Redlands Daily Facts (California)
|It is "a shadowy faceless little work and if it were necessary to declare one item redundant in the New Testament Canon, it would be highly eligible. There is little in it of a doctrinal nature … "
Harsh words are these for a passage of scripture, but they were penned by an eminent English theologian and the principal of one of Britain’s leading seminaries. These hard, and in your professor’s view, unkind words were written about the second epistle of John, the one of the shortest and probably least-read books of the whole Bible. Its 13 verses make it shorter than the epistle of Jude’s and Philemon’s 25 verses each, and possibly rivaled only by Psalm 117’s two verses and Psalm 135’s three verses.
The second epistle of John forms one small part of a larger selection of New Testament literature attributed to the Apostle John. There are three epistles, as well as the Gospel of John and the Revelation, or Apocalypse, which bear his name. As one might expect, academic controversy surrounds this traditional ascription of authorship, but even if St. John did not personally write them, they were most likely written by his disciples and attributed to their master. Certainly the diction, grammar and vocabulary of the five books show some common intellectual, if not literary, ancestry.
II John purports to be a letter from a man called "the elder" to a woman whom he calls the "elect lady." He appeals to her to live in the commandment of love, avoid deceivers who do not acknowledge that Jesus came in the flesh, and he appeals to her to hold fast to the "doctrine of Christ." The brief letter ends with an expectation that he will greet her soon face to face.
And with this, the book ends. If you want to read a whole book of the Bible, you could probably cover this one in the time it takes to hold your breath. But it is often the apparently least significant passages of the Bible which sometimes offer the greatest gems upon inspection. Perhaps the aspect of this book which is most important and least commented on is the fact that this is the one book of the Bible which is clearly written directly for a woman. There are many epistles written to mixed gendered crowds, such as Romans or Hebrews, and an assortment written to men, such as I and II Timothy and Titus. Given the patriarchal character of the Greco-Roman world, it is rather interesting that even one epistle was penned to a lady. But who was this woman who has a whole biblical book dedicated to her?
One suggestion has been made that it is not a woman at all but a church community symbolically represented by a female, just as ships are referred to as "she." This is possible, but nowhere else in the New Testament is this kind of designation ever made. Ancient Israel is often referred to as God’s bride, and the church in Corinth is referred to as being "betrothed" to God in 2 Cor. 9:2. But nowhere is an individual church congregation ever called "lady." Early Christian literature often refers to the church universal as the "bride of Christ," but not an individual congregation. Could it be that commentators have been reluctant to assume a role of leadership for a prominent woman in early church history?
The second-century author Clement of Alexandria argued that the elect lady was a Babylonian woman named "Electa" who herself represented the Catholic Church. But "Electa" is not a common name in antiquity and the term "elect" normally is used in reference to believers as a group and not a personal name.
Another proposal focuses on the word "lady," or "kyria" in biblical Greek. "Kyria is similar to "Martha" in Aramaic. But if this is the case, why did the author not just call her "Martha"? The other authors do in the New Testament, where Aramaic names appear, and regularly put them into their Greek form for ease of the reader. Jesus, James, Mary and others had Aramaic names, but the Bible gives them the Greek version. It seems odd that Kyria or Martha would have special linguistic treatment.
A variant interpretation on this suggests that "Kyria" is the Greek form of the Latin "domina" or the title given to a noble woman in Roman society. Patrician Roman women were often referred to as "domina," which is best rendered into "my lady" in the English sense of the word as in a daughter of the aristocracy, as in "Lady Diana." But Patrician Roman women were in short supply in the eastern Mediterranean where this epistle was probably written, and such an attribution would be applicable only to the wife of a imperial governor. We have absolutely no evidence that a first-century church community was ever gathered around a first-century provincial procurator’s wife or daughter, although it might have happened back in Rome.
