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Bible Commentaries

Bengel's Gnomon of the New Testament

Philemon 1

Verse 1

Philemon 1:1 . Παῦλος , Paul ) A familiar and exceedingly courteous ( ἁστεῖος , urbane ) epistle, concerning a private affair, is inserted among the books of the New Testament, intended to afford a specimen of the highest wisdom, as to the manner in which Christians should manage civil (social) affairs on more exalted principles. Frankius says: The single epistle to Philemon very far surpasses all the wisdom of the world . Præf. N. T. Gr., p. 26, 27. δέσμιος , a prisoner ) and therefore one to whom why should Philemon refuse his request? Philemon 1:9 . Τιμόθεος , Timothy ) This epistle ( Phm 1:22 ) was written before the second Epistle to Timothy.

Verse 2

Philemon 1:2 . Ἀπφίᾳ , to Apphia ) the wife of Philemon, who had something to do with the business of Onesimus. οἶκόν σου , thy house ) viz. Philemon’s.

Verse 5

Philemon 1:5 . Ἀκούων , hearing ) Paul had gained over Philemon, Philemon 1:19 , and here he praises his consistent character. From Onesimus himself he might hear of his love and faith. ἀγάπην πίστιν πρὸς Ἰησοῦν καὶ εἰς ἁγίους , love faith to Jesus and unto saints ) So Ephesians 1:15 : but in this passage there is a Chiasmus in regard to Philemon. The first is connected with the fourth, the second with the third; but love is put in the first place, because it is to a specimen of love that he is exhorting Philemon, to whom the order of faith and love had been long known. Paul gives thanks to God for this blessed state of Philemon.

Verse 6

Philemon 1:6 . Ὃπως , that ) This depends on thou hast , Philemon 1:5 . ἡ κοινωνία τῆς πίστεώς σου , the communion [ the communication ] of thy faith ) i.e. thy faith, which thou hast in common with us and exercisest. ἐνεργὴς γένηται , may become effectual ) Paul speaks at first indefinitely. ἐν ἐπιγνώσει παντὸς ἀγαθοῦ , in [ by ] the acknowledging of every good thing ) Every good thing is all the riches which JESUS procured for us by His poverty, when he lived as a poor man upon the earth. He briefly intimates to his friend what he lays down more expressly in 2 Corinthians 8:9 , where there is also, ye know . JESUS ought in turn to enjoy (in His own people ) those benefits which He has conferred upon us. An elegant circle, ἀγαθὸν , good or benefit , occurs presently afterwards, Philemon 1:14 . εἰς , into ) Construed with may become . The good shown to us ought to redound unto Christ.

Verse 7

Philemon 1:7 . Χαρὰν καὶ παράκλησιν , joy and consolation ) These words are usually put together [a customary Syntheton]: 2 Corinthians 7:4 , and I rejoice , says he, for thanksgiving , 1 Corinthians 16:17 , note. [Paul, in respect of God, returns thanks , when he might have said, I rejoice: but when he writes to men, instead of, I return thanks , he says, I rejoice .] τῶν ἁγίων , of the saints ) The house of Philemon was open to them, Philemon 1:2 .

Verse 8

Philemon 1:8 . Διὸ , wherefore ) I exhort depends on this particle. ἐπιτάσσειν , to command ) Implying great authority, of which the foundation is the obligation of Philemon, Philemon 1:19 , requiring obedience , Philemon 1:21 .

Verse 9

Philemon 1:9 . Ἀγάπην , love ) Mine to thee, thine to Onesimus. Philemon’s love to Paul was previously mentioned. Paul asks lovingly one who loves him. μᾶλλον , rather ) He does not say, if you refuse you will incur my indignation and that of Peter , according to the style of the Roman court, a style which is by no means apostolical. παρακαλῶ , I beseech ).

There are three divisions of the epistle:

I. THE INSCRIPTION, Philemon 1:1-3 .

II. Having mentioned the flourishing condition of Philemon in spiritual things, Philemon 1:4 , etc., HE BEGS him to receive Onesimus, a runaway slave, Philemon 1:12-17 . And desires him to provide a lodging for himself, Philemon 1:22 .

III. CONCLUSION, Philemon 1:23-25 .

τοιοῦτος , such ) He lays down three arguments why he would rather affectionately exhort and ask him, than issue a command: his own (Paul’s) natural disposition, long ago well known to Philemon, his old age, and his imprisonment. Old age renders men mild: comp. Luke 5:39 : but even before old age, Paul was still Paul; he formerly depended on the kindness of others, and now, in no respect happier abroad, he still depends upon it. The graceful courtesy in this epistle is mixed with gravity.

Verse 10

Philemon 1:10 . Παρακαλῶ , I beseech ) This word is repeated with great force, as if after a parenthesis. περὶ τοῦ ἐμοῦ τέκνου , concerning my son ) Besides other things, he puts first a favourable description of the person, having suspended the sense till he mentions the hated (offensive) name of Onesimus . And the whole epistle savours of the recent joy for Onesimus, who had been gained as a convert, and from whom it seems he concealed the circumstance that he was writing so kindly about him. ἐγέννησα , I have begotten ) He was the son of Paul’s old age. Ὀνήσιμον , Onesimus ) He alludes pleasantly to this name in the following verse.

