Here’s a story about God and the Celts that’s been passed down by word-of-mouth for centuries.
“Clouds boiled up to cover the sky and the sound of a mighty wind filled all the world. And though it was bright midday, the heavens grew dark as twilight after the sun has set. Not the slightest breath of wind could be felt, yet the roaring of the unseen wind grew louder. There was thunder, but no lightning, and the hair stood up on the necks of people and beasts alike. Jagged chunks of hail fell out of the sky and lay in the grass smoldering as on fire.
All at once a voice was heard crying out to them. They turned and saw approaching out of the west in the direction of the setting sun, a mighty champion fair and tall—taller than any three of the tallest among them and more wonderful to look upon than the most handsome person they had ever seen. His eyes were the color of the windswept sky, and his teeth were straight and white. His chin was smooth-shaven, and his brow was high and fine.
For a cloak the magnificent stranger wore a shining garb as radiant and rainbow-hued as crystal, and for sandals, hammered bands of purest gold. His hair was pale as flax and uncut, falling in curls to the middle of his back. This mighty champion carried two stone tablets in his left hand and a silver branch with three fruits in his right, and these were the fruits which were on the branch: apples, hazelnuts, and acorns. Around his waist he wore a girdle of bronze plates, and each plate could have served as a platter for four kings. In his girdle he carried a knife with a blade made of glass that was sharper than the sharpest steel.
Around the stranger’s neck was an open golden band as thick as a baby’s arm, and on the ends were jewels: a ruby on the right and a sapphire on the left. His hands were broad and strong, and when he spoke, his voice sounded like the waves upon the shore 0r like the rushing of many waters. He came to stand before the assembled kings of Eire, and he said, Greetings, friends—if friends you be.
The princes and princelings quailed before him, but the High King drove his chariot to where the stranger stood. He raised his hand in kingly greeting and said, I am king here, and this is my realm. I welcome you, champion—if champion you be. What has brought you here? I have come from the setting of the sun, and I am going to the rising. My name is Treluilngid Treochair, answered the stranger. A strange name, replied the king. And why has that name been given you? Easy to say, replied Trefuilngid, because it is myself, and no one else who upholds the sun, causing it to rise in the east and set in the west. The high king regarded the towering stranger with curiousity. Forgive me, friend, for asking, he said, but why are you here at the setting of the sun when it is at the rising you must be? Easy to say, answered the marvelous stranger, but not so easy to hear, I think. For, in a land far away from here, a man was tortured today—and for that reason I am on my way to the east.
This tortured man, inquired the king, of what account was he that one such as yourself should take notice? You cut to the heart of the matter, to be sure, replied the stranger, for the man of whom I speak was born to be the ruler of the world. He was called the Prince of Peace, Righteous Lord, and King of Kings. At these words the king and his noblemen groaned. Certainly this is a grave injustice, and deeply to be lamented, observed the king, yet such things are known to happen from time to time. Even so, it does not explain why you have come among us like this.
The man I speak of was crucified and killed by the men who tortured him, Trefuilngid explained. His name was Esu, and he was the rightful High King of Heaven, Son of the Strong Upholder, Lord of Life and Light. When he died, the sun stepped aside, and darkness has covered the face of the earth. I came forth to find out what ailed the sun, learned of this outrage, and now I am telling you. The king drew himself up and said, I thank you for telling us, friend. But tell us one thing more: Where can we find the vile cowards who perpetrated this injustice? Only say the word, and rest assured we will not cease until we have punished them with the death they undoubtedly deserve.
Your wrath is noble and worthy, friend, replied the magnificent stranger, but it is misplaced. For in three days time the same man who was crucified will break the bonds of death and rise again to walk the world of the living. Through him death itself will be conquered forever. When they heard this good news, the king and all the noblemen and bards of Eire wept for joy. They demanded to know how this had come about, and the glittering stranger told them, It has been ordained from before the foundation of the world. But it has been revealed to you now so that you may prepare your people for the age to come.
