Thursday, September 20, 2018

Nobilis decurio

A review of "Did Jesus Come to Britain?" by Glyn S Lewis 

This is a book in the Jesus-in-Britain genre. Apparently, there are folk traditions in Cornwall and Somerset claiming that Jesus and Joseph of Arimathea visited these regions of Britain. The Jesus-in-Britain legend was immortalized by William Blake's poem “And did those feet in ancient time”. Much as I like to believe in this and other exciting alternative history claims, alas, the evidence simply doesn't add up. Indeed, there *is* no evidence for these startling claims. Rather, we're dealing with layer upon layer of pseudo-history.

In this scenario, Joseph of Arimathea was a tin merchant or even a Roman minister of the mines (the supposed meaning of his title “nobilis decurio”, which really means “honorable councilman”) who traded with the Brytonic Celts through Phoenician middlemen. He was the grand-uncle and foster father of Jesus. Mary's mother Anna hailed from Brittany (was she Celtic?). Jesus was a ship-builder, a trade he learned at the Sea of Galilee, which made it possible for him to build ocean-going vessels. The author seems oblivious to the fact that the “Sea” of Galilee is really a lake! Joseph and Jesus visited Cornwall and Glastonbury. The Phoenicians were monotheistic sun-worshippers who inspired Akhenaten, invented the Ogham alphabet and had contacts with the Druids, who were really a kind of proto-Christians, awaiting a savior named Yesu. One of the sources quoted by the author is a book arguing that the Anglo-Saxons are descended from the Phoenicians. Another source is the alt-history classic “St Paul in Britain”. Of course, Jesus also visited India, more specifically the areas today known as Pakistan and Nepal…

None of this makes any sense, indeed there is no evidence that Joseph of Arimathea existed at all, since the town of Arimathea is unknown. But perhaps it can be placed in some Celtic land using a fancy etymology? The other claims are even more “out there”. We're dealing with a form of British nationalism, which attempts to prove that a specifically British Church existed before Roman Christianity, in effect projecting the Anglican Church onto apostolic times. We're also dealing with Celtic nationalism, indeed the two strands neatly interpenetrate. The Indian twist isn't needed, but it's par for the course in accounts about “the lost years of Jesus”.

This book may be of interest to those who want a summary of the Jesus-in-Britain claims, and should perhaps be read together with “St Paul in Britain” by R W Morgan, which takes the legend even further…

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