Glastonbury: The First Christian Church

The Peaceful Ruins

Here's a pop quiz


Surprised? This is all well-documented history. History that very few of us have ever heard. Why? For the same reason that many in the USA never were taught about the massacre of the American Indian nations. People write history to suit themselves. We'll see this again and again as the history of the English church unfolds. We're victims of the Greco-Roman version of history. They wanted folks to believe that they were the most important ones on the stage of history, and called everyone else barbarians. Well, it just ain't so.

This first section is taken from Lionel Smithett Lewis' St. Joseph of Arimathea at Glastonbury. "It is certain that Britain received the Faith in the first age from the first sowers of the Word. Of all the churches whose origin I have investigated in Britain, the church of Glastonbury is the most ancient.": wrote sir Henry Spelman in his Concilia, and again he wrote in the same work: "We have abundant evidence that this Britain of ours received the Faith, and that from the disciple of Christ Himself, soon after the Crucifixion of Christ."

Robert Parsons, the Jesuit, in his Three Conversions of England, admits that : "The Christian religion began in Britain within fifty years of Christ's ascension." His co-religionist, the very learned Alford, in his Regia Fides says: "It is perfectly certain that, before St. Paul had come to Rome, Aristobulus was absent in Britain." The discreet Fuller goes so far as to say: "If credit be given to these ancient authors, this Church without competition was senior to all Christian churches in the world." "Britain," wrote the erudite Polydore Vergil, "partly through Joseph of Arimathea, partly through Fugatus and Damianus, was of all kingdoms the first that received the Gospel." It is a matter of distinct interest, which we commend to modern Roman Catholics, that Cardinal Pole, twice over, when solemnly reconciling England to the Pope and the Church of Rome, at the beginning of Queen Mary's reign, claimed that Britain was the first country to be converted to Christianity.

The Venerable Bede, writing about AD 740, says: "The Britons preserved the Faith which they had received under King Lucius uncorrupted, and continued in peace and tranquillity until the time of the Emperor Diocletian."

It will be noticed that two distinct events are spoken of above: (1) The foundation of the Church in England by the Disciples of Christ. (2) The acceptance of Christianity by the British Nation under Good King Lucius about AD 170. Britain was the first of all nations to accept Christianity as its national religion. Few people realize that this is why the British King is called "our Most Religious King". Not many realize that the superior dignity and antiquity of our national Church has been decided by Church Councils. The Councils of Pisa in 1409, Constance in 1417, Sienna in 1424, and Basle in 1434. It was there contended 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.

Gildas the Wise, the earliest Christian historian (AD 425-512) distinctly says that the Light of Christ shone here in the last year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, that is AD 37. This falls in with the claim recorded above, which gave precedence to British Bishops at the Church Councils on the ground that Britain was converted "immediately after the Passion of Jesus Christ". It fits in also with the statements of Fuller and Polydore Virgil already recorded that the Church of Glastonbury was the Senior Church of the world; with Sir Henry Spelman's words that Britain received the Faith soon after the Crucifixion; with Alford's statement that Aristobulus was in Britain before St. Paul went to Rome; with the observance by the Greek Church of the martyrdom in Britain of Our Lord's disciple, St. Simon Zelotes, on May 10, AD 44 (a date supported by Cardinal Baronius; and with Hippolytus' (born about AD 160) inclusion of that Apostle in his lists as "Bishop of the Britons". All these are testimony to the year AD 37 as marking the coming of the first Mission and not to the date AD 63.

Next we go to The Drama of The Lost Disciples, by George F. Jowett for some background on the journey and makeup of the party headed up by Joseph of Arimathea.

Ancient documents carefully preserved, and others recently recovered from dusty, long-forgotten archives referring to that epochal year, record him [Joseph] as having been cast upon the seas with a few faithful companions by their remorseless enemies, in an open, oarless boat without sails, on an ebbing tide over which they drifted far from the shores of their shadowed Judean homeland, to which they would never return. The only man who the Sadducees dared not oppose was Joseph, the uncle of Jesus, known scripturally and in secular history as Joseph of Arimathea. He was the protector of that valorous little band of disciples during the perilous years following the crucifixion, the indefatigable head of the Christian underground in Judea, and the guardian of Christ's only earthly treasure, - His mother. In actuality, Joseph of Arimathea was the Apostle of Britain, the true Apostle first to set up Christ's standard on the sea-girt little isle, five hundred and sixty-two years before St. Augustine set foot on English soil. He, with twelve other disciples of Christ, erected in England the first Christian church above ground in the world, to the glory of God and His Son, Jesus Christ.

Joseph of Arimathea was a man of refinement, well educated, and one who possessed many talents. He had extraordinary political and business ability and was reputed to be one of the wealthiest men in the world of that time. He was the Carnegie of his day, a metal magnate controlling the tin and lead industry which then was akin in importance to that of steel today. He is reputed to have owned one of the largest private merchant shipping fleets afloat which traversed the world's sea lanes in the transportation of this precious metal. In St. Jerome's translation, Joseph's official title is given as 'Nobilis Decurio'. This would indicate that he held a prominent position in the Roman administration as a minister of mines.

According to the Talmud, Joseph was the younger brother of the father of the Virgin Mary. He was her uncle, and therefore a great uncle to Jesus. Chiefly from the secular reports we learn that Joseph was a married man and his son, Josephes, left a mark of distinction in British history. It is quite obvious that the husband of Mary died while Jesus was young. Under Jewish law such a circumstance automatically appointed the next male kin of the husband, in this case Joseph, legal guardian of the family. We know that Joseph never forsook his nephew. He stood by Him as a bold, fearless defender at the notorious trial, and defied the Sanhedrin by going to Pilate and boldly claiming the body when all others feared to do so. It is commonly taught that Jesus was poor and of obscure relatives. His relationship with the affluent Joseph of Arimathea proves otherwise. In His own right He was a property owner but long before He took up His mission He forsook all material wealth.

