While Philippi was an important city in the Roman and early Christian period, it remains an archaeological site today. The Via Egnatia, the important Roman road linking East and West, passes through this city.
The remains of Philippi are impressive and it is certainly worth the visit, and it was one of the major highlights of our trip to Northern Greece. It is unfortunate that the Archaeological Museum still remains closed to the public.
According to Acts 16:12, Paul and his companions travelled from Neapolis to Philippi, a distance of 16km (10 miles), where they remained for some days.
The NA27 text of Acts 16:2 describes Philippi as πρώτης μερίδος τῆς Μακεδονίας πόλις, κολωνία. Just what kind of city was Philippi? A complex textual problem here has led to a conjecture in NA27 about what the reading should be - and the problem is compounded by an alphabet in Greek, the sigma, in the word πρώτης.
So is Philippi a πρώτης μερίδος τῆς Μακεδονίας πόλις, or πρώτη μερίδος τῆς Μακεδονίας πόλις? Is Philippi a city of the first district in Macedonia; or a leading city (or first city) of the district of Macedonia?
While the second reading receives strong textual support, it is made complicated because historically, Philippi is not the chief city of Macedonia, as Thessalonica was the capital of Macedonia and Amphipolis was the chief city in the district in which Philippi was located.
To resolve this issue, several possible suggestions have been put forward.
1) some have suggested that the author means Philippi was the first Macedonian city Paul and his companions came in the district. But in actual fact, this was not the case, as the first city that Paul set foot was Neapolis which is in the same district as Philippi.
2) some have also suggested the use of πρώτη as a title of honour, as an expression of civic pride. According to R. Ascough, "Civic Pride at Philippi: The Textual Problem of Acts 16.12," NTS 44 (1998): 93-103, civic pride often meant ascribing titles to a city in order to lift up its importance. If Ascough is correct, it appears that the author of Acts is attempting to magnify the importance of the status of Philippi in Macedonia, perhaps to underscore the fact that Philippi was the first European city to receive the gospel from Paul the missionary.
As a result of the difficulties in reading the text above, numerous scholars prefer to adopt the conjecture in reading πρώτη as πρώτης, despite the lack of manuscript evidence. This resulted in rendering the meaning of the phrase as "a city of the first district of Macedonia."
While there is no concrete solution to this textual difficulties, it is wise to take head of Metzger's proposal that "it appears ill-advised" to abandon the testimony of strong manuscript support for reading Philippi as πρώτη μερίδος τῆς Μακεδονίας πόλις, "a leading city of the district of Macedonia." The suggestion puts forward by Ascough should not be entirely discounted as well. As such, I am prepared to depart from the critical text in NA27 by adpoting the reading of πρώτη μερίδος τῆς Μακεδονίας πόλις.
For further information:
1) Bruce Meztger, A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament, 2nd ed. (Stuttgart, UBS, 1994), 393-395.
2) R. Ascough, "Civic Pride at Philippi: The Textual Problem of Acts 16.12," NTS 44 (1998): 93-103.