A very creative proposal has been made that this letter was addressed to the Blessed Virgin Mary, and the Roman title of nobility is transferred to her out of respect for her unique role in history. The tradition that the Apostle John was the guardian of the Virgin Mary after the execution of Jesus would seem to support this. However, this also seems unlikely. Referring to Mary as "Our Lady" is an attribution of a much later period in medieval history, not imperial Roman times. And from a Christian point of view, it seems very unlikely that the Virgin Mary would needs any assurances regarding her beliefs as we find in the warning in verse 7 about those who deny "the coming of Jesus Christ in the flesh." If anyone knew that Jesus arrived in human form of flesh and blood, the woman who went into labor to bear him in the stable in Bethlehem already would have this concept rather well assured in her own mind.
A kind reader wrote me this week to reflect on the nameless people of the Bible, who were important even if their names were lost. Examples include the boy who offered his bread and fish to Jesus at the feeding of the 5,000, the woman with the issue of blood, the youth whose sheet was torn away at Jesus’ arrest and who ran away naked; all of these names are lost to us. Perhaps Kyria was one of these. Whoever Lady Kyria the Elect was, we can only wonder and ponder what debt the later church may owe to her. Perhaps her book was added to the canon as a subtle reminder of the other countless devout and unrecognized ladies on whose efforts the church was built, and whose names are known but to God.
Gregory Elder, a Redlands resident, is a professor of history and humanities at Riverside Community College. You can write to him at Professing Faith, P.O. Box 8102, Redlands, CA 92375, or send e-mail to Gnyssa@verizon.net Who is the mysterious lady in John’s second letter?
The New York Times reports that Lina Joy whose name is now a household word in majority Muslim Malaysia started proceedings five years ago in the civil courts to seek the right to marry her Christian fiancé and have children.
Lina Joy’s problem is that if she is not recognised as Christian she can only marry a Muslim man in a Muslim ceremony and will be subject to Islamic family and inheritance laws.
Because she had renounced her Muslim faith, Joy, 42, argued, Malaysia’s Islamic Shariah courts, which control matters like marriage, property and divorce, did not have jurisdiction over her.
In a series of decisions, the civil courts ruled against her. Then, last month, her lawyer, Benjamin Dawson, appeared before Malaysia’s highest court, the Court of Appeals, to argue that Joy’s conversion be considered a constitutional right not a religious matter for the Shariah courts. Judgment in the case is still pending.
"She’s trying to live her life with someone she loves," Dawson told the Times.
For Malaysia, which considers itself a moderate, modern and Muslim country with a tolerance for its multiple religions and ethnic groups of Malays, Indians and Chinese, the case has kicked up a firestorm that goes to the very heart of who is a Malay, and what is Malaysia.
Joy’s case has inflamed a conflict that has included street protests and death threats between groups who support the secular constitution and Islamic groups who argue that the Shariah courts should have supremacy in many matters.
About 60 percent of Malaysia’s 26 million people are Muslims, 20 percent are Buddhists, nearly 10 percent are Christians and 6 percent are Hindus.
"Malaysia is at a crossroads," Dawson told the New York Times. "Do we go down the Islamic road, or do we maintain the secular character of the federal constitution that has been eroding in the last 10 years?"
In rulings in Joy’s case, civil courts said Malays could not renounce Islam because the constitution defined Malays to be Muslims.
They also ruled that a request to change her identity card from Muslim to Christian had to be decided by the Shariah courts. There she would be considered an apostate, and if she did not repent she surely would be sentenced to several years in an Islamic rehabilitation centre.
Conversions of Muslims to Christianity are not common in Malaysia, though most converts do not seek official approval for marriage and therefore do not run into the obstacles that Joy confronted.
One 38-year-old convert, who provided only his Christian names, Paul Michael, described how he led a double life.
"Church members know us as who we are, and the outside world knows us as we were," he told the Times. He was fearful, he said, that if his conversion became public the religious authorities would come after him, and he could be sentenced to a religious rehabilitation camp.
Meanwhile, Asia News reports that pressure by Islamic extremists is intensifying daily: they are intent on preventing a positive outcome of the case that may pave the way for a "flight from Islam" by other believers.
