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.”

Concerning early Christianity, (6)we see Pliny’s method of dealing with believers, from their identification, to their interrogation, to their execution. For those who denied being Christians, worship of the gods and the emperor gained them their freedom. (7)Interestingly, Pliny reports that true believers could not be forced to worship the gods or the emperor. (8)Christian worship involved a predawn service, (9)which included singing hymns. The early time probably facilitated a normal working day. (10)These Christians apparently formed a typical cross-section of society in Bithynia, since they were of all classes, ages, localities and of both sexes. (11)There were recognized positions in the church, as illustrated by the mention of the two female deaconesses who were tortured for information. While Pliny does not relate many facts about Jesus, he does provide a look at a very early example of Christian worship. Believers were meeting regularly and worshiping Jesus. Emperor Trajan

Pliny’s inquiry received a reply which is published along with his letters, although Emperor Trajan’s response is much shorter: The method you have pursued, my dear Pliny, in sifting the cases of those denounced to you as Christians is extremely proper. It is not possible to lay down any general rule which can be applied as the fixed standard in all cases of this nature. No search should be made for these people; when they are denounced and found guilty they must be punished; with the restriction, however, that when the party denies himself to be a Christian, and shall give proof that he is not (that is, by adoring our Gods) he shall be pardoned on the ground of repentance, even though he may have formerly incurred suspicion. Informations without the accuser’s name subscribed must not be admitted in evidence against anyone, as it is introducing a very dangerous precedent, and by no means agreeable to the spirit of the age.^35