From  the  book


by  Ivor  C.  Fletcher (1984)

The Utmost Bounds of the West

Of St. Paul's journey to Britain, a point of great importance in the history of the gospel, and of the Protestant church, we fortunately possess as substantial evidence as any historical fact can require.

"Some of our most valuable Ecclesiastical historians have no scruple in acceding to the general testimony of the Fathers that the Gospel was preached in Britain by some of the Apostles soon after the middle of the first century."

So wrote Bishop T. Burges in 1815.l Burges was not alone in his view; many other authorities could be cited which uphold this position.

Even the most cautious of writers feels compelled to admit that "whether any apostle or companion of an apostle, ever visited Britain, cannot be determined; yet the balance of probability rather inclines towards the affirmative."2

William Cave presents the case in more positive terms when he relates that "Theodorat and others tell us that he [the apostle Paul] preached not only in Spain, but that he went to other nations, and brought the gospel into the isles of the sea, by which he undoubtedly means Britain; and therefore elsewhere reckons the Gauls and Britons among the nations which the apostles, and particularly the tent-maker, persuaded to embrace the law of Christ."3

The actual statement of Theodorat made in A.D. 435 is as follows:

"Paul, liberated from his first captivity at Rome, preached the Gospel to the Britons and Others in the West. Our fishermen and publicans not only persuaded the Romans and their tributaries to acknowledge the Crucified and His laws, but the Britons also and the Cimbri [Cymry, i.e. Welsh]. When Paul was sent by Festus on his appeal to Rome, he travelled, after being acquitted, into Spain, and thence extended his excursions into other countries, and to the islands surrounded by the sea."4

Venantius Fortunatus in A.D. 560 mentions that "St. Paul passed over the ocean to the Island of Britain, and to Thule, the extremity of the earth."

It is significant to note that almost all early authorities relating to Paul's visit to Britain are non-British in origin, largely coming from a Greek or Latin background. There can be no possibility that the visit was a mere fabrication of British writers who were seeking an apostolic foundation for the British church on patriotic or political grounds.

Perhaps the most important of all sources concerning Paul's movements after leaving Rome is the epistle of Clement of Rome to the Corinthians.

In an attempt to encourage the Christians at Corinth to remain firmly established in the true faith, he relates firstly how Peter, and then Paul met their deaths:

"Let us set before our eyes the Holy Apostles: Peter by unjust envy underwent not one, or two but many sufferings; till at last being martyred, he went to the place of glory that was due to him. For the same cause, did Paul in like manner receive the reward of his patience. Seven times he was in bonds; he was whipped, was stoned; he preached both in the East and in the West; leaving behind him the glorious report of his faith. And so having taught the whole world righteousness, and for that end travelled even to the utmost bounds of the West; he at last suffered martyrdom by the command of the governors."5

This epistle was written in A.D. 95-96. Clement was not writing centuries after the events described, but was in fact a contemporary of Paul, writing less than thirty years after Paul's martyrdom.

Iranaeus in the second century speaks of Clement, "who also has seen the blessed Apostles and conversed with them and had the preaching of the Apostles still ringing in his ears and their tradition before his eyes." Origen in the third century mentions "Clement the disciple of the Apostles" and "the faithful Clement to whom Paul bears testimony."

Not only Origen, but Eusebius and many other early writers identify Clement with "Clement also, and with other my fellow helpers, whose names are in the book of life" (Paul's epistle to the Philippians, 4:3).

"The tradition that he [Clement] was the disciple of one or both of these Apostles [Peter and Paul] is early, constant, and definite; and it is borne out by the character and contents of the epistle itself."6

Some controversy has surrounded the question of what precisely Clement meant by his statement "the utmost bounds of the West." Was he thinking of Spain or Britain?

In ancient times the term was used to define both Spain and Britain. The Greeks considered Spain to be the western extremity of the known world. When Clement was writing, Britain was commonly known as the western extremity or boundary of the Roman empire.

According to T. Burges, "This is not a rhetorical expression—but the usual designation of Britain. Theodoret speaks of the inhabitants of Spain, Gaul and Britain as dwelling in the utmost bounds of the west.

"Nicephorus says, that the Britons inhabited the utmost parts of the West. St. Paul therefore in going to the utmost bounds of the West went to Britain. According to Jerome 'Between Spain and Britain there was a frequent intercourse.' "7

The most logical conclusion must surely be that had Clement wished to specify one particular country, and one alone, he would have named it. By using a more general term, however, he could include Spain, Gaul (France) and Britain.

A work conducted in these regions would have been quite in keeping with Christ's command to His apostles to take the Gospel to "the uttermost part of the earth" (Acts 1:8).

Paul spoke of those, including himself, who would spread glad tidings "unto the ends of the world" (Rom 10:18).

The warning given in Revelation that nothing should be added to, or taken from, "the things which are written in this book" (Rev. 22:19) might lead some to assume that all of the inspired writings of the New Testament Church are included in the canon of the Bible.

Internal evidence from the New Testament itself, however, clearly disproves any such assumption. Luke records that many accurate and authentic accounts of the life of Jesus Christ were in circulation at the time that he began his narrative (Luke 1:1-2).

Paul mentions in his "first" epistle to the Corinthians that "I wrote to you in that letter"—proving that at least one other epistle had been written to the Corinthian church before his so-called "first" epistle (I Cor. 5:9).

An epistle was also sent to the Laodiceans (Col. 4; 16) which is not included in the canon of the New Testament.

Several commentators have expressed their surprise at the obviously "unfinished" state of the book of Acts. It stops in the middle of the story, with some seven years of Paul's life yet to be covered. Luke, although an experienced and polished writer, does not even end with the usual "Amen."

Some scholars feel that Luke had intended writing a third volume covering the remaining years of Paul's life. Perhaps a more logical view would be that he would write a continuation and conclusion to Acts.

