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Bible Commentaries

Robertson's Word Pictures in the New Testament
Philemon 1



Verse 1

A prisoner of Christ Jesus (δεσμιος Χριστου Ιησουdesmios Christou Iēsou). As Philemon 1:9 and in Ephesians 3:1; Ephesians 4:1. Old adjective from δεσμοςdesmos (bond, δεωdeō to bind). Apparently used here on purpose rather than αποστολοςapostolos as more effective with Philemon and a more touching occasion of pride as Paul writes with his manacled right hand.

Timothy (ΤιμοτεοςTimotheos). With Paul in Ephesus (Acts 19:22) and probably known to Philemon. Associated with Paul also in I and II Thess., II Cor., Philipp., Colossians.

To Philemon (ΠιλημονιPhilēmoni). A resident of Colossae and a convert of Paul‘s (Philemon 1:19), perhaps coming to Ephesus while Paul was there when his ministry had so much influence over the province of Asia (Acts 19:9., 26; 1 Corinthians 16:19). The name Philemon occurs in the legend of Baucis and Philemon (Ovid‘s Metamorphoses), but with no connection with the brother here. He was active in the church in Colossae (“our Corinthians-worker,” συνεργωι ημωνsunergōi hēmōn) and was beloved (αγαπητωιagapētōi) by Paul.

Verse 2

To Apphia our sister (Αππιαι τηι αδελπηιApphiāi tēi adelphēi). Dative case in address. A common name in Phrygian inscriptions and apparently the wife of Philemon. “Sister” is in the Christian sense.

To Archippus (ΑρχιππωιArchippōi). Dative case in address. It is uncertain whether he is the son of Philemon or not. Apparently he is prominent in the church in Colossae, possibly even pastor, probably not in Laodicea as some understand Colossians 4:17 to imply.

Fellow-soldier (συνστρατιωτηιsunstratiōtēi). Old word, only here and Philemon 2:25 in N.T. In metaphorical sense. Perhaps while Paul was in Ephesus.

To the church in thy house (τηι κατ οικον σου εκκλησιαιtēi kat' oikon sou ekklēsiāi). The church that met in the house of Philemon. In large cities there would be several meeting-places. Before the third century there is no certain evidence of special church buildings for worship (White, Exp. Grk. T.). See note on Acts 12:12 for Mary‘s house in Jerusalem, 1 Corinthians 16:19 for the house of Aquila and Prisca in Ephesus, Romans 16:5 for the house of Prisca and Aquila in Rome, Colossians 4:15 for the house of Nympha in Laodicea.

Verse 4

Always (παντοτεpantote). Goes with ευχαριστωeucharistō though so far away in the Greek sentence.

Making mention of thee (μνειαν σου ποιουμενοςmneian sou poioumenos). See note on 1 Thessalonians 1:2 for this phrase.

In (επιepi). Upon the occasion of.

Verse 5

Hearing (ακουωνakouōn). Through Epaphras (Colossians 1:7, Colossians 1:8; Colossians 4:12), possibly from Onesimus also.

And towards all the saints (και εις παντας τους αγιουςkai eis pantas tous hagious). He spoke of “thy love and faith” (σου την αγαπην και την πιστινsou tēn agapēn kai tēn pistin) “towards the Lord Jesus” (προς τον Κυριον Ιησουνpros ton Kurion Iēsoun) and by a sort of momentum (Vincent) he carries both words over to the saints, though it can be explained as chiasm (Galatians 4:4) also.

Verse 6

That (οπωςhopōs). Rather than the more common final particle ιναhina Connected with μνειαν ποιουμενοςmneian poioumenos

The fellowship of thy faith (η κοινωνια της πιστεως σουhē Koinéōnia tēs pisteōs sou). Partnership like Philemon 1:5 in (objective genitive, πιστεωςpisteōs).

Effectual (ενεργηςenergēs). Common adjective, like ενεργοςenergos (at work), in N.T. only here, 1 Corinthians 16:9; Hebrews 4:12. Papyri use ενεργοςenergos of a mill in working order, of ploughed land, etc.

In you (εν υμινen humin). Some MSS. have εν ημινen hēmin (in us), itacism and common.

