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Philemon 1

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Verses 1-99




1-3. Paul a prisoner of Christ Jesus, and Timothy the brother, to Philemon our beloved and fellow-laborer, and to Apphia our sister, and to Archippus our fellow-soldier, and to the church which assembles in thy house: Grace be unto you, and peace from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ.

1. δέσμιος Χριστοῦ Ἰησοῦ: ‘a prisoner of Christ Jesus.’ (Comp. Ephesians 3:1.) In fetters because of his labors as an apostle of Christ. These words, at once awakening special interest and compassion, prepare the way for the apostle’s request. The title ‘apostle’ is laid aside as not befitting a private and friendly letter.

Τιμόθεος: The name of Timothy is associated with that of Paul in 2 Cor., Phil., Col., 1 and 2 Thess. Here each has a separate designation. Comp. Philippians 1:1, where they are joined under the common title δοῦλοι Χτοῦ Ἰησοῦ. When Paul names others with himself in the address, it is usually because of the relations of those named to the church addressed. The mention of Timothy here may be owing to personal relations between him and Philemon; so that the appeal would be the stronger by the addition of Timothy’s name. Timothy appears to have been with Paul during a great part of his three years’ residence in Ephesus. He may have become acquainted with Philemon there.

ὁ�Romans 16:23; Sosthenes, 1 Corinthians 1:1; Apollos, 1 Corinthians 16:12. Timothy is not called an apostle. (See 2 Corinthians 1:1; Colossians 1:1.) Although Paul does not confine the name of apostle to the twelve (see Romans 16:7; 1 Corinthians 9:5, 1 Corinthians 9:6), the having been an eyewitness of the risen Christ was an indispensable condition of the apostolate; and Timothy was a late convert, residing at Lystra, far distant from the scene of Christ’s personal ministry. (See Lightf. on “The Name and Office of an Apostle,” Comm. on Galatians, p. 92.)

Φιλήμονι: See Introduction.

τῷ�Acts 15:25.) Theoph. says: εἰ�

Weizsäcker’s statement (Apost. Zeit. p. 333) that�Romans 16:5, Romans 16:8, Romans 16:9, Romans 16:12.

συνεργὸς: Only in Paul and 3 Jn. viii. (See Romans 16:3, Romans 16:9, Romans 16:21; Philippians 2:25; Colossians 4:11, etc.)

ἡμῶν: Of myself and Timothy.

2. καὶ Ἀπφίᾳ τῇ�

Ἀπφία is a Phrygian name. Not the same as Ἀππίου (Acts 28:15). She is commonly supposed to have been Philemon’s wife, which is the more probable because the case of the slave was a household matter. “Uxori ad quam nonnihil pertinebat negotium Onesimi” (Beng.). Unless especially related to Philemon, her name would naturally have stood after the one which follows.

ἀδελφῇ: In the Christian sense.

Ἀρχίππῳ: Possibly a son of Philemon. He is mentioned Colossians 4:17 with a special admonition to fulfil the ministry (διακονίαν) which he received in the Lord; from which it may be inferred that he was an office-bearer in the church. A reason for addressing him in this letter, even if he was not a member of Philemon’s household, might lie in the fact that Onesimus was to be received into the church in which Archippus exercised his ministry.

Different speculations have made him a bishop, a deacon, a presbyter, and an evangelist. Opinions differ as to whether his ministry was at Colossæ or at the neighboring city of Laodicæa, since his name occurs in the epistle to Colossæ, immediately, it is said, after the salutations to the Laodicæans. On the other hand, Wieseler (Chronol. des Apost. Zeital.) argues that if Archippus had been a Colossian it is not easy to see why Paul in vs. 17 makes him to be admonished by others. We do not know the motive of the exhortation. It does not immediately follow the salutations to the Laodicæans. If Archippus had not resided at Colossæ, Paul would probably have caused a salutation to be sent to him as well as to Nymphas. It is very strange that Paul should have conveyed this admonition to Archippus through a strange church, more especially when he had written at the same time to Archippus in this letter, addressing him jointly with Philemon. That the admonition to Archippus in Col. implies a rebuke (Lightf.) is not certain. (Comp. Acts 12:25.)

συστρατιώτῃ: ‘fellow-soldier.’ Only here and Philippians 2:25; but comp. 2 Timothy 2:3. The veteran apostle salutes his younger friend as a fellow-campaigner in the gospel warfare. It is unnecessary to search for any particular crisis or contest in church affairs in which they were associated. The figure may have been suggested by Paul’s military associations in Rome.

τῇ κατʼ οἶκον σου ἐκκλησίᾳ: ‘to the church in thy house.’ The assembly of believers which met at Philemon’s house. In large cities there would be several such assemblies, since no one house could accommodate the whole body, and besides, a large assembly of the whole church would have awakened the suspicion of the Roman authorities. (Comp. Acts 12:12; Romans 16:5; 1 Corinthians 16:19; Colossians 4:15, and see note at the end of the chapter.) Ἐκκλησία was originally a secular word: ‘an assembly of citizens called out.’ So Acts 19:39; LXX; 1 Kings 8:65. Used of the congregation of Israel (Acts 7:38). The Jewish assembly is more commonly styled συναγωγή, as Acts 13:43. Ἐκκλησία denotes the Christian community in the midst of Israel (Acts 5:11, Acts 5:8:1, Acts 5:12:1, Acts 5:14:23, Acts 5:27). Συναγωγή, however, is used of a Christian assembly (James 2:2). Both in the Old and New Testament ἐκκλησία implies a community based upon a special religious idea, and established in a special way. The word is also used in N.T. of a single church or assembly, or of a church confined to a particular place, as the church in the house of Prisca and Aquila (Romans 16:5), or of Philemon as here; the church at Corinth, Jerusalem, etc. In these assemblies in private houses messages and letters from the apostles were announced or read. It is perhaps to the address of this letter to a congregational circle, as well as to an individual correspondent, that we are indebted for its preservation. Paul must have written many such private letters. The character of the address emphasises the importance of the subject of the letter as one affecting both the household circle and the church.

3. χάρις ὑμῖν, etc.: See on Philippians 1:2.

4-7. Because I hear of the love and faith which you have towards the Lord Jesus and to all the saints, I thank God whenever I make mention of you in my prayers; praying that in your full knowledge of every spiritual blessing which we as Christians possess, your faith may prove itself for the glory of Christ in the communication of its fruits to others. For on hearing from you, I had much joy and comfort on account of your love, because of the refreshment which the hearts of the saints have received from you, my brother.

