works cited at the end.
If I were to conclude the significance of Paul's letter to Philemon and his approach to demand Onesimus' hospitality and kinship status, I can say that it was clearly his approach towards his demands that has made the letter such a major topic of discussion with regards to slavery. If Paul had taken an aggressive approach and straight away demanded the release and freedom of Onesimus, the letter would not been preserved in the history books for the generations to follow; that is a surety. I say this because it was Paul's approach and choice of language structure that caused for a large amount of debate to follow. It has been this debate, whether it has been on slavery or the various interpretations of his language structure, that has allows this letter and the relevant history to live on through the centuries. Of course, it is important to understand Philemon's role here as well, because it was his choice to treat the letter with a certain amount of respect and dignity that contributed to the letter's longevity as well. If Philemon had chosen to disregard Paul's requests and thrown away the letter as one that was not worthy of consideration, nobody would've even had the chance to debate the letter's significance in history. This again takes me back to the language structure adopted by Paul as he was able to soften his approach of the numerous demands as well that helped Philemon play his part of respecting what was demanded. Interestingly enough, Onesimus did go on to take on the duties as a bishop! To think that this line of action came about with only a choice of softening one's demands is extra-ordinary and the credit goes solely to Paul!
JM.G. Barclay, Colossians and Philemon, Sheffield Academic Press, 1997
Bartchy, S.S. (1973). First-Century Slavery and the Interpretation of 1 Corinthians 7:21 (SBLDS 11; Atlanta: Scholars Press) 175.