A powerful witness to the work of the Spirit in transforming Roman society with its Greek culture to the seed of Abraham. Some things to note in Pliny’s letter:
1. Christians came from every strata of society and not only slaves as some would contend.
2. Significant numbers were involved that, for a time, pagan temples were abandoned. The 1-2% Christian population estimate by some is clearly suspect.
3. God graciously had many people from this region even though Paul was prevented by the Holy Spirit from preaching to them earlier.
4. Pliny’s letter witnesses to the truth of the statement in Acts 17.6: “these men have turned the world upside down.”
Were the early Christians really persecuted? How many Christians were there in the Roman Empire in the early 2nd century A.D.?
In a previous post I commented on the importance of Pliny’s (Roman governor of Pontus and Bithynia) description of early Christians. In his letters to the Roman Emperor Trajan (ca. A.D. 112) he asks what he should do with these people known as “Christians.” This letter (see below) tells us at least two important things.
First of all regarding persecution(s):
- It does not seem that Christianity was outlawed by the Romans, yet it was considered subversive.
- The best “charge” that he could come up with was that they were “stubborn and obstinate”—i.e., they would not worship the gods nor burn incense to the Emperor.
- Pliny was not seeking out Christians to persecute them, but others were making accusations against them.
- Pliny came up with a “test” to see if…
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