Since Pliny’s letter is rather lengthy, we will quote the portion which pertains directly to an account of early Christian worship of Christ: They (the Christians) were in the habit of meeting on a certain fixed day before it was light, when they sang in alternate verses a hymn to Christ, as to a god, and bound themselves by a solemn oath, not to any wicked deeds, but never to commit any fraud, theft or adultery, never to falsify their word, nor deny a trust when they should be called upon to deliver it up; after which it was their custom to separate, and then reassemble to partake of food—but food of an ordinary and innocent kind.
31 Bruce, Christian Origins, p. 24.
32 Pliny, Letters, transl. by William Melmoth, rev. by W.M.L. Hutchinson (Cambridge: Harvard Univ. Press, 1935), vol. II, X:96.
33 _Ibid. 34 _Ibid.
At this point Pliny adds that Christianity attracted persons of all societal ranks, all ages, both sexes and from both the city and the country.
From Pliny’s letter we find several more facts about Jesus and early Christianity.
(1)Christ was worshiped as deity by early believers. (2)Pliny refers late in his letter to the teachings of Jesus and his followers as “excessive superstition” and “contagious superstition,” which is reminiscent of the words of both Tacitus and Suetonius. (3)Jesus’ ethical teachings are reflected in the oath taken by Christians never to be guilty of a number of sins mentioned in the letter. (4)We find a probable reference to Christ’s institution of communion and the Christian celebration of the “love feast” in Pliny’s remark about their regathering to partake of ordinary food. The reference here alludes to the accusation on the part of non-Christians that believers were suspected of ritual murder and drinking of blood during these meetings, again confirming our view that communion is the subject to which Pliny is referring. (5)There is also a possible reference to Sunday worship in Pliny’s statement that Christians met “on a certain day.”