Original Research

Paul’s exercise of authority in the Letter to Philemon: A perspective from the 4th and 5th centuries CE

D. Francois Tolmie
In die Skriflig/In Luce Verbi | Vol 50, No 2 | a1947 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/ids.v50i2.1947 | © 2016 D. Francois Tolmie | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 08 March 2015 | Published: 04 May 2016

About the author(s)

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


The way in which Paul exercises his authority in the Letter to Philemon has been studied from various angles, but as far as could be determined, the reception of this aspect of his letter by its interpreters in the fourth and 5th centuries CE. has not yet received much attention. Accordingly, this aspect is addressed in this study. The views of the following six interpreters are discussed (in chronological order): Ambrosiaster, Jerome, Pelagius, John Chrysostom, Theodore of Mopsuestia, and Theodoret of Cyrus. It is shown that each of them has his own view in this regard, but that two general trends can nevertheless be identified: Firstly, all of these writers accept that Paul had authority over Philemon; and secondly, the commendable way in which Paul exercised this authority is a regular theme in their works.

Keywords: Letter to Philemon, Church Fathers, Authority


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