I’m currently taking a course on worship practices in the early church, and just read this (in?)famous letter from Pliny the Younger to the emperor Trajan regarding the Roman punishment of Christians around the year 112 CE.
Pliny’s letter is striking and, at times, humorous. He suggests that the primary reason he has Christians executed (after giving multiple chances for rescission) is not that they are Christians, per se, but rather because he “had no doubt that, whatever the nature of their creed, stubbornness and inflexible obstinacy surely deserve to be punished.” Apparently Pliny believed that the earliest Christians deserved to be executed simply because they were unwilling to be persuaded, not because there was anything inherently insidious about the belief system.
He mentions that some defendants, when questioned, maintained that they had been Christians at one point, but “ceased to be, some three years before, others many years, some…
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