Did Jesus Visit Britain?








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Ancient legends tell persistently that the British Church was the first to have been established outside of the Holy Land. Most people will be aware of the legends of Joseph of Arimathea and the Holy Grael. Joseph, who was Jesus’ great uncle, was a tin merchant and had genuine business reasons to visit the tin mines of south western Britain. Legend tells that Jesus came with him on several occasions and that Joseph settled in the region of Glastonbury after Jesus’ execution on the cross. Even if these legends cannot be proven, they are part of British and English Christian ‘Tradition’. Indeed, Elizabeth I cited Joseph's missionary work in England when she told Roman Catholic bishops that the Church of England pre-dated the Roman Church in England.


But they are more than legends as many writers of history, some being very eminent, believed them to be true.    


Where was Jesus in His early life?




It is interesting that the Bible records virtually nothing of most of Jesus’ life. One episode at the Temple when He was 12 and that is about it. This doesn’t mean that Jesus was not living in the Holy Land at this time. It may be that the Gospel writers weren’t really that interested in the majority of His life before His ministry or maybe weren’t aware of it. But it is still strange that there is virtually nothing written about this period.



And then, at the start of His ministry, several people do not recognise him. People who should have, not least his cousin John the Baptist! The two families had been very close when they were children and no doubt they would have spent a great deal of time together. And yet, when Jesus began His ministry sometime around 33 AD, we are told in John 1:32-34, that he did not know Jesus. He did not recognise his own cousin who he would have seen regularly! The only plausible explanation of this is that John had not seen Jesus for many years.



In John 1:45-48, we read, “Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “we have found him of whom Moses in the Law and the prophets wrote, Jesus son of Joseph, from Nazareth.” Nathanael said to him, “From Nazareth? Can anything good come from that place?” Philip replied, “come and see.” When Jesus saw Nathanael coming, he said of him, “there truly is an Israelite in whom there is no deception.” Nathanael asked, “how do you know me?”



Now Nathanael lived in Cana, just 5 miles from Nazareth. Whilst it is possible that they would not have met and known each other, it is more likely that they would have met up regularly at the various feasts they would have attended. Furthermore, Jesus would have been well known. Even as a 12 year old, He had made a name for himself for his debating skills and knowledge of the Law.



Two other examples of uncertainty over Jesus' identity. "This is Joseph's son, surely?" (Luke 4:23) and "where did the man get this wisdom and these miraculous powers? This is the carpenter’s son, surely?” (Matthew 13:53-54).



And then Jesus is asked to pay the ‘Stranger’s Tax’ when entering the Temple, indicating he had not been a resident of Judea for some time previously (Matthew 17:24-27). This tax was the Didrachma levied by the Romans on all foreigners and not the Judean Temple tax. The tax collectors had identified Jesus as a foreigner liable to pay the ‘stranger tax’ and queried this with Simon Peter who confirmed that he was liable to pay it. Furthermore, Jesus made it plain whose head was on the coin in which he was being asked to pay. He said `Render unto Caesar that which is Caesar's and unto God that which is God's'. The coin in which Jesus paid the tax was Roman and it was forbidden to pay the temple tax in a foreign coinage.


The British Connection




Jesus’ earthly father, Joseph, died when He was young. In accordance with Hebrew tradition, Mary’s uncle, Joseph of Arimathea, became their legal guardian.  Joseph of Arimathea was “Noble Decurion”, effectively Minister of Mines for the Roman Empire. He had a particular interest in British tin mines which Rome needed for their military and civic economy. Britain was not part of the Empire at this time and they needed a middle man the British were prepared to do business with. Did Joseph visit Britain and did he bring his young ward with him?  Again, there is real evidence to say yes to both these questions.



Legend tells that Joseph was granted twelve hides of land (about 1,440 acres or 582 hectares) by King King Arviragus of Siluria who was the brother of Caractacus, the Pendragon. These gifts of land remained holdings of free land for many centuries thereafter and were confirmed in the Domesday Book of 1086. “The Church of Glastonbury has its own ville twelve hides of land, which have never paid tax.”



