Philip and his Daughters in Acts
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).
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 before teachers in his lists of ministry gifts in 1 Corinthians 12:28 and Ephesians 4:11.
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). These women may have chosen to remain unmarried in order to be devoted to the Lord and ministry (cf. 1 Cor. 7:8, 34).
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. Other sources, however, state that Philip and his daughters went to live in Hierapolis in Phrygia (cf. Eusebius EH 3.31.3-5). And still other sources say they were all buried in Caesarea.
Philip’s Daughters in Eusebius
Several early Christian writers mention Philip’s daughters. In his history of the church (EH 3.37.1), Eusebius compares a man named Quadratus, and his prophetic gift, with Philip’s four daughters, and their prophetic gift. It seems that 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 (EH 3.37.1).
Eusebius also quoted Papias, a church leader alive at the time of Philip’s daughters, who said that people travelled great distances to visit these female prophets and listen to their accounts of the early decades of the church. And some of the stories that Luke included in his Gospel and in Acts may well have come from Philip’s daughters.
Writing in 1320, a thousand years after Eusebius, Nicephorus Callistus Xanthopoulos wrote a history of the church which borrows from Eusebius and others. 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)
The histories of Eusebius and Nicephorus associate the daughters of Philip with apostolic gifts, teaching, and foundational ministry. (See endnote 6 for Eusebius’s account.) 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 clearly called a “prophet” in the next verse, Acts 21:10). 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 here.)
In book five of his history, Eusebius (EH 5.17.3) quotes from an earlier historian Miltiades who criticises the inappropriate ecstatic behaviour from Montanist prophets and 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.”
From this quote, 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 is especially significant as, “in Acts, the most prominent and pervasive leaders are called ‘prophets’.” The church at Antioch, for example, was led by prophets (mentioned first) and teachers (Acts 13:1-3).
Several female prophets are mentioned in the Bible. 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). 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.” (EH 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?
 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.]
 Consecrated “virgins” became an official order in the church in the second century.
 An unverifiable account of Hermione’s martyrdom in 117 AD is here.
 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)
 William Cave, Lives of the Most Eminent Fathers of the Church that Flourished in the First Four Centuries, Volume 1 (London, 1840), 89.
 “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 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.
 Quadratus the prophet should not be confused with Quadratus the bishop of Athens. Eusebius mentions this bishop in his church history in 4.3.1-2. Jerome conflates the two and states that Quadratus was a disciple of the apostles and the bishop of the church in Athens in Letters LXX.4. Quadratus the bishop wrote a treatise defending Christianity which had the effect of staving off serious persecution by Emperor Hadrian.
 At times, Eusebius gives accounts that seem to confuse Philip the apostle with Philip the Evangelist (e.g. 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 (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).
 F.F. Bruce mentions this in his book, The Acts of the Apostles (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1951), 387.
 “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)
 Luke often uses male-female pairs in his Gospel and in Acts to make certain points. It may be that Agabas 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.
 Kevin Giles in his paper on “Ordination” (sent to me in a personal email from the author.)
 Or it could be that “teachers” in Acts 13:1 explains one of the primary roles of “prophets”.
 “The inspired songs, prayers, praises and teachings of Miriam (Exo. 15:20-21), Deborah (Judg. 5:1ff), Hannah (1 Sam. 2:1ff), Abigail (1 Sam. 25:28-31), King Lemuel’s Mother (Prov. 31:1-9), Mary (Luke 1:46ff) and Elizabeth (Luke 1:41ff) are considered prophetic and are included in Scripture. They have been recorded in the Bible and thus have the authority of Scripture. Some people consider Scripture as having the highest level of prophecy.” Quoted from here.
© 24th of November 2013, Margaret Mowczko
“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)” in Manners, Customs, and Dress During the Middle Ages, and During the Renaissance Period by Paul Lacroix (no date) (Source: Guttenberg Press)
Map showing places where Philip ministered, © Tyndale House Publishers (Source: Visual Bible Alive)
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