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Frequently Asked Questions

Did the historian Pliny the Younger write about Jesus?
Yes.  Around 111-112 A.D., Pliny wrote to Emperor Trajan regarding the persecution of Christians, saying,

It is customary for me, sir, to refer to you in all matters wherein I have a doubt. Who truly is better able to rule my hesitancy, or to instruct my ignorance? I was never present at examinations of Christians, therefore I do not know what is customarily punished, nor to what extent, nor how far to take the investigation. I was quite undecided; should there be any consideration given to age; are those who are however delicate no different from the stronger? Should penitence obtain pardon; or, as has been the case particularly with Christians, to desist makes no difference? Should the name itself be punished (even if crimes are absent), or the crimes that go with the name?

Meanwhile, this is the method I have followed with those who were brought before me as Christians. I asked them directly if they were Christians. The ones who answered affirmatively I questioned again with a warning, and yet a third time: those who persisted I ordered led [away]. For I have no doubt, whatever else they confessed to, certainly [this] pertinacity and inflexible obstinacy ought to be punished. There were others alike of madness, whom I noted down to be sent to the City, because they were Roman citizens. Soon in consequence of this policy itself, as it was made standard, many kinds of criminal charges occurred and spread themselves abroad. A pamphlet was published anonymously, containing the names of many.

Those who denied that they were or ever had been Christians, when they swore before me, called on the gods and offered incense and wine to your image (which I had ordered brought in for this [purpose], along with images of the gods), and also cursed Christ (which, it is said, it is impossible to force those who are real Christians to do) I thought worthy to be acquitted. Others named by an informer, said they had been Christians, but now denied [it]; certainly they had been, but had lapsed, some three years ago, some more; and more than one [lit. not nobody] over twenty years ago. These all worshiped both your image and the images of the gods and cursed Christ.

They stated that the sum of their guilt or error amounted to this, that they used to gather on a stated day before dawn and sing to Christ as if he were a god, and that they took an oath not to involve themselves in villainy, but rather to commit no theft, no fraud, no adultery; not to break faith, nor to deny money placed with them in trust. Once these things were done, it was their custom to part and return later to eat a meal together, innocently, although they stopped this after my edict, in which I, following your mandate, forbade all secret societies.

All the more I believed it necessary to find out what was the truth from two servant maids, which were called deaconesses, by means of torture. Nothing more did I find than a disgusting, fanatical superstition.

Therefore I stopped the examination, and hastened to consult you. For it appears to me a proper matter for counsel, most greatly on account of the number of people endangered. For many of all ages, all classes, and both sexes already are brought into danger, and shall be [in future]. And not only the cities; the contagion of this superstition is spread throughout the villages and the countryside; but it appears to me possible to stop it and put it right. Certainly the temples which were once deserted are beginning to be crowded, and the long interrupted sacred rites are being revived, while food from the sacrifices is selling, for which up to now a buyer was hardly to be found. From which it may easily be supposed, that what disturbs men can be mended, if a place is allowed for repentance.

While Pliny does discuss people who have turned away from Jesus at the time, he is still concerned about how many are now filling once-deserted temples, and is showing hesitancy towards the persecution of men and women of all ages and classes.

There is no evidence of this letter being a forgery.  It is the consesus of historians that Pliny indeed wrote this letter in the early 2nd century.

Source: Pliny's letter to Emperor Trajan