Pliny, Trajan, the Christians / Brief Overview of the Didache

Pliny the Younger

Pliny the Younger was a Roman lawyer and author who wrote a quite famous letter to the emperor Trajan about how it was convenient to deal with Christians. In the letter one can notice the terrible way early Christians could be treated due to the erroneous ideas that had been spread concerning them. He tortured, threatened, and interrogated Christians to speak the truth about their practices, which were thought to involve incest or cannibalism. Some of those he questioned, confessed to have abandoned the Christian faith and had returned to the Roman cults of the time, yet they cleared out some misconceptions. The clarifications led Pliny to consult Emperor Trajan and show him that Christians were not committing any real crime, only believing in some sort of “dumb superstition” and that many were regretting the following of it. Therefore, Pliny thought that if the opportunity of granting pardon to repented people were available, many would be “reformed”. Trajan’s answer was rather short and basically said, “don’t seek for Christians and Christians should not say they are Christians”. However, years of persecution and slaughter followed, until Emperor Constantine released the Edict of Milan that was obviously influenced by Christian beliefs. The edict benefited all Roman society, but specially Christians, as decades of suffering were coming to an end.

The Didache

The Didache is a very early Christian source of writing attempting to summarize the teachings of the 12 Apostles. It shows a list of things that are to be done and avoided to follow the Way of Life or the way of Death, respectively. The majority of the things it states are coherent with the books found in the New Testament. This book speaks of the love Christians were to have for one another, the respect for the prophets and apostles, how you can supposedly discern a true prophet or apostle from a false one, and the greatest sins one could commit; how one small sin leads to a greater one, etc. It also structurizes the holy communion, fasting, baptism, and prayer. When the Canon was being formed many desired to establish it as part of the New Testament, for it was greatly esteemed by many early Christians, but this petition was rejected.

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