Now you know how knowledge of the Truth came to Eire.”
Whether or not that is a true story remains to be seen. But if you are a Celt, such a story in Irish history has a ring of truth to it, for we Celts believe in such magnificent stories about our history in this world.
Now I will continue this teaching by sharing with you just a very little of “alternative” history; there is much more than I could possibly write in this brief teaching. Alternative history is history not generally taught or accepted by traditional, mainstream historians, but it is not necessarily history that is untrue.
Mainstream secular history informs us that the people known as the Celts first arrived in the southern British Isles (biblical Tarshish?) around 600 BC. Those historians inform us that the Celts “probably” came from Spain or Portugal, but they cannot be certain of their origins. There is some indication that a “branch” of the Celts were living in Galatia (in modern Turkey) at the time Paul wrote to them the New Testament Book (letter) of Galatians, and that the Celts originally came from what we now call the steppes of Russia.
Most of the traditional Celtic history we have today came from the writings of the Romans when they invaded the British Isles. After the Romans invaded the southern British Isles, many of the Celts fled to Ireland and survived there until about the 7th century AD. It wasn’t until the late 18th century that the world saw a revived interest in the Celts and in all things Celtic; from approximately 400 AD until then, not much was known or remembered about the Celts. The Celts living in the British Isles—including Ireland—were described as tall and clean-shaven, dressed in very brightly colored clothes of many colors (think Joseph’s coat of many bright colors in that saga in the biblical book of Genesis). They were described as very formidable, fierce warriors—including their women.
586 B.C.: Israelite Refugees
Interestingly—coincidentally?—some Israeli refugees from the final Babylonian invasion (586 BC) of the biblical southern Kingdom of Judah are said by some non-mainstream historians to have fled Israel—through Egypt—at that same time—by sea around the Rock of Gibraltar, past Portugal, Spain, and Gaul (France), and then on to the British Isles. Hmmm. Interesting. 586 BC (alternative history) and 600 BC (mainstream history) are pretty close in historical time…. Some “alternative historians” inform us that among that small band of Israeli refugees were the aged prophet Jeremiah and one of the daughters of the last king of Judah, Zedekiah—as well as some Old Testament priests of God, and some “lay persons.”
Tradition has it that one item the refugees brought with them to the British Isles (for reasons unknown) was a sizable stone pillar, the “pillow of Jacob” mentioned in the 28th chapter of Genesis. When the Romans later defeated them, the Celts carried the stone to Scotland, where it was known as the famous Stone of Scone. It was later moved to southern Britain and became the coronation stone of British kings and queens at Westminster Cathedral where it remains to this day.
Since they were fleeing refugees, they did not have opportunity to take much with them—only a few personal belongings, and, unfortunately, not any of the written Old Testament Scriptures. As mentioned above, there were a few priests among the refugees, having with them only their oral tradition and personal memories of how to “conduct” worship of the One True and living God when they arrived in the British Isles.
In Ireland, the Celts came to be known as the “Tuatha de Danaan,” possibly from the Israeli Tribe of Dan, one of the original 12 tribes of Israel; In the time of Joshua, the Danites originally settled in the west-central region of Canaan bordering the Mediterranean. Note the interesting similarities of word construction between Danaan and Canaan. Upon reaching Ireland, they established a “sacred” hill named Tara, the seat of their kings and a center of worship just as the Hill of Zion in Jerusalem had once had been the capitol city of Israel (before the kingdom was divided in two), a center of worship, and “sacred” hill to the Israelites.
However, neither in Britain nor in Ireland did the Celts build temples, believing that God “did not dwell in temples made with hands” (1 Kings 8: 27; Acts 7: 48 and 17: 24). They believed that, collectively, humans were the Temple of the Living God (1 Corinthians 3 and 6). Another stone, the Stone of Destiny, was later carried to Ireland and became part of the coronation ceremonies of various Irish kings at the sacred hill of Tara.
