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Oh-nes´uh-muhs; Gk., “useful”

The slave of Philemon for whom Paul made an appeal in his Letter to Philemon. Onesimus, who was alienated from his master, visited Paul apparently to seek the latter’s service as a mediator. Paul sent Onesimus back to Philemon with the letter, which urges Philemon to receive Onesimus as “a beloved brother” (Phlm 1:16), that is, as a member of the church, and “no longer as a slave.” The conclusion that Onesimus was released for service to Paul’s mission is supported by a further description of him in (Col 4:9) as “the faithful and beloved brother.”

  • Powell, Mark Allan, ed. HarperCollins Bible Dictionary. Abridged Edition. Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature, 2009.