Acts 8 5 Then Philip went down to the city of Samaria, and preached Christ unto them. 6 And the people with one accord gave heed unto those things which Philip spake, hearing and seeing the miracles which he did. 7 For unclean spirits, crying with loud voice, came out of many that were possessed with them: and many taken with palsies, and that were lame, were healed. 8 And there was great joy in that city. 9 But there was a certain man, called Simon, which beforetime in the same city used sorcery, and bewitched the people of Samaria, giving out that himself was some great one: 10 To whom they all gave heed, from the least to the greatest, saying, This man is the great power of God. 11 And to him they had regard, because that of long time he had bewitched them with sorceries. 12 But when they believed Philip preaching the things concerning the kingdom of God, and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women. 13 Then Simon himself believed also: and when he was baptized, he continued with Philip, and wondered, beholding the miracles and signs which were done. 14 Now when the apostles which were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent unto them Peter and John: 15 Who, when they were come down, prayed for them, that they might receive the Holy Ghost: 16 (For as yet he was fallen upon none of them: only they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.) 17 Then laid they their hands on them, and they received the Holy Ghost.

If the apostle Philip was the one first in Samaria to preach the gospel, and they accepted it and were baptized, then how come they didn't receive the Holy Spirit until peter and john came and laid hands? Didn't the apostle Philip have the same ability to do that? how come they waited until the other 2 apostles came to do it?

  • It wasn't the Apostle Philip, but the deacon by the same name (Acts 6:5).
    – Lucian
    Aug 28, 2018 at 8:42
  • 1
    That's interesting, any other verses to confirm that it wasn't the apostle though?
    – diego b
    Aug 28, 2018 at 8:45
  • Because Peter has the keys. Matthew 16:19.
    – Nigel J
    Aug 28, 2018 at 9:20
  • @diegob: Nothing of the sort. Quite the contrary. Determining the identity of Philip is a well known difficulty, from the time of the earliest Christian writers. Nevertheless, Apostles, bishops, and priests are known to lay their hands on people, but those that do not belong to their office are not.
    – Lucian
    Aug 28, 2018 at 9:50
  • See Acts 6:6, 8:17-19, 13:3, 19:6; 1 Timothy 4:14, 5:22; Hebrews 6:2.
    – Lucian
    Aug 28, 2018 at 10:09

11 Answers 11


I believe, as someone has already answered, that the Philip mentioned in Acts 8:5ff was not Philip the Apostle.

This understanding is also expressed in the writing of the Church Fathers. John Chrysostom (4th c.) wrote, for example:

Why were these not in receipt of the Holy Spirit? It may be that Philip kept this honor for the apostles, or that he did not have this gift or that he was one of the seven. The last is most likely. Thus, I take it, this Philip was one of the seven, the one after Stephen, while the Philip in the story of the eunuch was one of the apostles. Notice how the seven did not go forth. It was part of God’s plan of salvation for those to go forth and for these to be lacking because of the Holy Spirit. For it was the power to work signs that they received, not the power to give the Spirit to others. This was the prerogative of the apostles. And note [how they sent] not just anyone but the leaders, Peter [and John].1

Bede (7th/8th c.) also explained this in his commentary on the Acts of the Apostles:

It must be noted that the Philip who preached the gospel to Samaria was one of the seven, for if he had been the apostle [Philip], he would have been able to lay hands on them himself so that they might receive the Holy Spirit.2

If the question is why an Apostle was needed to administer the Holy Spirit in the first place instead of Philip, the answer is perhaps somewhat more controversial. According to the traditions of the majority of Christians (i.e. Roman Catholics and Orthodox taken together), the Holy Spirit was received by the laying of hands by an Apostle, an event distinct from the baptism of the believer. Later in his commentary, Bede would quote Arator, a 6th century subdeacon:

For this is reserved only to those of pontifical rank. When priests baptize, whether in a bishop’s presence or not, they are permitted to anoint those who are baptized with chrism, but because it was consecrated by a bishop, they are not allowed to make the sign of the cross on the forehead with this same oil. This is reserved to the bishops alone when they transmit the Spirit, the Paraclete3

A contemporary Orthodox Christian account maintains:

In the account of the eighth chapter of the Acts of the Apostles we learn (a) that after the preaching of the Deacon, Apostle Philip, in Samaria, many persons, both men and women, were baptized; and (b) that then the Apostles who were in Jerusalem, having heard that the Samaritans had received the word of God, sent to the Samaritans Peter and John specifically in order to place their hands upon the baptized so that they might receive the Holy Spirit. (Acts 8:12–17). This allows us to conclude that apart from the profoundly mystical side of the sending down of the gifts of the Spirit, this laying on of hands (and the Chrismation that later took its place) was at the same time a confirmation of the correctness of the Baptism and the seal of the uniting of baptized persons to the Church. In view of the facts that (1) the baptism with water had been performed long before this as a baptism of repentance, and (2) quite apart from this, at that time, as throughout the course of Church history, there were heretical baptisms, this second Mystery was performed by the Apostles themselves and their successors the bishops, as overseers of the members of the Church4

It should be noted, however, than many modern-day Christians reject this practice and/or explanation.

