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Christians in Britain Before Rome

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As always, the BBC loves to contradict both historical facts and scripture. In a short series on British history (BBC2 TV, presented by Michael Wood), the presenter made a point of saying that the ancient Britons were converted about 600 AD. This is an error, for there is plenty of evidence that Christians were in Britain soon after Christ was crucified.

Wood came to his conclusion by referring to the history recorded by the monk, Bede. Yet, having read Bede's 'Ecclesiastical History of the English People', I saw a very different fact – that every kingdom in the British Isles had its own centre of Christianity, with monks and bishops! Most kings and queens listened to the monks and amended their behaviours for the good, as a result.

We see in Bede's history that these monks were independent of Rome for about 600 years, when Augustine of Canterbury was sent as missionary... not for Christ but for the pope. He became archbishop and attempted to draw all churches to his sphere of influence, on behalf of the pope. For at least a century, the sticking point with Britons was the date of Easter! They preferred their own version and rejected what the pope said – because they had no official recognition of him as their leader, and said so.

But, sadly, they all fell to his power, one by one, until Britain became Roman Catholic in the 7th century. This struggle to remain independent is clearly shown by Bede, and other early historians. So, it is an historical error to say Britain was Catholic from the start, or that it did not 'convert' until Augustine (597 AD) arrived. Of course, it is in Rome's interest to lay claim to Christianity in Britain.

Eusebius, who wrote 230 years before Augustine, documented that apostles/preachers travelled to the "Brittanic Isles", and this was confirmed by the British historian, Gildas, in the 500s. According to his history, Britain first heard the Gospel during "the reign of Tiberius Caesar". It is the same Caesar who was ruling Rome when Christ was crucified. Gildas wrote his comment to those who already knew the fact, and was just reminding them. Christianity, then, came to retain before 37 AD, to the original Britons – the Welsh, well before they were driven into the hills and wilderness areas. The original Gospel was preached in Hebrew ('British History Traced', p132).

Polydore Virgil wrote during the reign of Henry VII that "Britain was the first of all countries to receive the Christian faith", and this was agreed on by cardinal Pole (1555 AD); both were hardened Catholics. Genebrard affirms this early Gospel preaching, and adds that missionary work was undertaken when "the Roman Empire itself was pagan and a real persecutor of Christianity." The Council of Pisa confirmed that the 'British Church took precedence of all others'. Which is why popes always see Britain as the 'jewel in (Rome's) crown'.

It is held that Joseph of Arimathaea founded the first British church, but this is more tradition than known fact. Even the Jesuits (re Robert Parsons in 'Three Conversions of England') said that the Gospel arrived in Britain directly from Jerusalem. And it was Britain that first proclaimed itself to be 'Christian' as a nation.

From Bede and others we get the distinct impression that the earliest Christians, unhampered by Rome for at least 400 years, were divided into local kingdoms, under local regal approvals, and yet all the Christian centres were unified in their beliefs. This only began to change when Rome sent its meddlers into Britain, and began to influence these independent churches, until all finally joined its ranks... and even then, British Christians were no pushovers and argued their cases strongly!

This is because the early Celtic churches originally saw Rome as just one of its fellow churches, but, as Rome began to become pretentious and presented novel teachings of its own, the Celts removed their support. Bede said "Britons are contrary to the whole Roman world, and enemies to the Roman customs, not only in their mass but in their tonsure (the way they shaved their heads)." The Britons, and especially the Scots, refused with great opposition, to accept Augustine as one with authority, as a signed statement of 607 (Augustine's Oak) proves.

"Be it known and declared that we all, individually and collectively, are in all humility prepared to defer to the Church of God, and to the Bishop of Rome, and to every sincere and godly Christian, so far as to love everyone according to his degree, in perfect charity, and to assist them all by word and in deed, in becoming the children of God. But as for any other obedience, we know of none that he whom you term the pope or Bishop of Bishops, can demand."

A further proof that Christians existed in Britain well before Rome arrived, was its list of Martyrs (303-313 AD under Diocletian) – over 10,000 Britons, including many bishops. It is agreed that whilst individuals were Christians from the start, Britain became Christian nationally at least in the second century AD... the first in the world to do so, and the last to fall to Rome's claims.

There are many more historical proofs that Britain knew Christ from the very beginning of missionary work, and heard the Gospel in Hebrew through translators, from missionaries who travelled direct from Jerusalem. The BBC, then, produced a shoddy piece of history, covering its trail of errors with nice photographs and semantics.


© 6th June 2012


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Bible Theology Ministries - PO Box 415, Swansea, SA5 8YH
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