Recently, for example, the parish where Lina Joy was baptised, Our Lady of Fatima, Brickfields in Central Kuala Lumpur, were informed about a police report against their parish.
According to the Harakah fortnightly paper dated August 16-31, a man called Taib Hisham reported the church, claiming that Joy’s baptism went against Article 11 of the Constitution that says: "The law may control or restrict the propagation of any religious doctrine or belief among persons professing the religion of Islam." Taib was supported in his initiative by the youth wing of the Islamic Party of Malaysia (known as PAS) and Islamic NGOs. Article 11 also guarantees religious freedom.
Islamic conservatives fear that if the judges allow her to leave Islam, this would open the floodgates to many other requests of Muslims wanting to change their faith. So while they wait for the sentence, they are taking their "precautions".
Local sources said no effort is being spared to convince the Muslim community to take up a stand "in defence of Islam" and several blogs and websites are calling for a verdict that "spells a victory for Islam" in Malaysia.
In response, Malaysian Christian Churches have launched a prayer campaign on behalf of Lina Joy.source URL: http://www.cathnews.com/news/608/151.php
Fr Thiruchelvam Nihal Jim Brown of St Philip Neri Church in Jaffna disappeared on Sunday after he and a companion went to the church to check the premises.
The church and the predominantly Catholic neighbourhood have been virtually abandoned since the church was shelled on 13 August, according to Catholic News Service.
"We are very worried as there has been no trace of Fr Jim and his companion so far," said Fr Nicolas Jacob, Vicar General of Jaffna Diocese.
Fr Jacob said Jaffna Diocese has lodged complaints with the Sri Lankan navy, army, police and the International Committee of the Red Cross about the missing priest and his companion.
Fr MX Karunaratnam, chairman of the Sri Lankan church’s Northeast Secretariat of Human Rights, said in a statement, "This mysterious disappearance has caused serious alarm among the clergy and the parishioners."
Just one week before the priest disappeared, 15 people were killed and many more were injured when a shell allegedly fired by government forces hit St Philip Neri Church, where hundreds of Tamil civilians and Hindus had taken shelter.
Fr Brown had rushed the injured to the hospital and later shifted refugees, including 300 families, to St. Mary’s Church, about five miles away.
"It is appropriate to mention here that Fr Brown was appointed to Allaipiddy parish only a month ago to succeed the earlier priest who … faced threats to his life," Fr Karunaratnam added.
The earlier parish priest, Fr Amal Raj, sought transfer from St Philip Neri after the 13 May murder of a Christian family and threats to his life from naval officers. Unidentified gunmen shot dead eight people in the house of one of richest men in the village; the man’s Catholic daughter and her family also were killed. The incident occurred just hundred yards from the church.
Meanwhile, Eureka Street reports that another group of priests in Sri Lanka confirm what is happening on the Jaffna Peninsuala with the "isolated, unknown and silent death" of many people.
In a letter passed on to Eureka Street by Australian Jesuit Provincial Fr Mark Raper, the priests say that at least 90 civilians were killed in a six day period earlier this month, by aerial bombing, shelling shooting and crossfire.
More than 150 have been wounded. There has been at least as many non-civilian casualties.
About 25,000 people are internally displaced and are living in churches, schools, public buildings, and even under trees on the streets.
They are unable to move to secure places due to curfew and restriction imposed on the people by the security forces, according to the letter.
"All the supply roads to Jaffna are cut off and we are dangerously running short of essential goods like food, medicine and fuel. Shops are becoming empty; looting has started and within days starvation will be the destiny of the people of the peninsula," says the letter, which was signed by Oblate priest Fr JJ Bernard, who is Director of the Centre for Peace and Reconciliation in Jaffna.
He says the army continues to impose curfews to keep people as "human shields" against Tamil attacks by curtailing their movement.
"It takes hours to take the wounded to near by hospitals that are unable to meet the needs of the injured," he said.
"The governmental and the non-governmental organisations are unable to organise themselves because the relaxation of curfew that last for two hours is hardly enough."
Zenit reports that the church which is being built in Iurga, in southern Siberia, is expected to be completed next northern summer.
