Monday, March 12, 2012

The Book of the Three Dwelling-Places, Chapter 1

In honor of Saint Patrick's Day this year, I thought I would post a short book by Saint Patrick, which I translated from Latin into English.


The Book of the Three Dwelling-Places


The Joy of the Elect and Punishment of the Damned

By Saint Patrick

Chapter One.
About the three dwelling-places: the Kingdom of God, Earth, and Hell. The Kingdom of God is good and Hell is bad.

There are three dwelling-places under the power of God: the highest, the lowest, and the middle. Of them, the highest is called the kingdom of God or the kingdom of heaven, the lowest is named hell, and the middle is said to be the present world or the planet earth. The two extremes are completely contrary to each other, and they have nothing in common. For what partnership can light have with darkness, or how can Christ and the Devil agree (2 Corinthians 6:14, 15)? However, the middle has many similarities with both extremes. This is where light and darkness live, cold and warmth, sickness and health, rejoicing and grieving, hate and love, good and bad, just and unjust, masters and slaves, king and subject, famine and abundance, life and death, and countless others of this sort. In all of them, one side bears the likeness of Heaven, and the other side has the image of Hell. For in this world there is a mixture of bad people and good people; however, in Heaven, there are no bad people, but all are good, and in Hell, no one is good, but all are bad. For both places are filled with people from this world; some are raised to Heaven and others are dragged down to Hell. Of course, the like are joined to the like, that is, the good with the good and the bad with the bad; just men are joined to just angels, and transgressor men to transgressor angels, the servants of God are joined to God, and the servants of the devil are joined to the devil. The blessed are called to the kingdom that has been prepared for them from the start of the world, and the wicked are cast into the eternal fire, which has been prepared for the devil and his angels (Matthew 25:34, 41).

However good the kingdom of Heaven is said to be, no one clothed in flesh is able to know or understand what it is like, for the things there are much better and greater than what is thought of or understood. For this reason, Scripture says, "Eye has not seen, and ear has not heard, nor has it what on the heart of man, what God has prepared for those who love him" (1 Corinthians 2:9). Therefore, the kingdom of God is greater than all the reports, better than all praise, more immense than all knowledge, and more excellent than the glory which is believed. And likewise, no one is able to know or understand the evils of Hell, what they are like; surely they are exceedingly worse than what is thought. And so, the kingdom of God is full of light, and peace, and charity, and wisdom, and glory, and honesty, and sweetness, and love, and melodies, and joy, and eternal blessedness, and all the ineffable good, which no one is able to say or to think. And the place of Hell is full of darkness, disorder, hate, foolishness, misery, foulness, bitterness, offenses, grief, burning, thirst, inextinguishable fire, sadness, eternal punishment, and all the ineffable bad, which no one is able to say or to think. The citizens of heaven are the just men and angels; the all-powerful God is their king. And oppositely, the citizens of Hell are wicked men and demons; the devil is their leader. The sight of all the saints and angels satisfies the just, and the vision of God satisfies above all these. The sight of all the damned men and demons torments the impious and sinners, and the sight of the devil torments them above all these. In the kingdom of God, nothing that is desired goes unfound; and in Hell, nothing that is found is desired. In the kingdom of God, nothing is found unless it pleases, and delights, and satisfies; on the other hand, in the pit, nothing is seen but eternal misery, and nothing is felt unless it displeases, unless it offends, and unless it causes pain. (In the eternal kingdom there will be life without death, truth without error, happiness without disturbance). All good, and no evil, abounds in the kingdom of God; all bad, and no good, abounds in the prison of the devil. No unworthy person is taken up into the kingdom of God; no truly worthy person, no just man, is dragged down to Hell.


Textual Notes:

This work is sometimes attributed to Saint Augustine, in addition to Saint Patrick. Some people believe it was written by a different Irish Bishop, who was also named Patrick, although he lived some 600 years after the more famous Saint Patrick.

1) In the list of the attributes of Hell, some manuscripts have the word fetoris ("stench" or "foul smell") where the word adustionis ("burning") appears. It is uncertain which word was in the original, and an argument can be made for either one. "Burning", of course, fits perfectly well into a list of the attributes of Hell. The image of fire to represent Hell appears multiple times in the Bible, such as in the parable of Lazarus and the Rich Man (Luke 16:19-31), or the parable of the weeds and the wheat (Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43), or the description of Satan's punishment (Revelation 20:10). This work goes on to describe the fires of Hell in greater detail.

However, you could also argue that the author clearly intends to contrast Heaven and Hell. This is why there are many direct opposites on the list of Heaven's attributes and the list of Hell's attributes. Heaven has "light, and peace, and love, and wisdom", whereas Hell has "darkness, and discord, and hate, and foolishness". It seems out of place to use the word "burning" in a list of direct opposites, because "burning" has no clear opposite. "Stench" fits better in this list, because the stenches of Hell can be contrasted with the sweet-smelling incense of Heaven. Revelation 8:3-5 tells of the angels in Heaven burning incense before the altar of God.

2) The sentence "In the eternal kingdom there will be life without death, truth without error, happiness without disturbance", which is set in parenthesis, is possibly a later addition. It does not fit in well with the other sentences in this section, and it is missing in the manuscripts that say Saint Augustine is the author of this work.


Anonymous said...


Lori said...

Thanks for posting these. I have really ejoyed them. They are so biblical & really communicated very well. This last one is neat because I lost my Dad a year ago,(I am an adult in my 40's) and it was a nice reminder of all he is enjoying in heaven as a believer of Jesus Christ. Also the references to hell are a vivid reminder of what those around me in life will suffer after death if I fail to share the news of salvation through our Lord with them.