Philip the evangelist was one of the seven disciples set apart as a distinct body for the exercise of a particular ministry in the church (Acts 6:3). While blessed with four commendable daughters, whose names, along with the name of their mother, are not given, nothing is said of any sons that Philip might have had. Absence of any mention of Philip’s wife may imply that he was a widower, and that his four daughters cared for him and the home. We are safe in assuming that his wife had been a devout wife and mother, and that she had had a formative influence over the lives of her four daughters who became a remarkable quartet of gospel women who lived out their lives among heathen neighbors.
The Four Daughters Are Nameless
It would have been interesting to have had their names, as we have those of Job’s three daughters, but they would have been non-existent in Bible history were it not for the one single verse telling us that they actually lived and occupied so important a place in the primitive fellowship of the church. Reticence as to their identity we accept as one of the wise silences of the Bible. Their names are inscribed upon the roll of the redeemed in heaven. “Not every flower that blooms on earth, and not every star that moves in Heaven has a name in human syllables; but all the same they smile and shine; and Philip’s four anonymous daughters represent countless numbers of the faithful, serving a generation who knows them not.”
They Were Virgins
We think of these four daughters as being beyond the period of youth, women in the full ripeness of godly experience and exercising rare spiritual gifts, who had chosen a celibate life deeming such preferable for women called or specially qualified to be God’s interpreters, like Miriam of old. Roman Catholic writers regard them as the first nuns of the Christian Church. J. D. Alexander suggests that their virginity is probably mentioned, “only as a reason for their still being at home, and not as having any necessary connection with their inspiration.” Paul sanctioned the unmarried life as presenting a higher standard of excellence than the duties of domestic life (1 Corinthians 7:8-34).
Joel had prophesied extraordinary spiritual gifts to be bestowed upon both sexes, and to daughters as well as sons. At Pentecost Peter, inspired by this prediction said, “Your sons and daughters shall prophesy.” It may be that Philip and his four daughters were present on that historic day, shared in that marvelous outpouring of the Holy Spirit, and became by that divine unction, Christian exhorters. How those four handmaids of Christ “Who kept their maiden record white,” must have been blessed and used as they declared a God-given message, giving not only predictions of the future, but also expounding the Word for the enlightenment and edification of those who heard them. Because of the teaching of Paul regarding the silence of women as preachers in churches (1 Corinthians 14:34; 1 Timothy 2:12), it is possible that Philip’s daughters confined their ministry to their own sex. If, and when, they accompanied their father in his missionary journeys, opportunities would come their way of preaching to women, both among Jews and Gentiles, and of assisting in the baptism of female converts. Their utter devotion to the Lord must have constantly cheered the heart of their father whose faith they followed. The church will never know how much it owes to its unknown, consecrated women.