The Apostle Philip

© 2007 Dr. Barbara Thiering

As with the apostle Andrew (See Questions and Comments section on Missing Andrew), the apocryphal literature gives far more information about the apostle Philip than the gospels do, when the miraculous element of the apocrypha is discounted. The same is true of Philip, who is listed as one of the twelve apostles. Philip plays no role in the Synoptics, and, though given more attention in John's gospel and in Acts, he is still only a minor character. There are, however, apocrypha dealing with him, and he comes to life there as an individual who was at the cutting edge of the breach between Christians and Magians. Philip, like Andrew, belonged on the Magian side of the conflict.

From the pesher of the gospels it may be understood that Philip was a Gentile of the celibate order of Dan who was head of a division of Gentiles playing a role in the Noah drama. The use of a ship for an initiation rite of Gentiles had been inaugurated by the Magians, using the imagery of Jason in order to be acceptable to pagans. The imagery was revised by the Herods - opponents of the Magians- to the more biblical imagery of Noah. Noah's three sons, Shem, Ham and Japheth, who were believed to have been founders of the known ethnic groups of the world, were reproduced in the persons of contemporary Gentile men who acted as heads of the large number of uncircumcised initiates choosing the lifestyle of individual celibates. Philip, their first in rank, was the head of Shem Arabians; Titus the head of Ham Ethiopians and Egyptians;and Luke of Japheth Greeks and Romans.

John Mark of the same order of Dan had chosen the monastic type of celibate discipline, and so was the superior of Philip as his lifestyle was holier. In the gospel period John Mark was closest of all to Jesus as the Beloved Disciple, the one who acted for both husband and wife in a dynastic marriage. In the period soon after the crucifixion, when Jesus had returned to Qumran and was composing the gospel attributed to John Mark, unable to write himself because of his damaged hands, Philip acted as the actual scribe, performing the detailed work. It was for this reason that he was given the title of Philip the Evangelist in Acts 21:8.

From the pesher and from Josephus it may be seen that Philip, under the name of Protos (the "first one") belonged to the court of Agrippa I as a leader in the Noah mission. He had lent money to Agrippa who desperately needed it to discharge his bankrupty and return to Rome. When the money was not repaid Philip had to take strong action to recover it. (Josephus, Antiquities 18, 155-157) He remained at enmity with Agrippa, as would accord with his alliance with Simon Magus the enemy of Agrippa (Acts 8:13).

So strong was the interest of these Gentiles in the hellenised kind of Judaism that the ascetics taught that separate abbeys were formed for them. One such abbey, with 7 leaders corresponding to the days of the week, was formed in 37 AD by the high priest Jonathan Annas, using the title "Stephen" . While Stephen officiated on Saturday, Philip led on Sunday, and the rest followed down to the proselyte Nicolaus for Friday (Acts 6:5). Another abbey was formed in Antioch by Jonathan's brother Matthew Annas when he was high priest. There was a difference in doctrine between the two kinds: that of Jonathan holding the liberal Sadducee view of the Many, and that of Matthew the stricter Sadducee doctrine of the Few (See Many in the Lexicon.)

Jonathan Annas could associate with Magians in Diaspora mission. His Gentile abbey accepted a Magian type of teaching, very much hellenised, but pro-Roman whereas Simon was anti-Roman. Philip was a product of this system. At the time when the schism between Magians and Christians was in the making, Philip remained an associate of Simon Magus. He continued in his persuasion, which could also use the name of Jesus because Jesus had at first been in the Magian party when the issue was that of hostility to Agrippa I.

During the 40's and 50's AD the battle raged on the Diaspora mission field between the two versions of the ascetic mission, both taking the name of Jesus. The conflict was at the same time between the Diaspora and Jerusalem. One apocryphal document Acts of Saint Philip the Apostle when he went to Upper Hellas gives an actual history, which may be extracted from the supernatural elements that especially characterised Magian literature. It concerns a plot carried out in 58 AD by Diaspora members, Magians, against the Jewish high priest in Jerusalem, Ananias, resulting in his dismissal.

It says that Philip the Apostle went to the city of Athens called Hellas, where he taught the sayings of Jesus in the dress of a philosopher. He made the philosophers of Athens afraid, and they wrote to the high priest of Jerusalem, Ananias. He put on his high priest's robe, and came to Hellas. He condemned the Christians, who claimed the resurrection, although they had stolen the body of Jesus from the tomb. After debate with Philip, Ananias was blinded, and the philosophers turned against him. Philip prayed, "Come, Lord Jesus." The heavens were suddenly opened and Jesus came down in glory. Ananias was still not convinced. Jesus went back to heaven, at the same time as an earthquake occurred. Philip then cured Ananias' blindness.
Then the earth was cleft and swallowed up Ananias. He went down gradually, first as far as his knees, then to his navel, then to his neck. Although a healing of a 23 year old boy took place near him, Ananias up to his neck refused to believe. Philip then cursed him and ordered that he go right down. "At the same hour he (Ananias) went down into Hades alive, except that the high priest's robe flew off him."

