Paul's Epistle to Philemon

Canonical epistle addressed from his prison in Rome, 58-60. The only letter we have from him to a private citizen, as Philemon was at Colossae. This man's slave Onesimus had fled to Rome where he met Paul and was converted. Paul urges him to return and writes to his master to receive him graciously. The letter throws light on the early Christian attitude towards slavery. Onesimus as a fugitive was liable to seizure and punishment; as a dependent, he needed support from his master. Paul pleads that he be received back mercifully and treated no longer as a servant, but as a brother. He playfully offers to assume whatever Onesimus may owe, but reminds Philemon: "thou owest me thy own self also." He closes: "trusting in thy obedience, ...knowing that thou wilt also do more than I say."

New Catholic Dictionary

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