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Philip's Prophesying Daughters

Philip and his Daughters in the New Testament

Philip was a prominent minister in the New Testament church and is mentioned several times in the book of Acts. He is not the apostle Philip but was one of the seven Greek-speaking Jewish men (including Stephen) who was chosen to minister to the Greek-speaking Jewish widows in the Jerusalem church (Acts 6:1–6; 21:8).[1]

After Stephen was stoned to death, and the subsequent persecution of the Christians in Jerusalem (Acts 8:1–2), Philip went and ministered in Samaria. This is recorded in Acts 8:5-7. Philip then went on the road to Gaza where he shared the gospel with an Ethiopian eunuch, the treasurer for Queen Candace, and he baptised him in water (Acts 8:26–39).

Philip is also mentioned in Acts 21:8 where he is identified as one of the “Seven” and as an evangelist. Being an evangelist is one of the leadership ministries on the Ephesians 4:11 list. In fact, Philip is the only person identified as an evangelist in the New Testament (cf. 2 Tim. 4:5). Another leadership ministry on the Ephesians 4:11 list is that of prophets.

Prophets played an important role in the early church. Being gifted by the Holy Spirit, they provided guidance, instruction, strengthening, encouragement, and comfort (Acts 13:3–4; 16:6; 1 Cor. 14:3, 31, etc). Paul considered prophecy to be the most desirable of the spiritual gifts (1 Cor. 14:1), and he listed prophets and prophesying before teachers and teaching in his lists of ministry gifts in Romans 12:6–8, 1 Corinthians 12:28, and Ephesians 4:11. So, as Ben Witherington has pointed out, “one cannot argue that prophesying—whether by women or by men—is less important, less enduring or less official than teaching or preaching.” [2]

When Paul and his team, which included Luke, came to Caesarea during the third missionary journey, they stayed with Philip. Philip had settled and had lived in Caesarea for about twenty years and now had four daughters. Luke describes these young women simply as “four virgin daughters who prophesied” (Acts 21:9). The four women may have chosen to remain unmarried in order to be devoted to the Lord and ministry (cf. 1 Cor. 7:8, 34).[3]

Elsewhere in the book of Acts, Luke provides names of many of the women he mentions. Even the servant Rhoda is named in Acts 12:13–15. It seems, however, that Philip’s daughters were well known to the whole church simply as “Philip’s daughters.” The Greek Menaon, an annual calendar that preserves the memory of martyrs and saints, claims that two of the daughters were called Hermione and Eutychis. It states that these two daughters went to live in Asia Minor after the death of the apostle John who lived his last years in Ephesus. Eutychis is said to be buried in Ephesus; Hermione may have been martyred.[4] Other sources, however, state that Philip and his daughters went to live in Hierapolis in Phrygia (cf. Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History 3.31.3–5).[5] Still other sources say they were all buried in Caesarea.[6]

Philip's Prophesying Daughters

Map showing places where Philip ministered
© Tyndale House Publishers (Source: Visual Bible Alive)

Philip’s Daughters in Eusebius’s Church History

Several early Christian writers mention Philip’s daughters. In his history of the church, Eusebius compares a man named Quadratus, and his prophetic gift,[7] with Philip’s four daughters, and their prophetic gift (E.H. 3.37.1)[8]. Eusebius regarded Philip’s daughters and their ministry as the benchmark for prophetic ministry in the early church, and he implies that Philip’s daughters, like Quadratus, took over from the apostles’ ministry (E.H. 3.37.1).[9]

Eusebius also quoted Papias, a church leader alive at the same time as Philip’s daughters, who said that people travelled great distances to visit these female prophets and listen to their accounts of the first decades of the church.[10] Some of the stories that Luke included in his Gospel and in Acts may well have come from Philip’s daughters.[11]

Writing in 1320, a thousand years after Eusebius, Nicephorus Callistus Xanthopoulos wrote a history of the church which borrows from Eusebius and other early historians. Nicephorus says this about Philip’s daughters.

And until the times of Trajan these [successors of the apostles] continued the priesthood, while the beloved disciple still was present in [this] life. … After them Quadratus became eminent in the prophetic gift, being distinguished together with the daughters of Philip. And there were many more than they who manifested the apostolic gifts, who obtained the succession after the apostles. [This] history, as far as it is possible for me, hands down, one after another, similar things concerning Clement, Ignatius, Polycarp, and Papias. For now it sets forth as much as [possible] the earliest demonstration of apostolic teaching.
Nicephorus Callistus Xanthopoulos, Church History 3.2.40–55 (Source: Peter Kirby)

The histories of Eusebius and Nicephorus associate the daughters of Philip with apostolic gifts, teaching, and foundational ministry. Like the prophets Judas and Silas who are mentioned in Acts, Philip’s four daughters probably had much to say that encouraged and strengthened the believers in the early church (cf. Acts 15:32).

