Pliny, the Younger (also known as Gaius Plinius Caecilius Secundus, born Gaius Caecilius or Gaius Caecilius Cilo (61 CE – 113 CE) was a Roman Governor, among other titles, that penned a certain letter (Epistulae X.96) in which he recounts his dealings with “superstitious” Christians to Emporer Trajan. He recounts how they were becoming a threat to the Roman Empire and needed to be kept in line. And if they didn’t fall in line, they were executed.
Pliny never mentions Jesus as a living breathing person, only a worshipped deity. Here are some segments of his account. If you want to read the full letter and response from Emporer Trajan, you can do that here.
But they declared their guilt or error was simply
this — on a fixed day they used to meet before dawn
and recite a hymn among themselves to Christ, as
though he were a god. So far from binding
themselves by oath to commit any crime, they swore
to keep from theft, robbery, adultery, breach of faith,
and not to deny any trust money deposited with them
when called upon to deliver it. This ceremony over,
they used to depart and meet again to take food —
but it was of no special character, and entirely
harmless. They also had ceased from this practice
after the edict I issued — by which, in accord with
your orders, I forbade all secret societies.
I then thought it the more needful to get at the
facts behind their statements. Therefore I placed two
women, called “deaconesses,” under torture, but I
found only a debased superstition carried to great
lengths, so I postponed my examination, and
immediately consulted you. This seems a matter
worthy of your prompt consideration, especially as so
many people are endangered. Many of all ages and
both sexes are put in peril of their lives by their
accusers; and the process will go on, for the
contagion of this superstition has spread not merely
through the free towns, but into the villages and
farms. Still, I think it can be halted and things set
right. Beyond any doubt, the temples — which were
nigh deserted — are beginning again to be thronged
with worshipers; the sacred rites, which long have
lapsed, are now being renewed, and the food for the
sacrificial victims is again finding a sale — though
up to recently, it had almost no market. So one can
safely infer how vast numbers could be reclaimed, if
only there was a chance given for repentance.
Fundamentalists will grasp this information as proof that Jesus walked the planet but the evidence really and truly speaks for itself. Pliny’s connection to Christians and Jesus and the problems therein are as follows:
- He wrote the one letter that mentions a worshipped Christ between 110-112 CE.
- This is some 80 years after Jesus was claimed to have been killed.
- Pliny was born decades after the reported time of Jesus.
- Pliny never discusses Jesus as a historical person, only a worshipped deity.
- Pliny’s only sources were interrogated Christians, who would have been repeating the Gospels at him. And we know now the Gospels are wildly fictitious in nature.
- Pliny, therefore, cannot corroborate the Gospels; he is not an independent source.
Up next, Roman Senator and Historian Tacitus, which will be entertaining due to the damning evidence of Christian forgery therein.