The Drama of the Lost Disciples
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The Drama of the Lost Disciples is a 1961 book by George Jowett, a former bodybuilder and fitness instructor, which purports to trace several of Christ's disciples and other associates, including Joseph of Arimathea, St. Paul, St. Simon, and even his mother Mary, to Britain, where they founded a Christian church which predates, and therefore has precedence over, the Roman Catholic Church. The book also espouses British Israelism, arguing that the Welsh and English are descended from the so-called "Lost tribes of Israel", and claiming that they preserved their genetic and religious purity more assiduously than the Jews. Theories based on Jowett's work are popular on the internet, and among British Israelites and adherents of the Christian Identity movement. He cites classical historians, early church fathers, medieval and early modern writers, but many of these citations are distorted and inaccurate.
Examples of distortion of sources
Jowett claims that Julius Caesar, in his De Bello Gallico Book 4, "refers in amazement to the number of populous cities, the architecture, universities of learning, the numerical population of England, and particularly to their religion with its belief in the immortality of the soul". While it is true that Caesar notes Britain's population and its status as a centre of druidical learning, and elsewhere in his commentaries notes the druids' belief in the immortality of the soul, he nowhere mentions British cities, architecture or universities.
He claims that "the early Christian and Roman records abound with the name and warrior fame of Arviragus" (supposedly a British Christian prince who led the defence against the Roman conquest), and quotes Satire IV of Juvenal as saying "Hath our great enemy Arviragus, the car borne British King, dropped from his battle throne?" as an example. This cryptic mention, in a satirical poem about Roman social life, is the only mention of Arviragus's name in the entirety of classical literature, and all other known references to him are derivative of Geoffrey of Monmouth's 12th century Historia Regum Britanniae, also an imaginative nationalist pseudohistory.
He claims that, of Caratacus's supposed "trial" before the emperor Claudius, "Tacitus tells us that his daughter Gladys refused to be separated from her father, though it was against the Roman law for a woman to enter the Senate..." Tacitus nowhere tells us any such thing. After Caratacus was pardoned, he claims "the famed Queen Agrippira (sic) rose from her dais, approaching the Pendragon, and his daughter Gladys, shaking hands with each according to the British fashion, then embracing them, according to the Roman." A footnote to this passage cites Tacitus's Annals 12.37, which again says no such thing. He claims that Pomponia Graecina, the probably Christian wife of Aulus Plautius, was a Briton, also called "Gladys", citing Tacitus's Annals 13.32 in support of this assertion; Tacitus does mention Pomponia, and the fact that she was accused of "foreign superstition", but nowhere does he call her "Gladys" or claim she was British.
On other occasions he will put a passage in quotation marks, but not cite its provenance. Where he does cite sources, as shown above, he can often be demonstrated to be taking liberties with them. On other occasions his citations are more reliable, although his sources may not be.
He regularly cites the Annales Ecclesiastici of Caesar Baronius, the 16th-century church historian. On one occasion he directly quotes him, regarding Joseph of Arimathea's journey, as saying, under the year AD 35, "In that year the party mentioned was exposed to the sea in a vessel without sails or oars. The vessel drifted finally to Marseilles and they were saved. From Marseilles Joseph and his company passed into Britain and after preaching the gospel there, died." This is not quite a direct quotation from the Annales Ecclesiastici, and is mis-cited. A passage found under AD 35, translated into English, reads:
"In this dispersion, Ananias, having set out from Damascus gathered together a company of believers. At the same time, as one can ascertain, Lazarus, Mary Magdalene, Martha and Marcella whom the Jews regarded with great hatred, were not exactly driven away from Jerusalem but, together with the disciple Maximinus, were placed in a boat without oars and were believed to have perished in dangerous seas. By Divine providence they are said to have been driven to Marseilles. Taking with them a friend, Joseph of Arimathea, a noble decurion, they are said to have travelled from Gaul to Britain and there he proclaimed the gospel till his last day..." This passage can be read in Latin in the British Library in London.
- Julius Caesar. De Bello Gallico. Book IV – via The Internet Classics Archive at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
- Juvenal. Satire IV,. .126-127 – via The Latin Library.
- Geoffrey of Monmouth. Historia Regum Britanniae. 4.12-17 – via Wikisource.
- Tacitus. Annals. 12:37 – via the Perseus Project.
- Tacitus. Annals. 13:32 – via the Perseus Project.
- Ludovicus Guérin, ed. (1864). "AD 35". Caesaris Barionii Annales Ecclesiastici. Vol 1. paragraph 5, p. 208 – via the Internet Archive.
- Guérin 1864, "AD 35" paragraph 5, p. 208, footnote 3.
- Hans Lewy (1938). "Imaginary journeys from Palestine to France". Journal of the Warburg Institute 1 (3): 251–3. JSTOR 750012.