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Bible Commentaries

Meyer's Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament


- Philemon

by Heinrich Meyer






















I HAVE at length the pleasure of issuing the last volume of the English translation of Dr. Meyer’s own part in the great work which bears his name, and of thereby completing an undertaking on which I have expended no small amount of time and labour at intervals for the last eight years. I am aware that I have taxed considerably the patience of the subscribers and of the publishers, but I felt it due to them, as well as to Dr. Meyer who had entrusted me with the charge of seeing his work faithfully reproduced, that the work should be done with care rather than with haste.

The present volume has been translated with skill and judgment by Mr. Evans from the fourth edition of the German the last form, in which this portion of the Commentary had the advantage of Meyer’s own revision. A fifth edition has since appeared (in 1878), under the charge of Professor Woldemar Schmidt of Leipzig, in which he has treated the book in a way similar to that adopted by Dr. Weiss with the Commentary on Mark and Luke, although not altering it to an equal extent. It is difficult to see why he should have followed such a course, for he himself states that he “has never been able to approve the custom of allowing other hands to remodel the works of the departed.” I have already expressed, in the prefatory note to the volume on Mark and Luke, the grounds on which I take exception to the plan so pursued, and I content myself with here referring to them as equally applicable in principle to the less important changes made by Dr. Schmidt. I find a striking corroboration of my remark as to the work manipulated by Dr. Weiss being “to a considerable extent a new book by another author, and from a standpoint in various respects different,” in the judgment pronounced by Dr. Schürer, in a recent review ( Theol. Literaturzeitung , 9th October 1880), on the same editor’s treatment of the Commentary on the Gospel of John, when, after mentioning various features of “complete independence” and “thorough remodelling,” he states that the result of the whole is “an essentially new work.” Dr. Schürer indicates approval of the course pursued; but it seems to me alike unfair to the memory of Meyer, and uncalled for under the circumstances. It is quite open to an editor to write a book of his own on the subject, or to append as much as he deems necessary to his author’s text by way of addition and correction; but it is not open to him thus to recast an epoch-making work of exegesis, and to retain for its altered shape the sanction of the author’s name. At any rate, I have thought it right, so far as the English reader is concerned, to present, according to my promise, the work of Meyer, without addition or subtraction, in its latest and presumably best form as it left his hands.

I may add, that whatever care may have been bestowed on the revision of the Commentary by Dr. Schmidt has not apparently extended to the correction of the press, for many errors, which have been discovered and corrected by Mr. Evans and myself in preparing the translation, still disfigure the new edition of the German. It is, of course, extremely difficult to avoid such errors in a work of the kind; and I have no doubt that, notwithstanding the care of the printers, to whose excellent arrangements I am much indebted, the reader may light on not a few mistakes, as concerns references, accents, and the like; but, as Dr. Meyer was not a particularly good corrector of the press, I trust that the English edition may be found in that respect fully more accurate than the original.

In the General Preface prefixed to the first volume issued (ROMANS), I stated the grounds that had induced me to undertake the superintendence of the work, and the revision of the translation, in the interests of technical accuracy and of uniformity of rendering throughout. And in order that the subscribers may be assured that the promise therein implied has been fulfilled to the best of my ability, I think it right, in conclusion, to state for myself (and I believe that the same may be said for my friends Drs. Crombie and Stewart, who lent me their aid at a time when other work was pressing heavily upon me) that I have carefully read and compared every sentence of the translation in the ten volumes which I edited collating it for the most part in MS., as well as subsequently on its passage through the press; that I have not hesitated freely to make such changes on the work of the translators as seemed to me needful to meet the requirements which I had in view; and that, under these circumstances, I alone am formally and finally responsible for the shape in which the Commentary appears. All concerned in the enterprise have much reason to be gratified by the favour with which it has been received. I have, indeed, seen some exception taken to the style, and to the frequent use of technical terms such as telic, protasis , and the like; but our object was to translate the book into intelligible English, not to recast its literary form (which, as I have formerly explained, has suffered from the mode in which the author inserted his successive alterations and additions); and it is, from its very nature, destined mainly for ministers and students, who ought to be familiar with the import of those convenient technical terms.

