Philippi or Philippopolis (2)
Prof. Asen Chilingirov presents a very plausible hypothesis for a possible change in the New Testament geography sacra – to the citizens of which ancient city was the Epistle to the Philippians addressed to the Apostle Paul. Born in 1932 in Sofia. Graduated in history, music and art history in Bulgaria. Since 1964 he has lived and worked in Berlin, Germany. He also studied art history at Humboldt University. He is the author of over 400 scientific papers. Among them are “Great History of Christian Art in Bulgaria” and “Cultural History of Bulgaria”, published in German in FRGermany and the GDR. He teaches at the Universities of Berlin and Leipzig. He was a chief consultant for Balkan art in the Encyclopedia of Medieval Art in Rome from 1984 to 1995.
Both the account of the apostle Paul’s first journey to Europe in the Acts of the Apostles and his epistle to the Philippians show unequivocally the difference between the apostle’s relationship with Roman authority and the local Macedonian population: between the apostle Paul and the “Philippians” a particularly cordial and close relations, which he explicitly mentions in his message to them – such relations are not attested by him towards the inhabitants of any other of the cities he visits. And the inhabitants of Philippopolis have not forgotten the visit of the Apostle Paul to their city and have kept the memory of him for many centuries, noting it in their manuscript even in the twelfth century – this is a short note in the field of the so-called Christopol Apostle from the first half of the twelfth century. In this note, which is the oldest extant source for the Bulgarian name of the city, transmitted as “Plovdiv”, the relevant text is associated with the visit of the Apostle Paul in it
And Armenian geographers Hugas Indjejian and Stepanos Kuver Agontz, describing their trip to Plovdiv in the sixth volume of their travel historical Geography of the Four Countries, published in Venice in 1806, reported that in the city “besides the Greek churches, there are two cruciform, stone-built chapels, in one of which, according to the legends told to us by the local Christian inhabitants, the Apostle St. Paul preached ”.
Contrary to the claims of Catholic and Orthodox theologians and church historians, the missionary work of the apostles Paul and Andrew took place mainly among the non-Greek population of the Balkans, where a significant number of Christian communities emerged at the very beginning of this activity before the middle of the first century. While in the centers of ancient culture Athens and Thessaloniki, the Apostle Paul met with strong opposition from the “educated Greeks”, among the “uneducated” local population his sermons resonated greatly. The Christian community in both Philippopolis (Plovdiv) and Sirmium (Srem) and Tommy (Constanţa) was headed by bishops even before the middle of the first century, by the closest circle of disciples of Christ, whom the Christian church marks as ” the seventy apostles. ‘ In Philippopolis (Plovdiv) the first bishop was St. Hermas, to whom the Apostle Paul in his Epistle to the Romans, written not later than 52 AD, sent his greetings, as well as to Ephesus and Andronicus. , the first two bishops of Sirmium. Especially to Andronicus, the apostle Paul speaks even with special reverence, as a relative and co-prisoner who believed in Christ before him. To these three main centers of early Christianity in the western, northeastern and southeastern part of the Balkan Peninsula will be added in the second and third centuries also the seats of bishops, respectively. metropolitans in Serdica, Adrianople and Heraclea, thus the northwestern, central and eastern parts of the Balkan Peninsula will be largely Christianized. Directly related to the visit of the Apostle Paul in Philippopolis / Plovdiv is obviously the ordination of the first bishop – Hermes. But his name, like the name of his diocese, has been subjected to manipulation in order to erase or at least cease to be associated with Philippopolis. Although all church calendars, based on reliable sources for Christian historiography, namely the lists of the 70 apostles attributed to St. Hippolytus of Rome and Dorothea of Tire, as well as the Lunar calendar of Emperor Basil II from the end of the tenth century, note his name and his rank as “Bishop of Philippopolis”, as well as on 4 January and 31 May to commemorate him, in recent times without any reason attempts have been made to associate his name with Philippi, and in the official list of bishops of the Catholic Church it is accompanied by a question mark.
None of the synaxaries mentions how the apostle Hermes found himself in Philippopolis and what his connection was with the apostle Paul, who sent him explicit greetings in his epistle to the Romans. In addition, the old Christian tradition attributes to him the authorship of the book The Shepherd (Et virgines in domum meam), which until the end of the IV century is considered canonical and is an integral part of the New Testament. In the 5th century, however, it was excluded from the canonical books and all its transcripts in Greek and Latin were destroyed. It was not until the middle of the 19th century that its Coptic translation was discovered, from which a new Latin translation was made, published in full together with a French translation only after the Second World War.
The connection of the book The Shepherd with the name of the Apostle Hermes and his identification as its author are based on the information given to him by another notable early Christian author and scholar – Origen, and most of his works were destroyed in the V century, including his History of the church, of which only a few quotations have come down to us. And although research and commentary on the book The Shepherd appeared in the generalizing theological works of Catholics and Protestants as early as the beginning of the twentieth century, in which it was one of the central places in early Christian literature, at the same time the reference books in which the name of the Apostle Hermes is accompanied by a question mark about the time and place of his episcopate or by the note that he was a bishop in Philippi – the names of all the bishops in this city are known, and among them his name does not occur.
Strange as it may seem, confirmation of Paul’s apostolic activity in the interior of the Balkan Peninsula can be found in the comments of one of the main and most diligent propagators of Hellenism among the Bulgarian population – Greek Theophylact of Ohrid, Archbishop of Bulgaria (1089-1126?). In his notes on the Epistle of the Apostle Paul to the Romans, he wrote: [‘The apostle Paul says:]‘… so I spread the Gospel from Jerusalem and the surrounding area even to Illyricum ’. Do you want proof of what I am saying, says [the apostle Paul]? Look at the large number of my students – from Jerusalem to Illyricum, which is the outskirts of what is now called Bulgaria. He does not say ‘I proclaimed’, but ‘spread the Gospel’ to show that his sermon was not fruitless but successful. In order not to think that he was walking straight on the main road, hearing ‘from Jerusalem до even to Illyricum’, he says ‘and the surrounding area’, which means that he went around the nations with his sermon both north and south… “
We find a large amount of information about the widespread spread of Christianity in the central and northern part of the Balkan Peninsula in both hagiographic literature and historical sources, although they are contained in publications that have already become a bibliographic rarity. This is also confirmed by the results of archaeological research, especially in recent decades, although they have not yet been fully addressed and leave some important questions of chronology unresolved. First of all, the question of the time and reasons for the destruction of the numerous church monuments throughout the Balkan Peninsula, built between the middle of the IV and the end of the V century.