Those Old Testament Israelite priests noted above later came to be known as “Ceile De”: Druid priests who later became Jesus-believers to preserve the True Path and guard the Holy Light. The Druids have received a lot of bad—false—press through the centuries. Most traditional, mainstream historians claim they were a wild, bloodthirsty lot who practiced human sacrifices, black magic, sorcery, and the like. That is not true! They were simply Old Testament priests who—without the written Old Testament—simply conducted worship as well as they could remember how from when they had been in Israel before fleeing to the British Isles. Their worship practices were passed down orally from approximately 600 B.C. until Jesus-believers came to their lands. The Druidic priesthood simply attempted to lead God’s people—the Celts—in the worship of the one True and Living God as best they could remember, no longer having the written Old Testament scriptures to rely upon and guide them in their worship practices.
Also upon arriving in the British Isles, the early Celts began to divide their society and culture into four classes: Druids (priests), Filides (judges and lawyers [think “judges” as in the Old Testament Book of Judges]), Bards (who maintained their oral history), and Seers (somewhat like the Old Testament Seers and Prophets). They had a very “high” culture for that time in history, especially in the arts and crafts. Sometimes, the Druids were also judges, philosophers, scholars, and teachers. The priests were both men and women: Druids and Druidesses. Male and female were equal in all aspects of Celtic life.
The Celts (including the Druids and Druidesses) were very literate, but for the most part they chose to rely on oral remembrances rather than upon writing. They believed that to write down things was to “weaken” the power of the mind. Much of their oral traditions consisted of very lengthy poetry, very similar in content and form to the biblical Book of Psalms.
They did not perceive nature as God or Mother; The One True and Living God was simply in everything and was to be worshipped as being in everything. Yes, they always believed in the one True and Living God, but as the years passed they began to perceive God as being in everything: in the howling winds, in the rushing waters, in groves of trees, in the abundance of crops, in roaring fires, in all the fecundate earth. They never worshipped Mother Earth or Nature, but simply worshipped God as being entirely pervasive in everything—in all his creation.
The Religious Beliefs of the Early Druids and Celts Before Jesus
Here is a brief synopsis of Celtic and Druidic religious beliefs…. First, they kept holy days they called Sabbats (think biblical Sabbath). They believed that everything—everything!—was sacred, that God was in everything and somehow sustained everything by his almighty power. Colossians 1: 17 informs us that in some mysterious way, all created entities cohere and consist by the power of Jesus Christ. We know from modern science, for example, that nothing in the entire universe is actually “solid,” that the entirety of everything is always in motion; think of the whirling electrons and neutrons of the atom, for example—how each atom is constantly in motion, all its component parts revolving and whirling around each other (without flying all apart!), although to the naked eye those atoms making up a stone, for example, may appear to be solid. The Celts believed that the One True and Living God was the Power or Sustaining Source by which all things cohere and consist—that God was truly and personally present in everything.
Everything was sacred to the Celts and Druids, but some things were “more” sacred than others. For example, they worshipped in sacred groves of trees and on sacred hills, often conducting animal sacrifices as they remembered them from their history in the land of Israel. The sacred groves of trees were viewed as “bridges” between this “DarkWorld” (“OtherWorld” or “ShadowLand”) and “RealWorld” (“RealRealm”). But, they really saw no true separation between this world and RealWorld where God was “headquartered.” They “connected” spiritually to all of nature wherein everything was sacred, but—as mentioned earlier—did not worship nature or “Mother Nature.” They worshipped God who created Nature. They saw God in the cycles of nature, probably dimly reminiscent of Genesis 8: 22 and related biblical references. They perceived the sacredness of the four “elemental forces” of nature: Earth, Air, Fire, and Water. They held a “creation theory” very similar to the biblical record of creation in Genesis chapters 1 and 2.
Interestingly, before they ever learned of Jesus one of their ancient worship symbols was a cross!
