Philemon 1:5

[bible passage=”Philemon 1:5″]

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2 thoughts on “Philemon 1:5

  1. Alex Poulos says:

    Hello B-Greekers, I have a question about Chiastic structure in Philemon 5. Here’s the Greek text and an attempted transliteration:

    ἀκούων σου τὴν ἀγάπην καὶ τὴν πίστιν ἣν ἔχεις πρὸς τὸν κύριον Ἰησοῦν καὶ εἰς
    πάντας τοὺς ἁγίους AKOUWN SOU THN AGAPHN KAI THN PISTIN HN ECEIS PROS TON KURION IESOUN KAI EIS PANTAS TOUS AGIOUS Philemon 5

    My question concerns chiastic structure, which seems to be the basis for most modern translations rendering it something like this: “I hear about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints.” However, I’ve only seen this shown as an example of chiastic structure, and not explained. If PISTIS is understood as solely faith in Christ, then I can understand why chiastic structure is necessary, but if PISTIS includes a larger sense like faithfulness, then might AGAPHN and PISTIN refer to both the saints and to Jesus? I’m sure there are good reasons to interpret it according to the chiastic structure with an A B B A pairing, but to a Greek newbie and ancient literature neophyte it seems rather arbitrary and out of place, especially for a personal letter.

    Thanks!

    Alex Poulos

    From: Tony Pope
    To: B-Greek
    Sent: Tue, November 3, 2009 8:26:43 AM
    Subject: [B-Greek] Chiastic Structure in Philemon 5

    I notice you have had no reply to your question, so I’ll say something. I agree with your sentiments
    entirely. I have never been happy with the interpretation of this verse as a chiastic structure. As
    I understand it, interpreters are driven to it because, as you suggest, they feel unable to give a
    “non-religious” meaning to PISTIS. The assumption is that the statement must be the same as in
    Colossians 1.4, especially as it is supposed to have been written at the same time as the letter to
    Philemon.

    I don’t profess to be able to explain why PROS is used in one phrase and EIS in the other, but the
    fact that there is a difference encourages me in the view that PISTIS is meant to apply to both TON
    KURION and TOUS hAGIOUS. Perhaps the formulation was intended in some way to prepare Philemon for
    what was to come later in the letter, as undoubtedly verse 6 was.

    PISTIS could mean faithfulness, or it could mean trust. Trust in human beings who belong to the Lord
    could perhaps be mentioned right after trust in the Lord they belong to, given the theme of the
    letter. Josephus, War 2.257, has been cited as an example of PISTIS as trust in human beings. The
    context is the nervousness caused by the attacks of the Sicarii, who used to knife their victims and
    disappear into the crowds.

    προεσκοποῦντο δὲ πόρρωθεν τοὺς διαφόρους, καὶ οὐδὲ τοῖς φίλοις προσιοῦσιν πίστις ἦν, ἐν μέσαις δὲ
    ταῖς ὑπονοίαις καὶ ταῖς φυλακαῖς ἀνῃροῦντο:
    PROESKOPOUNTO DE PORRWQEN TOUS DIAFOROUS, KAI OUDE TOIS FILOIS PROSIOUSIN PISTIS HN, EN MESAIS DE
    TAIS hUPONOIAIS KAI TAIS FULAKAIS ANHROUNTO.
    Men watched at a distance for their enemies and would not trust their friends when they came
    near to them. Yet, in spite of their suspicions and precautions, they were murdered; (Cornfeld’s
    tr.)

    Tony Pope

    George F Somsel gfsomsel at yahoo.com
    Tue Nov 3 10:55:46 EST 2009

    The attempts to find a chiastic structure everywhere reminds me of the saying, “To a man with a hammer everything is a nail.”
    george
    gfsomsel

    Col 1:3-4 is indeed an important background for understanding how Paul
    introduces many of his letters:
    The text is:
    3 Εὐχαριστοῦμεν τῷ θεῷ [καὶ] πατρὶ τοῦ κυρίου ἡμῶν Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ πάντοτε περὶ
    ὑμῶν προσευχόμενοι,
    4 ἀκούσαντες τὴν πίστιν ὑμῶν ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ καὶ τὴν ἀγάπην ἣν ἔχετε εἰς πάντας
    τοὺς ἁγίους

    EUCARISTOUMEN TWi QEWi (KAI PATRI TOU KURIOU hHMWN IHSOU CRISTOU) PANTOTE PERI
    hUMWN PROSEUCOMENOI,
    AKOUSANTES THN PISTIN hUMWN EN CRISTWi IHSOU KAI THN AGAPHN hHN ECETE EIS PANTAS
    TOUS hAGIOUS

    The text in Philemon has many similarities:
    4 Εὐχαριστῶ τῷ θεῷ μου πάντοτε μνείαν σου ποιούμενος ἐπὶ τῶν προσευχῶν μου,
    5 ἀκούων σου τὴν ἀγάπην καὶ τὴν πίστιν, ἣν ἔχεις πρὸς τὸν κύριον Ἰησοῦν καὶ εἰς
    πάντας τοὺς ἁγίους

    4 EUCARISTW TWi QEWi MOU PANTOTE MNEIAN SOU POIOUMENOS EPI TWN PROSEUCWN MOU
    5 AKOUWN SOU THN AGAPHN KAI THN PISTIN hHN ECEIS PROS TON KURION IHSOUN KAI EIS
    PANTAS TOUS hAGIOUS

    In both cases Paul is thanking God in his prayers for the addressee since he has
    had a good report of their faith in Jesus and love towards all the saints.

    We find a similar statement in Eph 1:15-16 but with the reason before the
    thanksgiving:

    15 Διὰ τοῦτο κἀγὼ ἀκούσας τὴν καθ᾽ ὑμᾶς πίστιν ἐν τῷ κυρίῳ Ἰησοῦ καὶ τὴν ἀγάπην
    τὴν εἰς πάντας τοὺς ἁγίους
    16 οὐ παύομαι εὐχαριστῶν ὑπὲρ ὑμῶν μνείαν ποιούμενος ἐπὶ τῶν προσευχῶν μου

    DIA TOUTO KAGW AKOUSAS THN KAQ’ hUMAS PISTIN EN TWi KURIWi IHSOU KAI THN AGAPHN
    THN EIS PANTAS TOUS hAGIOUS
    16 OU PAUOMAI EUCARISTWN hUPER hUMWN MNEIAN POIOUMENOS EPI TWN PROSEUCWN MOU

    In all of these Paul is referring to what he has heard.

    Also consider 2 Thes 1:3:
    Εὐχαριστεῖν ὀφείλομεν τῷ θεῷ πάντοτε περὶ ὑμῶν, ἀδελφοί, καθὼς ἄξιόν ἐστιν, ὅτι
    ὑπεραυξάνει ἡ πίστις ὑμῶν καὶ πλεονάζει ἡ ἀγάπη ἑνὸς ἑκάστου πάντων ὑμῶν εἰς
    ἀλλήλους

    EUCARISTEIN OFEILOMEN TWi QEWI PANTOTE PERI hUMWN, ADELFOI, KAQWS AXION ESTIN,
    hOTI hUPERAUXANEI hH PISTIS hUMWN KAI PLEONAZEI hH AGAPH hENOS hEKASTOU PANTWN
    hUMWN EIS ALLHLOUS

    PISTIS in Paul’s writings has as its object God or Jesus, not people, and this
    is so much expected that the word often occurs without an object, since the
    reader can easily supply it.

    In 1 Thes 1:2-3 there is a similar thanksgiving in prayer because of their ERGON
    THS PISTEWS KAI KOPOS THS AGAPHS.

    PISTIS is directed to God and AGAPH to other people. Paul obviously sought and
    received reports about these two things from the churches. How is your faith (in
    Jesus)? How do you express that faith in your love towards one another? (cf. Gal
    5:6 πίστις δι᾽ ἀγάπης ἐνεργουμένη – PISTIS DI’ AGAPHS ENERGOUMENH).

    IMO, this practice of Paul is enough to show that the intention in Phm 1:5 is
    that PISTIS is directed to Jesus – PROS TON KURION IHSOUN – and love is directed
    to people – EIS PANTAS TOUS hAGIOUS.
    Paul, of course, is very familiar with Hebrew chiasms, and the letter to
    Philemon is not a casual, hurriedly written letter, but a fine piece of
    rhetoric, so I don’t have a problem with the chiasm here – although I do not
    subscribe to all examples of chiasms that commentaries have suggested.

    Iver Larsen

    In the majority of instances it is true that PISTIS has a divine object in Paul, but this does not
    seem to be the case in Galatians 5.22, where PISTIS occurs in a list of qualities that are directed
    towards fellow human beings, nor in Titus 2.10, where PASAN … PISTIN AGAQHN must by contrast
    denote a quality exhibited by slaves towards their masters. Nor probably in Titus 3.15, ASPASAI TOUS
    FILOUNTAS hHMAS EN PISTEI, which according to Spicq reflects a standard form of expression combining
    friendship (hence FILEW) and fidelity (PISTIS).

