(. . . continued)
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Step Two in investigating a NC letter is to divide the Middle into sections. As I tried to show yesterday, the Middle or Body of this short letter to Philemon is found in verses 8-20.
We may note that verses 8-9 and 20 appear to be transitional—moving into, and out of, the Middle.
V. 10 begins the official Request with introduction to the background information:
I am appealing to you for my child, Onesimus, whose father I have become during my imprisonment.
The background information is found in 11-14, and the Request (there is almost always a Request in letters of this type) is completed in v. 17:
So if you consider me your partner, welcome him as you would welcome me.
The Body is bolstered by what Greg Fay calls “Paul’s personal voucher” in 18-19:
If he has wronged you in any way, or owes you anything, charge that to my account. I, Paul, am writing this with my own hand: I will repay it. I say nothing about your owing me even your own self.
The transitional v. 20, then, summarizes and transitions to a rather cryptic (to our eyes, anyway) bit of persuasion in v. 21: Summarizing Conclusion
Yes, brother, let me have this benefit from you in the Lord! Refresh my heart in Christ.
Note that there is no formal Disclosure in Philemon, although this literary element is found in other letters.
The Petition verb is found in 10: “appeal”
The Addressee is “you” (8) . . . although we will mention later that there may be additional understood addressees
The Background is given in 10-16.
“Divine authority” phrases are found in 8 and 9: “bold enough in Christ to command you”; “as an old man and now a prisoner of Christ”
The explicit, desired action is a bit oddly syntactically separated by intervening material:
a. “for Onesimus” in 10
b. “. . . welcome him as you would welcome me” in 17
This separation, I suspect, is quite intentional, and I’ll attempt to show the reason soon.
( to be continued . . .)