Tuesday, March 14, 2023

Saint Patrick and Mark 16:15-16

            Saint Patrick was not a leprechaun.  He was a historical person, a missionary in the 400s who was instrumental in the conversion of the Irish people to Christianity.  Two compositions by St. Patrick survive to the present day:  The Letter to Coroticus and Confession.  One interesting detail in both of these compositions is that Patrick makes use of material in Mark 16:9-20.

             In R. P. C. Hanson’s book The Life and Writings of the Historical Saint Patrick, pp. 44-45 (© 1983 R. P. C. Hanson, published by the Seabury Press, New York), the author observed that “There is no clear evidence that Patrick knew or used Jerome’s Vulgate. But he certainly knew the Latin Bible used by the British church supremely well.”   Therefore Patrick’s citations should be regarded as echoes of an Old Latin text which was in use in Ireland in the mid-400s.

            In Letter to Coroticus, paragraph 20, (according to the English translation by John Skinner), in the course of denouncing Coroticus for attacking a group of new Christian converts, Patrick wrote, “I bear witness before God and his angels that it shall be just as he signified to me, unskilled though I am. That which I have set out in Latin is not my words but the words of God and of apostles and prophets, who of course have never lied. He who believes shall be saved, but he who does not believe shall be damned. God has spoken.”  Patrick thus quoted Mark 16:16.

            In Confession, paragraph 40, Patrick assembled several Biblical passages as he wrote, “We are strictly bound to spread out our nets, so that an abundant multitude and a crowd should be caught for God and that there should be clergy everywhere who should baptize and preach to the needy and expectant masses, just as the Lord says in the gospel, he warns and teaches in the text, Go therefore and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things, whatever I have taught you. And in another place he says, Go therefore into the whole world and preach the gospel to every creature; whoever believes and is baptized will be saved but whoever does not believe will be damned” (Cf. Matthew 28:19, Mark 16:15-16).

            Just something to remember the next time you read a commentary that tells you that the Old Latin did not include Mark 16:9-20.  Have a happy Saint Patrick's Day!


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