I wrote this real quick sorta on the plane yesterday and sorta not…. so… sorry…. That the open theme in Philemon is connected to slavery is nothing new and has been seen in a variety of ways including Paul’s near condemnation of the practice by various interpreters; however, I have come to compare it with Dio Chrysostom’s letter to the Prusites, his letter of friendship as it were, and find that Paul may be saying more than what some have given him credit for or have denied to him. In the recent Two Horizon’s commentary, Marianne Meye Thompson compares
Philemon has been on my mind a lot lately, mainly because in my understanding of it, Paul is saying more than just a few things. First, he is ordering Christians to submit to worldly justice if they have committed worldly crimes. Second, he is injecting himself in a brother’s business by first harboring a slave and then by asking for forgiveness of that slave. Lastly, for now, he is asking Philemon to treat the escaped slave as he would have treated Paul. I thought I might just try my hand at a pure paraphrase, to get what I hear
When Paul wrote his short note to his friend, Philemon, I cannot imagine that he expected it to end up canonized (if he expected any of this writings to be canonized) and cherished by Christians for the past many centuries. Most of the time it has been forgotten because as compared to the larger Pauline corpus, it simply lacks of theology. In practical theology, however, those actions by the Christians community regarding everyday life, it abounds in treasures rediscovered every so often.
In moving to discuss the destruction of social constructions in Philemon, I wanted to share with you my translation of this short letter. Feel free to destroy if necessary: