When Rome was still a tiny village on the Palatine Hill, Phoenician traders were sailing their ships the length and breadth of the Mediterranean and beyond in search of goods to be sold or traded for a handsome profit. There were great risks in making a long sea voyage and bringing home a valuable cargo, but the enormous profit that could be made from selling the goods made the risks worthwhile. The key was to trade a product that was unique, very desirable, hard to get, or desperately needed for other products that were common in the land of the people with whom you were trading. These products may be rare and desirable someplace else, and the trader now had something with which he could once again make a profit.
Tin was just such a product in the ancient world. Tin was vital to the ancients because it was needed in the making of bronze. Bronze was an alloy, or a mixture of two or more metals. To make bronze, the metal smith mixed copper with the proper amount of tin. Copper tools and weapons by themselves were too soft and did not long remain sharp. Tin made the copper harder and also made the molten metal fill the mold more completely when it was cast into useful objects like axe heads, hammers, and jewelry. So many useful articles were made of bronze in ancient times that no civilization could thrive very long without a supply of it or the copper and tin needed to make it.
The deposits of tin in the ancient world were usually small and not very plentiful. The Phoenicians discovered the tin deposits of the British Isles through their own exploring and seeking out of new products and markets for them. They kept the knowledge of the Cornish tin mines a closely guarded secret so they could control trade in the metal and charge a high price for it. After the Punic wars, Carthage, the one remaining city of the Phoenicians, became less and less an important economic power. With their well - known efficiency and thoroughness, the Romans counted access to the British tin mines as one of the advantages of conquering the island. Julius Caesar knew of the importance of British tin when he invaded the island in 55 to 54 B.C. After the conquest of Britain during the reign of Claudius, the Romans were in control of most of the world's supply of the metal. Hence, the closely guarded treasure secret of Britain's tin passed hands from the Phoenicians to the Romans.
The fact that tin trade existed is too well attested to need proof. Herodotus as early as 445 BC speaks of the British Isles as the Tin Islands or Cassiterides. Pytheas (352-323 BC) mentions the tin trade, as does also Polybius (circa 160). Diodorus Siculus gives a detailed description of the trade. He tells us that the tin was mined, beaten into squares, and carried to an island called Ictis, joined to the mainland at low tide, which is generally held to be Mount St. Michael in Cornwall, although some have identified it with Falmouth. Thence it was shipped to Morlais, and transported across France on pack horses to Marseilles. From Marseilles it was again shipped to Phoenicia. Innumerable ancient workings in Cornwall still attest the trade, and tin is still mined there today. Lord Avebury and Sir John Evans held the opinion that the trade existed as early as 1500 BC, and Sir Edward Creasy writes: "The British mines mainly suppled the glorious adornment of Solomon's Temple". This matter ties in very well with the involvement of Phoenician builders with construction of Solomon's Temple.
Travel Between the Eastern Mediterranean and Britain
Before going into the controversial question of Glastonbury, Joseph of Arimathea and the stories or legends which surround it, one needs to stop at a few points to determine some basic givens. Glastonbury is traditionally the first Christian sanctuary in Great Britain, visited, so legend has it, by Joseph of Arimathea and Saints David & Patrick. It has a strong tradition in British history dating back to the time of King Arthur who is said to have been buried at the Abbey beside his lovely wife Queen Guinevere. His body was moved at a later date. Further, at Glastonbury Joseph of Arimathea is said to have planted the Holy Thorn tree which is still growing there today. Also, a holy well is supposed to be still found there.
The strong tradition tying Joseph of Arimathea with Glastonbury and the Phoenician tin trade with Cornwall may have strong thread of truth that ties them together. The only known sailors who came from the Eastern Mediterranean to Britain were Phoenician. Hence, the elementary conclusion is that Joseph of Arimathea, if he really made the trip(s), must have done it on Phoenician ships.
If this hypothesis is accepted, further reading on the subject could be accommodated. However, some claims and details seem far fetched but are presented herewith for your consideration despite their implausibility.
Below, the account is presented as is even though the author does not necessarily agree with this presentation in its totality.
However, for historical reference presents this some what irrefutable point of evidence:
Historians William of Malmesbury, Maelgwyn of Llandaff and Polydore Vergil all place Joseph of Arimathea at Glastonbury. Even the four Church councils of Pisa 1409, Constance 1417, Sienna 1424 and Basle 1434, mention that "the Churches of France and Spain must yield in points of antiquity and precedence to that of Britain as the latter Church was founded by Joseph of Arimathea immediately after the passion of Christ."
Joseph of Arimathea, Tin Merchant
According to the Talmud, Joseph of Arimathea was said to have been an uncle of the Virgin Mary, (see note) being a younger brother of her father. He gained his wealth as an importer in the tin trade, which existed between Cornwall and Phoenicia.
Joseph along with St. John buried Jesus after the crucifixion. Joseph, in the tin trade, made a lot of trips to Britain, where being a rich merchant made close contact with royalty; namely Kings Beli, Lud, Llyr and Arviragus, who gave Joseph and his companions some 2000 acres of land, tax free. Arviragus would become God's "Protectorate" for the Cradle of Christianity, Glastonbury. Caradoc, Pendragon of 'Britain', would become God's "Protectorate" of the fledgling British Church.
