The following paragraph is taken from the "Catholic Almanac"
Philip: Born in Bethsaida; according to legend, preached the Gospel in Phrygia where he suffered martyrdom by crucifixion; May 3 (Roman Rite), Nov. 14 (Byzantine Rite).
Philip feast day is celebrated with James the Less on May 3rd. Philip came from the same town as Peter and Andrew, Bethsaida in Galilee. Jesus called him directly, whereupon he sought out Nathanael and told him of the "one about whom Moses wrote".
Like the other Apostles, Philip took a long time coming to realize who Jesus was. On one occasion, when Jesus saw the great multitude following Him and wanted to give them food, he asked Philip where they should buy bread for the people to eat? St John comments, "Jesus said this to test him, because He Himself knew what He was going to do" Philip answered, "Two hundred days' wages worth of food would not be enough for each of them to have a little".
The following links provides insight on St Philip:
Reverend Otto Hophan, O.F.M.Cap. whose book "The Apostles" I have used rather exclusively categorized Philip, Nathanael Bartholomew, Matthew and Thomas as "The Reserved"
And he appointed twelve that they might be with him and that he might send them forth to peach. To them he gave power to cure sicknesses and to cast out devils. There were... Philip, and Bartholomew, and Matthew, and Thomas...(Mk.3:14-18>
Matthew and Luke, in their accounts of the choice and mission of the twelve, named Philip immediately after John. John and Philip-two names, two men, two apostles, two worlds! On these pages shine the lights of eternity about which John wrote in his Gospel and in his Apocalypse. Our Lord had revealed a deeper knowledge of His divine secrets to John than He had to Philip. So deep was God's inspiration that the evangelist could begin his Gospel with the words: "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God; and the Word was God."
How appropriately the beloved disciple is symbolized with an eagle! This symbol would not be fitting for Philip, his neighbor and companion, for this apostle was a calm and sober person, a simple and practical man. He pondered the tangible and visible realities of life. He was neither poet nor mystic, was neither favorable to nor opposed to pomp and ceremony. Wisely had our Lord chosen His Twelve. They were not men of one age, but of all ages, though no two of the Twelve were the same. But they were still one in Christ. Nor did Christ want Philip to be another John. Only Divine Providence knows the ways that are not of men.
Literally, Philip means "friend of a horse." And indeed it seems logical that the kingdom of God on earth would need not only an eagle, but also a horse. In an old piece of writing passed down through the ages under the title "Concerning the Faithful"-which, it has been said, was composed by Hippolytus (d.235)-all the apostles are referred to as "steeds of God". "For these steeds have donned the secret of holiness, carrying the word for the riders and bringing them to the goal of truth." A horse of God! It is a rather blunt, almost uncouth, title, but a significant one, anyway, even for the apostles of today
Strange to say, the apocryphal Acts attributed to Philip certain traits that appertain only to John. For example, Philip supposedly called down fire upon the unbelieving inhabitants of Hierapolis; certainly the reserved Philip would not have done this. Such an act would seem more typical of John's sometimes violent witness to the Gospels. The struggle against the false teachers among the Ebionites at the end of the first Christian century was also attributed to Philip, but it is known that John led this attack. This confession probably took root from an old tradition that both John and Philip were apostles laboring in Asia Minor.
The first three evangelists gave no special account or detailed information about Philip. they merely recorded his name. In the four enumerations of the twelve apostles in Holy Scripture, Philip's name was placed each time in the fifth position. This fact has a meaning of its own. Philip did not belong to the first group, to the specially honored and privileged four. Yet after these, he was without a doubt the first one to be considered. The order in which our Lord chose and called His disciples already placed this good companion of John in the fifth place. This apostle became the leader of the second group of apostles: Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas.
It has never been stated what special missions were assigned to the three distinct groups of apostles and their leaders during the public works of Christ. The Lord confided in the first group during the most trying hours of His life. Yet certainly the other two groups also had their own particular mark, and were given their own missions to perform.
