Keith Hunt - How the Gospel came to Britain #6   Restitution of All Things
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How the Gospel came to Britain #6

Jesus may well have visited Britain


                             by
                                     
                       Brian Williams



DID JESUS EVER COME TO BRITAIN?

     TO suggest that Jesus may once have come to Britain sounds
almost too wonderful for words, yet the astonishing fact is that
in no less than twenty places in the South-west of England there
are firm traditions of Jesus having visited these Islands during
the "hidden years" when the Bible is entirely silent concerning
His movements. These traditions find their expression in the
words of "Jerusalem" written by the poet and mystic William Blake
(1757-1827).

     And did Those feet in ancient time, Walk upon England's
     mountains green? And was the Holy Lamb of God On England's
     pleasant pastures seen? And did the Countenance Divine Shine
     forth upon our clouded hills? And was Jerusalem builded here
     Among those dark Satanic mills?

     Bring me my bow of burning gold Bring me my arrows of
     desire! Bring me my spear! O clouds unfold! Bring me my
     chariot of fire! I will not cease from mental fight,Nor
     shall my sword sleep in my hand, Till I have built Jerusalem
     In England's green and pleasant land.

     This famous hymn has become an integral part of our national
life. In 1935, on the occasion of the Jubilee of the late King
George V, a great National concert was held in the Royal Albert
Hall. At the close, an additional item was sung by request
of the King. It was "Jerusalem ".  Thus the famous hall resounded
with the strains of this inspiring hymn which terminates with the
prayer that this land shall become even as Jerusalem of which the
Lord said, "Then there shall be a place which the LORD your God
shall choose to cause His name to dwell there"1
     Yet how many of the millions who have sung those words, set
to Sir Hubert Parry's wonderful music, have paused to think about
the words or to consider their meaning?

          Evidently, Blake was familiar with the tradition that
Jesus came to Britain either as a child or as a young man. That
tradition still survives today in parts of Cornwall and Somerset,
being especially linked with Glastonbury and places like Priddy
and Pilton in the Mendips.

     One's first impulse might be to dismiss these traditions as
mere fables but we do well to remember that legend is not
fiction, nor is truth confined only to that which can be
established by documentary evidence. In the absence of positive
proof to the contrary - and there is nothing whatever in the
Gospels about the eighteen missing years of Jesus' life, only an
intimation that He may have been away - there is no reason why
one should not accept such traditions as having a foundation in
fact. As we showed in Chapter Five, truth may often be adduced
from a lack ,of information or even a complete silence.
     Now the Bible is ENTIRELY SILENT about Jesus' movements
between the ages of 12 and 30. The only incident of childhood
recorded in the Gospels is His visit to the Temple at the age of
twelve.

"Now His parents went to Jerusalem every year at the feast of the
Passover. And when He was twelve years old, they went up to
Jerusalem after the custom of the feast. And when they had
fulfilled the days, as they returned, the child Jesus tarried
behind in Jerusalem; and Joseph and His mother knew not of it.
But they, supposing Him to have been in the company, went a day's
journey; and they sought Him among their kinsfolk and
acquaintance. And when they found Him not, they turned back again
to Jerusalem, seeking Him. And it came to pass, that after three
days they found Him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the
doctors, both hearing them, and asking them questions. And all
that heard Him were astonished at His understanding and answers.
And when they saw Him, they were amazed: and His mother said unto
Him, Son, why bast thou thus dealt with us? behold, Thy father
and I have sought thee sorrowing. And He said unto them, How is
it that ye sought Me? wist ye not that I must be about My
Father's business? And they understood not the saying which He
spake unto them. And He went down with them, and came to
Nazareth, and was subject unto them: but His mother kept all
these sayings in her heart. And Jesus increased in wisdom and
stature, and in favour with God and man".2

