Evaluating the Rhetoric of Paul’s Letter to Philemon: Implications for Master-Slave Relationship in Christian Households

Maxwell Kojo Tsibu  ORCID iD

Issue: Vol.7  No.3  March 2021 Issue  Article 1 pp. 46-60
DOI : https://doi.org/10.38159/erats.2021731  |   Published online 3rd March 2021.
© 2021 The Author(s). This is an open access article under the CCBY license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/).


Many kinds of studies have been conducted on Greco-Roman slavery practices and the Christian response to religious and domestic conflicts. However, very little research has been carried out in biblical studies to appraise the rhetoric of Paul’s letter to Philemon and its persuasive implications for handling tensions and dilemmas that emerge from master-servant relationships in the Christian domestic contexts. This paper contributes to the scholarship on Philemon by critically interpreting the persuasiveness of the letter. It exposes Paul’s intentional use of highly emotive argumentations, familial concepts and visual symbols to influence the beliefs, state of mind, values and contemplated actions of his primary audience regarding a particular distressing exigency. It reveals the strong subversive and transformative tone of the letter. The paper contends that the message of Philemon has effective rhetorical power for managing the challenges faced by Christian parents, maids and fictive children in the Christian household.

Keywords: Rhetoric, 1st Century Greco-Roman context, master-slave relationship, Christianity, appropriation

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Maxwell Kojo Tsibu is a PhD candidate at the Department of Religion and Human Values. He holds B.Ed. and Master of Philosophy degrees from the same Department at the University of Cape Coast (UCC). He is a Tutor at the Methodist College of Education, Akyem Asene-Aboabo, Oda- Eastern Region – Ghana.

Tsibu M.K.,  “Evaluating the Rhetoric of Paul’s Letter to Philemon: Implications for Master-Slave Relationship in Christian Households” E-Journal of Religious and Theological Studies, 7 no.3 (2021): 46-60  https://doi.org/10.38159/erats.2021731

© 2021 The Author(s). Published and Maintained by Noyam Publishers. This is an open access article under the CCBY license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/).