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Download Who Was Saint Patrick? epub

by E. A. Thompson

Uses the Saint's own writings to piece together a portrait of the fifth-century bishop who converted Ireland to Christianity
Download Who Was Saint Patrick? epub
ISBN: 0312870841
ISBN13: 978-0312870843
Category: Bibles
Subcategory: Catholicism
Author: E. A. Thompson
Language: English
Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan; First American Edition edition (March 1, 1986)
Pages: 190 pages
ePUB size: 1563 kb
FB2 size: 1718 kb
Rating: 4.2
Votes: 347
Other Formats: azw txt lit rtf

It was ok
This little book did what I expected it to do. Just the facts!! A lot of speculation and exagerations are debunked and discarded. The idea of going to Patrick's own writings for the truth of who he is and what he is about makes sense.

The book arrived quickly, without fuss. Great!
It is doubtless that Irish medieval Christianity differs from the rest of the Christian world not only because of the difference in the date of Easter or the tonsure's shape. All the historians agree that that was an exceptional type of religiousness. To understand this difference one has to look back to the very beginnings of Irish Christianity and to its founder - St. Patrick. This is a figure about little certain is known. All the knowledge we have we derive from two of his writings Confessio and Epistola ad Coroticum. Thompson in his book discusses line by line these writings speculating about their explicit and implicit meaning. This resembles a deductive work of a detective and requires a broad knowledge not only of history itself, but also geography, theology and mentality as well as of course - medieval Latin and paleography. He also discusses a controversial figure of Palladius in a relation to St. Patrick as well as Coroticus and his conflict with the Saint. This book is addressed to people truly interested in the matter and is a serious, scientific work, one of the most discussed among the historians, yet it is written in a simple, comprehensible way, making reading it a real pleasure for history adepts as well as history students. It discusses all the controversies among the historians about certain details of St. Patrick's life, from the date and place of his birth to his death, so that a reader may not only get to know the author's point of view, but also of other historians, and try to judge him/herself. Thompson, however, is very convincing in his way of writing and gathering evidence justifying his opinions. He also treats the opinions of his opponents - historians with a witty, yet mischievous sense of humor. The author leaves us not only with a broad and detailed knowledge about the Saint but also with some open questions left for further future investigation.
I got E.A. Thompson's _Patrick_ because it was billed as a book for those interested without Latin. Unfortunately, it did little to sate my curiosity about the man.
This has much to do with the state of "Patricology" as a field. In the 1960's, D.A. Binchy delivered a lecture that convincingly showed that all the secondary sources on St. Patrick were untrustworthy guides to the actual man. This left "Patricologists" with Patrick's two writings, comparative anthropology and archeology to work with.
With so little to go on, Thompson approaches his subject with what amounts to a passage by passage exegesis of _The Confessions_ and _Letter to the Soldiers of Coroticus_. The only assumption that Thompson sticks with throughout his book is that Patrick was an awful composer of Latin. Fair enough, after all Patrick confesses the want himself, but you can see how it leaves Thompson room to lean this way or that without much justification. When it's convenient, Patrick is just incomprehensible; other times he "must" have meant x.
Most startling, the exegesis rarely tries to fit the Biblical allusions -- of which Patrick's writings are rife -- into the senses Thompson argues for even though they would seem to be the most obvious clues. Thompson appears to dismiss the great majority of them as a literary convention of the times.
Thompson doesn't even back up his other interpretations consistently by referencing the audience Thompson deduces for each work. This at times leads him to contradictory outcomes.
Also, having read a translation of Patrick's works I wouldn't have guessed that he was such an awful writer. Perhaps his Latin grammar fell way short, but the sense generally seems to come right through, in translation anyway. If Thompson means that Patrick's grammar was off, that would really not mean much vis-a-vis his skill as a writer given that grammar is only a tool for conveying meaning. If you can do so without it, you don't need it. The read also begs the question: how is it that such a miserable piece of prose managed to survive 1500 years when nearly nothing else did? This is especially surprising if, as Thompson argues, Patrick's contemporaries didn't think of him as that much of an august personage. In any case, Thompson does not address this question.
I gave this book three stars because it is plainly written and easy to follow. (Although there are many places where Thompson appears to be addressing his colleagues more than the general reader.) I think you could glean an idea of Patrick and his times by reading E.A.'s book. At times it can be pretty funny, although a tad twee.
Thompson recommends for further reading _The Life and Writings of the Historical St. Patrick_ by R.P.C. Hanson, a layman's version of _St. Patrick: His Origins & Career_, which was published in 1968 and as of 1985 was "likely to hold the field for many a year." I haven't read it so I can't vouch for this. Although it's outdated, I would recommend over Thompson the narrative section of Bury's _The Life of St. Patrick and His Place in Hisory_ for beginners interested in him.
Note: No endnotes, all extra commentary in footnotes. His bibliography doesn't indicate which publications would be good for the Latinless reader. It appears to be addressed to the specialist.
For the 'man in the street', like myself unable to confront the Latin texts, this is a magical account, written with understated authority and un-academic fluency - but, to my mind, with convincing authority, not to mention mercurial wit. I've read it twice.