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Chapter IX.—The Epistle of Adrian, decreeing that we should not be punished without a Trial.

1. “To Minucius Fundanus. I have received an epistle,10541054    Greek, ἐπιστολήν; Latin, litteras. written to me by Serennius Granianus, a most illustrious man, whom you have succeeded. It does not seem right to me that the matter should be passed by without examination, lest the men10551055    Greek, οἱ ἄνθρωποι; Latin, innoxii. be harassed and opportunity be given to the informers for practicing villainy.

2. If, therefore, the inhabitants of the province can clearly sustain this petition against the Christians so as to give answer in a court of law, let them pursue this course alone, but let them not have resort to men’s petitions and outcries. For it is far more proper, if any one wishes to make an accusation, that you should examine into it.

3. If any one therefore accuses them and shows that they are doing anything contrary to the laws, do you pass judgment according to the heinousness of the crime.10561056    This is the only really suspicious sentence in the edict. That Hadrian should desire to protect his Christian subjects as well as others from tumultuous and illegal proceedings, and from unfounded accusations, would be of course quite natural, and quite in accord with the spirit shown by Trajan in his rescript. But in this one sentence he implies that the Christians are to be condemned only for actual crimes, and that the mere profession of Christianity is not in itself a punishable offense. Much, therefore, as we might otherwise be tempted to accept the edict as genuine,—natural as the style is and the position taken in the other portions of it,—this one sentence, considered in the light of all that we know of the attitude of Hadrian’s predecessors and successors toward the Christians, and of all that we can gather of his own views, must, as I believe, condemn it as a forgery. But, by Hercules! if any one bring an accusation through mere calumny, decide in regard to his criminality,10571057    Compare this sentence with the closing words of the forged edict of Antoninus Pius quoted by Eusebius in chap. 13. Not only are the Christians to be released, but their accusers are to be punished. Still there is a difference between the two commands in that here only an accusation made with the purpose of slander is to be punished, while there the accuser is to be unconditionally held as guilty, if actual crimes are not proved against the accused Christian. The latter command would be subversive of all justice, and brands itself as a counterfeit on its very face; but in the present case the injunction to enforce the law forbidding slander against those who should slanderously accuse the Christians is not inconsistent with the principles of Trajan and Hadrian, and hence not of itself alone an evidence of ungenuineness. and see to it that you inflict punishment.”10581058    Greek, ὅπως ἂν ἐκδικήσειας; Latin, suppliciis severioribus vindices.

Such are the contents of Adrian’s rescript.

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