DRAMA OF THE LOST DISCIPLES #5
by George Jowett (1961)
ST. PHILIP CONSECRATES JOSEPH OF
ARIMATHEA IN FRANCE
IT is not difficult to visualize the joyous meeting that
took place between old, tried and trusted friends when the
Bethany group arrived at Marseilles. Every record scrutinized
points to the closeness that banded the disciples and followers
of 'The Way' to Joseph. In him they possessed an intelligent,
intrepid leader, a born organizer with the cold, calm reasoning
of the shrewd, successful business mind; truly a much-needed
asset to guide them in those crucial years. Throughout his
lifetime he was to continue to be their salvation against the new
and rising storm of Roman persecution that was soon to be loosed
upon all followers of 'The Way', with a murderous fury that
overshadows the brutalities of Hitler and Stalin. (I think a
little over-estimated here considering how many people lost their
lives to Hitler and Stalin - Keith Hunt). He was to be the means
of raising the first Christian army to battle for Christ on the
shores and fields of Britain that sent the bestial Romans reeling
on their heels.
Joseph was ever the unseen power behind the throne, as he
had been on that black night in the Sanhedrin and the following
four years in Judea. All rallied around him eager to begin
proclaiming the Word to the world.
How many of the disciples were with him during his short
stay in Gaul it is difficult to say. It is amazing how
nonchalantly the records deal with this important matter. Various
existing records agree in part with the Baronius record, 1 naming
among the occupants of the castaway boat Mary Magdalene, Martha,
the handmaiden Marcella, Lazarus whom Jesus raised from the dead,
and Maximin the man whose sight Jesus restored. The
non-committally the report read, 'and others'. Other records
state that Philip and James accompanied Joseph. Others report
that Mary, the wife of Cleopas, and Mary, the mother of Jesus,
were occupants of the boat. That there were many congregated at
this time is obvious by the manner in which the various names
appear in the early Gallic church records. It is well known that
a great number of converts had preceded Joseph to Marseilles.
Banded together they formed a
' Annales Ecclesiastici, vol. 1, p.327, quoting Acts of Magdalen
and other manuscripts.
godly company of eager, enthusiastic workers in the Christian
Philip, one of the original twelve Apostles, was certainly
present. There is a wealth of uncontroversial testimony asserting
his commission in Gaul, all of which alike state that he received
and consecrated Joseph, preparatory to his embarkation and
appointment as the Apostle to Britain.
Some have misconstrued this act of consecration as an act of
conversion to the Christ Way of Life, chiefly because Joseph's
name is not mentioned as being one of the seventy elected by
Jesus on His second appearance. In fact few names are mentioned
and none of the later one hundred and twenty. They overlook the
facts of the biblical record which states that during the last
tragic days of Jesus the Apostles at Jerusalem referred to Joseph
being a disciple of Christ. This pronouncement antedates the
enlistment of the two later elect groups of disciples; therefore
it was not necessary for Joseph to be named among them. His
devotion to Jesus, and the apostolic reference shows that he was
one of the early disciples of Christ.
In order to be properly ordained to an apostolic appointment
it was necessary for the consecration to be performed by the
laying on of hands by one of the original Apostles. Strange as it
may seem, thrice within thirty years Philip performs this special
consecration for Joseph, the third time for a very peculiar
reason that will be related in its order.
St. Philip is referred to in the early Gallic church as the
Apostle of Gaul. Undoubtedly he was the first acknowledged
Apostle to Gaul but, as we shall later see, the unceasing
evangelizing effort in Gaul stemmed from Britain, with Lazarus in
particular dominating the Gallic scene during his short lifetime.
1 Due to Philip's apostolic authority it might be more correctly
said that while in Gaul he was the accepted head of the Gallic
The biblical and the secular records show that he did not
remain constantly in Gaul. There is frequent record of his being
in other lands, in the company of other Apostles and disciples.
Scriptural literature ceases to mention him circa A.D. 60.
Evidently he returned to Gaul at various intervals. Many of the
early writers particularly report Philip being in Gaul A.D. 65,
emphasizing the fact that it was in this year that he consecrated
Joseph, for the third time. Philip did not die in Gaul nor were
his martyred remains buried
1 J. W. Taylor, The Coming of the Saints, pp. 238-240.
there. He was crucified at Hierapolis at an advanced age. Two
notable church authorities report his death.
Isidore, Archbishop of Seville, A.D. 600-636, in his
Historia, writes: "Philip of the city Bethsaida, whence also came
Peter, preached Christ to the Gauls, and brought barbarous and
neighbouring nations, seated in darkness and close to the
swelling ocean to the light of knowledge and port of faith.
