St. Patrick and the Sabbath

By Curtis Rittenour
Posted March 17, 2013

More than 1,500 years of moss has grown over the saga of a famous British Christian missionary to the Emerald Island.

Maewyn Succat was born around AD 387 and, at the age of 16, was captured from his home and transported as a slave to Ireland. After escaping and returning home, he felt a call to return to his land of bondage to preach the gospel. He supposedly died on March 17, 492 (or 460), and St. Patrick’s Day is now observed by many as the date of his death.


Mixing Myth and Truth

Since his demise, this ancient cleric has grown beyond his land of service in numerous ways. Though only two authentic letters survive him, hagiographies (biographies of saints) were written mixing myth and truth and growing him into a Goliath of Celtic history. In 1942, T. F. O’Rahilly’s “Two Patricks” theory shook much dust off the legends and associated more of the stories with a later bishop named Palladius.

Culture more than Christianity has shaped the celebration of St. Patrick’s Day as most people in America know it today. 

Actually, for a period of time, the sober Irish who closed their bars and reverently refrained from drinking and partying observed their “cousins” in the United States enjoying the day with parades, shamrocks, and green beer and finally loosened up to give better “honor” to their patron saint. 


No Leprechauns

One Irish writer wrote of the latest celebration of March 17:

“Today, St. Patrick's Day, there are no leprechauns standing guard in Ireland. But the Irish in Ireland are celebratory. There is plenty of green -- shamrocks, greeting cards and even beer. The patron saint will look down today with pleasure at all the fuss that is finally being made of him in Ireland.” [1]

There is another folktale that surrounds a celebration in the world of Christianity that has grown over the centuries until people confuse tales with truth. Millions worship each Sunday, the first day of the week, in churches and cathedrals around the world without giving a second thought to God’s original statement, “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord your God” (Exodus 20:8-10, emphasis supplied).


Was God's law and the Sabbath changed?


Historical Context

History gives testimony that a decided change took place during the time of Constantine in the fourth century. This sun worshipper supposedly was converted to Christianity and, in an effort to melt a pagan culture into followers of God, established an edict in AD 321. Over succeeding centuries other civil and religious leaders stacked more laws on top of the Sabbath to encourage Sunday observance.

Today most people “celebrate” Sunday as a day of worship and rest without even knowing the true foundations in Scripture for God’s true Sabbath. Culture and tradition have gathered so much dust on top of the fourth commandment that it obscures truth. Like many who innocently celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, it has become less a day to remember a missionary to Ireland and more to uphold national pride.


St. Patrick was a Seventh-day Sabbath-Keeper

Which leads us to a final point on the life of Patrick of Ireland: St. Patrick worshipped God on the seventh-day Sabbath. In fact, it was the custom of early Celtic churches in Ireland, as well as Scotland, to keep Saturday as a day of rest according to the fourth commandment. (See Moffat, The Church in Scotland, p. 140 and Skene, Celtic Scotland, Vol. II, p. 349.) So before donning green-colored glasses each March, it might be well for us to scrape the moss of mythology off our history—both civil and religious—and consider the facts for ourselves.


The Sabbath Infographic

The Sabbath Infographic

Curtis Rittenour
Curtis J. Rittenour is the senior writer at Amazing Facts International. He pastored for 25 years and has authored books, magazine articles, blogs, and seminars.
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