re: Philemon 6

From: Richard Lindeman (
Date: Sat Mar 14 1998 - 02:10:53 EST

If we take PISTEWS in Philemon 6 as a subjective genitive then Paul states,
"My prayer is that the sharing by your faith might be effective EN EPIGNWSEI
PANTOS AGAQOU TOU EN HMIN EIS XRISTON" The $24 question is: how do we
interpret the prepositional phrase EN EPIGNWSEI PANTOS AGAQOU?
If we take this phrase as being supplementary to hOPWS GENHTAI then the
meaning is plain and the NIV rendering is essentially correct: "I pray that
you may be active in sharing your faith, so that you will have a full
understanding of every good thing that we have in Christ." (BTW... It is
nice to see here that the NIV also translates PISTEWS as being a subjective

Sounds pretty good... but let's consider another possibility and see if it
fits in better within the context of Paul's letter. EN does not necessarily
have to be supplementary to hOPWS GENHTAI and so assume the *purpose* force
of "so that". EN might instead be associated circumstantially with GENHTAI
with the meaning "in connection with" or "because". EN is probably the most
neutral of all prepositions. Spacially it means "in" and is centrally
located within an object. Because it is so centrally located, it also has
the potential of a fairly wide variety of interpretations when taken
circumstantially or adverbially. For instance, EN can have the force of
"because". Consider John 16:30 where Jesus disciples said they believed
that he came from God *because of* what he was saying. Or consider Galatians
1:24 where Paul says "They glorified god *because of* me."

Taken this way, the translation of Philemon 6 becomes: "My prayer is that
the sharing by your faith might be effective in connection with (or because
of) the full understanding of every good thing that we have in Christ."
I believe that this translation fits in much better within the full context
of the letter than the NIV rendering. It accomplishes several things which
NIV doesn't. First of all, it adds further groundwork for Paul's appeal to
Philemon concerning Onesimus. Secondly, it doesn't call into question the
spiritual understanding or maturity of Philemon as the NIV might be so
interpreted. Thirdly, it allows the first seven verses of this letter to be
all groundwork laid in preparation one major appeal which Paul begins to
introduce with the word DIO in verse eight. Fourthly, taking EN in verse six
as causative fits in well with the causative nuances found in both verses
five and seven.

It is then the full understanding of every good gift that he already has in
Christ which enables Philemon consider being generous toward Onesimus.


Rich Lindeman

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