He demonstrates the potential when slaves responded to the gospel and turned to Christ. Before Paul, Ruden argues, a slave was considered subhuman, and entitled to no more consideration than an animal. In Colossians, Christ is the ultimate Son of David, the Messiah, and the world’s true Lord. Insightful, because it contains many insights into the text that are unlikely to occur to the Western reader but will readily resonate with readers who have an Asian background. ", The opening salutation follows a typical pattern found in other Pauline letters. The details of the offence are unstated, although it is often assumed that Onesimus had fled after stealing money, as Paul states in verse 18 that if Onesimus owes anything, Philemon should charge this to Paul's account.  Apphia in the salutation is probably Philemon's wife. This, however, does not mean that Timothy was the epistle's co-author. , In order to better appreciate the Book of Philemon, it is necessary to be aware of the situation of the early Christian community in the Roman Empire; and the economic system of Classical Antiquity based on slavery. After thirty-nine years in India sponsored by Interserve, he now resides in Auckland, New Zealand. The ultimate goal is to strengthen the Body of Christ in Asia by providing pastoral and contextual exposition of every book of the Bible. B. Lightfoot, for example, wrote: "The tact and delicacy of the Apostle's pleading for Onesimus would be nullified at one stroke by the demand for publication. Second, the gospel is robustly stated and demonstrated in these two letters. Pope Benedict XVI refers to this letter in the Encyclic, Spe salvi, highlighting the power of Christianity as power of the transformation of society. During the first generation after Jesus, Paul's epistles to various churches helped establish early Christian theology.  We see this in many of Paul’s other epistles, including his letters to the Corinthians, delivering the message of unity with others and unity with Christ – a change of identity. To help these believers, Paul provided guidance on how to deal with their past, showing them how faith in Christ brings new meaning to their situation. The New Interpreter's Bible: One-Volume Commentary. He is the Wisdom of God and holds preeminence over everything in creation as well as in the inaugurated new creation (1:15-20; 2:3; see Prov. He also mentions his wish to visit and asks Philemon to prepare a guest room. Apphia is often presumed to be Philemon's wife and Archippus, a "fellow labourer", is sometimes suggested to be their son. Let me provide three reasons. With his wife Kathleen, he taught for nineteen years at Union Biblical Seminary, Pune, India. The Epistle to Philemon was composed around 57-59 A.D by Paul while in prison at Caesarea Maritima. Learn more or donate today at, (PhD, Wheaton College) is assistant professor of biblical studies at the Evangelical Theological College and assistant professor of New Testament at the Ethiopian Graduate School of Theology, both in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Composition. 8:22-31). , As a background to his specific plea for Onesimus, Paul clarifies his intentions and circumstances. Here you have a balanced, insightful, reliable and innovative commentary on two of Paul’s letters. The apostle Paul wrote Colossians and Philemon with the conviction that Jesus had brought the Old Testament epic story to its climactic fulfillment.  Knox further argued that the letter was intended to be read aloud in the Colossian church in order to put pressure on Archippus. He is the fulfillment of all the messianic promises (1:13-14; 2:2; 3:1; “Christ” = Messiah). Alternatively, he may have previously heard Paul's name (as his owner was a Christian) and so travelled to him for help. He is the author of. Paul also was not suggesting that Onesimus be punished, in spite of the fact that Roman law allowed the owner of a runaway slave nearly unlimited privileges of punishment, even execution. When it comes to Onesimus and his circumstance as a slave, Paul felt that Onesimus should return to Philemon but not as a slave; rather, under a bond of familial love. Christ is the exalted Lord over both creation and the inaugurated new creation by virtue of his unique role in God’s project of cosmic reconciliation (1:15-20). Paul sends greetings from five of his co-workers and concludes the letter with a benediction. He also mentions his associate Timothy, as a valued colleague who was presumably known to the recipient. " Paul viewed slavery as an example of a human institution of dehumanization, and believed that all human institutions were about to fade away.  J. The preservation of the letter suggests that Paul's request was granted. Philemon is described as a "fellow worker" of Paul. The only extant information about Onesimus apart from this letter is found in Paul's epistle to the Colossians 4:7–9, where Onesimus is called "a faithful and beloved brother": All my state shall Tychicus declare unto you, who is a beloved brother, and a faithful minister and fellow servant in the Lord: 8 Whom I have sent unto you for the same purpose, that he might know your estate, and comfort your hearts; 9 With Onesimus, a faithful and beloved brother, who is one of you. , According to the majority interpretation, Paul wrote this letter on behalf of Onesimus, a runaway slave who had wronged his owner Philemon.  In place of the traditional interpretation, Callahan suggests that Onesimus and Philemon are brothers both by blood and religion, but who have become estranged, and the intent of this letter was to reconcile the two men. If that is not a request for Onesimus to join Paul’s circle, I do not know what more would need to be said". He gives thanks to God for Philemon's love and faith and prays for his faith to be effective. Composition. Paul indicates that he would have been glad to keep Onesimus with him, but recognised that it was right to send him back. It was addressed to Philemon and to the other members of the church at Colossae who met in Philemon's house. That’s why we should study the books of Colossians and Philemon. He offers to pay for any debt created by Onesimus' departure and expresses his desire that Philemon might refresh his heart in Christ. The Epistle to Philemon was composed around 57-59 A.D by Paul while in prison at Caesarea Maritima.. Authorship. series.  Philemon may have converted to Christianity through Paul's ministry, possibly in Ephesus. In this case, Timothy may have encountered Philemon while accompanying Paul in his work in Ephesus. Heb 11:13–16; Phil 3:20), this does not mean for one moment that they live only for the future: present society is recognized by Christians as an exile; they belong to a new society which is the goal of their common pilgrimage and which is anticipated in the course of that pilgrimage. Paul's specific request is for Philemon to welcome Onesimus as he would welcome Paul, namely as a Christian brother. Murray J. Harris, PhDProfessor Emeritus of New Testament Exegesis and Theology,Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, Deerfield, Illinois, USA. Christ is the very image of God, whose perfections serve as the pattern for their renewal as image-bearers.
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