Philemon 1:16 Parallel Verses [⇓ See commentary ⇓]

Philemon 1:16, NIV: no longer as a slave, but better than a slave, as a dear brother. He is very dear to me but even dearer to you, both as a fellow man and as a brother in the Lord.

Philemon 1:16, ESV: no longer as a bondservant but more than a bondservant, as a beloved brother—especially to me, but how much more to you, both in the flesh and in the Lord.

Philemon 1:16, KJV: Not now as a servant, but above a servant, a brother beloved, specially to me, but how much more unto thee, both in the flesh, and in the Lord?

Philemon 1:16, NASB: no longer as a slave, but more than a slave, a beloved brother, especially to me, but how much more to you, both in the flesh and in the Lord.

Philemon 1:16, NLT: He is no longer like a slave to you. He is more than a slave, for he is a beloved brother, especially to me. Now he will mean much more to you, both as a man and as a brother in the Lord.

Philemon 1:16, CSB: no longer as a slave, but more than a slave--as a dearly loved brother. He is especially so to me, but how much more to you, both in the flesh and in the Lord.

What does Philemon 1:16 mean? [⇑ See verse text ⇑]

The opening phrase of this verse, "no longer as a slave," is essential to the letter. Onesimus held the status of a doulos, translated "bondservant" or "slave." He had run away and was now returning. Why should his status change? Onesimus had now become a follower of Jesus Christ (Philemon 1:10). Paul suggested that Philemon accept him back as more than a slave. What was "more than a slave" or "more than a bondservant"? Philemon was to accept Onesiumus as a brother in Christ. They were now brothers, not master and slave.

Paul's Greek wordplay also stands out in this verse. Onesimus was no longer a doulon (bondservant); he was an adelphon (brother). Some see this only as a call to forgive Onesimus. However, the request certainly appears to involve more than forgiveness, as will be seen in verses 17–19. Paul called Philemon to free Onesimus, not just to forgive him. Onesimus was now a brother in Christ to both Paul and "much more to" Philemon, since they would be together in person when Philemon read this letter.