Concerning the home affairs of the apostle Philip, there is information available in the letter of Polycrates of Ephesus written to Pope Victor around the year 190. The apostle was supposedly married and had three daughters. Two of them were said to have died virgins and martyrs. The third was buried in Ephesus. Papias, a bishop of Hierapolis around the year 130, also mentioned these three daughters, whom he knew personally. However, here there was probably an erroneous exchange made between Philip the apostle and Philip the deacon. The latter was often mentioned in the Acts of the Aposltes.
This deacon Philip was also call "the evangelist," which title, in early ecclesiastical usage, referred to a missionary preacher of the Gospels. St. Luke noted that Philip, one of the seven deacons, "had four daughters, virgins, who had the gift of prophecy." It can readily be seen how, at a later time, the daughters of the deacon Philip were regarded as those of the apostle. But it is certain that the daughters and labors of Philip recorded in the Acts by St Luke belonged to the deacon and not to the apostle.
The Gospels make only a single remark about the home of Philip: he was from Bethsaida, a fisherman's village, either on the north or on the west shore of the Sea of Galilee. Our Lord chose three apostles from this small, unimportant village. And yet, this mark of distinction did not save it from the flash of divine anger, but rather increased and intensified the heat of vindication.
Then he began to reproach the towns in which most of his miracles were worked, because they had not repented. "Woe to thee, Corozain! woe to thee, Bethsaida! For if in Tyre and Sidon had been worked the miracles that have been worked in you, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. But I tell you, it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon on the day of judgment than for you. And thou, Capharnaum, shalt thou be exalted to heaven? Thou shalt be trust down to hell!"
Even the unemotional Philip may have wept when he heard his Master's curse upon his own home. It is clear that God's favor does not justify those who are guilty of sin through their own fault.
This mention of Bethsaida is so worded as to have yet more meaning, for it indicates Philip's relation and close connection with Andrew. "Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the town of Andrew and Peter." One gets a glimpse of the close relationship between Philip and Andrew in John's Gospel. Yes, the assumption is justified; Andrew had brought to Philip, his companion, the first news of the Messias. Andrew's zeal had won over his brother, Peter, for Christ. Immediately after bringing his brother, he introduced Philip to the Lord. "The next day he was about to leave for Galilee, and he found Philip. And Jesus said to him, "Follow me."
The determined, even commanding, tone of this calling is surprising. Of all those called by the Lord, Philip was the first to be commanded so explicitly and emphatically. "'Follow me'" Even Andrew and John were not called like this; they were invited. Was this brief command completely oblivious of Philip's own thoughts and desires and plans? The ways of God are not the ways of man. Still Christ knew the character and personality and disposition of each of His disciples. Wisely, kindly, He considered them individually.
The account of the calling of the Twelve shows yet another bond of friendship between Philip and another apostle, Nathanael Bartholomew. It may seem strange that this shy apostle had two friends, one on his right and one on his left. But experience has shown that men with such a nature easily make affectionate friends. They feel in themselves the necessity to adjust their own natures and manners in a perfect friendship. The lists of the apostles in the Gospels and also that in the Canon of the Mass pay honor to this friendship, for Philip; and Bartholomew are in each named together. Even in apocryphal literature is this true: Bartholomew accompanied Philip on his missionary journeys; he stood by him in the face of martyrdom. As friends, these two apostles often spoke together ow what was dear to their hearts; certainly they must have confided in each other their secret desire to follow the Messias. And now the long awaited hour had come. One brought the joyful news to the other: the Messias had come! Truly this was a great hour for their friendship, for Christ the Lord is the great mountain to which every close and deep friendship leads.
