This is Easter weekend and we in the U.K. are fortunate to have both the Friday and Monday as national public holidays reflecting the fact that until recent years, Easter was more important than Christmas and to actual Christians and the theology of Christianity itself, still is. So I had the time yesterday to spend an hour of Good Friday watching an excellent documentary following in the footsteps of St. Peter I was going to write about some of the places that I have visited that have biblical connections. Obviously Mount Sinai comes to mind, one can never forget the long climb 2,285 metre / 7,497 foot high desert peak where Moses climbed to receive the 10 Commandments albeit without the heavy backpack that I had with me. At the foot of the mountain is the fabulous St. Catherine’s monastery enclosed within is the Burning Bush.
Other biblical related places join the region I’ve visited include the cave where the Holy Family hid in Egypt (just outside Cairo and now a church), the Red Sea, the tomb of Aaron near Petra in Jordan, the spot where Moses struck the soil causing water to flow from the ground and also Mount Nebo in Jordan where Moses is said to have died whilst overlooking the promised land. Bizarrely I’ve also set my eyes on Ramses The Great, the man who defied God and Moses and who suffered the 10 Plagues and there awful events as a result. His very well-preserved body is on display in one of the less visited areas of the Egypt Museum in Cairo. (You can read about my travels in my book Planes Trains and Sinking Boats and the climax of my Timeless Trilogy takes place at Sinai too!)
Like Moses I didn’t make it to the promised land but did get to The Dead Sea and the River Jordan on the Jordanian side which according to that country is where Jesus was baptised. Also to the wonderful cathedral in Rabat, Malta under which is a cave where Saint Paul gave preached to some of the very first Christian converts.
Then I remembered that actually I might not even have had to travel overseas to travel in the footsteps of Jesus as there is a longstanding account that Jesus actually visited England. To many outsiders this might seem a preposterous that Jesus ever set foot upon the shores of Great Britain but at this time of Easter it is worth remembering that there at least four differing accounts of Jesus visiting the south west of England.
It’s a long way from the Holy Land to England but during the times of the Romans even before much of Britannia was conquered by Rome, communication and trade was relatively straight forward and common between the countries of the Mediterranean and Britain. Archaeological artefacts alone prove that there was a long and flourishing trade between the two areas with Cornwall in particular being frequently visited by those in the Roman Empire primarily on account of its Tin which was highly valued around the known world.
The general story revolves around Joseph of Arimathea who was both a close relation and covert disciple of Jesus. Joseph was a wealthy merchant and tin trader who had reason and ability to travel around various parts of the known world such as it was. It is said that on one such trip to England that he brought Joseph along and possibly Mary too. Indeed one variation of the story has it that Mary is actually buried in England.
It is said that Jesus visited a number of locations around the Cornish coast as well as further east in Somerset and Wiltshire. Stonehenge was already a very ancient monument and world-famous and any one such as Jesus interested in religion and ideas would no doubt be excited to visit this corner of Britain and exchange ideas and knowledge with the druids whose religion was already ancient.
Whilst at Glastonbury it is said that Jesus built the very first church (above ground) in the world in Glastonbury (something which was “verified” by a bishop in the 6th century who authenticated the claim of the ancient building and that it was built not by man but by Holy hands). Jesus also planted his staff in the soil which miraculously flowered into the Glastonbury Thorn Tree. The offshoots of this tree survive to this day and flower every Christmas and sometimes Easter, indeed a sprig is sent to Buckingham Palace every year. Modern scientific analysis has indeed verified that the tree if of Palestinian origin. Glastonbury is now well inland but during Roman times was a seaport.
It is said that some years after the death of Jesus, Joseph of Arimathea returned to Glastonbury and buried the Holy Grail or the Cup of Christ at Glastonbury. A couple of centuries later with the Romans evacuating from the country, the whole story then gets encapsulated in the story of King Arthur.
Not much can be gained from The Holy Bible as the life of Jesus is rather glossed over from the age of 12 to 30 in all of the books of the New Testament but it is not beyond the bounds of possibilities for it to have happened. The local church in England didn’t make a big play on it as it would have been heretical once the books of the bible had been formally decided upon a couple of centuries after the death of Christ and later on the Vatican in Rome never accepted the accounts as valid as no doubt it would have threatened its own religious dominance.
The belief in Jesus having visited England is a long-held one that became later popularised by a medieval ballad and in more recent times by the hymn Jerusalem which the majority of England at least would like to see as the National Anthem and is sung at everything from The Last Night Of The Proms to my wedding!
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 chariots of fire!
I will not cease from mental fight;
Nor shall my sword sleep in my hand
Till we have built Jerusalem
In England’s green and pleasant land.
All that can be said is that it is well within the possibilities that such a trip could have occurred and there is nothing at all contradictory elsewhere that made such a journey impossible in fact given Joseph of Arimethea’s trade, it can almost said to be likely that the uncle of Jesus might have visited at some time. It was already written by Tertullian (an early Christian writer from Carthage who died in 222AD) that Christianity had reached Britain due to the journeying of disciples. If it is a myth then it is one that has been held dear by the locals for at least 1600-1800 years if not longer and by the time of the Norman invasion in 1066 it was documented that areas of land around Glastonbury had historically never subject to tax as it had been given by the King of that part of England to Joseph 1,000 years earlier.
There is no hard documented evidence that Jesus visited England to many it is just a fanciful fable. Much like any other aspect of religion, whether you believe in it or not is all about faith as without faith there can never be enough proof whilst with it, no proof is necessary. Happy Easter everyone!