4. εὐχαριστῶ, etc.: ‘I thank my God always when I make mention of you in my prayers.’ (See on Philippians 1:3.) Thus πάντοτε is connected with εὐχαρ. (Comp. Romans 1:8-10; 1 Corinthians 1:4; Colossians 1:3, Colossians 1:4.) The construction probably accords with Colossians 1:3, Colossians 1:4, since there is a close correspondence of the phraseology, and the two letters were written at the same time. Ποιούμενος defines πάντοτε. (See on Philippians 1:4.)

Ellic. differs from most of the modern commentators by connecting πάντοτε with ποιούμενος.

All that the apostle had heard of Philemon caused him to add thanksgiving to his prayers. “Notandum quod pro quo gratias agit, pro eodem simul precatur. Nunquam enim tanta est vel perfectissimis gratulandi materia, quamdiu in hoc mundo vivunt, quin precibus indigeant, ut det illis Deus non tantum perseverare usque ad finem, sed in dies proficere. Haec enim laus quam mox Philemoni tribuit, breviter complectitur totam Christiani hominis perfectionem” (Calv.).

ἐπὶ τῶν προσευχῶν μου: ‘when engaged in offering my prayers.’ Ἐπὶ blends the temporal with the local force. For προσευχὴ, prayer in general, see on Philippians 4:6. Any special petition would be δέησις, which is implied in μνείαν.

5.�Colossians 1:7, Colossians 1:8, Colossians 1:4:12), or possibly from Onesimus himself.

Ἀκούων indicates the cause of εὐχαριστῶ; not the motive of the intercession, as De W., which would leave εὐχ. without a cause assigned for it; while the ‘mention’ of Philemon did not require that a motive should be assigned.

σου τὴν�

Love and faith are both exercised towards the Lord Jesus, and by a hasty and compressed construction, due to the momentum of the previous part of the clause, the saints also are made the objects of both love and faith, instead of his writing, ‘the love and the faith which thou hast towards the Lord Jesus, and the love which thou hast to all the saints.’ (Comp. Colossians 1:4.) Faith works by love, and love exercised towards the saints is a work of faith. In the next clause he speaks of a ‘communication’ of faith to others. Lumby very aptly says: “The love was displayed towards the Christian congregation, the faith towards the Lord Jesus Christ; but they are so knit together where they truly exist that St. Paul speaks of them both as exhibited alike towards Christ and towards his people.”

A parallel is furnished by Ephesians 1:15, if�Titus 3:15.) Mey., Win. (l. 2), Beet, render πίστιν ‘fidelity’ or ‘faithfulness,’ a sense which is found in N.T. though rarely (see Romans 3:3; 1 Timothy 5:12; Titus 2:10), and which is habitual in LXX. (See Lightf. Comm. on Gal. p. 152, and Hatch, Essays in Bib. Gk. p. 83 ff.). But (1) πίστις with�1 Corinthians 13:13; Galatians 5:6; 1 Thessalonians 1:3, 1 Thessalonians 1:5:8; 1 Timothy 1:14, 1 Timothy 1:6:11; 2 Timothy 2:22.) This is not affected by the fact that�Ephesians 6:23.) Galatians 5:22 and 1 Timothy 4:12 are not in point. In those passages the words occur in enumerations; and in Galatians 5:22Colossians 1:4.

πρὸς τὸν κύριον: Πρὸς nowhere else with πίστις as directed at Christ. Of faith ‘towards’ God, 1 Thessalonians 1:8. Comp. πεποίθησιν πρὸς τὸν θεὸν (2 Corinthians 3:4). Ἀγάπη commonly with εἰς in Paul. (See Romans 5:8; 2 Corinthians 2:8; Colossians 1:4; 1 Thessalonians 3:12; 2 Thessalonians 1:3; but comp. 2 Corinthians 8:7; 1 Corinthians 16:24.) The use of different prepositions is not to be accounted for on the ground of Paul’s fondness for varying the prepositions without designing to express a different relation (Mey.). Paul does, indeed, often use different prepositions in one clause and with reference to one subject in order to define the conception more accurately (Romans 3:30, Romans 3:11:36; Galatians 1:1, Galatians 1:2:16; Colossians 1:14); but it is too much to say that no different relation is intended.

See Holtzn. Pastoralbr. p. 101; Winer, xlvii.; Deissmann, Die neutest. Formel ‘in Christo Jesu, ’ pp. 5, 6.

Bearing in mind that τὴν�Philippians 2:30, Philippians 4:6, as expressing, not the mere direction of faith and love towards Christ (Lightf., Ellic., Alf.), but the relation of loving and believing intercourse with him; while εἰς indicates the direct practical bearing of faith and love on the Christian brethren.

πρὸς in class. occurs frequently of all sorts of personal intercourse. (See Hom. Od. xiv. 331, xix. 288; Thucyd. ii. 59, iv. 15, vii. 82; Hdt. i. 61.) It occurs with φιλία, εὔνοια,�

6. ὅπως ἡ κοινωνία τῆς πίστεώς σου ἐνεργὴς γένηται: ‘that the communication of thy faith may become (or prove itself) effectual.’ The thought grows directly out of εἰς πάντ. τ. ἁγ., and ὅπως expresses the purpose of the intercession, μνεί. ποιούμ. etc., in vs. 4. (Comp. Matthew 2:23, Matthew 2:6:2, Matthew 2:16; Acts 9:17; 1 Corinthians 1:29; 2 Thessalonians 1:12.) He prays that the love and faith which so greatly aid and comfort all the saints may likewise communicate their blessing to Onesimus, though he does not mention his name. Notice the general similarity of structure between this passage and Ephesians 1:16, Ephesians 1:17; Philippians 1:3 ff.; Colossians 1:3 ff.—a prayer after the thanksgiving, followed by a final particle introducing a clause. Alf. and Oltr. take ὅπως with εὐχαριστῶ. Κοιν. τ. πίστ. signifies ‘the communication of thy faith’ to others, Onesimus among them: your faith imparting its virtue through your deeds of love. Κοινωνία is used as in Romans 15:26; 2 Corinthians 8:4, 2 Corinthians 8:9:13; Hebrews 13:16.