Paul mentions that Luke was still with him about A.D. 67, shortly before Paul was martyred (II Tim. 4:11). The clear implication is that Luke remained with Paul for at least a part, if not all, of the remaining years between the conclusion of Acts in A.D. 61 and Paul's martyrdom in A.D. 68.

It would seem hardly logical that Luke would not fail to complete his narrative; the question should perhaps be asked, if the book of Acts was completed what became of the final section, and why was it left out of the New Testament canon?

Daniel records that some information relating to the history of the nation of Israel and the "holy people" or Church of God was to be "closed up and sealed"—that is kept secret—until "the time of the end" or our modern generation. The concluding section of Acts could well have been deliberately omitted, under God's inspiration, from the New Testament canon only to be "discovered" at a later time in history, near the time of the end of this age.

A Greek manuscript has indeed been discovered in the archives of Constantinople which purports to be the concluding portions of Acts, and reads like a continuation of it. Its origin is uncertain but it was translated into English in 1801 by C.S. Sonnini.

The fact that the M.S. was discovered at Constantinople could well be significant. Jerome records that Luke's remains were brought to this city in A.D. 357 and buried there. The Monarchian Prologue also seems to imply that Luke spent the later part of his life in this general vicinity. "He never had a wife or children, and died at the age of seventy-four in Bithnia full of the Holy Spirit."

Constantinople, also known at times as Byzantium and Istanbul, lay at the border between the provinces of Thrace and Bithynia (sometimes spelled Bithnia).

It was also at Constantinople that a great many New Testament manuscripts were preserved, at least from the fourth century onwards. It was upon this Byzantine text that the later English versions were largely based.

Although one cannot be dogmatic regarding the authorship of Sonnini's translation of what has been called "The long lost chapter of the Acts of the Apostles," it should be said that there is a great deal of information contained in this M.S. which can be verified by reference to other independent sources.

The terminology and style of writing in the M.S. is very similar, if not identical to that used by Luke in Acts.

The text of the M.S. begins at the point that Acts finishes, and reads as follows:

"And Paul, full of the blessings of Christ, and abounding in the spirit, departed out of Rome, determining to go into Spain, for he had a long time purposed to journey thitherward, and was minded also to go from thence into Britain. For he had heard in Phoenicia that certain of the children of Israel, about the time of the Assyrian captivity, had escaped by sea to ‘the isles afar off,’ as spoken by the prophet, and called by the Romans Britain. And the Lord commanded the gospel to be preached far hence to the Gentiles, and to the lost sheep of the House of Israel. And no man hindered Paul; for he testified boldly of Jesus before the tribunes and among the people; and he took with him certain of the brethren which abode with him at Rome, and they took shipping at Ostium, and having the winds fair were brought safely into a haven of Spain. And much people were gathered together from the towns and villages and the hill country; for they had heard of the conversion of the apostle, and the many miracles which he had wrought. And Paul preached mightily in Spain, and great multitudes believed and were converted, for they perceived he was an apostle sent from God."

Commentators have noted with interest the special attention that Luke, in Acts, gives to sea-itineraries and ports of arrival and departure. A similar tendency is found in the text of the M.S. Ostium was the port used by sea travellers from Rome during the first century.

It was Paul's stated intention to visit Spain after leaving Rome (Rom. 15:24 and 28), and not only Spanish tradition but also the testimonies of many early writers confirm that Paul did indeed visit that area after leaving Rome.

The "haven of Spain" mentioned in the M.S. was almost certainly the port of Gades or Cadiz. A colony of Israelite and Phoenician peoples was established here from very ancient times. This was probably the port of Tarshish (Spain) that Jonah was heading for centuries earlier, when he tried to escape from God.

"Cadiz was the commercial centre of Western Europe, and was no doubt the place St. Paul had in mind when, writing to the Romans, he spoke of his 'journey into Spain.'  His journey into Spain is mentioned, as if it were a well-known historical fact by Jerome, Chrysostom and Theodoret. . . There was ample opportunity for St. Paul to visit Cadiz, and to found a church there, during the six years that elapsed between his first and second imprisonment at Rome; and among his Spanish converts there could hardly fail to be some who traded with the British Isles."8

There was nothing in the least unusual about a sea voyage between Rome and Cadiz during the first century; "the commercial and passenger traffic with Gades was intimate and constant."9

Anyone who visits Cadiz and the surrounding countryside can readily equate this area with the "haven of Spain" and its nearby "hill country" described in the M.S.

The commission given by Christ to Paul was to take the gospel to "the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel" (Acts 9:15). 

When Paul left Rome the first two parts of this task had already been completed, the people of Cadiz and the surrounding area were largely of Israelite and Phoenician stock who had settled in the region for commercial reasons over a period of centuries. They (the Israelite element) represented a small part of the "lost ten tribes" of Israel.

The Muratorian Fragment, which is part of a document dating back to the second century, mentions Paul's work in Spain but gives few of the details.

A generation later, in about A.D. 200, Tertullian mentions that "the extremities of Spain, the various parts of Gaul, the regions of Britain which have never been penetrated by the Roman armies, have received the religion of Christ."10

The M.S. continues the story of Paul's travels: "And they departed out of Spain, and Paul and his company finding a ship in America sailing into Britain, they went therein, and passing along the South coast they reached a port called Raphinus."

America is identified as follows: "In Caesar's time, the whole district lying along the north-western coast of Gaul, afterwards narrowed down to modern Brittany."11

Several writers affirm that the gospel came into Britain by way of Brittany. Dr. Mosheim's Ecclesiastical History relates:

"The independence of the ancient British churches from the see of Rome, and their observing the same rites with the Gallic churches, which were planted by Asiatics, and particularly in regard to the time of Easter, show that they received the Gospel from Gaul, and not from Rome."

