Jesus who?

If you have never seen this before some of you may enjoy the read and I consider it raises some interesting questions.

Pliny the Younger’s Letter to Trajan concerning how to deal with Christians.

It is my practice, my lord, to refer to you all matters concerning which I am in doubt. For who can better give guidance to my hesitation or inform my ignorance? I have never participated in trials of Christians. I therefore do not know what offenses it is the practice to punish or investigate, and to what extent. And I have been not a little hesitant as to whether there should be any distinction on account of age or no difference between the very young and the more mature; whether pardon is to be granted for repentance, or, if a man has once been a Christian, it does him no good to have ceased to be one; whether the name itself, even without offenses, or only the offenses associated with the name are to be punished.

Meanwhile, in the case of those who were denounced to me as Christians, I have observed the following procedure: I interrogated these as to whether they were Christians; those who confessed I interrogated a second and a third time, threatening them with punishment; those who persisted I ordered executed. For I had no doubt that, whatever the nature of their creed, stubbornness and inflexible obstinacy surely deserve to be punished. There were others possessed of the same folly; but because they were Roman citizens, I signed an order for them to be transferred to Rome.

Soon accusations spread, as usually happens, because of the proceedings going on, and several incidents occurred. An anonymous document was published containing the names of many persons. Those who denied that they were or had been Christians, when they invoked the gods in words dictated by me, offered prayer with incense and wine to your image, which I had ordered to be brought for this purpose together with statues of the gods, and moreover cursed Christ–none of which those who are really Christians, it is said, can be forced to do–these I thought should be discharged. Others named by the informer declared that they were Christians, but then denied it, asserting that they had been but had ceased to be, some three years before, others many years, some as much as twenty-five years. They all worshipped your image and the statues of the gods, and cursed Christ.

They asserted, however, that the sum and substance of their fault or error had been that they were accustomed to meet on a fixed day before dawn and sing responsively a hymn to Christ as to a god, and to bind themselves by oath, not to some crime, but not to commit fraud, theft, or adultery, not falsify their trust, nor to refuse to return a trust when called upon to do so. When this was over, it was their custom to depart and to assemble again to partake of food–but ordinary and innocent food. Even this, they affirmed, they had ceased to do after my edict by which, in accordance with your instructions, I had forbidden political associations. Accordingly, I judged it all the more necessary to find out what the truth was by torturing two female slaves who were called deaconesses. But I discovered nothing else but depraved, excessive superstition.

I therefore postponed the investigation and hastened to consult you. For the matter seemed to me to warrant consulting you, especially because of the number involved. For many persons of every age, every rank, and also of both sexes are and will be endangered. For the contagion of this superstition has spread not only to the cities but also to the villages and farms. But it seems possible to check and cure it. It is certainly quite clear that the temples, which had been almost deserted, have begun to be frequented, that the established religious rites, long neglected, are being resumed, and that from everywhere sacrificial animals are coming, for which until now very few purchasers could be found. Hence it is easy to imagine what a multitude of people can be reformed if an opportunity for repentance is afforded.

Trajan’s Response to Pliny:

You observed proper procedure, my dear Pliny, in sifting the cases of those who had been denounced to you as Christians. For it is not possible to lay down any general rule to serve as a kind of fixed standard. They are not to be sought out; if they are denounced and proved guilty, they are to be punished, with this reservation, that whoever denies that he is a Christian and really proves it–that is, by worshiping our gods–even though he was under suspicion in the past, shall obtain pardon through repentance. But anonymously posted accusations ought to have no place in any prosecution. For this is both a dangerous kind of precedent and out of keeping with the spirit of our age.

Ark.


32 thoughts on “Jesus who?

  1. I’d like to utilize a bit of a satirical parody Ark, if I may, which mimics modern Christians and their silly defense of political/legal and/or social impunity for their outlandish personal beliefs… that they too often promote as Universal truth applicable to every single human being alive! I will replace the word Christian(s) or any implied reference to that Faith/Religion in Pliny’s letter to Trajan and Emperor Trajan’s reply back to make my point. Bear with me, but it’s worth doing and then rereading Pliny’s and Trajan’s letters with the REPLACEMENT words. Thank you Ark in advance:

    It is my practice, my lord, to refer to you all matters concerning which I am in doubt. For who can better give guidance to my hesitation or inform my ignorance? I have never participated in trials of Sasquatchians (Bigfoot Believers). I therefore do not know what offenses it is the practice to punish or investigate, and to what extent. And I have been not a little hesitant as to whether there should be any distinction on account of age or no difference between the very young and the more mature; whether pardon is to be granted for repentance, or, if a man has once been a Sasquatchian, it does him no good to have ceased to be one; whether the name itself, even without offenses, or only the offenses associated with the name are to be punished.

