Joseph of Arimathea’s Early Evangelical Trip to Briton:
Joseph of Arimathea was the Jewish tin merchant who begged Pontius Pilate for Jesus’ body after He was crucified. Joseph of Arimathea was “a respected member of the council [i.e. of the Sanhedrin], who was also himself looking for the kingdom of God” (Mark 15:43). Joseph (with Nicodemus; John 19:39) had Jesus’ body taken down from the cross and buried in Joseph’s tomb. Several early church fathers report that Joseph suffered persecution for this, and that as a result he fled Judea.
Joseph was known to have been a tin merchant and to have traveled to the British Isles (to the region of Glastonbury) to obtain tin ore (i.e., cassiterite, a tin oxide mineral, SnO2) and to carry out his trade activities (tin was the critically short component needed to make bronze). Two such trade routes were in use at the time of Christ. The safer route was a maritime route sailed via the Mediterranean Sea, through the Straights of Gibraltar, along the coast of the Iberian peninsula, through the Bay of Biscay, to the tin mines of southern England.
Joseph is said (by Gildas the Wise; who writes sometime between A.D. 490 to 540) to have traveled (fled) to Briton “shortly after the resurrection of Christ” (sometime between A.D. 36 and A.D. 39), and to have founded the earliest Gentile Christian church in the British isles. In A.D. 37 Briton was not yet part of the Roman Empire. Briton was not invaded by the Roman General Aulus Plautius and his forces until A.D. 43, and the Celtic Britons (i.e., the Welsh peoples) were not subdued until A.D. 52 when their military leader Caradoc (or Caratacus as Tacitus calls him) the crown prince of the Silurian Clan was betrayed and captured.
According to both the ancient Welsh Annuals and the Welsh Triad the first Christian converts among the Britons included Caradoc’s daughters, Gladys (known as Claudia) and Eurgain (his son), Linus and his sister, also Gladys. The Welsh Annuals state that Caradoc and his father, Bran (venerated in Wales as St. Bran the Blessed) were converted in Rome, following their capture by the Romans in A.D. 52. They also assert that Gladys married Rufus Pudens (a member of the Roman Senate and a senior commander in the Army that conquered England) and that she converted him to Christianity. Her brother may have been the Linus who is listed as being the first Bishop of Rome. We know a great deal about Caradoc’s daughter Gladys from contemporary Roman sources. She was something of a celebrity—an exotic, noble beauty from a mysterious island kingdom. Roman documentary records show that following her marriage, her name was Latinized to Claudia Pudentia. She became a leading figure in Rome’s fashionable society. The poet Martial wrote odes extolling her beauty.
A “Rufus” is mentioned in St. Paul’s Epistle to the Romans, Chapter 16, verse 13: “Salute Rufus, chosen in the Lord, and his mother and mine . . .” The scholar R. W. Morgan argues that this “Rufus” was actually Rufus Pudens (some scholars have suggested that Rufus was St. Paul’s half brother).
Morgan contends St. Paul lived, or was closely associated, with Rufus Pudens and members of the “British royal family” during his period of house arrest prior to his martyrdom. In support of this, he cites the fact that Paul includes them in his greeting to Timothy in what was probably his final letter to his young protégé (II Timothy 4:21): “Do thy diligence to come before winter. Eubulus greats thee, and Pudens, and Linus, and Claudia, and all the brethren.”
Numerous early Fathers of the Church have left writings confirming the early arrival of Christianity to Britain. They include: Clement, 3rd Bishop of Rome (in A.D. 96); Irenaeus, Bishop of Lyons (A.D. 180); Tertullian of Carthage (A.D. 192); Origen of Antioch (A.D. 240); Dorotheus, Bishop of Tyre (A.D. 300); and Eusebius of Caesarea (A.D. 320).
Note also that: The remains of a small wattle and daub church has been excavated at Glastonbury, where St. Joseph is said to have settled. It is claimed archaeological evidence dates it to a time shortly before the Roman invasion of A.D. 43.