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Philip, a Collaborative Forerunner of Peter and Paul: A Study of Philip’s Characterization in Acts

Mod.: Prof. R.P. Dean BÉCHARD

The thesis explores the characterization of Philip in Acts. Even though Philip is the protagonist in Acts 8,4-13.26-40, too little attention has been dedicated to him in academic studies (ch. 1). This thesis, employing the narrative approach and especially the analysis of the literary treatment of the relationships of Philip with other characters, tries to prove that Philip is given a unique role in Acts, that of a collaborative forerunner of Peter and Paul.

In 6,1-7, Philip is presented by the telling of the narrator as one of the seven and a person full of the Holy Spirit, wisdom, and faith. By the showing of the narrator, Philip is identified as an appropriate minister of the circle, of the apostles, and of the Holy Spirit. In 6,8–8,3, Philip’s characterization may be recognized through Stephen, as parallel descriptions can be found between Stephen in Jerusalem and Philip in Samaria. Philip functions as a forerunner of the scattered Christians, as Stephen does. Besides, because of comparable descriptions of Stephen in Jerusalem and Philip in Samaria, it can be said that Stephen witnessed to Jesus as the suffering Messiah and Philip to Jesus as the recognized one (cc. 2-4)

In 8,4-25, which consists of two episodes, another characterization of Philip can be acknowledged, that of a de facto collaborator with Peter, even though some scholars identify Philip as inferior to the apostles. Besides, the synkrisis of Philip with Stephen and that with Simon Magus show Philip as a prophetic messenger of Jesus like Stephen and as an apologetic miracle worker of God unlike Simon the magician (ch. 5).

In 8,26-40, Philip appears as a minister of evangelization and baptism. He is also presented as a faithful minister of God, as he obeys both an angel (vv. 26-27) and the Holy Spirit (vv. 29-30, 39). Because of the synkrisis of Philip with Jesus in Luke 24,13-35 and Peter in Acts 9,32-48, Philip can be identified as an interpreter of the Bible like Jesus and as a de facto collaborator of Peter, who comes to the same region where Philip evangelized in 8,40 (ch. 6).

In 21,1-16, although Philip does not appear as an active character, a significant element can be noticed. It is only to Philip that the narrator applies the title evangelist in Acts, which summarizes Philip’s activities in Acts 8. Philip is also presented by the showing of the narrator as a founder of the Christian circle in Caesarea and as a collaborator and forerunner of Paul. While Paul, former Saul, persecuted Philip, who then needed to flee from the suffering in Jerusalem, Philip now receives Paul, who goes up to face the suffering awaiting him in Jerusalem (ch. 7). Philip is given extradiegetic functions, too: inviting the reader to engage in evangelical activities with joy and boldness and to realize, from Philip’s example, how to live under the guidance of the Holy Spirit and how to practice hospitality even to the one who is against him or her (ch. 8).