The Druids studied and taught not only “theology,” but also the natural sciences and astronomy. They studied and practiced all types of herbal medicine. Their principal religious belief was life after death and resurrection into RealWorld or RealRealm. The old Gospel hymn, “This is My Father’s World” (written in 1901) contains within its words distant echoes of the old Druidic and Celtic beliefs; here are the words to that song:
“This is my Father’s world.
And to my list’ning ears
All nature sings, and round me rings
The music of the spheres.
This is my Father’s world
I rest me in the thought
Of rocks and trees, of skies and seas
His hand the wonders wrought.
This is my Father’s world,
The birds their carols raise.
The morning light, the lily white
Declare the Maker’s praise.
This is my Father’s world.
He shines in all that’s fair.
In the rustling grass
I hear Him pass;
He speaks to me everywhere.
This is my Father’s world.
O let me ne’er forget
That though the wrong
Seems oft so strong,
God is the Ruler yet.
This is my Father’s world.
The battle is not done.
Jesus, Who died, shall be satisfied,
And earth and heav’n be one.”
The Druids established amazing schools among the Celts, teaching and leading in the worship of God as best they could remember from their life in Israel, and reading, writing, and fine arts. To become a Druid Priest, one spent 20 years in study and preparation! Their diluted worship of Jehovah God persisted right up until the time of Jesus of Nazareth.
Jesus in Britain
Again, alternative history informs us that shortly after the resurrection and ascension of Jesus, Joseph of Arimathea (Jesus’ great-uncle and Mary’s uncle) was instructed by God to flee with Mary and some other Jesus-believers to the British Isles where Joseph had extensive land holdings and tin mines. Alternative history informs us that the very first worship building for Jesus-believers was built by those refugees near the southern shores of the British Isles. There is some historical evidence that Jesus, as a boy and teenager, often spent time with his great-uncle Joseph in Britain while Joseph conducted business there. In the absence of Jesus’ stepfather, Joseph of Nazareth, his great-uncle, Joseph of Arimathea, became sort of a “father figure” to the young Jesus. Some alternative history also informs us that Jesus’ mother, Mary, was buried in an unmarked grave in southern Britain.
When Joseph of Arimathea, Mary, and other early Jesus-believers met up with the Celts and Druids already living in Britain and proclaimed the Gospel of Jesus Christ to them, the Celts and Druids readily received Jesus as their Lord and Savior because they were “prepared” by their oral history and tradition which taught about a coming Messiah or Savior. Remember the story with which we introduced this teaching…. Yes, they readily received Jesus and incorporated their new faith into their worship of the one true and Living God. It was a very easy transition for them to receive the Good News about Jesus; after all, they had been “waiting” for 600 years to welcome and receive their Messiah!
Celtic Jesus-believers continued to perceive God in everything as the pre-Jesus Celts and Druids had for centuries. They saw God as being All in all (see 1 Corinthians 15: 28). They believed and practiced a very pure, pristine form of “biblical universalism” (not the type of liberalized universalism found in some circles today such as in Unity or Unitarianism which denies the deity and totality of redemption provided by the all-encompassing life and work of Jesus Christ). See John 12:32, 1 Corinthians 15: 24 – 28, and related biblical references.
The Celts were generally defeated by invading Roman armies around 300 AD, were assimilated into other cultures, and essentially disappeared as a distinct people from the world’s stage by about 400 AD. As noted above, some of them fled to Ireland where their culture persisted for another 300 years or so. But as noted earlier in the past 100 years or so much about their history, culture, and beliefs has been revived by historians, archaeologists, and the like.
Early Celts in Scotland
There is some other “alternative history” I want to enter into my teaching at this point simply because it touches upon Celtic history. As noted earlier, after the death of King Solomon in the Old Testament narrative, the 12-tribed Kingdom of Israel was divided into two kingdoms: 1. The northern kingdom consisting of 10 tribes, known as the Kingdom of Israel. 2. The southern kingdom consisting of 2 tribes, known as the Kingdom of Judah. At times the two kingdoms co-existed peacefully, at times they warred with one another.
