The following are excerpts from a letter from a governor named Pliny to the Roman emperor Trajan on the growth of Christianity less than one hundred years after the crucifixion of Christ:
I have never been present at any of the Christians’ trials, and I am unaware of the methods and limits used in our investigation and torture. Do we show any regard to age or gender? If a Christian repents of his religion, do we still punish him or pardon him?
Currently, I am proceeding thus—I question them as to their religion; if they state they are Christian, I repeat the questioning, adding the threat of capital punishment. If they still persist, I order them to be executed. I do not believe that their stubbornness should go unpunished.
I recently questioned a group of Christians who, after interrogation, denied their faith. From this event, I could see more than ever the importance of extracting the real truth, with the assistance of torture, from two female prisoners. But I was able to discover nothing except depraved and excessive superstition.
I therefore thought it wise to consult you before continuing with this matter. The matter is well worth referring to you, especially considering the numbers endangered. This contagious superstition is not confined to the cities only, but has also spread throughout the villages.
Nevertheless it still seems possible to check and cure it.
This is worth pondering; I hope and pray I would be found "incurable".