The Book of Philemon

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In order to comprehend and gleam the theological insights of Philemon, or any Biblical scripture, it is imperative that, at least, a basic understanding of the historical and cultural principles be present in the mind of the reader. Without a comprehension of these truths, a false understanding or misrepresentation of the text may occur. This is not to say that nothing can be obtained from the scripture in and of itself. However, many deeper details may remain hidden without further exploration. As is stated in 2 Timothy 2:15, “Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” Virtually all scholars accept the Apostle Paul as the author of Philemon. Paul, who was formally called Saul prior to his work as an Apostle, was born in the city of Tarsus, the Capital of ancient Cilicia. Tarsus was declared a free city by Rome, thus making Paul a Roman citizen. He was Jewish by blood from the tribe of Benjamin. Paul studied under the teaching and influence of the rabbi Gamaliel and became a Pharisee. As a Pharisee, Paul possessed a rigid adherence to the letter of the law and strongly opposed and fought against Christianity. Paul was converted to Christianity by Jesus on a persecution journey to Damascus in AD 33. After his conversion, Paul became a missionary to the Gentile world. He is believed to have written at least thirteen books of the New Testament before his death in AD 67-68. Philemon is a personal letter from the Apostle Paul written approximately AD 61 while Paul was under house arrest in Rome. It was here in prison where he met Onesimus, a runaway slave from Colossae. Apparently, he had stolen money from his master, Philemon, and fled to R... ... middle of paper ... ...o confront the social acceptance of the institution of slavery, or even threaten the order of society. What this does suggest is that Paul wanted to convey the theological principle of unity to the Church by imploring them to perceive all believers as equals in spite of social classifications. When the wide variety of job descriptions, economical standings, education, and geographical placement of Christians today is considered, it is advantageous to heed to Paul’s example of appreciating individual believers as fellow workers in Christ. An awareness of the historical-cultural background of Paul’s letter to Philemon will aid in interpretation of the text. The information gleamed should allow for a greater contextual appreciation. With this knowledge in hand, the reader can grasp a deeper understanding of the theological teachings of the book of Philemon.

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