Series - Lessons on Christian Women
Dedicated to Dr. Marina Cortinovis Larrubia Rios.
Revised May 24, 2005
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Carolyn Goodman Plampin
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Licenciado em Pedagogia (Master of Teaching), Universidade Federal do Paraná, Brazil, March 20, 1968
Master of Divinity, Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary, June 2, 1978
Missionary to Brazil of the International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention, 1957-1988
Academic dean (without title) and professor, Instituto Bíblico Batista, A.B. Deter
and Seminário Teológico Batista do Paraná, Curitiba, 1959-1979
Academic dean and professor, Seminário de Educadoras Cristãs, Recife, 1980-1986
(Nashville: Holman Bible Publishers, 1985)
Project Wittenberg Greek Transliteration Table
by Rev. Robert E. Smith, 10 May 1996
II. The early church historian, Eusebius, gives interesting information about the four daughters of Philip who were preachers.
III. The first title of the four daughters
of Philip is virgin.
IV. The second title of the four
daughters of Philip is preacher.
V. Men and women
had parallel organizations in the New Testament and in the early church.
So shall My word be which goes forth from My mouth; It shall not return to Me empty, without accomplishing what I desire, and without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it. (Isaiah 55:11)
There are only ten words in the book of Acts about the four daughters of Philip who were preachers, but we have God's promise that they will not return empty.
These women, like all other Christian men and women of their time, received their authority to preach directly from Jesus Christ. The four daughters of Philip were already recognized preachers when Paul and those who accompanied him came through the port city of Caesarea.
And on the next day we departed and came to Caesarea; and entering the house of Philip the evangelist, who was one of the seven, we stayed with him. Now this man had four virgin daughters who were prophetesses. (Acts 21:8-9)
Nothing more is said in the whole of the New Testament about these four virgin daughters of Philip who were preachers.
The early church historian, Eusebius (A.D. 260-340, date by Roberts & Donaldson), in his Ecclesiastical History,
gives interesting information about the four daughters of Philip who were preachers. Later church historians and
modern church historians do not mention them at all. About Eusebius' work the translator Cruse says:
This work, the most important that has come down to us from Eusebius of Cesarea, and the most important of any, perhaps that have come to us from the earlier Fathers of the Church, embraces the events of the first three centuries, down to the time when Constantine became sole master of the Roman world.
It is possible that the daughters of Philip the apostle that were given in marriage have been confused with the four daughters of Philip the evangelista who were preachers. Eusebius cites Clement, bishop of Alexandria:
(Eusebius Pamphilus, The Ecclesiastical History. Bishop of Cesarea in Palestine. Trans. Christian Frederick Cruse. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1981, p. i.)
Clement (of Alexandria) indeed ... next gives a statement of those apostles that continued in the marriage state, on account of those who set marriage aside. "And will they," says he, "reject even the apostles! Peter and Philip, indeed, had children, Philip also gave his daughters in marriage to husbands."
What Philip the apostle and his daughters did was considered an example for Christians.
We will have to clarify our
understanding about Philip the apostle and Philip the evangelist. H. H. Platz, writing in
The Interpreter's Dictionary of the Bible says:
(Eusebius, The Ecclesiastical History, Book III, Chapter XXX, p. 115.)
References to Philip in the second century reflect a tendency to confuse the apostle with Philip the evangelist. ...
An explicit identification was made by Polycrates bishop of Antioch (Euseb. Hist. III.31.3), and Clement of Alexandria
(Strom. III.6.16). The confusion may have occurred as early as Papias (ca. A.D. 140; see Euiseb. Hist. III.39.9).
Some scholas suspect that the tradition recorded in John reflects a similar confusion. A Gnostic work, the Gospel of
Philip, is mentioned by Epiphanius (Heresias XXVI.13). Philip also has a prominent place in the Pistis Sophia,
a remarkable Gnostic work of the third century.
Eusebius as historian cites Papias, Bishop of Hierapolis (c. 130) and historian, whom he says gives certain wonderful
accounts. Eusebius says:
(H. H. Platz, Philip. The Interpreter's Dictionary of the Bible, An Illustrated
Encyclopedia. Vol. K-Q. George Arthur Buttrick, Editor. New York: Abingdon Press, 1962, p. 785, column b.)