A number of early writers mention that churches were established in France, known anciently as Gaul, during apostolic times. Not only Paul but also Luke and Crescens are said to have had a part in this work.

"In the second century (A.D. 179) Iranaeus speaks of Christianity as propagated to the utmost bounds of the earth, by the Apostles, and their disciples; and particularly specifies the churches planted in Spain and the Celtic nations. By the Celts were meant the people of Germany, Gaul and Britain."12

Trophimus is said to have preached and established a church at Aries; a cathedral was later built over the site of his tomb.

Epiphanius (A.D. 315-407) relates:

"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."

Several other authorities support this interpretation of II Timothy 4:10, including the Codex Sinaiticus, which translates Galatia as 'Gallia.'

The exact location of the port of Raphinus, mentioned in the "Sonnini Manuscript" is uncertain. Some identify this as the Roman name of Sandwich in Kent. A port in this vicinity is known to have been used by the Romans during the first century A.D. An old house is said to have existed at Sandwich until Saxon times which was known as "The House of the Apostles."

Roman roads linked this part of the coast with London. The text of the M.S. continues as follows:

"Now when it was noised abroad that the apostle had landed on their coast, great multitudes of the inhabitants met him, and they treated Paul courteously, and he entered in at the east gate of their city, and lodged in the house of an Hebrew and one of his own nation. And on the morrow he came and stood upon Mount Lud; and the people thronged at the gate, and assembled in the Broadway, and he preached Christ unto them, and many believed the word and the testimony of Jesus. And at even the Holy Ghost fell upon Paul, and he prophesied, saying, Behold in the last days the God of Peace shall dwell in the cities, and the inhabitants thereof shall be numbered; and in the seventh numbering of the people, then-eyes shall be opened, and the glory of their inheritance shine forth before them. And nations shall come up to worship on the Mount that testifieth of the patience and long suffering of a servant of the Lord.

"And in the latter days new tidings of the Gospel shall issue forth out of Jerusalem, and the hearts of the people shall rejoice, and behold, fountains shall be opened, and there shall be no more plague. In those days there shall be wars and rumours of wars; and a king shall rise up, and his sword shall be for the healing of the nations, and his peacemaking shall abide, and the glory of his kingdom a wonder among princes. And it came to pass that certain of the Druids came unto Paul privately, and showed by their rites and ceremonies they were descended from the Jews which escaped from bondage in the land of Egypt, and the apostle believed these things, and he gave them the kiss of peace. And Paul abode in his lodgings three months, confirming in the faith and preaching Christ continually. And after these things Paul and his brethren departed from Raphinus, and sailed unto Antrum in Gaul."

The "Mount Lud" mentioned in the M.S. can probably be identified as the modem day Ludgate Hill, located in the City of London. A variety of objects dating to the first century have been unearthed in this area showing that it was a spot used by Romans and the local Britons during Paul's day.

According to Geoffrey of Monmouth, Lud-Gate was built by King Lud in 66 B.C. Several early writers confirm the existence of this ruler of pre-Roman Britain.

Holinshed states that "Lud began to reign in 72 B.C. He made a strong wall of lime and stone and fortified it with divers fair towers, and in the west part of the same wall he erected a strong gate which he commanded to be called after his name, 'Ludgate,' and so unto this day, it is called Ludgate."13

Another spot where Paul, according to tradition, is said to have preached is the district of Gospel Oak, a part of Hampstead Heath.

A charter given by King Canute in 1030 would also seem to confirm the story of Paul's visit. It reads: "I, Cnut, king of the English, grant lands for the enlargement of the Monastery of the blessed Apostle Paul, teacher of the peoples, and situated in the City of London."

Critics of the M.S. have seen as too good to be true the obvious reference to St. Paul's Cathedral given in the prophecy, said to have been made by Paul, under inspiration of the Holy Spirit.

It should be said that the prophecy, if genuine, does not relate to the history of the Church of God, but to a place of national worship, the exact nature of which is not specified; the entire context is one of national history rather than church history.

It can hardly be denied that the former Mount Lud did become the site of a national place of worship. One only has to witness a state occasion such as the Queen's Silver Jubilee in 1977 to realize that the representatives of several nations do come to worship on this spot. This great cathedral does indeed bear Paul's name and in a sense testifies of his visit and preaching.

The reference to Paul's meeting with the Druids is probable enough. Although they suffered persecution at the hands of the Romans, it is likely that at this early stage in the Roman occupation they still had great influence with the people and by means of their very efficient system of communications were made aware of Paul's arrival.

It was Paul's policy to establish friendly relationships with civil and religious leaders, whenever this was possible, in order that the progress of the gospel would not be hindered. 

Although he probably noted with interest the similarities between the Druidic and Jewish religions, he would certainly not have approved of or condoned the many elements of paganism that had influenced the religion of the Druids by this period.

The mention of a visit to Britain by Paul lasting three months is a point of some interest as it seems to have been Paul's policy on several occasions to visit an area for this period of time (Acts 19:8, 20:3, 28:11).

It is also quite possible that he paid more than one visit to Britain. The six years which elapsed before his final arrest and death would allow adequate time for two or more visits.

An old history of the Isle of Wight speaks of Paul arriving "with several other Christians, some of whom had been in personal contact with our blessed Lord Himself. He landed at Bonefon in the Isle of Wight. The exact spot is now Sandown Bay, which was a mouth of the harbour of Brading. He passed to the mainland from Rhydd, the ferry or passage now called Ryde, to Aber Deo, the port of God, or Godsport—Gosport. This is not so fantastic as it may seem, for nearby Paulsgrove, north of Portsmouth, is said to be named because St. Paul visited there."14

The exact dates for these visits cannot be determined but, if they did take place, would almost certainly have been made between Paul's release from Roman captivity in A.D. 61 (some authorities place this event a year later, in A.D. 62), and his arrest in A.D. 67.

