Icon, St. Philip and St. James

St. Philip and St. James the Younger are listed among the Twelve Apostles of Jesus Christ and are celebrated together because so little is known about St. James. Both were believed to be martyred, and their feast day is celebrated on May 1 in the Anglican (including Episcopal) and Lutheran Churches; on May 3 in the Roman Catholic Church; on November 14 for St. Philip and October 9 for St. James in the Eastern Orthodox Church.

St. Philip, Apostle Series, Peter Paul Rubens, circa 1611

Not to be confused with St. Philip, Deacon and Evangelist, whose feast day is on October 11, St. Philip the Apostle was born in Bethsaida in Galilee around the same time as Jesus. In the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke, Philip appears only as the fifth Apostle in lists of the Twelve. However, he’s mentioned in several scenes in the Gospel of John.

The day after Jesus began gathering his Apostles and called John and Andrew:

. . . Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, “Follow me.”

Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter. Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found him about whom Moses in the law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus son of Joseph from Nazareth.”

Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?”

Philip said to him, “Come and see.” — John 1:43-46

Here we learn that Philip knew the scripture, but was not sure enough about Jesus to explain Him to Nathanael (later called Bartholomew). Or perhaps he had already begun to serve Jesus by repeating His words.

Philip appears next in the Feeding of the Five Thousand:

Jesus went up the mountain and sat down there with his disciples. Now the Passover, the festival of the Jews, was over. When he looked up and saw a large crowd coming toward him, Jesus said to Philip, “Where are we to buy bread for these people to eat?” He said this to test him, for he knew what he was going to do.

Philip answered him, “Six months’ wages would not buy enough bread for each of them to get a little.”

One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother said to him, “There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish. But what are they among so many people?”

Jesus said, “Make the people sit down.” Now there was a great deal of grass in the place, so they sat down, about five thousand in all. Then Jesus took the loaves, and when he had given thanks, he distributed them to those who were seated, so also the fish, as much as they wanted. When they were satisfied, he told his disciples, “Gather up the fragments left over, so that nothing may be lost.” So they gathered them up, and from the fragments of the five barley loaves, left by those who had eaten, they filled twelve baskets.

When the people saw the sign that he had done, they began to say, “This is indeed the prophet who is to come into the world.” — John 6:6-14

Although Philip is quick to answer Jesus, he’s a little bit slow on the uptake. After all, sarcasm and non-verbal communication can be difficult languages to decipher. On the other hand, perhaps Philip winked back at Jesus and played along for the crowd.

Here’s another scene in which it appears that Philip doesn’t have the answer:

Now among those who went up to worship at the festival were some Greeks. They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and said to him, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” Philip went and told Andrew, then Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus.

Jesus answered them, “The hour has come for the son of man to be glorified. Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also. Whoever serves me, the Father will honor.” — John 12:20-26

The Greek people went to Philip because he knew the Greek language having lived in Bethsaida. Because they were not Jewish, Philip was unsure if Jesus would want to speak with them having only preached within their own Jewish community so far. So he went to Andrew and together they brought the matter to Jesus. Jesus answered that it was time for the Word to spread beyond Jewish lands and cultures because His message was for everyone.

There are plenty of passages in the gospels in which the Apostles attempt to turn people away from Jesus before Jesus lets them approach, so it’s significant that Philip took steps to introduce these people to Jesus instead of turning them away.

(For another perspective, see St. Andrew.)

The last scene in which Philip appears is during the Last Supper. The Apostles are nervous, each in their own way, trying to understand what was happening, what will happen, and what Jesus was saying to them:

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also. And you know the way to the place where I am going.”

Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?”

Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you know me, you will know my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.”

Philip said to him, “Lord show us the Father, and we will be satisfied.”

Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you all this time, Philip and you still do not know me? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Do you not believe that I am the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own; but the Father who dwells in me does his works. Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; but if you do not, then believe me because of the works themselves. Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than thee, because I am going to the Father. I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If in my name you ask me for anything, I will do it.” — John 14

Philip doesn’t yet understand that Jesus and the Father are one and the same. How could he not know this after following Jesus for three years of ministry? Could it possibly be that the idea of the Father and Son being one and the same is a complicated, if not mind boggling, concept to comprehend? In asking to see the Father, Philip is asking for a way to understand.

Or perhaps St. John used Philip as a literary device – a character who needs things explained to him so that the things can be simultaneously explained to the reader. As a writer I recognize this possibility, because here’s the thing, all the other people in the gospels appear as characters for Jesus to interact with so that His words can be spoken. As much as I appreciate the Saints and am fascinated by their lives, it’s Jesus’s life and words that are the ones that truly matter.

St. Philip doesn’t appear in Acts, but according to other sources, after Pentecost, he spread the Word of Jesus Christ for decades. He was martyred either by upside-down crucifixion or beheading in the city of Hierapolis (in modern day Turkey) around 80 A.D.

It helps me to think of St. Philip as a real flesh and blood person chosen by Jesus — a little bit slow on the uptake sometimes, yet eager to please our Lord and do good works for Him. Seems so familiar, who do I know like that? Hmmm, wait a minute – It’s me! You too? Now that’s inspiring.

