THE EARLY CHURCH IN BRITAIN
In Leo Strobels (The Case For Christ) a modern Christian writer asks:
“If you were a Martian looking down on the first century would you think Christianity or the Roman Empire would survive?
… Yet it was so successful that today we name our children Peter and Paul and our dogs Caesar and Nero!”
When and How did Christianity come to the British Isles? What is the evidence?
In The Encyclopedia Britannica. Under the heading “St.Augustine” we read:
“First archbishop of Canterbury and the apostle of England who founded the Christian Church in southern England” (6th Cent. AD)
Under the heading “Celtic Church” we read:
“The early Christian Church in the British Isles founded in the 2nd and 3rd Cent. AD … it contributed to the conversion of the Anglo Saxons in the 7th Cent.”
The early Church theologian Jerome in his Epistle 13 to Paulinus in 378AD. writes:
“From India to Britain, all nations resound with the death and resurrection of Christ”
The 4th. century Patriarch of Constantinople Chrysostom in his Orat O Theos Xristos states:
"Though thou shouldest go to the ocean to the British Isles, there thou shouldest hear all men everywhere discoursing matters out of the Scriptures"
Geoffrey of Monmouth (Bishop Elect of St. Asaph Wales) in his “Histories of the Kings of Britain” Chapter 12 says:
“ … after Augustine came, he found in their province seven bishoprics and an archbishopric provided with most godly prelates besides a number of abbeys ”
Sabellius a 2nd Century theologian in his Sabell.Enno, Lib.VII, Chapter 5 states:
“Christianity was privately confessed elsewhere, but the first nation that proclaimed it as their religion and called itself Christian after the name of Christ was Britain”
John Fox in his “Book Of Martyrs” Book2 Chapter 17 states:
“Tertullian (160-220AD) … amongst all other reciteth also the parts of Britain, which the Romans could never attain to, and reporteth the same now to be subject to Christ”
In St Peters Church on Cornhill London there is a plaque which says:
“Be it known to all men that the year of our Lord God 179, Lucius, the first Christian king of the land then called Britain, founded the first church in London, that is to say, the Church of St. Peter on Cornhill”
The Venerable Bede a 7th Cent Theologian in his “Ecclesiastical History of the People” states:
“The Britons preserved their faith which they had had received under King Lucius uncorrupted, and continued in peace and tranquillity until
the time of the Emperor Diocletian”
The church historian Robert Parsons in his book "The Three Conversions of England" vol.1.p.26 says:
“The Christian religion began in Britain within 50 years of Christ's ascension”
Bishop James Usher (1580-1656) in his "Brittannicarum Ecclesiarum Antiquitates" describes an earlier date for the arrival of the Christian faith in Britain:
“The British National Church was founded in 36AD”
Similarly, the Saxon historian Gildas in his "DeExcideo Brittanniae" Section 8 p.25 states:
“Christ the true son afforded his light, the knowledge of his precepts to our island in the last year of Tiberias.” (this was 37 AD)
Eusebius (260-340 A.D.) the bishop of Caesarea in Palaestine in his “Demonstratio Evangelica” Book 3 chapter 5 states that some of Christ's own disciples:
“to preach to all the Name of Jesus … have crossed the Ocean and reached the Isles of Britain”
Again, in Foxe`s Book Of Martyrs Book 2 ch.17:
“the gospel was here received … by Joseph of Arimathea, as some chronicles record, or by some of the apostles"
Cardinal Caesar Baronius was a 16th Century Vatican Librarian who in his Ecclesiastical Annals for 36 AD. stated that some of the disciples of Jesus sailed by boat to France then on to Britain. He says:
“Lazarus, Mary Magdeline, Martha and Marcelle. Who were held in great hatred by most of the Jews. … sailed with imperfect oars in danger from the sea … by providence they arrived at Marseilles. They brought as a companion … Joseph of Arimathea the noble decurion and they crossed from Gaul into Britain”
Glastonbury in Somerset England is probably best known for its annual rock music festival. But it was in the abbey grounds at Glastonbury that these disciples built a timber church. A sign in the abbey grounds indicates the site of this church. The Abbey exhibition tells the story of these disciples and this first century church.
All this was in fulfilment of the instructions that Jesus gave to His Disciples in:
"ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto
me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth"