Did Jesus Throw Paul into Prison?
In my more snarky moments, I have thought some English translations of δέσμιος Χριστοῦ Ἰησοῦ, “prisoner of Christ Jesus”, could be taken that Jesus threw Paul into prison. The translators here thankfully didn’t take that meaning in Philemon, verse 1. They instead translated that Paul had been imprisoned by the Roman government, because of his work. Well, that was true, whether directly or indirectly. Later in the letter, Paul refers to the chains that bound him, a physical imprisonment. But could that be the only meaning Paul intended?
At the start of the letter, Paul could have had a spiritual meaning in mind as well. He wrote elsewhere that Jesus the Messiah had conquered his old sinful nature and taken him captive. (See II Corinthians 2:14, in the image of a Roman post-war victory parade.) So the statement in the first verse of Philemon is vague and can be taken either way, physically or spiritually, or in both ways, in a double meaning. The translators here chose to explicitly translate it both ways. We’ll see if the translation consultant approves of that during final translation checking.
Photo: George Hodan, publicdomainpictures.net, public domain