Lynn Cohick explains what we learn from an ancient letter and some brave women.
There’s a letter that Pliny the Younger writes to the Emperor Trajan. Pliny is a governor, and he’s faced with this problem called Christianity. He wonders, what should I do? Because Pliny is trying to grow paganism in his region, and these Christians – many of them are Gentiles – are not going to the temples. Moreover, they’re not honouring the emperor and the imperial cult in the way that Pliny thinks they should. And so he’s getting directions from Trajan as to what he should do. Should he kill them? Should he exile them? What should he do?
So he decides to find out about Christianity. And to do so, he pulls in two of their leaders. Two of their deacons. Who are these leaders? They are two slave women: two slave women who Pliny calls deacons – ministers. And he tortures them. And the idea was, back then, that to get an honest answer from a slave, you needed to torture them. And so Pliny does, he tortures these women, who are slaves, in order to find out the truth about Christianity. And he seems comfortable that in fact he has achieved his goal; that these women are capable of presenting a true picture of what Christianity is. So these women leaders pay a great price for their faithfulness to Christ.