Verse 7

I had (εσχονeschon). Ingressive second aorist active indicative of εχωechō not ειχομηνeichomēn as the Textus Receptus has it. Paul refers to his joy when he first heard the good news about Philemon‘s activity (Philemon 1:5).

The hearts (τα σπλαγχναta splagchna). See note on Philemon 1:8 for this use of this word for the nobler viscera (heart, lungs, liver) and here for the emotional nature.

Have been refreshed (αναπεπαυταιanapepautai). Perfect passive indicative of old compound verb αναπαυωanapauō as in Matthew 11:28, a relief and refreshment whether temporary (Mark 6:31) or eternal (Revelation 14:13).

Verse 8

Though I have (εχωνechōn). Concessive participle (present active).

That which is befitting (το ανηκονto anēkon). Neuter singular accusative of the articular participle (present active) of ανηκωanēkō to come up to requirements and so to be befitting. For idea in ανηκωanēkō see note on Colossians 3:18; Ephesians 5:4. This idiom is in later writers.

I rather beseech (μαλλον παρακαλωmāllon parakalō). Rather than command (επιτασσωepitassō) which he has a perfect right to do.

Verse 9

Paul the aged (Παυλος πρεσβυτηςPaulos presbutēs). Paul is called νεανιαςneanias (a young man) at the stoning of Stephen (Acts 7:58). He was perhaps a bit under sixty now. Hippocrates calls a man πρεσβυτηςpresbutēs from 49 to 56 and γερωνgerōn after that. The papyri use πρεσβυτηςpresbutēs for old man as in Luke 1:18 of Zacharias and in Titus 2:2. But in Ephesians 6:20 Paul says πρεσβευω εν αλυσειpresbeuō en halusei (I am an ambassador in a chain). Hence Lightfoot holds that here πρεσβυτηςpresbutēs = πρεσβευτηςpresbeutēs because of common confusion by the scribes between υu and ευeu In the lxx four times the two words are used interchangeably. There is some confusion also in the papyri and the inscriptions. Undoubtedly ambassador (πρεσβευτηςpresbeutēs) is possible here as in Ephesians 6:20 (πρεσβευωpresbeuō) though there is no real reason why Paul should not term himself properly “Paul the aged.”

Verse 10

For my child (περι του εμου τεκνουperi tou emou teknou). Tender and affectionate reference to Onesimus as his spiritual child.

Whom I have begotten in my bonds (ον εγεννησα εν τοις δεσμοιςhon egennēsa en tois desmois). First aorist active indicative of γενναωgennaō to beget. See note on 1 Corinthians 4:15 for this figurative sense. Paul is evidently proud of winning Onesimus to Christ though a prisoner himself.

Verse 11

Onesimus (ΟνησιμονOnēsimon). A common name among slaves and made like Chresimus, Chrestus. The word is from ονησιςonēsis (profit) and that from ονινημιoninēmi to profit, to help.

Who was aforetime unprofitable to thee (τον ποτε σοι αχρηστονton pote soi achrēston). “The once to thee useless one.” Play (pun) on the meaning of the name Onesimus (ονησιμοςonēsimos useful) as once “useless” (αχρηστοςachrēstos verbal adjective, αa privative and χραομαιchraomai to use).

But now is profitable to thee and to me (νυνι δε σοι και εμοι ευχρηστονnuni de soi kai emoi euchrēston). “But now to thee and to me useful.” Still further play on the name Onesimus by ευχρηστονeuchrēston (verbal adjective from ευeu and χραομαιchraomai to use). Ethical dative here (σοι εμοιsoiemoi).

Verse 12

I have sent back (ανεπεμπσαanepempsa). Epistolary aorist. As it will look when Onesimus arrives.

In his own person (αυτονauton). “Himself,” intensive pronoun with ονhon (whom).

My very heart (τα εμα σπλαγχναta ema splagchna). As in Philemon 1:7. He almost loves Onesimus as his own son.

Verse 13

I would fain have kept (εβουλομην κατεχεινeboulomēn katechein). Imperfect middle and present infinitive, “I was wishing to hold back.” Again from the standpoint of the arrival of Onesimus.

