A Hermeneutical Analysis of Philemon

Topics: New Testament, Christianity, Jesus Pages: 6 (2657 words) Published: May 12, 2015
A Hermeneutical Analysis of Philemon
By Jonathan A. Watson

I have read various books on Theological Hermeneutics, and one, whose title has slipped my mind, had once suggested the Hermeneutics isn’t only about picking up the Bible, analyzing it, and putting it back down, but also making an application through it. So, in this paper I have followed such a suggestion. First I will mention the background of the book being hermeneutically analyzed. This answers many of the questions needed to contextualize the book into its original socio-cultural setting for better understanding. Secondly, I will do an exegesis, or commentary, on the verses of the book to explain the interpretation that I had gotten out of it. This is done in light of the previous information, as well as extra source commentaries and Koine Greek lexicons, and the Christian value of letting “Scripture interpret Scripture”. Lastly, the application part follows; homiletics, or, preparing a sermon that would usually be preached to a church based on the exegesis and application of the book’s meaning into today’s culture and society.

The letter is normally accepted to have been written by Paul. Few have challenged this in comparison to other challenges on epistle authorship. Recipient:
The letter was written, mainly, to Philemon.
60 A.D. is what is thought to be the most accurate date of when the book was written. Place:
Paul most likely wrote the letter from Rome, while he was in prison, although some suggest it might have been elsewhere. Literary Genre:
This book of the Bible features characteristics of a letter, thus can be classified as an epistle. Summary:
Paul greets Philemon and requests Philemon to receive his bondservant, Onesimus, no longer as a bondservant but as a brother. If Onesimus has any debts owed making him a bondservant, Paul states he is willing to pay them himself in place of Onesimus. Paul later requests for a guestroom and sends greetings from others before making his final thoughtful remarks. Outline:

a. Mention of authors
b. Mention of recipients
c. Christian greeting to recipients

a. Paul’s thankfulness for Philemon
b. Paul’s prayer concerning Philemon
c. Paul’s joy from Philemon

a. An appeal concerning Onesimus
b. Paul’s action concerning Onesimus
c. Mentioned possible reason for the issue
d. Plead for positive reception of Onesimus
e. Request to pay for possible debts of Onesimus if needed

a. Statement of confidence concerning Philemon’s obedience b. Side request for a guest room
c. Addition greetings from others sending their regards
d. Closing Christian greeting
Interpretation (Commentaries per verse):
1 Paul opens the letter with whom it is from; himself and Timothy; Timothy not his literal brother, but his spiritual brother. He also mentions who the letter is to; Philemon, a friend of his and “fellow worker”, that being one who is in fellow service to the Church. Paul speaks of himself as a prisoner of Jesus, probably because he most likely was being held in one of Rome’s prisons when he wrote this letter. The reason for his imprisonment was due to anti-Christian persecution that went about in Rome. Another interpretation could be that Paul claims himself as a prisoner in a figurative sense, like how he has done it elsewhere , such as in the opening of Titus; he refers to himself as a “slave of Christ”. This, however, might be unlikely as the terms “slave” (from “doulos” in Koine Greek) and prisoner (from desmios in Koine Greek) differ in meaning. 2 Apphia, a “sister” (figurative; sister in Christ), and Archippus, a soldier (probably figurative; soldier in terms of spiritual warfare) is also mentioned as those who receive the letter to Philemon, along with the church that met at their house (as churches of that time weren’t organized into buildings like today, as...
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