That the apostle Philip continued at Hierapolis, with his daughters, has been
already stated above. But we must now show how Papias coming to them, received a wonderful account from the
daughters of Philip. For he writes that in his time there was one raised from the dead.
The wonderful account of one raised from the dead was not the only notable
historical fact, but the fact that the daughters of Philip were the ones who
told this is related by Papias and by Eusebius. Just to satisfy our curiosity,
in another place Eusebius cites Apollonius who says:
(Eusebius, The Ecclesiastical History, Book III, Chapter XXXIX, p. 126.)
And relates, also, that a dead man was raised by the divine power, through
the same John, at Ephesus.
So it was the missionary (apostle) John that did this miracle by the divine power. In these passages we learn that the daughters of Philip not only preached in the same area where their father was, but where the missionary (apostle) John was also. We can certainly believe that these women had the approval of these two authorities, for without it they would simply not have been preaching.
(Eusebius, The Ecclesiastical History, Book V, Chapter XVIII, p. 202.)
Eusebius cites a writer of Hierapolis who in turn cites Miltiades a historian before him, in which he criticizes the practice of Montanus, and the women preachers Priscilla and Maximilla, of preaching in ecstasy.
"But the false prophet," he says, "is carried away by a vehement ecstasy, accompanied by want of all shame and fear. Beginning, indeed, with a designed ignorance, and terminating, as beforesaid, in involuntary madness. They will never be able to show that any of the Old or any of the New Testament, were thus violently agitated and carried away in spirit. Neither will they be able to boast that
Agabus, or Judas, or Silas, or the daughters of Philip, or Ammias in Philadelphia,
or Quadratus, or others that do not belong to them, every acted in this way.
This historian of Hierapolis names nine New Testament preachers, five of them
women (the four daughters of Philip and Ammias of Philadelphia) and four men.
These are cited as New Testament authorities on the proper way to preach. And then the orthodox criticizes the alleged
heretics for not having women preachers:
"Let them show us what women among them succeeded Montanus and his women. For the apostle shows that the gift of
prophecy should be in all the church until the coming of the Lord, but they can by no means show any one
at this time, the fourteenth year from the death of Maximilla."
Again, after a little, he says: "If after Quadratus and Ammias in Philadelphia,
the women that followed Montanus succeeded in the gift of prophecy, let them
show us what women among them succeeded Montanus and his women. For the apostle shows that the gift of prophecy should
be in all the church until the coming of the Lord, but they can by no means show any one at this time, the fourteenth
year from the death of Maximilla."
(Eusebius, The Ecclesiastical History, Book V, Chapter XVII, p. 199-200.)
We have already met Judas and Silas in Acts where we have a word picture of what prophets did.
And Judas and Silas, also being prophets themselves, encouraged and strengthened the brethren with a lengthy message. (Acts 15:32)
When Eusebius writes about the controversy over the genuine day for the passover or Easter, he cites a letter that Polycrates, the bishop of the church of Ephesus, wrote to Victor, the bishop of the church of Rome (who reigned A.D. 189-198). Polycrates was the eighth bishop in his family. He wrote:
"For in Asia great lights have fallen asleep, which shall rise again in the day of the Lord's appearing, in which he will come with glory from heaven, and will raise up all the saints; Philip, one of the twelve apostles, who sleeps in Hierapolis, and his two aged virgin daughters. His other daughter, also, who having lived under the influence of the Holy Ghost, now likewise rests in Ephesus. Moreover, John, who rested upon the bosom of our Lord; who also was a priest, and bore the sacerdotal plate (petalon)*, both a martyr and teacher. He is buried in Ephesus; also Polycarp of Smyrna, both bishop and martyr. Thraseas, also bishop and martyr of Eumenia, who is buried at Smyrna. Why should I mention Sagris, bishop and martyr, who rests at Laodicea. Moreover, the blessed Papirius; and Melito, the eunuch, whose walk and conversation was altogether under the influence of the Holy Spirit, who now rests at Sardis, awaiting the episcopate from heaven, when he shall rise from the dead."
Among the ten that Polycrates calls "great lights", Philip and three of his daughters are the first mentioned. The day that these leaders observed as the passover, is the day that he says is the correct day. We need to observe that the three daughters of Philip are cited in the company of two apostles (Philip and John), three bishops (Polycarp, Thraseas and Sagris), and two others: the blessed Papirius, and Melito, the eunuch, whose walk and conversation was
altogether under the influence of the Holy Spirit. The daughters of Philip who were preachers were counted among a group that included apostles and bishops.
