Paul was a great Christian teacher. He was in prison, at
either Rome or Ephesus, when he wrote this letter to Philemon. (Rome was a very
important city at that time, because the king of Rome ruled many other
countries. Ephesus was a city in the south and west part of the country that is
called Turkey now.) Paul was in prison because he taught people about Jesus
Christ. We think that Paul wrote this letter in the year *AD 60 or 61. That was
about 30 years after Jesus died.
Philemon was a Christian man who lived in the town called
Colossae. Colossae was also in the south and west part of the country that is
called Turkey now. Philemon had become a Christian because Paul had taught him
about Christ. Philemon was a rich man who was the master of a house. A church
(a group of Christians) met regularly in his house. A man called Onesimus was
one of Philemon’s slaves. We think that Onesimus had robbed Philemon. He may
have taken some of Philemon’s money or other things. Then Onesimus had run away
Paul was in prison in his own house. People came to visit him,
and he taught them about Jesus. Onesimus met Paul and Paul taught him about
Jesus. As a result, Onesimus believed Jesus and he became a Christian. After
that, Paul wrote this letter and he gave it to Onesimus. Then he sent Onesimus
back to Philemon at Colossae. Paul wanted Onesimus to give the letter to
In his letter, Paul asks Philemon to forgive Onesimus. (To
forgive means that you choose to forget the wrong things that someone has
done.) Paul asks Philemon to say ‘welcome’ to Onesimus, as another Christian,
who is like his brother. This was very important for Onesimus. It was difficult
for Onesimus to return to Philemon. He had taken some of Philemon’s things and
he was still one of Philemon’s slaves. Philemon could have killed Onesimus
because of what he had done.
Tychicus was a friend of Paul and he was also a Christian.
Tychicus was taking a letter from Paul to the Christians at Colossae, so he
travelled with Onesimus.