Wedding guests were about to enter Cana. Bartholomew was standing before the gate of the city as Jesus came by with Philip. Then this new disciple of Christ spotted his friend ahead, and "Philip found Nathanael, and said to him, 'We have found him of whom Moses in the Law and the Prophets wrote, Jesus the son of Joseph of Nazareth.'" But this confession was not such a gushing fountain as was Andrew's exclamation of joy: "'We have found the Messias!'" Philip was more scholarly, sounded more like a book. Nathanael replied roguishly: "'Can anything good come out of Nazareth?'" Then one sees the real Philip, how he loved, how he lived. He did not not deliver a long discourse about Jesus. He spoke as a man of reality, a man of practical experience and of personal knowledge. Philip answered Nathanael, "'Come and see.'"
Philip, the Individualist
The first clue to Philip's personality can be taken from the Gospel of St John. The evangelist recorded three incidents in the life of Philip for the Christian communities in Asis Minor. These faithful were as closely bound to Philip as they were to the father of their faith. These three accounts, then, have rendered it possible for us to get a glimpse of this apostle, who seemed so wont to remain in the background.
The first is found in John's explanation of the miraculous multiplication of five barley loaves and two fishes.
The scene and circumstances which the Gospel describes were full of pathos. There were five thousand men, not counting the women and children. "Jeus had lifted up his eyes and seen that a very great crowd had come to him..." He knew that they were hungry. He Himself was a man and had felt the pangs of hunger. "He said to Philip, "Whence shall we buy bread that these may eat?'" There was a gleam of a smile in His eye. He knew what was happening and what would soon happen. He did not need Philip's advice to solve the problem. Yet this quiet and reserved apostle, the economist, was asked to solve the problem of feeding five thousand with next to nothing.
Jesus questioned Philip only to awaken in him a slight expectation of the miracle He was about to perform. "But he said this to try him, for he himself knew what he would do." Yet Philip had not heard the hint in Jesus' voice; he was not a man with deep foresight. On the other hand, he could calculate. With one glance it was clear to him that "'two hundred denarii worth of bread is not enough for them, that each one many receive a little.'" Perhaps there were about two hundred denarii in the purse that Judas carried, but why should so much money be spent? The able economist in him was conscious of an unprofitable investment; according to Philip's estimate, the whole deal seem like an unwise one.
Nothing move Philip. Nothing sidetracked him from his quiet deliberation, so that he would have become confused and angry. He thought in terms of "reality," not of miracles.
The second passage concerning the apostle Philip is found in the Gospel for Palm Sunday.
Now there were certain Gentiles [Greeks] among those who had gone up to worship on the feast. These therefore approached Philip, who was from Bethsaida of Galilee, and asked him, saying, "Sir, we wish to see Jesus."
Perhaps it was Philip's Greek name. Or perhaps, as the Gospel seems to indicate, it was because Philip came from Bethsaida, and they were from his home town. Or perhaps it was simply chance that those Greeks, God-fearing Gentiles, went to Philip, and not to one of the other apostles, with their request. In any case, they had not known the apostle well, had not known how fussy he was. Gentiles wanting to see Jesus of Nazareth? Indeed!
Philip was faced with a ticklish situation. Had not Jesus Himself instructed the apostles, "Do not go in the direction of the Gentiles'"? Had He not at first refused to hear the daughter of the Canaanite woman: "'Let the children [Israelites] first have their fill, for it is not fair to take the children's bread and to cast it to the dogs [Gentiles]'"? How often had the Messias repeated that He had come to establish the kingdom of God first for the children of Israel!
With that annoying exactness so frequently and abundantly found in dry and dull personalities, Philip considered the problem. But he did not solve it himself. "Philip came and told Andrew." And Andrew, bolder and more generous, quite different from Philip, saw no difficulty in the Gentiles' request. "Andrew and Philip spoke to Jesus."
A third passage contrasts the Lord's sober and lofty ideas with Philip's awkward and clumsy behavior at the Last Supper.
The upper room could not hold the words of Christ:
"I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father but through me. If you had know me, you would also have known my Father. And henceforth you do know him, and you have seen him."
