Re: predicate adjectives (and Philemon)

From: Jonathan Robie (
Date: Wed Feb 05 1997 - 18:36:27 EST

Edward Hobbs ( wrote:

>> Perry Stepp wrote, in reply to Jim Oxford:
>> "A personal letter"? ". . . to Philemon . . ., to Apphia . . ., to
>> Archippus . . ., and to the church that meets in your home" (Phm 1.1).
>> That doesn't sound like a personal letter to me.

> (Edward Hobbs now:)
> "Personal letter" -- look more closely, and it proves to be a mixed
> case. Certainly Paul addresses the letter to three individuals, one of
> whom is the owner of Onesimus, also the home-owner where the church meets
> (note the SOU in v. 2). He wants it to be read to the church-group. BUT:
> the entire remainder of the letter is addressed to the owner in the second
> person singular, even, oddly, the greetings from Paul's fellow prisoner and
> fellow-workers. Only Paul's hope for the prayers of "y'all" (v.22) and the
> final grace (v.25) are addressed to any but the owner.
> It really IS personal, but intended to be read to everyone in the
> church (as a means of putting pressure on the slave-owner, surely).

I really like the last two lines here - this really helps me understand the
tone of Philemon.

As for style, just because we have two "open personal" letters from the same
person to two different churches, that doesn't mean that they would be
written in the same style. If I wrote an open personal letter to my father's
Quaker church in Kentucky, my own Mennonite church in Durham, or the
primarily black Baptist prison ministry in which I participate, there would
be significant differences in my grammar and vocabulary to address the
different audiences. If Timothy were Jewish and grew up hearing the
scriptures in the temple, he and Paul might have one common register, which
might be different from the register shares with Philemon.

When I write, I visualize the person who will receive the letter, and I tend
to use the same kind of language I would use to talk with that person.


Jonathan Robie
POET Software, 3207 Gibson Road, Durham, N.C., 27703
Ph: 919.598.5728 Fax: 919.598.6728
email:, <--- shockwave enabled!

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.4 : Sat Apr 20 2002 - 15:38:04 EDT