SEARCH FOR THE TWELVE APOSTLES
by McBirnie Ph.D.
How DID A JEW get such a name as the Greek, '"hilip"? The
name means "Lover of horses." The Philip best known to history is
that of Philip of Macedon, father of Alexander the Great.
Alexander conquered Palestine and left behind him a lasting Greek
influence, especially in northern Galilee. Besides, in the first
century there was a local King in the province of Ituraea, (named
after the original Philip, no doubt) called, "Philip the
Tetrarch," who raised the status of Bethsaida to be the capital
of the province. Philip the Apostle was probably named in honor
of the Tetrarch, who had, some ten years before the future
Apostle's birth, done so much for that region and Bethsaida where
he was born. The Greek influence in Philip's life and ministry is
most significant. Budge says Philip was of the tribe of Zebulon.
Jesus found Philip and said to him, "Follow me!" (John 1:43) This
young, liberal Jew, certainly with some Greek influence in his
background, could be useful to the Master who would command His
gospel to be taken to the Greeks as well as the Jews.
Philip went out immediately to find his friend Nathaniel.
"We have found Him of Whom Moses in the Law, and the Prophets,
wrote; Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph," he said (John
It was Philip who later introduced certain Greeks to Christ.
(See John 12:20-33) He was mentioned at the feeding of the five
thousand, and again at the Last Supper (John 8:5-7). It is
impressive that all the references to Philip are in John's
gospel. John was a fellow Galilean, who lived in the neighboring
village of Capernaum on the shore of the sea. He was, no doubt, a
close friend to Philip.
According to "Sacred and Legendary Art" (p.249):
"After the ascension, he travelled into Scythia, and remained
there preaching the Gospel for twenty years; he then preached at
Hierapolis in Phrygia, where he found the people addicted to the
worship of a monstrous serpent or dragon, or of the god Mars
under that form. Taking compassion on their blindness, the
Apostle commanded the serpent, in the name of the cross he held
in his hand, to disappear, and immediately the reptile glided out
from beneath the altar, at the same time emitting such a hideous
stench that many people died, and among them the king's son fell
dead in the arms of his attendants: but the Apostle, by Divine
power, restored him to life. Then the priests of the dragon were
incensed against him, and they took him, and crucified him, and
being bound on the cross they stoned him; thus be yielded up his
spirit to God, praying, like his Divine Master, for his enemies
and tormentors." (by Mrs.Anna Jameson).
(Some Roman Catholic additions, using the cross, but could well
have basic foundation of truth - Keith Hunt)
Jean Danielou affirms: "Papias had written some 'Expositions
of the Oracles of the Lord,' in which he had collected traditions
about the Apostles from people who had known them, and he tells
us, in particular, that he has heard the daughters of the Apostle
Philip speaking in Hierapolis; so we can believe as certain the
information he gives us that the Apostle Philip lived in
Hierapolis. Later the 'Montanist Proclus' declared that it was
not the Apostle Philip but the deacon of the same name, the
person described in the Acts as having stayed in Caesarea, whose
four daughters remained virgins and uttered prophecies. (HE 111,
But Polycrates of Ephesus, at the end of the second century,
confirms what Papias says, and it is certainly the Apostle Philip
who died at Hierapolis (HE III,31,3). Two of his daughters had
remained virgins and also died at Hierapolis; the others married
(HE 111,29,1) and one died at Ephesus (111,31,3).
Other facts seem to confirm this link between Philip and
Phrygia. This region is close to that of the Apostle John. It is
remarkable that Philip plays a specially important part of the
Gospel of John, written at this time, toward the end of the first
century. "Moreover a Gospel of Philip has been found at Nag-
Hammadi. It is Gnostic in Character and certainly of later date,
but its contacts with the Asiatic theology of Irenaeus and the
Asiatic Gnosticism of Mark the Magus are very remarkable. There
also exist apocryphal 'Acts of Philip' which praise virginity.
Finally it should be noted that Hierapolis received no letter
either from Paul or John, whereas the neighbouring cities of
Colossae and Laodicea received letters; perhaps this is because
Hierapolis was Philips fief." ("The Christian Centuries," Jean
On five occasions this writer has visited the amazing
remains of the Turkish city of Hierapolis, the former health
resort where Philip's tomb is still to be found. A great
chemically impregnated spring of lukewarm water still sparkles
out of the rocks and forms an enormous crystalized falls over the
side of a mountain, almost as large as Niagara. In Biblical days
this was a spa, visited by sick people from all over the world of
that time. It no doubt served as a strategic mission spot from
which to spread the gospel to many visitors, and thence many
lands. There is no reason whatever to doubt that Philip was able
to minister effectively in this Roman-Greek city, nor that he
did, indeed, die here. He was ideally suited for a ministry to
those who spoke Greek, and died in an area that was at that time
still largely Greek in culture, though ruled by Rome.