Ananias was high priest in Jerusalem 49-58 AD and was dismissed in 58 by Agrippa II, (Josephus, Antiquities 20, 103, Antiquities 20, 179). Paul during these years was an influential adviser in the court of Agrippa II. Ananias appears as an opponent of Paul in Acts 23:2-5, an episode that took place in Jerusalem in June 58 AD . Ananias "struck Paul on the mouth", and Paul called him "a whitewashed wall". Paul added that he did not know that Ananias was high priest. In the pesher this means that he did not recognize that he was high priest. Although Paul was on the anti-Magian side of the internal conflicts, the whole Diaspora mission was opposed by Jerusalem high priests because it was denying the centrality of Jerusalem and its temple. Ananias' dismissal would have been brought about through the agency of Paul in Jerusalem and subsequently of Magian missionaries in Greece. In the apocryphal account, the actual political mechanism is disguised, the story told in a popular version with supernatural embellishments.

The Gospel of Philip was found among the Nag Hammadi codices. On the orthodox grounds that everything began with Jesus, it was at once classed as late - 3rd century AD, and historically worthless. Reasons have been given here why this judgement is wrong, for it disregards clear information in the text which requires a dating before 70 AD. (See '"The Gospel of Philip" in Section 4, The Other Gospels on this site.)

Its character is, however, different from that of the canonical gospels, although it touches on some of their themes. It develops extensively the bridal imagery for Christian membership:

"The mysteries of truth are revealed, though in type and image. The bridal chamber, however, remains hidden. It is the holy in the holy. The veil at first concealed how God controlled the creation...If some belong to the order of the priesthood they will be able to go within the veil with the high priest....There is glory which surpasses glory. There is power which surpasses power. Therefore the perfect things have opened to us, together with the hidden things of truth. The holies of the holies were revealed, and the bridal chamber invited us in." (GPhil 84, 20- 85, 21).

"Indeed, one must utter a mystery. The father of everything united with the virgin who came down, and a fire shone for him on that day. He appeared in the great bridal chamber. Therefore, his body came into being on that very day. It left the bridal chamber as one who came into being from the bridegroom and the bride. So Jesus established everything in it through these. It is fitting for each of the disciples to enter into his rest.

"Adam came into being from two virgins, from the spirit and from the virgin earth. Christ, therefore, was born from a virgin to rectify the fall which occurred in the beginning." (GPhil 71, 3-21).

In the same work, it is said that the bridal chamber imagery also applies to evil spirits.
"Great is the mystery of marriage! For [without] it the world would [not exist]......The forms of evil spirit include male ones and female ones. The males are they that unite with the souls which inhabit a female form, but the females are they which are mingled with those in a male form, through one who was disobedient. And none shall be able to escape them, since they detain him if he does not receive a male power or a female power, the bridegroom and the bride. One receives them from the mirrored bridal chamber." (GPhil 64, 31- 12)"

The difference is well accounted for by the Magian practices of Philip. The Christian side of the schism increasingly condemned them as immoral, so that the Christian historian Eusebius (c. 300 AD) had nothing but condemnation for Simon:
"Simon was the first author of all heresy. From him, and down to the present time, those who have followed, feigning the Christian philosophy, with its sobriety and universal fame for purity of life, have in no way improved on the idolatrous superstition from which they thought to be set free, for they prostrate themselves before pictures and images of Simon himself and of Helena, who was mentioned with him, and undertake to worship them with incense and sacrifices and libations. Their more secret rites, at which they say that he who first hears them will be astonished, and according to a scripture current among them will be 'thrown into a marvel', truly are full of marvel and frenzy and madness; for they are of such a kind that they not merely cannot be related in writing, but are so full of baseness and unspeakable conduct that they cannot even be mentioned by the lips of decent men. For whatever foulness might be conceived beyond all that is base, it is surpassed by the utter foulness of the heresy of these men, who make a mocking sport of wretched women, weighed down, as is truly said, by every kind of evil." (Eccl. Hist. 2,13, 5-8).

The history of Philip is, then, a major source for the actual history of earliest Christianity.

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