Onesimus

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Onesimus
Bishop of Byzantium
Installed54
Term ended68
Personal details
DenominationEastern Orthodox Church
Saint Onesimus
Onesimus of Byzantium (Menologion of Basil II).jpg
Painting depicting death of Onesimus, from the Menologion of Basil II (c. 1000 AD)
Holy Disciple Onesimus
Bishop of Byzantium
Diedc. AD 68 or AD 81-95
Rome (then Roman province)
Venerated inRoman Catholic Church
Eastern Orthodox Church
Lutheranism
FeastFebruary 15 or 16, or November 22 (Gregorian calendar), February 28 (Julian calendar)

Saint Onesimus (Greek: Ὀνήσιμος, translit. Onēsimos, meaning "honorable"; died c. 68 AD, according to Orthodox tradition),[1] also called Onesimus of Byzantium and The Holy Apostle Onesimus in some Eastern Orthodox churches, was probably a slave[2] to Philemon of Colossae, a man of Christian faith. He may also be the same Onesimus named by Ignatius of Antioch (died c. 107) as bishop in Ephesus[3] which would put Onesimus's death closer to 95 A.D. Regardless, Onesimus went from slave to brother to Bishop.

In Scripture[edit]

The name "Onesimus" appears in two New Testament epistles—in Colossians 4 and in Philemon. In Colossians 4:9[4] a person of this name is identified as a Christian accompanying Tychicus to visit the Christians in Colossae; nothing else is stated about him in this context. He may well be the freed Onesimus from the Epistle to Philemon.

The Epistle to Philemon was written by Paul the Apostle to Philemon concerning a person believed to be a runaway slave named Onesimus. The traditional designation of Onesimus as a slave is doubted by some modern scholars.[5] Onesimus found his way to the site of Paul's imprisonment (most probably Rome or Caesarea)[6] to escape punishment for a theft of which he was accused.[7] After hearing the Gospel from Paul, Onesimus converted to Christianity. Paul, having earlier converted Philemon to Christianity, sought to reconcile the two by writing the letter to Philemon which today exists in the New Testament.[8]. The letter reads (in part):

I appeal to you for my son Onesimus, whom I have begotten while in my chains, who once was unprofitable to you, but now is profitable to you and to me. I am sending him back. You therefore receive him, that is, my own heart, whom I wished to keep with me, that on your behalf he might minister to me in my chains for the gospel. But without your consent I wanted to do nothing, that your good deed might not be by compulsion, as it were, but voluntary. For perhaps he departed for a while for this purpose, that you might receive him forever, 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.

In tradition[edit]

Although it is doubted by authorities such as Joseph Fitzmyer,[9] it may be the case that this Onesimus was the same one consecrated a bishop by the Apostles and who accepted the episcopal throne in Ephesus[10] following Saint Timothy. During the reign of Roman emperor Domitian and the persecution of Trajan, Onesimus was imprisoned in Rome and may have been martyred by stoning (although some sources claim that he was beheaded). However, since the reign of Domitian was from 81 A.D. to 96 A.D., then Onesimus' death would have to fall within these years and not 68 A.D. as stated above.

In liturgy[edit]

Onesimus is regarded as a saint by many Christian denominations. The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod commemorates him and Philemon on February 15.[11]

Eastern Churches remember Onesimus on 15 February and 22 November.[12]

The traditional Western commemoration of Onesimus is on 16 February.[13] But in the 2004 edition of the Roman Martyrology, Onesimus is listed under 15 February with the Latin name Onésimus. There, he is described as "[a] runaway slave, whom the apostle Paul received to the faith of Christ while in prison, regarding him as a son of whom he had become father, as he himself wrote to Philemon, Onesimus's master".[14] The date is designated the "commemoration of blessed Onesimus", indicating that it is not regarded as his date of death, and suggesting that his rank in the Catholic Church may be Blessed rather than Saint.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Onesimus". Ecumenic Patriarchate of Constantinople. Retrieved Apr 2, 2011.
  2. ^ Philemon 1:15-16. For perhaps [Onesimus] was for this reason separated from you for a while, that you would have him back forever, 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. (NASB)
  3. ^ Ignatius of Antioch (1919) [1900]. The Epistles of St. Ignatius, Bishop of Antioch. Translated by James Herbert Srawley (3rd ed.). Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge. pp. 39–40. ... Onesimus, whose love surpasses words, in the flesh as your bishop. I pray that you may love him with a love according to Jesus Christ, and that you may all be like him. For blessed is He Who granted unto you, worthy as you are, to possess such a bishop. (chapter 1)
  4. ^ Christian Bible: Colossians 4:9
  5. ^ http://www.scielo.org.za/pdf/vee/v30n1/14.pdf
  6. ^ 'The Letter to Philemon', Joseph A. Fitzmyer S.J., paragraph 5, pages 869-870 The New Jerome Biblical Commentary, 1989, Geoffrey Chapman
  7. ^ Saint Onesimus at SQPN website
  8. ^ Christian Bible: Philemon verses 19-16
  9. ^ Fitzmyer paragraph 4
  10. ^ The Epistle of Ignatius to the Ephesians
  11. ^ Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod. Lutheran Worship. Concordia Publishing House, 1982, updated by the same church's Lutheran Service Book. Concordia Publishing House, 2006.
  12. ^ The Concise Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church, 2nd edition, E. A. Livingstone, 2000, Oxford University Press, p. 414.
  13. ^ Livingstone (2000), p. 414
  14. ^ Martyrologium Romanum, 2004, Vatican Press (Typis Vaticanis), p. 150.

External links[edit]

Titles of the Great Christian Church
Preceded by
Stachys the Apostle
Bishop of Byzantium
54–68
Succeeded by
Polycarpus I of Byzantium