February 9, 2022
Thank you! – 65
In less than two weeks, I have finished reading and commenting on Paul’s Letter to Philemon. I have now finished the New Testament four canonical gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, plus the Acts of the Apostles, and Paul’s letters to the Romans, as well 1 Corinthians and 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, 1 Thessalonians and 2 Thessalonians, 1 and 2 Timothy, Titus, and now Philemon. Every time I finish commenting on a book of the Bible, I send a thank you blog. I usually post five blogs a day covering a verse of the biblical books. So far, I have posted over 14,700 blogs about the individual paragraphs of all the 46 books of the Old Testament, plus the individual verses of the first 18 books of the New Testament. It has taken me a little over eight years to get this done, since I first began in 2013.
255 people follow this blog every day. Many people have visited this site. There have been over 81,000 hits on this blog since its inception. I just want to thank all of you. Word Press sent me a compilation that showed that about 52,200 people from 174 other countries have visited this web site since its inception.
I realize that over 14,500 people have left comments in 2021, but I have not responded to them. Some of you might want to moderate my comments, which is fine with me. If you want to contact me directly, my email is firstname.lastname@example.org.
I want to thank all of you who have sent emails to me this past week, especially
- New pingback
- yohni din
- Yuval Bloomberg
- Pure Glory
- Tetiana Aleksina
- Ravenful Post
Thank you to everyone.
Peace – love – joy
Paul mentioned that he wanted to visit Philemon. He hoped that Philemon would prepare a guest room for him. Paul sent greetings from five of his co-workers, Epaphras, Mark, Aristarchus, Demas, and Luke. He then concluded this letter with a blessing of grace for all of them. Do you send greetings to people?
Paul offered to pay for any debt created by Onesimus’ departure from Philemon. He even mentioned that he was writing this with his own handwriting so that there would be doubt about any reimbursement. He wanted Philemon to refresh his heart in Christ. Paul expressed his confidence that Philemon would do even more than he had requested. Perhaps Onesimus might return to work alongside Paul. Have you ever picked up the debt of another person?
Paul commanded Philemon to do what was right in these circumstances. Paul explained that he was an old man, as he appealed to Philemon’s love and generosity. Paul went on to explain how he cared for Onesimus. Onesimus may have been useless, but now he was useful since his conversion to Christianity. Paul was going to send Onesimus back to Philemon. Nevertheless, Paul indicated that he would be glad to keep Onesimus with him, but he realized that it was right to send him back. He did not want to do anything without the consent of Philemon. However, he wanted Philemon to welcome Onesimus as he would welcome Paul himself, as a Christian brother. Do you accept everyone as a Christian brother?
Paul continued with a prayer of thanksgiving and intercession. He gave thanks to God for Philemon’s love and faith. He prayed that Philemon’s faith would be effective. He described the joy and comfort he had received from knowing how Philemon had shown love towards the Christians in Colossae. Is your faith effective?
Paul followed a typical pattern as in all his other letters. However, he called himself a prisoner of Jesus Christ and not an apostle. He also mentioned his associate Timothy, as he had done elsewhere. Paul addressed this letter to Philemon, Apphia, Archippus and the church that met in Philemon’s house. He concluded his opening salutation with a prayerful wish for grace and peace. Do you wish grace and peace to people?
Early Christians regarded slaves who converted to Christianity as spiritually free men, brothers in Christ, receiving the same portion of Christ’s kingdom. However, this equal regard apparently had no legal power, since as Paul pointed out slaves should continue to obey their masters. Although Jesus denounced sin as a kind of moral slavery, he did not say a word against slavery as a social institution. Certainly, the writers of the New Testament did not oppose slavery either. Many of the early Christians were slaves, but Paul advised them that each person should remain in the condition when they were called. Some estimate that the slave population in the first century Roman Empire constituted approximately one third of the total population. In the fourth century, Christian councils condemned those who urged slaves to liberate themselves. Saint Augustine described slavery as being against God’s intention, since it resulted from sin. By the end of the fourth century, the manumission in a church, a form of emancipation ritual, was added to the Roman law. Slaves could be freed by a Church ritual performed by a Christian bishop or priest, since bishops had the power to free slaves. There even was a church practice of buying slaves and then releasing them. The Byzantine empire called for the emancipation of slaves by baptism. During the 13th century, St. Thomas Aquinas accepted slavery because of original sin. The Roman Catholic church often condemned slaves who fled from their masters, and refused them communion. In the late 15th and early 16th centuries, several popes explicitly endorsed the slavery of non-Christians for the Portuguese and Spaniard in their explorations, especially Muslims, Africans, and other indigenous pagan people. In 1537, Pope Paul III revoked the previous authority to enslave indigenous people of the Americas. Several popes condemned both slavery and the slave trade. Since the Middle Ages, the Christian understanding of slavery has seen significant internal conflict and endured dramatic change. The Anglican Church condoned slavery from 1710-1833 in the Codrington Plantations in Barbados. Many American Christian clergy in the eighteenth and nineteenth century owned slaves. However, in the nineteenth century, there was a very strong Christian abolitionist movement to free all slaves. Today, nearly all Christians are united in their condemnation of modern slavery as wrong and contrary to God’s will. Do you think that slavery is wrong?
Historically, slavery was not just an Old Testament phenomenon, since slavery was practiced in every ancient Middle Eastern society, such as in Egypt, Babylonia, Greece, and Rome. Slavery was an integral part of ancient commerce, taxation, and temple religion. However, it was not normally racial, but slaves came about as the result of a war, captivity, or the birth from a slave woman. However, the Israelites believed that Canaan was to be in perpetual servitude. This actually led to racial slavery, since many Jewish people identified Ham’s descendants as black Africans. Thus, devils were always depicted as black. Later pseudo-scientific theories would be built around African body types. Noah’s curse only applied to Canaan. Some forms of servitude were condoned by the Torah. However, there were rules on how to treat a slave. The slaves were to be treated like extended family. On top of that, Israelite slaves were automatically set free or manumitted after six years of work. Do you think that certain people should be slaves?
Paul used slavery versus freedom metaphoric language in his writings. During the first century, slavery was commonly found in large households. Although it was a main theme of this letter to Philemon, Paul did not label slavery as negative or positive. Rather than deal with the morality of slavery directly, he undermined the foundation of slavery, an institution that dehumanized other human beings. Paul believed that all human institutions were about to fade away. He expected that Jesus would return soon. Thus, Paul viewed his present world with its institutions and customs as something that was swiftly passing away. Do you believe that the world will end soon?
Some have suggested that Onesimus was not really a runaway slave but just someone who worked for Philemon. No one wanted to get into the question of slavery since it was as established institution in Roman society. A slave was considered subhuman, almost like an animal. Paul and other Christians did not take a stand on the institution of slavery. However, they emphasized the importance of each individual human being no matter what their status in life was, because they would all share an equal eternal life. Some have maintained that this letter became the foundation for the Christian justification of slavery. What do you think of slavery?