(Eusebius, The Ecclesiastical History, Book V, Chapter XXIV, p. 208-9.)
[*Footnote: The sacerdotal plate here mentioned, is not to be understood of the Jewish priesthood, for John had no connection with that. It is probable that he, with others, wore a badge like his, as the priests of a better covenant.]
Eusebius tells of a dialogue of Caius in which Proclus speaks:
After this there were four prophetesses the daughters of Philip at Hierapolis
in Asia, whose tomb, and that of their father, are to be seen there.
Hierapolis was a city in Asia, now Turkey. Not only the author Caius, but the author Eusebius, thinks that the place where the four daughters of Philip are buried is of historical importance and even mentions them before their father. A photograph of these tombs is in The IVP Women's Bible Commentary edited by Catherine Clark Kroeger and Mary J. Evans. Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press, 2002, p. 625.
(Eusebius, The Ecclesiastical History, Book IIl, Chapter XXXI, p. 116.)
Let us recall the ten words, that will not return to God void: "Now this man had four virgin daughters who were prophetesses." (Acts 21:9). Note that the daughters of Philip were identified with two titles: virgins and prophetesses or preachers.
We have not been taught to understand the word virgin in the early church as a woman consecrated to the service of God and highly honored. Women in the church have been seen as sex objects so that we have thought that this told us something about their sex life. However, it was meant to tell
us something about their spiritual life. Paul summed up what the New Testament church believed:
But I say to the unmarried and to widows that it is good for them if they
remain even as I. But if they do not have self-control, let them marry ... And the woman who is unmarried, and the virgin, is concerned about the things of the Lord, that she may be holy both in body and spirit; but the one who is married is concerned about the things of the world, how she may please her husband. And this I say for your own benefit; not to put a restraint upon you, but to promote what is seemly, and to secure undistracted devotion to the Lord. (I Corinthians 7:8-9, 34-35)
Eusebius' Ecclesiastical History covered the period up to A.D. 325 during which there were ten persecutions. These are covered as extensively as he could acquire information about them, from the writings of earlier Christians and the libraries that he consulted. Twenty five women martyrs were included in this history, of these eleven are identified as virgins. Some of the stories are quite extensive. Eusebius said that the females would die rather than have their bodies violated. This refers to their vow as virgins:
The females, also, no less than the men, were strenghtened by the doctrine of the divine word; so that some endured the same trials as men, and bore away the same prizes of excellence. Some, when forced away, yielded up their lives rather than submit to the violation of their bodies.
Another passage explains clearly that virgins are devoted to religion:
(Eusebius, The Ecclesiastical History, Book VIII, Chapter XlV, p. 341.)
... sometimes consigning females of the greatest modesty, and virgins who had devoted themselves to the duties of religion, to panders, to endure every kind of abuse and obscentity ...
So the fact that the four daughters of Philip are called virgins tells us
that they were concerned about the things of the Lord, that they were holy both in body and spirit, and that they gave undistracted devotion to the Lord. (see I Cor. 7:34-35)
(Eusebius, The Ecclesiastical History, "The Book of Martyrs," Chapter V, p. 357.)
Prophets or preachers are in second place in the passage on the church as Christ's body:
Now you are Christ's body, and individually members of it. And God has appointed in the church, first apostles, second prophets, third teachers ... (I Cor 12:27-28)
The beautiful chapter thirteen of I Corinthians on the excellence of love ends and the fourteenth chapter begins like this:
But now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love. Pursue love, yet desire earnestly spiritual gifts, but especialiy that you may prophesy ... one who prophesies speaks to men for edification and exhortation and consolation ... greater is the one who prophesies than one who speaks in tongues. (I Cor. 13:13, 14:1-5)
A document from approximately the same time period as the four daughters of Philip, is "The Teaching of the Twelve Apostles" or "Didache." It is dated early second century. Quasten says that it:
is the most important document of the subapostolic period, and the oldest source of ecclesiastical (church) law which we possess. Until the year 1883 it was quite unknown.
It gives orientation on a number of subjects, including prophets.
