philemon Summary and Overview
philemon in Easton's Bible Dictionary
an inhabitant of Colosse, and apparently a person of some note among the citizens (Col. 4:9; Philemon 1:2). He was brought to a knowledge of the gospel through the instrumentality of Paul (19), and held a prominent place in the Christian community for his piety and beneficence (4-7). He is called in the epistle a "fellow-labourer," and therefore probably held some office in the church at Colosse; at all events, the title denotes that he took part in the work of spreading a knowledge of the gospel.
philemon in Smith's Bible Dictionary
the name of the Christian to whom Paul addressed his epistle in behalf of Onesimus. He was a native probably of Colosse, or at all events lived in that city when the apostle wrote to him: first, because Onesimus was a Colossian, #Col 4:9| and secondly because Archippus was a Colossian, #Col 4:17| whom Paul associates with Philemon at the beginning of his letter. #Phm 1:1,2| It is related that Philemon became bishop of Colosse, and died as a martyr under Nero. It is evident from the letter to him that Philemon was a man of property and influence, since he is represented as the head of a numerous household, and as exercising an expensive liberality toward his friends and the poor in general. He was indebted to the apostle Paul as the medium of his personal participation in the gospel. It is not certain under what circumstances they became known to each other. It is evident that on becoming a disciple he gave no common proof of the sincerity and power of his faith. His character as shadowed forth in the epistle to him, is one of the noblest which the sacred record makes known to us.
philemon in Schaff's Bible Dictionary
PHILE'MON , a native of Laodicaea and a resident of Colossae, was a man of means and influence, the head of a large household and of a Christian congregation in his own house. He had been converted to Christianity through Paul, probably during the apostle's stay at Ephesus, a.d. 54-57, and appears, from the letter addressed to him by Paul, to have been a large-hearted and sympathetic character. The Epistle of Paul to Philemon was written at the same period as those to the Ephesians and Colossians - that is, toward the close of the apostle's first captivity in Rome, a.d. 62 or 63. Onesimus, a slave of Philemon's, had committed some crime - theft, it would seem - and fled from the house from fear of punishment. Arrived at Rome, he met with Paul, and was converted to Christianity; and when he was ready to return penitently to his former master, the apostle furnished him with a letter bespeaking for him a good reception as a brother and freeman in Christ. About the genuineness of the letter there can be no doubt, and, though short and occasioned by a private affair, it is a "gem of Christian tenderness," and an invaluable testimony to the character of the apostle as a perfect Christian gentleman.
philemon in Fausset's Bible Dictionary
A Christian householder who hospitably entertained the saints (Philemon 1:7) and befriended them with loving sympathy at Colossae, for Onesimus and Archippus were Colossians (Colossians 4:9; Colossians 4:17; Philemon 1:1-2; Philemon 1:10); to whom Paul wrote the epistle. He calls Philemon "brother," and says "thou owest unto me even thine own self," namely, as being the instrument of thy conversion (Philemon 1:19); probably during Paul's long stay at the neighboring Ephesus (Acts 19:10), when "all they which dwelt in Asia heard the word of the Lord Jesus." Colossians 2:1 shows Paul had not in person visited Colosse, though he must have passed near it in going through Phrygia on his second missionary tour (Acts 16:6). The character which Paul gives Philemon for "love and faith toward the Lord Jesus and all saints," so that "the bowels of the saints were refreshed by him," and Paul had "confidence in his obedience that he would do even more than Paul said" is not mere politic flattery to induce him to receive his slave Cnesimus kindly, but is the sincere tribute of the apostle's esteem. Such Christian masters, treating their slaves as "above servants" (Philemon 1:16), "brothers beloved both in the flesh and in the Lord," mitigated the evil of slavery and paved the way for its abolition. In the absence of a regular church building, Philemon opened his house for Christian worship and communion (Philemon 1:2; compare Romans 16:5). He "feared God with all his house," like Abraham (Genesis 18:19), Joshua (Joshua 24:15), and Cornelius (Acts 10:2,). The attractive power of such a religion proved its divine origination, and speedily, in spite of persecutions, won the world.