In thy behalf (υπερ σουhuper sou). So “in thy stead,” “in place of thee.”

He might minister (διακονηιdiakonēi). Present active subjunctive (retained after εβουλομηνeboulomēn) with ιναhina purpose continued, “that he might keep on ministering.”

Verse 14

Without thy mind (χωρις της σης γνωμηςchōris tēs sēs gnōmēs). Judgment, purpose (1 Corinthians 1:10; 1 Corinthians 7:25). Ablative case with χωριςchōris (apart from).

I would do nothing (ουδεν ητελησα ποιησαιouden ēthelēsa poiēsai). First aorist active indicative of τελωthelō I decided, I wished, decision reached (cf. εβουλομηνeboulomēn in Philemon 1:13.

Thy goodness (το αγατον σουto agathon sou). Neuter articular adjective (thy good deed).

As of necessity (ως κατα αναγκηνhōs kata anagkēn). “As if according to compulsion.” See note on 2 Corinthians 9:7.

But of free will (αλλα κατα εκουσιονalla kata hekousion). According to what is voluntary (Numbers 15:3). Perhaps τροπονtropon (way, manner) is to be understood with the adjective εκουσιοςhekousios (old word, here alone in N.T.), from εκωνhekōn (1 Corinthians 9:17; Romans 8:20).

Verse 15

Perhaps (ταχαtacha). Old adverb, in N.T. only here and Romans 5:7.

That thou shouldst have him (ινα αυτον απεχηιςhina auton apechēis). Final clause with ιναhina and present active subjunctive of απεχωapechō to have back, “that thou might keep on having him back.”

For ever (αιωνιονaiōnion). “Eternal,” here and hereafter. Surely a noble thing for Paul to say and a word that would touch the best in Philemon.

Verse 16

No longer as a servant (ουκετι ως δουλονouketi hōs doulon). “No longer as a slave.” So it has to be here. So it should be always. Paul sends Onesimus, the converted runaway slave, back to his legal master, but shows that he expects Philemon the Christian to treat Onesimus as a brother in Christ, not as a slave.

But more than a servant (αλλ υπερ δουλονall' huper doulon). “But beyond a slave.”

A brother beloved (αδελπον αγαπητονadelphon agapēton). A brother in Christ.

How much rather to thee (ποσωι δε μαλλον σοιposōi de māllon soi). “By how much more to thee,” because of Philemon‘s legal ownership of this now Christian slave. “In the flesh Philemon had the brother for a slave; in the Lord he had the slave for a brother” (Meyer).

Verse 17

If then thou countest me a partner (ει ουν με εχεις κοινωνονei oun me echeis Koinéōnon). As I assume that you do, condition of the first class.

Receive him as myself (προσλαβου αυτον ως εμεproslabou auton hōs eme). “Take him to thyself (indirect second aorist middle of προσλαμβανωproslambanō as in Acts 18:26) as myself.” Surpassing delicacy and consummate tact. These words sound the death-knell of human slavery wherever the spirit of Christ is allowed to have its way. It has been a long and hard fight to break the shackles of human bondage even in Christian countries and there are still millions of slaves in pagan and Mohammedan lands. Paul wrote these words with wisdom and courage and sincerity.

Verse 18

But if he hath wronged thee at all (ει δε τι ηδικησε σεei de ti ēdikēse se). Condition of the first class, assumed to be true. Onesimus did wrong (ηδικησεēdikēse first aorist active indicative of αδικηοadikēo to wrong, without justice). He had probably robbed Philemon before he ran away.

Or oweth (η οπειλειē opheilei). Delicate way of putting the stealing.

Put that to mine account (τουτο εμοι ελλογαtouto emoi ellogā). Present active imperative of ελλογαωellogaō In the Koiné{[28928]}š verbs in εω̇eō often appear in αω̇aō like ελεεω ελεαωeleeōελλογεωeleaō So with ελλογαωellogeō as ellogaō late verb in inscriptions and papyri (Deissmann, Light, etc., p. 84), though in N.T. only here and Romans 5:13. It means to set to one‘s account.

Verse 19

Write (εγραπσαegrapsa). Epistolary aorist.

