In Philemon, Seth M. Ehorn takes the uncommon stance that slavery is not the central issue of Philemon; instead, God’s providential work is. According to Ehorn, this is seen in the themes that Paul addresses throughout his letter: reconciliation, forgiveness, love, and faithfulness—attributes that Christ exhibited. Ehorn adopts the view that Paul wrote to his friend, Philemon, on behalf of Onesimus, Philemon’s runaway slave. As a “friend of the master,” Paul reminded Philemon of his Christian character, suggesting that he should continue to act accordingly. By using and interacting with various interpretive approaches (discourse, rhetorical, epistolary, sociological), Ehorn shows how Paul embodied Christ’s actions and how we can do the same.
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“Whereas Onesimus’ prior identity was to be found in the confines of Greco-Roman slavery, Paul has given Onesimus a new identity by ‘fathering him,’ effectively rendering him as ‘[Paul’s] child’ (v 10). For the first time, Onesimus has an identity that transcends the boundaries of his status as a slave.” (Philemon)
“This has produced the notion that faithful Christian living, energized by the God who gives every good thing, unites the Christian community together for the sake of Messiah.” (Philemon 6)
“C. S. Wansink posits that Philemon actually sent Onesimus to Paul to assist him during his incarceration.47” (Philemon)
“The strength of this reading is the explanatory power of the possibility of Onesimus ‘finding’ Paul in an unlikely circumstance.” (Philemon)
Seth M. Ehorn is currently a doctoral candidate studying New Testament language, literature, and theology at the University of Edinburgh, New College. Prior to studying at New College, he completed an MA in biblical exegesis at Wheaton College Graduate School in Illinois, where he was awarded the Merrill C. Tenney Award for New Testament studies. He has contributed several articles to the Baker Illustrated Bible Dictionary (forthcoming) and written many book reviews in academic journals.