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Saint Onesimus
Painting depicting death of Onesimus, from the Menologion of Basil II (c. 1000 AD)
Holy Disciple Onesimus
Bishop of Byzantium
Died c. AD 68
Rome (then Roman province)
Venerated in Roman Catholic Church
Eastern Orthodox Church
Feast February 15 or 16, or November 22 (Gregorian calendar), February 28 (Julian calendar)

Saint Onesimus (Greek: Ὀνήσιμος Onēsimos, meaning "useful"; died c. 68 AD),[1] also called Onesimus of Byzantium and The Holy Apostle Onesimus in some Eastern Orthodox churches, was a slave to Philemon of Colossae, a man of Christian faith. He may be the same Onesimus named by Ignatius of Antioch as Bishop in Ephesus.


  • In Scripture 1
  • In tradition 2
  • In liturgy 3
  • See also 4
  • References 5
  • External Links 6

In Scripture

The name "Onesimus" appears in two New Testament epistles—in Colossians 4 and in Philemon. In Colossians 4:9[2] a person of this name is identified as a Christian accompanying Tychicus to visit the Christians in Colossae; nothing else is stated about him in this context. He may well be the freed Onesimus from the Epistle to Philemon.

The Epistle to Philemon was written by Paul the Apostle to the slave-master Philemon concerning a runaway slave called Onesimus. This slave found his way to the site of Paul's imprisonment (most probably Rome or Caesarea)[3] to escape punishment for a theft of which he was accused.[4] After hearing the Gospel from Paul, Onesimus converted to Christianity. Paul, having earlier converted Philemon to Christianity, sought to reconcile the two by writing the letter to Philemon which today exists in the New Testament.[5]). The letter read (in part):

In tradition

Although it is doubted by authorities such as Joseph Fitzmyer,[6] it may be the case that this Onesimus was the same one consecrated a bishop by the Apostles and who accepted the episcopal throne in Ephesus[7] following Saint Timothy. During the reign of Roman emperor Domitian and the persecution of Trajan, Onesimus was imprisoned in Rome and may have been martyred by stoning (although some sources claim that he was beheaded).[8]

In liturgy

Onesimus is regarded as a saint by many Christian denominations. The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod, which commemorates him and Philemon on February 15.[9]

Eastern Churches remember Onesimus on 15 February and 22 November.[10]

The traditional Western commemoration of Onesimus is on 16 February.[11] But in the 2004 edition of the Roman Martyrology, Onesimus is listed under 15 February with the Latin name Onésimi. There, he is described as "[a] runaway slave, whom the apostle Paul received to the faith of Christ while in prison, regarding him as a son of whom he had become father, as he himself wrote to Philemon, Onesimus's master".[12] The date is designated the "commemoration of blessed Onesimus", indicating that it is not regarded as his date of death, and suggesting that his rank in the Catholic Church may be Blessed rather than Saint.

See also


  1. ^ "Onesimus". Ecumenic Patriarchate of Constantinople. Retrieved Apr 2, 2011. 
  2. ^ Christian Bible: Colossians 4:9
  3. ^ 'The Letter to Philemon', Joseph A. Fitzmyer S.J., paragraph 5, pages 869-870 The New Jerome Biblical Commentary, 1989, Geoffrey Chapman
  4. ^ Saint Onesimus at SQPN website
  5. ^ Christian Bible: Philemon verses 19-16
  6. ^ Fitzmyer paragraph 4
  7. ^ The Epistle of Ignatius to the Ephesians
  8. ^ The Holy Apostle Onesimus - Serbian Orthodox Calendar
  9. ^ Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod. Lutheran Worship. Concordia Publishing House, 1982, updated by the same church's Lutheran Service Book. Concordia Publishing House, 2006.
  10. ^ The Concise Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church, 2nd edition, E. A. Livingstone, 2000, Oxford University Press, p. 414.
  11. ^ Livingstone (2000), p. 414
  12. ^ Martyrologium Romanum, 2004, Vatican Press (Typis Vaticanis), p. 150.

External Links

Orthodox Church titles
Preceded by
Stachys the Apostle
Bishop of Byzantium
Succeeded by
Polycarpus I of Byzantium
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