In this essay it is my intention to examine the theme of moral living within the Old Testament and the Celtic Church. Morality refers to ethical issues. It is the quality of being in accord with standards of right or good conduct. It is a system of ideas of right and wrong conduct. There are two interlinked themes of religious morality and social morality under moral living. The foundation of moral living within the Old Testament is the Sinai Covenant. Whereas, the basis of morality in Celtic Church is Saint Patrick; his moral base was always routed in his scriptural beliefs.
Moses, for example, made a covenant with Yahweh on Mount Sinai, the principles from which are the foundation for the Judah Christian faith today, where he received the Ethical Decalogue (10 Commandments). As Drane states, “the commands were essentially moral requirements. Honesty, truth and justice were more important to Yahweh than the performance of religious rites.” Love of God and Love of Neighbour were the two commandments at the core of the Ethical Decalogue. The first three commandments central religious morality however, the last seven focus on Love of Neighbour and Social Morality. Winward states, “no man could be in a right relationship with God who was not in a right relationship with his fellow men.” The people of Israel had an obligation as the chosen people to obey the Ethical Decalogue.
Abraham was called by God to give up his polytheistic ways. God promised Abraham that he would never give up on him. As Heinsch states, “he had to journey to a foreign land alone trusting in God’s guidance.” If Abraham fulfilled this request God promised him three things, Great Nation, Land (which was Canaan) and Protection. At this time, Abraham worshipped the popular moon god, “sin” and was to break with idolatry and become monotheistic. Epstein stated that, “Abraham turned to the service of the one and only God whom he recognised as the creator of heaven and earth.” Abraham’s love of the one true God and his change from idolatry reflects similarities with Saint Patrick.
Patrick arrived in Ireland to a pagan country. The people of Ireland were idolaters in that they worshipped as many as 400 gods, with the main god being the Dagda (the father). The Celts held such things as the sun, trees, groves, water and birds to be sacred. Joyce states that they had the tendency to “find the divine in all of created nature.” Patrick brought Christianity to Ireland to transform the pagan people to monotheism. He wanted them to worship and love the one true God. Patrick adopted pagan practice to Christian tradition, for example, he changed the worship of the “sun” to the “son.” Patrick wanted the people to become monks and virgins for Christ. He advocated that true worship of God required to be newly baptised (converted from paganism to Christianity.) Patrick wanted the people to convert freely; they were never forced as the decision to become a Christian had to come from the heart.
When Patrick left a place he made sure he left a building (church) to be used for communal worship. Like the Old Testament prophets, Patrick expected his ordained to be good role models to the people. Unfortunately in the Old Testament the religious leaders did not always do this. Ezekiel, for example, was to inform the people that God was going to hold the religious leaders responsible as they had led the people astray instead of encouraging them to worship only Yahweh. God told Ezekiel to prophesy to the leaders, “shepherds have been feeding themselves, should not, you the shepherds feed the sheep.” In tandem with this, the prophet Elijah also had to deal with the people of Israel’s idolatry. He was aware that there was a lack of steadfast love due to the people worshipping both Yahweh and Baal (god of fertility.)
Elijah challenged the people about this saying, “how long will you go limping with two different opinions?” The people needed to stop worshipping both Yahweh and Baal and were to only worship the one true God, Yahweh. Elijah had little sympathy for the people worshipping both Gods. He challenged King Ahab to a contest on Mount Carmel between Yahweh and Baal to determine who the true God is. Elijah had a great victory as Yahweh won, usually this would be celebrated but instead, Elijah went to Mount Horeb as he knew the people’s change of heart of Yahweh as the one true God was temporary and this was not good enough. True love of God was required. In line with this, Patrick also challenged the pagan people’s ways through their worship of Dagda and Lugh. It took a long time for the pagan people to convert to truly worshipping one God. Paganism continued to exist alongside early Christianity 100 years after Patrick.
Amos spoke out about social injustices, he stated, “let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.” Amos spoke about respect for marriage, something which King David lacked. He had an affair with Bathsheba and committed the sins of lust, adultery and murder. He was punished for this as Yahweh was to “raise up evil against you out of your own house.” David’s son died as a result of his sins. Similarly, Patrick also showed a respect for life.
He spoke out about injustices such as slavery and condemnation of wealth in his letter to Coroticus. Patrick respected women and this was reflected in the Letter to Coroticus. In L19 Patrick expresses his concern for women. The women were taken as captives, to be distributed “as prizes.” Patrick makes it clear that the fate of Coroticus and his men is to be “lorded over” for all eternity by those whom they regarded to be “barbarian Irish.” In L4, Patrick also speaks up against murder and slavery – he grieves for those captured and killed and calls the perpetrators themselves “captives of Satan” the punishment met out to them will be “external life in hell.”
To conclude, Christianity is now one of the leading world religions and therefore the mission of both the prophets and Patrick was successful. There will always be a call for people to repent and convert to Christianity with a return to a moral life.
Courtney from Study Moose
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