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 '18 at 8:42
  • 1
    That's interesting, any other verses to confirm that it wasn't the apostle though? – diego b Aug 28 '18 at 8:45
  • Because Peter has the keys. Matthew 16:19. – Nigel J Aug 28 '18 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 '18 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 '18 at 10:09

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.

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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 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

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