At the close of the article by Dr. Schürer, of which I have spoken before, he asks leave to repeat an urgent wish which he had some years ago expressed, that “there might be appended to the introduction of each volume of the German Commentary a list of the exegetical literature.” He does not seem to be aware that in the English edition this want has been supplied with considerable fulness. I shall be glad to place the lists all of which were prepared by me, except that prefixed to the Gospel of John, for which I am indebted to Dr. Crombie at the service (a few errors apart) of any future editors of the original.

In order to complete the present series, a supplementary volume accompanies this one, containing Dr. Gloag’s translation of Lünemann’s Commentary on the Epistles to the Thessalonians . And I learn from Messrs. Clark that they have received encouragement to issue also the remaining volumes, for which Dr. Meyer called in the aid of accomplished scholars. These volumes are of much value in themselves, and as serving to supplement the work of Meyer; but as they proceed from different authors, and my main object was to secure uniformity in the rendering of the several portions that issued from Meyer’s own hand, I have not thought it necessary to undertake any similar revision or editorial responsibility in their case; and I can only express my best wishes for the success of the further enterprise in the hands of the experienced translators.



October 1880.


S INCE the year 1859, when the third edition of this Commentary was issued, there has appeared hardly any contribution of scientific importance to the exposition of the Epistle to the Ephesians. The Commentarius Criticus of the late Dr. Reiche contains, doubtless, many good exegetical remarks; but they are subservient to his main aim which is critical, and elucidate merely detached passages or expressions; while the Lectures of Bleek are very far from having the importance which has been justly recognised as belonging to the previous series of Lectures by him on the Synoptic Gospels.

But while thus, apart from various able discussions of particular passages, I was less directly stimulated by new literary apparatus to subject my work to revision, the labour itself was not thereby rendered the lighter. The dies diem docet could not but, in the case of a task so momentous, have its title fully conceded; and it will be found that I have sought to place much on a better and more complete footing, so as to do fuller justice to the great object of ascertaining thoroughly, clearly, and dispassionately the meaning of the Apostle’s discourse. By this I do not understand the discovery of those fanciful illusions [ Phantasmagorieen ] that people call profound. For the latter there is assuredly little need in the case of Paul, who, with the true penetration characteristic of his views and ways of unfolding them, knows how to wield his gifts of discourse so that his meaning shall be clear and palpable and apt; and least of all in the case of this very Epistle, where the Christological teaching rises of itself to the utmost height and embraces heaven and earth. This distinctive character cannot be injured by the circumstance that the apostolic writing, as a letter to the Ephesians , such as, according to the critically-attested address, it is and will remain, continues to be, at all events, an enigmatical phenomenon, and its historical conceivableness in so far an open question. Its elevation above the changes and controversies of Christological formulae and modes of conception cannot be thereby affected, and its prominent position in the New Testament as at once a testimony and a test of the truth cannot, amid any such change and strife, be prejudicially endangered.

HANNOVER, 10 th Nov . 1866.




[FOR commentaries and collections of notes embracing the whole New Testament, see the list prefixed to the Commentary on the Gospel of Matthew; for those which treat of the Pauline, or Apostolic, Epistles generally, see that which is prefixed to the Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans. The following list includes only those expositions which relate to the Epistle to the Ephesians or to the Epistle to Philemon, or in which one of these Epistles holds the first place on the title-page. Works mainly of a popular and practical character have, with a few exceptions, been excluded, as, however valuable they may be in themselves, they have but little affinity with the strictly exegetical character of the present work. Monographs on chapters or sections are generally noticed by Meyer in loc. The editions quoted are usually the earliest; al. appended denotes that the book has been more or less frequently reissued; † marks the date of the author’s death; c = circa , an approximation to it.]

ATTERSOLL (William), Minister at Infield, Sussex: A commentary upon the Epistle to Philemon. Lond. 1612. Second edition. 2°, Lond. 1633.

BATTUS (Bartholomaeus), [1] 1637, Prof. Theol. at Greifswald: Commentarius in Epistolam ad Ephesios.… 4°, Gryphisw. 1619.

[1] marks the data of the author’s death

BAUMGARTEN (Sigmund Jakob), [2] 1757, Prof. Theol. at Halle. See GALATIANS.

