Epistle to Philemon

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The Epistle to Philemon is a letter, generally accepted to be written by the Apostle Paul to a man named Philemon. Paul writes the letter on behalf of Philemon's slave Onesimus is in trouble with Philemon, in hopes that Philemon will forgive his slave and treat him better than a slave in the future. Assuming the letter is authentic, it would have been written no later than 67 CE.


  • Paul asks to pay whatever debt the slave Onesimus may have caused to Philemon, which is quite generous, but then he reminds Philemon that he owes his life to Paul, which removes all generosity (1:18-19).
  • Several times Paul explains that he is in chains as a result of his faith (1:9-13), indicating incarceration to a strong degree, yet his captors are allowing him to write and send letters, and he even requests Philemon prepare him a guest room, indicating he expects to be released soon (1:22).
  • Despite this letter being generally accepted as being Paul's work, it seems to me to be noticeably different.
    • It doesn't cover the varied topics of his genuine works.
    • It doesn't feature the zealous piety of his other works.
    • It's far shorter than his other works, which makes it harder to authenticate.
  • While it's nice that Paul is suggesting a slave be treated like a brother, there is no indication from his other writings that he was against slavery as an institution, and several of his disputed works even demand slaves be obedient (Ephesians 6:5-9).