Some early writers insist that his first visit must have taken place before the war between Boadicea and the Romans (A.D. 60-61). In the absence of any conclusive evidence, however, one can only admit that our knowledge of chronology relating to first century Britain is incomplete.

The final section of the "Sonnini Manuscript" concludes the story of Paul's travels as follows:

"And Paul preached in the Roman garrisons and among the people, exhorting all men to repent and confess their sins. And there came to him certain of the Belgae to enquire of him of the new doctrine, and of the man Jesus; and Paul opened his heart unto them, and told them all things that had befallen him, how be it that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; and they departed, pondering among themselves upon the things which they had heard. And after much preaching arid toil Paul and his fellow labourers passed into Helvetia, and came unto Mount Pontius Pilate, where he who condemned the Lord Jesus dashed himself down headlong, and so miserably perished. And immediately a torrent gushed out of the mountain and washed his body broken to pieces into a lake. And Paul stretched forth his hands upon the water and prayed unto the Lord, saying, O Lord God, give a sign unto all nations that here Pontius Pilate, which condemned thine only-begotten Son, plunged down headlong into the pit. And while Paul was yet speaking, behold there came a great earthquake, and the face of the waters was changed, and the form of the Lake like unto the Son of Man hanging in an agony upon the cross. And a voice came out of heaven saying, Even Pilate hath escaped the wrath to come, for he washed his hands before the multitude at the blood shedding of the Lord Jesus. When, therefore, Paul and those that were with him saw the earthquake, and heard the voice of the angel, they glorified God, and were mightily strengthened in the Spirit. And they journeyed and came to Mount Julius, where stood two pillars, one on the right hand and one on the left hand, erected by Caesar Augustus. And Paul, filled with the Holy Ghost, stood up between the two pillars, saying, Men and brethren, these stones which ye see this day shall testify of my journey hence; and verily I say, they shall remain until the outpouring of the spirit upon all nations, neither shall the way be hindered throughout all generations. And they went forth and came unto Hlyricum, intending to go by Macedonia into Asia, and grace was found in all the churches; and they prospered and had peace. Amen." 

Eusebius confirms the suicide of Pilate, although he does not record where this event took place.

"It is also worthy of notice that tradition relates that that same Pilate, he of the Saviour's time, in the days of Caius . . . fell into such great calamity that he was forced to become his own slayer and to punish himself with his own hand. These who record the Olympiads of the Greeks with the annals of events relate this."16

There is one tradition, perhaps the one to which Eusebius referred, which tells that Pilate, falling out of political favour during the reign of Caligula (Caius) went to Helvetia (Switzerland) where he spent his remaining days in great sorrow on Mount Pilatus (called Mount Pontius Pilate in the M.S.). He is said to have taken his own life by plunging into the dismal lake at the base of the mountain—Lake Lucerne.

Some of the Waldenses, a church of the Middle Ages which probably can be identified as the Thyatira era of the Church of God (Rev. 2:18), traced their origin to the Apostle Paul's preaching in the Alps.

Eusebius also confirms Paul's journey through Illyricum. "Why should we speak of Paul, spreading the gospel of Christ from Jerusalem to Illyricum, and finally suffering martyrdom at Rome, under Nero?"17

As Paul was a citizen of Tarsus and spent most of his life in the eastern Mediterranean, one is tempted to speculate that the material relating to his visit to Britain could perhaps be categorized as nothing more than legend and mere wishful thinking. Was Paul even aware of the existence of Britain?

The Apostle was an educated man, having read widely, even taking in the writings of foreign poets. He knew as much, if not more, of world affairs as the average educated man of his day.

The bulk of Paul's ministry took place during the reigns of the Roman emperors Claudius and Nero (A.D. 41-68). During this period, one of the major concerns of the empire was the invasion and conquest of Britain.

This war, which dragged on for decades (Wales was not subdued until about A.D. 79, some thirty-six years after the initial invasion), absorbed some of Rome's finest legions and most competent military leaders.

Tacitus relates that "When Britain, with the rest of the Roman world, fell to the lot of Vespasian, the ablest officers were sent to reduce the island; powerful armies were set in motion . . . "18

So important was the campaign in Britain to the Romans that Claudius named a son Britannicus in recognition of his victories. News of the progress of the war spread throughout the empire; Josephus relates that during the battle which led to the fall of Jerusalem in A.D. 70 the Romans, in an effort to discourage the Jews, boasted of their victories in Britain.

Who can doubt that if the Jews in Jerusalem were aware of events in Britain, Paul, who spent at least two years in Rome, would have been even more aware of these things? The Romans gave great publicity to their military campaigns, especially those in Britain.

It is probable that Paul had personal contact with at least one British Christian during his visit to Rome.

Plautius, the commander of the Roman forces in Britain, married the sister of Caractacus, the famous warrior king of the Britons, at the time of the first peace treaty about AD. 45. Some two years later, his military service in Britain completed, he returned to Rome with his wife.

Tacitus records that an unusual thing happened following their arrival at Rome.

"Pomponia Graecina, a woman of illustrious birth, and the wife of Plautius, who, on his return from Britain, entered the city with the pomp of an ovation, was accused of embracing the rites of a foreign superstition. The matter was referred to the jurisdiction of her husband. Plautius, in conformity to ancient usage, called together a number of her relations, and in her presence, sat in judgment on the conduct of his wife. He pronounced her innocent."19

There is general agreement among scholars that the "foreign superstition" mentioned by Tacitus is a direct reference to Christianity. Suetonius, another Roman writer of the period, mentions the Christians as holding a "novel and mischievous superstition."

