Who is Philemon?
, 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.