Philemon 1:13
Whom I would have retained with me, that in thy stead he might have ministered unto me in the bonds of the gospel:
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(13) Whom I would have retained.—In the original we have here a graceful distinction in two points between the two clauses. The verb in the first clause is “to wish;” in the second “to will.” The tense in the first clause is the imperfect: “I was wishing,” or “prepared to wish” (just as in Acts 25:22; and, in the case of a cognate verb, Romans 9:3), implying, perhaps, a suppressed condition; in the second it is the past definite: “I willed,” or “determined” finally.

In thy stead.—Here, again, there is a certain delicacy of suggestion. A slave was his master’s property; he could act only on his master’s behalf and by his consent. St. Paul is sure that Philemon’s love for him would have gladly given that consent, and so made Onesimus an instrument of willing service to St. Paul.

1:8-14 It does not lower any one to condescend, and sometimes even to beseech, where, in strictness of right, we might command: the apostle argues from love, rather than authority, in behalf of one converted through his means; and this was Onesimus. In allusion to that name, which signifies profitable, the apostle allows that in time past he had been unprofitable to Philemon, but hastens to mention the change by which he had become profitable. Unholy persons are unprofitable; they answer not the great end of their being. But what happy changes conversion makes! of evil, good; of unprofitable, useful. Religious servants are treasures in a family. Such will make conscience of their time and trusts, and manage all they can for the best. No prospect of usefulness should lead any to neglect their obligations, or to fail in obedience to superiors. One great evidence of true repentance consists in returning to practise the duties which have been neglected. In his unconverted state, Onesimus had withdrawn, to his master's injury; but now he had seen his sin and repented, he was willing and desirous to return to his duty. Little do men know for what purposes the Lord leaves some to change their situations, or engage in undertakings, perhaps from evil motives. Had not the Lord overruled some of our ungodly projects, we may reflect upon cases, in which our destruction must have been sure.Whom I would have retained with me, that in thy stead - "That he might render me the service which I know you would if you were here." The Greek is: "for thee" ὑπὲρ σοῦ huper sou; that is, what he should do for Paul might be regarded as done by Philemon himself.

He might have ministered unto me - He might have rendered me assistance (διακονῇ diakonē); to wit, in such a way as one who was in bonds would need.

13. I—emphatical. I for my part. Since I had such implicit trust in him as to desire to keep him with me for his services, thou mayest.

I would have retained—different Greek from the "would," Phm 14, "I could have wished," "I was minded" here; but "I was not willing," Phm 14.

in thy stead—that he might supply in your place all the services to me which you, if you were here, would render in virtue of the love you bear to me (Phm 19).

bonds of the gospel—my bonds endured for the Gospel's sake (Phm 9).

I have such an opinion of his sincerity, that I would willingly have kept him with me, that he might, while I am a prisoner for the gospel of Christ, have done those offices for me, which thou wouldst have done hadst thou been here.

Whom I would have retained with me,.... At Rome, where the apostle was a prisoner:

that in thy stead he might have ministered unto me in the bonds of the Gospel; the apostle was in bonds, not for any crime, for any immorality he had been guilty of, but for the sake of the Gospel, for professing and preaching that; for this he was an ambassador in bonds, as he elsewhere says, Ephesians 6:20. Now he would have kept Onesimus with him, either to have waited upon him, in his bonds, and to have provided for him the necessaries of life; or to have assisted him in the ministration of the word, in the room of Philemon, who, had he been there, would have been employed in such service; so that if the apostle had retained him, he would have been acting not for himself, but in the room of his master, and doing what he should have done, had he been on the spot. This the apostle observes to prevent an objection that might have been made; that since Onesimus was become so profitable to him, why did he send him back? why did he not keep him for his own service? this he obviates and removes, by signifying he should have done it, but for the following reason.

Whom I would have retained with me, that in thy stead he might have ministered unto me in the bonds of the gospel:
Philemon 1:13 f Ἐγώ] I for my part.

ἐβουλόμην] I was of the mind. Comp. ἠθέλησα, Philemon 1:14, and observe not merely the diversity of notion (βούλομαι: deliberate self-determination, see on Matthew 1:19), but also the distinction of the tenses. The apostle formerly cherished the design and the wish (imperfect ἐβουλ.) of retaining Onesimus with himself, instead of sending him back to Philemon, but has become of the mind (historical aorist ἠθέλησα), etc. Thus ἠθέλ. denotes that which supervened on the previous occurrence of the ἐβουλ., and hindered the realization of the latter. Observe that Paul has not used ἐβουλόμην ἄν; that would be vellem.