(Quasten, Johannes. Patrology. Vol. 1, Utrech-Antwerp: Spectrum Publishers, MCMLXVI.)
But concerning the apostles and prophets, according to the decree of the Gospel, thus do. Let every apostle that cometh to you be received as the Lord. But he shall not remain except one day; but if there be need, also the next; but if he remain three days, he is a false prophet. (Chap. XI)
But every true prophet that willeth to abide among you is worthy of his support. So also a true teacher is himself worthy, as the workman, of his support. Every first-fruit, therefore of the products of wine-press and threshing-floor, of oxen and of sheep, thou shalt take and give to the prophets, for they are your high priests. But if ye have not a prophet, give it to the poor. If thou makest a batch of dough, take the first-fruit and give according to the commandment. So also when thou openest a jar of wine or of oil, take the first-fruit and give it to the
prophets; and of money (silver) and clothing and every possession, take the first-fruit, as it may seem good to thee, and give according to the commandment. (Chap. XIII)
Appoint, therefore, for yourselves, bishops and deacons worthy of the Lord, men meek and not lovers of money,
and truthful and proved; for they also render to you the service of prophets and teachers. (Chap. XV)
Note that the terms apostles and prophets are used interchangeably. Therefore, they were considered by the early second century to be on the same level. The prophets are considered worthy of support, because they are said to be your "high priests." We can see that as the apostles and prophets were dying out that the next leaders were bishops and deacons, who were said to render the service of prophets and teachers.
("The Teaching of the Twelve Apostles," in Roberts, Alexander and James Donaldson, eds. The Ante-Nicene Fathers:
Translations of the Writings of the Fathers Down to A.D. 325, Vol. 7, pp. 369-384. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B.
Eerdmans Pub. Co., 1950, 1982.)
Unfortunately, our modern church history teachers have not chosen to teach us any of the material about the service of women in the early church. Therefore we do not know that women had parallel organizations with men. Men were elders and bishops. Baptists call hese pastors and Directors of Missions. Women widows were of the elder or pastoral classification. There were men and women deacons, and there were men and women virgins.
Biblical material that regulated these women is found in the following passages:
I Corinthians 7 encourages the "unmarried and widows" (vs. 8) and "the woman who is unmarried and the virgin" (vs. 34) to give their "undistracted devotion to the Lord" (vs. 35).
I Timothy 5:1-25 is an extensive passage about women pastors (presbuteras=elders) chamadas viúvas in
which the widows who are "widows indeed" (vs. 3) and can be "put on the list" (vs. 9) are carefully distinguished.
Because they are elders (here translated "older women") they are included in the commandment: "Let the elders who
rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who work hard at preaching and teaching" (vs. 17).
The "honor" here refers to their support.
Titus 2:3-5 is a passage about women pastors u>presbutidas=elders) which has also been translated as "older women": "Older women likewise are to be reverent in their behavior, not malicious gossips, nor enslaved to much wine, teaching what is good" (vs. 3).
I Timothy 3:1-13 is a passage on men and women (vs. 11) deacons.
Romans 16:1 commends Phoebe, who is a woman deacon (here translated "servant") of the church at Cenchrea.
We have learned from Eusebius the following about the four daughters of Philip who were preachers:
Only ten words in the New Testament: "Now this man had four virgin daughters who were prophetesses," (Acts 21:9) but what a story! They were highly honored preachers of the New Testament times. They are among those "great lights" which shall "rise again at the Lord's appearing." We are going to meet them!
- The four daughters of Philip are identified as "virgins," that is women consecrated to the service of God.
- The four daughters of Philip are also identified as "prophetesses," that is women preachers.
- The fact that some of the daughters of Philip the apostle were married is used
against those who rejected marriage by Clement, bishop of Alexandria.
- Papias, Bishop of Hierapolis (c. 130) and historian, writes about the wonderful accounts that the daughters
of Philip told about the one who was raised from the dead.
- It is clear that the daughters of Philip preached in the same area where their father, Philip, and the
missionary (apostle) John were, and without a doubt these approved of their preaching.
- Five women and four men are named as New Testament preachers to prove the right way to preach, four of
these women are daughters of Philip.
- Polycrates names the daughters of Philip among others to establish the correct day to celebrate the
passover or Easter.
- Even the place where the filhas de Philip were buried is considered of historical importance.