A Socio-Rhetorical Interpretation of the Letter to Philemon in Light of the New Institutional Economics

An Exhortion to Transform a Master-Slave Economic Relationship into a Brotherly-Love Relationship

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Alex Hon Ho Ip
  • Tübingen, Germany: 
    Mohr Siebeck
    , September
     246 pages.
     For other formats: Link to Publisher's Website.
Review coming soon!

Review by Philip J. Long forthcoming.


In this study, Alex Hon Ho Ip argues that when Paul wrote to Philemon about Onesimus, his main purpose was not to try and reunite, as is widely held, a runaway slave with his master, but rather to have Onesimus accepted as a beloved brother in Christ. By examining the letter's inner texture, the author shows that Paul's main concern was for Philemon and Onesimus to be reconciled in brotherly love. The inter-textual weave reveals Paul's theological and ethical thoughts on love, which is the basis for the apostle's main argument. By taking a new institutional economics approach to help reconstruct the economic relationship between slave and master, Alex Hon Ho Ip is able to offer a better understanding of the original relationship Paul argued against. With all this in mind, the focus is on re-reading the letter and hearing how Paul's rhetoric exhorts a new relationship between Onesimus and Philemon.

About the Author(s)/Editor(s)/Translator(s): 

Alex Hon Ho Ip is assistant professor in New Testament, Chung Chi Divinity School, Chinese University of Hong Kong.

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