ὑπὲρ σοῦ] for thee, i.e. in gratiam tuam, that thou mightest not need thyself to serve me. ὑπέρ accordingly is not here, any more than in any other passage of the N.T., used as a precise equivalent to ἀντί, although the actual relation of representation lies at the bottom of the conception in gratiam; for Paul would have taken the service of the slave as rendered by the master, to whom the slave belonged. Comp. Hofmann. This mode of regarding and representing the matter has nothing harsh about it, nor does it convey any obligation, which Philemon, had he been on the spot, would have fulfilled (Bleek), but simply the trustful presupposition, that Philemon himself would, if Paul had desired it, have ministered to him in the prison. Of this, however, Philemon was relieved by the service of the slave, which in this way stood him in good stead. Schweizer, in the Stud. u. Krit. 1858, p. 430, explains likewise correctly: for thy benefit, but takes this in the sense: “so that it would be a service rendered to thee, imputed to thee, so that I would be under obligation to thee.” But this would only have the delicacy and tenderness which are found in it, if the thought: “in order that he might serve me, with a view to place me under obligation to thee,” contained the design of Onesimus; if, accordingly, Paul had written something after this manner: ὃς ἐβούλετο πρὸς ἐμαντὸν μένειν, ἵνα κ.τ.λ., which, however, would have asserted a self-determination incompetent to the position of a slave. No; as the passage is written, there is delicately and tenderly implied in the ὑπὲρ σοῦ the same thought, which, in accordance with Php 2:30, he might have expressed by ἵνα ἀναπληρώσῃ τὸ σοῦ ὑστέρημα; comp. 1 Corinthians 16:17. Thus ingeniously does Paul know how to justify his ἐβουλόμην κ.τ.λ.—seeing that he would, in fact, otherwise have had no claim at all upon another’s bondsman—by the specification of design ἵνα ὑπὲρ σοῦ κ.τ.λ.

διακονῇ] direct representation by the subjunctive, “ita quidem, ut praeteriti temporis cogitatio tanquam praesens efferatur,” Kühner, ad Xen. Mem. i. 2. 2.

ἐν τοῖς δεσμοῖς τοῦ εὐαγγ.] in the bonds, into which the gospel has brought me—in a position. therefore (comp. Philemon 1:9) which makes me as needful as deserving of such loving service.

χωρὶς δὲ κ.τ.λ.] but without thy consent, that is, independent of it, I have wished to do nothing, and so have left that wish unexecuted, in order that thy good may be not as from constraint, but from free will. The thought of the apostle accordingly is: But as I knew not thine own opinion, and thus must have acted without it, I was disposed to abstain from the retention of thy slave, which I had in view: for the good, which thou showest, is not to be as if forced, but voluntary. If I had retained Onesimus for my service, without having thy consent to that effect, the good, which I should have had to derive from thee through the service rendered to me by thy servant ὑπὲρ σοῦ, would have been shown not from free will,—that is, not in virtue of thine own self-determination,—but as if compulsorily, just because independently of thy γνώμη (“non enim potuisset refragari Philemon,” Bengel[75]). Observe at the same time that τὸ ἀγαθόν σου, thy good, that is, the good which thou showest to others, is to be left quite in its generality, so that not the serviceable employment of the slave specially and in concreto is meant, but rather the category in general, under which, in the intended application, there falls that special ἀγαθόν, which is indicated in Philemon 1:13. The restriction to the given case is impracticable on account of ἈΛΛᾺ ΚΑΤᾺ ἙΚΟΎΣΙΟΝ, since Paul in fact did not at all intend to procure the consent of Philemon and to retain Onesimus. This in opposition to the usual interpretation: “τὸ ἀγαθόν, i.e. beneficium tuum hocce, quo afficior a te, si hunc mihi servum concedis,” Heinrichs; comp. Bleek. But it is an error also, with de Wette, following Estius (who describes it as probable), to understand under τὸ ἀγαθ. σον the manumission[76] of the slave, or to understand it at least as “also included” (Bleek), of which even in Philemon 1:16 there is no mention, and for suggesting which in so covert and enigmatic a fashion there would not have been any reason, if he had desired it at all (but see on 1 Corinthians 7:21). According to Hofmann (comp. his Schriftbeweis, II. 2, p. 412), τὸ ἀγαθόν σου is, like ΤῸ ΧΡΗΣΤῸΝ ΤΟῦ ΘΕΟῦ at Romans 2:4, thy goodness, and that the goodness, which Philemon will show to Onesimus when he had returned into his position as a, slave; this only then becomes an undoubtedly spontaneous goodness, when the apostle refrains from any injunction of his own, whereas Philemon could not have done otherwise than refrain from punishing the slave for his escape, if Paul had retained him to himself, in which case, therefore, Philemon might have seemed to be kind compulsorily. This explanation, brought out by the insertion of thoughts between the lines, is to be set aside as at variance with the context, since there is nothing in the connection to point to the definition of the notion of τὸ ἀγαθόν σου as goodness towards Onesimus, but on the contrary this expression can only acquire its import through the delicately thoughtful ἵνα ὑπὲρ σοῦ μοι διακονῇ κ.τ.λ.

