St. Valentine, Cupid and Jesus Christ



On February 14 millions of people exchange tokens and messages of love and affection. Where and how did the curious customs of Valentine's Day begin? Does God have anything to say about such practices? 

St. Valentine, Cupid and Jesus Christ
Many Valentine’s Day customs can be traced back to pagan practices associated wth the Roman and Greek deities Cupid and Eros.

Source: 123RF

Every year in mid-February millions of people express romantic desire for each other by exchanging heart-shaped boxes of chocolate, flowers and "valentines." Children reveal hidden infatuations by sending a card as a "secret admirer." Retailers stock their shelves with merchandise covered in stylized hearts and Cupids now common on Valentine's Day.

Of course, this is nothing new. The custom of sending valentine cards actually became popular in the 1700s. Then in the early 1800s commercial valentines appeared, and soon there was no end to how entrepreneurs could make money from the holiday. Valentine's Day became so popular in the United States that one 1863 periodical claimed it was second in celebration only to Christmas.

Today, Valentine's Day is as popular as ever with children and couples. It's definitely one of the biggest moneymaking days for florists, candy makers and gift shops.

But just where did the curious customs of this day come from? What is the origin of the holiday itself? And what should the Christian perspective of this holiday be, according to the Bible?

A martyred saint?

Valentine's Day supposedly acquired its name from a Catholic saint, although exactly who he was is a matter of debate. The two most famous candidates were a priest in Rome and a bishop in central Italy, both of whom suffered martyrdom in the last half of the third century.

Robert Myers, in Celebrations: The Complete Book of American Holidays, records the story this way:

"Everyone knows that St. Valentine's Day is that day of the year when friends and lovers express affection for one another, through cards, candy and flowers, whatever means the imagination can find. But no one is quite certain who this St. Valentine was—or, more appropriately, who these Valentines were. The early lists of church martyrs reveal at least three Valentines, and one source boosted this number to an unwieldy eight, each of whom had his feast day on February 14.

"The various Valentines eventually evolved into one. Lover's quarrels come under his jurisdiction and, naturally, he is the patron saint of engaged couples and of anyone wishing to marry" (with the editors of Hallmark Cards, 1972, pp. 48-49).

Some have claimed that he is associated with love because he secretly performed Christian weddings during Roman persecution. Of course, all Christian ceremonies and gatherings were done in secret at the time, so this would not have been unusual for any Christian leader. Valentine's particular association with love is therefore far more likely due to other reasons.

Birds and lovers in the Middle Ages

During the Middle Ages, Valentine's Day became increasingly popular in Europe. February 14 was significant not only for its religious meaning, but because it was widely believed that birds begin to mate on this date. Geoffrey Chaucer in the 1300s mentioned the mating of birds on Valentine's Day in his poem "Parliament of Foules."

"English literature, following Chaucer, contains frequent references to February 14 as sacred to lovers. Shakespeare, [as well as another poet writing around 1600, Michael] Drayton, and [poet and dramatist of the 1700s John] Gay are among those who mention it in this connection, and the diarist [of the 1600s] Samuel Pepys several times discusses the day and its related customs.

"The Paston Letters, covering the period from 1422 to 1509, contain a letter by Dame Elizabeth Brews to John Paston, with whom she hoped to arrange a match for her daughter, which runs this way: 'And cousin mine, upon Monday is St. Valentine's day and every bird chooseth himself a mate'" (Jane Hatch, The American Book of Days, 1978, p. 178).

It is true that various birds are involved in courtship and mate selection around this time of year, but it is not specific to the date of Feb. 14.

What was specific to Feb. 13 through 15 on the Roman calendar was the pagan festival of Lupercalia.

Pre-Christian origins of Valentine's Day

The obvious fact is that the origins of Valentine's Day predate Christianity. As Myers states: "The most plausible theory for St. Valentine's Day traces its customs back to the Roman Lupercalia, a feast celebrated in February in honor of the pastoral god Lupercus, a Roman version of the Greek god Pan. The festival was an important one for the Romans and, occurring when it did, naturally had some aspects of a rebirth rite to it" (pp. 50-51).

The original festival is founded in the ancient legend of Romulus and Remus, the traditional founders of Rome. The story says the two brothers were abandoned as infants but were then discovered and nursed by a she-wolf, or lupa in Latin—the cave where this supposedly happened, at the base of Rome's Palatine Hill, becoming known as the Lupercal.

