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The gospel was first brought to Samaria by Philip, not the apostle, but one of the seven deacons (Acts 6:5. 21:8), who, as colleagues of Stephen and as Hellenistic Jew, were doubtless among the chief sufferers by the persecution. He was to reap what Christ had already sown in his conversation with the Samaritan woman and his two days’ residence in Sychar (comp. John 4:35). The Samaritans, indeed, received no part of the Old Testament, but the Pentateuch; yet they were more susceptible than the proper Jews, to superficial religious impressions and foreign influences, and, of course, also to all sorts of superstition and fanaticism; and they expected from the Messiah the general restoration and consummation of all things. They were thrown into great excitement by Simon, one of those wandering Goëtae, to whom the door was then opened by the general longing after something higher, and by the prevailing receptivity for the secret wisdom of the East, and who, with their deceitful arts, presented the same contrast to the apostles and evangelists, as did the Egyptian sorcerers to Moses and his divinely wrought miracles. This Simon, who received from the church fathers the surname Magus, the Magician, and was regarded by them as the patriarch of all heretics, especially of the Gnostics, gave himself out for a higher being, and on account of his sorceries, including perhaps astrology, necromancy, exorcism by formulas of the Graeco-Oriental theosophy, &c., was gazed upon by old and young as an emanation or incarnation of deity. But when Philip, by the unpretentious display of power of faith and the simple invocation of the name of Jesus, wrought miracles, especially of healing, which Simon, with all his jugglery, could not imitate, the people fell over to the evangelist and were baptized. The magician then thought it best to yield to the higher power and likewise to be baptized, doubtless hoping thus himself to obtain the miraculous gifts of his rival. For the result forbids us to regard him as having been truly converted. He probably perceived in the gospel a superior divine power and was for a moment subdued by it, but never truly and honestly embraced it. He wished to hold fast to his heathen views, as Ananias to his gold, and to make the Christian name a tool of his avarice and ambition.
This rapid success of the gospel among a mixed people, mortally hated by the Jews, and, though circumcised, not considered by them as belonging to the theocratic race, must make no little stir among the believers in Jerusalem. Many, perhaps, under the influence of old prejudices, might doubt the genuineness of the new conversions. At all events, the work was imperfect. The faith of the Samaritan converts was based less on inward experience than on the miracles of Philip, as formerly on the manipulation or trickery of Simon. The baptism with water needed to be confirmed and completed by the baptism with the Spirit (Acts 8:16). The apostles, therefore, sent two of their number, Peter, and John, to Samaria to examine the matter and supply what was wanting. These apostles, no doubt, first gave the Samaritans more accurate instruction concerning the history of Jesus, and concerning repentance and faith in him; and then, by the symbol of the laying on of hands, imparted to them the Holy Spirit, who now revealed himself by tokens like those on Pentecost. Simon, still more astonished, sought to buy of the apostles the art of communicating the Holy Spirit by the laying on of hands, that he might thus obtain the greater dominion over the minds of men. This, like the history of so many other fanatics, shows that there may be a sordid and arbitrary effort to obtain even the highest and holiest gifts—an effort, which, as it springs not from humility, but from ambition and selfishness, is an abomination to the Lord, and works destruction. Peter sharply rebuked the hypocrite for this profane degradation of the holy and the supernatural into the sphere of perishable matter. Yet, he did not give him up but exhorted him to repent. Simon, trembling with fear of divine punishment, now implored the apostles, indeed, to intercede for him with the Lord and avert the fulfillment of their threatening. But this impression was merely transient, and, so far as we have any traces of his subsequent history, he remained, as before, the old man, making out of religion a miserable trade. This remarkable interview of Simon Peter with Simon Magus was regarded and set forth in varied colors by ancient Christians, as typifying the posture of the orthodox church towards deceptive heresy.
Two nations, most obstinately at variance, being thus united by the spirit of Christianity into one fellowship of love, the two apostles returned to Jerusalem, which was then the center of church operations, preaching the gospel in many Samaritan villages on the way (Acts 8:25). But Philip, at the instance of the Spirit, went to the road which leads from Jerusalem to Gaza, an ancient city of the Philistines, destroyed by Alexander the Great but rebuilt by Herod. Here he met an Ethiopian court officer and treasurer of queen Candace, just returning from a visit to the temple at Jerusalem and reading the fifty-third chapter of the prophet Isaiah. Philip explained its meaning to him, preached to him Jesus as the grand subject of the prophecy, and baptized him. We have no means of knowing whether any further results followed this conversion. Church history tells us indeed that Frumentius and Ædesius, in the fourth century, were the first missionaries of Ethiopia. Yet the gospel might have been spread, before this, in another part of that country; and a tradition of the Abyssinian church derives the origin of this church from that chamberlain, whom it calls Indich; and many of its doctrines and usages seem to point to a Jewish Christian origin.
