History - the Frame of Reference Part 4c. – Jesus, The Christ
Pliny The Younger [Quick Source] :
“ Gaius Plinius Caecilius Secundus , born Gaius Caecilius or Gaius Caecilius Cilo (61 AD – ca. 112 AD), better known as Pliny the Younger , was a lawyer, author, and magistrate of Ancient Rome. Pliny's uncle, Pliny the Elder, helped raise and educate him. They were both witnesses to the eruption of Vesuvius on 24 August 79 AD.
Pliny is known for his hundreds of surviving letters, which are an invaluable historical source for the time period. Many are addressed to reigning emperors or to notables such as the historian, Tacitus. Pliny himself was a notable figure, serving as an imperial magistrate under Trajan (reigned AD 98–117). Pliny was considered an honest and moderate man, consistent in his pursuit of suspected Christian members according to Roman law , and rose through a series of Imperial civil and military offices, the cursus honorum (see below). He was a friend of the historian Tacitus and employed the biographer Suetonius in his staff . ...” [Wikipedia; Pliny The Younger] - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pliny_the_younger
Pliny The Younger [English] [read all, no highlighting necessary]:
“C. Pliny to Emperor Trajan
It is customary for me, sir, to refer to you in all matters wherein I have a doubt. Who truly is better able to rule my hesitancy, or to instruct my ignorance? I was never present at examinations of Christians, therefore I do not know what is customarily punished, nor to what extent, nor how far to take the investigation. I was quite undecided; should there be any consideration given to age; are those who are however delicate no different from the stronger? Should penitence obtain pardon; or, as has been the case particularly with Christians, to desist makes no difference? Should the name itself be punished (even if crimes are absent), or the crimes that go with the name?
Meanwhile, this is the method I have followed with those who were brought before me as Christians. I asked them directly if they were Christians. The ones who answered affirmatively I questioned again with a warning, and yet a third time: those who persisted I ordered led [away]. For I have no doubt, whatever else they confessed to, certainly [this] pertinacity and inflexible obstinacy ought to be punished. There were others alike of madness, whom I noted down to be sent to the City, because they were Roman citizens. Soon in consequence of this policy itself, as it was made standard, many kinds of criminal charges occurred and spread themselves abroad. A pamphlet was published anonymously, containing the names of many.
Those who denied that they were or ever had been Christians, when they swore before me, called on the gods and offered incense and wine to your image (which I had ordered brought in for this [purpose], along with images of the gods), and also cursed Christ (which, it is said, it is impossible to force those who are real Christians to do) I thought worthy to be acquitted. Others named by an informer, said they had been Christians, but now denied [it]; certainly they had been, but had lapsed, some three years ago, some more; and more than one [lit. not nobody] over twenty years ago. These all worshiped both your image and the images of the gods and cursed Christ.
They stated that the sum of their guilt or error amounted to this, that they used to gather on a stated day before dawn and sing to Christ as if he were a god, and that they took an oath not to involve themselves in villainy, but rather to commit no theft, no fraud, no adultery; not to break faith, nor to deny money placed with them in trust. Once these things were done, it was their custom to part and return later to eat a meal together, innocently, although they stopped this after my edict, in which I, following your mandate, forbade all secret societies.
All the more I believed it necessary to find out what was the truth from two servant maids, which were called deaconesses, by means of torture. Nothing more did I find than a disgusting, fanatical superstition.
Therefore I stopped the examination, and hastened to consult you. For it appears to me a proper matter for counsel, most greatly on account of the number of people endangered. For many of all ages, all classes, and both sexes already are brought into danger, and shall be [in future]. And not only the cities; the contagion of this superstition is spread throughout the villages and the countryside; but it appears to me possible to stop it and put it right. Certainly the temples which were once deserted are beginning to be crowded, and the long interrupted sacred rites are being revived, while food from the sacrifices is selling, for which up to now a buyer was hardly to be found. From which it may easily be supposed, that what disturbs men can be mended, if a place is allowed for repentance.” [Pliny The Younger; Epistulae, Volume X, Number 96 [English]] - http://www.tyrannus.com/pliny_let.html
Pliny The Younger [Latin]:
“C. Plinius Traiano Imperatori
Sollemne est mihi, domine, omnia, de quibus dubito, ad te referre. Quis enim potest melius vel cunctationem meum regere vel ignorantiam instruere? Cognitionibus de Christianis interfui numquam: ideo nescio quid et quatenus aut puniri soleat aut quaeri. Nec mediocriter haesitavi, sitne aliquod discrimen aetatum, an quamlibet teneri nihil a robustioribus differant; detur paenitentiae venia, an ei, qui omnino Christianibus fuit, desisse non prosit; nomen ipsum, si flagitiis careat, an flagitia cohaerentia nomini puniantur.