Joseph of Arimathea was a man of refinement, well educated, and one who possessed many talents, had extraordinary political and business ability. He has been called one of the richest men in the world. He learned about that tin trade from the Phoenicians, which then was akin in importance to that of steel today. They had been bringing ore from Britain for centuries. Joseph was well educated, a member of the ruling political body of the whole country. In St. Jerome's translation, Joseph's official title is given as 'Nobilis Decurio', a minister of mines for the Roman empire, with direct access to Pilate himself. He was no slouch. How better to protect Jesus, after Joseph the carpenter died, and insure the seeding and growth of the Gospel in Britain.
The basic story of Joseph's trip to Britain varies in some details from account to account. But the bare facts are that Joseph, with many disciples traveled from the holy land by Phoenician boat and landed at Marseilles (a Phoenician trading post), in the Vienoise province of the Gauls (France). From there he went on to Britain established seminaries and sent out missionaries. In his "Ecclesiastical Annals", Cardinal Baronius, Curator of the Vatican library, gives this account. "In that year the party mentioned was exposed to the sea in a vessel without sails or oars. The vessel drifted finally to Marseilles and they were saved. From Marseilles Joseph and his company passed into Britain and after preaching the Gospel there..."
How many of the disciples were with Joseph of Arimathea during his short stay in Gaul, before going on to Britain, is hard to say. Various existing records agree in part with the Cardinal Baronius record, naming among the occupants of the castaway boat Mary Magdalene, Martha, the hand-maiden Marcella, Lazarus whom Jesus raised from the dead, and Maximin the man whose sight Jesus restored. Other records state that Philip and James accompanied Joseph. Others report that Mary, the wife of Cleopas, and Mary, the mother of Jesus, were also in the boat. Here's Cardinal Baronius' complete list of passengers:
- St. Mary, wife of Cleopas
- St. Martha
- St. Lazarus
- St. Eutropius
- St. Salome
- St. Cleon
- St. Saturninus
- St. Mary Magdalene
- Marcella, the Bethany sisters' maid
- St. Maximin
- St. Martial
- St. Trophimus
- St. Sidonius (Restitutus)
- St. Joseph of Arimathea
Philip was waiting for the travelers in France. There is 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.
Although there are some who would argue for France being first, most records agree that Britain, at Glastonbury was the Root of the Christian movement. One would expect that history would show that the missionary activities would flow out of the well-spring of Christianity. And well does history record this. The Gaulic records state that for centuries the Archbishops of Treves and Rheims were all Britons supplied by the mother church at Glastonbury-Avalon. St. Cadval, a famed British missionary, going out from Glastonbury, founded the church of Tarentum, Italy, A.D. 170 four hundred years before the time of St. Augustine and at least fourteen years after King Lucius Christianized all of Britain in A.D. 156!
Converts literally flooded into Glastonbury for conversion, baptism, instruction and missionary assignment. Philip sent, from Gaul alone, one hundred sixty disciples to assist Joseph and his team with the crowds. And it is surely known that helpers were sent from other places beside France.
One of the first to go out from Glastonbury was Mary and Martha's brother Lazarus. He headed straight back to Marseilles where he held the Bishopric for seven years. But that was only natural. France was a Family Thing for the Bethany household. Mary and Martha both lived out their lives, preaching and teaching in the south of France. "The Coming of The Saints," by Taylor is a good book on the subject.
Many famous names are recorded as having been associated with Glastonbury-Avalon:
- Sidonis, Saturninus, and Cleon taught and supported other missionaries in Gaul, then returned to Britain.
- Martial's parents, Marcellus and Elizabeth were there along with St Zacchaeus.
- Parmena, disciple of Joseph, was appointed the first Bishop of Avignon.
- Drennalus, helped Joseph found the church at Morlaix. He was then appointed to Treguier as it's first Bishop.
- Beatus founded the church in Helvetia, after receiving his baptism and education at Avalon.
- Beatus was baptised by St. Barnabas, the brother of Aristobulus, sent in advance by St. Paul to Britain. He is referred to in scripture as Joses, the Levite.
- Mansuetus was consecrated the first Bishop of the Lotharingians A.D. 49, with his See at Toul. He also founded the church at Lorraine.
Mansuetus was a constant visitor to Rome after Claudia had married Pudens. He was a friend of Linus, the Bishop of Rome, and brother of Claudia. After the death of St. Clement, Mansuetus became the third official Bishop of the British Church at Rome. Thus we have three disciples of Avalon, instructed by St. Joseph, to become, in succession, Bishops of Rome.
Iltigius, in "De Patribus Apostolicis", quotes St. Peter as saying; "Concerning the Bishops who have been ordained in our lifetime, we make known to you that they are these. Of Antioch, Eudoius, ordained by me, Peter. Of the Church of Rome, Linus, son of Claudia, was first ordained by Paul, and after Linus's death, Clemens the second, ordained by me, Peter."
