Paul's Funny Word Play!
Biblical Humor

Jesus Laughs!    -    A Pain in the Rear
God Mocks Sinners    -    Fools of Corinth
Laughter's Son    -    Funny Quotes, more!
In this brief example of Biblical humor we turn to the book of Philemon. It was written from 61 to 63 A.D. during Apostle Paul's first Roman imprisonment. In it Paul uses a funny play on words hoping to solicit a merciful response regarding a runaway slave.

Philemon is an interesting book in that, being one of the shortest in the Bible, contains only 430 words and twenty-five verses in the King James Translation. The main subjects of the book are Onesimus, a slave, and Philemon, his master and owner who is a Christian and friend of the Apostle Paul.

Onesimus, who likely lived in or near the city of Colosee (he delivered the letter to the Colossians to them), stole something from his master (Philemon 18 - 19) and then fled to Rome. While in the Roman capital he tracks down where Paul is in prison awaiting his trial.

What is a thorn in the flesh?
Map of Paul's Final Missionary Journey!
How should we treat the poor?

After Onesimus hears the gospel, for an unknown period of time, he becomes a Christian. Paul, knowing of Onesimus' theft which he repenting of, decides the right thing to do is to send him back to his master with a personal note from him. He is hoping to convince his dear friend Philemon not only to forgive his slave but also to begin treating him with the same respect as a fellow believer.

The Apostle begins his direct appeal to Philemon by stating, "I beseech you for my son, Onesimus, whom I begot in my bonds" (verse 10). He then writes the following.

Who was once of no service to you, but now he is profitable both to you and to me; whom I am sending back to you (Philemon 1:11).

First century readers would have found Paul's play on words, using Onesimus' name, funny. Onesimus' name is translated from the Greek Onesimos, which means someone or something that is profitable or useful (Thayer's Greek Definitions).

The Apostle is stating that Onesimus was, at one time, not living up to his name when he was of "no service" to Philemon his master. Now, however, due to his conversion, he was finally fulfilling the destiny of his name by being of great use to both of them!

Additional Study Materials
Who were the apostle's relatives?
Map of New Testament Roman Empire
Timeline of Paul's Ministry to his Death
Who are the Maccabees?

Biblical Humor
Jesus Laughs!   -   A Pain in the Rear
Lost in Translation   -   Laughter's Son
Paul's Cutting Correction
Elijah Mocks Prophets!   -   The Big Lie
Fools of Corinth   -   God Mocks Sinners
Paul's Funny Word Play

Humorous Quotes!
Atheists    -    Children    -    Death
Dogs & Cats    -    God and Man
Growing Old    -    Life's Lessons
Marriage    -    Money    -    Relationships
Stupidity    -    Success & Fame
Best of the Rest!

Adam Clarke's Commentary
Bible Reader's Companion
Life and Epistles of Apostle Paul
(Conybeare and Howson)

© Bible Study