[2] marks the data of the author’s death

BAUMGARTEN-CRUSIUS (Ludwig Friedrich Otto), [3] 1843, Prof. Theol. at Jena: Commentar über den Brief Pauli an die Epheser.… Herausgegeben von Ernst Julius Kimmel.… 8°, Jena, 1847.

[3] marks the data of the author’s death

BAYNE (Paul), [4] 1617, Minister at Cambridge: An entire commentary upon the whole Epistle … to the Ephesians.… 2°, Lond. 1643.

[4] marks the data of the author’s death

BLEEK (Friedrich), [5] 1859, Prof. Theol. at Berlin: Vorlesungen über die Briefe an die Kolosser, den Philemon und die Epheser.… 8°, Berl. 1865.

[5] marks the data of the author’s death


BOYD (Robert) of Trochrig, [6] 1627, Principal at Glasgow and Edinburgh: In Epistolam ad Ephesios praelectiones supra cc.… 2°, Lond. 1652, al [7]

[6] marks the data of the author’s death

[7] l. appended denotes that the book has been more or less frequently reissued

BRAUNE (Karl), Superintendent in Altenburg: Die Briefe S. Pauli an die Epheser, Kolosser, Philipper. Theologisch-homiletisch bearbeitet. [Lange’s Bibelwerk.] 8°, Bielefeld, 1867.

Translated from the German, with additions [Ephesians], by M. B. Riddle, D.D. 8°, New York, 1870.

BUCER (Martin), [8] 1551, Prof. Theol. at Cambridge: Praelectiones in Epistolam ad Ephesios habitae Cantabrigiae … in lucem editae diligentia Im. Tremellii. 2° Basil. 1562.

[8] marks the data of the author’s death

CHANDLER (Samuel), D.D., [9] 1766, Presbyterian Minister in London. [See GALATIANS.]

[9] marks the data of the author’s death

CRAMER (Johann Andreas), [10] 1788, Prof. Theol. at Kiel: Neue Uebersetzung des Briefs an die Epheser, nebst einer Auslegung desselben. 4°, Hamb. 1782.

[10] marks the data of the author’s death

CROCIUS (Johann), [11] 1659, Prof. Theol. at Marburg: Commentarius in Epistolam ad Ephesios. 8°, Cassellis, 1642.

[11] marks the data of the author’s death

DANAEUS [DANEAU] (Lambert), [12] 1596, Pastor at Orthes: Commentarius in Epistolam ad Philemonem. 8°, Genev. 1579.

[12] marks the data of the author’s death

DAVIES (John Llewelyn), Rector of Christ Church, Marylebone. See PHILIPPIANS and COLOSSIANS.

DEMME (Jakob Friedrich Ignaz): Erklärung des Briefes an den Philemon 1:8 °, Breslau, 1844.

DINANT (Petrus), [13] 1724, Minister at Rotterdam: De Brief aan die van Efeze verklaart en toegepast. 4°, Rotterd. 1711, al [14]

[13] marks the data of the author’s death

[14] l. appended denotes that the book has been more or less frequently reissued

DYKE (Daniel), [15] c . 1614, Minister at St. Albans: A fruitful exposition upon Philemon 1:4 °, Lond. 1618.

[15] marks the data of the author’s death

EADIE (John), D.D., [16] 1876, Prof. Bibl. Lit. to the United Presbyterian Church: A commentary on the Greek text of the Epistle to the Ephesians. 8°, Lond. and Glasg. 1854.

[16] marks the data of the author’s death

ELLICOTT (Charles John), D.D., Bishop of Gloucester and Bristol: A critical and grammatical commentary on St. Paul’s Epistle to the Ephesians. 8°, Lond. 1855, al [17]

[17] l. appended denotes that the book has been more or less frequently reissued

ESMARCH (Heinrich Peter Christian), [18] 1831, Rector at Schleswig: Brief an die Epheser übersetzt. 8°, Altona, 1785.

[18] marks the data of the author’s death

EWALD (Georg Heinrich August), [19] 1876, Prof. Or. Lang. at Göttingen: Sieben Sendschreiben des Neuen Bundes uebersetzt und erklärt. [Sendschreiben an die Heidenchristen (die Epheser).] 8°, Götting. 1870.

