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In die Skriflig

versão On-line ISSN 2305-0853
versão impressa ISSN 1018-6441


ROBERTS, J.H.. Does Philemon still have meaning for Christians today?. In Skriflig (Online) [online]. 2011, vol.45, n.2-3, pp.481-502. ISSN 2305-0853.

The article purports to show that the main thrust of Philemon lies with orthopraxis, in casu the mutual fellowship of believers in the church, underscored by mutual love and respect, hospitality and missionary enterprise. The letter to Philemon is a very human document, dealing with the very human question of how a Christian should treat his runaway slave who has recently converted to Christianity. Owner and slave have become brothers in Christ. Paul, therefore, makes a request that Philemon should show the same hospitality to Onesimus, who is being sent back to his master, that he would show to Paul himself should he come to visit. The request is made in the body of the letter which is formally framed as an ancient petition, showing the typical features of the form. As to the contextual meaning of the text in a modern church situation, the challenge of this letter (but also that of every book of the Bible), is to stop trying to solve ethical questions by bickering over the interpretation of proof texts and rather concentrate on the message of the book as a whole. This should result in completely new answers to old and seemingly insoluble questions.

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