Mey. connects ὅπως with ἣν ἔχεις, and explains κοινωνία as the fellowship entered into by the saints with Philemon’s Christian fidelity. Thus, ‘the faith which thou hast in order that the fellowship of the saints with it may not be a mere idle sympathy, but may express itself in action.’ Oltr., the communion established by faith between Paul and Philemon. Beng., ‘the faith which thou hast and exercisest in common with us.’ Lightf., apparently taking πίστεως as genit. of possession or source, ‘your charitable deeds which spring from your faith.’

Ἐνεργὴς: ‘effectual,’ only twice by Paul. (See 1 Corinthians 16:9, and comp. Hebrews 4:12.) Effectual by reason of the fruit which follows. The Vulg. ‘evidens’ is probably from a reading ἐναργής.

ἐν ἐπιγνώσει: ‘in the full knowledge.’ For ἐπιγ., see on Philippians 1:9. The subject of the ἐπιγ. is Philemon. The apostle prays that, working in the sphere of full knowledge, the communication of Philemon’s faith may prove itself effective. In other words, the knowledge of every good thing—gospel truth, the principles of Christian fraternity and ministry, the ends of Christian striving, the supplies furnished by the divine Spirit—is the element in which Philemon’s faith will develop to the greatest advantage of others, including Onesimus. The larger his knowledge of such good things, the more will he be moved to deal kindly and Christianly. He will recognise through this knowledge the rightness of Paul’s request, and will not allow his resentment towards Onesimus to prevent his recognising the good which the knowledge of Christ has developed in him.

Mey., Ellic., Beet, Calv., refer ἐπίγνωσις to the knowledge possessed by others. Thus, Mey., “That whoever enters into participation of the same (fellowship) may make this partaking, through knowledge of every Christian blessing, effective for Christ.” This is determined by his explanation of κοιν. πίστ. See above.

The prayer for ἐπίγνωσις is characteristic of this group of epistles. (See Ephesians 1:17; Philippians 1:9; Colossians 1:9, Colossians 1:10, Colossians 1:2:2, and comp. Romans 12:2; Ephesians 4:13; Titus 1:1.) For this use of ἐν, marking the sphere or element in which something takes place, see 2 Corinthians 1:6; Colossians 1:29.

παντὸς�Ephesians 1:3, Ephesians 1:17.)

του after αγαθου, א DFgrGKLP; Tisch., WH. [], Weiss, R.T.; AC, 17, om. του.

υμιν, א FGP, 17, 31, 37, 47, 80, 137, Vulg., Cop., Syr.sch et P, Tisch., Weiss, R.T.

For υμιν ACDKL, WH., read ημιν.

εἰς Χριστόν: ‘unto Christ.’ Connect with ἐνεργ. γέν. Unto Christ’s glory—the advancement of his cause. Compare εἰς τὸ εὐαγγέλιον (Philippians 1:5). “That ultimate reference to Christ which is the life of all true Christian work, and alone renders communication energetic” (Bp. of Derry). “Bonum nobis exhibitum redundare debet in Christum” (Beng.). Not = ἐν Χριστῷ.

Ιησουν added by אc DFGKLP, Vulg., Syr.P, Arm.

Text, WH., Tisch., R.T., Weiss.

7. χαρὰν γὰρ πολλὴν ἔσχον: ‘for I had much joy.’

A few secondary uncials and some Fath. read χαριν.

DCKL, Syr.utr, εχομεν for εσχον.

Γὰρ gives the reason for the thanksgiving in vs. 4, 5, and this verse takes up the two points of the thanksgiving,—the love and the ministry to the brethren.

Ellic., De W., v. Sod., Alf., connect with the prayer just preceding. Beet with both the thanksgiving and the prayer.

Ἔσχον: ‘I had,’ when I received the report. Comp.�

ὅτι: ‘because.’ Explaining more particularly the ἐπὶ τ.�Philippians 1:8.)

τῶν ἁγίων: See on Philippians 1:1.

ἀναπέπαυται: ‘have been refreshed.’ Ἀναπαύειν, originally ‘to cause to cease’ as pain or sorrow. Hence ‘to relieve’ or ‘refresh.’ (See Matthew 11:28, Matthew 11:26:45; Mark 6:31; 1 Corinthians 16:18; 2 Corinthians 7:13.) In Attic prose it is almost a technical expression for the resting of soldiers. Its dominant idea is refreshment in contrast with weariness from toil. (See Schmidt, Synon. 25, 2.) Lightf. says it expresses a temporary relief, as the simple παυέσθαι expresses a final cessation. This needs qualifying. The compound does express a temporary relief. Ἀνάπαυσις frequently in LXX of the rest of the Sabbath. So Mark 6:31, of the temporary retirement of the disciples. But, on the other hand, the refreshment promised by Christ to the weary (Matthew 11:28, Matthew 11:29) is not a mere temporary relief, and the word is used of the rest of the blessed dead, Revelation 14:13.

Often in Ign. in the phrase�

ἀδελφέ: Not ‘brother indeed,’ but a simple expression of affection. (Comp. Galatians 6:18.)

8-20. Wherefore, although my relations to you would warrant me in enjoining on you that which is fitting, yet, for love’s sake, I prefer to ask it of you as a favor; being such as I am, Paul, an old man, and a prisoner for the gospel’s sake. I entreat you, therefore, on behalf of my son Onesimus, who has been converted through my instrumentality during my imprisonment. Once indeed he was not what his name implies, but was useless to you. Now, however, he is profitable both to you and to myself. I send him back to you, dear though he is to me. I had indeed a mind to keep him with me in order that he might minister to me in my imprisonment as you yourself would gladly have done; but I was unwilling to do anything without your concurrence, for I desired that your service to me should be voluntary and not of necessity. And then it occurred to me that God had allowed him to be thus separated from you for a time, in order that he might come back to you a better servant and a Christian brother besides. Such a brother he is to me; how much more to you his rightful master. I ask you then, in view of our mutual fellowship, to receive him as you would me; and if he has wronged you in any way, or is in your debt, put that to my account. This is my promise to repay it, signed with my own hand; though I might intimate that it is you who are my debtor for your very self; since it was through me that you became a Christian. Receive Onesimus then, and thus render me a personal favor, affording me joy and refreshment in Christ.

8. διό: ‘wherefore’: because I am thus comforted by you. Connect with παρακαλῶ, vs. 9, and not with the participial clause.

