Who Was Saint Valentine?

QUESTION: “Who was Saint Valentine?”

“Each year we have a holiday that is called “Saint Valentine’s Day” but I have no idea who Saint Valentine was. Who was he, when did he live, and why is there a day named after him?”

ANSWER:

There is some question whether there was one man by the name of Valentine or two men with this name. Books of saints are not clear on this and historians are not sure of his origin. Let’s discuss a few points that may or may not be accurate about who this man was.

One account suggests that the Roman Emperor Claudius II forbade young men to marry in the third century since he thought they would be better soldiers in the Roman army. However, a priest named Valentine violated the emperor’s orders and married young couples. Another account says that a different priest by the name of Valentine made friends with children but this man was imprisoned for refusing to worship idols. The story says that the children put notes of love into the priest’s prison cell. It was said that the Romans executed Valentine on February 14 in about AD 269. A basilica (an ornate church building) was built in AD 350 and in AD 496 “Pope” Galasius I chose February 14 to commemorate this “Christian” martyr.

Some confusion exists about these men. One account says that Valentine lived in Rome and another says that he lived in Interamna (60 miles from Rome). Were these two men with the same name or simply one man who was associated with both places? Furthermore, it would seem strange if two men with the same name were both put to death the same day—February 14. As Compton’s Encyclopedia notes, “Scholars have had great difficulty in finding historical fact among the Saint Valentine legends.” (See also World Book Encyclopedia.)

We should keep two points in mind: In Scripture every Christian is called a “saint” of God. Paul writes to “all who are beloved of God in Rome, called as saints” (Romans 1:7). In another book, Paul says that Christians are “saints by calling” (1 Cor. 1:2). He also refers to “all the churches [assemblies] of the saints” (1 Cor. 14:33). God calls a person a “saint” when that person comes to Christ for salvation, as revealed in Scripture. A Catholic “Pope” cannot “canonize” and declare a person as a “saint” and thereby give him or her a special status that is different from what the Holy Spirit has given to a Christian.

Second, by the third century, there were many false teachings and innovations that corrupted the beliefs and practices of the true saints of God. By this time many of those in the professing “church” had fallen away from the truth of God, including even the basic truth of the gospel on how to become a Christian. If there was a “priest” by the name of Valentine in the latter half of the 200s, it may well be that he was an apostate, one who had turned away from the truth of God’s Word. If this is true, he would not be a true “saint” of God even though he may be a canonized “Saint” in the apostate Catholic Church.


Richard Hollerman


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