The Lupercalia festival was celebrated in honor of a number of pastoral deities. It combined the idea of cleansing before spring renewal with the promotion of sexual fertility and reproduction, a prevalent theme throughout pagan religion. Young men dressed in the skins of sacrificed goats would run from the Lupercal cave brandishing strips of goat skin as whips. Any women slapped by these were assured fertility and ease in childbirth.

"These thongs [hide strips] were called Februa [from februum, meaning "cleansing" or "purification"], the festival Februatio, and the day Dies Februetus, hence arose the name of the month February, the last of the old Roman year" ( The Encyclopaedia Britannica, Vol. 15, 9th edition, "Lupercalia").

Over the years many customs were added to the celebration—including the origin of drawing out valentines. "In honor of the goddess Juno, the names of young women were put into a box," Myers states. "Youths then drew the names and the boys and girls so matched would be considered partners for a year" (p. 50).

Lupercalia and Christianity

As Christianity spread throughout the Roman Empire, it was common for pagan converts to retain their earlier religious customs and practices. Edward Gibbon, in his classic work The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, states: "After the conversion of the Imperial city, the Christians still continued, in the month of February, the annual celebration of the Lupercalia; to which they ascribed a secret and mysterious influence on the genial [generative or reproductive] powers of the animal and vegetable world" (chap. 36).

Pope Gelasius is said to have eradicated Lupercalia from Christian observance in the last decade of the fifth century. But in reality, the intermingling of paganism and Christianity had become inseparable in much of the Western world. Saturnalia and Mithraism were incorporated into the church through claiming a December birth date for Jesus Christ. Various spring fertility rites merged to form the basis of Easter celebrations. Lupercalia evolved into the observance of St. Valentine's Day.

Myers comments: "Everywhere that Christians came into power they immediately adapted the holidays and customs of the people to their own creed. Now it was a simple matter to call the day that this drawing [for amorous pairing mentioned earlier] took place St. Valentine's Day . . .

"To Christianize the heathen practice of picking lots for sweethearts, all that was needed was to replace the names of the girls with names of saints and to have the young people emulate the particular virtues of whatever saint they drew. Incidentally, this custom is not dead today and is still observed in some religious orders.

"It was always more fun, of course, to pick a girl's rather than a saint's name. Consequently, by at least the fourteenth century the custom had reverted to its original form" (pp. 50-51).

Roman gods and Christian saints

But how could a day honoring pagan gods become associated with Christian saints?

The ancient Romans worshiped gods and goddesses involved with every aspect of life. Jupiter, the chief of the gods, was the god of rain and storms, while his wife, Juno, was the goddess of womanhood. Minerva was the goddess of handicrafts and wisdom; Venus, of sexual love and birth; Vesta, of the hearth and sacred fires; Ceres, of farming and harvests.

The Greeks considered Mercury, whom they called Hermes, to be the messenger of the gods, but the Romans worshiped him as the god of trade, with businesspeople celebrating his feast day to increase profits. And there were other popular deities: Mars, god of war; Castor and Pollux, gods of sea travelers; Cronos, the guardian of time; and of course Cupid, god of love, whose magic arrows caused both human beings and immortals to fall in love. The list goes on and on.

While the Romans would call generically on "the gods," each major deity still had its own cult, and worshippers would pray and conduct religious ceremonies to a specific god or goddess to implore help. Christianity, with its emphasis on one God, was viewed by many Romans as a strange superstition or even a kind of atheism that denied the "gods."

Sadly, a large part of Christianity in the Roman Empire became corrupted. In attempting to retain new converts from paganism and bring in more, devotion to all the various gods was at length replaced by devotion to "saints."

Yet it should be realized that all members of the early Christian Church were regarded as saints, meaning people sanctified or set apart to God. Paul greets the church at Philippi as "all the saints in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 1:1). However, it wasn't long before "saints" in the Roman tradition began to take on the meaning of a special class of martyrs or performers of heroic virtue.

In the second and third centuries it became common for local congregations to honor the death of a martyr by celebrating the anniversary of his or her demise. The congregations, by this time having accepted the pagan Greek falsehood of the immortality of the soul and having lost the biblical understanding that those dead in their graves "know nothing" (Ecclesiastes:9:5, 10), would then offer prayers to the dead for intercession with God.

