For a few years now, I have considered that there is a similarity between the stories that make up the Arthurian Legends, and our Israelite history in Biblical times. There are several of these instances – too many in fact to put down to mere co-incidence.
Of course, I am in no way denying the existence of our legendary hero, and we know for sure that often events were played out as it were, in Biblical times, to foreshadow events to come – but equally in folk lore, legends, and even in fairy tales, we have indications of our illustrious past – as well as events to come. Back when my husband and I lived in Glastonbury, we knew a Christian lady who said that the Arthurian Legends are a part of the British Psyche. Well, whatever else you may think, our Christian friend may well have been right in this instance.
The story of King Arthur is variable, with certain bits added or changed over the years, but the basic concept is generally the same. And concerning the Biblical links, they are not necessarily in order – in fact, to me, it is almost as if you have parts of the basic story all rather jumbled up. But then that is probably true of other myths and legends too.
So, to start at the beginning, before the birth of Arthur, his father; Uther Pendragon, took a fancy to the wife of another man – Gorlois of Cornwall. He persuades his seer, Merlin, to enable him to spend the night with the lady in question, whilst his men are in battle against Gorlois. In the process, Gorlois is killed in battle, and Uther returns to the castle to claim Ygrainne as his wife.
Ygrainne meanwhile had conceived from this liaison, but there was a price to pay. Merlin had demanded payment for any issue resulting from that event, and the payment was the child that was born Arthur. Thus, the baby Arthur is taken away by Merlin.
Right away we see a similarity with King David and Bathsheba – he fell in love with her, his desire being so great that he arranged for her husband to be strategically placed in a battle that he was sure to be killed. And he was. But God was not pleased with this, and their first child dies. However, the second was Solomon and he succeeded David as king.
The taking away of the baby Arthur is like the first child who died – but the grown Arthur who becomes a great king, is like the 2nd child, Solomon. And yet Arthur is not just Solomon. No, in his kingship he also plays another, greater king – as we shall see later.
Merlin is of course symbolic of the biblical prophets. Not just one, but several. The general consensus here is that the Israelite kings had a man of God to advise them. In David’s case it was Nathan.
The sword in the stone speaks volumes. Arthur had been put in the care of Sir Ector, who secretly fostered him. But his identity was revealed when he pulled the sword from the stone, and he was shortly afterwards crowned as king. Here we think of little king Joash, who was seven years old when he began to reign in Jerusalem. He had been hidden away by Jehoshabeath, the daughter of king Jehoram, – wife of Jehoiada the priest, when Athaliah had killed the rest of the “seed royal of the house of Judah. When Joash was brought out in front of the people, …”behold, the king stood at his pillar at the entering in, and the princes and the trumpets by the king: and all the people of the land rejoiced (Chron 23:13 and 24:1).
The young king stood by the pillar – which is the stone upon which the kings of Judah were crowned – the Stone of Destiny. And one of the royal regalia given to our kings and queens at their coronation is a sword. And it is interesting to note that the sword and the stone were both symbolic of Arthur’s right to be king, and the taking of the sword out of the stone – proof of his identity. The stone was a witness, and the sword of truth.
We could also say that the stone symbolized the Stone Kingdom – and also the Chief Corner Stone. And what of Camelot, that magical city Arthur had built – and whose fame went far and wide! Can this be Jerusalem in the time of king Solomon? Certainly, in the reign of Solomon, Jerusalem was a place of great fame – the Queen of Sheba sought it out, as did many others.
Then we have Sir Lancelot. He may not have been in the very early Arthurian legends, but his role is most pertinent to the whole Biblical link. For Lancelot was the perfect knight! There was no other knight like him. Best at everything, a true knight, and Arthur’s loyal friend. But then came Guinevere, and everything went wrong. His love for her was his downfall – and he was no longer the perfect knight, as shown when he was confronted with the Holy Grail, and blinded by the light.
Wait a minute! What do we have here! Do we see Adam – created perfectly, and no doubt very honourable and true? His downfall did partly come through a woman – Eve. We feel sorry for Lancelot, because we know he was really a good man, and likewise Adam. Both fell to the wiles of sin – a very easy thing to do.
Do we also think of Saul of Tarsus! He was misguided, rounding up Christians and having them killed until of course, Our Lord Jesus Christ appears to him and convinces him otherwise. He was also blinded by the Light! Then came the time when Camelot was no longer the great city it used to be. Merlin had been enticed away, and disharmony had ensued. Arthur became sick, and the land was in peril. The knights of the round table – all twelve of them – disbanded and went off in search of the Holy Grail. The secret of the Grail you see, is that the King and the Land are one. And whom does the Grail serve? My Lord and King, Arthur.
There were of course twelve knights of the round table. And if we take the twelve sons of Jacob/Israel, and superimpose them onto Arthur’s knights, then Jacob becomes Arthur. If we likewise take the twelve tribes of Israel at their height, before they split up – then King David or King Solomon becomes Arthur. And finally, if we take Our Lord’s twelve Disciples, as the twelve knights, then Arthur symbolises Our dear Lord.
So now let us return to the Holy Grail. How do we equate this with our Israelite past? It is quite easy to see, for the Holy Grail emits a blinding Holy Light, that only a pure heart can bear. It is the Light of God – it is the Burning Bush, the Fiery Pillar, the Power residing in the Ark of the Covenant – it is the Light of the world - the Holy Spirit – the Comforter – the Risen Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
There is one last character I must bring forth, that of Sir Galahad. He is the son of Lancelot by the lady Elaine. So, if Lancelot represents the first Adam, then Sir Galahad is the second. Galahad was a knight of great purity, for his quest was to see the Grail – and to partake of its contents. Our dear Lord in the garden of Gethsemane prayed to his Heavenly Father, “0 my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as Thou wilt.” Once Galahad had sipped from the cup, he dies, being taken away by angels. Most surely this is symbolic of Our Lord, who, imbued with the Holy Spirit and being of pure and sinless heart, gave His life for His people.
We consider now, Joseph of Arimathea – who in legends came to Britain, bringing with him during at least one visit, the young Jesus – and this wraps up the story, and its connection with the Anglo-Saxon-Celto peoples of the west to that of the Holy Land, and the Israel peoples of God – the 12 tribes of Israel from whom we are descended. For it is Joseph who brought the Holy Grail – and the true Light of Christianity to our Isles. Joseph then links us to our Israelitish past – our true identity. And in Arthurian legend, the Keeper of the Grail Castle is descended from Joseph.
So, what of the future? The Arthurian story ends with the death of Arthur – he is mortally wounded and taken away to the land of Avalon – with the promise that when his country has need, he will return. Our dear Lord Jesus Christ ascended up to heaven after His resurrection, with the promise that He will return.
That promise still stands – and my dear friends it is most surely not far off!