[19] marks the data of the author’s death

FERGUSON (James), [20] c . 1670, Minister of Kilwinning. See GALATIANS.

[20] marks the data of the author’s death

FLATT (Johann Friedrich von), [21] 1821, Prof. Theol. at Tübingen. See GALATIANS.

[21] marks the data of the author’s death

GENTILIS (Scipione), [22] 1616, Prof. of Law at Altdorf: Commentarius in Epistolam ad Philemonem. 4°, Norimb. 1618. [Crit. Sac. vii. 2.]

[22] marks the data of the author’s death

GUDE (Gottlob Friedrich), [23] 1756, Pastor at Lauban: Gründliche Erläuterung des lehrreichen Briefes an die Epheser. 8°, Lauban, 1735.

[23] marks the data of the author’s death

HAGENBACH (Karl Rudolph), [24] 1874, Prof. Theol. at Basel: Pauli Epistolam ad Philemonem interpretatus est C. R. Hagenbach. 4°, Basil. 1829.

[24] marks the data of the author’s death

HARLESS (Gottlieb Christoph Adolf von), [25] 1879, President of the Consistory at Münich: Commentar über den Brief Pauli an die Epheser. 8°, Erlang. 1834, al [26]

[25] marks the data of the author’s death

[26] l. appended denotes that the book has been more or less frequently reissued

HEINRICHS (Johann Heinrich), Superintendent at Burgdorf. See KOPPE (Johann Benjamin).

HODGE (Charles), D.D., [27] 1878, Prof. Theol. at Princeton: A commentary on the Epistle to the Ephesians. 8°, New York, 1856, al [28]

[27] marks the data of the author’s death

[28] l. appended denotes that the book has been more or less frequently reissued

HOFMANN (Johann Christian Konrad von), [29] 1877, Prof. Theol. at Erlangen: Die heilige Schrift Neuen Testaments zusammenhängend untersucht. Theil iv. 1. Der Brief Pauli an die Epheser. iv. 2. Die Briefe an die Kolosser und an Philemon 1:8 °, Nördlingen, 1870.

[29] marks the data of the author’s death

HOLTZMANN (Heinrich Johann), Prof. Theol. in Strassburg: Kritik der Epheser- und Kolosser-Briefe.… 8°, Leip. 1872.

HOLZHAUSEN (Friedrich August): Der Brief an die Epheser übersetzt und erklärt. 8°, Hannov. 1833.

HUMMEL (Johann Heinrich), [30] 1674, Dean at Berne: Explanatio Epistolae ad Philemonem. 2°, Tiguri, 1670.

[30] marks the data of the author’s death

JONES (William), D.D.: A commentary on the Epistles to Philemon and Hebrews.… 2°, Lond. 1635.

KÄHLER (C. N.): Auslegung der Epistel Pauli an die Epheser. 8°, Kiel, 1854.

KOCH (August): Commentar über den Brief Pauli an den Philemon 1:8 °, Zürich, 1846.

KOPPE (Johann Benjamin), [31] 1791, Superintendent at Gotha: Novum Testamentum Graece perpetua annotatione illustratum. Voll. i. iv. 8°, Götting. 1778 83. [Vol. vi. Epp. ad Galatas, Ephesios, Thessalonicenses. Editio tertia emendata et aucta. Curavit H. Chr. Tychsen. Vol. vii. 1. Epp. ad Timotheum, Titum, et Philemonem. Continuavit J. H. Heinrichs, 1798. Editio secunda. 8°, Götting. 1828.]

[31] marks the data of the author’s death

KRAUSE (Friedrich August Wilhelm), [32] 1827, Private Tutor at Vienna: Der Brief an die Epheser übersetzt und mit Anmerkungen begleitet. 8°, Frankf. a. M. 1789.

[32] marks the data of the author’s death

KÜHNE (Franz Robert): Die Epistel Pauli an Philemon in Bibelstunden … ausgelegt. 2 Bändchen. 8°, Leipz. 1856.

LAGUS (Daniel), [33] 1678, Prof. Math. at Greifswald: Commentatio quadripartita super Epistolam ad Ephesios. 4°, Gryphisw. 1664.

