Aristobulus of Britannia

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Aristobulus of Britannia (Full title, in Greek: Aghios Apostolos Aristovoulos, Martyras, kai Protos Episkopos Vretannias; Welsh: Arwystli Hen Episcob Cyntaf Prydain; Latin: Sanctus Aristobulus Senex, Apostolus, Martyr, Episcopus Primus Britanniae; English: Saint Aristibule the Old, Apostle, Martyr, and First Bishop of Britain. Also, Aristobulus, Apostle to Britain) is a saint of Roman Catholicism and Orthodox Christianity, named by Hippolytus of Rome as one of the Seventy Disciples, and the first bishop in Roman Britain.[1] An Herodian parallel in Josephus "Antiquities of the Jews" [2] suggests an historical support for this person.


Hippolytus of Rome lists "Aristobulus, bishop of Britain" among the seventy disciples.[1]

Aristobulus may be mentioned in the New Testament in the Epistle to the Romans (Romans 16:10: "...Salute them which are of Aristobulus' household") though this may mean Aristobulus IV.[3][4] The writings of St Dorotheus, Bishop of Tyre AD 303, assert that he is the one saluted by Paul in the Epistle to the Romans.[5] :118–121

Traditions concerning Aristobulus of Britain are discussed extensively in "St Joseph of Arimathea at Glastonbury".[5]


Aristobulus preached and died in Roman Britain.[3][6] Where orthodox tradition says he "died in peace",[7] Catholic tradition says he was martyred.[3] The Benedictine monk Cressy (1605-1674) states that Aristobulus died at Glastonbury Abbey in 99 AD; but Alford (author of Regis Fides) says that Aristobulus was husband of "Mary" Salome, which makes this date appear too late.[5] Alford gives his death as "the second year of Nero" - 58 AD.[5] :120 Alford also asserts that "It is perfectly certain that, before St Paul had come to Rome, Aristobulus was absent in Britain".[5]:14–15[8] This is in accord with the date given by Gildas the Wise (425-512 AD) that the "Light of Christ" shone in Britain in the last year of Emperor Tiberias (37 AD).[5]:19 Glastonbury tradition claims that this was the foundation date for their Wattle Church dedicated to Mary.[5] :19–20 This tradition that Britain contained the earliest Church of all Christendom is acknowledged further in the precedence given to British Royalty over that of France and Spain [5] :18[9] It seems from these traditions that Aristobulus was the founder of British Christianity (probably at Glastonbury). While Joseph of Arimathea, or members of his group, may have been involved, the early writings frequently centre on Aristobulus.[5]

Orthodox tradition say he was the brother of the Apostle Barnabas, of Jewish Cypriot origin,[6] and like Barnabas accompanied Saint Paul on his journeys.[6] He was one of the assistants of Saint Andrew,[10] along with Urban of Macedonia, Stachys, Ampliatus, Apelles of Heraklion and Narcissus of Athens. On his missionary journey to Britain, he stopped to preach to the Celtiberians of northern Hispania.[citation needed]

Catholic tradition identifies Aristobulus with Zebedee, father of James and John.[3]

Dubious later conjectures identify Aristobulus with one of the medieval Welsh saints Arwystl: Arwystl the Aged, an early missionary, or Arwstyl ap Cunedda, after whom Arwystli is named.[11]

Herodian parallels[edit]

Close family of Aristobulus of Britain

The details given by Alford (in Regia Fides) [5] :120–121 fit exceedingly well to the family of Aristobulus and Salome (of the "Seven Veils") as given in Josephus' "Antiquities of the Jews" [2]

Aristobulus b. Herod of Chalcis (mother: Mariamme b. Joseph)[12] married with [13] Salome b. Herod "Philip" (mother: Herodias b. Aristobulus).[14] They had three sons:- Herod "Timothy", an Agrippa, and another Aristobulus.[15] Herodias' second husband is Antipas Herod, whom she is with when her daughter Salome reputedly performs her famous dance. If this association is correct, the elder Aristobulus dies in 58 AD (CE) (as per Alford). The younger Aristobulus could be the actual British "Bishop", dying in 99 AD (CE), as noted by Cressy. The title "Arwystli Hen" [5]:119 may have originated through a later British tradition, when it was no longer clear as to which Aristobulus (father or son) was meant.

There are no sons of Aristobulus the elder named "John" nor "James" indicated in either major work of Josephus. The nearest "John" may be Jonathan Aristobulus, brother of the second wife of Herod b.Antipater ("the Great") - that is Mariamme b.Alexander (the Hasmonean Princess). He would be a 3xGreat Grand-uncle of Aristobulus the elder.[2] Notice that Aristobulus' mother is Mary daughter of Joseph: could this be an "Arimathea" connection ?

These possibilities put Salome "of the Seven Veils" in an entirely new light! It may explain why Alford surnamed her "Mary".

Given this likelihood, it is possible that the Herods "Timothy" and "Philip" (mentioned above) are those mentioned in the New Testament.

The Christianity of these people could best be described as "Jesus Movement" or " of the Seventy Disciples", rather than "Orthodox".


In the Eastern Orthodox Church liturgical calendar, Aristobulus' personal feast day is 15 March.[6] He is also one of the saints commemorated on 4 January (feast of the Seventy Disciples)[16] and on 31 October (feast of the assistants of Saint Andrew).[7]

In the Roman Catholic liturgical calendar, his feast is 15 March.[3]


  1. ^ a b Pseudo-Hippolytus. "CHURCH FATHERS: On the Apostles and Disciples". New Advent. Retrieved 15 July 2012. 
  2. ^ a b c Flavius, Josephus (1965). Antiquities of the Jews (Loeb Classical Library ed.). Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press. 
  3. ^ a b c d e "St. Aristobulus". Saints & Angels. Catholic Online. Retrieved 15 July 2012. 
  4. ^ Carrington, Philip (2011-08-11). The Early Christian Church: Volume 1, The First Christian Church. Cambridge University Press. p. 149. ISBN 9780521166416. Retrieved 15 July 2012. 
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Smithett Lewis, Lionel (1955). St Joseph of Arimathea at Glastonbury. London: James Clarke & Co. 
  6. ^ a b c d "Apostle Aristobulus of the Seventy the Bishop of Britain". Calendar of Saints. Orthodox Church in America. Retrieved 15 July 2012. 
  7. ^ a b "Apostle Aristobulus of the Seventy". Calendar of Saints. Orthodox Church in America. Retrieved 15 July 2012. 
  8. ^ "Regia Fides" vol.1, p.19.
  9. ^ Undisputed until 1409; and then re-asserted at Pisa 1409, Constance 1417, Sienna 1424, and Basle 1434; unchallenged since then.
  10. ^ "Saint Aristobulus, Apostle of Britain", Orthodox Outlet for Dogmatic Enquiries
  11. ^ Baring-Gould, S.; Fisher, John (2005-06-30). The Lives of the British Saints: The Saints of Wales, Cornwall and Irish Saints. Kessinger Publishing. p. 175. ISBN 9780766186798. Retrieved 15 July 2012. 
  12. ^ Antiquities xvii: 134 ; xx: 158 ; War ii: 221 ; vii: 226
  13. ^ Antiquities xvii: 137 ; xx: 13, 104
  14. ^ Antiquities xviii 136
  15. ^ Antiquities xviii: 137
  16. ^ "Apostle Aristobulus of the Seventy". Calendar of Saints. Orthodox Church in America. Retrieved 15 July 2012.