From Jerusalem with love: history of English Bibles

There are two common teachings in Christendom about when Christianity reached the British Isles. One teaching claims Pope Eleutherius took it there in 180 AD. Another teaching is that in 597 AD, St. Augustine brought Christianity to the British Isles.  However, both are simply Romish revisionist history.  Several historians prove that Christianity was spread to the region of Great Britain in the first century before Eleutherius.

Historian William of Malmesbury1 in the 10th century wrote about the gospel being preached in Britain by Joseph of Arimathea and 12 others with him. He also wrote that Briton King Lucius asked Christian missionaries Fagan (Phagan) and Damian (Deruvian) to visit Britain in 166 AD. They arrived to find a church there dating back to the first century that was started by Christ’s disciples who had been from Jerusalem. Fagan and Damian ended up converting King Lucius to the faith. The spread of the gospel under King Lucius caused the majority of Britain to abandon idolatrous practices in the second century.

In John Foxe’s 1583 edition of Acts and Monuments (v. 1, p. 306), he mentions the historian Gildas wrote in the 600s AD that when Jewish believers dispersed out of Jerusalem during the time of Roman emperor Tiberius, the gospel was preached in Britain and Philip the apostle sent Joseph of Arimathea from France to the British Isles around 63 AD.  He is reported to have remained there sharing the gospel until his death and other believers went there after him to encourage and grow the church.

Foxe also cites the writings of Tertullian, Origen, Bede, and Nicephorus to show that the gospel had spread throughout Britain in the first and second centuries before Eleutherius’ papacy. Nicephorus stated that Simon the Zealot, one of Jesus’ twelve disciples, spread the gospel in various parts of Europe and took it as far as Britain. Tertullian, according to Foxe, listed the many nations where the gospel was spread by the apostles, including “the parts of Britain which the Romans could never attain to, and reporteth the same now to be subject to Christ.” It was also during this period that conquering Goths settled in parts of Britain and many of them were converted by Christians whom they conquered.

Walter Scott, another British historian, did research that revealed the gospel of Jesus Christ was preached in Britain during the years of Roman emperors Nero and Domitian in the first century. Scott also found that British king Bran was visiting Rome when the apostle Paul was imprisoned and was probably converted by him since he was accompanied back to Britain by several Christian teachers, including Aristobulus [Romans 21:10]. Bran also preached about Jesus in Wales.2 Scott notes that parts of the scripture, translations from Old [incorrupt] Latin Bibles to their Gothic and Celtic languages, were widely distributed throughout this region early in the second century.

By the 300s AD, the body of Christ had a large number of believers and copies of the scriptures throughout the British isles. However, Roman emperor Diocletian in the early 300s severely persecuted and killed off a major portion of the church and burned most of the printed scriptures. From the first century to the 17th century, there were many campaigns to destroy the church in Britain and to destroy the written word of God. Britain had periods of good Christian kings who spread the gospel and strengthened the church and other times when the churches became complacent and carnal and wicked kings persecuted the church.

Roman emperors Nero, Domitian, Trajan, Marcus Aurelius, Severus, Macrianus, Decius, Aurelian, and Diocletian persecuted the church at various times in the British isles from about 67 AD to the early 300s. From the early 300s to the mid 400s AD, heathen Angles, Saxons, and Jutes persecuted Christians there. From the mid-400s to the late 800s, Danes took their shot at destroying the church. From the late 800s to about 1066 AD, the Normans tried to annihilate Christians. Then various English rulers tried like Henry IV, Henry V, Henry VIII, and Queen Mary.3

They all sought to wipe the written word out of existence, but God preserved his word in Britain in the Gothic, Scottish, Anglo-Saxon, and Irish Gaelic languages. So here are the stages of how the true English Bible progressed through the ages:4

  • Gothic Bible (apostles–500 AD)
  • Anglo-Saxon scriptures (500–1000 AD)
  • Pre-Wycliffe Bibles (1000–1400)
  • Wycliffe Bible (1384–1500s)
  • Tyndale, Coverdale, Matthew’s [a pseudonym for a Tyndale/Coverdale hybrid], Great, and Geneva Bibles (1526–1558)
  • Bishops’ Bible (1568–1611)
  • King James Bible (1611–)

1. William of Malmesbury. De Antiquitate Gastonie Ecclesie, c. 1129 ; Gesta Regum Anglorum, 1125.

2. Scott, Walter. The Story of our English Bible, London: Pickering & Inglis, no date (1890?), p. 126.

3 Riplinger, G. A. In Awe of Thy Word, Ararat, VA: A. V. Publications Corp., ©2003, p. 705.

4. Riplinger, p. 843.

–posted by Harry A. Gaylord–

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