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New Testament Notes

The Epistle to Philemon

The following notes are intended to supplement, not replace, the readings from the Bible and the text book.
Comments or questions should be sent to: Dr. Rollinson.


Philemon was a wealthy man of the city of Colossae, which is about 100 miles due east of Ephesus. The local Christian Church met at the house of Philemon. It seems that Philemon owned a slave called Onesimus, whose name means "Useful", who ran away and probably stole some money also (see vv. 18-19). Somehow Onesimus met Paul when Paul was in prison in Rome, and became a Christian. Paul would have liked to have kept Onesimus with him as a helper, but he knew that the broken relationship with Philemon must be restored first. So Paul sent Onesimus back to Philemon, with this Letter. Probably at the same time, the Letters to the Ephesians and to the Colossians were also carried to the Churches by Onesimus and Tychicus - see Ephesians 6:21 and Colossians 4:7-9

Philemon v.1, 9 - Paul is in prison in Rome
Philemon v.2 - Apphia may have been Philemon's wife, and Archippus may have been their son.
Philemon v.10 - Paul became a spiritual father to Onesimus when he told him about Jesus, and Onesimus became a Christian
Philemon v.11 - Paul makes a pun on Onesimus' name
Philemon v.13 - Paul would have liked to have Onesimus stay with him as his helper
Philemon v.14 - but Paul was not going to keep Onesimus with him without the consent of Philemon
Philemon v.16 - Paul's appeal that Philemon regard Onesimus no longer as a slave, but as a Christian brother.
Philemon v.18 - An indication that Onesimus had either stolen something, or damaged some of Philemon's property
Philemon v.19 - Paul reminds Philemon that he too had become a Christian as a result of Paul's ministry
Philemon v.22 - Paul is hoping to be set free soon

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