1. Homily XVIII on Acts
2. Commentary on the Acts of the Apostles, VIII.14
3. in Bede, op.cit.
4. M. Pomazanski, Orthodox Dogmatic Theology


I don't believe that Christ saying to Peter,"I will give you the keys" meant he was referring to Peter alone! For in the upper room where the 120 gathered, the Spirit came upon all of them. They are spoke in tongues and prophesied. This Philip as to whether he was a deacon or an Apostle had the ability to work miracles that was not so prevalent in Peter's ministry. He could even appear and disappear as in the event of Azotus. Even after ministering to the Eunuch , he didn't minister the Spirit before he was taken away by the Spirit. We saw a group of believers in Acts 19:1-4 who also encountered Paul. They were wrongly taught and had not known the Spirit. But after he taught them, he lay his hands on them and they received. From all these indications, I believe it is a prerogative of the Spirit. He leads them to what to do. Even when Peter came, we saw Simon Margus trying to get that ability by offering money. He was rejected. The real reason why this was so still remains the choice of the Spirit. There are people who would not receive even if you lay hands on them but others will. In Acts 10 you can see that Peter didn't even lay his hands but the Holy Spirit Himself according His wisdom and knowledge baptised the house of Cornelius. Peter himself was shocked! The Spirit has the choice as to who to come upon and has the power to hold himself back. The Apostle is still subject to the Spirit not vice versa.

  • 1
    I agree. Matthew 18:18 seems to indicate that the authority of the 'keys' was extended to all the disciples (verse 1). Mar 13, 2020 at 20:44

This is the biblical link of baptism and confirmation.

We can be baptized to become a new creation, but then we also need to receive the holy spirit. This passage (acts 8:14-17) is the biblical example of why the church does confirmation as a separate sacrament from confirmation.

You can receive them both at the same time or if you were baptized as a baby, you would receive the holy spirit (confirmation) later in life.


One idea i read is that they wanted to unite Samaria and Jerusalem and prevent further division or prevent Samarians from creating their own splinter church. They were submitting to the Jerusalem church and the apostles were appointing them as church leaders in Samaria.

Every other instance of the Holy Spirit is immediate so clearly this is a unique event.

  • Welcome to BHSE! Please make sure you take our Tour; see below left. If possible, we'd like to have answers with Biblical text or other supporting documentation for analysis. Thanks. Apr 17, 2019 at 12:47

The Philip mentioned here is one of the Seven chosen to minister to the needy (Acts 6:1-7 (NASB)). The twelve had told the people to pick out from among themselves seven men of good repute, “full of the Spirit and of wisdom”.

In Acts 8:5-17, Luke writes of ‘miracles” that previously came from Simon the magician. His sorcery had before bewitched the people of Samaria.

However, Luke makes use of Simon’s story as he writes to show the difference between his “miracles” and genuine miracles worked by the apostles/followers in the name of Jesus (and with His authority).

After observing Philip and the genuine miracles, “Simon believed himself”. Once the apostles heard of this occurring in Samaria, the two that went were Peter and John. They went in fulfillment of the will of Christ, laid their hands on them, and completed the Baptisms.


I get that Philip was one of the seven and not an apostle. So had to wait for the original apostles. But I would also point out Ananias in the very next chapter of Acts laid hands on Saul to receive the Holy Spirit. Surely Philip was as qualified as Ananias to lay hands on others to receive the Holy Spirit.

  • Hello tommy, welcome to BHSE, glad to have you with us. If you haven't already, please make sure to take our tour, to see how we are a little different from other sites you may know. Thanks! (hermeneutics.stackexchange.com/tour)
    – sara
    Oct 6, 2019 at 7:10

Phillip was 1 of the 7 chosen that was appointed to serve over that business{serving tables in the daily ministration}. We also note that though he was a man of faith and power, to perform miracles and signs,Acts 8:6 It was through the Apostles hands that the Holy Ghost was given, Acts 8:17


The Spirit uses whom he chooses in his fore knowledge and wisdom the identity of who Philip was doesn't really to matter. Cause Philip was just as qualified to pray over them as any other.

Besides peter did not need to pray for the soldier and his family for the spirit to come so it is more of Gods will here than the identity of Philip and Philip in addition gives us so much reason to believe he had the spirit himself with all those miracles.

The spirit did this in his wisdom so as to bring unity between those in Jerusalem and the Samaritan belivers that they are one and not separate groups. Same way the wisdom of God was seen when the conelious and his house recived the spirit by not being layed hands on so that people would not claim that Gentils cannot recive the Spirit therefore pointing out to say it is because peter held them that is why they spoke in tongues so it is not the will of God for gentiles to be part of the Jesus movement. Its all about wisdom

I think the answer to this has been given by Daniel McRabbi Ackam and Eric Newman combined. In the first and second comments


Verse 1b of the same Acts 8:

and they were all scattered abroad throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria

except the apostles of which Philip is included... So from this scripture I think Philip that preached in Samaria was one of the seven and not one of the apostles.


The interpretation in my faith group is that while many early Christians had the miraculous gifts of the Holy Spirit, it was bestowed on believers only through physical contact with the Twelve.

As to why, we can only speculate.


Why were Peter and John needed to lay hands on Samaritans when Philippians there ?

The Keys of the Kingdom of Heavens.

Jesus said to Peter : "I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven - Authority- Jesus entrusted Peter with the privileged to baptize certain groups of converts for prospective entry in "the kingdom of heavens". The first key he used on the day of the Pentecost, (Acts chapter 2,) the second key on this occasion for the Samaritans and the third key, for Cornelius the first gentile to be baptized (Acts chapter 10)

Matthew 16:19(NRSV)

19 "I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.”

The Samaritans were not Jewish proselytes and Phillip was not authorized by Jesus to baptize them to receive holy spirit , so they had to wait until Peter and John went to Samaria and laid their hands on these non-Jewish Christian converts , and so the spirit poured out on them, as a symbol of their possible entry in " the kingdom of the heavens"

  • Paul does the same thing. And he wasn't peter or given the keys also. Nov 6, 2019 at 9:18
  • @ Faith Mendel: Your right, but only after Peter initiated or used the key first. Mar 1, 2020 at 21:58

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