πολλὴν ἐν Χριστῷ παρρησίαν ἔχων: ‘though I have much boldness in Christ.’ Boldness growing out of their Christian relations. Their personal intimacy, St. Paul’s apostolic office, and Philemon’s obligation to him for his conversion (vs. 19), would warrant the apostle, if so disposed, in laying his commands upon Philemon in the matter of receiving Onesimus.

v. Soden thinks that no allusion to apostolic authority is intended, because the apostolic title is omitted in the introduction. But this does not necessarily follow. Even though the title is omitted, there is no reason why Paul should not allude to his apostolic authority.

For παρρησίαν, see on Philippians 1:20. Ἐπιτάσσειν, ‘to enjoin’ or ‘command,’ is used rather of commanding which attaches to a definite office and relates to permanent obligations under the office, than of special injunctions for particular occasions (ἐπιτέλλειν. See Schmidt, Synon. 8, 10).

τὸ�Ephesians 5:4; Colossians 3:18; LXX; 1 Macc. 10:40, 11:35; 2 Macc. 14:8.) The primary meaning of the verb is ‘to have come up to’ or ‘arrived at,’ as to have attained a standard of measurement or weight, or to have reached a height. Hence, to have come to one so as to have become his; to pertain to or belong to him. Comp. Hdt. 6:109: καὶ κῶς ἐς σέ τι τούτων�

9. διὰ τὴν�

μᾶλλον: ‘rather’ than command thee. The object of comparison is omitted. (See on Philippians 1:12.) Paul desires to obtain for love’s sake and by asking, what he might have obtained by authority. Comp. the opening and close of Pliny’s letter to a friend on a similar occasion: “Vereor ne videar non rogare sed cogere” (Ep. ix.).

τοιοῦτος ὤν, ὡς Παῦλος πρεσβύτης νυνὶ δὲ καὶ δέσμιος Χριστοῦ Ἰησοῦ παρακαλῶ: ‘being such (as I am), as Paul the aged and now also a prisoner of Jesus Christ, I beseech thee.’ Paul would say: I might justly enjoin thee, but, for love’s sake, I rather beseech thee. This general statement of his attitude stands by itself, and forms a complete sentence. He then goes on to define. I do not speak as an apostle, but simply in my personal capacity. Being such as I am,—Paul, an old man, a prisoner of Christ,—I beseech thee, etc. Thus a period is placed after παρακαλῶ, vs. 9. Τοιοῦτος is Paul’s general description of himself, which is farther defined with the three particulars,—Paul, aged, a prisoner. Accordingly τοιοῦτος points forward to these details.

There is much difference among interpreters as to the connection. The points in question are:

(1) Whether τοιοῦτος ὢν is to be connected with ὡς Παῦλος or separated from it.

(2) Whether τοιοῦτος ὢν begins a new sentence or is connected with the preceding παρακαλῶ, i.e. whether a period or a comma shall be placed after παρακ. (vs. 9).

(3) Whether the thought in τοι. ὢν refers back to Paul’s attitude as a suppliant (διὰ τ.�

πρεσβύτης: ‘an aged man.’ His precise age cannot be determined. He is called νεανίας at the time of the martyrdom of Stephen (Acts 7:58); and if, at the time of writing this letter he were sixty or even fifty years old, there would be no impropriety in his calling himself πρεσβύτης. The term is wholly relative. He might have aged prematurely under his numerous hardships. According to Hippocrates, a man was called πρεσβύτης from forty-nine to fifty-six; after that, γέρων.

Lightf. conjectures that the reading is πρεσβευτής, ‘an ambassador,’ in accordance with Ephesians 6:20; and that that should be the meaning even if πρεσβύτης is retained. So WH. The two forms are certainly interchanged in LXX. (See 2 Chronicles 32:31; 2Ch_1 Macc. 13:21, 14:21, 22; 2 Macc. 11:34.) Both in Ephesians 6:20, and 2 Corinthians 5:20, πρεσβεύειν is used in connection with public relations. “Ambassador” does not seem quite appropriate to a private letter, and does not suit Paul’s attitude of entreaty. The suggestion of public relations is rather in δέσμιος ’I. X.

νυνὶ δὲ καὶ: ‘now,’ at the time of my writing this; καὶ: ‘besides,’ in addition to my age.

δέσμιος Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ: Comp. vs. 1; Ephesians 3:1; Ephesians 4:1; 2 Timothy 1:8. Not ‘a prisoner belonging to Christ,’ nor ‘for Christ’s sake,’ διὰ Χριστὸν δεδεμένος (Chr.), but one whom Christ has brought into captivity. (See Win. xxx. 2.)

Lightf., in accordance with his explanation of πρεσβύτης, thinks that the genit. Ἰ. Χ. belongs to both πρεσβ. and δέσμ.

10. τοῦ ἐμοῦ τέκνου: An affectionate designation of Onesimus. The slight hesitation in mentioning the name of the slave, and the delay in coming to the point of the letter, are noticeable. Τέκνον in a similar sense, a spiritual child, 1 Corinthians 4:14, 1 Corinthians 4:17; Galatians 4:19 (τεκνία); 1 Timothy 1:2, 1 Timothy 1:18; 2 Timothy 2:1.

ὃν ἐγένησα: Of whose conversion I was the instrument. The appeal in the thought of his won child is heightened by ἐμοῦ, and by the fact that he is the spiritual child of his captivity. For this figurative use of γεννᾷν, comp. 1 Corinthians 4:15. Thayer, Lex., cites Sanhedr. fol. 19, 2, of one who brings others to his own way of life. “If one teaches the son of his neighbor the law, the Scripture reckons this the same as though he had begotten him.”

ἐν τοῖς δεσμοῖς: ‘in my bonds.’

μου added by אc CDKLP, Syr.utr, Cop., Arm., Æth.

Ὀνήσιμον: ‘profitable’ (ὀνίνημι). A common name among slaves, like many others expressing utility, as Chresimus, Chrestus, Onesiphorus, Symphorus, Carpus. (See Lightf.’s Introd. to Philem. sec. 4.) Accordingly, Weizsäcker’s statement that the allegorical character of the epistle is apparent from this name has no relevancy whatever (Apost. Zeital. p. 545). Ὀνήσιμον is accus. by attraction after ἐγένν.

