' statement to these latter. The statement of Bishop Polycrates carries in itself more authority, but it is extraordinary that three virgin daughters of the Apostle Philip (two buried in Hieropolis) should be mentioned, and that the deacon Philip should also have four daughters, said to have been buried in Hieropolis. Here also perhaps we must suppose a confusion of the two Philips to have taken place, although it is difficult to decide which of the two, the Apostle or the deacon, was buried in Hieropolis. Many modern historians believe that it was the deacon ; it is, however, possible that the Apostle was buried there and that the deacon also lived and worked there and was there buried with three of his daughters and that the latter were afterwards erroneously regarded as the children of the Apostle. The apocryphal "Acts of Philip," which are, however purely legendary and a tissue of fables, also refer Philip's death to Hieropolis. The remains of the Philip who was interred in Hieropolis were later translated (as those of the Apostle ) to Constantinople and thence to the church of the Dodici Apostoli in Rome. The feast of the Apostle is celebrated in the Roman Church on 1 May (together with that of James the Younger), and in the Greek Church on 14 November. [ Editor's Note: The feast is now celebrated on 3 May in the Roman Church.]

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