Philip’s Daughters as Prophets

Some argue that Luke does not explicitly call Philip’s daughters “prophets” or “prophetesses” in the Greek text of Acts 21:9 (cf. Agabus who is plainly called a “prophet” in the next verse, Acts 21:10).[12] However, this does not mean that the women were not prophets. Luke uses the present active participle of “prophesy” to describe the four daughters. This participle gives an immediate and ongoing sense of their ministry. There is no doubt that the ability to prophesy is what characterised these four women. (Compare how different English versions translate Acts 21:9 on Bible Gateway, here.)

In book five of his history, Eusebius quotes from an earlier historian Miltiades who criticises the inappropriate ecstatic behaviour from Montanist prophets, and he contrasts this behaviour with the respectable conduct of Philip’s four daughters and other male and female prophets:

They cannot show that one of the old or one of the new prophets was thus carried away in spirit. Neither can they boast of Agabus [Acts 11:27–28; 21:10], or Judas, or Silas [Acts 15:22, 27, 32] or the daughters of Philip, or Ammia [a prophetess] in Philadelphia, or Quadratus, or any others not belonging to them. (E.H. 5.17.3)

From this quotation, it appears that Philip’s daughters were regarded as prophets just like the other prophets mentioned in the book of Acts: Agabus, Judas, and Silas. This may be especially significant as, “in Acts, the most prominent and pervasive leaders are called ‘prophets.’”[13] The church at Antioch, for example, was led by prophets and teachers (Acts 13:1–3).[14]

Several female prophets are mentioned in the Bible.[15] Miriam and Deborah were recognised and respected as both prophets and leaders (Exod. 15:20 cf. Mic. 6:4; Judg. 4:4). Huldah the prophetess was sought out by the king’s men and she helped to bring about a spiritual revival in Judah (2 Kings 22:13–14; 2 Chron. 34:21–22). Anna the prophetess ministered in the temple in Jerusalem and spoke to everyone, men and women, who were “looking for the redemption of Jerusalem” (Luke 2:36–38). And Isaiah’s wife is called a prophetess (Isa. 8:3). (More about these prophetesses, here.)

There was a place for women prophets in ancient Israel. With the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost, more women, as well as men, prophesied (Acts 2:17–18). So, it was not unusual for women to prophesy and be recognised as prophets in the New Testament churches (cf. 1 Cor. 11:5).

There is no doubt that Philip’s four daughters were highly esteemed. The daughters held a prominent place in the early church and were “renowned.” (E.H. 3.37.1). They seemed to exercise their ministry gift freely and powerfully, and they were in demand. We should not underestimate their leadership and influence. I wonder how many women, gifted like Philip’s daughters, have since been silenced by the church?


[1] Philip is mentioned second to Stephen in the list of seven men. These seven men were “full of the Spirit and wisdom” (Acts 6:3) and have been traditionally referred to as the first deacons. The story of Stephen’s martyrdom is recorded in Acts chapter 7. [More on the ministry of the Seven here.]

[2] Ben Witherington, The Paul Quest: The Renewed Search for the Jew of Tarsus (Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 1998), 225.

[3] Consecrated “virgins” became an official order in the church in the second century.

[4] An unverifiable account of Hermione’s martyrdom in AD 117 is here. According to tradition, rather than more reliable histories, the names of all four women are Hermione, Eutychis, Irais, and Chariline.

[5] Martin Hengel writes, “Apparently, because of the severe unrest between the Jews and ‘Greeks’ in Caesarea, just before the outbreak of the Jewish was in A.D. 66, [Philip and his daughters] emigrated to Hierapolis in Phrygia.” Saint Peter: The Underestimated Apostle, English translation (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2010), 117. See also, Keener, Acts: An Exegetical Commentary: Volume 3: 15:1–23:35 (Google Books)

[6] William Cave, Lives of the Most Eminent Fathers of the Church that Flourished in the First Four Centuries, Volume 1 (London, 1840), 89.

[7] Quadratus the prophet, who may have lived in Asia Minor, is probably not Quadratus the apologist, who wrote a treatise to Hadrian and who, according to Eusebius (in Chronicon), gave it to the emperor when he visited Athens in AD 124–125. Quadratus the prophet is definitely not Quadratus the bishop of Athens (AD 180–200). Eusebius mentions all three Quadratuses.

Eusebius mentions three men named Quadratus in his Ecclesiastical History. There is a Quadratus mentioned twice within discussions about early Christian prophets and the Montanist controversies (Hist. eccl. 3.37; 5.17); a second who wrote a defense of the Christian religion to the emperor Hadrian (4.3), and who was elsewhere identified as an Athenian and called “the disciple of the apostles” by Eusebius (Chron. ad ann. Abr. 2041); and a third who succeeded Publius as bishop of Athens (Hist. eccl. 4.23). These three Quadratuses have been variously understood as one, two or three historical persons.
David A. Evans, “Christian Identity Formation in the Second Century: The Two Quadratuses of Athens,” in Early Christianity 10 (2019), 1–17, 3.

