Redux: Will you be my Martyr – I mean, Valentine?

Oh, Valentine’s Day. What a strangely weird and wonderful day.

February 14th can elicit emotions of love, desire and excitement.
It can also be a day of promoting the singularities, the individuals and the angst of several million people, decrying the evils of Hallmarkian holidays.

The first riot outside the Hallmark headquarters, circa 1513.

But what do we know about the origins of this holiday?
Sure, Hallmark executives have several houses in Aruba because of this “holiday,” but where did we get this day of love?
From a martyr. That’s touching.

Valentine’s Day is most accurately attributed to a particular saint who was martyred.
The exact saint is a bit harder to narrow down.
Doing some research, three blips on the radar pop up:
1) Valentine of Rome
2) Valentine of Terni
3) Some random Valentine who might have died in Africa (but nothing else is known about him).

Most of this is irrelevant, however, as by the 14th century, the distinction between Valentine of Rome and Valentine of Terni was probably lost. In their original context, there were no romantic elements associated with the Valentines.

He was definitely popular with the ladies.

We don’t actually know how he (they?) died. Just that they were martyrs.
For the sake of subject-verb agreement, I’ll only talk about one Valentine from here on out.
Valentine has some fun legends associated with his death, though.
The best one is this:

“The Early Medieval acta of either Saint Valentine were expounded briefly in Legenda Aurea. According to that version, St. Valentine was persecuted as a Christian and interrogated by Roman Emperor Claudius II in person. Claudius was impressed by Valentine and had a discussion with him, attempting to get him to convert to Roman paganism in order to save his life. Valentine refused and tried to convert Claudius to Christianity instead. Because of this, he was executed. Before his execution, he is reported to have performed a miracle by healing the blind daughter of his jailer.”

What a guy. He tried to convert the emperor to Christianity and BOOM! Instamartyr.

“What’d you do?” “I tried to convert the Emperor to Christianity.” “Classic Valentine.”

He didn’t even get a church named after him.
It gets better: in 496 AD, Pope Gelasius I establishes the day on the General Roman Calendar as “Valentine’s Day,” a day of remembrance for the martyred saint. But then in 1969 Pope Paul VI removes it from the calendar.
Why? “Though the memorial of Saint Valentine is ancient, it is left to particular calendars, since, apart from his name, nothing is known of Saint Valentine except that he was buried on the Via Flaminia on February 14.”

Enter Geoffrey Chaucer.
If it weren’t for him, Valentine’s Day would have remained a feast on the Roman calendar, with no hearts or chocolate or candy or cards or perfume or anything like that.
Chaucer was a poet (and he know’d it). His first work to feature a reference to “Valentine” was Parlement of Foules (1382):

For this was on seynt Volantynys day
Whan euery bryd comyth there to chese his make

Stirring, isn’t it? If you can read it. (Here’s the translation for those who can’t quite make sense of it: “For this was Saint Valentine’s Day, when every bird cometh there to choose his mate.”)
Here’s the thing that floors me – readers have made uninformed assumptions that “Volantynys day” refers to February 14th. However, if you actually read the text, this is probably untrue. What birds do you know find their mates in mid-February?
“Henry Ansgar Kelly has pointed out that Chaucer could be referring to May 2, the celebration in the liturgical calendar of Valentine of Genoa, an early bishop of Genoa who died around AD 307.” (Kelly, Henry Ansgar, Chaucer and the Cult of Saint Valentine [Brill Academic Publishers, 1997])

By the High Middle Ages (11th-13th centuries) and even as late as the 1700s, Valentine’s Day had become part of the “courtly love” tradition, picked up by such names as John Donne and William Shakespeare (in Hamlet when Ophelia says “To-morrow is Saint Valentine’s day…”).
From there, we catapult to late 19th century where we see the advent of handwritten “valentines” which were given to people as presents and mementos of love.
And then there’s Hallmark. I think you can pick it up from there.