    Meanwhile, in the case of those who were denounced to me as Sasquatchians, I have observed the following procedure: I interrogated these as to whether they were Sasquatchians; those who confessed I interrogated a second and a third time, threatening them with punishment; those who persisted I ordered executed. For I had no doubt that, whatever the nature of their creed, stubbornness and inflexible obstinacy surely deserve to be punished. There were others possessed of the same folly; but because they were Roman citizens, I signed an order for them to be transferred to Rome.

    Soon accusations spread, as usually happens, because of the proceedings going on, and several incidents occurred. An anonymous document was published containing the names of many persons. Those who denied that they were or had been Sasquatchians, when they invoked the gods in words dictated by me, offered prayer with incense and wine to your image, which I had ordered to be brought for this purpose together with statues of the gods, and moreover cursed Bigfoot–none of which those who are really Sasquatchians, it is said, can be forced to do–these I thought should be discharged. Others named by the informer declared that they were Sasquatchians, but then denied it, asserting that they had been but had ceased to be, some three years before, others many years, some as much as twenty-five years. They all worshipped your image and the statues of the gods, and cursed Bigfoot.

    They asserted, however, that the sum and substance of their fault or error had been that they were accustomed to meet on a fixed day before dawn and sing responsively a hymn to Bigfoot as to a god, and to bind themselves by oath, not to some crime, but not to commit fraud, theft, or adultery, not falsify their trust, nor to refuse to return a trust when called upon to do so. When this was over, it was their custom to depart and to assemble again to partake of food–but ordinary and innocent food. Even this, they affirmed, they had ceased to do after my edict by which, in accordance with your instructions, I had forbidden political associations. Accordingly, I judged it all the more necessary to find out what the truth was by torturing two female slaves who were called deaconesses. But I discovered nothing else but depraved, excessive superstition.

    I therefore postponed the investigation and hastened to consult you. For the matter seemed to me to warrant consulting you, especially because of the number involved. For many persons of every age, every rank, and also of both sexes are and will be endangered. For the contagion of this superstition has spread not only to the cities but also to the villages and farms. But it seems possible to check and cure it. It is certainly quite clear that the temples, which had been almost deserted, have begun to be frequented, that the established religious rites, long neglected, are being resumed, and that from everywhere sacrificial animals are coming, for which until now very few purchasers could be found. Hence it is easy to imagine what a multitude of people can be reformed if an opportunity for repentance is afforded.

    Trajan’s Response to Pliny:

    You observed proper procedure, my dear Pliny, in sifting the cases of those who had been denounced to you as Sasquatchians. For it is not possible to lay down any general rule to serve as a kind of fixed standard. They are not to be sought out; if they are denounced and proved guilty, they are to be punished, with this reservation, that whoever denies that he is a Sasquatchians and really proves it–that is, by worshiping our gods–even though he was under suspicion in the past, shall obtain pardon through repentance. But anonymously posted accusations ought to have no place in any prosecution. For this is both a dangerous kind of precedent and out of keeping with the spirit of our age.

    ————————————————

    Does anyone see the identical-ness of fairy-tale beliefs, myths, or fallacious unreliable stories from humans, particularly in the 1st thru 4th centuries CE who become radicalized, even militarized as some I’d like to utilize a bit of a satirical parody Ark, if I may, which mimics modern Christians and their silly defense of political/legal and/or social impunity for their outlandish personal beliefs… that they too often promote as Universal truth applicable to every single human being alive! I will replace the word Christian(s) or any implied reference to that Faith/Religion in Pliny’s letter to Trajan and Emperor Trajan’s reply back to make my point. Bear with me, but it’s worth doing and then rereading Pliny’s and Trajan’s letters with the REPLACEMENT words. Thank you Ark in advance:

    Liked by 2 people

  2. There is more than a little wrong with these letters. They have been discussed at length and the things that ring untrue, when listed, are longer than the letters themselves.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Hey Arc !! Still praying for U and 20+ of your friends EVERY morning !!

    Blessings in Christ, bruce 🙂

    P.S. I am not going to respond to any replies… Just wanted you and UR friends to know !!

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    1. I pray every morning that you and your brothers will convert to the truth, that is the flying spaghetti monster and his noodly appendage. Blessings to you, in his name, Ramen.

      Liked by 2 people

  4. There’s also this little known conversation between two unknown Roman centurions during the reign of Trajan: Centurion 1: “Hey, dude, I had a three-way with these two Christian babes the other night. Hottest sex I EVER had. I convinced these chicks that since their god was three gods in one, that three-ways were the only way ta go and they went for it.” Centurion 2: “Yeah, I tried that once these with two Christian twin babes I went to high school with but they laughed at me when I told ’em Jupiter was way cooler than Jesus so I had the bitches crucified before I could screw ’em. Guess I shoulda been more patient with ’em, eh.”

    Liked by 1 person

  5. “But anonymously posted accusations ought to have no place in any prosecution. For this is both a dangerous kind of precedent and out of keeping with the spirit of our age.”