The charges could well have been brought by a political enemy of Plautius, in order to damage his political career.

"As Judaism was a religion recognized by Roman law, and as Christianity was not yet distinguished from Judaism, Pomponia was entitled to an acquittal on the purely religious grounds. But rumours were already abroad which accused the Christians of flagitious and impure orgies in secret, and the participation in these was the matter referred to the domestic tribunal. The domestic court was charged with the cognizance of this very class of crimes, more especially of the violation of the marriage vow."20

The charge of taking part in orgies was commonly levelled at the Christians in Roman times; although true Christians were well aware of God's law relating to sexual sins, many references can be found to prove that Simon Magus and his followers did indeed indulge in such activities; as these people, although not true Christians, called themselves "Christians" it is easy to see how such rumours began.

E. Guest in his Origines Celticae adds another important point relating to Pomponia:

"For all are agreed that by the 'foreign superstition' was meant Christianity . . . Moreover, as Pomponia had been charged with the crime of Christianity, and acquitted only by her husband's verdict, she would naturally live in the strictest seclusion, if it were merely to save her husband from dishonour, and we can thus explain the fact that she is never mentioned in St. Paul's epistles."21

Pomponia could well have been a member of Paul's congregation during his visit to Rome. As one of the very few Christians of noble or royal birth, she could well have been one of those that Paul was thinking of when he wrote that "not many noble are called" (I Cor. 1:26).

It is possible that Pomponia gave Paul some encouragement to preach in Britain. She had been, prior to her marriage, a princess in Siluria (South Wales), her former name being Gladys. Theodoret wrote that Paul preached, not only to the Britons, but also to the Cymry or Welsh.

"And St. Paul might have some particular encouragement at Rome to come hither from Pomponia Graecina, wife of A. Plautius, the Roman lieutenant under Claudius in Britain; for that she was a Christian, appears very probable from the account Tacitus gives of her."22

In 1867 the noted archaeologist, De Rossi, discovered amazing proof of the existence of Pomponia. He uncovered in the catacomb of Callistus at Rome a sepulchral inscription to "Pomponius Graecinus" who was probably a male relative of Pomponia.

J.B. Lightfoot gives more details of the discovery: "The earliest portion of the catacombs of Callistus, the so-called crypt of Lucina, shows by the character and construction that it must have been built in the first century of the Christian Church. In this crypt a sepulchral inscription has been found belonging to the close of the second or beginning of the third century, unquestioningly bearing the name Pomponius Graecinus . . .It is clear therefore that this burial place was constructed by some Christian lady of rank, probably before the close of the first century, for her fellow-religionists within a generation or two a descendant or near kinsman of Pomponia Graecina was buried."23

She is thought to have died in about A.D. 83.

Perhaps the strangest and most interesting story to come from the records of the early British Church concerns Claudia and Pudens.

The tale of this enigmatic pair has been classified as legend by some but thought by others, noted scholars among them, to have been based on historical fact.

Their story has all the elements of a fairy tale romance. Claudia, the beautiful and talented British princess, meets and falls in love with Pudens, wealthy young Roman aristocrat and officer in the Roman army, during the invasion of Britain. The happy couple marry and move to Rome where they become Christians and close friends of the apostle Paul. Sadly, the story ends with their children all dying as Christian martyrs.

In 1723 a remarkable inscription was discovered at Chichester which mentioned one "Pudens." The inscription which dated to about A.D. 50, was at one time part of a Roman building, and later became known as "the Chichester stone." It reads as follows:

"The College of Engineers, and ministers of religion attached to it, by permission of Tiberius Claudius Cogidunus, the king, legate of Augustus in Britain, have dedicated at their own expense, in honour of the divine family this temple to Neptune and Minerva. The site was given by Pudens, Son of Pudentinus."

This Pudens has been identified as the second in command of the Roman forces in Britain, under Aulus Plautius. It was quite a common occurrence for his ranking officers to be present at the dedication of public buildings, including, as in this case, a pagan temple.

"Here, then, we have a Pudens connected with Britain and joining with a Romanized British prince in forwarding the erection of a public building in that province, and at the same time a British prince, whose Roman name of Claudius would, according to Roman custom, necessitate the adoption of the name Claudia by his daughter."24

Other sources indicate the more probable view that Claudia was the daughter not of Claudius Cogidunus, but of Caractacus. As these two British princes were probably related it is likely that she at least knew Cogidunus, even if not being directly related to him.

Pudens could well have been present at the wedding of his commanding officer Plautius and Pomponia Graecina. Claudia, as daughter of Caractacus and niece of Pomponia, was most likely present at the same event; although probably being no more than a young girl or teenager at the time.

Tacitus, although mentioning this event, gives no details regarding the location of the wedding. This marriage, which took place around A.D. 45, could well have had some political significance. Pomponia was a princess of the Silures, a tribe which controlled a part of South Wales. A peace treaty was signed at about the time of the wedding between the Silures and the Romans; peace treaties in ancient times were often accompanied by a marriage between the leader of one side in the conflict (Plautius) and the daughter, or in this case, the sister, of the opposing military leader. Gloucester, which stood at the border between Siluria and Roman-occupied Britain, could well have been the location where the wedding took place.

"While much has been said of Claudius founding Gloucester, it has been confirmed by the discoveries made of recent years at that town, and the greater abundance of the coins of Claudius discovered there, than at almost any other town in Britain."25

Lysons speculates that the apostle Paul visited Gloucester and preached there. Although there is no clear evidence of this, it is reasonable to assume that because of the political and military significance of the town during the reigns of Claudius and Nero, Paul could well have at least heard of it.

Pompania has been seen by some as the source of Claudia's introduction to Christianity.