Never has a brighter light for mankind shone through the mystery surrounding God as in the words of Christ at the Last Supper. They are comparable to flashes of lightning which break through the night and weakness of the human spirit when it is face to face with the secrets of God.
But right in the middle of all the solemnity Philip interrupted, "'Lord show us the Father and it is enough for us.'" He had not grasped the deep thought of the words of the One about to be crucified. Three years were not enough. And Jesus had little time left. What Philip could see and count he could understand: the visible and tangible-that would be enough. He wanted to use the Father, of whom Jesus spoke, in visible form, as Abraham, and Jacob and Moses saw Him."'It is enough.'" There was no need for all that which was so difficult to grasp, the invisible. And for all Philip's naive imprudence Jesus reproached him gently, but firmly, "'Have I been so long a time with you, and you have not known me?'"
In a work entitled "Stomateis"-literally "Tapestry"-Clement of Alexandria, the much-read and widely traveled ancient Christian writer (d.214), commentator of Holy Scripture at the end of the second century, cited yet a fourth passage supposedly spoken by Philip. He wrote that, according to an old tradition, Philip was the disciple who asked whether he could not follow Christ after he had first seen to some personal affairs: "'Lord, let me first go and bury my father.' But Jesus said to him, 'Follow me, and leave the dead to bury their own dead.'" In all probability this irresolute disciple who spoke these words really was Philip, the quiet procrastinator. Jesus, who could demand from any man what the Father demanded, roused the apostle from his calm deliberation with no uncertain command: "'Follow me.'"
For all that, the good apostle Philip would be shown to be hard and undeserving of his calling if he were to be depicted only as a somber practitioner, statistician, Philistine.
Much remains to be said before a more complete picture of Philip can be drawn. Despite his sober and practical nature, this apostle was also full of energy, heart, and depth. These characteristics, were merely hidden and controlled. Philip was not ostentatious, but on occasion his true, inner self struggled out, as a confined spring breaks the earth for the first time and arduously has to search out its own new way. Many people who appear morose suffer painfully from their "Philip-natures," which make it almost impossible for them to bring into the open their real, inner goodness.
A warm wave of joy ran through Jesus when Philip answered Nathanael in minute detail, "'We have found him of whom Moses in the Law and the Prophets wrote, Jesus the son of Joseph of Nazareth.'" And at the multiplication of loaves and at the meeting with the Greek Gentiles there was not only deliberation, but also a real anxiety. On the surface Philip's answer shows his economic and practical concern. But on a second reading the undertones of a heartfelt concern and anxiety can readily be heard: "'Two hundred denarii worth is not enough for them, that each one may receive a little.'" And Philip did not send the Greeks away, but put them off until a later time. Their request caused him much trouble and inconvenience. He approached the problem quite formally, but their desire "to see Jesus" was still his concern.
Philip, the reserved individualist, possessed more spirit than he has been credited with. At times he has been misrepresented as the speaker of an abundance of empty words. A love shown by act and deed is incomparably more valuable than a deluge of good words. "My dear children, let us not love in word, neither with the tongue, but in deed and in truth." Full and perfect is the love of word united with the love of action, joined by one and the same warm pulsation of the heart. So it was with the Lord. He showed mercy to the multitudes both by word and by deed. He not only felt pity for them in His heart, but also worked miracles for them out of His love.
The real depths of Philip have been most beautifully revealed in the very words that seemed the most naive: "Lord, show us the Father.'" Bossuet rightly remarked, "In the entire Gospel there is scarcely a higher or more courageous request than this one." Philip longed to learn the real secret of the Father and the Son. It was as if Philip, the apostle enwrapped in the tangible and visible realities of life, had felt the insufficiency and incompetency of his own nature. Now, suddenly and ambitiously, he desired to delve into the depths of the mystery of God. The more he associated with "denarii" and "bread" and "Gentiles," the more he needed the close alliance and intimate contact with the divine secrets. And the Lord, who had not formed the individualities of His apostles by an exact measure and diagram, led Philip from the narrow confines of his practical reason and understanding to the great breadth and depth and height of God.
