My Translation of Philemon

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:

(1)  Paul, a prisoner for the sake of Christ Jesus, and Timothy the brother, unto Philemon our dearly beloved and fellow-worker,

(2)  And to our beloved Apphia and Archippus, our fellow-soldier, and to the church in your house:

(3)  Grace to you, and peace, from God, our Father and Lord, Jesus Christ.

(4)  I give thanks to my God always, making remembrance of you in my prayers

(5)  Hearing of your love towards the saints and of your faith which you have in the Lord Jesus.

(6)  I pray that the communion of your faith will work good things when you understand your full capacity for good in the cause of Christ Jesus.

(7)  For we have great joy and comfort from your love, because the hearts of the saints have been refreshed through you, brother.

(8)  For this reason, I have all freedom in the name of Christ to command you to do that which is proper,

(9)  Yet, on account of love, I prefer to appeal to you, being such a one as Paul, the old man, and now also a prisoner for the sake of Jesus Christ.

(10)  I appeal to you concerning my son, Onesimus, whom I have converted, even in this prison,

(11)  Who at one time to you was useless, but now is truly useful to you and to me, whom I am sending back.

(12)  You, therefore, welcome him – he carries my compassion

(13)  I might have kept him here, as you were not here, that he might have ministered to me in the gospel’s chains,

(14)  But I did not want to do this without your consent, that your good deed would instead be voluntary and not forced.

(15)  For it is possible that this was why he separated from you for a time — that you should have him back forever,

(16)  Not as a slave any longer, but someone more than a slave — a brother beloved, especially to me, but so much more to you, both in the flesh and in the Lord!

(17)  If, then, you hold me as a partner, welcome him as you would me.

(18)  If he has wronged you, or if he owes you something, put it on my account;

(19)  I, Paul, am writing it with my own hand. I will repay it and not mention that you owe even yourself to me!

(20)  Brother, let me rejoice with you in the Lord; refresh my heart in the name of the Lord.

(21)  Having been confident of your obedience, I write you, knowing that you will exceed even my request.

(22)  But, at the same time, prepare me a lodging, for I hope that through your prayers, I will be able to come to you.

(23)  Epaphras (my fellow-prisoner for Christ Jesus) greets you.

(24)  As do Mark, Aristarchus, Demes, and Luke, my fellow-workers.

(25)  The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. Amen.

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58 Replies to “My Translation of Philemon”

  1. This little Letter of St. Paul says more about his pastor-shepherd’s heart, than most realize. Would that the Church read it and read more! Thanks Joel, great effort!

    One “old man” myself,
    Fr. Robert

  2. My brother, this Text warms my heart, oh to be more like this “old man”…St. Paul! You will have to print your translation of Philemon up. I sure will. It will become (with the ESV) my text for both personal reading and preaching. I can see it now, the Epistles of St. Paul, translated by Joel L. Watts! Many started off with just Paul’s letters, like JB Phillips, and I believe William Barclay also? Have you ever read their translations? Just NT as I remember. ( I have a personal audio tape by Phillips, on Christ and the Incarnation. And Barclay on the Lord’s Prayer. Classic stuff!)

    Do ya think that both Apphia, was perhaps Philemon’s wife, and Archippus also maybe his son? (See, Col.4:17)
    Fr. R.

  3. “he carries my compassion”

    And so does your translation!

    “Having been confident of your obedience, I write you, knowing that you will exceed even my request.”

    It’s almost as if Paul was confident of your abilities!

    Let me echo what Fr. Robert says: “great effort!”

  4. What I like about Philemon is the impression it gives of Paul twisting Philemon’s arm, like a Jewish mother laying down a layer of guilt to get him to do what he wants. Almost like, “Do this for an old man, will you?”

  5. Geez Paula, I hope you are not going to try and put a feminist twist on Philemon? There is nothing here to twist, St. Paul “the old man” or ‘aged man’ if you will for clarity here, is simply asking in both Christian “brotherhood” and Christian love, but also as a “prisoner” for Christ Jesus. What could be more beautiful?
    Fr. R.

  6. Jeff,
    Just like us, the blog and blogger cannot be neutral. If I jumped too quickly, it is because I have chatted with Paula before. And you better check the culture more closely, it is squarely postmodern, and often feminist. I am just a bit older than you are mate, and my life experience has taught me a few things also. My point about none of us are neutral.
    Fr. R.

  7. J.K. Gayle,

    I hope not? But as I said, none of us is in a netural place. St. Paul certainly was not! I read my Greek NT every day, usually morning. I am not sure we can pull too much out of Paul here? The motive is spiritual, and all good Roman writers used rhetoric. But the letter is certainly a masterpiece of persuasion. I still don’t see a Jewish mother here though. That is a stretch to my mind? I lived in Israel myself for several years. And had some close Hasidic friends.
    Fr. R.

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