Word Biblical Commentary
Peter T. O'Brien
Offered by JA.
O'Brien's work succinctly delves into a material analysis of the book of Philemon. The author wastes no time or space. The forty-three of the book dedicated solely to Philemon are loaded with detail and content. The analysis is marked by input from a broad range of biblical scholars. Opposing theories are put forth in conjunction with the authors conclusions as well. It offers a good introduction to the epistle.
In an introductory section, O'Brien contributes helpfully to the following discussions:
Why Philemon's house is considered to have been located in Colossae (265 )
Why Philemon is considered the primary recipient over Archippus (266)
Possible motives for Onesimus meeting Paul (268)
Why it is considered Pauline (269)
The possible locations of Paul's Imprisonment: Rome, Caesarea, Ephesus (XLIX)
These two issues following have been discussed at length in Bi 343 are covered in the introductory section as well:
Regarding Apostolic Authority: O'Brien gives good coverage to both sides of the argument surrounding the question - did Paul use his apostolic authority to force Philemon to receive Onesimus. For example, O'Brien quotes Knox who asserted that this is the letter to the Laodiceans, and Paul instructed the letter to be read in front of the whole church to bring the pressure on Philemon, but then he says this is unlikely because it is inconsistent given Paul's graceful use of tact within the letter itself. (268)
Regarding the question of slavery: O'Brien echoes the sentiments of F.F. Bruce. Paul's letter does not speak directly against the institution of slavery, but it "brings us into an atmosphere in which the institution could only wilt and die." (270).
O'Brien breaks his commentary into four major sections. Each section begins with an analysis of the Greek and ends with a few pages of topical commentary. The commentary appeals primarily to other books of the New Testament to clarify the meaning of passages. It appeals especially the pauline corpus and the pastoral epistles. Due to his prolific use of technical language terms, it is helpful to have a good understanding of English grammar terms, and a copy of a Koine Greek Grammar close at hand when reading this commentary. Lastly, it is important to note that this commentary operates from a perspective of faith over critical scholarship. Unlike some of the more scholastically focused commentaries, it seeks to unlock meaning of the text to people of faith.
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