If all of this is true, was Glastonbury The First Christian Church
Thanks to Phoenician Christians (more history on Joseph)
In Lionel Smithett Lewis' St. Joseph of Arimathea at Glastonbury indicates "It is certain that Britain received the Faith in the first age from the first sowers of the Word. Of all the churches whose origin I have investigated in Britain, the church of Glastonbury is the most ancient.": wrote sir Henry Spelman in his Concilia, and again he wrote in the same work: "We have abundant evidence that this Britain of ours received the Faith, and that from the disciple of Christ Himself, soon after the Crucifixion of Christ."
Robert Parsons, the Jesuit, in his Three Conversions admits that : "The Christian religion began in Britain within fifty years of Christ's ascension." His co-religionist, the very learned Alford, in his Regia Fides says: "It is perfectly certain that, before St. Paul had come to Rome, Aristobulus was absent in Britain." The discreet Fuller goes so far as to say: "If credit be given to these ancient authors, this Church without competition was senior to all Christian churches in the world." "Britain," wrote the erudite Polydore Vergil, "partly through Joseph of Arimathea, partly through Fugatus and Damianus, was of all kingdoms the first that received the Gospel." It is a matter of distinct interest that Cardinal Pole, twice over, when solemnly reconciling Britain to the Pope and the Church of Rome, at the beginning of Queen Mary's reign, claimed that Britain was the first country to be converted to Christianity.
The Venerable Bede, writing about AD 740, says: "The Britons preserved the Faith which they had received under King Lucius uncorrupted, and continued in peace and tranquility until the time of the Emperor Diocletian."
It will be noticed that two distinct events are spoken of above: (1) The foundation of the Church in Britain by the Disciples of Christ. (2) The acceptance of Christianity by the British Nation under Good King Lucius about AD 170. Britain was the first of all nations to accept Christianity as its national religion. Few people realize that this is why the British King is called "our Most Religious King". Not many realize that the superior dignity and antiquity of our national Church has been decided by Church Councils. The Councils of Pisa in 1409, Constance in 1417, Sienna in 1424, and Basle in 1434. It was there contended that the Churches of France and Spain must yield in points of antiquity and precedence to that of Britain, as the latter Church was founded by Joseph of Arimathea immediately after the Passion of Christ.
Gildas the Wise, the earliest Christian historian (AD 425-512) distinctly says that the Light of Christ shone here in the last year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, that is AD 37. This falls in with the claim recorded above, which gave precedence to British Bishops at the Church Councils on the ground that Britain was converted "immediately after the Passion of Jesus Christ". It fits in also with the statements of Fuller and Polydore Virgil already recorded that the Church of Glastonbury was the Senior Church of the world; with Sir Henry Spelman's words that Britain received the Faith soon after the Crucifixion; with Alford's statement that Aristobulus was in Britain before St. Paul went to Rome; with the observance by the Greek Church of the martyrdom in Britain of Our Lord's disciple, St. Simon Zelotes, on May 10, AD 44 (a date supported by Cardinal Baronius; and with Hippolytus' (born about AD 160) inclusion of that Apostle in his lists as "Bishop of the Britons". All these are testimony to the year AD 37 as marking the coming of the first Mission.
Joseph of Arimathea was the protector of that valorous little band of disciples during the perilous years following the crucifixion, the indefatigable head of the Christian underground in Judea, and the guardian of Christ's only earthly treasure, - His mother.
According to the Talmud, Joseph was the younger brother of the father of the Virgin Mary. He was her uncle, and therefore a great uncle to Jesus. Chiefly from the secular reports we learn that Joseph was a married man and his son, Josephes. It is quite obvious that the husband of the Blessed Virgin Mary died while Jesus was young. Under Jewish law such a circumstance automatically appointed the next male kin of the husband, in this case Joseph, legal guardian of the family. We know that Joseph never forsook his nephew. He stood by Him as a bold, fearless defender at the notorious trial, and defied the Sanhedrin by going to Pilate and boldly claiming the body when all others feared to do so. It is commonly taught that Jesus was poor and of obscure relatives. His relationship with the affluent Joseph of Arimathea proves otherwise. In His own right He was a property owner but long before He took up His mission He forsook all material wealth.
Leading authorities identify Arimathea with Ramah, or Ramallah as it is called today. It was the birthplace of the prophet Samuel, and is called in the Septuagint Arimathaim. Josephus calls it Amartha. The identity seems clear. Now Ramah lay about eight miles due North of Jerusalem on the Jerusalem-Nazareth road. It was the first stopping place of caravans traveling North from Jerusalem. It would be the stopping place of the Holy family, both to and from the city.
Joseph is always spoken of as belonging to Arimathea, which implies that it was his existing place of residence. He was a wealthy man, and his duties as a chancellor would bring him frequently to Jerusalem, where he had also a town residence. He would certainly be in Jerusalem at the time of the feast. [of Passover] The whole story now becomes clear. As the uncle of the Virgin Mary he probably knew all about the wondrous story of Our Lord's birth. Year by rear, when Joseph and Mary attended the feast, he would enquire about the mysterious child. He would eagerly look forward to His first visit.