Philip the Apostle
The Chosen, an international hit show about the life of Jesus, depicts many ways that Jesus and His followers helped others. In the scriptures, this often took the form of healings and other awe-inspiring miracles, but it also included spiritual healing and guidance. As the prophesied Messiah, Jesus' mission was to save His people, and all people to come, by establishing His gospel. But as readers of the New Testament know, His time on earth would be brief. Whom could He entrust to carry on His work and help guide and protect His fledgling church in the tumultuous years following His ascension? What kind of men would be able to stand as His apostles, and spread His message to all the world?
One such disciple is Philip, also know in the Catholic Church as Saint Philip the Apostle. We meet him for the first time in Season 2 Episode 2 of The Chosen.
The name Philip is not an uncommon one in the Bible. In fact, there are four different individuals named Philip mentioned in the New Testament. Two of the Philips were sons of the wicked King Herod (born from two different wives). But things become complicated because there is a disciple of Jesus named Philip who is mentioned several times in the Acts of the Apostles. This Philip (usually called “Philip the Evangelist” by modern Christians) helped care for the poor, preached far and wide, and performed miracles in Jesus' name. But Philip the Evangelist was probably not the same person as Philip the Apostle.
Here, we will focus on Philip the Apostle, pulling from the scriptures to create an outline of his life and works.
Who Was Philip the Apostle?
Hailing from a town called Bethsaida (John 1: 44), Philip may have been a fisherman, like the apostles Peter, Andrew, James, and John. As far as historians are able to tell, Philip was one of the first to take up discipleship and follow Jesus. He had possibly already been a follower of John the Baptist before encountering Jesus, and may be one of the two disciples who heard the Baptist identify Jesus as the Lamb of God and bear witness of Him (John 1: 35-36).
Whether or not he had met Jesus previously, we know that Philip was personally called by Jesus, who found Him before leaving for Galilee (John 1: 43). He sought out his friend Nathaniel to share the good news, and—despite some initial misgivings—Nathaniel also committed to follow Jesus of Nazareth, becoming a faithful and powerful disciple in his own right (John 1: 45-50).
As far as we are able to gather from the scripture, Philip’s service under Jesus was one of dedication and righteousness, but was not without certain moments of doubt. When the disciples were faced with the prospect of having to provide food for the crowd of 5,000 listeners as Jesus taught on the mountainside, Jesus tested Philip by asking him how they would feed so many. Philip didn’t seem to consider a miraculous solution, instead commenting that “It would take more than half a year’s wages to buy enough bread for each one to have a bite!” (John 6: 7). Of course, Jesus had a different plan in mind; He multiplied the available loaves and fishes, and was able to feed everyone in attendance, with a large amount of food to spare.
Later, when Jesus was teaching the apostles at the Last Supper regarding the path to eternal life, Philip became confused, and asked that Jesus show the disciples the Father. Jesus gently corrected him, saying:
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’? Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you I do not speak on my own authority. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work (John 14: 9-10).
Philip may also have held a position of some authority among the other apostles, though apparently not on the same level as Peter, James, or John. Philip might have been something of a spokesperson, particularly when dealing with Greeks in Jerusalem. Given his Greek name, it is possible that he was of partial-Hellenistic ancestry, and may have also spoken Greek himself. Whatever the case, when a group of Greek faithful came to worship during the Passover festival, they approached Philip to request permission to meet with Jesus. Philip in turn took the request to Andrew, and together the apostles told Jesus (John 12: 20-22).
What Does Tradition Say about Philip the Apostle?
Unfortunately, the scriptures tell us very little about Philip the Apostle after Jesus' resurrection. It may be assumed that he was with the other disciples when the women came and told them about the empty tomb (Luke 24: 1-12), and later when Jesus showed Himself to them and allowed them to inspect the wounds He had received when being crucified (John 20: 19; Luke 24: 33-43; Matthew 28: 16-17; Mark 16: 14). He was also likely present when Jesus ascended into heaven (Luke 24: 50-52; Acts 1: 1-10). He is mentioned by name as being with the apostles as they ordained Matthias to replace Judas in the ministry (Acts 1: 12-14), and also probably took part in the Day of Pentecost when approximately 3,000 believers chose to follow the teachings of Jesus (Acts 2: 1-40).
But after this point, it is difficult to make any conclusive statements about Philip’s on-going ministry. Apocryphal works and later Christian traditions identify Philip the Apostle as a missionary who preached throughout Syria, Greece, and Phrygia (modern-day Turkey). Many believe that, like most of the other apostles, Philip was eventually martyred for his faith—either by being stoned, beheaded, or by being crucified upside down.
Learning from the Life of Philip the Apostle
Want to learn more about Jesus, His disciples, and the story of the life and works of their ministry? Download The Chosen app today (available for Android and Apple devices) and see the story of Philip and the other apostles play out in every season.