"The Montanist Proclus argued that the tombs of the four
daughters of Philip, all prophetesses in New Testament times,
were still to be seen at Hierapolis in Asia" ("Augustus to
Constantine," R.Grant, p 166).
TRADITIONS CONCERNING THE MINISTRY AND BURIAL OF ST.PHILIP
There have been some spirited arguments as to whether or not
St.Philip ever visited France. There is little doubt that Philip
died at Hierapolis which is close to Laodicea and Colossae, both
Biblical cities. The church history of the Byzantine era
indicates a great deal of Christian activity in these three
As Christianity spread throughout Asia Minor (now Turkey) it
is evident that much missionary work soon made Asia Minor a
nominally Christian country. Since Colossae and Laodicea are both
important cities of the New Testament, it is evident that the
gospel got an early start in this area. Colossae, which is 16
miles from Hierapolis, was the location of a highly developed
church during the lifetime of the Apostle Paul and the location
of the church to which St.Paul wrote his letter to the
By the time St.John wrote the book of the Revelation, nearby
Laodicea was the site of a church which doubtless had been
founded by St.Paul and which had, by St.John's time, matured to a
position of great wealth and influence. If the tradition of St.
Philip's preaching in Scythia (south Russia) is true, it
certainly is not unreasonable to believe that he may have
eventually returned to Asia Minor, where he would have been in
proximity to his old friend, St.John, who was located in Ephesus.
Since John, in the book of the Revelation, refers to the church
of the Laodicians, which was just six miles from Philip's place
of ministry in Hierapolis, there can be no historical reason for
doubting that St.Philip indeed ministered and died in Hierapolis.
It is in the stories of St.Philip that history and tradition
come so close together as to validate and illuminate each other.
There are some strong later traditions also that St.Philip
visited France. Before we look at the documentation, we should
understand that the Gauls of France first emigrated from Galatia
in Turkey. Since the ministry of St.Philip most definitely took
him to Galatia, of which Hierapolis was a city, we are on rather
firm ground in supposing that this was the area of most of his
ministry. Traditions regarding a visit of St.Philip to France
(Gaul) seem to be based upon a mistake which confuses Gaul with
Galatia, since the two names are related.
But it would seem the argument would work the other way as
well. If the Gauls of France are to be traced to an emigration
from Galatia, why would it not be completely reasonable for St.
Philip, as a missionary to the Galatians, to also have traveled
to France to be a missionary to their kinsmen, the Gauls? The
burden of proof is, of course, upon those who contend that this
is what happened. But as to its reasonableness and possibility
there can be little doubt.
(The Gaul's were Israelite people from the lost House of Israel -
As every school boy knows, Gaul was conquered by Julius
Caesar who killed more than a million men in the process. Gaul,
in Caesar's time, had large cities and was evidently civilized
enough for Caesar to enjoy living there for almost ten years.
This conquest took place about 80 years before the ministry of
St.Philip. During that time Roman civilization and culture were
fully established. It was from Gaul that Caesar attempted to
conquer England twice, and it was from Gaul that Claudius did
accomplish this task.
(Not so, England and Britain were never conquered as such. The
British ALLOWED the Romans to live there, but Rome never
conquered Britain. The Scottish Pics never even allowed Roman
armies to live in Scotland. Hence the famous Adian's Wall was
built in the North of England to keep the Sottish pics from
coming down and vanquishing the Roman armies. It's all in studies
on this Website. And before that, as McBirnie says, Caesar
attempted to conquer England TWICE and failed! - Keith Hunt)
It would have been incredible if the Gospel had not
penetrated Gaul rather thoroughly by the climax of the Apostolic
The only Apostle whom tradition associates with France is
St.Philip. Although there are sub-apostolic figures such as Mary
Magdalene, the sisters Mary and Martha, and Lazarus their
brother, who are identified with Marseilles in France. In fact,
their tombs are shown there to this day.
With the realization, therefore, that the confusion between
Gaul and Galatia may have led some early church writers astray,
let us look at the traditions of St.Philip in France.
"(I) Isidore, Archbishop of Seville, A.D.600-636, whom Dr.William
Smith (Dictionary of Christian Biography) calls 'undoubtedly the
greatest man of his time in the Church of Spain ... a voluminous
writer of great learning ... He had also a trained and cultivated
mind' wrote thus: 'Philip of the city Bethsaida, whence also came
Peter, preached Christ to the Gauls, and brought barbarous and
neighbouring nations, seated in darkness and close to the
swelling ocean, to the light of knowledge and port of faith.
