Exegetical Study Notes on the Greek TextIntroduction
Philemon is a personal letter sent by Paul to Philemon, presumably a resident of Colossae and member of the Colossian congregation, concerning his runaway slave named Onesimus. While Paul was in prison (either in Rome, Ephesus or Caesarea) he met Onesimus and led him to the Lord. Although Paul regards Onesimus as useful to him he feels it proper to return him to his master, so he sends him back to Philemon with this letter. The letter encourages Philemon to forgive Onesimus and welcome his slave back into his home as a brother in the Lord. Under Roman law, a runaway slave could be severely punished, even executed by his master.
Most scholars agree that this letter is written by Paul. Colossians, on the other hand, is not so widely accepted. None-the-less, Colossians is likely to be Pauline and it is from Colossians that we learn of Onesimus, along with Tychicus, being sent to the Colossian congregation, presumably with the Colossian letter, 4:7-9.
The most interesting aspect of this letter is Paul's treatment of slavery. There is no direct attack upon this social evil, although obviously the gospel is serving to promote a transformation in the relationship between a believing master and his slave. It is this transformation which will inevitably transform secular society, although heaven on earth must await the day of glory.
The structure of Philemon
1. Introduction, greeting and thanksgiving, v1-7
Paul gives thanks to God for Philemon's love and faith, v1-7
2. A call to Christian love and acceptance, v8-25
i] Paul's appeal to Philemon, v8-21
ii] Closing words, v22-25
English Bible Commentaries on Philemon
Barth, ECC, 2002.
Campbell, HGNT, 2013.
Carson, Tyndale, 1960, Replaced.
Fitzmyer, Anchor, 2000.
Hendrickson, Banner of Truth, 1964.
Houlden, Paul's letters from prison, Penguin.
Knox, Philemon among the Letters of Paul, 2nd. ed. Collins, 1960.
Lightfoot, Macmillan. 1879.
Moo, Pillar, 2008.
Wilson, ICC, 2005.
Wright, Tyndale, 2nd. ed. 1994.