Several writers on the subject of British history have seen Pomponia and Claudia as the first Christian converts in Britain. It should be noted that these names came from their associations with the Romans; among their own people both ladies were known by the name of Gladys; this was quite appropriate as the name, in the Celtic or Welsh language, means princess and both were indeed princesses in the royal family of Siluria. 

In a recent trip to Cwmbran the writer noticed that a modern road has been named "Caradoc's Way" after the famous Caradoc (known to Tacitus and other Roman writers as Caractacus), of the first century A.D.

These people were probably the remote ancestors of the Tudor kings of England who also came from Wales, and as such were probably related to the present Queen, Elizabeth the Second.

"Whether it was by the piety of these ladies, or other individuals, that the doctrine of Christianity was first introduced among the Britons, it proceeded with a silent but steady pace towards the extremity of the island."26

During this period the Christian Church in Britain was small, consisting of scattered individuals and perhaps a few congregations.

"But though the name of Christ was not altogether unknown in Britain, in this very early period, yet the number of Christians in this island was then certainly very small."27

Although the Roman writers Tacitus and Martial mention that these ladies both went to Rome, and as the chronology of the period would place their arrival shortly before Paul's arrival, as recorded in Acts, the Welsh records imply that they could well have been converted to Christianity prior to leaving Britain.

Llan Hid in Glamorganshire (Gwent) is the site, according to the Welsh Triads, of the first Christian church in Wales. This place name means "consecrated enclosure" or "church of Hid." It is located within the ancient territory of Siluria where Pomponia and Claudia spent the early years of their lives.

It was said that Princess Eurgain, known in some sources as the eldest daughter of Caractacus (which would make her a sister of Claudia, or perhaps this is simply another name for Claudia), "founded and endowed the first Christian Cor," or choir in Britain. From this Cor-Eurgain issued many of the most eminent teachers and missionaries of Christianity down to the tenth century. Of the saints of this Cor, from Hid in succession, there are catalogues in the “Genealogies of the Saints of Britain.”

Claudia was a woman of considerable literary ability and culture, several volumes of her poetry and hymns were still extant as late as the thirteenth century. The Iolo M.S. describes Hid as a man "of the land of Israel." 

"This Hid is called in the lections of his life Joseph. He became principal teacher of the Christian faith to the Welsh, and introduced good order into Cor-Eurgain, which Eurgain had established for 12 Saints near the church now called Llantwit."

Some identify Hid as Joseph of Arimathea. 

The M.S. relates that after working in Wales for a time he went to Glastonbury "where he died and was buried, and Ina, king of that country raised a large church over his grave."

As intimate contact existed at this time between Somerset, where Glastonbury is located, and South Wales, it does seem probable that the first churches in Wales were established by men from Glastonbury.

The family records of the eleventh century Prince of Glamorgan, Jestyn ap Gwrgant, speaking of this period, mention: "Cyllin ab Caradog, a wise and just king. In his days many of the Cymry embraced the faith in Christ through the teaching of the saints of Cor-Eurgain, and many godly men from the countries of Greece and Rome were in Cambria."

One of these "godly men. . . from Rome" was almost certainly the apostle Paul; Theodoret in the fifth century mentions his association with Wales.

"There are six years of St. Paul's life to be accounted for, between his liberation from his first imprisonment and his martyrdom at Aquae Salviae in the Ostian Road, near Rome. Part certainly, the greater part perhaps, of this period, was spent in Britain—in Siluria or Cambria, beyond the bounds of the Roman Empire; and hence the silence of the Greek and Latin writers upon it."31

A collection of writings in the ancient British language have been handed down which may relate to Paul's preaching in Britain and have always been known as "the Triads of Paul the Apostle."

A Triad was the traditional style of writing and public speaking in Britain in ancient times and probably could be defined as "three main points."

Ministers and other speakers in the British Churches of God to this day often arrange their sermons or other lectures around three main points. Perhaps Paul, wishing to be "all things to all men" used the traditional style of public speaking in Britain, and that form has been handed down through the generations since that time.

These Triads of Paul are based almost entirely upon the principles that are expounded in his New Testament epistles. A few, taken at random, are reproduced as follows:

"Three kinds of men are the delights of God: the meek; the lovers of peace; the lovers of mercy. The three chief considerations of a Christian: lest he should displease God; lest he should be a stumbling block to man; lest his love to all that is good should wax cold. Three persons have the claims and privileges of brothers and sisters: the widow; the orphan; the stranger."

As there is no attempt made to introduce false doctrine or superstition in these writings and the style is simple and direct, they could well be what the title suggests: "the Triads of Paul the Apostle."

Tacitus relates that for nine years, the Britons, under the leadership of Caractacus (Caradoc), bravely resisted the Roman advance in Britain. 

One Roman division which penetrated as far west as Caerleon was cut to pieces. In A.D. 52, however, the British leader was betrayed and along with his family (including Claudia) was captured by the Romans in Shropshire.

Some three million citizens of Rome thronged the streets of the capital when this great warrior king was brought in chains to appear before the emperor Claudius. Perhaps in recognition of his outstanding military leadership Caractacus was pardoned by the emperor, although he was required to remain in Rome, under a sort of "house arrest," in order that he would cause the Romans no further trouble.

Summing up the situation following the arrest of Caractacus and his family, Tacitus records that:

"In Britain, after the captivity of Caractacus, the Romans were repeatedly conquered and put to the rout by the single state of the Silures alone."31

Had the various tribes in Britain set aside their own differences and presented a united front against the Romans, there can be little doubt that the Roman occupation would have been very short lived.

Caractacus and his family took up residence in the Palatium Britannicum (Palace of the British) at Rome. As a hostage of the state he was required to remain at Rome for seven years.

Pudens, the Roman Senator and former aide-de-camp to Aulus Plautius, commander of the Roman forces in Britain, completed his army service at about this time and returned to Rome.

