Smith's Bible Dictionary
Philemon, the Epistle of Paul to,
is one of the letters which the apostle wrote during his first captivity at Rome A.D. 63 or early in A.D. 64. Nothing is wanted to confirm the genuineness of the epistle: the external testimony is unimpeachable; nor does the epistle itself offer anything to conflict with this decision. The occasion of the letter was that Onesimus, a slave of Philemon, had run away from him to Rome, either desiring liberty or, as some suppose, having committed theft. (Philippians 1:18 ) Here he was converted under the instrumentality of Paul. The latter; intimately connected with the master and the servant, was naturally anxious to effect a reconciliation between them. He used his influence with Onesimus, ver. 12, to induce him to return to Colosse and place himself again at the disposal of his master. On his departure, Paul put into his hand this letter as evidence that Onesirnus was a true and approved disciple of Christ, and entitled as such to received, not as a servant but above a servant, as a brother in the faith. The Epistle to Philemon has one peculiar feature --its aesthetical character it may be termed --which distinguishes it from all the other epistles. The writer had peculiar difticulties to overcame; but Paul, it is confessed, has shown a degree of self-denial and a fact in dealing with them which in being equal to the occasion could hardly be greater.
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