Early British Christianity



The purpose for tracing in this article the early Romanization of Britain relates to a possible suggestion that perhaps Christian missionaries (or converts) were confined to the Roman Empire in their proselyting activities during the first century (or centuries?) of Christianity. Even were one to grant such a suggestion—a point not proven in any way—it does not preclude the introduction of Christianity into Britain at a very early date. Clearly, by the early second century if not before, most of Britain belonged to the world protected by Roman law, custom, and other necessary amenities. Some legends exist relating to visits to Britain by Paul and also by Joseph of Arimathea (whose staff is said to have taken root at Glastonbury in Somerset), but they are considered without foundation by modern scholars. Paul did indicate a desire to visit Spain in his Epistle to the Romans (15:24), and Clement of Rome stated at the end of the first century A.D. that Paul “was a herald both in the East and in the West; . . . he taught righteousness to all the world, and when he had reached the limits of the West he gave his testimony before the rulers.” There is nothing in either source to argue for a British visit, but some disagreement has been voiced about what constituted “the limits of the West.” Without further evidence the matter cannot be decided, and the historicity of such early visits cannot be argued beyond personal feelings and beliefs.


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