Fr Konstandin, the parish priest, had the idea when the purported relics of the children murdered by Herod 2,000 years ago were taken from Jerusalem to Iurga.
The Orthodox Church considers abortion a form of infanticide and a grave sin, Vatican Radio is quoted as saying.
The Russian government itself has expressed the desire to reduce as much as possible the number of abortions given the "alarming demographic fall."
According to media reports, Fr Konstantin’s initiative is unprecedented in Russia, and has found support among Orthodox faithful.
Meanwhile in Australia, the Sydney Morning Herald reports that in the first criminal abortion case in 25 years, Dr Suman Sood was convicted of giving drugs illegally to procure a miscarriage.
Dr Sood was cleared of manslaughter of the baby, who was delivered in a toilet at 23 weeks gestation in May 2002.
The Herald estimates that Dr Sood, who has previously been found guilty of unsatisfactory professional conduct by the NSW Medical Board, has performed about 30,000 abortions during her career.
‘Our future is wonderful,’ says famed author
PASADENA, California (AP) — Author Ray Bradbury turned 86 on Tuesday and still has his eye on the stars — both celestial and earthbound.
The author of such science fiction and fantasy classics as "The Martian Chronicles" and "Something Wicked This Way Comes" said he believes that humans will return to the moon, then go to Mars and eventually to other worlds.
"Our future is wonderful," he told Patt Morrison in an interview on KPCC, a Pasadena-based public radio station.
Bradbury also said he is working on a screenplay for a new movie version of "Chronicles" that he hopes will start shooting within two years. A 1980 TV miniseries version starred the late Rock Hudson.
Bradbury also said he hopes shooting will start within 18 months on a new version of "Fahrenheit 451," which was optioned years ago by Mel Gibson. Bradbury’s novel about a futuristic fireman whose job is to burn books was made into a 1966 film directed by Francois Truffaut.
continued at source URL: http://www.cnn.com/2006/SHOWBIZ/books/08/23/people.bradbury.ap/index.html
Message Sent to New Zealand at Passing of Dame Te Atairangikaahu
VATICAN CITY, AUG. 22, 2006 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI expressed sorrow for the death of the queen of New Zealand’s indigenous Maori, Te Arikinui Dame Te Atairangikaahu, and sent a message of sympathy to her relatives and people.
In a telegram sent by Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Angelo Sodano, the Pope assured the deceased sovereign’s loved ones of his prayer at this time of national mourning.
"The Holy Father commends the late Dame Te Atairan to the loving mercy of Almighty God and invokes upon the country the divine gifts of consolation and peace," stated the message, published today by the bishops’ conference of New Zealand.
The queen died Aug. 15 at age 75 from kidney failure.
The country’s Catholic episcopate confirmed that the vicar general of the Diocese of Hamilton, Monsignor David Bennett, along with other Church officials paid their respects Aug. 17 to the deceased queen at Turangawaewae Marae, while awaiting the arrival from Australia of Bishop Denis Browne of Hamilton, president of the New Zealand bishops’ conference.
In his absence, Monsignor Bennett, on behalf of New Zealand bishops and particularly of Catholic Maori and the Hamilton Diocese, expressed his prayerful condolences to Dame Te Ata’s family.
"Many have attested to her qualities of leadership," he said, stressing her sincerity, graciousness, gentleness and humility.
Ties with Church
Monsignor Bennett spoke of the friendship and personal regard between the queen and the first Catholic Maori prelate, Auxiliary Bishop Takuira Max Mariu of Hamilton, who died last December at 53.
During his 1986 visit to New Zealand, Pope John Paul II also had a cordial meeting with Dame Te Ata.
The vicar general of Hamilton mentioned that in 1981, when Bishop Edward Gaines was installed as the first Catholic Bishop of Hamilton, "Dame Te Ata presented him with a carved crozier. And when Bishop Denis Browne was installed as the second bishop of Hamilton, Dame Te Ata brought the crozier forward again to give it to him. This crozier is always used by the bishop in our cathedral church."