It seems that Pudens and Claudia had met in Britain, as Claudia's aunt Pomponia had married Pudens' commanding officer Plautius. They, Pudens and Claudia, married in about A.D. 53.

The Roman poet Martial, a friend of the couple, wrote some poetry on the occasion of the wedding. He also makes it evident that Pudens had served in Britain prior to his marriage. He speaks of Pudens suffering from the cold of "the Scythian [North] pole."32. A clear indication of his army service in Britain.

The poetry also strongly suggests that the couple were both converted Christians at the time of their marriage. Martial describes Pudens as the "sainted husband" of Claudia whom he writes of as having "sprung from the painted Britons."33

Elsewhere he asks, "Since Claudia wife of Rufus [Pudens] comes from the blue-set Britons, how is it that she has won the hearts of the Latin people."

The bright blue eyes of the Britons is also noted by Seneca.

"The British lady, Claudia, to whom Martial addressed two or three of his epigrams, and others to Linus and Pudens, is supposed to be the very Claudia mentioned with Pudens and Linus, in Paul's second Epistle to Timothy. She is believed by Cambrian writers to be of the family of Caractacus, and, perhaps the first British Christian."34

Llin, described in Welsh records as a son of Caractacus, is thought by some to be the Linus mentioned by Martial and Paul, the brother of Claudia.

Roman writers mention the fact that Linus was ordained by Paul as the first bishop of Rome in A.D. 68. The significance of this event will be discussed in a later chapter.

"And he [Martial] addresses two or three of his epigrams to Linus, proving the connection of the three."35

The connection between the Pudens, Linus and Claudia mentioned by Martial, with their links with Britain, and a group of three related individuals having the same names described by Paul (II Tim. 4:21) has been noted by several authorities on the subject of church history.

"That there was a Pudens and Claudia living at Rome, both Christians we have it from ... St. Paul himself. That this Claudia mentioned by St. Paul, then living at Rome, was the same Claudia, a Briton born, mentioned by Martial is the opinion and probable conjecture of many modern writers."36

We learn from Monocaxius: "That Claudia, mentioned by St. Paul, was Caractacus's daughter, and turned Christian, and after married to Pudens, a Roman Senator; whose marriage is celebrated by Martial in his noted epigrams to that purpose."37

There are several indications in the epigrams of Martial that the lifestyles of Pudens and Claudia were Christian rather than pagan. The poet, who seems to have been a family friend of the couple, does not mention their religion directly, and with good reason; during the later part of Nero's reign a Christian could be arrested and executed as an enemy of the state.

Roman poets often used the occasion of a wedding as an excuse for coarse jesting but Martial's poems relating to this couple are lacking in this type of humour.

“Claudia, the fair one from a foreign shore, Is with my Pudens joined in wedlock's band.” 38 “O Concord, bless their couch for evermore, Be with them in thy snow-white purity. Let Venus grant, from her choicest store, All gifts that suit their married unity; When he is old may she be fond and true, And she in age the charms of youth renew.” 39

A little later, when children had been born to Claudia, he wrote:

Grant, O ye gods, that she may ever prove The bliss of mother over girl and boy; Still gladdened by her pious husband's love, And in her children find perpetual joy.40

Martial, although perhaps having several friends amongst the Christians of Rome, was not himself of this faith, as is clearly demonstrated by his use of pagan terminology in his writings. 

“But without insisting strongly on this argument, we may be able to infer, that the Claudia of Martial was connected with a circle at Rome, the members of which were imbued with Christian, rather than Roman principles.”41

The epithet "Sanctus" or sainted applied by Martial to Pudens is much more likely to have been used in relation to a Christian than a non-Christian. The Apostle Paul uses similar terminology in his epistle to the Romans, written only a short time before Martial's epigrams, when he speaks of Christians at Rome "called to be saints" (Rom. 1:7).

Some have objected that because the epigrams were published during the reign of Domitian, who became emperor in A.D. 83, they could not have been related to individuals who were prominent during Nero's time some twenty to thirty years earlier.

"There is however reason to believe, as was remarked by Ussher, Collier and others, that many of the epigrams were written long before they were published, and consequently that the publication of the book was no test of the age of the epigrams."42

Martial took up residence in Rome in A.D. 49 and left the city for Spain in A.D. 86. 

He would have been about thirty-eight years old when Paul wrote his second epistle to Timothy. There is nothing in the chronology of the period to indicate that the Claudia, Pudens and Linus of Martial were not the same individuals mentioned by Paul in his epistle.

Both writers were writing at about the same time, of individuals living in the same city. It is hardly likely that more than one group of three individuals having a close relationship with each other and having these names would have been living in the same city at the same time.

J. Williams in his comprehensive thesis on this subject remarks that:

“It is therefore possible that the first Epigram to which I have alluded might have been written by Martial in the year 67, eighteen years after his arrival in Rome; being the same year in which the Apostle is generally supposed to have written the second Epistle to Timothy. And a broad margin of two or three years, on either side, may be allowed without interfering with the argument.”43

Bale, and later Camden, identify Pudens and Claudia of II Timothy with the writings of Martial. The writings of the poet reveal that he had an intimate knowledge of events that took place in Nero's reign.

Williams also makes the point that:

"If the Pudens of St. Paul was the Pudens of Martial, and since the Pudens of Martial had married a British maiden, also called Claudia, it seems to me something more than probable that the Pudens of the inscription [Chichester Stone] was also the same identical person."44

"... there is no doubt that Pudens the husband of Claudia is mentioned in the Scriptures, for both are there, together with Linus, the brother of Claudia, in one sentence, in II Timothy 4:21. The odds against the three being mentioned together, if they were not the members of the exiled family of Caractacus, must be very great."45

The residence of the couple at Rome, known as the Palatium Britannicum, seems to have been a regular meeting place for Christians. The high political and social status of Pudens and Claudia seems to have given them, for a time at least, a measure of freedom from persecution.

