“Now that I have begun to deal with this problem, as so often happens, the charges are becoming more widespread and increasing in variety… I have therefore postponed any further examination and hastened to consult you. The question seems to me to be worthy of your consideration, especially in view of the number of persons endangered; for a great many individuals of every age and class, both men and women, are being brought to trial, and this is likely to continue. It is not only the towns, but villages and rural districts too which are infected through contact with this wretched cult ."
Apart from reading ancient church fathers and modern scholars of early Christianity, it is also invaluable to read other ancient Greco-Roman literature. The Younger Pliny is writing to the Emperor Trajan concerning the “problem” he is having with the Christians.
From this quote, a few items are worth noting. First, before the end of the first century, pagans had identified Christianity and Judaism separately. Second, the spread of Christianity appears to be both rural and cosmopolitan. Third, the Christian faith supersedes economic, ethnic, gender, and social classes.
Reading such literature, especially that of Pliny’s correspondence with Trajan, highlights the social and political impact of Christianity on ancient society.
About the Author:John T. Lowe
John T. Lowe is pursing a Master of Divinity at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. His research interests include Patristic Literature, Ecclesiastical tradition, Latin Studies, Early Christianity, and Late Antiquity.
Pliny the Younger. The Letters of the Younger Pliny, Penguin Classics, trans. Betty Radice (London: Penguin Group, 1969), 320. ↩