Philemon - Introduction
EPISTLE TO PHILEMON
Occasion and Purpose.
Philemon, a well-to-do Colossian Christian, was a convert and close friend of the Apostle, St. Paul. That he was a citizen
of Colossae is inferred from Col. 4, 9, where his slave Onesimus is said to be "one of you." Since Philemon
owned slaves and was able to succor his fellow-Christians in their need (5-7), we may safely judge that he possessed wealth.
The Apostle gives clear marks throughout this letter of his affection for Philemon; that he had converted him to Christianity
is the meaning of 19. Now, one of Philemon's slaves had, perhaps after robbing his master (18), fled to Rome.
There he met St. Paul, and was won for the new life of faith (10 f). The Apostle found him useful, either as a personal
attendant or in his work of evangelizing; but however much he wished to keep him, he must practise the doctrine he preached
and restore the slave to his owner. He gave him this letter of recommendation, in which he requests, both as a personal
favor (9.20) and because Onesimus now is a fellow-Christian (16), that his master receive him kindly. More, he almost
asks in 21 for the slave's manumission.
Time and Place of Composition. The note to Philemon, a pendant to Colossians,
was written at Rome in the spring of 63 A.D. See Colossians, Introduction.
EPISTLE OF ST. PAUL THE APOSTLE TO PHILEMON
During his first Roman imprisonment (A.D. 60-63),
St. Paul came to know a slave named Onesimus, who had deserted his master Philemon, a wealthy Christian of Colossae in Phrygia.
After the Apostle had won the fugitive over to Christianity, he looked for a favorable opportunity to send him back to his
master. This opportunity offered itself when he was dispatching a letter to the Colossians in the year 63 A.D.
Onesimus accompanied St. Paul's messenger Tychicus (Col. 4, 7-9). To Philemon the Apostle addressed this touching
appeal, entreating his friend to deal kindly with the runaway.