SSP: Who Was the Historical Patrick of Ireland?

This post is part of an ongoing series on the Scriptures of Saint Patrick of Ireland.

Croagh Patrick

Croagh Patrick

Who was the historical Patrick? To this point we have outlined the major arguments surrounding the person, life, and writings of the great Irish saint and come to the following conclusions. Born in Roman Britain to a Christian family, around age sixteen Patrick was kidnapped and taken to Ireland. After six years he escaped, only to later return as missionary bishop and become the effective founder of the Irish Church. A deeply spiritual man, Patrick experienced numerous revelatory experiences and visions from God throughout the course of his life.

In answer to the oft debated questions concerning Patrick’s chronology and geography, I argued it likely that Patrick lived c. 390-461 CE and was trained in Gaul before returning to Ireland. The historic Patrick was an evangelistic bishop committed to deep spirituality if not monasticism, who employed colloquial Latin to supplement his command of Biblical Latin, and whose work in Ireland was somewhat less mythical than many of the Patrician traditions would have us believe. Although traditionally said to have composed numerous writing, it appears that only two of Patrick’s authentic works remain extant, the Epistola ad milites Corotici and Confessio, a pastoral autobiography and defense of Patrick’s life and actions which was written for a wide audience in the style of Augustine’s Confessions toward the end of his life. This context in hand, we now turn to Part Two of this study and the consideration of the role scripture played in Patrick’s theology and writing.

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