🔼The name Philip: Summary
- Lover Of Horse(s), He Who Leans On His Military Complex
- From (1) the adjective φιλος (philos), friend or beloved, and (2) the noun ιππος (hippos), horse.
🔼The name Philip in the Bible
The name Philip (or rather Philippos) was very popular in ancient times, both as a personal name and as hereditary title of the kings of Macedonia:
Little is known about Philip I. The father of Alexander the Great was Philip II. The last of the Macedonian Philips was Philip V, who was forced to sign a "treaty" with Rome. His eldest son Perseus would be the last king of Macedonia (advised by one Onesimus), as it was annexed to Rome in 168 BC.
The name Philip appears 35 times in the New Testament — see full concordance — and covers four different men named such in the Bible:
- One of Jesus' twelve disciples. The synoptic gospels merely mention him when the twelve are listed (Matthew 10:3, Mark 3:18, Luke 6:14) but John elaborates that Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter, that Philip found and called Nathanael and brought him to Jesus (John 1:43-48). In John's gospel, Jesus tested Philip by asking where to buy bread, just before he would miraculously feed the 5,000 (6:5-7). Just after the triumphal entry, certain Greeks requested an audience with Jesus via Philip (12:20-22). And Philip asked Jesus to show him the Father (14:8-9). Last we hear of Philip of Bethsaida is when he was with the others in the upper room, right after the ascension of Christ (Acts 1:13).
- Where Philip of Bethsaida went off to isn't told, but when the twelve (including Philip) asked the congregation to appoint seven men with enough wisdom to wait tables (perhaps a touch of satire?) there was another Philip among them (Acts 6:5), henceforth known as Philip the Evangelist, one of the seven, who ended up living in Caesarea (Acts 21:8). It's generally concluded that this latter Philip was the one who went to Samaria to preach (Acts 8:5-13) and who baptized the unnamed official of Candace of Ethiopia, and journeyed on until he came to Caesarea (8:26-40).
- Herod II, also known as Herod Philip I or simply Philip (as per Matthew 14:3 and Mark 6:17), son of Herod the Great and Mariamne II and the first husband of Herodias.
- Philip the Tetrarch of Ituraea and Trachonitis (Luke 3:1), also known as Herod Philip II and half-brother of the previous one. This Philip married his niece Salome, and rebuilt and named the city of Caesarea Philippi.
🔼Etymology of the name Philip
The name Philippos consists of two elements. The first part comes from the adjective φιλος (philos), meaning friend or one who loves:
The verb φιλεω (phileo) means to love, and the adjective φιλος (philos) means beloved or friend. To be more exact: these words describe a deliberately pursued synchronicity mostly between specific persons. This pursued synchronicity has not so much to do with feelings but with a state of alignment, co-existence, or even symbiosis.
The noun φιλημα (philema) may mean kiss or hug or any such expression of affection.
The second part comes from the familiar noun ιππος (hippos), meaning horse:
The familiar noun ιππος (hippos) means horse, and back when recreational riding wasn't a thing yet, transport was accomplished by using camels and donkeys, and plows were pulled by oxen. The horse was regarded as quintessential unit of the cavalry, and ultimately as a unit of military force.
The name Philip is usually interpreted literally as Lover Of Horse(s), but some nuancing is in order. The ancients didn't have a pet-culture the way we have it — in part, probably because ancient societies were based on human contact instead of surrogates such as TV and domesticated animals. Neither the horse nor any other animal was seen as a creature that a human could be "friends" with. Animals worked or were eaten, and that summed up their functions.
But some animals were very good at one specific task and became synonymous with it. Camels, for instance, were literally known as "unit of long distance trade"; the old world equivalent of the modern truck or freight train (read our article on Abraham for more on this). The horse, similarly, was known as "unit of mobile army"; or the old world equivalent of the modern tank or jeep. Hence the Psalmist could observe that "some put their trust in chariots and horses" (Psalm 20:7), which obviously refers to one's military capacities.
The king of Israel was to trust in the name of YHWH and not count on his cavalry to keep enemies at bay. Hence he was forbidden to multiply horses, or allow his people to go to Egypt to multiply horses (Deuteronomy 17:16). There is certainly nothing wrong with breeding any clean animal, but the king of Israel was forbidden to expand his own army, and also to hire his people out to foreign states in order for their army to be expanded.
The name Philip means precisely the opposite of what God commanded his people. It means He Who Leans On His Military Complex.