London, June 9 : For centuries, stories have circulated about Jesus visiting England. Now, a new book suggests that there is some truth to the tales.
According to author, Glyn Lewis' tome 'Did Jesus Come To Britain?', Christ did indeed pay the 'mountains green' of England a visit - and that too just a few years before his crucifixion. Lewis' conclusion that Jesus sailed to England on a trading ship is based on stories from local legends, architectural evidence from two ancient churches and letters from earliest historians. The key, he says, lies in Christ's family. More specifically, his uncle Joseph of Arimathea, who was a metal trader who travelled to Europe. "Joseph of Arimathea almost certainly came here to buy tin in Cornwall and copper and lead in Somerset. In the Bible Joseph of Arimathea approached Pontius Pilate for Jesus's body after the crucifixion," the Daily Express quoted Lewis, as saying. He also points out that this establishes the closeness between the two as according to the law at the time, only a close relative could have claimed the body. "The law then stated that only a close relative could have done this, which shows he and Jesus clearly knew each other well. Pilate also gave Joseph time in a meeting, which showed he wasn't just 'anybody' but a respected member of the community," he says.
Lewis points out to the fact that Cornwall and Somerset, the two places in Britain where Joseph traded, have legends saying that another man, namely Jesus, was once there.
"Britain is one of the very few countries that has songs and hymns about Jesus being here. There are so many that it just seems strange they would all be fictional," he says.
Finding concrete evidence, however, has proven to be an uphill task.
"We have no written history until about the 6th century when famed historian Gildas started writing but I think he refers to Jesus's time in this country," Lewis says.
According to Lewis, Jesus either set off from the Palestinian ports of Tyre or Sidon, sailed through the Mediterranean and Straits of Gibraltar, then to the north through the Straits of Biscay, before sailing into the Channel and to the Cornish coast on his journey with his uncle.
The author says that they most likely stopped at Cornwall's oldest mine Ding Dong.
Another piece of evidence to the journey are the hieroglyphic carvings around the 1,000 year-old arched south door of Roseland church in St Anthony.
The hieroglyphics were first interpreted by an archaeologist in the Seventies.
Says Lewis: "He interpreted the pictographs as telling of Jesus's birth and his visit to Cornwall. The lamb and the cross face the rising sun, meaning that he was here in his early life. Because it is on the left of the centre line it indicates He was here just before the turn of the year, probably December."
The hieroglyphics also reveal that Jesus and Joseph had a little trouble while sailing, and were most likely shipwrecked.
Lewis thinks that if this is the case, then the two men would "erected a shrine to give thanks for their deliverance from the sea" and this shrine is where St Anthony's church is today.
Lewis says that if the inscription is indeed real, then "this arch is one of the few ancient records that exist to support the legend that Jesus visited Britain".
From Cornwall, it seems most likely that Jesus and Joseph would have travelled to another well-established route for metal traders - Somerset.
Lewis also believes that Jesus stayed in Glastonbury.
"Jesus had links to the Druids. I believe He stayed a while in Glastonbury to study for his ministry. While Joseph was trading I think Jesus found people in Glastonbury, a seat of Druid learning, who thought much like He did."
The Druids believed in one God and the Holy Trinity. More importantly, they searched for a saviour, whom they called Yesu.
"I think He stayed there for a while to study. I certainly think He was away from Nazareth for some time because in the gospel when He returns people don't recognise Him and He's far wiser upon His return so they also ask Him where he obtained His learning."
After the crucifixion Joseph came to Britain in fear for his life because he had entombed Jesus's body. He built a chapel on the site of Jesus's Glastonbury home, which is today a church bearing the name of St Joseph.
Lewis says: "The facts do come together and I've come to the conclusion that, yes, He did come here. It doesn't conflict at all with the gospel stories and I think it's important for Britain to have this myth. To think that Christ came here in His formative years makes Britain a holy land."