[33] marks the data of the author’s death

LIGHTFOOT (Joseph Barber), D.D., Bishop of Durham. See PHILIPPIANS and Colossians.

LOCKE (John), [34] 1704. See GALATIANS.

[34] marks the data of the author’s death

LUTHER (Martin), [35] 1546, Reformer: Die Epistel an die Epheser ausgelegt, aus seinen Schriften herausgegeben von Chr. G. Eberle. 8°, Stuttg. 1878.

[35] marks the data of the author’s death

MAJOR [MAYER] (Georg), [36] 1574, Prof. Theol. at Wittenberg: Enarratio Epistolae Paulli scriptae ad Ephesios. 8°, Vitemb. 1552.

[36] marks the data of the author’s death

MATTHIES (Conrad Stephan), Prof. Theol. at Greifswald: Erklärung des Briefes Pauli an die Epheser.… 8°, Greifsw. 1834.

MEIER (Friedrich Karl), [37] 1841, Prof. Theol. at Giessen: Commentar über den Brief Pauli an die Epheser. 8°, Berl. 1834.

[37] marks the data of the author’s death

MORUS (Samuel Friedrich Nathanael), [38] 1792, Prof. Theol. at Leipzig. See GALATIANS.

[38] marks the data of the author’s death

MUSCULUS [MEUSSLIN] (Wolfgang), [39] 1573, Prof. Theol. at Berne. See GALATIANS.

[39] marks the data of the author’s death

OOSTERZEE (Johannes Jakob van), Prof. Theol. at Utrecht: Die Pastoralbriefe und der Brief an Philemon. Theologisch-homiletisch bearbeitet. [Lange’s Bibelwerk, XI.] 8°, Bielefeld, 1861.

Translated from the German, with additions, by Horatio B. Hackett, D.D. 8°, New York, 1869.

PASSAVANT (Theophilus): Versuch einer praktischen Auslegung des Briefes Pauli an die Epheser. 8°, Basel, 1836.

POPP (G. C.): Uebersetzung und Erklärung der drei ersten Kapitel des Briefs an die Epheser, nebst einer kurzen Einleitung.… 4°, Rostock, 1799.

ROELL (Herman Alexander), [40] 1718, Prof. Theol. at Utrecht: Commentarius in principium Epistolae ad Ephesios. 4°, Traj. ad Rhen. 1715.

[40] marks the data of the author’s death

Et commentarii … pars altera, cum brevi Epistolae ad Colossenses exegesi. Ed. Dion. And. Roell. 4°, Traj. ad Rhen. 1731.

ROLLOCK (Robert), [41] 1598, Principal of the University of Edinburgh: In Epistolam Pauli ad Ephesios commentarius. 4°, Edin. 1590, al [42]

[41] marks the data of the author’s death

[42] l. appended denotes that the book has been more or less frequently reissued

Et in Epistolam ad Philemonem.… 8°, Genev. 1602.

ROTHE (Moritz): Pauli ad Philemonem epistolae interpretatio historico-exegetica. 8°, Bremae, 1844.

ROYAARDS (Albertus): … Paullus’ Brief aan de Ephesers schriftmatig verklaart. 3 deelen. 4°, Amsterd. 1735 38.

RÜCKERT (Leopold Immanuel), [43] c . 1845, Prof. Theol. at Jena: Der Brief Pauli an die Epheser erläutert und vertheidigt. 8°, Leip. 1834.

[43] marks the data of the author’s death

SCHENKEL (Daniel), Prof. Theol. at Heidelberg: Die Briefe an die Epheser, Philipper, Colosser. Theologisch-homiletisch bearbeitet. [Lange’s Bibelwerk, IX.] 8°, Bielefeld, 1862.

SCHMID (Leberecht Christian Gottlieb), [44] 1836, Pastor at Glösa: Pauli ad Philemonem Epistola, Graece et Latine illustrata.… 8°, Lips. 1786.

[44] marks the data of the author’s death

SCHMID (Sebastian), [45] 1696, Prof. Theol. at Strassburg: Paraphrasis super Epistolam ad Ephesios. 4°, Strassb. 1684, al [46]

[45] marks the data of the author’s death

[46] l. appended denotes that the book has been more or less frequently reissued

SCHNAPPINGER (Bonifacius Martin Wunibald), [47] c . 1825. Prof, at Heidelberg: Brief an die Epheser erklärt und erläutert von Bonifaz vom heil. Wunibald. 4°, Heidelb. 1793.

