Original Research

Reg én geregtigheid – ’n Perspektief uit die brief aan Filemon

D. Francois Tolmie
In die Skriflig/In Luce Verbi | Vol 50, No 3 | a1940 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/ids.v50i3.1940 | © 2016 D. Francois Tolmie | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 13 February 2015 | Published: 08 April 2016

About the author(s)

D. Francois Tolmie, Faculty of Theology, University of the Free State, South Africa


Justice and justification – A perspective from the letter to Philemon. In this article, the letter to Philemon is investigated from an angle that has not received much attention thus far, namely from a forensic perspective. In order to investigate this issue, the letter is interpreted against the legal background of its time. The investigation begins with a brief discussion of the status of Onesimus. It is argued that the best way to understand the situation within which the letter originated is to accept that Onesimus had left Philemon’s household in order to ask Paul to intervene on his behalf. This is followed by a brief overview of the most important legal aspects regardin slavery in Paul’s time. Against this background, Paul’s strategy in the letter is then scrutinised. It is argued that Paul complied with all the legal requirements in his letter. However, it is then also shown that Paul went beyond existing legal requirements, because he was aware of a better kind of justice, the justice of God, or in Paul’s own terminology, the justification of God.

Keywords: Letter to Philemon; Justice; Justification


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