Interim in iis, qui ad me tamquam Christiani deferebantur, hunc sum secutus modum. Interrogavi ipsos, an essent Christiani. Confitentes iterum ac tertio interrogavi supplicium minatus: perseverantes duci iussi. Neque enim dubitabam, qualecumque esset quod faterentur, pertinaciam certe et inflexibilem obstinationem debere puniri. Fuerunt alii similis amentiae, quos quia cives Romani erant, adnotavi in urbem remittendos. Mox ipso tractatu, ut fieri solet, diffundente se crimine, plures species inciderunt. Propositus est libellus sine auctore multorum nomina continens.
Qui negabant esse se Christianos aut fuisse, cum praeeunte me deos appellarent et imagini tuae, quam propter hoc iusseram cum simulacris numinum adferri, ture ac vino supplicarent, praeterea male dicerent Christo, quorum nihil posse cogi dicuntur, qui sunt re vera Christiani, dimittendos esse putavi. Alii ab indice nominati esse se Christianos dixerunt et mox negaverunt; fuisse quidem, sed desisse, quidem ante triennium, quidam ante plures annos; non nemo etiam ante viginti. Hi quoque omnes et imaginem tuam deorumque simulacra venerati sunt et Christo maledixerunt.
Adfirmabant autem hanc fuisse summam vel culpae suae vel erroris, quod essent soliti stato die ante lucem convenire carmenque Christo quasi deo dicere secum invicem seque sacramento non in scelus aliquod obstringere, sed ne furta, ne latrocinia, ne adulteria committerent, ne fidem fallerent, ne depositum appellati abnegarent; quibus peractis, morem sibi discedendi fuisse rursusque coeundi ad capiendum cibum, promiscuum tamen et innoxium; quod ipsum facere desisse post edictum meum, quo secundum mandata tua hetaerias esse vetueram.
Quo magis necessarium credidi ex duabus ancillis, quae ministrae dicebantur, quid esset veri, et per tormenta quaerere. Nihil aliud inveni quam superstitionem pravam, immodicam.
Ideo dilata cognitione, ad consulendum te decucurri. Visa est enim mihi res digna consultatione, maxime propter periclitantium numerum. Multi enim omnis aetatis, omnis ordinis, utriusque sexus etiam vocantur in periculum et vocabuntur. Neque civitates tantum, sed vicos etiam atque agros superstitionis istius contagio pervagata est; quae videtur sisti et corrigi posse. Certe satis constat prope iam desolata templa coepisse celebrari, et sacra sollemnia diu intermissa repeti pastumque venire victimarum, cuius adhuc rarissimus emptor inveniebatur. Ex quo facile est opinari, qui turba hominum emendari possit, si sit paenitentiae locus.” [Pliny The Younger; Epistulae, Volume X, Number 96 [Latin]] - http://www.tyrannus.com/pliny_let.html
Pliny The Younger [English]:
“You have adopted the proper course, my dear Pliny, in dealing with the Christians who have been brought before you . No general or definite ruling can be laid down. They are not to be hunted out, but if brought before you and convicted of they must be punished. Those, however, who deny their Christianity and prove their denial by praying to our gods, may wipe out past suspicions, and secure a free pardon by their recantation. Anonymous accusations of all sorts are are inadmissible. They are contrary to the spirit of our time.” [Pliny The Younger; Epistulae, Volume X, Number 97; page 216-217 [English]; C. Plinii Caecilii Secundi Epistulae ad Traianum imperatorem cum eiusdem …; for total sections 96-97 [XCVI – XCVII] in Latin and English; see pages 211-217] - http://books.google.com/books?id=KSMBAAAAMAAJ&printsec=frontcover&source=gbs_ge_summary_r&cad=0#v=onepage&q&f=false
Pliny The Younger [Latin]:
“TRAIANUS PLINIO S.
1 Actum quem debuisti, mi Secunde, in excutiendis causis eorum, qui Christiani ad te delati fuerant, secutus es . Neque enim in universum aliquid, quod quasi certam formam habeat, constitui potest. 2 Conquirendi non sunt; si deferantur et arguantur, puniendi sunt, ita tamen ut, qui negaverit se Christianum esse idque re ipsa manifestum fecerit, id est supplicando dis nostris, qua MV is suspectus in praeteritum, veniam ex paenitentia impetret. Sine auctore vero propositi libelli <in> nullo crimine locum habere debent. Nam et pessimi exempli nec nostri saeculi est.” [Pliny The Younger; Epistulae, Volume X, Number 97 [Latin]] - http://www.thelatinlibrary.com/pliny.ep10.html
Thus, we see yet for a third time, from this Secular Historical source, that we have:
[1.] “ Christians” , of all “ age(s)” , men, women and children, were being “ examined” and subjected to interrogation, even by means “ of torture” , by the Romans for their particular practices and faith.
