Questions and observations for discussion:
While our study is about Philip the Evangelist, there were two known ‘Philips’ who were followers of Jesus, the Evangelist we meet in Acts and Philip the Apostle who preceded him in the gospel. It is of some interest to compare the two.
1. What do we know about Philip the Apostle?
In the Synoptic Gospels he is only mentioned in the lists of the apostles (Mat 10:3, Mark 3:18, Luke 6:14). The Gospel of John pays a great deal more attention to him. He is singled out by Jesus in Galilee and called to follow him (John 1:43 ff.). In the same place it reports that he came from Beth-saida, the city of Andrew and Peter, and that he found Nathaniel and brought him to Jesus.
At the feeding of the five thousand Jesus tests him by asking how bread was to be bought to feed so many people. Since he was from the town near by he knew the going prices and rapidly reckoned that 200 denarii (ca. $13,376 in today’s silver market!) would not buy more than a little for each person. After such an exorbitant number, one does not know whether Andrew’s observation of a lad with five barley loaves and two fish was intended to be an ironical joke, a lame remark to fill the vacuum, or a genuine expression of faith!
The name ‘Philip’ is a Greek name. Did he also speak Greek? Many in Galilee did. Was this why the Greeks came to him to ask to see Jesus (John 12:21)?
Subsequently in John 14:8 it was Philip who asked Jesus to show them the Father and then they would be satisfied. With this remark his skeptical nature manifests itself. Some would assert that the real doubter in the Gospel of John was Philip, not Thomas. Did Jesus already sense this in him when he asked him in particular how they might feed the five thousand?
2. What do we know about Philip the Evangelist? What gifts did he bring to his ministry? How do the two Philips compare?
We meet Philip the Evangelist in Acts as one of the seven chosen for the administrative task to “serve tables” in the dispute of the distribution between the Hebrews and Hellenists so that the Apostles might continue in the ministry of the word (Acts 6:1-2). The martyrdom of Stephen forced him among others to flee Jerusalem to Samaria where he served as a successful evangelist and minister of the word (Acts 8:4-13). During this time he is accredited with baptizing Simon Magus whom Peter had to subsequently put straight about the role of miracles. An even more significant baptism was that of the Ethiopian eunuch who was said to have been the treasurer of Queen Candace of the Ethiopians. It is suggested that he may have been a proselyte since he came to Jerusalem to worship or possibly simply a ‘God-fearer’ loosely attached to Judaism. The text he was reading was from Isaiah 53:7-8. This is the first explicit reference to Jesus as the Suffering Servant in Acts. Philip explains the messianic application to Jesus, baptizes him and then is moved to Azotus by the Spirit. Subsequently in Acts 8:40 we hear that he preached in every city from Ashdod to Caesarea by the sea. Finally, he and his four daughters who were prophetesses are mentioned as residing in Caesarea and that Paul stayed with them on his return from his third mission.