The 6th century British monk, St Gildas, maintained that Christianity came to Britain in the last year of Tiberius Caesar, which would have been AD 37. Archbishop Ussher, (1550 - 1613), writing in his Brittannicarum Ecclesiarum Antiquitates, said, "The British National Church was founded AD 36, 160 years before heathen Rome confessed Christianity." In a letter to Pope Gregory, St Augustine states that there was a church "constructed by no human art, but divinely constructed by the hands of Christ Himself”.



The eminent historian of the Roman Catholic church, Cardinal Baronius, (1538 - 1607) who became Curator of the Vatican Library in 1597, wrote in his Ecclesiastical Annals:


"In that year (AD 36, the year of the great persecution in Jerusalem and the dispersion that followed), the party of Joseph of Arimathea and those who went with him into exile, was put out to sea in a vessel without sail or oars. This vessel drifted, and finally reached Massilia (Marseilles) where they were saved. From Massilia Joseph and his company passed into Britain and after preaching the Gospel there, died."



William of Malmesbury and Polydore Vergil also place Joseph of Arimathea at Glastonbury. William refers to the contents of a letter given by King Ina to Glastonbury in 700 AD. "To the ancient church, situate in the place called Glastonbury, which Church the Great High Priest and Chiefest Minister formerly through His own ministry, and that of angels....."



The Church Councils held at Pisa 1409, Constance 1417, Sienna 1424 and Basle 1434, ruled that "the Churches of France and Spain must yield in points of antiquity and precedence to that of Britain as the latter Church was founded by Joseph of Arimathea immediately after the passion of Christ."



Traditions in Somerset relate that Joseph, after first seeking tin from the Isles of Scilly came to the Mendips and was accompanied on several occasions by Jesus. At the parish Church of Priddy, high on top of the Mendips, they have an old saying: 'As sure as our Lord was at Priddy.' And a carol sung by the children of Priddy begins: "Joseph was a tin merchant, a tin merchant, a tin merchant” and goes on to describe him arriving from the sea in a boat. Old Cornish mining Ordinance maps refer to the "Wheel of Jesus”, a wheel being a Cornish name for mine.


Was Jesus a Brit?






There is an ancient Breton tradition (see Hachette's guide "Bleu Bretagne" and the Harl Manuscript in the British Museum) that Anna, mother of the Virgin Mary, was born in Cornwall of Royal blood. When she was pregnant with the Virgin Mary, her husband (Joachim), ill-treated her and she fled from Europe to Jaffa and settled in Nazareth where Mary was born. Ann or Anna, had a sister called Bianca who was the mother of Joseph, the Virgin Mary's husband, thus showing that he was also her first cousin.



This story may be difficult to swallow – but think about this. Joseph of Arimathea seems to have been accepted quite readily in Britain. From the very commencement, it would seem, he had no difficulty with the language for he was not only able to communicate on normal matters, but teach the new religion so convincingly that he was granted twelve hides of land, tax free for himself and his companions. We are led to question why the boy Jesus and his uncle were so readily accepted in a land so far away from their own country.


The British Connection continues




Another manuscript, held at Jesus College, Cambridge, shows the family tree of Joseph of Arimathea and confirms that Penardin, granddaughter of Joseph of Arimathea, married King Lear of Britain.



Notice that far from being confined to Palestine, the Holy Family seem, through Joseph of Arimathea, to have intermarried into British royalty and to have left Palestine to live in Britain. Marrying into royalty is not that easy. It would have been made easier if they already were British royalty!



A British Princess called Gladys, daughter of King Caractacus and granddaughter of King Bran, married a Roman nobleman called Rufus Pudens. He is mentioned as a layman of the Roman Church in 2 Timothy 4:21. "Do your best to come before winter. Eubulus sends greetings to you, as do Pudens and Linus and Claudia (Gladys) and all the brethren.”



Gladys Romanised her name to Claudia. She is said to have hosted St Paul when he visited Britain. But more than this, she may very well have been related to him. For, in Romans 16:13 (KJB), Paul writes, “Salute Rufus, chosen in the Lord and his mother, and mine.” In other words, and assuming it is the same Rufus, St Paul was his half-brother and so brother-in-law to Claudia (Gladys).