Jerome, however, conflates the apologist and the bishop; he states that Quadratus was a disciple of the apostles and the bishop of the church in Athens (Letters LXX.4).

[8] “Among those that were celebrated at that time was Quadratus, who, reports say, was renowned along with the daughters of Philip for his prophetical gifts. And there were many others besides these who were known in those days, and who occupied the first place among the successors of the apostles. And they also, being illustrious disciples of such great men, built up the foundations of the churches which had been laid by the apostles in every place, and preached the Gospel more and more widely and scattered the saving seeds of the kingdom of heaven far and near throughout the whole world.” (Eusebius, E.H. 3.37.1)
Translated by Arthur Cushman McGiffert. From Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Second Series, Vol. 1. Edited by Philip Schaff and Henry Wace. (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1890) Revised and edited for New Advent by Kevin Knight.
Admittedly, this says more about Quadratus than the four daughters of Philip.

[9] At times, Eusebius gives accounts that seem to confuse Philip the apostle with Philip the evangelist (e.g., E.H. 3.31.2-5). It appears that both had prominent daughters, which further confuses the stories. However, at least some of the apostle’s daughters were married. Clement of Alexandria (Stromata 3.16.6 (52)) writes that Philip the apostle gave his daughters in marriage.
Polycrates gives an account of Philip the apostle’s daughters, recorded by Eusebius (E.H. 5.24.2), which may confuse the apostle with the evangelist. In this account, three (surviving?) daughters of Philip are associated with the apostles Philip and John, with the bishops and martyrs Polycarp of Smyrna, Thraseas of Eumenia, and Sagris of Laodicea, as well as with Papirius of Smyrna and Melito of Sardis. And they are all described as “mighty luminaries” or “great lights” (cf. 3.31:3).

[10] F.F. Bruce mentions this in his book, The Acts of the Apostles (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1951), 387.

[11] “The daughters, or at least some of them, lived to a great age, and were highly esteemed as informants on persons and event belonging to the early years of Judaean Christianity. It has been surmised that . . . information such as Philip and his daughters could supply was highly prized by Luke who made use of it in the composition of his twofold history—not only during the few days which he spent at Caesarea now, but also during the two years of Paul’s imprisonment there (cf. 24:27).” F.F. Bruce, The Book of Acts, NICNT (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1988), 400. (Google Books)

[12] Luke often uses male-female pairs in his Gospel and in Acts to make certain points. Agabus and Philip’s daughters represent a male and female pairing of prophets (Acts 21: 9, 10; cf Acts 2:17–18). More on Luke’s male-female pairs here.

[13] Kevin Giles in his paper on “Ordination” (sent to me in a personal email from the author.)

[14] Or it could be that “teachers” in Acts 13:1 explains one of the primary roles of “prophets.”

[15] The inspired and insightful songs, prayers, praises, proclamations, and teachings of Hagar (Gen. 16:13), Miriam (Exod. 15:21), Deborah (Judges 5:1ff), Hannah (1 Sam. 2:1ff), Abigail (1 Sam. 25:28-31), women with good news (Psalm 68:11-12), Huldah (2 Kings 22:15ff), King Lemuel’s Mother (Prov. 31:1-9), wailing women of Judah (Jer. 9:17-22), Mary (Luke 1:46ff), Elizabeth (Luke 1:41ff), and the Samaritan woman (John 4:19, 25) may be considered prophetic and are included in scripture. Many Christians consider scripture as possessing the highest degree of both prophecy and authority. I’ve written about every female prophet in the Bible, here.

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1. “Costumes of the Ladies of the Nobility in the Ninth Century from a Miniature in the Bible of Charles the Bold (National Library of Paris),” figure 45 in Manners, Customs, and Dress During the Middle Ages, and During the Renaissance Period by Paul Lacroix (no date) (Source: Guttenberg Press)

2. Map showing places where Philip ministered © Tyndale House Publishers (Source: Visual Bible Alive)

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14 thoughts on “Philip’s Prophesying Daughters

  1. My understanding is that the spiritual gift of prophecy is different from the spiritual gift of being a prophet in the NT; the latter includes the former, but also is a congregational leadership ministry recognized by the congregation and is a type of elder/overseer that leads the church in a plurality of elders, usually of different types as each type has a different vision or calling.

  2. Philip’s daughters are not plainly called “prophets” (using a noun) in the New Testament. Acts 21 has a participle of “prophesy” instead. However, participles are sometimes used when identifying the position or role of a person.