When Philip came to his Master to intercede for the Gentiles, who longed to see the Messias, Jesus disclosed to the apostle the insights and solution of the sublime mystery of the Redemption: "Unless the grain of wheat fall into the ground and die, it remains alone. But if it die, it brings forth much fruit.'" And at the Last Supper Jesus led Philip to his question that He might lead him further yet to the heights of the Trinity:
"Have I been so long a time with you, and you have not known me? Philip, he who sees me sees also the Father. How canst thou say, 'Show us the Father'? Dost thou not believe that I am in the Father and the Father in me?"
The visible presence of Jesus upon earth was a transparency of the Father. What vision of the Father did Philip long to see? Christ Himself is the reflected splendor of the Father, the glorious manifestation of the Father. These solemn words of the Lord to Philip, however, go even deeper into the inner mystery of the Trinity, which the Greek theologians call "perichoresis," a "circulation," literally a "going around." God the Father and God the Son and God the Holy Spirit do not have different natures. They possess with each other one and the same divine Nature. Therefore, they are with one another, in one another, the Father in the Son, and the Son in the Father, three divine Persons in one Nature. No one Person can exist outside the other, for God is one. Yet this coexistence of the three divine persons is not fixed, immovable state, but a triumphant circle, an eternal going forth and an eternal coming back to the prime source. Scheeben explained that each of the three divine Persons is, in His nature, a central and focusing point, which the remaining two possess, and in which They are bound to each other, inseparably, one.
Into such depths of the Divinity our Lord led Philip. The evangelist John only wrote down the words that Philip had instigated. Philip was not, like John the apostle, an "eagle," but he resembled him in his ardent desire to reach the heights of an eagle. And by reaching for the eagle, he attained perfection and eternal happiness. And then suddenly Philip could see."'It is enough'". It was more than enough!
Philip, the Laborer
Holy Scripture is completely silent concerning the works and death of the apostle Philip. The so-called "Acts of Philip"-an apocryphal, unreliable source which originated at the turn of the fourth century and still exists today in various fragments and in different compositions-record a plethora of works ranging form the strange and odd to the supernatural and miraculous. In them he is credited with having preached Jesus Christ to three hundred Greek philosophers in Athens who wanted to hear the apostle's argumentation. The dependence of this statement on a discourse of the apostle Paul in the Areopagus immediately comes to mind. There is a close similarity, and it is understandable how such a legend could have originated.
Then, according to these Acts, Philip was miraculously taken to Carthage. Here again there is a perfect parallel between the apostle Philip in the apocryphal Acts and the deacon Philip in St Luke's Acts. The deacon, after baptizing an Ethiopian eunuch, suddently disappeared and was found in Azotus. The apostle reputedly preached the Gospel in Gaul, but evidently Galatia was meant, a country next to Phrygia, where Philip labored much. Dramatically, and with an unhealthy prejudice for pious sensationalism, the main works of the apostle in Scythia and Phrygia, and particularly his death, were depicted. There is no historical value in these fables. These "Acts of Philip," together with other such reliable sourcess, were explicitly condemned in a decree of Pope Gelasius (492-496).
According to the Roman Breviary the apostle Philip did labor in Scythia and Phrygia; this is supported by a very old tradition. Scythia, on the northern shore of the Black Sea, or what today is the Southern Ukraine, is said to have been the scene of the apostolic works of this apostle for twenty years. And in the district opposite this the apostle Andrew preached, he with whom Philip reputedly collaborated. In Scythia, Philip denounced the worship of Mars. According to history there were many such cults that originated among these peoples.
