The latest in the King Jesus series of books from controversial historian Ralph Ellis begins with a blunt warning:
“All who proceed beyond this point must be prepared to have their view of Arthurian and Biblical history challenged. You have been warned.”
It’s a necessary precursor to a fascinating read that digs deep into the records surrounding one of history’s most mythical figures, King Arthur, and arrives at some astonishing yet well-argued conclusions.
The most of startling of all? That King Arthur is actually an alter ego for Jesus.
If it sounds hard to reconcile the familiar images of castles and suits of armour from the age of chivalry with the deserts of ancient Jerusalem then don’t fear as the author presents his exhaustive research in such a way so that the central premise of the book is only reached when all props are in place to support it.
First of all, if there are any doubts, then the reader must accept that King Arthur didn’t actually exist as a living, breathing figure from history. Despite what 12th century British historians Geoffrey of Monmouth and Walter of Oxford say in their chronicles – he is as much a work of folklore as Robin Hood.
In fact, Ralph points out that before these aforementioned historians wrote about King Arthur, there had been no mention of him, his court or the Knights of the Round Table anywhere in the historical record – a tell-tale sign that their claims that Arthur was a 6th century warrior king who defended the British from the Anglo-Saxons and Picts, before setting out to conquest Rome, may not be all that reliable.
So, if Arthur never existed then where did his fantastic story originate? Here in The Grail Cypher things become more conjectural, and all the more intriguing for it.
Ralph believes that it is most likely that Geoffrey and Walter were given the Arthur story by the Knights Templar, an international organisation crusading knights, which they then rounded out with old Welsh folklore.
The Templars, in turn, he says, developed the story after returning from the Holy Land at the end of the First Crusade towards the close of the 11th century, and did so as a cover, or cypher, for something much more profound – and dangerous to know.
Those familiar with Ellis’s Jesus, King of Edessa will be aware of his arguments for the case that Jesus Christ was actually none other than a wealthy warrior king of Judaea and Edessa who led a Jewish revolt against the Romans.
The reason this story is not shared in every pulpit, he says, is because it was actively supressed at the time as an act of political propaganda which quickly became orthodox religion.
This latest book calls upon that line of reasoning to show how this ‘cover up’ may have has much wider historical implication.
According to Ellis’ painstaking research, the Templar Crusaders discovered a now-lost manuscript while in Syria detailing the ‘true’ story of Jesus but, realising that their discovery was heretical and therefore potentially fatal to share, were swift to create a symbolic surface narrative within which to hide it.
The clues are there to find if you know where to look, says Ellis, and he painstakingly draws these out. For instance, the celebrated 12 Knights of the Round Table are actually an allusion to the 12 Disciples of Jesus and the table of the Last Supper.
Biblical figures, meanwhile, suspiciously abound in the Arthurian legends, such as Joseph of Arimathea, and the prime motif of the Holy Grail is most likely based on the Elagabal, a sacred rock from ancient Edessa that was once owned by the Roman emperor Elagabalus before vanishing from the historical record.
As always, the author draws upon multiple sources, including the plethora of medieval Arthurian texts such as the Vulgate Cycle, painstakingly cross-references all his research, and includes photographs of historical artefacts to further enhance his case.
As with all of Ellis’s books, the dramatic revisionist approach may not be everyone’s holy grail to unlocking the mystery of King Arthur but nevertheless his expansive exploration of Arthurian history provides much to enjoy and plenty of food for thought.
The Grail Cypher: The Secrets of Arthurian History Revealed by Ralph Ellis is available now, priced £18.19 in paperback. Visit www.edfu-books.uk