Verse 11

Philemon 1:11 . Ἄχρηστον , unprofitable ) A Litotes [see Append.] for he was guilty of injury. In like manner there is a mild expression in the use of the word, was separated [ departed ], Philemon 1:15 ; likewise Philemon 1:18 , but if he oweth . σοὶ καὶ ἐμοὶ , to thee and me ) He courteously puts Philemon before himself. He treats of himself, Philemon 1:13-14 ; of him, Philemon 1:15-16 . Chiasmus [see Append.] εὔχρηστον , truly profitable ) The allusion is to the name of Onesimus; so ὀναίμην , Philemon 1:20 . Not even does a servant do his duty without godliness. With godliness any man is profitable. ἀνέπεμψα , I have sent back ) Onesimus even before he had attained true profitableness, had however thought well of Paul, and fled to him on the occasion of his own crime.

Verse 12

Philemon 1:12 . Τὰ ἐμὰ σπλάγχνα , my bowels ) An example στοργῆς , of spiritual affection , Philemon 1:17 . προσλαβοῦ , receive ) A mild word, occurring again in the same Philemon 1:17 .

Verse 13

Philemon 1:13 . Ὃν , whom ) He shows that Onesimus was now worthy to be trusted. ὑπὲρ σοῦ , for thee ) on thy account [in thy stead].

Verse 14

Philemon 1:14 . Ὡς , as it were ) A mitigating particle; for although Philemon had not been compelled, yet his willingness would not have so much appeared [had Paul kept Onesimus without formally asking Philemon’s leave]. ἀνάγκην , necessity ) for Philemon could not have resisted.

Verse 15

Philemon 1:15 . Τάχα , perhaps ) The apostle speaks thus after the manner of men, as 1 Corinthians 1:16 . Because the judgments of God are concealed; see Hieron. on this passage. ἐχωρίσθη , departed ) [was separated]. A mild expression. αἰώνιον , for ever ) in this life, Exodus 21:6 , and in heaven. A very elegant amphibology, quite true in both cases. The whole time of the absence of Onesimus was but a short hour compared with that lengthened duration. ἀπέχῃς ) thou shouldst have him for thyself .

Verse 16

Philemon 1:16 . Οὐκέτι ὡς δοῦλον , no longer as a servant ) He had been a servant. ὑπὲρ δοῦλου , above a servant ) This is equivalent to an epithet. But is connected with a brother: above a servant from whom thou art about to derive greater benefit than from a servant. Ὑπέρδουλος is a compound word according to Apollonius, 50:4, de Syntaxi, 100:3; but what it means, or whether it has any relation to the matter before us, I do not know. ἀδελφὸν , brother ) He does not add ὡς , as [which he had used before servant ]. He evidently recommends him for a (true) brother. ἀγαπητὸν , beloved ) Love is borne to a brother and a friend, not to a servant. μάλιστα ἐμοὶ ) especially to me , before all others, who are however not excluded. σοὶ ) to thee , even before me: to me and thee are construed with a brother beloved . In the flesh he is ὑπὲρ δοῦλον , above a servant , a freedman (comp. ὑπὲρ , Phm 1:21 ); in the Lord, a brother.

Verse 17

Philemon 1:17 . Ἔχεις ) thou hast , without a figure [but Engl. Vers., If thou count ]; for receive comes in after it. κοινωνὸν , a partner ) that what is thine may be mine, and mine thine.

Verse 18

Philemon 1:18 . Εἰ δέ τε , but if anything ) A gentle expression. Onesimus had confessed to Paul what he had done. ἢ ὀφείλει , or owes ) A milder synonym is put after the verb wronged . ἐλλόγει ) Hesychius, ἐλλόγει , i.e. καταλόγησαι . Consider me the debtor.

Verse 19

Philemon 1:19 . Ἐγὼ Παῦλος , I Paul ) It was his handwriting. ἐγὼ ἀποτίσω , I will repay ) as a parent is wont to pay the debt of his son. The prisoner writes in good earnest, and with confidence that he would not want the power [of fulfilling his engagement]. But yet he promises conditionally, viz. if Philemon would exact it, Philemon 1:21 . σεαυτὸν , thyself ) It cannot be told how great is the obligation which is owed to those who have won souls. External property is due for spiritual benefits, but not by political obligation. προσοφείλεις , thou even owest ) This refers to owes , Philemon 1:18 . It is not only fitting that the pardon of Onesimus be granted to me, but thou even owest me thyself.

Verse 20

Philemon 1:20 . Ἐγὼ , I ) Thou shouldst have had profit from Onesimus, I should now have it from thee. ὀναίμην , let me profit ) An allusion to the name of Onesimus. ἀνάπαυσον , refresh ) by receiving Onesimus.

Verse 21

Philemon 1:21 . Ποιήσεις , thou wilt do ) towards Onesimus.

Verse 22

Philemon 1:22 . Ξενίαν , a lodging ) where others may come to visit me. See the power of hope. Paul, a prisoner, makes this arrangement (appointment) at so great a distance.

Verse 23

Philemon 1:23 . Συναιχμάλωτος , my fellow-prisoner ) On this very account Epaphras is placed before the others.

Verse 24

Philemon 1:24 . Λουκᾶς , Luke ) He, who was most closely connected with Paul, is named after the others. There is a note in two Greek copies, in the possession of Mill and Kuster, intimating, that the blessed Onesimus died a martyr at Rome, having suffered the punishment of breaking the legs. [1]

[1] Bengel, J. A. (1860). Vol. 4 : Gnomon of the New Testament (M. E. Bengel & J. C. F. Steudel, Ed.) (J. Bryce, Trans.) (327 331). Edinburgh: T&T Clark.

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Bibliographical Information
Bengel, Johann Albrecht. "Commentary on Philemon 1". Bengel's Gnomon of the New Testament. 1897.