    I can’t agree. Anonymity allows exchanges of ideas without the brick through the window (best case) or the strappado and medium over-done by the divine devout.
    It’s not humanity that prevents religious extremes these days but fear of reprisal (reprisals which some might call justice—I’d tend more towards belief in God and Big Jeez if God were demonstrating justice … ain’t gonna happen).

    Anonymity allows people to reveal themselves, no?

    Liked by 1 person

      1. I ain’t never been nowhere near your Granny.

        I think … you don’t have fur by any chance, do you? And big teeth? A predilection for chasing cats?

        Naaaaahhhh … my ship never called in to Joburg …

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Methinks the salient point was the part about anonymous accusations having no place in prosecutions as that would violate the right of the accused to confront their accuser(s) in a court of law.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. One of the long standing claims is that Christian persecution was widespread, yet here we have a high-placed Roman official – a governor no less – who seems completely unaware of procedure regarding self -proclaimed ”Christians”.
      Also, the name Jesus is never mentioned.
      A name Tacitus never used either.
      In fact, Tacitus – if the passage in Annals is to be considered genuine – used the term Chrestus.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thanks for the clarification. But doesn’t Pliny’s request for guidance on conducting Christian trials and subtle admission to employing “enhanced interrogation” techniques suggest precisely the opposite?

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        1. Not in my view. If persecution was as widespread and established as is often asserted then someone in as prominant a position as Pliny was would not likely need guidance as to how ”Christians” should be dealt with.

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          1. Not necessarily. It’s entirely possible that up until then the persecution was conducted at a local level and Pliny’s position was specifically created to deal with public concerns over the “Christian problem” — kind of like how the DEA was created to deal with the illegal drug problem and the Department of Homeland Security was created to deal with the domestic terrorist problem.

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          2. You’re simply making my point. If the ”persecution” – an ill defined term at best – was local,and not widespread as many Christians like to assert then there would be little if any reason for Pliny to be aware of the official procedure in dealing with a new ”upstart” religion.

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          3. How so? As I alluded to earlier, the Christian movement started out small and was most likely dealt with by local officials and/or public opprobrium until it gained enough momentum to warrant a more coordinated effort to bring under control.

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          4. Sigh … It must be me.
            There are a number of Christians that assert persecution was widespread; an attempt to support claims that Christianity was spreading fast and wide, I suppose.
            This assertion has been challenged and some might suggest refuted.
            If persecution were widespread at this time then a high-placed official such as Pliny would be au fait with official policy when dealing with them – assumng there was some sort of official policy.
            If Christianity were merely at the level of nuisance value then Pliny’s request to Trajan would be understandable.

            In other words, there is no evidence to support Christian claims of widespread persecution.

            Sorry if I’ve caused confusion.

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  6. From Tacitus:

    […] But all human efforts, all the lavish gifts of the emperor, and the propitiations of the gods, did not banish the sinister belief that the conflagration was the result of an order. Consequently, to get rid of the report, Nero fastened the guilt and inflicted the most exquisite tortures on a class hated for their abominations, called Christians by the populace. Christus, from whom the name had its origin, suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of one of our procurators, Pontius Pilatus, and a most mischievous superstition, thus checked for the moment, again broke out not only in Judæa, the first source of the evil, but even in Rome, where all things hideous and shameful from every part of the world find their centre and become popular. Accordingly, an arrest was first made of all who pleaded guilty; then, upon their information, an immense multitude was convicted, not so much of the crime of firing the city, as of hatred against mankind. Mockery of every sort was added to their deaths. Covered with the skins of beasts, they were torn by dogs and perished, or were nailed to crosses, or were doomed to the flames and burnt, to serve as a nightly illumination, when daylight had expired

    http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/text?doc=Perseus%3Atext%3A1999.02.0078%3Abook%3D15%3Achapter%3D44

    Nero reigned as emperor from 54 to 68 CE and Pliny the younger lived from 61 to 113 CE. So it appears that the persecutions were already in full swing by the time Pliny penned his letter.

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    1. Yes, I have annals and naturally I am familiar with the passage.
      I understand where you are coming from , Ron, but without trying to sound condescending I think perhaps you would do well to research that passage further.

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      1. Well, point me in the right direction by explaining where you think I have erred in my assessment of the account? Because the proposition that early Christians endured persecution for their beliefs doesn’t strike me as particularly controversial: devout Jews would have denounced them for being blasphemers, while the Romans would have denounced them for being atheists for refusing to pay homage to the Roman gods.

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        1. I am quite happy to leave it as it is. If you feel you would like to explore the history of the passage in annals and the events mentioned in it, then I’m sure you are savvy enough to find the relevant sources.

          On the other hand, if you prefer to maintain the belief that persecution was widespread enough to be worthy of official policy and Nero had it in for the Christians, then I’m sure you will find all the allies you need.

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