This post is part of an ongoing series on the Scriptures of Saint Patrick of Ireland.
Apart from the general statements about Patrick noted in my previous post, although much has been written concerning the saint’s life, little has been satisfactorily concluded. This is especially true on the two issues which Charles Thomas terms “The Patrick Problem”: chronology and geography. On the question of chronology, T.M. Charles-Edwards writes, “Not a single date can be given to any event of Patrick’s life. Even relative dates are difficult to find.” For historians, of course, such ambiguity cannot stand. Using a variety of reconstructive methods, scholars have come to three basic positions concerning the dates for Patrick’s death: c. 491 CE, the “Duo-Patrician” Theory, and c. 461 CE.
The first of these, 491 CE, represents the traditional dating of Patrick’s death. This dating was first seriously questioned by J.B. Bury in 1905 and has largely fallen out of favor during the past century. More recently, however, Charles Thomas has argued that Patrick died around 490 CE, suggesting that dates for Patrick have been inaccurately swayed by confused traditions surrounding the arrival of Palladius in Ireland (c. 431 CE).
The “Duo-Patrician” Theory advocated by Binchy, T.F. O’Rahilly, and James Carney posits that there were actually two Patricks active in Ireland during the course of the fifth century, two men whom posterity conflated into a single figure. As Charles Thomas explains, in this view “The real Patrick—the Briton from Banna Venta Berniae who was enslaved, escaped, and came back as bishop, roughly at the time of ‘Old Patrick’s’ death—himself died later, on 17 March 493, St Patrick’s Day. O’Rahilly’s choice for the first Patrick was Palladius—the 432 is really the 431 of Palladius’ arrival. Carney’s was a Gaulish bishop called Secundinus.”
Nonetheless, the most common dating of Patrick’s death among contemporary scholars comes around 461 CE. Such is the perspective of Egan, Lynch, Cross, Morris, Hanson, and Bieler. In this view, Patrick was born c. 385-390 CE, endured captivity in Ireland in the early 400’s, returned to Ireland around 432 CE (shortly after Palladius’ death), and evangelized Ireland for some thirty years before his death in 461 CE. For my own reconstruction of the historical Patrick, the c. 390-461 CE date range seems to best fit the context and general outlines of the saint’s life. As we will see below, this lifespan also accords with the contents and form of Patrick’s Biblical witnesses.
 Thomas, 308.
 Charles-Edwards, 219.
 Thomas helpfully outlines three of the most common methods of reconstructive chronology: “The first, and least satisfactory, is to use the conflicting evidence of the various Irish annal entries, not one of which (wherever first set down) was committed to writing until considerably after Patrick’s time and death. The second, recently favored by Professor Richard Hanson, is to construct a framework of dates contextually and inferentially; to some extent, but with other results, this was also Bury’s method in 1905. The third, attempted below, is to produce a relative chronology from the clues contained in Patrick’s writings, and then to attach this if possible to some estimated absolute date at one or more points.” See Thomas, 314-15.
 Thomas, 315.
 Thomas, 341-346. According to Thomas’ chronology, criticisms came to Patrick through an envoy of British clergy, whose offer to bring him back to Britain Patrick refused, sending instead a written rebuttal which subsequently exonerated him of all charges. At a later date, the substance of this response was incorporated into Patrick’s end of life Confessio, which was written between 470 and 480 CE. For Thomas, “The confusion of later reckonings, the Mosaic span of 120 years, the two obits, the two Patricks, stem from the irreconcilable gap between the year after Palladius’ coming (which is not a Patrician event) and the time of his death, which is.”
 Thomas F. O’Rahilly. The Two Patricks: A Lecture on the History of Christianity in Fifth-Century Ireland. Dublin: Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies, 1981. 5. Binchy, 30-1. See also James Carney, The Problem of Saint Patrick (Dublin: Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies, 1961).
 Thomas, 316
 Egan, 53. Lynch, 113. Cross, 1025. John Morris. “Historical Introduction.” In St. Patrick: His Writings and Muirchu’s Life. Totoaw, N.J.: Rowman and Littlefield, 1978. 1. Hanson, Life and Writings, 25. Bieler, “Libri Epistolarum”, 5.
 Bieler argues that, if “Confessio 19 refers to the state of Gaul between 407 and 409, Patrick, then in his twenty-second year, was born ca 385.” See Bieler, “Libri Epistolarum”, 5.
 To help explain the traditional date of 491 CE, it may be that later hagiographic tradition assigned Patrick an advanced age like other notable saints such as Moses or Anthony.