1 Παῦλος δέσμιος Χριστοῦ Ἰησοῦ καὶ Τιμόθεος ὁ ἀδελφὸς Φιλήμονι τῷ ἀγαπητῷ καὶ συνεργῷ ἡμῶν 2 καὶ Ἀπφίᾳ τῇ ἀδελφῇ καὶ Ἀρχίππῳ τῷ συστρατιώτῃ ἡμῶν καὶ τῇ κατʼ οἶκόν σου ἐκκλησίᾳ· 3 χάρις ὑμῖν καὶ εἰρήνη ἀπὸ θεοῦ πατρὸς ἡμῶν καὶ κυρίου Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ.
Paul, a prisoner of Christ Jesus, and Timothy, a brother: To Philemon our beloved and coworker, and Apphia, a sister, and Archippus our co-soldier, and to the assembly in your home. Grace to you, and peace, from God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ.
The nominative δέσμιος is appositional to Παῦλος, the subject. The genitive Χριστοῦ is possessive: Paul is Christ’s. Paul understands himself to be owned by Christ. This is most evident when Paul uses doulos language. Ἰησοῦ is a simple apposition informing the identity of Χριστοῦ. Jesus is the Christ. The conjunction καὶ connects Paul with Timothy (Τιμόθεος). ὁ ἀδελφὸς is appositional to Τιμόθεος, both being nominative. This identifies Timothy as a brother.
Φιλήμονι is dative, which indicates that Philemon is the recipient. τῷ ἀγαπητῷ is appositional to Φιλήμονι, functioning as a title of sorts: the beloved. Philemon received a second title, συνεργῷ, or “coworker/co-laborer”. This is an appositional dative as well. The conjunction καὶ links the two titles. The first person pronoun ἡμῶν is genitive, indicating relationship: “our” beloved and coworker.
Two others are identified: Ἀπφίᾳ and Ἀρχίππῳ. The conjunction καὶ transitions the address at the beginning of v. 2. Both of these proper names are in the dative, which indicates that Paul’s address is to them as well. Aphia is called “sister” (τῇ ἀδελφῇ). This is an appositional dative that functions as a title of sorts. Similarly, Timothy is called “brother” in v.1. Another conjunction καὶ connects Apphia to Archippus. One senses that these two are connected as those who are addressed secondary. Philemon remains the primary address. Archippus is provided with the unique titled , meaning something like “co-solider/fellow soldier”. στρατιώτης is a common rank soldier. The suffix συ/συν means “with”, so as a suffix it corresponds to co-. We see this in v. 1 when Paul calls Philemon a “coworker.” The first person pronoun ἡμῶν is genitive, indicating relationship, again. Philemon is the beloved and the coworker of Paul and Timothy. Apphia is a sister. Archippus is a co-soldier.
There is a third greeting. This time it is not the primary person being addressed, or the secondary, but a group: the Church that meets in your home. The conjunction καὶ signifies this third greeting. The segment clause is split in half by a prepositional phrase with κατʼ οἶκόν σου being placed between τῇ and ἐκκλησίᾳ. The article modifies “assembly”. This placement is likely done for emphasis. This assembly is identified as being the one that meets with Philemon’s home. The preposition κατὰ + the accusative οἶκόν (home) likely describes “reference,” rather than a spatial aspect. This is the assembly that is identified as the one that meets in Philemon’s home. The pronoun σου is genitive indicating possession. The dative τῇ ἐκκλησίᾳ indicates that the assembly is a recipient of the epistle as well.
In v. 3 we find a standard Pauline greeting: χάρις ὑμῖν καὶ εἰρήνη. As an apostle these words might signify that he comes offering these things. In other words, the King who he represents does not send him as an aggressor, but as someone presenting favorable terms and conditions: God offers grace and peace. The conjunction καὶ connects the two. The second person, dative, plural pronoun ὑμῖν indicates that the address is to Philemon, et al. When Paul says “peace” he is likely conveying the idea of שׁלום. Shalom is not easily summarized by the word “peace”, but rather a combination of concepts such as peace, justice, wholeness, and completion: a world made “right” where “ought” is a reality. This may be a counterclaim to the Pax Romana as well.
The preposition ἀπὸ (“from”) names the source. The first source mentioned is God, θεοῦ being in the genitive. Grace and peace are sourced in God (again, Paul is not merely greeting, but greeting on behalf of another). πατρὸς is an apposition genitive. God is identified as “Father”. The first person, genitive, plural pronoun ἡμῶν identifies Paul and his audience as possessors: God is their Father. The conjunction καὶ introduces a secondary and equal source of the greeting: the Lord Jesus Christ. As with “God” so “Lord Jesus Christ” is all genitive. κυρίου is the subject modified by Ἰησοῦ which is appositional as is Χριστοῦ. Alongside “God” who is known as “our Father” the message of “grace and peace” comes from “the Lord”. The Lord is identified as Jesus, mentioned in v. 1. In v. 1 Jesus was the name that identified the Christ. This time Christ identifies the Lord who is Jesus.
Paul identifies himself as a “prisoner” (δέσμιος) of Christ Jesus (cf. Eph 3:1; 4:1). Usually, Paul identifies initially as an apostle (Rom. 1:1; Gal. 1:1; Eph. 1:1; Col. 1:1; cf. 1 Tim. 1:1; 2 Tim 1:1; Titus 1:1) and/or a slave (Rom. 1:1; Phil. 1:1; cf. Titus 1:1; notable exceptions include 1 and 2 Thessalonians), so this greeting is notable. Many commentators note that Paul wrote this letter from prison, which means he is being intentional about maintaining his identity as it relates to Christ. He does not call himself a prisoner of the state. Ultimately, if he is imprisoned, he affirms that this is something God has allowed. Since he is a servant and apostle of Christ it appears that he deduces that Christ must will that he be in prison for a time. As Christ’s, if Christ did not want him there, he would not be there.
Timothy accompanies Paul. This is likely the Timothy mentioned in Acts 16:1-2 and the Timothy to whom 1 and 2 Timothy are addressed. Philemon is known from this epistle. He must have been dear to Paul since Paul called him “beloved” (τῷ ἀγαπητῷ) and a “coworker” (συνεργῷ). Apparently, he is someone who is wealthy enough to own property within which the assembly gathers. He owns slaves, as we will see. The identity of Apphia and Archippus are unknown, but these two are important to Paul, one being called a “co-soldier” (συστρατιώτῃ).
Paul provides a fairly standard Pauline greeting: grace to you, and peace, from God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ (see Rom. 1:7; Gal. 1:3; Eph. 1:2; Phil. 1:2; Col. 1:2b; 1 Thess. 1:1c; 2 Thess. 1:2; cf. 1 Tim. 1:2b; 2 Tim. 1:2b; Titus 1:2b). Paul’s placement of Jesus next to God the Father tells us something about his Christology. Something that comes from God the Father comes from Jesus Christ as well. There may be an echo of the Shema in that Paul speaks of “God” and “Lord” together.