11. ἄχρηστον: ‘useless,’ ‘unserviceable.’ Titmann (Syn.) says that to the idea of uselessness it adds that of harmfulness, while�

Ἄχρηστος only here in N.T., LXX, Hosea 8:8; Sap. 2:11, 3:11; Sir. 16:1, 27:19; 2 Macc. 7:5.

νυνὶ δε: ‘but now,’ that he has become a Christian disciple. Νυνὶ δε, mostly and very often in Paul. (See Romans 6:22, Romans 6:7:6, Romans 6:17, Romans 6:15:23, 25; 1 Corinthians 5:11, etc.)

σοὶ καὶ ἐμοὶ εὔχρηστον: ‘profitable to thee and to me.’ Formerly useless to thee, when he was thy worthless, runaway slave, and before I had known him. Now profitable to us both. The nice use of the personal pronouns and the assumption of a joint interest in Onesimus are very charming. (Comp. Romans 16:13; 1 Corinthians 16:18; Philippians 2:27.)

א* Fgr G, 17, 31, 47 67, Syr.sch, Æth., add και before σοι. So Tisch., Weiss.

και om. by ACDKLP, Syr.P, Arm., WH., R.T.

εὔχρηστον occurs only here, 2 Timothy 2:21, 2 Timothy 4:11. Profitable to Philemon in the new and higher character of his service as a Christian, as described (Ephesians 6:5 ff.; Colossians 3:22 ff.). Profitable to Paul as an evidence of his successful apostolic labor (καρπὸς ἕργου, Philippians 1:22), and therefore a cause of joy and encouragement. There may also be a reference to Onesimus’ kindly ministries to himself in his imprisonment (vs. 13).

12. ὅν�

Ἀνέπεμψα is the epistolary aorist, by which the writer puts himself at the point of time when the correspondent is reading his letter. (See Acts 23:30; Philippians 2:28; Win. xl. 2; and note on ἔγραψα, vs. 19.) For τὰ ἐμὰ σπλάγχνα, see on Philippians 1:8, Philippians 2:1. Pesh. renders ‘my son.’ Wetst. cites Artemidorus, Ὀνειροκριτικά (i.46) οἱ παίδες σπλάγχνα λέγονται; also Id. 35, v. 57, and Philo, De Joseph. 5 (ii. 45). In Latin poetry and post-Augustine prose viscera is used in the same sense. (See Ov. Met. vi. 651, viii. 478, x. 465; Q. Curt. iv. 14, 22.) So Chr. and Thdrt. But this does not agree with Paul’s usage elsewhere. (See 2 Corinthians 6:12, 2 Corinthians 6:7:15; Philippians 1:8, Philippians 1:2:1; Colossians 3:12.) Besides, it would be tautological after ὅν ἐγέννησα.

13. ὅν ἐγὼ ἐβουλόμην πρὸς ἐμαυτὸν κατέχειν: ‘whom I was minded to keep with myself.’ The expression of an actual thought and desire entertained by Paul; ἐβουλόμην indicating deliberation with an accompanying inclination. I was inclined to keep him, and was turning over the matter in my mind. See on τὸ θέλειν, Philippians 2:13.

Lightf. prefers the conditional sense of the imperfect, ‘I could have wished,’ referring it to a suppressed conditional clause, ‘if circumstances had favored.’ This is a well-known use of the imperf. (See Acts 25:22; Romans 9:3; Galatians 4:20; and Lightf. On Revis. of N.T., under “Faults of Grammar.”) But no such conditional clause is implied; for Paul does not intimate that the fulfilment of his wish was impossible, and that therefore he did not cherish it, but only that, though he entertained the wish, he refrained from acting upon it until he should have learned Philemon’s pleasure in the matter (vs. 14).

πρὸς ἐμαυτὸν: ‘with myself.’ See on πρὸς, vs. 5; and Philippians 4:6.

κατέχειν: For the verb, see Luke 4:42, Luke 4:8:15; Romans 1:18; 1 Thessalonians 5:21.

ἵνα ὑπὲρ σοῦ μοι διακονῇ: ‘that he might serve me on thy behalf.’ A delicate justification of ἐβουλόμην, and full of tact. The ὑπὲρσου is exquisite, assuming that his friend would delight in rendering him, through the slave, the service which he could not personally perform. Ὑπὲρ is not for�

ἐν τοῖς δεσμοῖς τοῦ εὐαγγελίου: ‘in the bonds of the gospel’; of which the gospel is the cause; in my imprisonment which has resulted from the preaching of the gospel. Thus a hint is added of his need of such service as that of Onesimus, which has the force of an appeal, as in vs. 9, 10. (Comp. Ephesians 4:1, Ephesians 6:20, and Ign. Trall. xii.: παρακαλεῖ ὑμᾶς τὰ δεσμά μου, ἅ ἕνεκεν Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ περιφέρω: “my bonds exhort you which I wear for the sake of Jesus Christ.” See also Eph. xi: Magn. i.).

14. χωρὶς δὲ τῆς σῆς γνώμης: ‘but without thy judgment.’ ‘But,’ though I had the inclination. Χωρὶς, ‘apart from,’ in N.T. almost entirely supplements ἄνευ, ‘without,’ which occurs only three times, and not in Paul. (See Ellic. on Ephesians 2:12.) Γνώμης, not frequent in N.T. Primarily ‘a means of knowing’ (γινώσκειν): the organ by which one knows. Hence mind and its operations, thought, judgment, opinion. (See Acts 20:3; 1 Corinthians 1:10, 1 Corinthians 1:7:25; 2 Corinthians 8:10; Revelation 17:13, Revelation 17:17.) ‘Mind’ or ‘judgment’ is the meaning throughout the N.T. Paul was unwilling to take any steps without having Philemon’s judgment as to what was right in the case.

ἠθέλησα: ‘I determined.’ Comp. the aor. with the imperf. ἐβουλόμην. I was deliberating and came to the decision.

ἵνα μὴ ὡς κατὰ�Romans 5:7, Romans 5:7:12; 1 Thessalonians 3:6; Titus 2:5; 1 Peter 2:18, and see Lightf. Notes on Eps. of St. P. from Unpublished Commentaries, pp. 45, 286, 303.)

