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Catholic Dictionary




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.)