    John N. Collins writes about Luke’s use of the participle, rather than the noun, for the action of serving/waiting at tables in Luke 22:27: “Greek writers preferred the participle to the noun as giving a more immediate sense of the waiter [or prophet?] in action.” From Deacons and the Church (Leominster, UK: Gracewing, 2002), 44.

    The participle does not rule out the possibility that Philip’s daughters were in fact prophets. Prophesying is what they were known for. Anna and Jezebel of Thyatira, on the other hand, are simply called “prophets” (using the feminine Greek noun).

    I think there were levels of prophetic ministry in the NT church. Not everyone who prophesied was a prophet. I think we agree on that. The prophets and teachers at Antioch were the church’s leaders (Acts 13:1). It seems the churches in Jerusalem and Antioch were mostly led by men, but this is not the case for other churches, especially as we move north and westward from Israel and Syria.

    I’ve written more about all the women prophets mentioned in the Bible here:

  3. I TIm 2 eradicated all this conjecture

    1. It never ceases to amaze me that this one passage, written to Timothy who was in Ephesus, is used by some, like yourself, to seemingly exclude all women from all speaking ministries (including prophecy) for all time.

      The passage you mention addresses problem behaviour in Ephesus (1 Tim 2:8-15). It is not Paul’s general teaching. Furthermore, Christians today don’t usually insist that men lift their hands when praying (1 Tim 2:8) or that women must not braid their hair or have gold or pearl jewelry (1 Tim. 2:9-10). But they insist on their interpretation of verse 12. This is an inconsistent approach to scripture.

      It is even more inconsistent when we take into consideration the numerous verses in the New Testament that show women were ministers, even in Ephesus, and that Paul appreciated their ministry and approved.

      Many people in New Testament churches, such as Paul, did not have the same problem with women ministers as you seem to have. The contributions of gifted women were valued.

      I take 1 Timothy 2:11-15 literally and have written about these verses here. https://margmowczko.com/interpretation-of-1-timothy-212/

      Shame on you for your sweeping statement which reveals your inconsistent and cocksure approach to scripture.

  4. Out of the so many articles on your site, this is my favorite. Thank you for your work on pulling together the history of how our faith wrote about these prophets

    1. Thanks, Hashim.

  5. […] I have more on Philip’s daughters, here.  […]

  6. in discussing women being silent in the church on fb, some man is saying that these 4 daughters of Phillip did NOT prophesy in the church!!!!!!!!!!!! I replied about something about bringing a talking rock to church.

  7. here is a typical conversation between one who thinks women are commanded to be silent in church and my reply–it was not researched as to the time of when Phillip and his daughters were actually part of the church so if you know please add that.

    mr. pat comp believer wrote to me— Phillip’s daughters prophesied, but there is no reason to believe they did that in church.
    If you told your child to stop talking and go to sleep, would you consider it disobedience if he continued to speak saying “Jesus is Lord” ten times after you told him to stop speaking?

    my witty reply to him: my children meow and yes they are very bad.

    but child-parent dynamics are somewhat similar to God/believer relationship but parents are fallible. God is not.

    and why would God tell someone not to say Jesus is Lord? especially in the sanctuary where God is to be praised and worshipped? that goes against what God commanded us.

    as to phillips daughters, it only says they prophesied but does not mention where. church in those days met in homes. you have added to scripture by saying there is no reason to believe they did that in church. the opposite is can also be true there is no reason to believe they prophesied outside church

    there may be more reason to believe they prophesied inside the church because when was that “command” written for women to be silent in the church? (which is a modern interpretation and not what Paul meant at all.) …and if it was a command to which church was it written and did the daughters have access to that letter with that command in it? I think phillip and his daughters were part of the church before those letters were written.


    1. Unfortunately, minimising the ministry of Bible women is not new. The following is a short excerpt from Origen’s commentary on 1 Corinthians. It is written in response to the Montanist prophetesses who Origen disapproved of.

      “If the daughters of Philip prophesied, at least they did not speak in the assemblies; for we do not find this fact in evidence in the Acts of the Apostles.”
      Origen, Fragment 1 Cor 74.21. (Internet Archive)

      Absense of evidence, however, is not evidence of absense.

      Why does Origen start by saying “if”? There should be no ifs or buts. The Philip’s daughters were famous in the early church as prophets.

      Why does Origen assume the daughters didn’t prophesy in assemblies? There’s no reason for this assumption, especially considering, as you say, that most gathering of Christians, of the church, happened in large-ish homes where public and domestic spheres merged.

      I have more on Origen’s attitudes to women ministers in a footnote here:

      And I have decided to write a new blog post about Origen’s comments about female prophets.

  8. You are a blessing to the body of Christ. Thank you.

    1. Thanks Diana. 🙂

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