With mine hand (τηι εμηι χειριtēi emēi cheiri). Instrumental case and a note of hand that can be collected. See note on 2 Thessalonians 3:17; 1 Corinthians 16:21; Colossians 4:18.

I will repay it (εγω αποτισωegō apotisō). Future active indicative of αποτινωapotinō (αποτιωapotiō) to pay back, to pay off. The more usual word was αποδωσωapodōsō This is Paul‘s promissory note. Deissmann (Light, etc., p. 331) notes how many of the papyri are concerning debts.

That I say not (ινα μη λεγωhina mē legō). Neat idiom as in 2 Corinthians 9:4, delicately reminding Philemon that Paul had led him also to Christ.

Thou owest to me even thine own self besides (και σεαυτον μοι προσοπειλειςkai seauton moi prosopheileis). Old verb, only here in N.T., Paul using the verb οπειλωopheilō of Philemon 1:18 with προςpros added. He used every available argument to bring Philemon to see the higher ground of brotherhood in Christ about Onesimus.

Verse 20

Let me have joy of thee (εγω σου οναιμηνegō sou onaimēn). Second aorist middle optative of ονινημιoninēmi old verb, only here in N.T. Optative the regular construction for a wish about the future. “May I get profit from thee in the Lord.”

Refresh my heart in Christ (αναπαυσον μου τα σπλαγχνα εν Χριστωιanapauson mou ta splagchna en Christōi). See Philemon 1:7 for αναπαυσονanapauson (first aorist active imperative of αναπαυωanapauō) and σπλαγχναsplagchna (3 times in this letter, Philemon 1:7, Philemon 1:12; Philemon 1:20).

Verse 21

Obedience (υπακοηιhupakoēi). “Compliance” seems less harsh to us in the light of Philemon 1:9.

I write (εγραπσαegrapsa). Epistolary aorist again.

Even beyond what I say (και υπερ α λεγωkai huper ha legō). That can only mean that Paul “knows” (ειδωςeidōs second perfect active participle of οιδαoida) that Philemon will set Onesimus free. He prefers that it come as Philemon‘s idea and wish rather than as a command from Paul. Paul has been criticized for not denouncing slavery in plain terms. But, when one considers the actual conditions in the Roman empire, he is a wise man who can suggest a better plan than the one pursued here for the ultimate overthrow of slavery.

Verse 22

But withal (αμα δεhama de). Along with your kindly reception of Onesimus. On αμαhama see note on Acts 24:26 and note on Acts 27:40.

A lodging (χενιανxenian). Old word from χενοςxenos stranger. In N.T. only here and Acts 28:23.

I shall be granted unto you (χαριστησομαι υμινcharisthēsomai humin). First future passive of χαριζομαιcharizomai Used either as a favour as here and Acts 3:14 or for destruction (Acts 25:11).

Verse 23

Epaphras (ΕπαπραςEpaphrās). The Colossian preacher who apparently started the work in Colossae, Hierapolis, and Laodicea, and who had come to Rome to enlist Paul‘s help in the fight against incipient Gnosticism in the Lycus Valley.

My fellow-prisoner (ο συναιχμαλωτος μουho sunaichmalōtos mou). See note on Romans 16:7 for this word, also in Colossians 4:10. Used metaphorically like the verb aichmalōtizō in 2 Corinthians 10:5, though some hold that Epaphras became a prisoner with Paul in Rome.

Verse 24

The other “Corinthians-workers” (συνεργοιsunergoi) here (Mark, Aristarchus, Demas, Luke) are all named in detail in Colossians 4:10-14 with kindly words.

Verse 25

Grace (η χαριςhē charis). This great word occurred in the greeting (Philemon 1:3) as it does in the farewell.



Copyright Statement
The Robertson's Word Pictures of the New Testament. Copyright Broadman Press 1932,33, Renewal 1960. All rights reserved. Used by permission of Broadman Press (Southern Baptist Sunday School Board)

Bibliography Information
Robertson, A.T. "Commentary on Philemon 1:4". "Robertson's Word Pictures of the New Testament". Broadman Press 1932,33. Renewal 1960.

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Monday, October 21st, 2019
the Week of Proper 24 / Ordinary 29
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