Phrygia, the second land visited by this apostle, the present-day center of Turkey, had Hierapolis as its rich and influential capital. The aforementioned letter from Bishop Polycratres of Ephesus to Pope Victor testified that Philip worked and died in Hierapolis. In addition, an incription found in the necropolis of Hierapolis alludes to a church dedicated to the apostle Philip. Two neighboring cities of this capital were Colossae and Laodicea. Both were mentioned in the New Testament: Laodicea appears in the Apocalypse of St. John; and the faithful in Colossae were the recipents of an Epistle from St Paul imprisoned in Rome. How closely the apostolic paths of John and Paul and Philip were allied! It is a matter for sincere regret that today these lands, where once the first five of the apostles labored so zealously-Peter and Andrew also toiled in these districts-have been robbed of Christ.
In apocryphal writings concerning the work of Philip, this apostle was repeatedly depicted with a serpent or a dragon. The worship of a serpent in these regions were actually a practice at that time. In Hierapolis the serpent was cherished as a sacred animal in the temple of a goddess. Therefore, artists in past centuries grew accustomed to portraying the apostle Philip in a struggle with a serpent. The statue of Philip in the Lateran reminds one of the apostle's triumph over the power of the coiling snake through the might of the cross. The weight of the cross will always crush the dragon.
A Gnostic work entitled Pistis Sophia, originating in the third century, also mentioned a "Gospel of Philip." It supposedly contained an account of the manifestation of the risen Saviour. This has not been included in the canonical writings of the New Testament. Such a "Gospel according to Philip" is a forgery of later times.
Just as the true and exact record of all Philip's labors is enshrouded in obscurity, so is this apostle's death. Clement of Alexandria affirmed that Philip, like the apostles Matthew and Thomas, died a natural death. Numerous others, however, maintained that he died a martyr. Accordingly, Philip has been reported as being crucified in Hierapolis at the age of eighty-seven, during the reign of Emperor Domitian. Others maintain that he died on the cross during the reighn of Trajan, who ruled from 98 to 117. His crucifixion was recorded as similar to that of Peter-upside down. What a coincidence that the three apostles from the beloved-and also cursed-city of Bethsaida were martyrs on the cross. How precious the cross must be in the eyes of Christ, that He sacrificed his first apostles on it!
The relics of Philip were supposedly brought to Rome, where they were placed, together with those of the apostle James the Less, in the church of the twelve apostles. This accounts for the fact that the Roman Church, for many centuries, celebrated the feast of these two companions on the same day, the first of May. Actually this is slightly ironical, for neither Philip nor James the Less were poets or bards of spring; both had dedicated themselves to the prose of life. Therefore, according to another tradition, their feast is not celebrated in the Greek Church in the spring, but rather on November 14.
The apocryphal "Acts of Philip" records a somewhat long and pompous prayer supposedly spoken by the apostle before his martyrdom. Its Gnostic origin is unmistakably evident, even in a later and modified Catholic version:
Christ, Father of Eternity, King of light, You have taught us in Your wisdom and have bestowed upon us Your judgment. You have given us the counsel of Your goodness. You are never separated from us. You have granted to us the presence of Your wisdom. Come now, Jesus, and give me the eternal wreath of victory over all the power and strength of the enemy! Do not permit darkness to surround me, that I may push through the flames of fire in the abyss!
These words remind one of a passage in St Paul's Epistle to the Ephesians, the sixth chapter, twelfth verse, but St Paul had much different thoughts in mind when he wrote:
For our wrestling is not against flesh and blood, but against the Principalities and the Powers, against the world-rulers of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickness on high.
Much simpler and more profound are the true words that Philip spoke in the Gospel:"' Lord, show us the Father and it is enough.'" Well might he have repeated this as a martyr before the gates of eternity. To the Father, to the last source of all, the inner desires of every man turn. "Denarii" and "bread" and "five thousand men" were not enough. God alone is enough!
Holy apostle Philip, help us to attain this simple and eternal sufficiency!