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Philemon 1:9-16

Context
1:9 I would rather appeal 1  to you on the basis of love – I, Paul, an old man 2  and even now a prisoner for the sake of Christ Jesus 3 1:10 I am appealing 4  to you concerning my child, whose spiritual father I have become 5  during my imprisonment, 6  that is, Onesimus, 1:11 who was formerly useless to you, but is now useful to you 7  and me. 1:12 I have sent 8  him (who is my very heart) 9  back to you. 1:13 I wanted to keep him so that he could serve me in your place 10  during 11  my imprisonment for the sake of the gospel. 12  1:14 However, 13  without your consent I did not want to do anything, so that your good deed would not be out of compulsion, but from your own willingness. 1:15 For perhaps it was for this reason that he was separated from you for a little while, so that you would have him back eternally, 14  1:16 no longer as a slave, 15  but more than a slave, as a dear brother. He is especially so to me, and even more so to you now, both humanly speaking 16  and in the Lord.

1 tn Or “encourage.”

2 tn Or perhaps “an ambassador” (so RSV, TEV), reading πρεσβευτής for πρεσβύτης (a conjecture proposed by Bentley, cf. BDAG 863 s.v. πρεσβύτης). NRSV reads “old man” and places “ambassador” in a note.

3 tn Grk “a prisoner of Christ Jesus.”

4 tn Or “I am encouraging…”

5 tn Grk “my child whom I have begotten.” The adjective “spiritual” has been supplied before “father” in the translation to clarify for the modern reader that Paul did not literally father a child during his imprisonment. Paul’s point is that he was instrumental in Onesimus’ conversion while in prison.

6 sn During my imprisonment. Apparently Onesimus became a believer under Paul’s shepherding while he [Paul] was a prisoner in Rome.

7 tc ‡ A correlative καί (kai, “both you”) is found in a few witnesses (א*,c F G 33 104 pc), perhaps either to underscore the value of Onesimus or in imitation of the νυνὶ δὲ καί (nuni de kai) in v. 9. The lack of καί is read by most witnesses, including א2 A C D 0278 1739 1881 Ï it. Although a decision is difficult, the shorter reading has a slight edge in both internal and external evidence. NA27 places the καί in brackets, indicating some doubts as to its authenticity.

8 tc There are several variants at this point in the text, most of them involving the addition of προσλαβοῦ (proslabou, “receive, accept”) at various locations in the verse. But all such variants seem to be motivated by the harsh syntax of the verse without this verb. Without the verb, the meaning is that Onesimus is Paul’s “very heart,” though this is an awkward expression especially because of τουτ᾿ ἔστιν (toutestin, “this is, who is”) in the middle cluttering the construction. Nowhere else in the NT is σπλάγχνα (splancna, here translated “heart”) used in apposition to people. It is thus natural that scribes would want to fill out the text here, and they did so apparently with a verb that was ready at hand (borrowed from v. 17). With the verb the sentence is converted into an object-complement construction: “I have sent him back to you; accept him, that is, as my very heart.” But both the fact that some important witnesses (א* A F G 33 pc) lack the verb, and that its location floats in the various constructions that have it, suggest that the original text did not have προσλαβοῦ.

tn Grk “whom I have sent.” The Greek sentence was broken up in the English translation for the sake of clarity. Although the tense of the Greek verb here is past (an aorist tense) the reader should understand that Onesimus may well have been standing in the very presence of Paul as he wrote this letter.

9 tn That is, “who means a great deal to me”; Grk “whom I have sent to you, him, this one is my heart.”

10 tn This is one of the clearest texts in the NT in which ὑπέρ is used for substitution. Cf. ExSyn 387.

11 tn Grk “in my imprisonment.” Paul seems to expect release from his imprisonment after some time (cf. v. 22), but in the meantime the assistance that Onesimus could provide would be valuable to the apostle.

12 tn Grk “in the chains of the gospel.” On the translation “imprisonment for the sake of the gospel,” cf. BDAG 219 s.v. δεσμός 1.a where it says: “Oft. simply in ref. to the locale where bonds or fetters are worn imprisonment, prison (Diod. S. 14, 103, 3; Lucian, Tox. 29; Jos., Ant. 13, 294; 302, Vi. 241; Just., A I, 67, 6 al.) Phil 1:7, 13f, 17; Col 4:18; Phlm 10. μέχρι δεσμῶν 2 Ti 2:9. ἐν τοῖς δ. τοῦ εὐαγγελίου in imprisonment for the gospel Phlm 13; cf. ISm 11:1; Pol 1:1.”

13 tn Though the Greek text does not read the term “however,” it is clearly implied and thus supplied in the English translation to accent the contrastive nature of Paul’s statement.

14 sn So that you would have him back eternally. The notion here is not that Onesimus was to be the slave of Philemon eternally, but that their new relationship as brothers in Christ would transcend the societal structures of this age. The occasion of Onesimus’ flight to Rome would ultimately be a catalyst in the formation of a new and stronger bond between these two men.

15 tn Although the Greek word δοῦλος (doulos) is sometimes translated “servant” here (so KJV), the word “slave” is a much more candid and realistic picture of the relationship between Philemon and Onesimus. In the Greco-Roman world of the 1st century the slave was considered a “living tool” of the master. The slave was “property” in every sense of the word. This understanding heightens the tense scenario that is in view here. It is likely that Onesimus may have even feared for his life upon returning to Colossae. Undoubtedly Paul has asked this runaway slave to return to what could amount to a potentially severe and life-endangering situation.

16 tn Grk “in the flesh.”



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