Why did I tell you all this?
Am I trying to ruin your day of love and affection?
No. Well, maybe.
Wait. No. My wife is probably reading this so I officially have to say “No.”

I tell you this because this holiday is based on a guy who was martyred for some unknown reason, canonized by the Roman Catholic Church into a saint, and then picked up by (with somewhat wrongful assumption) by readers of Chaucer, who then paved the way for the 15th century courtly love tradition, which then gave way to modern holidays, consumerism and mass chocolate production.

So, Happy Valentine’s Day!


Grammarians of the World, Unite!

Language is a dynamic expression of an organism.
It “can be defined as verbal, physical, biologically innate, and a basic form of communication.”
In short, it is how we live. If we didn’t communicate, we would probably cease to live.
Sure, we could live for a while. You can manage to bring down wild game without speaking or even coordinating with someone else.
But our society – our wold – cannot function without communication.
Of the brothers and sisters of language, we in the West are children of Potentate English – ruthless and domineering.
Yet this titan has a weakness: its speakers.
Particular emphasis on the Internet.
Almost complete emphasis on the Internet.
Actually, let’s just blame the Internet.

This is all your fault.

Internet and texting are the floodwaters that have begun to erode away the foundations of our already convoluted language.
Like the bursting of a dam, the increase of technology (coupled with the horrendously low reading capability of people in general) has produced something of epic proportions: the exile of grammar.
We live in an age where correction to language is seen as “nazi-ish” or “pointless.”
Grammar is pointless?

Grammar saves lives.
Doubt me? Think again.

Proof that commas do something.

We need to do away with the notion that grammar is “stupid” or “pointless.”
Difficulty does not mean we should shy away from trying; with regard to language, we should strive our best to communicate well.

Now, I don’t mean that you should completely reform your speaking/writing.
I have many bad practices that are tolerable at even the academic level.
What I’m talking about are basic rules that help everyone understand what you really mean.

Let’s go through some examples.

Your/You’re: Not hard. Not hard at all. “Your” is possessive. “Your grammar is worse than Justin Bieber’s music.”
“You’re” is a contraction, meaning two words have been combined via the almighty apostrophe. “You’re too lazy to use spell check.”

“There” is a child with many parents (at this stage of English). Commonly, it is used as a (bad) way to begin sentences. Traditionally, its function is locative, telling us where something (or someone is). “I think you dropped your brain over there.”
“Their” is a brother to “your,” meaning its possessive in usage, differing in person and number. “Their grammar was so bad that they were kicked out of school.”
“They’re” is a contraction. “They’re listening to dubstep. Yeah, I don’t understand it, either.”

Words like “truely” or “dyeing”:
What should be spelled as “truly” or “dying” often find themselves with an extra vowel. It’s typically one that was present prior to converting the word to an adverb/participle/whatever. In the case of “dyeing,” we have the problem of confusing two actual words.
You are not “dyeing” if you are drowning.
Consequently, you also are not “dying” your shirt blue. If you are, I’m turning you in for cilicide (“shirt killing”).

Duck/Duct Tape:
This is a simple mishearing that’s snowballed over time into a full blown brandname for what was once called “duct” tape.
Also, to be fair to our lazy speakers, “duct” (pronounced correctly) takes far, far more effort say than just a simple “-ck” sound. While we’re on the lazy train, we should let on the naïve people, too. Some people might not know what a “duct” is.
If this you, this isn’t a dig against you personally. I’m just highlighting the fact that languages do weird, funky things through time. Go, go humanistic dynamism!
I’ve never seen “Duck” tape, but I imagine there’s a use for it.

Why am I surprised?

Negative form of “regardless.”
Yet “regardless” is already negating what was just written/spoken/posited. “Regardless of what you think, I’m far more more awesome than Justin Bieber.”
It does not make sense to add a negative prefix “i-” to make it more negative.
In fact, a double negative is a positive. That means “irregardless” is the opposite of “regardless.”

