1 Chapter, 25 verses, 445 words.
Author, Date and Place of Writing
Paul wrote this short letter (1,9,19) probably at the same time as Colossians (c. A.D. 60) and sent it to Colosee with the same travelers, Onesimus and Tychicus. He apparently wrote both letters from prison in Rome, though possibly from Ephesus.
Recipient, Background and Purpose
Paul wrote this letter to Philemon, a believer in Colosse who, along with others, was a slave owner (Col 4:1). One of his slaves, Onesimus, had apparently stolen from him (18) and then run away, which under Roman law was punishable by death. But Onesimus met Paul and through his ministry became a Christian (10). Now he was willing to return to his master, and Paul writes this personal appeal to ask that he be accepted as a Christian brother (16).
Approach and Structure
To win Philemon's willing acceptance of Onesimus, Paul writes very tactfully and in a lighthearted tone, which he creates with a wordplay. The appeal (vv 4-21) is organized in a way prescribed by ancient Greek and Roman teachers: to built rapport (vv. 4-10), to persuade the mind (vv. 11-19) and to move the emotions (vv. 20-21). The name Onesimus is not mentioned until the rapport has been built (v. 10), and the appeal itself is stated only near the end of the section to persuade the mind (v. 17).