ὡς κατὰ ἀνάγκην] emphatically prefixed, and Ὡς expresses the idea: “so that it appears as constrained.” Comp. Fritzsche, ad Rom. II. p. 360. On κατὰ ἀνάγκ., by way of constraint (in the passive sense), by compulsion, comp. Thucyd. vi. 10. 1; Polyb. iii. 67. 5; 2Ma 15:2; on the contrast, comp. 1 Peter 5:2 : μὴ ἀναγκαστῶς, ἀλλʼ ἑκουσίως; Thucyd. viii. 27. Philemon 1:3 : ΚΑΘʼ ἙΚΟΥΣΊΑΝ Ἢ ΠΆΝΥ ΓΕ ἈΝΆΓΚῌ, Plat. Prot. p. 346 B.

[75] Seneca, De Benef. ii. Philemon 1:4 : “Si vis scire an velim, effice ut possim nolle.” Luther aptly remarks: a constrained will is not voluntas, but noluntas.

That the manumission did take place, has been inferred from the tradition that Onesimus became a bishop. It may have taken place, but it is not meant here.

Philemon 1:13. ἐγὼ: a further emphatic mode of expression.—ἐβουλόμην: βούλεσθαι connotes the idea of purpose, θέλειν simply that of willing. The differences between the tenses—ἐβουλόμην and ἐθέλησα (Philemon 1:14)—is significant; “the imperfect implies a tentative, inchoate process; while the aorist describes a definite complete act. The will stepped in and put an end to the inclinations of the mind” (Lightfoot).—κατέχειν: “to detain,” directly opposed to ἀπέχῃς in Philemon 1:15. Deissmann (Op cit., p. 222) points out that κατέχω is often used in papyri and on ostraka of binding, though in a magical sense.—ὑπὲρ σοῦ: “in thy stead,” the implication being that Philemon is placed under an obligation to his slave; for the force of ὑπὲρ as illustrated on the papyri, etc., see Deissmann’s important remarks on pp. 105, 241 ff. of his work already quoted.—διακονῇ: used in the Pauline Epistles both of Christian ministration generally (Romans 11:13; 1 Corinthians 12:5; Ephesians 4:12) and in special reference to bodily wants, such as alms can supply (1 Corinthians 16:15; 2 Corinthians 8:4).—ἐν τοῖς δεσμ. τοῦ εὐαγγ.: i.e., the bonds which the Gospel had tied, and which necessitated his being ministered unto.—τοῦ εὐαγγελίου: see Mark 1:14-15 and cf. Matthew 4:23; Christ uses the word often in reference to the Messianic Era. “The earliest instances of the use of εὐαγγέλιον in the sense of a book would be: Did. 8, 11, 15 bis; Ign. Philad. 5, 8 (Sanday, Bampton Lectures, p. 319).

13. I would] Lit., “I was wishing; the imperfect indicates a half-purpose, stopped by other considerations. Lightfoot compares for similar imperfects Romans 9:3; Galatians 4:20.

me] Lit., myself.

in thy stead] On thy behalf; as thy representative, substitute, agent. He assumes the loving Philemon’s personal devotion.

ministered] as personal attendant; the habitual reference of the verb. Cp. e.g. Matthew 4:11; Matthew 8:15; Luke 17:8; Luke 22:26; John 12:2; 2 Timothy 1:18.

of the gospel] “For the hope of Israel,” and of the world, “he was bound with this chain” (Acts 28:20). Cp. Php 1:13.

On the word “Gospel” see note on Colossians 1:5.

Philemon 1:13. Ὃν, whom) He shows that Onesimus was now worthy to be trusted.—ὑπὲρ σοῦ, for thee) on thy account [in thy stead].

Verse 13. - I was wishing; I would fain have kept (Revised Version). The story tells itself if we read between the lines. What steadfast adherence to principle on the part of the apostle, when the help of Onesimus would have been so welcome to him in his weak health, and his position as a prisoner! Philemon could hardly fail to think more favorably of Onesimus, when he saw how much importance the apostle attached to his services. In the bonds of the gospel. "Which I am enduring for the sake of the gospel" (see Ver. 9) - a variation of phrase from Ver. 9 (and of our Lord's words, Mark 8:35; Mark 10:29). Philemon 1:13I would (ἐβουλόμην)

Rev., I would fain. See on Matthew 1:19. The imperfect tense denotes the desire awakened but arrested. See on I would, Plm 1:14.

With me (πρὸς εμαυτὸν)

The preposition expresses more than near or beside. It implies intercourse. See on with God, John 1:1.

In thy stead (ὑπὲρ σοῦ)

Rev., correctly, in thy behalf. A beautiful specimen of christian courtesy and tact; assuming that Philemon would have desired to render these services in person.

In the bonds of the Gospel

Connect with me. Bonds with which he is bound for the sake of the Gospel: with which Christ has invested him. A delicate hint at his sufferings is blended with an intimation of the authority which attaches to his appeal as a prisoner of Christ. This language of Paul is imitated by Ignatius. "My bonds exhort you" (Tralles, 12). "He (Jesus Christ) is my witness, in whom I am bound" (Philadelphia, 7). "In whom I bear about my bonds as spiritual pearls" (Ephesians, 11). "In the bonds which I bear about, I sing the praises of the churches" (Magnesians, 1).

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