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Philemon (fĭlēˈmən) [key], letter of the New Testament, written to a Colossian named Philemon by Paul, probably when the latter was a prisoner in Rome (c.A.D. 60). Onesimus, Philemon's fugitive slave, had found Paul and become a Christian. Paul sent him back to his master with a personal note adjuring the Christian master to accept Onesimus not merely as a slave but as a brother. Onesimus' name means "useful" in Greek. Philemon, the shortest of the Pauline letters, is thought by some scholars to have been written at the same time as the (probably pseudonymous) Colossians and Ephesians. The names Mark, Aristarchus, and Demas occur in both Philemon and Colossians.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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