Thus the meaning of "saint" changed from the biblical use of the word to refer to any member of the Church to referring to a deceased person declared to be a saint by the bishop of Rome or the Pope on the basis of miracles the person had supposedly performed on behalf of others after death.

The evolution from the early Church's recognition of all members being "saints" to the veneration and worship of the dead is rooted in the early mixture of paganism with Christianity. The populace throughout the Roman Empire was not only accustomed to the worship of the Greek and Roman pantheon, but to cultic worship of local deities. It was an easy step for Christian congregations rife with paganism to replace the customs of local cults with the worship of dead martyrs.

Over the centuries the Catholic church canonized saints for any number of events, problems, illnesses and occupations, each celebrated with his or her own feast day. And the saints took over the spheres of responsibility previously attributed to the various pagan gods. St. Stephen is the patron saint of stonemasons; doctors are to pray to St. Luke, fishermen to St. Andrew and carpenters to St. Joseph. There are patron saints for farmers, hunters, shoemakers and even comedians. And then there is the patron saint of love and romance, St. Valentine.

Some researchers have even suggested that the original Valentine was not a martyred Christian leader at all. Rather, they see in the name Valentine, meaning "worthy, strong or powerful one," a reference to a deified hero or a Roman god, perhaps even Cupid.

While eventually portrayed as a harmless baby, the original Cupid, called Eros by the Greeks, was envisioned as a strong, athletic youth armed with bow and arrow—a mighty hunter. And this image of the mighty hunter may well go way back to the traditional founder of pagan religion following Noah's Flood, "Nimrod the mighty hunter before the Lord" (Genesis:10:9).

The danger in a "harmless" holiday

But really, what harm can there be in the celebration of lovers in the name of St. Valentine? After all, what does it matter that some of the day's customs stem from pagan rites?

God warned ancient Israel, the people He chose to represent true religion, not to mix pagan customs with worshipping Him as the one true God: "When the Lord your God cuts off from before you the nations which you go to dispossess, and you displace them and dwell in their land, take heed to yourself that you are not ensnared to follow them, after they are destroyed from before you, and that you do not inquire after their gods, saying, 'How did these nations serve their gods? I also will do likewise.' You shall not worship the Lord your God in that way; for every abomination to the Lord which He hates they have done to their gods" (Deuteronomy:12:29-31).

In the New Testament, Paul compares mixing paganism with Christianity to worshipping demons: "What am I saying then? That an idol is anything, or what is offered to idols is anything? Rather, that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice they sacrifice to demons and not to God, and I do not want you to have fellowship with demons. You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cups of demons; you cannot partake of the Lord's table and of the table of demons" (1 Corinthians:10:19-21).

Holidays like St. Valentine's Day continually secularize into icons of Western culture, creating a caricature of religion. Most people couldn't care less if its origins are in the Roman Lupercalia or early church doctrines that that had nothing to do with the Bible. It's this very apathy about how to worship God, and the corresponding moral decay, that is the result of mixing Christianity with paganism.

Even some Christians who reject religious holidays with roots in paganism, like Christmas and Easter, see nothing wrong with holidays like Valentine's Day, New Year's Day and Halloween despite their pagan origin. The reasoning goes like this: Christmas and Easter must be rejected because they are attempts to worship God with pagan customs. The other holidays, however, while they might have once been used to worship God, are now deemed completely secular. And since what God actually forbids is using pagan customs to worship Him, we are free to practice pagan worship customs if they are not now used for worship.

Yet this ignores the fact that God told the Israelites to completely eradicate all vestiges of pagan worship from their presence, not merely from their worship of Him (see Deuteronomy:12:2-4). Moreover, our whole life is to be one of worshipping and honoring God in all we do. The things we participate in should be seen in the context of bringing glory to Him. This does not mean we can't have fun, for God wants us to enjoy life. But our fun is not to be independent of Him. All that we think, say and do should be to God's honor.

Jesus said that His followers would "worship the Father in spirit and truth" (John:4:23). The observance of Valentine's Day is just one of many traditions that must be rooted out of Christian lives if Christianity is to return to its true foundation laid by Jesus Christ. 