     So there we have the only record of Jesus' childhood. The
Bible tells us nothing more about the next eighteen years of
Jesus' life until He was "about thirty years of age",3 and then,
"Jesus also being baptized, and praying, the heaven Was opened,
and the Holy Ghost descended in a bodily shape like a dove upon
Him, and a voice came from heaven, which said, Thou art My
beloved Son; in Thee I am well pleased "4  At this moment in His
life, Jesus being baptised, potentially laid down His life, the
sacrifice being sealed with His actual death and resurrection
three-and-a-half years later.
     Then following His baptism, " Jesus being full of the Holy
Ghost returned from Jordan, and was led by the Spirit into the
wilderness, being forty days tempted of the devil".5 "And Jesus
returned in the power of the Spirit into Galilee: and there went
out a fame of Him through all the region round about. And He
taught in their synagogues, being glorified of all ".6
     Notice, while we do know that Jesus spent His early years   
in Nazareth, there is nothing told us of His early youth or man-
hood. 
     However, certain Scriptures IMPLY the possibility that
Jesus, had been away from Nazareth for some considerable time.
For instance, the passage just quoted continues, "And He came to
Nazareth, where He had been brought up: and, as His custom was,
He went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and stood up for
to read ... and the eyes of all them that were in the synagogue
were fastened on Him. And He began to say unto them, This day is
this scripture fulfilled in your ears. And all bare Him witness,
and wondered at the gracious words which proceeded out of His
mouth. And they said, Is not this Joseph's son?".7
     Two things strike us here. The Bible says, "He came to
Nazareth where he had been brought up". The very usage of this
expression implies that whilst Jesus' early life had been spent
in Nazareth, He had not continued to live there. His more recent
days had been spent elsewhere. This impression is strengthened by
the fact that His hearers ask the question, "Is not this
Joseph's son? ", almost as though they were in doubt as to His
identity.
     We also read that they asked, "Is not this the carpenter,
the son of Mary, the brother of James, and Jokes, and of Judah,
and Simon? and are not His sisters here with us?",8 and elsewhere
"Is not this the carpenter's Son? is not His mother called Mary
and His brethren, James, and doses, and Simon, and Judas? And His
sisters, are they not all with us?"9 Was Jesus such a stranger to
them that the people could refer to Him not by name but only by
His relationship to the other members of His family?

     Now notice another passage of Scripture. "And when they were
come to Capernaum, they that received tribute money came to
Peter, and said, Doth not your Master pay tribute? He saith, Yes.
And when he was come into the house, Jesus prevented him, saying,
What thickest thou, Simon? of whom do the kings of the earth take
custom or tribute? of their own children, or of strangers? Peter
saith unto Him, Of strangers. Jesus saith unto him, Then are the
children free. Notwithstanding, lest we should offend them, go
thou to the sea, and cast an hook, and take up the fish that
first cometh up; and when thou hast opened his mouth, thou shalt
find a piece of money: that take, and give unto them for Me and
thee ".10
     Now we know that Jesus spent much of His time ministering in
Capernaum. In fact, by comparing the account of the healing of
the man sick of the palsy as recorded,11 by Matthew with that
given 12 by Mark, we find that Capernaum is described as "His own
city". 
     Yet here was an enquiry being made about Jesus' liability to
the STRANGERS' tax, the Greek 'didrachma,' which was levied on
FOREIGN visitors to Capernaum, notably traders and merchantmen
who conducted their business there. Evidently there was some
question in the minds of the authorities as to Jesus' liability
to tax on the grounds of His having been away.
     Jesus then enquired of Peter who were normally expected to
pay custom or tribute, to which Peter replied, strangers (i.e.
foreigners, the Greek word 'allotrios'). Jesus said, "Then are
the children free [exempt, Greek 'eleutheros']". Then, so as not
to give offence, Jesus sent Peter to catch a fish, the first one
he would bring up having a coin in its mouth. This coin was the
Greek 'stater,' worth twice as much as the 'didrachma,'
sufficient to pay the tax for two people.
     Of course, it may be objected that the tax in question was
the Temple tax. However, unless the authorities were uncertain as
to Jesus' nationality which they surely were not, there could
have been no doubt that Jesus WAS liable to pay the TEMPLE tax.
Moreover, the Temple tax would have been paid with a JEWISH
'shekel' whereas it was a GREEK coin which Jesus provided.
Whichever way one looks at this incident, there is more than a
suggestion that Jesus had been absent from Palestine for some
considerable time.

DID JESUS EVER COME TO BRITAIN? 
   
