In the Western Church, the lives of the Apostles Philip and James “The Less” are the first to be remembered in the calendar year.
The Apostle Philip was born in Bethsaida (John 1:44; 12:21) of Galilee and was instrumental in the call of Nathanael (or Bartholomew) to become a disciple of Jesus. At the time of his call to follow Christ, Philip belonged to a group who had been influenced by the ministry of John the Baptist. Together with Andrew and other fellow-townsmen, Philip had journeyed to Bethany to listen to the teachings of John the Baptist, and while there, he received his call from Jesus, “Follow me” (John 1:43). Immediately Philip found Nathanael and invited him to Christ (John 1:45). And his final inclusion within the apostolic ministry of the Twelve is confirmed in the New Testament in four passages (Matthew 10:3; Mark 3:18; Luke 6:14; Acts 1:13). At the Last Supper, Philip asked, “Lord, show us the Father, and it will satisfy us”; to which Jesus replied, “Have I been with you so long, and yet you do not know me, Philip? He who has seen me has seen the Father” (John 14:8–9).
In the Western Church, Philip’s life and ministry is remembered on May 3, and in the Eastern Church, he is remembered on November 14. Accounts outside of the New Testament often confuse the life of the Apostle Philip with Philip the Evangelist, one of the seven deacons chosen in the early church (Acts 6:5).
Two accounts are given concerning the death of the Apostle Philip; the first and less credible account suggests he died a normal death of old age. The second and more widely accepted account suggests he experience a martyr’s death. According to an account found in the Acts of Philip, Philip was persecuted by the Roman Empire for his efforts to convert his audiences to the Gospel. Under the reign of Emperor Domitian about 80 AD, Philip is believed to have been crucified in Hierapolis, Egypt. Like the Apostle Peter, Philip was crucified upside down being unwilling to be crucified in the same manner as Jesus.
At the feeding of the 5,000, Jesus asked Philip where a sufficient amount of bread could be purchased to feed the multitude, and having participated in this miracle (John 6:5-9), the apostolic symbol of the loaves was associated with his life and ministry. Sometimes the loaves of bread are symbolized by round silver discs in his apostolic shield.