Afterwards he was stoned and crucified and died in Hierapolis, a
city of Phrygia, and having been buried with his corpse upright
along with his daughters rests there."
The Dictionary o f Christian Biography refers to Isidore as
"undoubtedly the greatest man of his time in the Church of Spain.
A voluminous writer of great learning."
The eminent Cardinal Baronius, in his Ecclesiastical Annals,
"Philip the fifth in order is said to have adorned Upper Asia
with the Gospel, and at length at Hierapolis at the age of 87 to
have undergone martyrdom, which also John Chrysostom hands down,
and they say that the same man travelled over part of Scythia,
and for some time preached the Gospel along with Bartholomew. In
Isidore one reads that Philip even imbued the Gauls with the
Christian faith, which also in the Breviary of Toledo of the
school of Isidore is read."
Julian, Archbishop of Toledo, A.D. 680-690, whom Dr. William
Smith in his biographical work states was "the last eminent
Churchman of West Gothic Spain, and next to Isidore of Seville,
perhaps the most eminent", along with the Venerable Bede, A.D.
673, declare that Philip was assigned to Gaul. The talented
Archbishop Ussher also asserts: "St. Philip preached Christ to
the Gauls." Further testimony is found in the MS. Martyrology of
Finally, to substantiate Philip's mission and presence in
Gaul, I quote Freculphus, Bishop of Lisieux, France, A.D. 825-851
"Philip of the City of Bethsaida whence also came Peter, of whom
in the Gospels and Acts of the Apostles praiseworthy mention is
often made, whose daughters also were outstanding prophetesses,
and of wonderful sanctity and perpetual virginity, as
ecclesiastical history narrates, preached Christ to the Gauls."
At this time it is quite in place to discuss the recently
revived belief that the Epistle to the Galatians was addressed,
as the ancient writers claim, to the inhabitants of Gaul, and not
the small colony of Gauls in Asia, particularly since the
testimony is related by various authoritative writers discussing
Philip's mission in Gaul in the same breath. This evidence is
quite important to consider, substantiating the great Christian
evangelizing effort in Gaul and supporting the mass of evidence
associating Britain with Gaul in those dramatic years.
Cardinal Baronius writes:
"We have said in our notes to the Roman Martyrology that, 'to the
Galatians' must be corrected in the place of 'to the Gauls'."
St. Epiphanius, A.D. 3I5-407, wrote:
"The ministry of the divine word having been entrusted to St.
Luke, he exercised it by passing into Dalmatia, into Gaul, into
Italy, into Macedonia, but principally into Gaul, so that St.
Paul assures him in his epistles about some of his disciples -
'Crescens', said he, 'is in Gaul.' In it must not be read in
Galatia as some have falsely thought, but in Gaul." 1
Pere Longueval remarks that this sentiment was so general in
the East that Theodoret, who read 'in Galatia', did not fail to
understand 'Gaul' because as a matter of fact the Greeks gave
this name to Gaul, and the Galatians had only thus been named
because they were a colony of Gauls (Memoire de l'Apostolat de
St. Mansuet (vide p. 83), par 1'Abbe Guillaume, p. II).
No better authority may be quoted in discussing this matter
than the learned Rev. Lional Smithett Lewis, M.A., late Vicar of
Glastonbury, considered the foremost church historian of our
times. The Rev. Lewis writes: 2
"Perhaps it may be permitted to point out that Edouard de
Bazelaire supports this view of Crescens being in Gaul, and not
in Galatia. He traces St. Paul about the year 63 along the
Aurelian Way from Rome to Arles in France (Predication du
Christianisme dans les Gaules, t. IX, p.198). He names his three
companions St. Luke who had just written the Acts, Trophimus whom
he left at Arles, Crescens whom he had sent to Vienne (Gaul)." He
quotes de Bazelaire who goes on to say, "On his return he retook
Trophimus with him, and was not able to keep him as far as Rome,
for he wrote (St. Paul) from there to Timothy, "Hasten and come
1 Crescens to Galatia'; 2 Timothy 4:10.
2 Lewis, St. Joseph of Arimathea at Glastonbury, pp.75-76.
and join me as soon as possible. Crescens is in the Gauls. I have
left Trophimus sick at Millet (Miletus)." The Abbe Maxime Latou,
referring to Trophimus being in Gaul says, "In 417 the Pope
Zommus recognized in the Church of Arles the right of being
Metropolitan over all the district of Narbonne because Trophimus
its first Bishop had been for the Gauls the source of life whence
flowed the streams of faith."