[47] marks the data of the author’s death

SCHÜTZE (Theodor Johann Abraham), [48] 1830, Director of the Gymnasium at Gera: Commentarius in Epistolam Pauli ad Ephesios. 8°, Leip. 1778.

[48] marks the data of the author’s death

SPENER (Philip Jakob), [49] 1705, Consistorial-Rath at Berlin: Erklärung der Episteln an die Epheser und Colosser.… 4°, Halae, 1706, al [50]

[49] marks the data of the author’s death

[50] l. appended denotes that the book has been more or less frequently reissued

STEVART (Peter), [51] 1621, Prof. Theol. at Ingolstadt: Commentarius in Epistolam ad Ephesios. 4°, Ingolstad. 1593.

[51] marks the data of the author’s death

STIER (Rudolph Ewald), [52] 1862, Superintendent in Eisleben: Die Gemeinde in Christo. Auslegung des Briefes an die Epheser. 8°, Berl. 1848 49.

[52] marks the data of the author’s death

TAYLOR (Thomas), [53] 1632, Minister in London: Commentarius in Epistolam ad Philemonem. 2°, Lond. 1659.

[53] marks the data of the author’s death

TIL (Salomon von), [54] 1713, Prof. Theol. at Leyden. See ROMANS.

[54] marks the data of the author’s death

TURNER (Samuel Hulbeart), D.D., [55] 1861, Prof. of Bibl. Interpretation at New York: The Epistle to the Ephesians in Greek and English, with an analysis and exegetical commentary. 8°, New York, 1856.

[55] marks the data of the author’s death

TYCHSEN (Thomas Christian), [56] 1834. See KOPPE (Johann Benjamin).

[56] marks the data of the author’s death

VATABLUS [VASTEBLED] (Francois), [57] 1547, Prof. Heb. at Paris: Annotationes in Novum Testamentum. [Critici Sacri.]

[57] marks the data of the author’s death

VINCENT (Jean): Explicatio familiaris in Epistolam D. Pauli ad Philemonem. 2°, Paris, 1647.

WELLER (Hieronymus), [58] 1572, Superintendent at Freiberg: Commentarius in Epistolam Pauli ad Ephesios. 8°, Noriberg, 1559.

[58] marks the data of the author’s death


ZACHARIAE (Gotthilf Traugott), [59] 1777, Prof. Theol. at Kiel. See GALATIANS.

[59] marks the data of the author’s death

ZANCHIUS (Hieronymus), [60] 1590, Prof. Theol. at Heidelberg: Commentarius in Epistolam ad Ephesios. 2°, Neostadii, 1594.

[60] marks the data of the author’s death



P HILEMON, who had been converted to Christianity by Paul himself perhaps during his sojourn at Ephesus (Philemon 1:19 ), was a member of the Christian community, not at Laodicea (Wieseler, Laurent), but like Archippus, Philemon 1:2 (see on Colossians 4:17 ) at Colossae (Colossians 4:9 ), wherein, by his zealous Christian activity, and more especially by the holding of an ἐκκλησία in his house (Philemon 1:1-7 ), he had gained deserved esteem, being described by Chrysostom as τὶς τῶν θαυμαστῶν καὶ γενναίων . Nothing is known as to his more definite vocation, although tradition has made him bishop in Colossae ( Constit. apost. vii. 46. 2) or in Gaza (Pseudo-Dorotheus), as it has likewise placed him among the martyrs (under Nero). It is possible, however, that he was one of the presbyters of the church ( συνεργῷ , Philemon 1:1 ). Of the house where he dwelt Theodoret relates ( ὑπόθεσις ): μέχρι τοῦ παρόντος μεμένηκε .