[2.] We see Christianity [thus the “ Christians” ] spreading outward further from the area of origin in Jerusalem, just as was given in the scriptures. We see that some were even “ Roman citizens” themselves; like unto Paul (Acts 22:25-29 *a) . They, who refused to renounce and “ curse” “Christ” , or to call “ on the gods” [Roman pantheon, “our gods” ; etc] or to offer “ incense and wine to” Caesars “ image” when turned in and interrogated were then “ led (away)” and if they were also a Roman citizen were sent to the “ City” [Rome] for destruction.
[3.] We see that the Romans, including Pliny the Younger, called this Christianity, a “ disgusting, fanatical superstition” , and a “ madness” that was spreading even among the Roman citizenry; because it was putting to an end of their own Roman worship practices and licentiousness (Acts 14:15; Romans 1:15 * b .
[4.] We see evidence that the greater Roman government feared the Christians, for it was obvious to Pliny [the Younger] of the effect such “ superstition” [as he so designated Christianity] was having upon the whole populace of the Roman empire, and so says, “ ... the number of people endangered. For many of all ages, all classes, and both sexes already are brought into danger, and shall be [in future]. And not only the cities; the contagion of this superstition is spread throughout the villages and the countryside...” . It was all too clear [to Pliny the Younger] that there was direct correlation and evidence that Christianity was greatly and adversely affecting their [Roman] pagan worship and daily lifestyles, etc, for he states that once he had began to put his Roman 'foot down' and enforce laws against their “ societies” , and by force make them to cease, as he says that it might be “ ... possible to stop it and put it right...” , and by so doing, it would bring back all of the pagan worship in their various temples and rites and sacrifices to their “ gods” . So, he even notes this correlation, that once he had indeed begun to have Christians “ tortured” , etc that the Roman “ ... temples which were once deserted are beginning to be crowded, and the long interrupted sacred rites are being revived, while food from the sacrifices is selling, for which up to now a buyer was hardly to be found. ...”
[5.] We see evidence that these true Christians worshiped “ Christ” as “ a god” and would not worship others, nor of the “ image” of Caesar, even in the face of “ torture” and death. This is also verified in the scripture (Luke 24:52; John1:1-18; etc *c) .
[6.] We see that written reports were being sent back to the Caesar [in this instance - Trajan] about these matters, and it was asked whether merely the “ name” [Christian], ought to be “ punished” [ie simply being Christian], whether there were accusers, charges, or any findings of wrongdoing or not. And yet we see that they [who would not renounce Christ; whom all, who being cognizant of the immediate historical facts, understood to be a real person that existed] in the “ meanwhile” before the Caesar replied, were being “ punished” and “ led (away)” for their “ pertinacity and inflexible obstinacy” in adherence and unwillingness to renounce and “ curse” “Christ” .
[7.] Many people were examined, and we see at least three types of people. The true Christian, the non-Christian, and the Christian in name only, who either had fallen away at some point, or who once persecuted, turned back, or reneged, etc. When it was made known of these things, accusations and “ many criminal charges occurred and spread themselves abroad” , that even “ A pamphlet was published anonymously, containing the names of many.” Also it is said, that others were turned in by others, “ Others named by an informer...” This, Christ Jesus said would happen (Matthew 24:9-10; Mark 13:11-12 *d) . Christianity was easily the scapegoat for the problems of Rome, for the populace and their enemies [even go so far as naming someone as a Christian, in the hopes of possibly eliminating an enemy!], even as they had been in the days of the Nero Caesar. We notice that Pliny remarks of that which was rumored to be known of the True Christian which differentiated them from those who were not, “ ...when they swore before me, called on the gods and offered incense and wine to your image (which I had ordered brought in for this [purpose], along with images of the gods), and also cursed Christ (which, it is said, it is impossible to force those who are real Christians to do) I thought worthy to be acquitted. Others named by an informer, said they had been Christians, but now denied [it]; certainly they had been, but had lapsed, some three years ago, some more; and more than one [lit. not nobody] over twenty years ago. These all worshiped both your image and the images of the gods and cursed Christ.”
[8.] Pliny [the Younger] even gives specific details as to what these Christians believed and practiced, and we can know the information gathered was most accurate of the true Christians, for it was gained under intense scrutiny [ “ torture” ], in that they were known to “ ...sing to Christ as if he were a god, and that they took an oath not to involve themselves in villainy, but rather to commit no theft, no fraud, no adultery; not to break faith, nor to deny money placed with them in trust. Once these things were done, it was their custom to part and return later to eat a meal together, innocently...” , and we can see evidence of this directly from the scriptures (Acts 2:46, 5:42, 10:22,32, 16:25, 20:20; Romans 13:9, etc *e) .