"The fact that people of diverse cultures and backgrounds are coming in great numbers to Turangawaewae to pay her tribute, attests to the way in which Dame Te Ata brought peoples and cultures closer together," observed Monsignor Bennett.
The new Maori king is the son of Dame Te Ata. Vatican Radio reported on Monday that Tuheitia Paki, 51, assumed his duties, according to tradition, while his mother was being buried on Taupiri mountain, where all Maori sovereigns are buried.
Thousands of faithful attended the ceremony, including New Zealand’s prime minister and numerous representatives of the government and other Pacific countries.
The new king will have the task to continue his mother’s legacy, which kept the various Maori tribes united and obtained positive results in the area of territorial and political rights for her people, commented Vatican Radio.
Tuheitia Paki is the seventh king since New Zealand’s indigenous monarchy was instituted in 1858 to counteract the colonization of the territories.
About 500,000 of New Zealand’s 4 million inhabitants are Catholics.
POPE Benedict will make a pilgrimage to a remote monastery in the Abruzzo region east of Rome next week to visit a mysterious icon that many believe shows the face of Christ.
The icon is said by locals to be "Veronica’s Veil", a piece of cloth that St Veronica used to mop Jesus’ brow on his walk to the Cross and which later assumed his image.
The cloth, which measures 24 centimetres by 17 centimetres, is similar to the Shroud of Turin, but the eyes of its image are open.
Veronica’s Veil is said to have been taken to Rome in 1297, but mystery surrounds its later movements. It is mentioned in Dante’s Divine Comedy. People in the highland town of Man-oppello believe it was brought to them 500 years ago by a wandering pilgrim.
In recent months, the icon’s popularity has soared, and it has become a destination for tourists from Rome. Its fame has persuaded the Vatican to edge closer to recognising it as a holy relic.
"There has been a great wave of people (visiting) — not of pilgrims, but of people coming from other tourist sites," said Father Emilio Cucchiella, a priest at the town’s monastery. "There has not been enough time to welcome them all. They arrive from six in the morning until eight at night."
The Vatican has stressed that the arrival of the Pope, who treads a conservative theological line, does not amount to an official endorsement, but his visit will be interpreted as a papal acknowledgement that the relic is genuine.
by United Bible Societies staff; reprinted from UBS Latest News #361
IRAQ, August 2, 2006 — Iraq Program Coordinator Nabil Omeish has become accustomed to encountering unusual experiences in the course of his work. Often, situations are not quite as they first seem.
"One day in Baghdad I was stopped at a security post by an official who asked to see what was in the suitcase I was carrying. Seeing the samples of Children’s Bibles and Scripture calendars, he began questioning me about them. He then asked me to accompany him to a nearby office. There were two other officials there. He asked them to leave and began interrogating me about the purpose and nature of my work. I explained that I work for the Bible Society, distributing the Scriptures to all who want to receive them. His tone became friendly and he asked whether we distribute food packages along with the Bibles through the various churches. When I confirmed this, he began to tell me his story.
"He explained that he had been unemployed until about nine months before. Just before he found his current job, his 10-year-old son was playing one day near a church compound. He saw local families going into the compound and coming out again with food and illustrated Bibles. He followed some families into the compound and was given food and Scriptures, too. When he arrived home, he told his father where he had received these items.
"It had been four days since the family had last been able to buy food, so they were in desperate need and extremely grateful for what the boy had been given. The next morning, the man went to the church and thanked the pastor for the gift. The pastor gave him another Bible and he started reading it every day and listening to TransWorld Radio. Through receiving God’s Word in this way, he came to faith.
"Wiping away his tears, he asked me to pray for him. I hugged him, thanked him for encouraging me with his testimony and assured him that we would pray for him and his family. As he showed me out of the office, he said, ‘Remember, you have a brother here’."
While plans continue to be made for a national program of Bible work in Iraq, the main activity of the fledgling Bible Society, which operates from rented premises in a Christian residential district of Baghdad, remains Scripture distribution. Since 2003, the Iraq Task Team has worked with churches to distribute thousands of packages containing food and Scriptures. It is clear that this work is having a direct impact on the lives of people living in very difficult circumstances, as reports from Mr. Omeish show.
