“The method you have used, my dear Pliny, in investigating the cases of those who are accused of being Christians is extremely proper. No search should be made for these people; when they are accused and found to be guilty they must be punished; with the restriction, however, that when the individual denies he is a Christian, and gives proof that he is not (that is, by adoring our gods) he shall be pardoned on the ground of repentance, even though he may have formerly incurred suspicion."
Trajan was the emperor of Rome primarily in the early second century. He is well known for his success in expanding Roman territory east to its maximum, initiating programs such as social welfare policies and famous restorative landmarks. He upheld a high reputation and was honored by many emperors after him. Trajan also wrote briefly about the early Christian life. He acknowledged that these first Jesus-followers revered Jesus as God.
He communicated with Pliny the Younger, his governor, about how to deal with the radical expansion of Christians. Pliny confessed that he thought they were ultimately harmless, despite their lack of respect and obedience to Roman practices. Trajan stated that Pliny should only persecute those that were highly unresponsive and defiant of Roman authority.
Trajan directly replied to Pliny stating, “The method you have pursued, my dear Pliny, in sifting the cases of those denounced to you as Christians is extremely proper... No search should be made for these people; when they are denounced and found guilty they must be punished; with the restriction, however, that when the party denies himself to be a Christian, and shall give proof that he is not (that is, by adoring our Gods) he shall be pardoned on the ground of repentance, even though he may have formerly incurred suspicion.”
Trajan recognized Jesus and the early Christian movement, along with their effect on the world at that time. The influence was undeniable by Emperor Trajan. However, Trajan did not see this as a significant threat and chose not to go out of his way to persecute Christians, but allowed for punishment in the case of their disobedience to the Roman lifestyle and relentless confession of faith in Jesus being God.
Trajan's Column, Rome
Trajan's Column, Rome Image: Juan Francisco Adame Lorite, CC by 3.0
Denarius of Trajan
Denarius of Trajan, minted in Rome in 101-102 AD Image: Chuy1530, CC by SA 4.0
Bust of Emperor Trajan