His slave ONESIMUS [61] had, on account of a misdemeanour (Philemon 1:11 ; Philemon 1:18 ), fled from him through fear of punishment (Philemon 1:15 ), and had come, certainly of set purpose [62] and not by mere accident, to the apostle, then a captive at Caesarea, who converted him to Christ (Philemon 1:10 ), and conceived a most cordial affection for him (Philemon 1:12-13 ; Philemon 1:16 f.). When, therefore, Paul was despatching Tychicus to Colossae (Colossians 4:7 ), he made use of this opportunity to send Onesimus whom he at the same time commended to the church there (Colossians 4:9 ) back to his master, and to procure for him at the hands of the latter forgiveness, welcome, and love by means of this letter an aim, which is pursued in it with so much Christian love [63] and wisdom, with so great psychological tact, and, without sacrifice of the apostolic authority, in a manner so thoughtfully condescending, adroit, delicate, and irresistible, that the brief letter which is in the finest sense a λόγος ἅλατι ἠρτυμένος (Colossians 4:6 ), as a most precious and characteristic relic of the great apostle belongs, even as regards its Attic refinement and gracefulness, to the epistolary masterpieces of antiquity. [64]

[61] Tradition in one form of it makes Mm subsequently bishop of Beroea in Macedonia ( Constit. apost. vii. 46. 2), and in another identifies him with the Bishop Onesimus in Ephesus (Ignat. ad Ephesians 1:6 ), and makes him die as a martyr in Rome.

[62] In this way the circumstances of the case find their simplest and most natural explanation. Comp. Bengel on ver. Philemon 1:11 : Onesimus etiam antequam ad frugem veram pervenisset, tamen bene de Paulo existimarat, et ipsius flagitii sui occasione ad illum confugit. And this serves to dispose of the curious question of Hofmann (p. 217): “What should induce Onesimus to flee to Caesarea in particular?” We answer: He fled to the place , where Paul was. And the reason of this may be the more readily understood, if he had been possibly already in Philemon’s service, when the latter was converted by the apostle.

[63] Comp. Luther’s preface: “This Epistle presents a masterly and charming example of Christian love,” etc. Ewald: “Nowhere can the sensibility and warmth of tender friendship blend more beautifully with the higher feeling of a superior mind, nay, of a teacher and apostle, than in this brief and yet so eminently significant letter.”

[64] The letters of Pliny ( Epp . 9, 21, and 24) have often been compared with ours; but how greatly it excels them in point of thoughtfulness, delicacy of plan, and depth of affection! “Quid festivius etiam dici poterat vel ab ipso Tullio in hujusmodi argumento?” Erasmus.

The Epistle bears so directly and vividly the stamp of genuineness , that the doubts of Baur ( Paulus , II. p. 88 ff.) would appear a whim hardly meant in earnest, were they not in strict consistency with the assumption that we should not have any letters of the apostle at all from the period of his captivity. Baur, who, we may add, acknowledges the author as profoundly pervaded by Christian consciousness, places the contents of the Epistle upon a parallel with those of the Clementine Homilies, and finds in it the “embryo of a Christian fiction,” by which the idea was to be brought home to men’s minds, that what we lose temporally in the world, we regain eternally in Christianity (according to Philemon 1:15 ). With equal caprice Baur propounds the view, that even should the writing be Pauline, what actually took place is set forth under the point of view of that definite idea , and the bringing of this latter into prominence is its proper aim and import. The genuineness is externally attested and that the more adequately, when we consider that from its brevity and the personal, not directly didactic, nature of its contents there was little occasion for citations by the Canon Muratorianus , Marcion (see Tertullian, c. Marc. v. 42; Epiph. Haer . xlii. 9), Tertullian, Origen, Eusebius, Jerome, etc., though the passages of Ignatius, ad Ephesians 2:0 , ad Magnes. 12, ad Polyca. 6, do not serve to prove a reference to Philemon 1:20 . Nevertheless, Jerome had already to controvert those, who wished to infer from the non-dogmatic character of the contents “aut epistolam non esse Pauli … aut etiam, si Pauli sit, nihil habere, quod aedificare nos possit.”

Place and time are the same as with the Epistles written from the captivity in Caesarea (not, as is usually supposed, at Rome) to the Ephesians and Colossians, and with the lost Epistle to the Laodiceans, which, however, is not to be found in the one now before us; see on Colossians 4:16 . Whether Paul wrote our Epistle before that to the Colossians (Otto), or the converse, remains an undetermined question.