Recently, the Back to School project has involved distributing 1,000 backpacks containing an illustrated Bible, a pencil case and notebooks. Each of the children who received a backpack was also given a pair of sports shoes.
"When we visited the Syriac Catholic diocese of Baghdad as part of the Back to School project, Bishop Matti Shaba greeted us with excitement and paved the way for the distribution," says Mr. Omeish. "He also helped with the physical distribution.
"One child who received a backpack told us, ‘This is the first time I have ever owned a school bag and had new sports shoes. Thank you, Bible Society. I promise to read the whole Bible’.
"After the long day was over, the Bishop got the Bible Society team together and shared words of gratitude and appreciation. ‘It is very thoughtful of you to visit orphans and needy families during these difficult times’, he said. ‘We greatly appreciate your efforts and dedication to spreading God’s Word’."
URL source: http://www.biblenetworknews.com/
More than 40 botanical gardens run by churches and Christian groups throughout Germany are inviting visitors to get to know the 120 flowers, bushes and trees mentioned in the Bible – writes Frauke Brauns for Ecumenical News International.
"We want to attract both Christians and [other] people," Maik Foerster, head of the Christian association that runs the Oberlichtenau garden near Dresden, told Ecumenical News International. The garden has attracted many visitors since it opened in June 2005.
Since the celebration of the ‘Year of the Bible’ in Germany in 2003, church groups have been opening recreational and educational gardens, planted with the flowers, trees and shrubs mentioned in the Bible.
Plants mentioned in the Bible include juniper (1 Kings 19.4), cedar (Psalm 80.10), figs (Judges 9.11), almonds (Ecclesiastes 12.5), hyssop (Leviticus 14.4), pomegranates (Numbers 20.5), mulberries (1 Chronicles 14.14) the Rose-of-Sharon (Song of Solomon 2.1), and vines (Genesis 9.20).
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By JANE E. BRODY
Everything you thought you knew about migraine headaches — except that they
are among the worst nonfatal afflictions of humankind — may be wrong. At
least that’s what headache researchers now maintain. From long-maligned
dietary triggers to the underlying cause of the headaches themselves,
longstanding beliefs have been brought into question by recent studies.
As if that were not enough dogma to overturn, there is growing evidence that
almost all so-called sinus headaches are really migraines. No wonder then
that the plethora of sinus remedies on the market and the endless
prescriptions for antibiotics have yielded so little relief for the millions
of supposed sinus sufferers.
While these findings may not be an obvious cause for joy among the
afflicted, the good news is that there are available many drugs that can
either prevent migraine attacks in the frequently afflicted or abort the
headaches once they start.
Knowing Where to Turn
Migraine therapy has come a long way in two decades, and those who know or
suspect that they have migraines would be wise to see a neurologist or a
headache specialist to obtain a proper diagnosis and the best treatment now
Surveys have indicated that only about half of “classic” migraine sufferers
are reaping the benefits of what modern medicine offers. If those presumed
to have sinus headaches are included, the numbers of underserved migraine
sufferers could easily be doubled.
The World Health Organization ranks migraines among the most disabling ills.
About 28 million Americans suffer from severe migraines that leave them
temporarily unable to function at work, at home or at play. Many more
millions have them in milder forms. All told they cost employers about $13
billion a year in lost productivity, with another $1 billion spent on
A migraine is more than a headache. The throbbing pain of a migraine, which
typically occurs on one side of the head, is often accompanied by nausea,
vomiting and extreme sensitivity to light and sound. A person feels sick all
Symptoms may include nasal stuffiness, blurry vision, diarrhea, abdominal
cramps, abnormal sensations of heat or cold, anxiety, depression,
irritability and inability to concentrate.
Without effective treatment, those most severely affected are unable to cope
with even the simplest tasks and must take to their beds until the attack
ends. Afterward, people often feel tired, irritable, listless or depressed,
though some feel unusually refreshed and energized.