The point made by Mey., Ellic., Beet, Alf., that τὸ�

ὡς κατὰ�Titus 3:5.) This particular phrase only here in N.T., but see κατὰ νόμον, φύσιν,�

κατὰ ἑκούσιον: ‘of free will’; ‘according to what is voluntary.’ Ἑκούσιος only here in N.T. (See LXX, Numbers 15:3.) For the same antithesis see 1 Peter 5:2.

15. Another reason for not detaining Onesimus. Paul might thus have crossed the purpose of divine Providence. The consideration is modestly introduced with τάχα as the suggestion of a possibility, and not as assuming acquaintance with God’s designs. It might be that God allowed the slave to leave you in order that he might become a Christian disciple; and if I should retain him, you would not have him back in your household as a Christian brother. Philemon’s attention is thus turned from his individual wrongs to the providential economy which has made these wrongs work for good.

Γὰρ explains the additional motive of ἠθέλησα. Τάχα is found only here and Romans 5:7.

ἐχωρίσθη: ‘he was parted (from thee).’ The word is chosen with rare tact. He does not say ‘he ran away,’ which might excite Philemon’s anger; but ‘he was separated,’ and, by the use of the passive, he puts Onesimus’ flight into relation with the ordering of Providence. See Chrysostom’s comparison with the case of Joseph, who says, “God did send me before you” (Genesis 45:5).

πρὸς ὥραν: ‘for a season.’ Indefinite. (Comp. 2 Corinthians 7:8; Galatians 2:5; 1 Thessalonians 2:17.) Whatever the period of separation, it was but ‘an hour’ as compared with its lasting consequences.

ἵνα …�Philippians 4:18.) The bond between the master and the slave would no longer be that of ownership by purchase which death would dissolve, but their common relation to Christ which made them brethren, now and evermore.

Lightf. explains�Matthew 12:13; Mark 3:5; Luke 4:20, Luke 9:42, Luke 19:8.)

16. οὐκέτι ὡς δοῦλον: ‘no longer as a slave.’ Ὡς denotes the subjective conception of Onesimus’ relation to his master, without reference to the external relation; i.e. Paul does not say that Philemon is to receive Onesimus freed, and no longer a slave, which would be δοῦλον simply, but that, whether he shall remain a slave or not, he will no longer be regarded as a slave, but as a brother beloved. The relation between the master and the slave is transformed. The slave, even without ceasing to be a slave, is on a different and higher footing with his master. Both are in Christ. (See 1 Corinthians 7:20-24; Colossians 3:11.) The relation is conceived absolutely, without special reference to Philemon’s view of it.

ὑπὲρ δοῦλον: ‘above a slave’; ‘more than a slave.’ For this sense of ὑπὲρ, see Matthew 10:24, Matthew 10:37; Acts 26:13; Win. xlix.


17. εἰ οὖν με ἔχεις κοινωνόν: ‘if therefore thou regardest me as a partner.’ Οὖν sums up the considerations just urged, and resumes the request foreshadowed in vs. 11, 12. For ἔχεις comp. Luke 14:18; Philippians 2:29. Κοινωνόν: The noun and its kindred verbs are used in N.T. almost exclusively of ethical and spiritual relations. Even when applied to pecuniary contributions, they imply Christian fellowship as the basis of the liberality. Comp., however, Luke 5:10; Hebrews 2:14. Here a partner in Christian faith, so that the refusal of Paul’s request would be inconsistent with such a relation. Surely not as Beng. “that what is thine may be mine, and mine thine.”

προσλαβοῦ αὐτὸν ὡς ἐμέ: ‘receive him as myself.’ Take him unto thee. Admit him to Christian fellowship. Ὡς ἐμέ. Comp. τὰ ἐμὰ σπλάγχνα (vs. 12).

He guards against certain possible hindrances to Onesimus’ favorable reception.

18. εἰ δέ τι ἠδίκησεν σε ἤ ὀφείλει: ‘if he hath in aught wronged thee or is in thy debt.’ Another exhibition of the apostle’s tact in dealing with a delicate subject. Besides running away, Onesimus had possibly robbed his master. He had at least deprived him of his services by his flight. Paul states the case hypothetically, and puts the offence as a debt.

τοῦτο ἐμοὶ ἐλλόγα: ‘place this to my account.’ He will be responsible for the amount.

Ἐλλόγα, only here and Romans 5:13. Not in class., though occurring in one or two inscriptions. It does not occur in LXX.

The reading ελλογει has very scanty support.

19. ἐγὼ Παῦλος ἔγραψα τῇ ἐμῇ χειρί: ‘I, Paul, write it with my own hand.’ Paul’s promissory note. Ἔγραψα is the epistolary aorist. (Comp. 1 Peter 5:12; 1 John 2:14, 1 John 2:21, 1 John 2:26.) It would appear that Paul wrote these and at least the two following words with his own hand. How much more he may have written, whether the entire letter, or all the verses from 19 to the end, is purely a matter of speculation.

Lightf. says that this incidental mention of his autograph, occurring where it does, shows that he wrote the whole letter with his own hand instead of employing an amanuensis as usual. So De W. and Alf., and Ellic. and Oltr. think it not improbable. (See Lightf. and Ellic. on Galatians 6:11.)


ἵνα μὴ λέγω σοι: ‘not to say to thee.’ (Comp. 2 Corinthians 9:4.) A sort of elliptical construction in which the writer delicately protests against saying something which he nevertheless does say. Similar phrases are οὐχ ὅτι (Philippians 4:11); οὐχ οἷον ὅτι (Romans 9:6). In many such cases the phrase becomes stereotyped, and the connection with a suppressed thought is not consciously present to the writer. The thought completely expressed would be: ‘I agree to assume the obligation in order to avoid mentioning your great personal debt to me.’

ὅτι καὶ σεαυτόν μοι προσοφείλεις: ‘that thou owest me also thine own self besides.’ You owe to me your conversion. The καὶ ‘also,’ and προς (προσοφ.) ‘in addition to’ are correlated. You are my debtor not only to the amount for which I here become responsible, but also for your own self in addition to that. Even if you remit the debt, you will still owe me yourself. Προσοφείλειν only here in N.T.

20. ναὶ,�Philippians 4:3, and comp. Matthew 15:27; Romans 3:29; Revelation 14:13. It confirms the request in vs. 17.

