The Life, Ministry, and Martyrdom of the Apostle Philip
Philip was from the Galilean town of Bethsaida in northern Israel, the same one as Andrew and Peter. Philip was one of the twelve apostles of Jesus (John 1:43-46).
The Acts of Philip, written in the 300s, tells us that the apostle Philip, his sister Mariamne, and the apostle Bartholomew were sent on a mission journey through Greece, Syria, and Phrygia in Asia Minor shortly after the resurrection of Jesus Christ. If this is true, then it is possible that Philip could have been living and ministering in Hierapolis as early as the 30s. However, this would mean that he would have been the apostolic leader in Hierapolis during Paul’s Ephesus ministry between 52 and 55, and he is never mentioned in the letters of Paul.
It is also possible that Philip left Jerusalem with or at the same time as the apostle John, around 66. If the church in Hierapolis was started during Paul’s Ephesus ministry, there was a growing Christian community in Hierapolis when Philip arrived. Since John was the bishop in Ephesus, it is no surprise that the Gospel of John mentions Philip more than any other apostle (John 6:5–8, 12:21–22, 14:8–10). Philip was martyred in Hierapolis around 80.
The Acts of Philip
The Acts of Philip, written in the 300s, describes the martyrdom of the apostle Philip in Hierapolis (mod- ern Pamukkale). As the story is told, the Roman proconsul’s wife became a follower of Jesus Christ through Philip’s preaching and miraculous healing. The proconsul became outraged and ordered Philip to be tortured. Philip was then crucified upside down and died in 80. In the early 400s, a martyrium complex on the western end of Hierapolis’ ancient necropolis was built around Philip’s tomb, which became a major Christian pigrim destination.
The Martyrium Bread Stamp of the Apostle Philip Hierapolis/Pamukkale
On display in the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts today is a bronze bread stamp from the 500s that significantly helped archaeologists understand the layout of the martyrium complex of the apostle Philip, built on a high hill above the city of Hierapolis (modern Pamukkale). The bread stamp shows Philip holding a loaf of bread and standing between two buildings with crosses on top. The loaf of bread likely refers to the Gospel story of the feeding of the five thousand (John 6:5). On the left of Philip on the stamp is the Martyrium Church containing Philip’s tomb and on the right is the large domed Martyrdom Hall. Because the martyrium complex attracted multitudes of Christian pilgrims, a processional road with a long flight of steps was constructed that led from the center of the city up to the martyrium.
The Martyrium Church of the Apostle Philip (400s) Hierapolis/Pamukkale
For many years it was assumed that the tomb of the apostle Philip was located in the center of the large domed Martyrium Hall of Hierapolis (modern Pemmukale), but it was never found. In the summer of 2011, Italian archeologist Francesco D’Andria discovered the tomb of Philip in a newly excavated church located only forty yards to the right of the Martyrium Hall. It is believed that this early church was built around Philip’s tomb in the early 400s. According to D’Andria, the tomb design and the writing on its walls prove it belonged to Philip. Philip’s physi- cal remains were likely taken to Constantinople at the end of the 500s, and possibly put in the Church of the Apostles.
The Martyrium Hall of the Apostle Philip (400s) Hierapolis/Pamukkale
The large domed Martyrium Hall was built in the 400s about forty yards to the left of the Martyrium Church of the Apostle Philip in Hierapolis (modern Pamukkale). The hall probably provided a gathering and teaching place for the many Christian pilgrims that went to the Martyrium Church. The octagonal-shaped Martyrium Hall has a circular central area that was surrounded by eight small chapels and four triangular courtyards in the corners. Although the hall has been badly damaged by earthquakes, you can still see the travertine stone supports of the original wood dome.