And now we turn to Rev. C.C. Dobson's booklet, Did Our Lord Visit Britain? This will give us some historical background of both the tin trade in England and Jesus' relationship with Joseph. I am aware that this section is somewhat of a hybrid, and crosses over the lines of a couple of these Britain pages.

That such a trade (tin) existed is too well attested to need proof. Herodotus as early as 445 BC speaks of the British Isles as the Tin Islands or Cassiterides. Pytheas (352-323 BC) mentions the tin trade, as does also Polybius (circa 160). Diodorus Siculus gives a detailed description of the trade. He tells us that the tin was mined, beaten into squares, and carried to an island called Ictis, joined to the mainland at low tide, which is generally held to be Mount St. Michael in Cornwall, although some have identified it with Falmouth. Thence it was shipped to Morlais, and transported across France on pack horses to Marseilles. From Marseilles it was again shipped to Phoenicia. Innumerable ancient workings in Cornwall still attest the trade, and tin is still mined there today. Lord Avebury and Sir John Evans held the opinion that the trade existed as early as 1500 BC, and Sir Edward Creasy in his History of England writes: "The British mines mainly suppled the glorious adornment of Solomon's Temple".

Joseph of Arimathea was an uncle of the Virgin Mary, being the younger brother of her father. He gained his wealth as an importer in the tin trade, which existed between Cornwall and Phoenicia. On one of his voyages he took Our Lord with him when a boy. Our Lord either remained in Britain or returned later as a young man, and stayed in quiet retirement at Glastonbury. Here he erected for himself a small house of mud and wattle. Later Joseph of Arimathea, fleeing from Palestine, settles in the same place and erected a mud and wattle church there.

Inscription: Jesus, Maria Tradition holds that Joseph's mud and wattle church was

replaced with Lady Chapel. The only writing to survive the

abbey's destruction is located in the wall of Lady Chapel. It

seems to give silent testimony to the presence at Glastonbury of

the mother of our Lord.

Several questions come to mind concerning the time when Jesus was found by his mother at the Temple, engaging in discourse with the learned men there. Before tracing out the details of the story based on these suggestions we should first consider the locality of Arimathea. Leading authorities identify this place with Ramah, or Ramallah as it is called today. It was the birthplace of the prophet Samuel, and is called in the Septuagint Arimathaim. Josephus calls it Amartha. The identity seems clear. Now Ramah lay about eight miles due North of Jerusalem on the Jerusalem-Nazareth road. It was the first stopping place of caravans travelling North from Jerusalem. It would be the stopping place of the Holy family, both to and from the city.

Joseph is always spoken of as belonging to Arimathea, which implies that it was his existing place of residence. He was a wealthy man, and his duties as a councillor would bring him frequently to Jerusalem, where he had also a town residence. He would certainly be in Jerusalem at the time of the feast. [of Passover] The whole story now becomes clear. As the uncle of the Virgin Mary he probably knew all about the wondrous story of Our Lord's birth. Year by rear, when Joseph and Mary attended the feast, he would enquire about the mysterious child. He would eagerly look forward to His first visit.

The Holy family would arrive at Ramah on their journey down. They would spend the last night of the journey there at their uncle's house. Joseph would either have already preceded them to the city for the feast, or be expecting them there, and conduct them for the remaining eight miles of their journey. He would welcome Our Lord and take charge of Him, and take Him to Zacharias' residence to join John.

The full period of the feast lasted seven days, but many only stayed for the three or four main days and Joseph and Mary apparently set out on the fifth day for their return journey. They probably planned to stay a couple of nights at their uncle's house at Arimathea. This would give time for all members of their party to gather, some of whom perhaps desired to remain more than four days at the feast. Jesus, in the safe keeping of Joseph, their uncle, would they thought, in due course join them here before resuming their journey. Either Joseph of Arimathea or his servants would bring Him along. Thus they planned. Here they arrived towards evening, and quietly spent the night in Joseph's house. The next day is passed resting, and in expectation the Jesus would arrive, but there is no sign of Him. They are now anxious, and visit the homes of acquaintances in the village in search of Him. They enquire among recent comers of their party in vain. Another night is passed, and then they retrace their steps. It is now the last day of the feast, and Jesus, is attending one of the lectures which the Rabbis were wont to give during the days of the feast.

Such would appear to be the simple explanation of the whole story, if indeed Joseph of Arimathea was a relative of the Virgin Mary, as seems so probable. Although the fact may be inferred, as mentioned above, also from Joseph's action in burying Our Lord, the Eastern tradition actually exists, and the present writer would by glad if any reader can supply him with information as to its source.

Now for a little better clarification, I'm including part of the total chart of the Messianic Family and British Dynasty found in the Lost Tribes section of this site. This smaller version of the chart shows the genealogy of Joseph of Arimathea, and some of his family ties to the Royal British Family.

Messianic/British Family Ties

Gravesite in which two bodies and a cross with Arthur's name were unearthed. Any treatment of Glastonbury would not be complete

without the mention of the legendary King Arthur. Tradition

has it that Arthur was a relative of Joseph of Arimathea,

and that the Knights of Arthur's Round Table were also all

Joseph's relatives. I haven't seen verification for the

Knights, but there is plenty of evidence linking Arthur to

Glastonbury, and Joseph.

There is little doubt among those who have looked at the evidence, that England was the Cradle of Christianity, having been established by Jesus' uncle Joseph of Arimathea, along with many of the Lord's disciples, shortly after the Resurrection.

The titles used for the Britain pages may be found in the Bibliography.

I love mail.

Come Home