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A slave who had run away from his master, Philemon. He met Paul and was converted. This occasioned the Epistle to Philemon, a handwritten letter that reveals the gentle, affectionate side of Paul's personality. He appealed to Philemon (who was probably converted by Paul also) to show a Christian attitude toward the penitent slave, even offering to pay any debt that Onesimus owed (possible stolen valuables) (Philemon 1:8-21). Paul ended his appeal by expressing confidence that Philemon "would do even more than I ask" (Philemon 21). Tradition has it that Onesimus was not only forgiven but was given his freedom. (Etym. Greek onesimos, advantageous, profitable.)
All items in this dictionary are from Fr. John Hardon's Modern Catholic Dictionary, © Eternal Life. Used with permission.