St. James the Minor, Apostle Series, Peter Paul Rubens, Circa 1611

Not to be confused with St. James the Greater, Apostle son of Zebedee and brother of John whose feast day is July 25, or St. James the Just of Jerusalem whose feast day is October 25, St. James the Apostle, son of Alphaeus, was born early in the first century in Galilee. He’s also known as James, the Less, the Lessor, the Minor, the Younger, the Little, or the Humble in order to distinguish him from James the Greater or Elder.

James was a common name in translations of the gospels as it’s the English version of Jacob.

Although some do not, most scholars believe the James mentioned along with Mary the mother of James the younger, who followed Jesus along with several other women named Mary, is the same person as James, son of Alphaeus, a tax collector.

St. James says no words in the gospels. He is mentioned only as being at different events or in lists of the Twelve Apostles:

And when the day came, he called his disciples and chose twelve of them, whom he also named apostles: Simon, whom he named Peter, and his brother Andrew, and James, and John and Philip and Bartholomew, and Matthew, and Thomas, and James son of Alphaeus, and Simon, who was called the Zealot, and Judas son of James, and Judas Iscariot, who became a traitor. — Luke 6:12-16

(Speaking of name confusion, poor ol’ “Judas son of James” is sometimes mixed up with Judas Iscariot the traitor. That’s one reason why he’s known as Thaddeus or St. Jude, the patron saint of lost causes. See my post about St. Jude and St. Simon for more information.)

Oral tradition states that St. James the Younger preached the Word for decades until he was martyred in Lower Egypt either by stoning or crucifixion around 62 A.D.

After being chosen by Jesus Christ, St. James followed Him, stood by Him, and stood up for Him. That’s all we really need to know to be inspired.

Almighty God, who gave to your apostles Philip and James grace and strength to bear witness to the truth: Grant that we, being mindful of their victory of faith, may glorify in life and death in the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen. — Collect, Book of Common Prayer

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James Kiefer’s Christian Biographies

Speaking of inspiration, St. Philip and St. James have inspired me to try yeast bread again. Those of my dearworthy readers who have been followers for a while will remember that I had a particular knack for killing yeast which I’m happy to report I’ve apparently overcome in the making of this recipe. Pita bread is similar to the bread in the gospels (probably not with white flour, but close enough):


Now for this recipe there are degrees of homemadeness:

One can use the “Dough” setting on a bread machine for the first half of the recipe.

One can use an electric mixer with a dough hook.

One can first mix with a spoon and then knead by hand.

As much as I’d like to knead by hand, as a writer/spring gardener with Carpel Tunnel Syndrome, I’ll have to go with the electric mixer with a dough hook this time.

1 package (2 ¼ teaspoons) Active Dry Yeast (Not Quick or Pizza)

1 teaspoon sugar

¼ cup warm water between 100-110 degrees F. (Test with a thermometer.)

¾ cup water

1 cup all purpose flour

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 teaspoons salt

About 1 ½ cups all purpose flour or as needed.

About two teaspoons olive oil

Heat water until it reaches 100 to 110 degrees F, pour into liquid measuring cup to the ¼ cup line. Stir in yeast. Quickly stir in 1 teaspoon sugar.

After 10 minutes foam should have developed on top indicating that the yeast is proofed or alive. If foam does not appear, try again.

In mixing bowl, place one cup flour and ¾ cups water. Add proofed yeast mixture. Mix until combined. Add 2 tablespoons olive oil and 1 ½ to 2 teaspoons salt, to taste. Mix.

Slowly add 1 ½ cups flour while mixing at slow speed. If dough sticks to side of bowl, add a little more flour until it no longer sticks.

Knead dough on low speed for around 5 minutes until smooth.

Place dough onto cleaned and floured counter top or bread board and shape into ball.

Wash and dry mixing bowl. Wipe inside of bowl and outside of dough ball with a thin coating of olive oil.

Place dough ball into bowl and cover top of bowl with aluminum foil.

Let sit in warm place, 80-85 degrees F, until dough has doubled in size, about 2 hours. (I preheat my oven to Warm or 200 degrees F., place bowl of dough inside, then turn the oven OFF.

Place dough onto floured surface and gently pat down into a disk about 1-inch thick.

Cut dough into 8 pieces.

Shape each piece into a ball with a smooth top by pulling dough from the sides and tucking underneath.

Cover dough balls with one piece of lightly oiled plastic wrap and let rest for ½ hour.

“Wash” hands in flour and lightly sprinkle flour onto work surface. Shape each dough ball into a flat round bread about ¼ inch thick. Let rest for 5 minutes.

Brush a tiny amount of olive oil onto frying pan set over medium to medium high heat. (Hint: If the oil smokes, the heat is too high and will burn the outside of the bread before it’s cooked all the way through.)

One at a time, lay the dough disks onto the hot pan and cook for about 2 minutes until bread begins to puff up and bottom begins to brown in spots.

Flip, cook 1 to 2 minutes.

Flip again and cook for another ½ minute.

Stack pita breads onto a plate as you go.

When breads are cool enough to handle, cut in half, and gently separate the tops and bottoms to form pockets.

Fill with something yummy like Egyptian Chicken Kebabs, or spread with butter and serve with Lentil Stew. They can also be cut into triangles and served with dip.


(Originally posted on 4/30/2014 to Saints and Recipes on Blogger.)

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