The Berean Expositor
Volume 45 - Page 116 of 251
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pp. 12 - 16
Before a verse by verse exposition of this epistle can be undertaken, there are some
points of interest which demand attention.
Was Philemon written from Rome?
The answer to this question may not at first sight seem to be of any importance, but
when it be considered that the letter was probably composed at the same time as
Colossians and Ephesians, and that some commentators have alleged it to have been
written from Caesarea, then it takes on a different light. Paul's Caesarean imprisonment
was pre-Acts 28:, before the postponement of the hope of Israel and the words. "The
salvation of God is sent unto the Gentiles" (Acts 28: 28). If Colossians and Ephesians
were written during the period alleged, then their message must be included within the
limitation set by Acts 26: 22, "None other things than those which the prophets and
Moses did say should come", and the "dispensation of the mystery", which was "hid in
God" (Eph. 3: 9 R.V.), is also to be found in the O.T. The seriousness of this question
will then be appreciated by all who are acquainted with the implications of the above
First let it be demonstrated that there is evidence to indicate that the three epistles,
Ephesians, Colossians and Philemon, as regards time and place of writing, cannot be
separated. Ephesians and Colossians are connected by their similarity of contents and
their common bearer Tychicus (Eph. 6: 21; Col. 4: 7-9); Colossians and Philemon by
the salutation which both have in common:
"Aristarchus . . . . . Marcus . . . . . Epaphras . . . . . Luke . . . . . and Demas greet you"
(Col. 4: 10-14).
"There salute thee Epaphras . . . Marcus, Aristarchus, Demas, Lucas" (Philem. 23, 24).
Also the mission of Onesimus, whose name appears in Col. 4: 9 and is the subject in
Philemon, is evidence that Colossians and Philemon were sent jointly.
All three epistles were written during a time of imprisonment (Eph. 3: 1; 4: 1;
6: 20; Col. 4: 3, 10, 18 and Philem. 1, 9, 10, 13, 23), the question being which
imprisonment. Philemon is valuable in that it provides evidence in deciding whether or
not Ephesians and Colossians were written from Rome, by reason of its links with those
epistles. The eminent theologian Dr. H. A. Meyer, following some of the earlier
German scholars, decided in favour of the captivity at Caesarea as the place and time of
composition. His arguments are briefly summarized thus:
It is more natural and probable that Onesimus fled from Colosse to Caesarea, than
that he undertook a long sea voyage to Rome.