In 722 BC, the northern Kingdom of 10-tribed Israel was invaded and taken away captive by the Assyrian Empire. Some of the people of the Kingdom of Israel were assimilated into various people-groups within the far-flung Assyrian Empire. But, a remnant of them migrated into what is now northern Europe, Scandinavia, and Scotland (the latter area because they wanted to get as far away as possible from the rest of the known world). Those remnant peoples from the northern 10-tribed Kingdom of Israel carried with them some remnants of Old Testament worship of Jehovah God and practiced it for quite some time.
100 years or so later, when the remnant peoples of the southern Kingdom of Judah arrived in the southern British Isles, the two remnant peoples sort of co-existed—the Israelites in the northern British Isles and the “Judah-ites” in the southern British Isles.
Warning: The alternative history about the migration of the remnant peoples of the northern 10 tribes falls under the broad “umbrella-heading” of a modern teaching labeled “Anglo-Israelism.” Anglo-Israelism is taught today in some fringe, counterfeit Christian groups; a great deal of it falls under much cult-like teaching which is very deceptive; one must be very selective in studying about Anglo-Israelism. Also, the Mormon Church (The Church of Jesus Christ Of Latter-Day Saints) has some teaching akin to Anglo-Israelism, but involving an alternative history of North America, not the British Isles; that teaching, too, is very deceptive, having no basis in any historical fact.
Having said that, Yes, I am a Celtic Jesus-believer! I believe God pervades all that is—the entirety of his creation: the universe, the earth, the air, fire, water, trees, all animals, etc. I believe the salvation provided by Jesus Christ—by his virgin birth, by his sinless life, by his crucifixion, by his resurrection, by his ascension, by his present ministry, by his coming again—is total and complete for all humankind—that there will come a time when God will be All in all, Everything to everyone. (1 Corinthians 15: 28) I believe the Scriptures (taken as a whole and properly understood) teach that very clearly.
Here are the words to a modern Celtic song which convey, in part, the concept of God’s universal, saving, redeeming, restoring love for all humankind; it is sung to the Irish Celtic tune of “O Danny Boy”:
“I cannot tell why He whom angels worship,
Should set his love upon the sons of men,
Or why, as Shepherd, He should seek the wanderers,
To bring them back, they know not how or when.
But this I know, that He was born of Mary
When Bethlehem’s manger was His only home,
And that He lived at Nazareth and labored,
And so the Savior, Savior of the world is come.
I cannot tell how silently He suffered,
As with His peace He graced this place of tears,
Or how His heart upon the cross was broken,
The crown of pain to three and thirty years.
But this I know, He heals the brokenhearted,
And stays our sin, and calms our lurking fears,
And lifts the burden from the heavy laden,
For yet the Savior, Savior of the world is here.
I cannot tell how He will win the nations,
How He will claim His earthly heritage,
How satisfy the needs and aspirations
Of East and West, of sinner and of sage.
But this I know, all flesh shall see His glory,
And He shall reap the harvest He has sown,
And some glad day His sun shall shine in splendor
When He the Savior, Savior of the world is known.
I cannot tell how all the lands shall worship,
When, at His bidding, every storm is stilled,
Or who can say how great the jubilation
When all the hearts of men with love are filled.
But this I know, the skies will thrill with rapture,
And myriad, myriad human voices sing,
And earth to Heaven, and Heaven to earth, will answer:
At last the Savior, Savior of the world is King!”
