The Congregation at Duke University Chapel

Strategies for Reading a Pauline Letter

For the ears, you can listen to an audio recording of this presentation. [high fidelity audio playable under all personal computer operating systems via VLC media player, Microsoft Windows Media Player with the codecs for FLAC et al, OS X QuickTime with the XiphQT plugin, etc., on many Android-based mobile devices, and on iOS-based mobile devices via apps such as FLAC Player or Golden Ear]

Strategies for Reading a Pauline Letter

presentation at Adult Forum by
Hans Arneson
Ph.D. candidate in Religion, Duke University
February 16, 2014

As you listen, you can follow along in the provided text:

Paul's Letter to Philemon
(translation by Hans K. Arneson)



1 Paul, a prisoner of Christ Jesus,
and Timothy our brother,



To Philemon our beloved and fellow worker,
2 to Apphia, our sister,
to Archippus, our fellow soldier,
and to the church in your house:



3 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.



4 I always give thanks to my God when I remember you in my prayers, 5 hearing of your love which you have toward the Lord Jesus and toward all the saints, 6 that your loyal partnership has been at work in the recognition of every good thing we can do for Christ. 7 Indeed, I have had great joy and encouragement from your love, because the guts of the saints have been refreshed through you, brother.


Letter Body

8 As such, though I am so frank in Christ as to issue you a command regarding what is compulsory for the sake of love, 9 I instead make an appeal - being, as I am, Paul the old man, and now Paul the prisoner of Christ Jesus. 10 I make an appeal to you concerning my child Onesimus [the name means somthing like "useful" or "beneficial"], whose father I have become during my imprisonment - 11the one who was once useless to you, but who is now useful both to you and to me.

12 I am sending him back to you, that is, I am sending my guts. 13 I wanted to keep him with me, so that he might minister to me on your behalf in the chains of the gospel; 14 however, I did not want to do anything without your consent, so that your good deed might come about willingly and not by way of compulsion. 15 Perhaps this is the reason he was separated from you temporarily; that you might receive him eternally, 16no longer as a slave, but more than a slave, a brother particularly beloved to me - and how much more to you, both in the flesh and in the Lord!

17 So then, if you consider me a partner, welcome him as you would welcome me. 18 If he has wronged you somehow or stands in your debt, charge that to my account. 19 I, Paul, write this with my own hand; I will repay it. (I will not mention that you owe me your very self.) 20 Yes brother, let me have this benefit from you in the Lord! Refresh my guts in Christ!


Concluding instructions

21 I am writing to you, confident in your subjection, knowing that you will do even more than what I say here, 22 though all the same you should prepare a guest room for me, for I hope that through your prayers I will be given back to you.



23 Epaphras, my fellow prisoner in Christ Jesus, sends greetings to you, 24 and so do Mark, Aristarchus, Demas, and Luke, my fellow workers.



25 The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.


Subsequently, in the class we observed some of these same patterns in the beginning of Paul's first letter to the Corinthians.