Afterwards he was stoned and crucified, and died in Hierapolis, a
city of Phrygia, and having been buried with his corpse upright
along with his daughters rests there.'" (De ortu et obitu Patrum,
"(2) Cardinal Baronius. (Annales: Tom 1, Ann. Christi Claudii
Imp.2, Sec.32) narrates, 'Philip the fifth in order is said to
have adorned Upper Asia with the Gospel, and at length at
Hierapolis at the age of 87 to have undergone martyrdom, which
also John Chrysostom hands down, and they say that the same man
travelled over part of Scythia, and for some time preached the
Gospel along with Bartholomew. In Isidore one reads that Philip
even imbued the Gauls with the Christian faith, which also in the
Breviary of Toledo of the School of Isidore is read. But we have
said in our notes to the Roman Martyrology that 'to the
Galatians' must be corrected in the place of 'to the Gaols.' But
the learned Archbishop Ussher says, 'I am not at all satisfied
here with the conjecture of Baronius in transferring the
statements of Isidore from our Gauls to the Galatians of Asia;
much less with the temerity of a recent Editor of the works of
Isidore, Jacobus Breulius, in substituting Galatians for the
Gauls in the text itself, without any reference to the ancient
reading.'" (Brit.Ecc.Antiq, Cap.11).
"(3) Bede, born about A.D.673. Archbishop Ussher also tells
(Antiquities, Cap.2) that 'Bede (or whoever was the author of
'Collections and Flowers') also assigned Gaul to Philip at the
foot of the 3rd tome of his works."
"(4) Freculphus, Bishop of Lisieux in France, A.D.825-851, wrote
('Tom posterior Chronicorum,' Lib.II, Cap.IV), 'Philip of the
City of Bethsaida whence also came Peter, of whom in the Gospels
and Acts of the Apostles praiseworthy mention is often made,
whose daughters also were outstanding prophetesses, and of
wonderful sanctity and perpetual virginity, as ecclesiastical
history narrates, preached Christ to the Gauls.'" He then
proceeds to quote Isidore.
"(5) St.Epiphanius, A.D.315-407, Bishop of Salamins, 'one of the
most zealous champions of orthodox faith and monastic piety'
(Smith's Dict.of Christ. Biog. ), wrote: 'The ministry of the
divine word having been entrusted to St.Luke, he exercised it by
passing into Dalmatia, into Gaul, into Italy, into Macedonia, but
principally into Gaul, so that St.Paul assures him in his
epistles about some of his disciples - 'Czescens,' said he, 'is
in Gaul.' In it must not be read, 'in Galatia' as some have
falsely thought, but 'in Gaul.' Pere Longueval remarks that this
sentiment was so general in the East, that Theodoret who read 'in
Galatia' did not fail to understand 'Gaul' because as a matter of
fact the Greeks gave this name to Gaul, and the Galatians had
only thus been named because they were a colony of Gauls
('Memoire de P Apostolat de St.Mansuet' (vide p.83) par 1'Abbe
Guillaume, p.II)." ('St.Joseph of Arimathea at Glastonbury,' Rev.
Lionel Smithett Lewis, p.112-114) Mr.Lewis is incorrect in
supposing Galatia to have been colonized by the Gauls. It was the
other way around.
Polycrates (194 A.D.) wrote, as we have said, a synodical
letter against Victor Bishop of Rome in which he says that he
"follows the authority of the Apostle John and of the ancients."
Also he adds, "Philip, one of the twelve Apostles, sleeps at
Hierapolis" ('The Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers,' Jerome, Second
Series p.372). Thus we may look with confidence upon Hierapolis
as the place of the death and original entombment of St.Philip.
Whether Philip visited France and returned to Galatia where
he died or whether he never went to France at all cannot, of
course, be absolutely proven in the light of the late date of the
writers we have quoted above.
However, this much we know, that Pope John the Third
(560-572) acquired the body of St.Philip from Hierapolis and
interred it in a church in Rome. He called it, "The Church of the
Holy Apostles Philip and James." A current guide book published
by that church and written by Emma Zocca, ("la Basilica," p.8,
9,23) traces the history of the church building back to the 8th
century. The church is now known as "The Church of the Holy
Apostles," but that name is traced to only the 10th century. The
longer-named "Church of the Holy Apostles Philip and James" was
the earlier title. Today one can see the bones of the Apostles in
a large marble sarcophagus under the altar and in a reliquary
room behind it. There are to be seen also the fragments of bones
of other Apostles in the same room.
(A big "maybe" here is in order. Maybe the church of Rome has
some fragments of bones of some apostles. The church of Rome does
go back to the first century A.D. - they CAME OUT OF the true
apostolic Church of God. But I'll still say it is a BIG "maybe"
just as they thought they had the "shroud" of Jesus, see the
study on that called "The Shroud of Turin" - Keith Hunt)
Entered on this Website December 2007