SSP: The Confessio

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

Saint Patrick of Ireland

Saint Patrick of Ireland

The Confessio was remarkably preserved, having circulated since at least the seventh century, and remains at least partially extant in eight early medieval manuscripts.[1] As for when the Confessio was written, it appears to have come near the end of the saint’s life (“This is my confession before I die.”), after he had spent appreciable time in Ireland.[2] Patrick’s lack of personal names and dates provides little information for an exact dating. Following a general timeline of his life, however, we may safely date the final form of the Confessio to between 455 and 461 CE. The genre of this writing has been a somewhat debated topic, for its contents do not seem uniform in nature.[3] As John Morris writes, “His [Patrick’s] writings were not autobiographical, not arranged chronologically, but are tracts written for specific purposes.”[4] Continue reading

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SSP: The Writings of Patrick

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

The Book of Armagh

The Book of Armagh

As Patrick’s literary output constitutes the “earliest surviving documents written in Ireland”, the importance of these documents can hardly be understated.[1] However, many of the writings traditionally associated with Patrick have been deemed inauthentic. The three Dicta Patricii (Sayings of Patrick) are generally viewed as later historical misattributions—though Hanson argues at least one is authentic.[2] There are also a variety of synodal documents (Synodus I S Patricii and Synodus II S Patricii) and poems attributed to Patrick (Hymn of St. Secundinus, “Breastplate of St. Patrick”, and Hymn of Fiacc, in Irish Genair Patraic), these also now understood as likely not originating from the Irish saint.[3] Continue reading

SSP: Other Historical Patrick Issues

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

SaintPatrickShamrockLess divisive than the issues of chronology and geography, but no less important, are claims surrounding Patrick’s possible monasticism, his Latinity, and the plethora of extant traditions about Patrick’s life and work. From time to time the question of Patrick’s monasticism has been raised. Some have argued that the episcopal evangelist was celibate and others that he simply inhabited a deep and simple spirituality.[1] The omnipresence of the Bible in Patrick’s writings—as well as his preference for the Psalter—might suggest he had a monastic background of some sort.[2] Yet Hanson’s judgment seems best, that “The question of whether Patrick was himself dedicated to an ascetic life is worth raising, even though it cannot be answered with any certainty.”[3] Continue reading

SSP: On Patrician Geography

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

Dioceses of Roman Empire, c. 300

Dioceses of Roman Empire, c. 300

A second part of “The Patrick Problem” involves geography: the question of whether Patrick was trained in Gaul. As with Patrick’s chronology, there are three basic answers to this query: first, that Patrick visited Gaul but did not train there; second, that he never visited or trained in Gaul; third, that he was trained in Gaul. Continue reading

SSP: On Patrician Chronology

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

saint-patrick-2Apart 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.[1] 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.”[2] For historians, of course, such ambiguity cannot stand. Using a variety of reconstructive methods,[3] 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. Continue reading

SSP: Introducing the Historical Patrick

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

Ireland-e1405626632102The historical evidence surrounding Patrick is scant and problematic apart from what he tells his readers in his Confessio and Epistola.[1] As we will see in future posts, the biographical information included in these writings avails itself to a bevy of differing interpretations. A few general things may be said about Patrick, however. Continue reading

SSP: Why Study Patrick’s Scriptures?

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

“If we wish to sound the real depths of this great spiritual masterpiece, then, it is not enough to read it; we are advised to come to know, not only the sources, but also the context of its biblical quotations and significant biblical allusions, of which Patrick makes highly effective use in his Confessio.[1]

Major Roman Cities MapBefore proceeding to consideration of the historical Patrick, let us pause to briefly consider the value in studying Patrick’s Bible and his use of scripture. From a historical perspective, coming to better terms with Patrick’s Bible provides insights into the Bible on the edge the Roman Empire during the fifth century. Not only does Patrick offer a unique case study in the midst of a difficult time for the Western Roman Empire, but the situation in Ireland may prove paradigmatic for understanding the form, shape, and influence of the Christian Bible in other “border of the Empire” contexts. Continue reading

The Scriptures of Saint Patrick: Introduction

The Context, Influence, and Form of the Biblical Text in Patrick of Ireland’s Confessio

Saint Patrick of Ireland

Saint Patrick of Ireland

Some fifteen hundred years after his death, Saint Patrick of Ireland remains one of the most recognizable representatives of the Christian tradition. Beloved by Catholic, Protestant, Orthodox, and partaker in riotous spring-time drinking alike, Patrick’s epic propagation of the Christian faith to the people of Ireland continues to captivate imaginations and spurn missionary zeal today. Yet despite his popular fame, the historical Patrick remains a figure relatively veiled by the complexities and vicissitudes of history. This is especially true when it comes to consideration of Patrick’s views on scripture. Although it has often been claimed that Patrick was a homo unius libri[1] and that his authentic letters are steeped in the Biblical text, little explicit consideration of Patrick’s scriptural context has been undertaken. This study begins to address this lacuna by examining the context, influence, and form of the Biblical text in Patrick’s Confessio. Continue reading

Blogging and Saint Patrick

SLU

Saint Louis University

The past two weekends have been especially busy, as I’ve attended and presented at two conferences. The first was ‘That They May Be One’: The Past, Present, and Future of Orthodox-Catholic Dialogue”, hosted by Saint Louis University and the St. Irenaeus Orthodox Theological Institute. Though I am neither Orthodox or Catholic (yet, as my colleagues like to remind me), I really enjoyed this conference, especially keynote speaker Fr. John Daley of Notre Dame. I had the opportunity to present a paper titled “Blogging Ecumenically: The Present and Future of Online Orthodox-Catholic Dialogue” based on my experiences as managing editor at Conciliar Post. I’ve been running this paper as a series here the past couple of weeks, but I’ve also posted the full version of the paper to my Academia.edu profile. (You can also comment below if you’d like me to send you the paper.) Continue reading