     Jesus said, "I must be about My Father's business "13 Now
link this with His statement to the Syrophenician woman, "I am
not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel "14 As
will by now have become clear to the reader, the lost tribes of
the house of Israel were already by this time becoming settled in
the British Isles: some had been there for a thousand years. Is
it unreasonable to believe that, should there have been an
opportunity to do so, Jesus would have desired to visit the land
which one day would be responsible more than any other for the
proclamation of the gospel around the world?
     And Jesus might easily have had that opportunity. We have
already shown in Chapter Two the probable relationship of Jesus
to Joseph of Arimathaea. We believe that Joseph was Jesus' great
uncle. There can be little doubt whatever that Joseph was
familiar with Britain and visited these Islands, and Jesus might
so easily have accompanied him. This is exactly the tradition
related by Baring-Gould in his Book of Cornwall:

"Another Cornish story is to the effect that Joseph of
Arimathaea came in a boat to Cornwall and brought the child Jesus
with him, and the latter taught him how to extract the tin and
purge it of its wolfram. When the tin is flashed then the tinner
shouts 'Joseph was in the tin trade"' (Page 57).

     There is also the tradition in Somerset that Joseph and
Jesus came in a ship of Tarshish to the Summerland and sojourned
in a place called Paradise". Certainly one finds the name
Paradise around Burnham-on-Sea and especially around Glastonbury,
and one has only to think of the proliferation of names in
Somerset and Cornwall such as Christon, Marazion, Jesus Well,
Port Isaac and Jacobstown to realise that the traditions may have
some foundation in fact. Although we have not so far attempted to
discover the derivation of these place names, cumulatively they
do appear to be significant.
     Then on the top of the Mendip Hills, right in the centre of
the ancient lead and copper mining industry, is the little hamlet
of Priddy, where people were wont to say, "As sure as our Lord
was at Priddy".   What a very strange saying this is if, in fact,
Jesus was never there. Priddy is a delightful spot-see the colour
photograph facing page 85. Whenever he is in the district, the
writer always makes a point of visiting the place. He drives up
the long steep hill from Draycott on the Cheddar-Wells road until
at the top a glorious view is spread out before one. In these
quiet hills, it is not difficult to imagine Jesus being here and
striding along the same pathways across the hills which must have
been in use for thousands of years.

     And then at the foot of the Mendips is the little village of
Pilton. It is from Pilton that the lead and copper ore which was
mined in the hills used to be taken down the River Brue to Burn-
ham-on-Sea. Here too a tradition has remained of Jesus having
been here, and in the local Parish Church is a beautifully
embroidered flag showing Joseph of Arimathaea and Jesus arriving
in a little boat.
     But most of the traditions seem to be connected with
Glastonbury.
     Certainly Glastonbury's early history suggests that the
sanctity with which the place was held was due to more than
Joseph's having settled there. From the earliest times two
strange names have been used to describe Glastonbury, 'Secretum
Domini' or 'Secret of the Lord', and 'Domus Dei' meaning 'Home of
God', and these have been ascribed to the belief that Jesus
Himself once lived here and that in this place He constructed the
building which became His home.

     We have seen these traditions variously ascribed to the
invention of a school mistress a century ago, or to the invention
of 12th century monks seeking to enhance the reputation of their
Abbey. Yet those who seek to ridicule the traditions have no
alternative explanation to offer as to how and where Jesus'
missing years were spent, nor can they account for the prevalence
of the legend in places considerably removed from monastic
influence. Nor should we arbitrarily dismiss the documentary
evidence which seems to substantiate the claims that Jesus came
to Britain.
     For instance, the noted historian William of Malmesbury
(1080-1143) quotes a letter said to have been written by
Augustine to Pope Gregory, Epistolae ad Gregorium Papam, in which
he refers to the Wattle Church at Glastonbury as having been 
"constructed by no human art, but by the hands of Christ
Himself."
     "In the western confines of Britain there is a certain royal
island of large extent, surrounded by water, abounding in all the
beauties of nature and necessaries of life. In it the first
neophytes of the catholic law, God beforehand acquainting then,
found a Church constructed by no human art, but by the Hands of
Christ Himself, for the salvation of His people. The Almighty has
made it manifest by many miracles and mysterious visitations that
He continues to watch over it as sacred to Himself, and to Mary,
the Mother of God".