Philip next went to Azotus and preached in the cities southward and northward on the coast of the Mediterranean, till he settled for some time in Caesarea Stratonis, the capital of Palestine, where the governor resided (Acts 8:40; 21:8). Here he prepared the way for the visit of Peter shortly after and for the conversion of Cornelius, to which we now pass.
By Philip Schaff
Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible
Hellenistic Jew and one of the seven men appointed by the church in Jerusalem to supervise the daily ministry of succor to the impoverished widows of the Christian community. They all, including Philip, had Greek names, and one of them, Nicolaus, was a proselyte (i.e., not a Jew by birth). Whether or not they were regarded as deacons in the technical sense is not absolutely clear from the account; this occasion has, however, been generally accepted as the origin of the order of the diaconate (Acts 6:1–7). Of the seven, Stephen and Philip are the only ones of whom we have any further record in the NT. They are described as “men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom” (v 3). That Philip became known as “the evangelist” is apparent from Acts 21:8. The designation was well deserved, for when the Jerusalem Christians were scattered by the persecution led by Saul of Tarsus, Philip went to a city of Samaria and proclaimed the gospel with such power there that a great number of the populace joyfully turned to Christ (Acts 8:1–8). In the midst of this spectacular work, Philip was divinely instructed to leave Samaria and go down to the desert area in the southern part of the country. Humanly speaking, for him to turn away from the multitudes who were so eagerly responding to his preaching and to go to the uninhabited territory in the south must have seemed incomprehensible and even foolish. Yet Philip showed himself not only sensitive but also obedient to the will of God and followed this guidance without question. In the desert he found not a crowd but a single person to whom to minister, an important Ethiopian court official who had visited Jerusalem and was now returning to Africa. The wisdom of God in directing Philip to this place was fully vindicated, for the Ethiopian was reading Isaiah 53, the great gospel chapter of the OT. Philip gave him the good news that this and the other prophecies of the OT were fulfilled in Jesus Christ. The Ethiopian subsequently believed and was baptized and went on his way rejoicing (Acts 8:25–40). The conversion of this one person meant not only that Philip was the first to proclaim the gospel to a Gentile, but also that the gospel was taken by this Ethiopian courtier to the continent of Africa. The prevailing nationalistic pride of the Jews was such that they despised the Samaritans and regarded the Gentiles as unclean; but Philip, by his eager preaching of Christ first to the Samaritans and then to the Ethiopian, reflected the way in which the gospel penetrated social barriers and dissolved racial prejudices and demonstrated that the grace of God in Christ Jesus is freely available to all. Subsequently, Philip made his home in the coastal town of Caesarea. There he hospitably entertained Paul and Luke when they were enroute to Jerusalem at the conclusion of the apostle’s third missionary journey. Luke tells us that Philip had four unmarried daughters who prophesied (Acts 21:8, 9). Not long after this, when Paul was in custody in Caesarea for two years, the kindness and friendship of Philip must have meant much to him (Acts 23:31–35; 24:23, 27).
The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia
Philip the Evangelist [Gk. Philippos]. One of the seven men chosen to minister to the neglected Greek-speaking widows in the church at Jerusalem (Acts 6:1–6). Though the name “Philip” is Greek and he was selected to act in the interest of the widows of the Hellenists, it is difficult to ascertain whether he himself was a Hellenist. His selection to a function of service does not necessarily constitute what later became known as the “diaconate” despite the fact that “deacon” and “serve” (Acts 6:2) derive from the same root.
The next mention of Philip is in Acts 8:4. The persecution directed against the church in Jerusalem led to its dispersion and the spread of the gospel. Philip himself went to the territory of Samaria. Due to textual difficulties, it is uncertain whether his endeavor led him to Sebaste (formerly the ancient city of Samaria), or to another city of Samaria, perhaps Gitta, the birthplace of Simon Magus according to Justin Martyr (Apol i.26; cf. F. F. Bruce, Book of the Acts [NICNT, 1954], p. 177; B. Metzger, Textual comm on the Greek NT , pp. 355f).
In response to the preaching of Philip in Samaria many were healed and freed from unclean spirits (Acts 8:7). The significance of Philip’s ministry in Samaria is that it highlighted the universal application of the gospel (cf. 1:8) even to the extent of healing the ancient schism between the Jews and Samaritans (cf. Jn. 4:9). Further, the signs and miracles performed by Jesus, the apostles (e.g., Acts 3:1–7; 5:12f), and Philip announced the coming of the kingdom of God (8:6, 12).