    Incidentally, Spicq’s article on PISTIS in Vol. 3 of his Theological Lexicon of the New Testament
    (Hendrickson, 1994) is to be recommended for broadening one’s horizons on the different senses of
    PISTIS that were used in NT times. (As it is on a lot of other words too. For those who read French,
    the original Lexique théologique du Nouveau Testament is available from Editions Cerf.)

    What determines the sense of a word is, as we are so often in danger of forgetting, the immediate
    context. It strikes me that this is a particular danger when coming across examples of words that
    are often elsewhere used in theologically weighty statements. We tend to shoehorn every example into
    the “primary” sense. It’s particularly a problem for words that are traditionally translated by a
    “religious” word. Thus all examples of CHARIS must everywhere mean grace, APOSTOLOS must everywhere
    refer to one of the twelve apostles or Paul, GRAMMATEUS must everywhere refer to a Jewish scribe,
    EUAGGELION must everywhere mean gospel, BAPTIZW must everywhere mean to baptize, KAQARIZW must
    everywhere mean to cleanse ritually, etc. etc. But if you think about it, such an approach would
    impose enormous restrictions on anyone who wants to speak or write the language.

    Also, and this I believe is crucial, when you are dealing with a relatively small corpus of written
    material there will inevitably be cases where a word is commonly used in one sense but also used
    maybe only once or twice in a different sense that can only be exampled from outside biblical Greek.

    Begging the moderator’s pardon and not wishing to reopen a closed thread “by the back door”, but
    merely to point out what is lexically attested and thereby put the record straight, re KAQARIZW and
    KAQAIRW, see lines 6-7 of the BAGD entry for KAQARIZW. For one interesting attested object of
    KAQARIZW, see LSJ: “prune away, PERISSA BLASTHMATA [superfluous shoots] P. Lond. 1.131r 192 (i.
    A.D.)” The object of KAQARIZW is in that case the item removed. (There are more given for KAQAIRW.)
    In the NT itself, Matt 8.3b EKAQARISQH AUTOU hH LEPRA [his leprosy cleared, i.e. disappeared] comes
    under this head. It is not the ritual cleansing that is being recorded at that point.

    Tony Pope

  2. Alex Poulos says:

    Hello B-Greekers, I have a question about Chiastic structure in Philemon 5. Here’s the Greek text and an attempted transliteration:

    ἀκούων σου τὴν ἀγάπην καὶ τὴν πίστιν ἣν ἔχεις πρὸς τὸν κύριον Ἰησοῦν καὶ εἰς
    πάντας τοὺς ἁγίους AKOUWN SOU THN AGAPHN KAI THN PISTIN HN ECEIS PROS TON KURION IESOUN KAI EIS PANTAS TOUS AGIOUS Philemon 5

    My question concerns chiastic structure, which seems to be the basis for most modern translations rendering it something like this: “I hear about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints.” However, I’ve only seen this shown as an example of chiastic structure, and not explained. If PISTIS is understood as solely faith in Christ, then I can understand why chiastic structure is necessary, but if PISTIS includes a larger sense like faithfulness, then might AGAPHN and PISTIN refer to both the saints and to Jesus? I’m sure there are good reasons to interpret it according to the chiastic structure with an A B B A pairing, but to a Greek newbie and ancient literature neophyte it seems rather arbitrary and out of place, especially for a personal letter.

    Thanks!

    Alex Poulos

    From: Tony Pope
    To: B-Greek
    Sent: Tue, November 3, 2009 8:26:43 AM
    Subject: [B-Greek] Chiastic Structure in Philemon 5

    I notice you have had no reply to your question, so I’ll say something. I agree with your sentiments
    entirely. I have never been happy with the interpretation of this verse as a chiastic structure. As
    I understand it, interpreters are driven to it because, as you suggest, they feel unable to give a
    “non-religious” meaning to PISTIS. The assumption is that the statement must be the same as in
    Colossians 1.4, especially as it is supposed to have been written at the same time as the letter to
    Philemon.

    I don’t profess to be able to explain why PROS is used in one phrase and EIS in the other, but the
    fact that there is a difference encourages me in the view that PISTIS is meant to apply to both TON
    KURION and TOUS hAGIOUS. Perhaps the formulation was intended in some way to prepare Philemon for
    what was to come later in the letter, as undoubtedly verse 6 was.

