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Philip


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(1st century),

apostle. Nearly everything known about him is in the New Testament. He came from Bethsaida (Galilee); he became a disciple of Jesus early on, probably after following John the Baptist; he then persuaded Nathanael (probably Bartholomew) to follow Jesus. At the feeding of the 5,000 he remarked that two hundred pennyworth of bread would not be sufficient for each person to have even a little. Again, when the Greeks wanted to meet Jesus, they approached Philip first; at the last discourse Philip's request to Jesus to show them the Father elicited the reply: ‘He that sees me, sees the Father.’ (Cf. John 1: 43–51; 6: 5–7; 12: 21f.; 14: 8f.) Like the other apostles he was in the upper room awaiting the coming of the Spirit at Pentecost (Acts 1: 12–14), but after that there are only vague traditions. Some of these, which develop the role of Philip's supposed daughters in the early Church, are probably due to a confusion between him and Philip the Deacon (cf. Acts 8; 21: 8). Perhaps the most probable is the tradition which says that he preached the Gospel in Phrygia and died at Hierapolis, where he was also buried. His supposed relics were translated to Rome and placed in the basilica of the Twelve Apostles. But an ancient inscription there records that it was originally dedicated to SS. Philip and James. In art Philip is represented either with a cross, on which he was believed to have suffered, or else with loaves of bread to recall his part in feeding the 5,000. Several screen paintings of him survive in Norfolk together with those of most or all the other Apostles (e.g. North Elmham, South Lynn, and Salle). Early manuscripts of the Martyrology of Jerome place the feast of Philip alone on 1 May, which may indicate that James was joined to his feast after this dedication; both figure on this day in the early Roman sacramentaries. This traditional feast day of 1 May was altered in recent years because May Day was devoted to the feast of Joseph ‘the Worker’ in 1955. In that year the feast of SS. Philip and James was transferred to 11 May, but in 1969 it was moved once more to 3 May. In the B.C.P. it has remained constant on 1 May, and the Eastern churches celebrate it on 14 November.

AA.SS. Maii I (1680), 7–34 with C.M.H., pp. 222–3; B.L.S., v. 17–19.

Subjects: Christianity — Medieval and Renaissance History (500 to 1500).


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