ἐγώ σου ὀναίμην ἐν κυρίῳ: ‘let me have profit from thee in the Lord.’ The ἐγώ is emphatic. Receive him, and so may I be profited. I ask for him as a favor to myself. This emphasis delicately points to Onesimus, and the allusion is strengthened by the play on his name in ὀναίμην. Ὀνίνασθαι ‘to have profit or advantage.’ Only here in N.T. It is common in class. with the genitive of that from which profit accrues. See Hom. Il. xvi. 31; Od. xix. 68; Eurip. Med. 1025, 1348: Aristoph. Thesm. 469. Also Ign. Polyc. i., vi.; Mag. ii., xii; Eph. ii.

ἐν κυρίῳ: Not material advantage, but advantage accruing from their both being in Christ, and from the act as a Christian act.

ἀναπαυσόν: see on vs. 7.

μου τὰ σπλάγχνα: ‘my heart.’ Not a designation of Onesimus. (Comp. vs. 12.)

21, 22. Being assured of your obedient spirit, I write to you, knowing that you will do even more than I ask. While you thus receive Onesimus, be ready to receive me also, and prepare a lodging for me, since I hope that, in answer to your prayers, I may soon be permitted to visit you.

21. πεποιθὼς τῇ ὑπακοῇ σου: ‘having confidence in thine obedience.’ Not recurring to the note of authority in vs. 8, but meaning his obedience to the claims of Christian duty as they shall appeal to his conscience.

ἔγραψά σοι: ‘I write to thee.’ See on vs. 19.

ὑπὲρ ἃ λέγω: ‘above what I say.’ For ὑπὲρ, see on vs. 16. It is not certain that he alludes to the manumission of Onesimus (De W., Oltr., Reuss, Godet), though this may possibly be implied. The expression is general. My confidence in your love and obedience assures me that you will more than fulfil my request.

22. ἅμα δὲ: ‘but withal.’ At the same time with your kindly reception of Onesimus. For ἅμα see Acts 24:26, Acts 24:27:40; Colossians 4:3; 1 Timothy 5:13.

ἑτοίμαζέ μοι ξενίαν: ‘prepare me a lodging,’ or ‘entertainment.’ Indicating his hope of speedy liberation as expressed in Philippians 2:24. According to Philippians 2:24, Paul proposed to go to Macedonia in the event of his liberation; whereas here he expresses a wish to go immediately to Colossæ. (See Weiss, Einl. § 24.) But between writing the two letters, he might have found reason to change his mind; or he might take Philippi on his way from Rome to Colossæ, since Philippi was on the great high-road between Europe and Asia. (See Hort, The Romans and the Ephesians, pp. 103, 104.)

ξενίαν: Only here and Acts 28:23. Suid. and Hesych. define ‘an inn, καταγώγιον, κατάλυμα.’ Ξενισθῶμεν, however, Acts 21:16, is used of entertainment in a private house. The primary meaning of ξενία is ‘hospitality,’ ‘friendly entertainment or reception.’ Ἐλθεῖν ἐπὶ ξενίαν is ‘to come seeking entertainment’ (Pind. N. 49); ἐπὶ ξενίαν καλεῖν is ‘to invite as a guest’ (Dem. 81, 20). Comp. Clem. Hom. xii. 2, προάξωσιν τὰς ξενίας ἑτοιμάζοντες. The phrase here may therefore mean, ‘prepare to entertain me.’

διὰ τῶν προσευξῶν ὑμῶν: Comp. Philippians 1:19.

χαρίσθησομαι: ‘I shall be granted’ or ‘given.’ As a favor by God, and perhaps with a friendly assumption that his coming will be regarded by them as a favor. I shall be graciously restored to you who desire my safety, and who will welcome my restoration. (See Acts 3:14, Acts 27:24.)


23. All the persons saluted are named in the salutations of Col. except Jesus Justus.

Ἐπαφρᾶς: Paul’s delegate to the Colossians (Colossians 1:7). A Colossian, and not to be identified with Epaphroditus of Philippians 2:25, on which see note.

Μάρκος: Probably John Mark, the son of Mary (Acts 12:12, Acts 12:25, Acts 12:15:37). Called ὁ�Colossians 4:10). The first mention of him since the separation twelve years before (Acts 15:39) occurs in Col. and Philem. (Comp. 2 Timothy 4:11 with the account of the separation.) He is commended to the church at Colossæ (Colossians 4:10). In 1 Peter 5:13 he sends salutation to Asia, and appears to be there some years after the date of Col. and Philem. (2 Timothy 4:11).

Ἀρίσταρχος: A Thessalonian who started with Paul on his voyage to Rome (Acts 27:2). On his leaving Paul at Myra, see Introd. V. In Colossians 4:10, Colossians 4:11, he is mentioned with Mark and Jesus Justus as being of the circumcision. He appears at Ephesus as Paul’s companion (Acts 19:29), and as accompanying the apostle on his return from Greece through Macedonia to Troas (Acts 20:4).

Δημᾶς: Contraction of Δημήτριος. Probably a Thessalonian (Colossians 4:14, comp. 2 Timothy 4:10.)

Λουκᾶς: The evangelist. His connection with Paul first appears Acts 16:10, where he accompanies the apostle to Macedonia. He remained at Philippi after Paul’s departure, and was there seven years later, when Paul visited the city (Acts 20:5, Acts 20:6). He accompanied the apostle to Jerusalem (Acts 21:15), after which we lose sight of him until he appears at Cæsarea (Acts 27:2), whence he accompanies Paul to Rome.

Note on “The Church that is in Thy House” (vs. 2)

The basilica did not appear until the third century. The oldest witnesses for special church buildings are Clem. Alex. Strom. vii. c. 5, and Hippol. Fragm. ed. Lagarde, p. 149. Both witnesses represent the beginning of the third century, about 202 a.d., and are older than the commonly cited passages in Tert. Adv. Valent. c. 3 (205-8 a.d.).

The liberty of assembling was due to the fact that in the Roman Empire Christians at this time passed as a Jewish sect. The Jews were allowed to assemble under the special exemptions granted by Julius Cæsar and Augustus, which declared their communities legally authorised, and gave them the right to establish societies in all places (Joseph. Antiq. xiv. 10, 8). They thus availed themselves of the widely spread institution of collegia or sodalitates which had prevailed in the empire from a very early period. Numerous clubs or confraternities existed, composed either of the members of different trades, of the servants of a particular household, or of the worshippers of a particular deity. A special object of these clubs was to provide decent burial for their members. A fund was raised by contribution, from which burial expenses were defrayed, and also the expenses of the annual feasts held on the birthdays of the deceased. (See Antiochene Acts of Martyrdom of Ignatius, vii.; Pliny’s Letter to Trajan; Tert. Apol. 39.) For the celebration of these feasts special buildings were erected called scholae. Sometimes a columbarium was purchased by a club for its own use.