    PISTIS could mean faithfulness, or it could mean trust. Trust in human beings who belong to the Lord
    could perhaps be mentioned right after trust in the Lord they belong to, given the theme of the
    letter. Josephus, War 2.257, has been cited as an example of PISTIS as trust in human beings. The
    context is the nervousness caused by the attacks of the Sicarii, who used to knife their victims and
    disappear into the crowds.

    προεσκοποῦντο δὲ πόρρωθεν τοὺς διαφόρους, καὶ οὐδὲ τοῖς φίλοις προσιοῦσιν πίστις ἦν, ἐν μέσαις δὲ
    ταῖς ὑπονοίαις καὶ ταῖς φυλακαῖς ἀνῃροῦντο:
    PROESKOPOUNTO DE PORRWQEN TOUS DIAFOROUS, KAI OUDE TOIS FILOIS PROSIOUSIN PISTIS HN, EN MESAIS DE
    TAIS hUPONOIAIS KAI TAIS FULAKAIS ANHROUNTO.
    Men watched at a distance for their enemies and would not trust their friends when they came
    near to them. Yet, in spite of their suspicions and precautions, they were murdered; (Cornfeld’s
    tr.)

    Tony Pope

    George F Somsel gfsomsel at yahoo.com
    Tue Nov 3 10:55:46 EST 2009

    The attempts to find a chiastic structure everywhere reminds me of the saying, “To a man with a hammer everything is a nail.”
    george
    gfsomsel

    Col 1:3-4 is indeed an important background for understanding how Paul
    introduces many of his letters:
    The text is:
    3 Εὐχαριστοῦμεν τῷ θεῷ [καὶ] πατρὶ τοῦ κυρίου ἡμῶν Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ πάντοτε περὶ
    ὑμῶν προσευχόμενοι,
    4 ἀκούσαντες τὴν πίστιν ὑμῶν ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ καὶ τὴν ἀγάπην ἣν ἔχετε εἰς πάντας
    τοὺς ἁγίους

    EUCARISTOUMEN TWi QEWi (KAI PATRI TOU KURIOU hHMWN IHSOU CRISTOU) PANTOTE PERI
    hUMWN PROSEUCOMENOI,
    AKOUSANTES THN PISTIN hUMWN EN CRISTWi IHSOU KAI THN AGAPHN hHN ECETE EIS PANTAS
    TOUS hAGIOUS

    The text in Philemon has many similarities:
    4 Εὐχαριστῶ τῷ θεῷ μου πάντοτε μνείαν σου ποιούμενος ἐπὶ τῶν προσευχῶν μου,
    5 ἀκούων σου τὴν ἀγάπην καὶ τὴν πίστιν, ἣν ἔχεις πρὸς τὸν κύριον Ἰησοῦν καὶ εἰς
    πάντας τοὺς ἁγίους

    4 EUCARISTW TWi QEWi MOU PANTOTE MNEIAN SOU POIOUMENOS EPI TWN PROSEUCWN MOU
    5 AKOUWN SOU THN AGAPHN KAI THN PISTIN hHN ECEIS PROS TON KURION IHSOUN KAI EIS
    PANTAS TOUS hAGIOUS

    In both cases Paul is thanking God in his prayers for the addressee since he has
    had a good report of their faith in Jesus and love towards all the saints.

    We find a similar statement in Eph 1:15-16 but with the reason before the
    thanksgiving:

    15 Διὰ τοῦτο κἀγὼ ἀκούσας τὴν καθ᾽ ὑμᾶς πίστιν ἐν τῷ κυρίῳ Ἰησοῦ καὶ τὴν ἀγάπην
    τὴν εἰς πάντας τοὺς ἁγίους
    16 οὐ παύομαι εὐχαριστῶν ὑπὲρ ὑμῶν μνείαν ποιούμενος ἐπὶ τῶν προσευχῶν μου

    DIA TOUTO KAGW AKOUSAS THN KAQ’ hUMAS PISTIN EN TWi KURIWi IHSOU KAI THN AGAPHN
    THN EIS PANTAS TOUS hAGIOUS
    16 OU PAUOMAI EUCARISTWN hUPER hUMWN MNEIAN POIOUMENOS EPI TWN PROSEUCWN MOU

    In all of these Paul is referring to what he has heard.

