Paul and His Letter to Philemon

Prof. N.T. Wright compares Paul's letter to Philemon to a letter of Pliny showing powerful countercultural differences.
Free tutorial
Rating: 4.8 out of 5 (6,145 ratings)
36,746 students
44min of on-demand video

Understand the background surrounding this wonderful but small letter of the Apostle Paul to Philemon.
Describe the worldview that the Apostle Paul has in addressing a difficult matter and then to reflect on how that should be lived out today.
Explain the stratification of social class within the Roman world as shown by the letter Pliny the Younger writes to Sabinianus.
Delineate the differences between the solutions offered by Paul, on the one hand, and Pliny the Younger, on the other hand, when dealing with nearly identical issues.
Develop a broader understanding of what it means to be a King Jesus follower in a countercultural way.
Complete the (optional) assignment about processing ideas and thinking about some important questions.


  • This course only requires a desire to learn about the New Testament. No other materials are required.


The Apostle Paul is known particularly for some of his longer letters such as his letter to the Romans. In Paul's letter to Philemon, we encounter his shortest letter. But don't let that fool you into thinking there isn't much there. In this course Prof. N.T. Wright will present abundant material from this little epistle to comprehend and ponder about those who became followers of King Jesus and how they were to live. This way of life was in contrast to the normal Roman way of living in the first century A.D. 

The course compares two letters which address a nearly identical issue: what to do about a runaway servant. Prof. N.T. Wright unpacks Paul's letter to Philemon, which addresses concerns about the 'runaway' named Onesimus. Prof. Wright then explains the situation and setting surrounding the letter of Pliny the Younger to Sabinianus about an unnamed runaway. The social structures endemic to Rome become visible and understandable in such a way to see how Paul's new way of life was meant to confront social norms. 

Who this course is for:

  • This free course is a great introduction to the study of the New Testament and to the teaching ministry of Prof. N.T. Wright. This is a short course, so it is perfect for those who want to 'taste' the environment of online learning on Udemy. This course also gives a great insight into how the courses produced by N.T. Wright Online for Udemy work. This course is not for those who wish to argue about theology.


N.T. Wright
  • 4.8 Instructor Rating
  • 28,750 Reviews
  • 123,805 Students
  • 42 Courses

N.T Wright received his BA, MA and D.Phil. from Oxford University. He taught New Testament at Cambridge, McGill and Oxford Universities 1978-1993. He was Dean of Lichfield, then Canon of Westminster, then Bishop of Durham (Church of England), 1994-2010.  Prof. Wright is Professor Emeritus of New Testament and Early Christianity at the University of St Andrews, Scotland, and is currently Senior Research Fellow at Wycliffe Hall, Oxford University. He has published over 85 books and hundreds of articles.  In 2014 Prof. Wright received the Burkitt Medal from the British Academy for services to New Testament scholarship. He enjoys music, golf the Isle of Harris, and spending time with his family in the midst of a busy schedule of writing and travelling.

David P. Seemuth
  • 4.8 Instructor Rating
  • 28,859 Reviews
  • 123,932 Students
  • 43 Courses

David Seemuth has a Ph.D. from Marquette University in the field of Religious Studies with an emphasis on New Testament Theology. He has taught at the graduate level for over 30 years at numerous universities and seminaries. He also has 21 years of on-line teaching experience. His passion is to see that people not only understand the Scripture, but also apply them to daily life.

Teaching Assistant
Jennifer Loop
  • 4.8 Instructor Rating
  • 28,603 Reviews
  • 122,765 Students
  • 41 Courses

Jennifer Loop is currently a doctoral student at Durham University. She is the Director of Ministry Engagement for the Wisconsin Center for Christian Studies, and plays a critical role in the online education, both organizational and theological, by guiding the online student experience. Jennifer enjoys engaging with a virtual community of diverse students and learners to explore how theology, faith and practice intersect.

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