A Roman Official’s Report

Around A.D. 112, Pliny, the Roman governor of Bithynia (a province in northwest Turkey), wrote to the emperor Trajan in Rome. Pliny needed guidance on the persecution of Christians, and he reported what his investigations had disclosed.

[The Christians] maintained that the amount of their fault or error had been this, that it was their habit on a fixed day to assemble before daylight and recite by turns a form of words to Christ as a god; and that they bound themselves with an oath, not for any crime, but not to commit theft or robbery or adultery, not to break their word, and not to deny a deposit when demanded. After this was done, their custom was to depart, and to meet again to take food, but ordinary and harmless food.

—Letter X:96:7

A Manual for Churches

The Didache (Greek for teaching) is our earliest example of a “church order.” It sets out how congregations should baptize, fast, pray, receive visiting prophets, and the like. The Didache probably reached its present form before the end of the first century A.D., but it certainly contains earlier material.

Interpretations of the first account below differ widely. Does it describe the Lord’s Supper—since it makes no mention of the Last Supper or the cross? Is it the agape, the early Christians’ love feast or church supper? Or the Lord’s Supper combined with the agape?

Concerning the Eucharist [or thanksgiving], give thanks thus, first concerning the cup:

We thank you, our Father, for the holy vine of your servant David, which you made known to us through your servant Jesus.

Glory be to you forever.

And concerning the broken bread:

We thank you, our Father, for the life and knowledge which you made known to us through your servant Jesus. Glory be to you ...

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