Marie Jooste

Marie Jooste's picture

I think it almost funny, almost. We in our greed for money has comercialised this so much I think the devil is lacking behind. Even school claiming christian values are holding valentines dances. Television is also promoting all the holidays for their own means. This goes for easter and christmas. Telling my children no even with a reason had created many a tantrum and even a rebellion. This is why the road to hell is depicted as a highway with people shoulder to shoulder and the one to Heaven a solitary uphill road. Leave the easy road. It may not seem so nice right now, but on the other end of the uphill road, you will look upon heaven.Its worth sacrificing the lure of the world.May God bless you




phil heaton

phil heaton's picture

It is not entirely surprising to learn how Satan has sown confusion within man's desire to accommodate the Scriptural doctrine - especially though not exclusively within the Roman Catholic Church. What is surprising is how many Christians upon learning of these deceits continue in the same ways.
God's Spirit enables us to recognise these subtleties and wiles of the Devil and thereby guard ourselves from this distraction from giving up our praise and worship to the Lord in the right manner.
We must all be conscious of our response to such events in order that we do not become like those Jesus warned of. Matthew 7:21-23 states, "Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity." A sobering thought...




Garry

Garry's picture

What does one do if their spouse has lost their way, and wants to celebrate these periods? It can put a great strain on a relationship, even after many years of marriage!




KARS

KARS's picture

A bad habit is hard to break. It takes the williness of the individual and the help of God's Holy Spirit to conquer the bad habit.




KARS

KARS's picture

Well Garry,
I am trying to figure out how to put this.

Now, I don't know your spouse but I have been here done that.

I left. Why? Well I was with WWCOG in CA years ago. Stayed until 1996 (Was baptised into another faith). Well,I didn't know the Bible when I arrived in 81. So for me I was a child learning for the first time. However, my spouse grow up in a Bible teaching church. He was converted very quickly and baptised. I in the other hand was raising our large family, doing a homemaker's duties, attending Sabbaths, Holy Days, etc as part of my life. Did I understand it all? No. But I did it anyway.Well, if you don't know what one example of double-minded is, it's following to different beliefs at the same time. What a mess!
Now here is what is important. If you decided to be mean about what is happening, it will take that much longer to bring her back. It actually will push her away. I was with the other group( Sunday)for about 11 years while attend with my spouse on the Sabbath.
Prayer, fasting, patience, asking God for discernment on how you can take a good look at yourself and find out what can you change about you first will be a big help. Let's face it. We all have negative additudes we carry that can drive our love ones away if we don't fix it with God's help. Yes we are fighting to keep the old man dead. Isn't it about time we were examining ourselves? Passover is just around the corner, are we ready?

I know it's hard to look at one's self in the mirror. But it has to be done to improve oneself for the better. Not only for self but for your family. This way you can become a more gentle person, but firm in righteous choices and deeds.

I do agree there should not be items of idol worship in your home and you are the man of the house but please for both your sakes. Go to God our Father and just like King David did in the Psalms; he asked the LORD to show him is secret sins. You just may find the answers to your problems on how to solve it with love. God's love.




KARS

KARS's picture

Well Garry,
I am trying to figure out how to put this.

Now, I don't know your spouse but I have been here done that.

I left. Why? Well I was with WWCOG in CA years ago. Stayed until 1996 (Was baptised into another faith). Well,I didn't know the Bible when I arrived in 81. So for me I was a child learning for the first time. However, my spouse grow up in a Bible teaching church. He was converted very quickly and baptised. I in the other hand was raising our large family, doing a homemaker's duties, attending Sabbaths, Holy Days, etc as part of my life. Did I understand it all? No. But I did it anyway.Well, if you don't know what one example of double-minded is, it's following to different beliefs at the same time. What a mess!
Now here is what is important. If you decided to be mean about what is happening, it will take that much longer to bring her back. It actually will push her away. I was with the other group( Sunday)for about 11 years while attend with my spouse on the Sabbath.
Prayer, fasting, patience, asking God for discernment on how you can take a good look at yourself and find out what can you change about you first will be a big help. Let's face it. We all have negative additudes we carry that can drive our love ones away if we don't fix it with God's help. Yes we are fighting to keep the old man dead. Isn't it about time we were examining ourselves? Passover is just around the corner, are we ready?

I know it's hard to look at one's self in the mirror. But it has to be done to improve oneself for the better. Not only for self but for your family. This way you can become a more gentle person, but firm in righteous choices and deeds.

