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Philip of Bethsaida was one of the twelve Apostles of Jesus Christ. Phillip is found along beside Bartholomew in the lists in the first three Gospels and in Acts, but his life is primarily seen in the Gospel of John.

From the same town as Peter and Andrew, Philip was a friend of the latter. Following his friend's example he would be an early spokesman for Jesus, telling his friend Nathanael that Jesus was the Messiah. Apart from the four fishermen, Philip seems to have been the closest apostle to Jesus. He was always there to intercede for others.[1]

Last mentioned by name with the other apostles at the selection of Matthias, Philip had been one of "the eleven" that witnessed the ascension of Jesus forty days after the resurrection. His name will be upon one of the twelve foundation stones of the city of God for all eternity.


Early life[]

Philip was from the town of Bethsaida, in the Roman province of Galilee [2] late in the reign of Augustus Caesar. In this small fishing village on the freshwater inland Sea of Galilee he was a neighbor to brothers Peter and Andrew, sons of Jonah. Another neighbor and friend was a man named Nathanael (probably the same as Bartholomew, a disciple listed among the twelve apostles).

The province of Galilee occupied the northern part of ancient Israel. Philip and his family would have had much more contact with Gentiles than their fellow Jews down in Jerusalem of Judea. For this reason, they were often shunned in religious circles. However, the province was fully within the jurisdiction of Jewish authorities. Known to history only in his very much Greek name, it is possible that Philip may have been part Greek. Nevertheless, he was a member of the Jewish community with a hope for the coming Messiah.[3]

Called to be a Disciple[]

Some time in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, a Jewish prophet named John came through the area near Bethsaida. Since the Jews were looking for the Messiah, many followed this man. However, the preacher warned many that God was going to judge them if they did not change there ways.[4] Multitudes followed the Baptiser until he pointed to Jesus, from nearby Nazareth, as the Messiah. Philip's friend Andrew came to Jesus at that time. The next day, after Andrew's brother Simon had been recruited, Jesus came into town and personally called Philip to follow him (that is, to be a disciple).[5]

Philip was the third named disciple in John's recording of the events. Since an unnamed disciple left with Andrew to follow Jesus, it is assumed that this was indeed John himself. Therefore, as a neighbor of the sons of Jonah, Philip may have been called before John's brother James was. In any case, Philip appears right after James in the canonical lists of Apostles.

Early Ministry[]

Having just been called to follow Jesus, Philip showed remarkable faith in what the Hebrew scriptures which he called the Law and the prophets. Having apparently believed the testimony of John the Baptist, he eagerly went to his friend about the new rabbi he and his fellow disciples had found. Way before Jesus sat down and quizzed his disciples about what people were saying, Philip was calling Jesus the Messiah.[3] When Nathanael heard that Jesus was from Nazareth, he ridiculed the idea, but Phillip insisted that he should go and see for himself.[6]

Feeding the Great Crowd[]

When Jesus went to the far shore of the Sea of Galilee a great crowd of people came because of the signs Jesus performed. Jesus took his disciples on a nearby mountain including Phillip and sat down with them.[7] When Jesus saw the crowd he tested Philip, asking him where should the bread be bought for the people to eat.[8]

Philip answered that it would take about eight months (i.e., a full growing season) of standard wages to buy enough bread for each one to have only a bite.[9] After his friend Andrew found a boy with some bread and fish, Philip helped to distribute the miraculously multiplied pieces to thousands of hungry people. He and the other eleven disciples would each a basketful of leftovers to Jesus.[10]

As an Apostle[]

Empowered by the Son[]

One time Jesus went up on a mountainside and called twelve of his disciples including Philip and appointed them as Apostles that could be with him, be sent out to preach, and have the authority to drive out demons and sickness.[11] A little bit later Jesus paired the disciples up and sent them out among the villages of Galilee and they all got a chance to do just what they had been called to do.[12]

Advocate for the People[]

It is evident that Philip was recognized as an Apostle of Christ. Around the Passover some Greeks came up to him and asked him if they could see Jesus.[13] Philip went and told and Andrew and he went with him to tell Jesus.[14] Going to Philip first and being approached by Gentiles, this makes it very evident that Philip was widely recognized as an Apostle and Disciple of Jesus.

Desiring the Father[]

Even though Philip was with Jesus from day two, he had no more insight into the divine nature of his Master than any of the other disciples. When Jesus mentioned that those who knew Him should know the Father Yahweh, Philip asked Jesus to show them the true nature of the Father.[15] Jesus responded, disappointed that even though Philip had been with him such a long time he did not know that seeing Jesus was like seeing God the Father.[16]

Lead by the Spirit[]

After Jesus ascended into Heaven, Phillip along with the other Apostles returned from the Mount of Olives to Jerusalem.[17] There in the upper room he joined together in prayer with other disciples of Jesus.[18] While there he cast his vote as part of the nomination for a new apostle to replace Judas Iscariot, the disgraced and recently deceased disciple. As God lead them, they considered two men that had been with Jesus the whole time, from His baptism to His Ascension. They chose chose a disciple named Matthias over an equally qualified man known as Barsabas.[19]

A few days later, Philip and the rest received the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost, fifty days after the Resurrection. As crowds from all over the known world gathered in the street outside they found themselves speaking languages unknown to themselves.[20]


The name Philip is an anglicized form of the Greek Philippos (Gr: Φίλιππος: from φίλος + ἵππος), meaning "friend of a horse." The only direct mention of horses in the New Testament are in the epistle of James (perhaps the first book) and in the book of the Revelation (the last book). In neither place is the animal a "friend" as one might consider them today. Instead, the horse was a work animal, most commonly used by soldiers.

The use of the name in Greek society, including Hellenized Jews, probably dates back to the fourth century before Christ to Philip of Macedon, the father of Alexander the Great. Those who were fond of horses were those who depended upon them for their strength. One who held the name most likely had some Greek ancestry.


  1. John 12:21; 14:8 (Link)
  2. John 1:44 (Link)
  3. 3.0 3.1 John 1:45
  4. Luke 3:1-7 (Link)
  5. John 1:43 (Link)
  6. John 1:46 (Link)
  7. John 6:1-3 (Link)
  8. John 6:5-6 (Link)
  9. John 6:7 (Link)
  10. John 6:8-13 (Link)
  11. Mark 3:13-18, Matt 10:1-3 (Link)
  12. Mark 6:7-13; Luke 9:1-6 (Link)
  13. John 12:20-21 (Link)
  14. John 12:22 (Link)
  15. John 14:8 (Link)
  16. John 14:9 (Link)
  17. Acts 1:12-13 (Link)
  18. Acts 1:14 (Link)
  19. Acts 1:21-26 (Link)
  20. Acts 2:4 (Link)