Would Paul have used smiley faces in his letters?

I’m preparing a message on Philemon right now, and I thought it would be helpful to capture the emotion of the letter, as well as internalize it,  by recasting it in a more contemporary format.  I tried to remain faithful to the details of the text, but I’ve also added in some interpretations which are extra-biblical (educated guesses, in other words).  I enjoyed the process, and thought I would share the results. This is a not a translation of Philemon, but rather a loose paraphrase using more contemporary syntax. Enjoy.

From: Paul, currently in prison for preaching about Jesus Christ, along with our brother Timothy

To: Philemon my beloved friend and fellow worker, as well as your wonderful wife Apphia, your son Archippus (you must be proud of his call to ministry 🙂 ), and all the other believers who meet in your house for worship.  Say hello to them for me!

I hope this note finds you enjoying the grace and peace we have from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. I’m constantly thanking God because I’ve heard so much about your love and faith that you have for Christ and all the believers. Do you know what I’m praying for you right now? I’m praying that you will be greatly effective in sharing your faith so that our testimony as Christians would magnify Christ. We have rejoiced and been very encouraged knowing of your love. The believers you have sacrificially supported have told us all about it!

Now, I have something to ask you. I could just command it, but I’d rather ask you out of love.  Yes, even though I’m your elder and even though I’m in prison because of Christ, I don’t want to command you, but rather appeal to you on behalf of my son, Onesimus. Yes, “my son.” I led him to Christ while here in prison. Now I know that before he was completely worthless to you, the exact opposite of his name. But Christ has changed him! I can’t think of anything better to call him than Onesimus and I’m sure he will be useful to you (and to me as well.)  I sent him back to you, and even though he is your slave, please welcome him as you would me.  In fact, I would have liked to have kept him here to help me, as I know you would do if you were here, but I didn’t want to do that without asking your permission first. I would be thrilled if you would send him back to me, but that’s your decision.  Don’t just do it because I asked.

You know, I’ve been thinking about all this… it’s possible God worked all this out just so that you two could be together forever. Not as a master and slave, but as brothers!  I consider him a brother, but it would be even more the case for you!

Again, please welcome as if he were me.  I realize he probably stole some things from you when he ran away.  Just send me the bill for anything he owes. I promise I’ll pay it back. (but I think we can count it even, considering what you owe me 🙂 )  Yes, brother, I’m asking you a favor, and I know it’s hard for you.  But this will give me so much encouragement in the Lord.

But why am i going into all these details, I know I can trust you to do even more than I’ve asked. And hopefully, as a result of your prayers i’ll soon be released from this prison.  When that happens I’m planning to come visit you as soon as possible, so make sure the spare room is ready 🙂

Oh, Epaphras who’s also here with me in prison says hello, as do Mark, Aristarchus, Demas, and Luke my other coworkers

May the Lord Jesus Christ enable you to do the right thing,



StuartMarch 8th, 2010 at 11:42 pm

That is a fantastic idea! Do you mind if I steal your paraphrase (and emoticon idea) to share with some teens?

andyMarch 8th, 2010 at 11:50 pm

@Stuart Not at all. Glad it’s of use!

Aunt JoyOctober 8th, 2010 at 11:21 pm

Hi Andy! I enjoyed your paraphrase of Philemon, and thoughts about smiley faces.

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