About 4 percent of prepubescent children have migraines. After puberty, the
incidence rises to 6 percent among men and 18 percent among women and
gradually declines after age 40.
The higher rate among women is linked to fluctuations in blood levels of
estrogen; the drop in estrogen just before menstruation sets off menstrual
migraines, which tend to be more severe and longer lasting than other forms.
I suffered from estrogen withdrawal migraines three times a month from age
11 until menopause. Each attack lasted three days. Pregnancy, when estrogen
levels remain high, was my only respite until menopause ended the estrogen
Though long believed to be primary vascular headaches, the result of
constriction then expansion of blood vessels in the head, migraines are now
recognized to stem from neural changes in the brain and the release of
neuroinflammatory peptides that in turn constrict blood vessels. The
headache often begins before these vessels dilate. The inflammatory peptides
sensitize nerve fibers that then respond to innocuous stimuli, like blood
vessel pulses, causing the pain of migraine.
In some people, the headache is preceded by an aura of visual, sensory or
motor symptoms that last for less than an hour. They include seeing flashing
lights or specks, numbness in the hand, dizziness and an inability to speak.
People who experience these have a doubled risk of cardiovascular diseases,
according to findings published last month in The Journal of the American
Migraines sometimes run in families, and these familial migraines have been
traced thus far to mutations in either of two genes.
Although hard to mistake in their classic form, migraines can be — and
apparently often are — misclassified as sinus or tension headaches, probably
because they can cause nasal congestion, pressure or pain in the forehead or
below the eyes, and discomfort on both sides of the face.
Getting the Right Diagnosis
In one study by Dr. Eric Eross of Scottsdale, Ariz., 90 of 100 people with
self-diagnosed sinus headaches were found to have migraines. On average,
they had seen more than four physicians for their headaches before getting
the correct diagnosis and significant relief. Neither the American Academy
of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology nor the American Academy of Otolaryngology
recognizes “sinus headache”; headaches only sometimes occur with sinus
Migraine sufferers have long been cautioned to avoid certain foods believed
to bring on attacks, especially chocolate, alcohol (red wine in particular)
and aged cheese. But the evidence supporting this notion is meager. More
common causes include stress (positive or negative), weather changes,
estrogen withdrawal, fatigue and sleep disturbances (hence, perhaps, the
association with alcohol, which can disrupt sleep), as well as overuse of
over-the-counter pain medications.
Finding the Cause
To determine what may set off your headaches, keep a calendar to record
occurrences, noting foods you ate or the circumstances preceding each one.
If you are a woman of childbearing age, record the stages of your menstrual
cycles. If necessary, to uncover foods that may cause your headaches, try an
elimination diet, cutting sharply on various foods, then reintroducing them
one at a time. This way, a friend discovered that her migraines were set off
by corn and corn products.
Preventives and treatments are numerous. If one doesn’t work, try another.
If your migraines are rare, using a drug in triptans class at the very onset
of a headache can usually abort it or reduce its severity and duration.
Frequent migraines are best treated preventively, with rescue medication —
like a triptan or an opiate, perhaps combined with aspirin, acetaminophen
and caffeine to relieve a breakthrough headache.
Among the medications most effective as preventives are tricyclic
antidepressants, beta blockers like propranolol and anti-epileptic drugs
like gabapentin. Some people are helped by relaxation therapy, biofeedback
or stress management. Several good studies have shown benefits from
supplements of the B vitamin riboflavin (400 milligrams a day) or the herb
butterbur (50 to 75 milligrams twice daily).
Perhaps most important in finding relief is seeing a doctor highly
experienced in diagnosing and treating migraines. Too many people try to
muddle through, sometimes causing more frequent migraines by overusing
self-prescribed medications. Others may see a physician who fails to help
and then conclude that their headaches are beyond help. Even if an expert
was unable to help you years ago, there are now so many new therapies — and
a far better understanding of the nature of migraines — that you’d be wise
to try again.
Correction: Aug. 11, 2006