Brian M. Rapske's "The Prisoner Paul in the Eyes of Onesimus"
New Testament Studies
Offered by JR.
This article attempts to determine how Onesimus and Paul came to know each other. It presents six theories regarding this relationship. Rapske asserts that the most plausible theory is as follows: "Onesimus, in a bid to be happily restored to his estranged master, runs to Paul who is his master's friend" (187).
According to Rapske, Paul is chosen to mediate a dispute between Onesimus and Philemon. Onesimus chooses Paul because his "influence over his master would have been clearly evident to [him] from the fact that the whole household has been restructured to serve this new religion" (202). This theory is problematic because it leaves Paul without motive for writing to Philemon. If Philemon's household had been entirely transformed, then Onesimus should have been able to return to it with nothing more than the confession "Jesus is Lord" on his lips.
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