Sunday, November 18, 2012

The Curious Thing About the Name 'Valentinus'

The name 'Valentinus' (Οὐαλεντῖνος) is Latin.  It means 'belonging to' Valens (Valens + tinus = 'belonging to').  While it is a common name, the earliest recorded references to this figure do not even reference him personally but his group - the Valentinians. In the middle to late second century Hegesippus, Justin and Theodotus mention the Οὐαλεντινιανοὶ. But it should be noted that there are two 'belonging to' references in this name back to back. The first in Latin followed by a Latinized Greek reference - Οὐαλενσ + τῖνος + ιανοὶ. That isn't suspicious on its own, but it is worth mentioning that Epiphanius references a second century sect - the Valesians (Οὐαλησίων) - whose name meant something in Arabic or some Semitic language (Jewish Aramaic?) which might well be the actual source of this curious Latin formation:

I have often heard of Valesians, but have no idea who Vales was, where he came from, or what his sayings, admonitions or declarations were. (2) The name, which is Arabic, leads me to suppose that he and his sect are still in existence, and I also suspect--for, as I said, I cannot say this for certain*--that there are some at Bacatha, in the land of Philadelphia beyond the Jordan. (3) The locals call them Gnostics, but they are not Gnostics; their ideas are different. But what I have learned about them is the following:

1,4 Most of them were members of the church until a certain time, when their foolishness became widely known and they were expelled from the church. All but a few are eunuchs, and they have the same beliefs about principalities and authorities that the Sethians, Archontics and others do. (5) And when they take a man as a disciple, he does not eat meat while he is still un-castrated; but when they convince him of this, or castrate him by force, he may eat anything, because he is out of the struggle and runs no more risk of being aroused to the pleasure of lust by what he eats.

1,6 And not only do they impose this discipline on their own disciples; it is widely rumored that they have often made this disposition of strangers when they were passing through and accepted their hospitality. (7) They seize them [when they come] inside, bind them on their backs to boards, and perform the castration by force.

1,8 And this is what I have heard about them. Since I know where they live, and this name is well known in those parts and I have learned of no other name for the sect, I presume that this is it.

2,1 But these people are really crazy. If they mean to obey the Gospel's injunction, "If one of thy members offend thee, cut it off from thee. It is better for thee to enter into the kingdom of heaven halt or blind, or crippled"--how can anyone be maimed in the kingdom? (2) For if the kingdom of heaven makes all things perfect, it can have no imperfection in it. And since the resurrection is a resurrection of the body, all the members will be raised and not one of them left behind. (3) And if any member is not raised, neither will the whole body be raised. And if just the one member that causes offense is left behind, none of the members will be raised at all, for they have all caused us to offend. (4) Who is going to tear his heart out? And yet the heart is the cause of offenses at every turn, for scripture says, "From within proceed fornication, adultery, uncleanness and such like." All right, who will tear his heart out?

2,5 But if, as some people say in their stupidity and impiety, the body is not raised, how will this Valesian rule make any difference? If none of the members enter the kingdom of heaven, what further need is there to be short one member, when other people do not do this? (6) But if the body is raised--and it is--how can there be bodily mutilation in the kingdom of heaven? How can a kingdom of heaven containing damaged bodies not be unfit for the glory of its inhabitants? (7) And if the offending member must be cut off at all, it has been cut off without having sinned! But if it has been cut off without sinning, since it didn't sin it ought to rise first of all.

3,1 But by their audacity in performing this rash act they have set themselves apart and made themselves different from everyone. Because of what has been removed they are no longer men; and they cannot be women because that is against their nature.

3,2 Besides, the crown and prize for the contest have already been designated, and these people will not appear in any of the three categories of eunuch the Lord mentions. (3) He says, "There are some eunuchs which were so born from their mother's womb." Those eunuchs are not responsible for their condition, and certainly have no sin, because they were born that way. On the other hand there is nothing to their credit either, since they cannot do --I mean anything sexual--because they lack the divinely created organs of generation. (4) But neither can they have the kingdom of heaven as their reward for being eunuchs, since they have no experience of the struggle. (5) Even though they have felt desires, since they lack the ability to do anything wrong, neither do they have a reward for not doing it. They haven't done the thing, not because they didn't want to but because they couldn't. This is the way of the first eunuchhoood the Lord mentions, the one that is born in eunuchhood. Because of their operation the Valesians cannot be any of these.

4,1 "And there are eunuchs," the Savior says, "which were made eunuchs of men." Valesians are none of these either. They--the eunuchs who are "made eunuchs of men"--are made in the service of a king or ruler. (2) From jealousy and suspicion of their wives, some barbarian kings or despots take boys when they are only children and make eunuchs of them so that they can be entrusted with their wives, as I said, when they are grown. (3) And this has been the usual reason for these eunuchs. I imagine that this is the term, "eunuch." The "eunuch" can be "well-disposed" (eunous) because his members have been removed, and with his organs removed he cannot have sexual relations. (4) So this is another category of eunuch, the kind that is taken in childhood and made eunuchs by men, but not for the kingdom of heaven's sake.

4,5 "And there be eunuchs," says the Savior, "which have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven's sake." Who can these be but the noble apostles, and the virgins and monks after them? (6) John and James, the sons of Zebedee, who remained virgin, surely did not cut their members off with their own hands, and did not contract marriage either; they engaged in the struggle in their own hearts, and admirably won the fame of the crown of this contest. (7) And all the millions after them who lived in the world without spouses and won the fame of this contest in monasteries and convents. They had no relations with women, but competed in the most perfect of contests.

4,8 So it is with Elijah in the Old Testament, and with Paul, who says, "To the unmarried I say that it is good for them if they remain even as I am; but if they cannot contain, let them marry." (9) Now in what state did he "remain?" For if he was a eunuch, and his imitators remained like him in obedience to his "Remain as I"--how could a eunuch marry if he could no longer contain himself, in accordance with "Let them marry and not burn?" You see that he is speaking of continence, not of the mutilation of one's members.

4,10 But if they claim to have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven's sake, how can they distinguish themselves from [the case covered by] the text, "There are eunuchs which were made eunuchs of men?" (11) For if one makes himself a eunuch with his own hands, he is a man, and his hands have done this infamous thing. And even though he could not do it himself but was made a eunuch by others, he still cannot be a eunuch "for the kingdom of heaven's sake" because he was "made a eunuch by men," whether by his own hand or the hand of others.

4,12 He will be deprived of his crown and prize as well, however, and have no further credit for abstaining from sexual relations.

If we go through all of our earliest sources, we find there are almost no references to an actual person named 'Valentinus.'  Even Irenaeus's famous lecture Against the Valentinians begins with a discussion of Ptolemy.  One might be tempted to abandon the idea that there ever was a historical Valentinus at all.  The name might be a historical misunderstanding through typical back formation from an Aramaic or Arabic original.  The question is what could Οὐαλης mean in these Semitic languages, probably having something to do with castration judging from Epiphanius's original interest.

FWIW the heretic Monoimus for instance can be traced back to the name Mun'im or Munay'im.  The Arabic word for a eunuch or castrate is kisya and the plural kisyan which bears a striking resemblance to the figure of Julius Cassianos who is mentioned in Clement of Alexandria as an early exponent of the practice of castration among Christians.

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