PHILEMON
by the apostle Paul
Philemon, Cross Reference Bible
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Philemon, Chronological Bible


Philemon, the person [EBD]

An inhabitant of Colosse, and apparently a person of some note among the citizens (Colossians 4:9; Philemon 1:2). He was brought to a knowledge of the gospel through the instrumentality of Paul (19), and held a prominent place in the Christian community for his piety and beneficence (4-7). He is called in the epistle a "fellow-labourer," and therefore probably held some office in the church at Colosse; at all events, the title denotes that he took part in the work of spreading a knowledge of the gospel.


Philemon, the Epistle to [EBD]

It was written for the purpose of interceding for Onesimus (q.v.), who had deserted his master Philemon and been "unprofitable" to him. Paul had found Onesimus at Rome, and had there been instrumental in his conversion, and now he sends him back to his master with this letter.

This epistle has the character of a strictly private letter, and is the only one of such epistles preserved to us. "It exhibits the apostle in a new light. He throws off as far as possible his apostolic dignity and his fatherly authority over his converts. He speaks simply as Christian to Christian. He speaks, therefore, with that peculiar grace of humility and courtesy which has, under the reign of Christianity, developed the spirit of chivalry and what is called 'the character of a gentleman,' certainly very little known in the old Greek and Roman civilization" (Dr. Barry). (See SLAVE .)


Philemon, the person [SBD]

Phile’mon,

the name of the Christian to whom Paul addressed his epistle in behalf of Onesimus. He was a native probably of Colosse, or at all events lived in that city when the apostle wrote to him: first, because Onesimus was a Colossian, (Colossians 4:9) and secondly because Archippus was a Colossian, (Colossians 4:17) whom Paul associates with Philemon at the beginning of his letter. (Philemon 1:1,2) It is related that Philemon became bishop of Colosse, and died as a martyr under Nero. It is evident from the letter to him that Philemon was a man of property and influence, since he is represented as the head of a numerous household, and as exercising an expensive liberality toward his friends and the poor in general. He was indebted to the apostle Paul as the medium of his personal participation in the gospel. It is not certain under what circumstances they became known to each other. It is evident that on becoming a disciple he gave no common proof of the sincerity and power of his faith. His character as shadowed forth in the epistle to him, is one of the noblest which the sacred record makes known to us.


Philemon, the Epistle to [SBD]

Philemon, The Epistle of Paul to,

is one of the letters which the apostle wrote during his first captivity at Rome A.D. 63 or early in A.D. 64. Nothing is wanted to confirm the genuineness of the epistle: the external testimony is unimpeachable; nor does the epistle itself offer anything to conflict with this decision. The occasion of the letter was that Onesimus, a slave of Philemon, had run away from him to Rome, either desiring liberty or, as some suppose, having committed theft. (Philemon 1:18) Here he was converted under the instrumentality of Paul. The latter; intimately connected with the master and the servant, was naturally anxious to effect a reconciliation between them. He used his influence with Onesimus, ver. 12, to induce him to return to Colosse and place himself again at the disposal of his master. On his departure, Paul put into his hand this letter as evidence that Onesirnus was a true and approved disciple of Christ, and entitled as such to received, not as a servant but above a servant, as a brother in the faith. The Epistle to Philemon has one peculiar feature -- its aesthetical character it may be termed --which distinguishes it from all the other epistles. The writer had peculiar difticulties to overcame; but Paul, it is confessed, has shown a degree of self-denial and a fact in dealing with them which in being equal to the occasion could hardly be greater.


Philemon [ISBE]

fi-le'-mon, fi-le'-mun (Philemon):

Among the converts of Paul, perhaps while at Ephesus, was one whom he calls a "fellow-worker," Philemon (Philemon 1:1). He was probably a man of some means, was celebrated for his hospitality (Philemon 1:5-7) and of considerable importance in the ecclesia at Colosse. It was at his house (Philemon 1:2) that the Colossian Christians met as a center. It is more than probable that this was a group of the Colossian church rather than the entire ekklesia. His wife was named Apphia (Philemon 1:2); and Archippus (Philemon 1:2) was no doubt his son. From Colossians 4:17 we learn that Archippus held an office of some importance in Colosse, whether he was a presbyter (Abbott, ICC), or an evangelist, or perhaps the reader (Zahn), we cannot tell. He is called here (Philemon 1:2) Paul's "fellow-soldier."

The relation between the apostle and Philemon was so close and intimate that Paul does not hesitate to press him, on the basis of it, to forgive his slave, Onesimus, for stealing and for running away.

See PHILEMON, EPISTLE TO.

Tradition makes Philemon the bishop of Colosse (Apostolical Constitutions, vii, 46), and the Greek Martyrology (Menae) for November 22 tells us that he together with his wife and son and Onesimus were martyred by stoning before Androcles, the governor, in the days of Nero. With this the Latin Martyrology agrees (compare Lightfoot, Ignatius,II , 535). This evidence, however, is unsatisfactory and cannot be trusted as giving unquestionable facts as to Philemon. The only sure information is that in the epistle bearing his name.

Charles Smith Lewis


Philemon, Epistle to [ISBE]

This most beautiful of all Paul's Epistles, and the most intensely human, is one of the so-called Captivity Epistles of which Ephesians, Colossians, and Philippians are the others. Of these four PHILIPPIANS (which see) stands apart, and was written more probably after the other three. These are mutually interdependent, sent by the same bearer to churches of the same district, and under similar conditions.

