Confraternity Bible: New Testament and Supplemental Commentary

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PHILEMON - Introduction

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Philemon - Introduction

Supplemental Commentary:



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.

Confraternity Bible:



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.