A Celtic Jesus-believer is no better (or worse, for that matter) than other “types” of Jesus-believers—all authentic believers are one organic body one in and through Jesus; we are one now and we will be one at the end of the ages of time when God consummates his plans and purposes for the entirety of his creation—and we will continue to be one with the All in eternity. There will come a time—at the end of the ages of time—when every human knee shall bow and every tongue confess Jesus as Lord to the glory of God the Father. No one can confess Jesus as Lord except by means of the indwelling Holy Spirit. (Romans 14: 11; Philippians 2: 11; 1 Corinthians 12: 3)
We Celtic Jesus-believers believe and teach that all creation will be redeemed and restored to a condition far better than the original, fallen creation which groans in travail until the children of God will be unveiled and revealed to the entire waiting universe. (Romans 8)
The Celtic Cross
I have tattooed on my left forearm a celtic cross. A celtic cross is different from all other crosses. For example, the “crucifix cross” portrays Jesus as still hanging on the cross; He is not hanging there anymore. He has ascended into the heavenlies. Other types of crosses are plain and unembellished. In contrast, my celtic cross symbolically portrays a number of my celtic beliefs.
First, my cross reminds me that Jesus died on the cruel cross of Calvary to take away all my sins and the sins of all humanity. The cross is empty—as the tomb is likewise empty—because Jesus did not remain in either place. He broke the dominion and power of death and is now fully ALIVE. I, too, am fully alive with his own uncreated, self-existent, eternal, undiminishable, imperishable, incorruptible, inexhaustible, indestructible, measureless, limitless, boundless, abundant LIFE in me. I have exchanged my old life for his new LIFE, all because of the cross, his resurrection, and his ascension.
Additionally, my celtic cross serves as a constant reminder to me that Jesus is always and ever drawing all people to Himself throughout all time and eternity. He said that if He was lifted up on the cross, He would draw all humanity to Himself (John 12: 32). He was lifted up; He is drawing all humanity to Himself!
The green of my cross reminds me of the new LIFE I have in Jesus, freely given to me by God. The “marbleized” effect of the green reminds me that my new LIFE is fused and blended with God’s very own LIFE He has placed within me. Our identities are one. The black borders of the cross remind me that God’s new LIFE within me is encased within my human, mortal body—the “earth suit” I wear during my earthly pilgrimage. The celtic circle behind the cross reminds me of the great circle of life all living creatures participate in on this planet—and of the circularity of LIFE and eternity, a state of being in which God is fully present and fully resident. The four semi-circles on the cross remind me of the four elements of life: earth, air, fire, and water. The “gold” borders remind me of the divinity of God, his divine LIFE encompassing my life. The white blended throughout the green reminds me of the purity and righteousness of God which He has given me through Jesus’ fully redemptive work on my behalf and that of all humanity.
The two arms of the cross joined to the top of the cross speak to me of the tri-une nature of God and that I am a trinity, too: spirit, soul, and body—three yet one, one yet three. The bottom of the cross reminds me that I am a created being, “below” God, yet having a vertical relationship with my Creator through Jesus. The horizontal bar reminds me of the integrative relationship I have with all other people and creatures of God’s vast creation. He is the Creator; we are the created ones.
Yes, my cross tattoo is a pictorial representation of the complete Gospel of Jesus and the full and free salvation available to all God’s creation through the finished work of Jesus on the cross. I won’t take the time to tell you about the flying eagle I have tattooed on my other forearm; suffice it to say, “think Isaiah 40: 31.” Hey, we Celts believe in appropriate, God-honoring tattoos….
All of creation (including all humanity—all of Adams’s fallen race) will be saved, redeemed, renewed, and restored to a greater, better, more magnificent condition than it was originally—including all of fallen humanity! All things will be made new in the new heavens and the new earth. Not that there will be all new things. No, all “old” things will be restored and renewed. That is God’s underlying principle of the restoration of all things. He restores all things to a far better condition than the original.
My personal, biological history and background is Irish. I have seen some scanty (and admittedly questionable) information that causes me to feel that biologically I may be a descendant of the Old Testament Tribe of Dan. (Genesis 49: 16 – 18; Deuteronomy 33: 22) My “spiritual roots” are Celtic. I am proud of my Celtic heritage. I am a Celtic Jesus-believer! Praise God for such a rich background and heritage!
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Revised and Updated January 2019