There are many, many more I could go through. But you’re bored. I can tell.
So, I’ll end it here. (But I’ll add some if I find particularly funny errors.)

Well, one last one.
Do not end a sentence with a preposition. Just don’t do it. Ever.


Redux: *Gasp!* “Heretic!”

The word “heretic” gets thrown around a lot in our world today. Christians joke about semi-sacrilegious things and then point accusingly (in jest), “Heretic!” However, I don’t think we as the Church or we as a culture understand the words “heresy” or “heretic.”

This means you all get a Greek lesson from the Greek Geek himself!
(Note: I will be using the actual Greek, so if you’d like to see the characters, you may need to peruse the Internet to find a Greek font to install into your Font book/system.)

Heretic comes from the word, “αἱρετικός” – which means:

1. fitted or able to take or choose a thing
2. schismatic, factious, a follower of a false doctrine
3. heretic
(The last one may seem a bit obvious, but remember we’re taking Greek into English.)

Interestingly enough, the only verse this particular word occurs in is Titus 3:10.
In the NRSV – “After a first and second admonition, have nothing more to do with anyone who causes divisions,”
In the ESV – “As for a person who stirs up division, after warning him once and then twice, have nothing more to do with him,”

It’s only in the KJV that we actually find the word “heretic” being used. I suspect this is a political correctness coming about through the later translations of NRSV, ESV, etc. Yet we have this idea of “causing division.” Certainly this is true of someone who chooses what is deemed heresy. Yet that doesn’t quite explain the meaning of the word.

αἱρετικός is a noun; αἱρετίζω is the verb form – “to choose, to belong to a sect.”
To choose. Ready for the twist that may hurt your brain?
Look up Matthew 12:18.
If you know that passage, you must be thinking, “Why on earth are you referencing Jesus’ baptism?!?” *grin*
When God the Father says, “Behold, my servant whom I have chosen…” – guess what word is used?
If you guessed αἱρετίζω, you’re right! “ᾑρέτισα” is the form of “heresy” used there. (It’s an 1st person, Singular, Aorist, Active, Indicative for all you Greek scholars out there.)
So, we have an example of a human choosing in Titus 3:10, which causes division. But then in Matthew 12:18, we have God choosing Christ, which has brought “eternal life” (Jn. 3:16). Humans tend to mess up what God can do rightly (and justly).

Heresy is about choosing what one wants to do, rather than what one ought to do. I realize this opens the can o’ worms by talking about the authority of Scripture and doctrine. And for the sake of space and sanity (in this article), I will refrain from touching on it. But, keeping the authoritative questions in mind, it helped me (and hopefully helps you) see what is so destructive and divisive about being a “heretic.”

I’m reminded of Isaiah 55:9:

For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.

We often choose our own paths, our own clothes, our own career paths. We decide when we wake and when we sleep, who we marry, and what we will eat. Our culture screams at us to be our own person. There is some value to that, for there isn’t much value in being a mindless cow in a herd running off a cliff. But in regard to belief and practice of Christianity, individuality has the potential energy to be entirely bad.

Please do not hear me say that being an individual is wrong. We are all children of God, and we are only ONE child per person.
We have our own particular needs, and we have particular desires and passions that are God-given.
But when we begin to “strike out on our own” into territory that hasn’t been blazed, I think we should be careful of our choices.
As with everything, we have to live by prayer and the guidance of the Spirit.
Let God be the chooser, and we be the followers. I think we forget we’re followers first, and then leaders second.

Redux: Crucifixion from a Dr.’s Perspective

As I rolled around the internet (as I often like to do), I came across this insightful and informative post by a doctor concerning the science surrounding crucifixion – namely the crucifixion of Jesus Christ.

If you’ve never really thought about what happened on that day (or if you think what happened was a hoax), check out some “behind the scenes” information from Dr. C. Truman David.


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