SSP: The Contents of Patrick’s Bible (Part II)

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

SaintPatrickShamrockRemembering the medieval context of non-pandect Bibles (that is, Bibles in multiple volumes), examining Patrick’s practice of scripture allusion and quotation provides insights into not only which biblical books were the most important for him, but also which scriptural writings he had access to at the time he wrote the Confessio. For a breakdown of the number of times that Patrick quotes or strongly alludes to a particular writing, I point readers to the registers included in Bieler, Conneely, Hanson, and O’Loughlin.[1] The following conclusions are gleaned from an examination of these registers and their notation of which books Patrick makes use of in the Confessio.

First, Patrick almost certainly possessed copies of (and knew well) the Pentateuch (Genesis, Exodus, Deuteronomy); Psalms; Wisdom Literature (Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Wisdom of Solomon, Sirach); Major Prophets (Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel); Minor Prophets (Hosea, Joel, Zechariah); Tobit; Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, John); Acts; Pauline Epistles (Full Collection); General Epistles (Hebrews, James, 1-2 Peter, 1-3 John); and the Apocalypse of John.

Second, Patrick’s scanty allusions to and only tacit acknowledgement of the Historical Books (1-2 Samuel, 1-2 Kings, 1-2 Chronicles); Job; Minor Prophets (Amos, Obadiah, Habakkuk, Malachi); and Apocrypha (Baruch, 1-2 Maccabees, 2 Esdras) suggests that he either did not possess a copy of these writings and/or had only encountered their contents in passing.

Third, Patrick demonstrates no knowledge of the Minor Historical Books (Joshua, Judges, Ruth, Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther), Song of Solomon, Lamentations, or Jude. This does not mean that he did not know or possess copies of these writings, only that he fails to utilize the contents of these writings and that we cannot confirm his access to these writings.[2]

All in all, Patrick demonstrates knowledge (if only minimal) of nearly every biblical book and certainly was well-acquainted with and/or had access to copies of forty-two biblical books. In light of this, Conneely rightly concludes that, “This in itself is quite extraordinary given that his correspondence is only pastoral letters.”[3]


[1] Note that this is a preliminary breakdown of these sources. It is my hope that in the future a more comprehensive breakdown and comparison—possibly even including additional scripture registers—may be undertaken.

[2] See Appendix A.

[3] Conneely, 161.

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