While in Samaria Philip also encountered Simon, a pretentious practitioner of magic who had gained a large group of adherents; however, Philip’s preaching of the gospel resulted in the conversion and baptism of numerous men and women, and even Simon himself, though his repentance may be questioned (8:9–13, 18–24; on legends regarding Simon see BC, V, 151–163). In response to Philip’s ministry among the Samaritans, the apostles in Jerusalem sent Peter and John so that the new believers might receive the Spirit and be assured that they were truly incorporated into the new community (8:14–17).
A heavenly messenger then directed Philip southward to the Gaza-Jerusalem road where he met the Ethiopian eunuch, a court official to the queen of Ethiopia, also called by the hereditary title Candace. As a eunuch he could not achieve the status of a full proselyte (cf. Dt. 23:1; but also Isa. 56:3–5), but he may have been a “God-fearer” (cf. Acts 2:10; 10:2; see Ethiopian Eunuch). The eunuch’s query on Isa. 53 provided Philip with an opportunity to identify the Suffering Servant and to speak “the good news of Jesus.” The eunuch was converted and baptized (8:26–39). Then the Spirit “caught up” Philip (cf. the similar experience of Elijah, 1 K. 18:12, and Ezekiel, e.g., Ezk. 3:12), and he “was found” at Azotus (ancient Philistine Ashdod) heading north to Caesarea while preaching the gospel in the towns.
Some twenty years later, Philip is mentioned again, now as a resident of Caesarea and father of four unmarried daughters who are prophetesses (Acts 21:8f.). Here Philip provided lodging for Paul and his companions, who were on their way to Jerusalem. In this “we” section of Acts Luke relates the events at Caesarea, and it is likely that he received information for earlier portions of Acts from the accounts supplied by Philip and his daughters (cf. SPT, p. 379).
Later traditions often confused Philip the evangelist with Philip The Apostle, but in Acts 21:8 Luke makes a special attempt to distinguish this Philip as “the evangelist, who was one of the seven” (cf. esp J. B. Lightfoot, comm on Colossians and Philemon [repr 1979], p. 45). One tradition states he died at Hierapolis (Eusebius HE iii.3l), while another asserts he became bishop of Tralles where he eventually died (PL, CXVII, 103).
By G. L. Knapp
 As appears from the acceptance, which three successive sect-founders in the first century met with among the Samaritans;—Dositheus; Simon Magus, who equally deserves mention; and Menander, his disciple.
 The mildness of the apostle here presents a striking contrast to his severity in the terrible punishment of Ananias (c. 5). But we may account for the difference of treatment by considering, that Simon, in whom we must suppose a mixture of deceit and superstition, had not yet experienced the Holy Spirit in his heart, and did not really know what he was doing, whereas Ananias exhibited the height of conscious hypocrisy and selfishness, amidst the virgin purity and glowing love of the primitive church.
 It cannot be made out with certainty, but it is not improbable, that this Simon, as Neander, for example, supposes (l. c. p. 108), is the same as the Simon, who, according to Josephus (Archaeol. XX. 7. § 2), appears some ten years afterwards in confidential intercourse with the vile procurator, Felix, aiding him by his magical arts in gratifying his adulterous lust. It is certain, that the beginnings of the Gnostic sect of the Simonians are to be traced back to the magician Simon.
 The question might here arise: Why did he not rather return to Jerusalem? Hess thinks (l. c. p. 104) because the persecution was still raging there, and the deacons, or account of the dispersion of the church, had nothing more to do. But the church cannot have been entirely dissolved, and the “all,” (Acts 8:1), must be taken as hyperbolical. Otherwise, the apostles would hardly have remained there. Baur, in his work on Paul (p. 39), supposes, that, after the time of Stephen, there was a formal separation between the strictly Judaizing, Hebrew Christians, and the more liberal, Hellenistic portion of the church. Philip belonged to the last, and it was only the first, who remained in Jerusalem. But this is at once contradicted by c. 9:27, where it appears, that the Hellenist Barnabas was in Jerusalem, when Saul first came there after his conversion; not to mention, that Baur presupposes a degree of hostility and jealousy between the two parties altogether at variance with the spirit of Jesus, by which if any men were actuated, the apostles were. The simplest answer is that Philip was called rather to be a missionary and evangelist, as in fact he is so styled (21:8, comp. 8:40).
 According to Pliny, this was the official title of all the princes of Meroë in upper Egypt. So the Egyptian kings were called Pharaoh.
 Whence it appears, that he was either a proper Jew or a proselyte. If we take the word “eunuch,” (8:27), literally, the Ethiopian, according to the law (Deut. 23:1), could have been only a proselyte of the gate, and we should then have here the first example of the reception of such a person into the Christian fellowship, and a prelude to the conversion of Cornelius. But that expression frequently denotes a court officer in general, without respect to the bodily mutilation.