The Rev. Lewis also states:
"All this goes to prove that Gaul was known as Galatia, and their
chronicling St. Paul's and his companions' journey does not in
the least mean that they deny St. Philip's. For the same reason
M. Edouard de Bazelaire quotes M. Chateaubriand as saying, 'Peter
sent missionaries into Italy, in the Gauls, and on the coast of
Africa.' The part that St. Peter played is duly emphasized by
many illustrious Roman historians, and without St. Peter in the
least exercising any primacy this ardent and potent man might
well have influenced his compatriot from Bethsaida (St. Philip)."
"It is quite important to know that the Churches of Vienne and
Mayence in Gaul claim Crescens as their founder. This goes far to
corroborate that Galatia in II Timothy iv, 10, means Gaul, and
not its colony Galatia in Asia, and that Isidore meant to say
that St. Philip preached to the Gauls, and not to the Galatians
"We have seen that the 'Recognitions of Clement' (2nd century)
stated that St. Clement of Rome, going to Caesarea, found St.
Joseph of Arimathea there with St. Peter, Lazarus, the Holy Women
and others, a quite likely place for the start of the voyage of
St. Joseph and the Bethany Family and others to Marseilles.
Caesarea was the home of St. Philip in the Bible story. Afterward
tradition, supported by secular records, brings him to France,
whence he sent St. Joseph to Britain. William of Malmesbury,
quoting Freculphus, calls Joseph St. Philip's 'dearest friend'.
They must have been in close association. Tradition brings the
Holy Women and St. Joseph to France. All the way up the Rhone
Valley, as we have seen, from Marseilles to Morlaix, we find
constant memories of the occupants of that boat without oars and
sails. From Morlaix in Brittany it is a short step to Cornwall in
Britain. The route from Marseilles must have been known well to
Joseph. It was that of his fellow traders, seeking ore. From
Cornwall an ancient road led to the mines of Mendip, remains of
which exist. Arviragus's reception of St. Joseph suggests a very
possible previous acquaintance. Testimony from the Early Fathers
and varied branches of the Church show that the Church was here
in earliest days."
In discussing reference to the Gauls of France and the Gauls
of Asia, Archbishop Ussher sternly rebukes contemporaneous
writers for creating the misunderstanding through their
inaptitude to examine the ancient documents and compare the
records. As we have seen from the few quotations provided,
apostolic reference is indicated to the Gauls of France, and not
the Gauls of Asia. The presence of St. Philip is established in
Gaul and as being his first allotted mission. Other Apostles are
mentioned working in Gaul, some of whom we shall see journeyed
with Joseph of Arimathea to Britain. St. Clement throws historic
light on the illustrious gathering at Caesarea, about the time of
this exodus, which tends to support the statement by many that
Philip, as the dearest friend of Joseph, with James, was an
occupant in the castaway boat along with the Holy Women and
others. It is on record that St. Philip baptized Josephes, 1 the
son of Joseph and later, when Joseph revisited Gaul, Philip sent
Josephes to Britain with his father and ten other disciples.
Evidently, the Saints arrived in Britain in groups. It is
ultimately stated that one hundred and sixty had been sent to
Britain at various intervals by St. Philip to serve Joseph in his
evangelizing mission. 2
Joseph did not linger long in Gaul. A British Druidic
delegation of Bishops arrived at Marseilles to greet him and
extend an enthusiastic invitation to Joseph, urging him to return
to Britain with them and there teach the Christ Gospel. This
magnanimous invitation was enlarged upon by the Druidic
emissaries of the British Prince Arviragus, offering Joseph
lands, a safe haven and protection against Roman molestation.
Arviragus was Prince of the noble Silures of Britain, in the
Dukedom of Cornwall. He was the son of King Cunobelinus, the
Cymbeline of Shakespeare, and cousin to the renowned British
warrior-patriot, Caradoc, whom the Romans named Caractacus.
Together they represented the Royal Silurian dynasty, the most
powerful warrior kingdom in Britain, from whom the Tudor kings
and queens of England had their descent.
The invitation was gladly accepted and Joseph made ready to
embark for Britain, with his specially elected companions
immediately after his dearest friend, St. Philip, had performed
1 Magna Glastoniensis Tabula.
2 From early manuscript quoted by John of Glastonbury, William of
Malmesbury and Capgrave.
consecration in the year A.D. 36. From then on Joseph of
Arimathea becomes known in history as 'the Apostle to Britain'.