This right of forming collegia was at first freely granted to all parties under the republic, but began to be restricted before the close of the republican period. (See Cicero, Orat. in L. Calp. Pison. c. 4; and Livy’s account of the extirpation of the Bacchanalian rites, xxxix. 8.)

Julius Cæsar suppressed all but the most ancient collegia (Suet. Julius, 42), and his decrees were confirmed by Augustus (Suet. Augustus, 32). From the operation of these edicts, however, the Jews were exempted. They had only to refrain from meeting in a single general association. They were allowed the free exercise of their worship, and government by the chiefs of their synagogues. It was easy for the Christians to take advantage of the general misconception which confounded them with the Jews, and to hold their assemblies. At a later period, when they became more distinct, and their ordinary assemblies were forbidden, they availed themselves of those exceptions to the Julian and Augustan edicts which allowed the existence of benefit-clubs among the poor for funeral purposes, and permitted them to meet once a week. This exception became important under Hadrian (a.d. 117-138).

See Edwin Hatch, Organization of the Early Christian Churches; E. Loening, Gemeindeverfassung; W. M. Ramsay, The Church in the Roman Empire, etc.; J. S. Northcote and W. R. Brownlow, Roma Sotteranea, 2d ed.; R. Lanciani, Ancient Rome in the Light of Recent Excavations, p. 128; and Pagan and Christian Rome, p. 117; De Rossi, Roma Sotteranea, i. p. 209.

Comp. Compare.

Lightf. Lightfoot.

Theoph. Theophylact.

D Cod. Claromontanus: 6th century. Græco-Latin. National Library, Paris. Contains both epistles entire. Corrector: Db, close of 6th century.

K Cod. Mosquensis: 9th century. Moscow. Contains both epistles entire.

L Cod. Angelicus: 9th century. Angelican Library of Augustinian monks at Rome. Wanting from ἐξουσίαν (Hebrews 13:10) to the end of Philemon.

Syr. Schaaf’s ed. of Peshitto.

Syr. Harclean.

Beng. Bengel.

LXX Septuagint Version.

Ellic. Ellicott.

Calv. Calvin.

De W. De Wette.

A Cod. Alexandrinus: 5th century. British Museum. Contains both epistles entire.

C Cod. Ephraem: 5th century. Palimpsest. National Library, Paris. Very defective. Wanting from τοῦτο οὖν (Ephesians 4:17) to καὶ τί αἱρήσομαι (Philippians 1:22), and from μειν (Βενιαμειν) (Philippians 3:5) to the end. Correctors: C2, 6th century; C3, 9th century.

17 National Library, Paris: 9th or 10th century. Both epistles entire.

137 Paris: 13th or 14th century. Both epistles entire.

WH. Westcott and Hort: The New Testament in the Original Greek.

אԠCod. Sinaiticus: 4th century. Discovered by Tischendorf in the convent of St. Catherine on Mt. Sinai, in 1859. Now at St. Petersburg. Contains both epistles complete. Correctors: אa, nearly contemporary; אb, 6th century; אc, beginning of 7th century, treated by two correctors,—אca אcb.

F Cod. Augiensis: 9th century. Græco-Latin. Library of Trinity College, Cambridge. Philippians entire; Philemon wanting in the Greek from πεποιθὼς (vs. 21) to the end.


Cod. Boernerianus: 9th century. Græco-Latin. Dresden. Wanting Greek and Latin, Philemon 1:21-25.

An asterisk added to the title of a MS., as D*, signifies a correction made by the original scribe.

P Cod. Porphyrianus: beginning of 9th century. Palimpsest. St. Petersburg. Both epistles entire, but many words illegible.

Tisch. Tischendorf: Novum Testamentum Graece. Editio Octava Critica Major.

B Cod. Vaticanus: 4th century. Vatican Library. Contains both epistles entire. Correctors: B2, nearly the same date; B3, 10th or 11th century.

Mey. Meyer.

Win. Winer: Grammar of N. T. Greek. 8th ed. of Eng. Transl. by Moulton. Grammatik des neutestamentlichen Sprachidioms, 8 Aufl., von P. W. Schmiedel. 1 Theil, 1894.

Bib. Gk. Biblical Greek.

Holtzn. Holtzmann.

Alf. Alford.

Hom. Homer.

Hdt. Herodotus.

Xen. Xenophon.

Vulg. Vulgate.

Weiss Der Philipperbrief ausgesetzt und die Geschichte seiner Auslegung kritisch dargestellt. 1859. A most thorough piece of work. It leaves no point untouched, and treats every point with ample learning, conscientious pains taking, independence, and positiveness. It is valuable in studying the history of the exegesis.

31 British Museum: 11th century. Both epistles entire.

37 Library of Town Council of Leicester: 15th century. Both epistles entire. See Miller’s Scrivener, vol. i. 202.

47 Bodleian Library: 11th century. Both epistles entire.

80 Vatican: 11th century. Philippians entire; Philemon mutilated.

Cop. Coptic, Memphitic, or Bohairic.

= Equivalent to.

Arm. Armenian.

Syr. Peshitto and Harclean versions.

v. Sod. von Soden.

Ign. Ignatius.

Dw. Dwight.

R.V. Revised Version of 1881.

Soph. Sophocles.

Luth. Luther.

Chr. Chrysostom.

Æth. Ethiopic.

Sap. Wisdom of Solomon.

67 Vienna: 11th century. Both epistles entire.

Pesh. Peshitto.

Wetst. Wetstein.

Ov. Ovid.

Q. Curt. Quintus Curtius.

Thdrt. Theodoret.

Œc. Œcumenius.

van Oos. van Oosterzee.

Aristoph. Aristophanes.

Suid. Suidas: Lexicon.

Hesych. Hesychius: Lexicon.

Pind. Pindar.

Dem. Demosthenes.

Hippol. Hippolytus.

Tert. Tertullian.

Suet. Suetonius.

Bibliographical Information
Driver, S.A., Plummer, A.A., Briggs, C.A. "Commentary on Philemon 1". International Critical Commentary NT. 1896-1924.