I have this rather obscure little book, picked up at a flea market somewhere sometime, The Drama of the Lost Disciples, by George F. Jowett. Jowett is remarked in the dust jacket as being “…from a prominent literary family.” which I suppose would include Benjamin Jowett, translator of Plato.
The book presents the argument, supported by various documents, that Joseph of Arimathea, Mary mother of Jesus, Mary Magdalene and a number of other followers of Jesus were exiled:
“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.”
That year was 36CE, and the author of this excerpt was Cardinal Baronius, Curator of the Vatican Library, from his Ecclesiastical Annals. Jowett proceeds to tell us that in 38-39, Joseph and company proceeded to erect a church near Glastonbury, twenty-six by sixty feet, built of wattle, and that it remained until 1184 when it was destroyed by fire.
Curiously, Jowett steps back and tells us another tale, supported by a letter from St. Augustine to Pope Gregory:
“In the Western confines of Britain there is a certain royal island of large extent, surrounded by water, abounding in all the beauties of nature and necessaries of life. In it the first Neophites of Catholic Law, God beforehand acquainting them, found a church constructed by no human art, but divinely constructed, or by the hands of Christ himself, for the salvation of his people. The Almighty has made it manifest by many miracles and mysterious visitations that He continues to watch over it as sacred to Himself, and to Mary, the Mother of God.”
Or, in somewhat plainer English: Jesus, being a carpenter by trade, was apprenticed as a youth and traveled extensively during the “lost years” journeying as far as Nepal and Britain. Jowett asserts that while in Britain, Jesus built a small church of timber and wattle in honor of his mother Mary.