Philip the Deacon (Fr. Varghese Paul, S.J)

In the New Testament there are three people by the name Philip. We already met Apostle Philip who was one of the twelve chosen disciples of Jesus.

The second Philip is the brother of Herod the great. His name is mentioned by Evangelists Mathew, Mark and Luke. (Mat 14,3; Mk 6,17 & Lk 3, 19). Luke has identified him also as the “ruler of the territory of Iturea and Trachonitis” (Lk 3, 1).

The third Philip mentioned in the New Testament is Philip the Deacon. He appears only in the Acts of the Apostles as one of the seven deacons. In chapter six he is mentioned as one of the seven deacons chosen by the whole group of believers as men “who are known to be full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom” (Acts 6,3).

As the first part of chapter six reveals, the occasion for the selection of Philip and other six deacons was that “there was a quarrel between the Greek-speaking Jews and the native Jews. The Greek-speaking Jews claimed that their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution of funds. So the twelve apostles called the whole group of believers together and said, ‘It is not right for us to neglect the preaching of God’s word in order to handle finances’” (Acts 6, 1-2).

The whole group accepted the proposal of the apostles and accordingly chose 7 men of outstanding virtues. The apostles prayed over the seven men placing their hand on them. The apostles devoting themselves to prayer and preaching and the seven deacons serving the community led to the tremendous group of the early Church. Luke says, “And so the word of God continued to spread. The number of disciples in Jerusalem grew larger and larger, and a great number of priests accepted the faith” (Acts 6,7).

The whole chapter 8 of the Acts is devoted practically to the ministry of Philip. The persecution of Christians at Jerusalem led the Christian believers to scatter widely. Some believers went to Samaria. Philip joined them and he preached in the principle city of Samaria. Luke describes the situation graphically in the Acts. “The believers who were scattered went everywhere, preaching the message. Philip went to the principal city in Samaria and preached the Messiah to the people there. The crowds paid close attention to what Philip said, as they listened to him and saw the miracles that he performed. Evil spirits came out from many people with a loud cry, and many paralysed and lame people were healed. So there was great joy in the city” (Acts 8, 4-8).

Philip’s preaching was accompanied by the signs of miracle and the evil spirits going out of possessed people. Philip even won over a magician Simon who had great power to astonish people and baptised him.

Perhaps the most effective ministry of Philip was converting and baptizing an Ethiopian eunuch. As directed by the Holy Spirit, Philip accosted the carriage of the chief treasurer of the Queen of Ethiopia on his return journey from Jerusalem to Gaza.

Philip found the Ethiopian Eunuch reading a passage from prophet Isaiah and asked him if he understood what he was readying. The Ethiopian as he rode along, invited Philip to join him in his chariot.

The Ethiopian Eunuch was reading the passage, “Like a sheep that is taken to be slaughtered, like a lamb that makes no sound when its wool is cut off, he did not say a word. He was humiliated, and justice was denied him. No one will be able to tell about his descendants, because his life on earth has come to an end” (Acts 8, 32-33).

At the end of the passage Philip asked the Ethiopian whether he understood the passage. Then receiving a negative reply from the Ethiopians Philip explained to him the good news about Jesus Christ. When the Chariot came to a place where there was water, at the request of the Ethiopian, Philip baptised him. Then to the great surprise of the Ethiopian the Holy Spirit took Philip away and the eunuch could not see him. Later as Luke has noted, “Philip found himself in Azotus; he went on to Caesarea, and on the way he preached the Good News in every town” (Acts 8, 40).

Biblical scholars like Ronald Brownrigg say that, “In about the year 58, it was at Caesarea that Paul and Luke were entertained by Philip and his four daughters on Paul’s final and fateful journey to Jerusalem” (Ronald Brownrigg, Who’s Who the New Testament, page 215).

Luke has narrated Paul and his stay with Philip and his family in the Acts. On their way back to Jerusalem Paul and Luke stopped at Caesarea. Luke writes, “There we stayed at the house of Philip the evangelist, one of the seven men who had been chosen as helpers in Jerusalem. He had four unmarried daughters who proclaimed God’s message. We had been there for several Days” (Acts 21, 8-10).

The Acts or Paul’s letters in the New Testament do not say anything more about Philip and his daughters. Brownrigg says traditions are conflicting about later life of Philip. Then Brownrigg adds, “It is likely that he became a bishop in Lydia, the northern district of Asia Minor” (ibid). (contact the author: यह ईमेल पता spambots से संरक्षित किया जा रहा है. आप जावास्क्रिप्ट यह देखने के सक्षम होना चाहिए.

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