    Also consider 2 Thes 1:3:
    Εὐχαριστεῖν ὀφείλομεν τῷ θεῷ πάντοτε περὶ ὑμῶν, ἀδελφοί, καθὼς ἄξιόν ἐστιν, ὅτι
    ὑπεραυξάνει ἡ πίστις ὑμῶν καὶ πλεονάζει ἡ ἀγάπη ἑνὸς ἑκάστου πάντων ὑμῶν εἰς
    ἀλλήλους

    EUCARISTEIN OFEILOMEN TWi QEWI PANTOTE PERI hUMWN, ADELFOI, KAQWS AXION ESTIN,
    hOTI hUPERAUXANEI hH PISTIS hUMWN KAI PLEONAZEI hH AGAPH hENOS hEKASTOU PANTWN
    hUMWN EIS ALLHLOUS

    PISTIS in Paul’s writings has as its object God or Jesus, not people, and this
    is so much expected that the word often occurs without an object, since the
    reader can easily supply it.

    In 1 Thes 1:2-3 there is a similar thanksgiving in prayer because of their ERGON
    THS PISTEWS KAI KOPOS THS AGAPHS.

    PISTIS is directed to God and AGAPH to other people. Paul obviously sought and
    received reports about these two things from the churches. How is your faith (in
    Jesus)? How do you express that faith in your love towards one another? (cf. Gal
    5:6 πίστις δι᾽ ἀγάπης ἐνεργουμένη – PISTIS DI’ AGAPHS ENERGOUMENH).

    IMO, this practice of Paul is enough to show that the intention in Phm 1:5 is
    that PISTIS is directed to Jesus – PROS TON KURION IHSOUN – and love is directed
    to people – EIS PANTAS TOUS hAGIOUS.
    Paul, of course, is very familiar with Hebrew chiasms, and the letter to
    Philemon is not a casual, hurriedly written letter, but a fine piece of
    rhetoric, so I don’t have a problem with the chiasm here – although I do not
    subscribe to all examples of chiasms that commentaries have suggested.

    Iver Larsen

    In the majority of instances it is true that PISTIS has a divine object in Paul, but this does not
    seem to be the case in Galatians 5.22, where PISTIS occurs in a list of qualities that are directed
    towards fellow human beings, nor in Titus 2.10, where PASAN … PISTIN AGAQHN must by contrast
    denote a quality exhibited by slaves towards their masters. Nor probably in Titus 3.15, ASPASAI TOUS
    FILOUNTAS hHMAS EN PISTEI, which according to Spicq reflects a standard form of expression combining
    friendship (hence FILEW) and fidelity (PISTIS).

    Incidentally, Spicq’s article on PISTIS in Vol. 3 of his Theological Lexicon of the New Testament
    (Hendrickson, 1994) is to be recommended for broadening one’s horizons on the different senses of
    PISTIS that were used in NT times. (As it is on a lot of other words too. For those who read French,
    the original Lexique théologique du Nouveau Testament is available from Editions Cerf.)

    What determines the sense of a word is, as we are so often in danger of forgetting, the immediate
    context. It strikes me that this is a particular danger when coming across examples of words that
    are often elsewhere used in theologically weighty statements. We tend to shoehorn every example into
    the “primary” sense. It’s particularly a problem for words that are traditionally translated by a
    “religious” word. Thus all examples of CHARIS must everywhere mean grace, APOSTOLOS must everywhere
    refer to one of the twelve apostles or Paul, GRAMMATEUS must everywhere refer to a Jewish scribe,
    EUAGGELION must everywhere mean gospel, BAPTIZW must everywhere mean to baptize, KAQARIZW must
    everywhere mean to cleanse ritually, etc. etc. But if you think about it, such an approach would
    impose enormous restrictions on anyone who wants to speak or write the language.

    Also, and this I believe is crucial, when you are dealing with a relatively small corpus of written
    material there will inevitably be cases where a word is commonly used in one sense but also used
    maybe only once or twice in a different sense that can only be exampled from outside biblical Greek.

    Begging the moderator’s pardon and not wishing to reopen a closed thread “by the back door”, but
    merely to point out what is lexically attested and thereby put the record straight, re KAQARIZW and
    KAQAIRW, see lines 6-7 of the BAGD entry for KAQARIZW. For one interesting attested object of
    KAQARIZW, see LSJ: “prune away, PERISSA BLASTHMATA [superfluous shoots] P. Lond. 1.131r 192 (i.
    A.D.)” The object of KAQARIZW is in that case the item removed. (There are more given for KAQAIRW.)
    In the NT itself, Matt 8.3b EKAQARISQH AUTOU hH LEPRA [his leprosy cleared, i.e. disappeared] comes
    under this head. It is not the ritual cleansing that is being recorded at that point.

    Tony Pope

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