Undoubtedly Joseph was attracted to the Sacred Isle for
other reasons apart from welcoming the opportunity of proclaiming
'The Way' to the British populace. We are informed that Arviragus
and Joseph were well known to each other long prior to the
invitation; consequently we can well believe he had acquired many
influential friends in the south of Britain during the years he
had administered his mining interests in Cornwall and Devon. He
would be as well known to the common folk as he was to the
aristocracy. In one sense it would be a homecoming to the uncle
of Jesus. On the other hand, the land held for him many tender
memories which he would hold most precious.
In the traditions of Cornwall, Devon, Somerset, Wiltshire
and Wales, it has ever been believed and definitely claimed, that
Jesus as a boy accompanied His uncle to Britain on at least one
of his many seafaring trips; then later, as a young man. During
those silent years preceding His ministry it is avowed that
Jesus, after leaving India, journeyed to Britain and there
founded a retreat, building a wattle altar to the glory of God.
The ancient wise men of India assert that He had dwelt among
them. It is mentioned in the Vishnu Purana that Jesus had visited
the Himalayan Kingdom of Nepal. Moreover, the religious teachers
of India were familiar with the Isles of Britain. Wilford states
that the books of old India describe them as 'The Sacred Isles of
the West'. One of the books refers to 'Britashtan, the seat of
religious learning'. They employed the term used by Isaiah and
others: 'Isles of the West', 'Isles of the Sea.' The British
Isles are the only islands lying to the far west of Palestine.
Centuries after Joseph's time, St. Augustine confirms the
tradition of the wattle altar built by Jesus in a letter to the
Pope, 1 stating that the altar then existed. Consequently we can
believe the records in the ancient Triads that the altar was
standing when Joseph, with his twelve companions, arrived in
Britain. We can well understand why Joseph made this sacred spot
his destination, settling by its site, and there building the
first Christian church above ground in all the world, to the
glory of God in the name of Jesus and continuing the dedication
to Mary, the mother of Jesus.
Who were the twelve companions of Joseph that embarked with
him from Gaul to Britain?
This is a question one may ask with eager interest. It holds
1 Epistolae ad Gregoriam Papam.
fascination all of its own which becomes exciting as we ponder
over the names of the men and women so closely associated with
Jesus during His earthly ministry. Our interest is increased as
we realize that all of them are lost to the Biblical record
following the Exodus Of A.D. 36. Truly they are the lost
disciples destined to write Christian history with their lives in
letters of blood, fire and gold.
Because the personalities of Peter, Paul, Matthew, Mark,
Luke and John so greatly dominate the scriptural spotlight and
illumine the historic scene, one cannot help but feel thrilled as
we meet again the beloved of Christ, long lost to the sacred
record and, of all places, on the shores of the Sacred Isle -
historic Christian Britain.
Here is the list of them, the Champions of Christ as
selected by St. Philip and St. Joseph, following the latter's
consecration in Gaul.
Cardinal Baronius in his great work, quotes from Mistral, in
Mireio, and another ancient document in the Vatican Library. He
names them one by one, and by the names all Christians know them
St. Mary, wife of Cleopas
St. Mary Magdalene
Marcella, the Bethany sisters' maid
St. Sidonius (Restitutus)
St. Joseph of Arimathea
All the records refer to Joseph and twelve companions. Here
are listed fourteen, including Joseph. Marcella, the handmaiden
to the Holy women, is the only one not bearing the title Saint,
consequently she is not considered as one of the missionary band.
Probably Marcella went along in her old capacity of handmaiden to
the Bethany sisters. Many other writers insist there was another
member to this party not recorded in the Mistral report - Mary,
the mother of Jesus. Along with tradition, a great deal of extant
documentary testimony substantiates the presence of the Christ
Mother being with Joseph, he having been appointed by St. John as
'paranymphos' to the Blessed Virgin Mary. Being 'paranymphos' she
had to be with him, and we know Mary remained in Joseph's safe
keeping until her death.
What tender memories these illustrious names conjure in the
What tales of tragic experiences they brought with them to
relate to the sympathetic Druidic priesthood!
Here were the people most closely associated with Jesus in
the drama of the cross: Joseph, the fearless, tender guardian who
embraced the torn body in his arms; the suffering mother whom
John led away from the final agony; the women who had discovered
the deserted tomb; Lazarus, whom Jesus raised from the dead to
walk out of the sepulchre into the Glory and follow Christ; and
Restitutus, now known as St. Sidonius, who eyes had never seen
the light of day until Jesus touched them ... whose first vision
was the Light of the World.
Is there any wonder that the little isle of Britain became
commonly spoken of as "the most hallowed ground on earth," "The
Sacred Isle", "The Motherland"?
To be continued with "Joseph becomes the Apostle to Britain"