1. Place of Writing:

There is some diversity of opinion as to the place from which the apostle wrote these letters. Certain scholars (Reuss, Schenkel, Weiss, Holtzmann, Hilgenfeld, Hausrath and Meyer) have urged Caesarea in opposition to the traditional place, Rome. The arguments advanced are first that Onesimus would have been more likely to have escaped to Caesarea than to Rome, as it is nearer Colosse than Rome is, to which we may reply that, though Caesarea is nearer, his chance of escape would have been far greater in the capital than in the provincial city. Again it is said that as Onesimus is not commended in Ephesians, he had already been left behind at Colosse; against which there are advanced the precarious value of an argument from silence, and the fact that this argument assumes a particular course which the bearers of the letters would follow, namely, through Colosse to Ephesus. A more forcible argument is that which is based on the apostle's expected visit. In Philippians 2:24 we read that he expected to go to Macedonia on his release; in Philemon 1:22 we find that he expected to go to Colosse. On the basis of this latter reference it is assumed that he was to the south of Colosse when writing and so at Caesarea. But it is quite as probable that he would go to Colosse through Philippi as the reverse; and it is quite possible that even if he had intended to go direct to Colosse when he wrote to Philemon, events may have come about to cause him to change his plans. The last argument, based on the omission of any reference to the earthquake of which Tacitus (Ann. xiv.27) and Eusebius (Chron., O1, 207) write, is of force as opposed to the Rom origin of the letters only on the assumption that these writers both refer to the same event (by no means sure) and that the epistles. were written after that event, and that it was necessary that Paul should have mentioned it. If the early chronology be accepted it falls entirely, as Tacitus' earlier date would be after the epistles. were written. In addition we have the further facts, favorable to Rome, that Paul had no such freedom in Cuesarea as he is represented in these epistles as enjoying; that no mention is made of Philip who was in Caesarea and a most important member of that community (Acts 21:8), and finally that there is no probability that so large a body of disciples and companions could have gathered about the apostle in his earlier and more strict imprisonment, at Caesarea. We may therefore conclude that the Captivity Epistles were written from Rome, and not from Caesarea.

2. Authenticity:

The external evidence for the epistle is less extensive than that of some of the other epp., but it is abundantly strong. The play on the word Onesimus which Paul himself uses (Philemon 1:11) is found in Ignatius, Ephesians, ii. This may not mean necessarily a literary connection, but it suggests this. The epistle is known to Tertullian, and through him we know that Marcion accepted it (Adv. Marc., v.21). It is in the list in the Muratorian Fragment (p. 106, l. 27), and is quoted by Origen as Pauline (Hom. in Jer., 19) and placed by Eusebius (Historia Ecclesiastica, III, xxv) among the acknowledged books.

It has twice been the object of attack. In the 4th and 5th centuries it was opposed as unworthy of Paul's mind and as of no value for edification. This attack was met successfully by Jerome (Commentary on Philemon, praef.), Chrysostom (Argum. in Philem) and Theodore of Mopsuestia (Spicil. in Solesm, I, 149), and the epistle. was finally established in its earlier firm position. The later attack by Baur was inspired by his desire to break down the corroborative value of Philem to the other Captivity Epistles, and has been characterized by Weiss as one of Baur's worst blunders. The suggestions that it is interpolated (Holtzmann), or allegorical (Weizsacker and Pfleiderer), or based on the letter of Pliny (Ep. IX, 21) to Sabinianus (Steck), are interesting examples of the vagaries of their authors, but "deserve only to be mentioned" (Zahn). In its language, style and argument the letter is clearly Pauline.

3. Date:

The date will, as is the case with the other Captivity Epistles, depend on the chronology. If the earlier scheme be followed it may be dated about 58, if the later about 63, or 64.

4. Argument:

The apostle writes in his own and Timothy's name to his friend PHILEMON (which see) in behalf of Onesimus, a runaway slave of the latter. Beginning with his usual thanksgiving, here awakened by the report of Philemon's hospitality, he intercedes for his `son begotten in his bonds' (Philemon 1:10), Onesimus, who though he is Philemon's runaway slave is now "a brother." It is on this ground that the apostle pleads, urging his own age, and friendship for Philemon, and his present bonds. He pleads, however, without belittling Onesimus' wrongdoing, but assuming himself the financial responsibility for the amount of his theft. At the same time the apostle quietly refers to what Philemon really owes him as his father in Christ, and begs that he will not disappoint him in his expectation. He closes with the suggestion that he hopes soon to visit him, and with greetings from his companions in Rome.

5. Value:

The charm and beauty of this epistle have been universally recognized. Its value to us as giving a glimpse of Paul's attitude toward slavery and his intimacy with a man like Philemon cannot be over-estimated. One of the chief elements of value in it is the picture it gives us of a Christian home in the apostolic days; the father and mother well known for their hospitality, the son a man of position and importance in the church, the coming and going of the Christian brethren, and the life of the brotherhood centering about this household.

LITERATURE.

Lightfoot, Col and Philem; Vincent, "Phil" and "Philem" (ICC); yon Soden, Hand Commentar; Alexander, in Speaker's Commentary.

Charles Smith Lewis


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