Philemon - Concordia Commentary

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Dr. Nordling writes on the Onesimus's scandal, Paul's exhortation for forgiveness, and the realities of slavery in the New Testament era in his Concordia Commentary on Philemon.
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In this brief epistle, Paul pleads for the reconciliation of the estranged Christians Onesimus and Philemon. In an original translation and commentary, Rev. Dr. John G. Nordling expounds Philemon in light of its theological purpose and its setting in the Greco-Roman world. It probes the specific circumstances under which Paul wrote the letter; how Philemon fit in with Paul’s missionary travels; and who Philemon and Onesimus were within the Christian community.

Nordling takes on slavery as a core topic of this commentary, taking the position that Onesimus was a slave who had run away slave in addition to a thief of Philemon’s property. The introduction of this volume includes over a hundred pages of history and analysis of ancient slavery practices, and additional essays consider the implications of the language of slavery used in the New testament to describe the Christian condition.


  • Slavery in Ancient Society
  • Philemon in the context of Paul’s Travels
  • Theological Implications of Slavery in the New Testament.

About the Author

Dr. John G. Nordling has served on the faculty of Valparaiso University and Baylor University, and currently is professor of exegetical theology at Concordia Theological Seminary, Ft. Wayne, Indiana. He studied at Valparaiso University (B.A.), Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, Missouri (M.Div.), Washington University, St. Louis (M.A.), and the University of Wisconsin—Madison (Ph.D. in classics).


"While the stance of the work may raise a few ‘hackles’, the content of the first half is highly informative about ancient slavery, and makes a useful contribu- tion to discussion about slavery in gen- eral, indicating successfully that hatred of modern slavery must not be allowed to ‘tar’ ancient practices with exactly the same ‘brush’. His discussion of the the- ological implications of slavery is also highly commendable. Turning now to the commentary itself, it is of course highly detailed. It does not, however, get ‘bogged down’ in technicalities, but offers lucid and useful exe- gesis. It helpfully presents and carefully evaluates alternative understandings of the text, and in offering its own view, is ready to concede the limitations of both its translation and its exegesis. Overall, Nordling’s traditional and conservative reading of Philemon, and of domestic, ecclesial and societal structures, will not meet with universal agreement. Nevertheless, all those wanting detailed study of slavery in ancient times, and careful exegesis of Philemon, will benefit from reading this volume."

–William P. Atkinson Regent’s Theological College in Evangelical Quarterly

About the series

The Concordia Commentary Series: A Theological Exposition of Sacred Scripture is written to enable pastors and teachers of the Word to proclaim the Gospel with greater insight, clarity, and faithfulness to the divine intent of the Biblical text.

The series will cover all the canonical books of the Old and New Testament, with an original translation and meticulous grammatical analysis of the Hebrew, Aramaic, or Greek of each text. The foremost interpretive lens centers on the unified proclamation of the person and work of Christ across every Scriptural book.

The Commentary fully affirms the divine inspiration, inerrancy, and authority of Scripture; Each passage bears witness to the confession that God has reconciled the world to Himself through the incarnation, ministry, death, resurrection, and ascension of Christ His Son.

Authors expose the rich treasury of language, imagery, and thematic content of the Scripture, while supplementing their work with additional research in archaeology, history, and extrabiblical literature. Throughout, God’s Word emanates from authors careful attention and inculcates the ongoing life of the Church in Word, Sacrament, and daily confession.

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More Information
Books of BiblePhilemon
Section of BibleNew Testament, Pauline Epistles
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