On July 26, a team of archaeologists announced the discovery of an ancient tomb. But not just any tomb. They claim that this particular tomb belongs to St. Philip, one of the twelve Apostles of Jesus Christ. If correct, it promises to be one of the most astonishing discoveries in recent memory. But is this really Philip’s tomb?
Who was St. Philip?
Philip was one of the twelve Apostles of Jesus Christ. He rarely appears in the New Testament. His most notable showing is during the Last Supper, when his question led Jesus to teach the disciples about the unity of the Father and the Son.
Much of our knowledge of Philip derives from non-canonical texts. According to the Acts of Philip, he was crucified upside-down in Hierapolis for converting a city official’s wife. He died while preaching to a gathered crowd, sometime around the year 80 AD. Afterwards, he was buried in an octagonal tomb named “The Martryium.” It should be noted that the Catholic Church does not accept this story as fact.
St. Philip’s Tomb?
Since 2003, Italian professor Francesco D’Andria has been leading archaeological excavations within the ancient city of Hierapolis. Recently, he unearthed an old tomb near the ruins of a church.
“Until recently, we thought the grave of St. Philip was on Martyrs’ Hill, but we discovered no traces of him in the geophysical research conducted in that area. A month ago, we discovered the remnants of an unknown church, 40 meters away from the St. Philip Church on Martyrs’ Hill. And in that church we discovered the grave of St. Philip.” ~ Francesco D’Andria
The tomb has yet to be opened. However, according to D’Andria, its structure and etchings prove that it belongs to St. Philip.
“St. Philip is considered a martyr. In fact, the church built in his name on the Martyrs’ Hill is, for this reason, also called Martyrion, despite the fact there were no traces of the grave of St. Philip. As we were cleaning out the new church we discovered a month ago, we finally found the grave. With close examination, we determined that the grave had been moved from its previous location in the St. Philip Church to this new church in the fifth century, during the Byzantine era. We are extremely happy and proud to have discovered the grave of a saint whose name appears in the bible – this surely is an important discovery for religious tourism, archaeology and Christendom.” ~ Francesco D’Andria
Guerrilla Explorer’s Analysis
D’Andria has been working in this area for over three decades. His recent article for the Biblical Archaeology Society, Conversion, Crucifixion, and Celebration, provides terrific background on the story of St. Philip as well as his own excavations at Hierapolis. He is more than credible which makes impossible to dismiss his claim. Still, its a rather extraordinary claim, seemingly based on nothing more than the structure of the grave and its inscriptions. Heck, the tomb hasn’t even been opened yet.
As for me, I remain skeptical. I would like to learn more about D’Andria’s evidence before I form an opinion. I read every single article I could find on this discovery but unfortunately, none of them discussed why the tomb’s structure and inscriptions pointed to St. Philip as the only possible occupant. So for the time being, I’ll eagerly await future news on D’Andria’s work. For if his claims prove accurate, then the tomb is one of the most significant archaeological finds in recent memory.
It would be nice if somebody somewhere provided us with much larger pictures of the tomb from different perspectives. There appears to be a niche over the door that may have been affixed with a sign or legend. It would be very compelling to find the lazy dalet over this doorway not unlike that which graces the so-called Jesus Family Tomb. Despite the distance between Hierapolis and Talpiot.
Agreed…I’ve been searching for better photos, but haven’t had any luck so far. If I find some, I’ll definitely post them!