I do agree there should not be items of idol worship in your home and you are the man of the house but please for both your sakes. Go to God our Father and just like King David did in the Psalms; he asked the LORD to show him is secret sins. You just may find the answers to your problems on how to solve it with love. God's love.




Garry

Garry's picture

Thank you Kars, much obliged




KARS

KARS's picture

Your welcome Garry.
Have a good one and Good Sabbath to all.




jabu

jabu's picture

I have quastion here:

(1)Who created money is it money come from God?

(2)Or money is the medium of exchange or is the standard of the system of this world?

(3)So why are we paying the tithee?

(4)Are we worshiping money,what is the effect of money?

(5)What is the Bible say about the money?




KARS

KARS's picture

Because Mr.Jabu.
"Then Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine; he was the priest of God Most HIgh. And he blessed him and said: "Blessed be Abram [Abraham] of God Most High, Possessor of heaven and earth; And blessed be God Most High, Who has delivered your enemies into your hand." And he gave him a tithe [tenth] of all. See cross reference Hebrews 7:1-4. That is why Mr. Jabu.




nyceone

nyceone's picture

Wow ... I am really shocked on how misguided people are about pagan holidays, tithing etc ... God's Holy Word has been so twisted by society to where people do not know what to believe in any more. The Bible says lead not to your own understanding ... If you have questions, pray about them and they will be revealed. God's "Words" are to be peace unto His children not confussion.




nyceone

nyceone's picture

Wow ... I am really shocked on how misguided people are about pagan holidays, tithing etc ... God's Holy Word has been so twisted by society to where people do not know what to believe in any more. The Bible says lead not to your own understanding ... If you have questions, pray about them and they will be revealed. God's "Words" are to be peace unto His children not confussion.




Radrook

Radrook's picture

We have to be very careful to avoid believing that salvation ultimately depends on our good deeds or efforts. Such a viewpoint not only devalues Jesus' sacrifice but can ultimately transform us into judges of others based on that good-deeds criteria.

We should always keep in mind that the promised eternal life is an undesrved free gift no matter our efforts to be holy. Holiness is imputed based on the value of the Ransom sacrfice. Always remembering this will prevent us from feeling spiritually superior to others who might lack the resources and that we might enjoy.




Steven Britt

Steven Britt's picture

Radrook,

You have to be careful to understand what the role of God's law is in terms of our salvation. We can never become qualified for or earn salvation by keeping the law - the New Testament writers are abundantly clear on this. However, they are also abundantly clear that we can DISQUALIFY ourselves by not striving to keep God's law. Indeed, it is the death of Jesus that purifies us and makes us holy unto salvation, but it is also our individual responsibility to overcome sin in our lives and to live righteously. God promised a change of heart for believers in the New Covenant so that we would be desire to keep His law (Hebrews:8:7-12).

So when you say, "we have to be careful to avoid believing that salvation ultimately depends on our good deeds," I have to disagree. Salvation is not gained by good deeds, and there is no level of spiritual superiority over others to be had by keeping the law; however, failing to even try to live by God's law can prevent us from receiving salvation, since we are not living the NEW LIFE that Christ died to give us in a way that honors Him.




Malachi 3_16-18

Malachi 3_16-18's picture

Hi Radrook,

We aren’t saved by our own works, but by grace through faith (Eph:2:8-9).

But if it mattered not what we did, then we could sin all we want & still receive the gift of eternal life! This wouldn’t make sense (Rom:6:1-2). God’s reward also depends on certain behaviors from us. We’re saved by grace thru faith, but we must stop sinning, & we’ll be rewarded ACCORDING TO our works (Mt 16:27; Rev:22:12). A good parent risks his life in saving his child from death from running into the street, but doesn’t he train him to avoid this in the future, or does he constantly repeat this saving action as the child grows, w/o teaching accountability for his actions? The level of responsibility God gives at Jesus’ return will be related to how much we’ve used our God-given talents (Mt 25:14-30, 34-46), & overcome (Rev:3:21).

We’re saved by faith, but it involves coming to God; believing in Him; diligently seeking Him (Heb:11:6). Works don’t save us but accompany faith (Jas 2:17-26). We support faith by action. We can’t do it w/o God, but we can’t be idle while we await salvation.

For more info: http://www.ucg.org/christian-living/gods-grace-unconditional-guarantee-s...



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