     We may, of course, attribute the suggestion that the Lord
Jesus Himself constructed the Wattle Church to wishful thinking
or wilful exaggeration, but the fact remains that the Wattle
Church DID exist-of this there can be no doubt - and it WAS
regarded with great veneration for centuries before its final
destruction in 1184.

     Whatever the truth of the matter, it will be profitable for
us to learn how the people of Somerset were living in Jesus' day,
for nothing can be farther from the truth than that the British
at
this time were a race of painted savages. We now have a very
accurate picture of what life must have been like in those days
because in the vicinity of Glastonbury, actually at Godney and
Meare, lake villages have been discovered in a perfect state of
preservation.
     A mass of dome-shaped hillocks, indicates the position where
the dwellings stood. There were about 89 at Godney and 120 at
Meare.
     The foundation had been laid with timber, mostly alder and
oak, brushwood had been laid on top, and clay had been applied in
layers for the flooring. The walls were of wattle and daub,
six-foot high and vertical, and the roofs consisted of reeds and
rushes, the whole edifice being supported by a central pole
around which was a hearth. The wattle when uncovered was as good
as new.
     These villages were being lived in at the time of Christ and
their discovery gives us an accurate picture of what life must
have been like. The people evidently tilled the land, grew
cereals and bred domestic animals, and farmed on higher ground.
They were skilled weavers and potters, and worked in iron,
bronze, tin and lead, and also wood. Tools and implements of
bone, antler and wood have been found, also beads of glass and
amber, bronze brooches, bracelets and rings, delicate fibulae
(exactly like our safety-pins), and a beautiful bowl.
     These, then, would have been the people amongst whom Jesus
may have lived although none would have known His identity until
later years. Here He may very well have spent the years of
preparation for a ministry that has changed the world. But of one
thing we may be certain: Jesus would not have performed miracles
in Britain, for it was not until His baptism by John and His
receiving the power of the Holy Spirit that He commenced His
public ministry.
     The Bible speaks of "all that Jesus BEGAN both to do and
teach".15 It tells us, concerning His changing the water into
wine,"
This BEGINNING of miracles did Jesus in Cana of Galilee, and
manifested forth His glory".16 
     There are numerous apocryphal New `Testament books in
existence which relate childhood miracles which Jesus is supposed
to have performed, but these are clearly spurious as will be
immediately obvious by their weird and unspiritual nature, for
instance the infant Jesus allegedly bringing clay animals and
birds to life,17
     
     The tradition that Jesus came to Britain may very well be
true. The absence of much written confirmation is only what
might be expected in the circumstances. Jesus' hidden years were
undoubtedly years of preparation. They would have been spent in
relative obscurity. He would not have engaged in public ministry.
There would have been nothing spectacular about Jesus to have
drawn attention to Him. Only in later years, after the
Crucifixion and Resurrection and Ascension, and the coming of
Joseph of Arimathaea to preach in this land, would people have
learned who Jesus really was.
     Whether Jesus came and lived in Britain is immaterial. What
really matters is that Christ lives today in the hearts of His
people. Whether Jesus did once walk upon the Mendip hills we do
not know. What is really important is that He has promised, "I
will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God,
and they shall be My people".18
     This, we suggest, is the greatest privilege on earth.

1.Deuteronomy 12:11 2.
2.Luke 2:41-52
3.Luke 3:23
4.Luke 3:21-22 
5.Luke 4:1-2 
6.Luke 4:14-15 
7.Luke 4:16-22
8.Mark 6:3
9.Matthew 13:55-56 
10.Matthew 17:24-27 
11.Matthew 9:1
12.Mark 2:1 
13.Luke 2:49
14 Matthew 15:24
15 Acts 1:1 
16.John 2:11
17 1 Infancy 15:1-6 (Apoc. N.T.) 1
18.2 Corinthians 6:16

                                     
                             ................

END OF OUR STUDY BY BRIAN WILLIAMS OF BRITAIN (first published in
1970)
Entered on this Website November 2003


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