Robert Louis Wilken writes of early Christianity from the perspective of Roman historical accounts, focusing on five major critics of the religion, and ultimately drawing the conclusion that these critics were instrumental in helping Christians more clearly define their faith through self-examination and defense of their own beliefs. With the exception of Pliny, whose opinions and actions were of little consequence throughout the Roman Empire, true dialogue began to take place as Christian philosophy was challenged by Galen, Celsus, Porphyry, and Julian the apostate. Wilken offers an opportunity to view the history of the Christian faith as it was seen and perceived by Roman officials and philosophers; the former concerning themselves more…show more content… 10), though he would occasionally posture to demands from concerned citizens who had heard rumors of strange and frightening rituals associated with certain groups(p. 15). While I cannot discount the possibility of some factions incorporating animal or human sacrifice and ritual cannibalism into their rites, there is a greater probability that these instances were misunderstood and misinterpreted, and the information passed to officials would be considered suspect as to the motive of the individuals spreading these scenarios. In my mind I pictured an innocent ceremony of infant circumcision as witnessed by an outsider to Christianity. How deviant might that look to someone from a culture that does not practice male genital mutilation? It would, no doubt, be horrifying if they had no understanding of, or exposure to, either the Jewish or Christian faith rituals, yet to other believers it was a natural part of initiating a child into the faith. Raising the infant into the air as an offering of a new life devoted to God might also be perceived as a barbaric and frightening sacrificial rite if one were not versed in the rituals of the Abrahamic faiths.
Pliny makes it clear that he has no personal experience in these matters, yet acts to appease those who claim to witness these events. Trajan has no personal experience either, and still urges Pliny to stop this group before their behavior becomes a