A series of Christian churches later occupied this site. The first was known as Titulus, the next Hospitium Aposolorum and finally St. Pudentiana, so named in honour of the martyred daughter of Claudia.

According to Cardinal Baronius: "It is delivered to us by the firm tradition of our forefathers that the house of Pudens was the first that entertained St. Peter at Rome, and that the Christians assembling formed the Church, and that of all our churches the oldest is that which is called after the name Pudens."46

The Jesuit Robert Parsons in The Three Conversions of England mentions that "Claudia was the first hostess or har-bourer both of St. Peter and St. Paul at the time of their coming to Rome."

Roman tradition also relates that Pudens and Claudia retrieved the body of the apostle Paul following his martyrdom in about A.D. 68 and buried it in what was perhaps a family cemetery in the Via Ostiensis.

In later years the lives of this couple and their four children were clouded by sorrow. Claudia seems to have been the only member of the family to have died a natural death, in A.D. 97. Pudens and all of the children died as martyrs at various times during the closing years of the first century or the first half of the second.

A manuscript entitled "The Acts of Pastor and Timotheus," probably dating to the second century, describes some of the sad details.

"Pudens went to his Saviour leaving his daughters strengthened with chastity and learned in all the divine law. These sold their goods and distributed the produce to the poor and persevered strictly in the love of Christ. . . They desired to have a baptistry in their house. Many pagans came thither to find the faith and receive baptism." The record mentions that their house "night and day resounded with hymns of praise."

When one of the young women was martyred, probably along with several other Christians, the manuscript relates: "Then Pudentiana went to God. Her sister and I wrapped her in perfumes, and kept her concealed in the oratory. Then after 28 days we carried her to the Cemetery of Priscilla and laid her near her father Pudens." Some sources give the date of her death as A.D. 107.

Several years later, a further wave of persecution claimed many more lives. The manuscript mentions that "The blessed Prassedis collected their bodies by night and buried them in the Cemetery of Priscilla . . . then the virgin of the Saviour, worn out with sorrow, only asked for death. Her tears and her prayers reached to heaven, and fifty-four days after her brethren had suffered she passed to God. And I, Pastor, the priest have buried her body near that of her father Pudens."

The two sons of Pudens and Claudia also died as martyrs during the first half of the second century. Timotheus is said to have been named after the evangelist Timothy, to whom Paul wrote two of his epistles.

There are indications that other Apostles and members of the New Testament Church, apart from Paul, also preached in Britain, and possibly Ireland, too.

Eusebius recorded that "Some of the Apostles" (not just one single Apostle) "preached the Gospel in the British Isles."47

Church leaders from Britain attended several of the church councils convened during the fourth century. Eusebius, himself a Catholic Bishop, probably found opportunities to obtain information from such men on matters relating to church history.

Much of the detail concerning the early British church does not appear in the records until quite a late date, the early Middle Ages and later, and for this reason modern scholars often reject the material as being unreliable. A fact all too often overlooked, however, is that these writers probably had access to much earlier material now no longer extant.

William Cave, quoting from the writings of Nicophorus and Dorotheus, mentions that Simon the Zealot (one of the twelve apostles) "directed his journey toward Egypt, then to Cyrene and Africa . . . and throughout Mauritania and all Libya, preaching the gospel. . . Nor could the coldness of the climate benumb his zeal, or hinder him from whipping himself and the Christian doctrine over to the Western Islands, yea, even to Britain itself. Here he preached and wrought many miracles. . . "48

Dorotheus is said to have written that "At length he was crucified at Brittania, slain and buried."49

The traditional site of his martyrdom is Caistor in Lincolnshire, where he is said to have been condemned to death in A.D. 61 during the prefecture of Catus Decianus whose atrocities were largely responsible for the Boadicean war.

A number of authorities, Roman, Greek and British, record that Aristobulus, who is mentioned by Paul in his epistle to the Romans, preached and eventually died in Britain. Hyppolytus describes him as "Bishop of the Britons." 

The Greek Martyrologies speak of him converting many of the Britons to Christianity and add that "He was there martyred after he had built churches and ordained deacons and priests for the island."

An alternative version to this is given by Cressy, who states that he died of natural causes at Glastonbury in A.D. 99.

Scotland too seems to have received the gospel at an early date.

"The antiquity of the Irish and Scottish churches is without question. The Scottish church claims an Apostolic foundation which would account for that branch of the Celtic Church possessing eastern traditions. In an old Scottish history entitled History of Paganism in Caledonia is the passage, 'During the reign of Domitian, disciples of the Apostle John visited Caledonia and there preached the word of life'."50

Some have linked this reference to a strong local tradition which relates that "the three wise men" came to Sutherland. A fact of perhaps greater significance is that the first Catholic monks to reach the islands to the North of Scotland, including Iceland and the Faroes, reported that a much earlier generation of Christians had at one time settled in those parts and that books that had been abandoned revealed that they had adhered to "Judaism," almost certainly a direct reference to the seventh day Sabbath.

James, son of Alphaeus, another of the twelve, is sometimes associated with Ireland.

"The Spanish writers generally contend, after the death of Stephen he came to these Western parts, and particularly into Spain [some add Britain and Ireland] where he planted Christianity."51

As regular commercial traffic passed between Spain and Ireland in ancient times, a visit to Ireland from Spain by James is not an improbable possibility.

Although little is known of the church in Ireland during the Roman period there seems to be general acceptance among scholars that a church was established there long before the arrival of Patrick, the "Apostle of Ireland." 

According to Ussher the church in Ireland was established soon after the death of Christ by disciples from the Asian churches.




Keith Hunt